Three Amigos Summit

In Canada, Mexican President calls for ‘economic integration’ of North America

Robert Fife – Ottawa Bureau Chief

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Monday, Jun. 27, 2016 11:39AM EDT

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto arrived in Canada Monday for an official state visit, using his first remarks to call for the “economic integration” of North America.

Governor-General David Johnston welcomed the Mexican leader at the historic Citadelle in Quebec City as Mr. Nieto begins two days of bilateral talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the premiers of Quebec and Ontario as well as business leaders in advance of Wednesday’s summit of the North American leaders that will include U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Canadians and Mexicans alike share values and development goals and we also share a single vision of the world we want,” Mr. Nieto said. “Let us take stock of our affinity and agreement to bolster innovation and environmental sustainability and also to foster the economic integration of North America.”

During their bilateral talks, officials say Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Nieto will remind North Americans “how lucky we are to be where we are … and we are a lot more successful when we tackle shared problems together rather than put up walls.”

The three leaders of North America will trumpet the benefits of liberalized free trade and the necessity of countries to work in unison when they gather in Ottawa for a summit that had been set up largely to focus on the environment but has been turned upside down by the stunning British vote to exit the European Union.

But the shocking British vote to secede from the EU has forced the leaders to reassess the game plan and put a greater emphasis on free trade when they gather for the one-day summit to be held at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.

“These three leaders are aligned in believing we need trade relations and we are very lucky to have a continental approach,” Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said in an interview. “When you look at the North American market, it is a very significant market. It is a great message to the world that we are working together and we believe in trade.”

Mr. Trudeau will also rescind visa restrictions on Mexican travellers, a major irritant since 2009, when they were imposed by the former Conservative government to curb the flow of bogus refugees.

“We are a progressive government. The visas are being lifted. That is a campaign commitment to Mexicans,” Ms. McKenna said.

Sources say the two leaders will sign agreements on educational exchanges, and share “best practices” on ending the social isolation and exploitation of indigenous people in both countries. Canada will also offer intelligence and training to combat Mexico’s drug violence.

However, Canadian and Mexican officials say the real aim of the discussions is to set up a partnership to combat what both leaders see as rising protectionist sentiment in the U.S., their biggest trading partner.

A Mexican official noted that both countries teamed up to fight U.S. action, through the World Trade Organization, on country-of-origin labelling for meat products, as well as an attempt by the United States during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to allow Japanese vehicles to be imported tariff-free to North America, with just 30-per-cent content. Canada and Mexico forced the cap up to 45 per cent. It is currently 62.5 per cent.

“The protectionist fires are starting to blow, whether we are talking about Hillary Clinton and her opposition to TPP or Donald Trump, who is anti-everything and wants to build a wall between Mexico. We are going to need allies to try and fend off these protectionist winds,” Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said in an interview. “Working with Mexico on country of origin and the TPP, we were able to push back – but especially on country of origin, which is basically a protectionist measure. By both threatening retaliatory action, Congress folded. On our own, we would not have been successful.”

About 40 per cent of what the United States buys from Mexico starts out in the United States, while 25 per cent of what Americans buy from Canada comes from the United States.

Measures to tackle climate change, including a commitment from Mexico to join Canada and the United States to reduce methane gases by 40 per cent, will be announced on Wednesday, as well as harmonization of environmental regulations.

“Canada and Mexico will sign a memorandum of understanding to work together on sharing information on how to foster native languages, protect indigenous art and help women facing domestic and street violence, as well as look at ways to engage indigenous people as partners in resource development.

Three Amigos Meet

Three Amigos expected to make some real deals on energy, tout North American trade

Lee Berthiaume, Ottawa Citizen and Marie-Danielle Smith | June 27, 2016 9:48 PM ET

Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila in November.

Susan Walsh/The Canadian PressMexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, with President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila in November.
OTTAWA — Get ready for hard commitments on clean energy and a soft sell on North American trade.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hosts Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on a state visit this week, before U.S. President Barack Obama joins them for the Three Amigos summit on Wednesday. Climate change will figure prominently, but so will the importance of all three countries working together economically.

Here’s what to expect:

Climate change and clean energy

Eric Feferber / AFP, Getty Images

Eric Feferber / AFP, Getty Images President Barack Obama delivers a speech during the plenary session at the COP 21 United Nations conference on climate change, on November 30, 2015.

In his last year in the White House, Obama has been pushing for real action on climate change.The three leaders will follow that up by committing to increase the amount of clean energy produced in North America from 37 per cent today to 50 per cent in 2025. The ambitious goal, revealed by the White House, includes producing more energy by renewables, nuclear and carbon capture technologies.

The commitment will form the foundation of a comprehensive North American clean energy action plan, said Obama’s senior adviser, Brian Deese. “We believe this is an aggressive goal, but for all three countries, one that we believe is achievable continent-wide.”

Liberal officials say growing the share of clean energy produced across North America goes hand-in-hand with advancing closer economic integration. “It’s about sustainable jobs and sustainable growth,” said one official.

Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said the three leaders will also talk about ways to integrate alternatives into continental energy grids and harmonize energy efficiency standards to make it easier for the clean energy sector to grow.

North American trade

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Joe Raedle / Getty ImagesFree-trade along the Canada-U.S. border could come up at the so-called “Three Amigos” summit.

Pena Nieto, meanwhile, began his visit to Canada in Quebec City on Monday, where he called for greater economic integration. Liberal sources say it’s a message that has taken on added importance amid NAFTA-bashing in the U.S. presidential race, and after last week’s Brexit vote.

“The rhetoric will only get hotter south of the border,” said one Liberal official. “And (Brexit) hit home for us that protectionist sentiments exist everywhere and have to be confronted.”

A poll by the Angus Reid Institute found about one quarter of Canadians felt the North American free trade deal was good for the country, and an equal number thought it was bad. However, the same number said they didn’t know. Officials say it’s those people the government plans to talk to over the coming days.

“I think it’s the same message you saw around immigration and welcoming Syrian refugees,” said another Liberal official. “That we’re stronger together than apart.”

Former Canadian ambassador to Washington Michael Kergin said the message of economic co-operation will be directed not just at North Americans, but also Europeans, in hopes of easing “cynicism” and “anxieties” about the concept of regional unity.

Nevertheless, all three North American leaders are going to have to be careful about how they broadcast their message to make sure they don’t stir up the type of anti-free trade sentiments they are trying to fight, said Carlo Dade, an expert on North American trade and investment at the Canada West Foundation.

Trade disputes

Peter J. Thompson/National Post

Peter J. Thompson/National PostTrade rules for lumber remain a major U.S.-Canadian conflict.

The three leaders will be all smiles when talking trade, but some disputes have been bubbling beneath the surface. The main concerns for Canada are the softwood lumber dispute with the U.S., and Mexico’s continued ban on some Canadian beef.

The beef ban goes back to 2003, when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Canadian cattle, and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimates it will cost Canada about $10 million this year. Officials, however, have indicated a deal will be announced during Pena Nieto’s visit.

A solution to the softwood lumber dispute is less likely. At stake is billions of dollars for Canada’s softwood lumber industry, and Canadian officials are terrified it could become an election issue down south.

Of the softwood lumber dispute, former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, now vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said: “In the past this has been a real friction point for Canada and the U.S. This is one you would prefer to put behind us.”

Mexican visas

The Liberals will start to make good on their election promise to lift visa requirements for Mexican travellers. Officials warn, however, that the visas won’t automatically disappear. Rather, Trudeau will announce an “ambitious” schedule for having them removed in the coming weeks.

The Harper government introduced the visa requirement in 2009, after thousands of Mexicans flooded Canada’s refugee system. While the Conservatives said it was necessary to keep out “bogus” refugees, it quickly became a barrier to relations between Canada and Mexico.

Reinstating visa-free travel will remove that barrier, but officials say they will be watching closely to see whether there is a spike in refugee claims from Mexico.

U.S. election and human rights

Trudeau and Pena Nieto are expected to pick Obama’s brain about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, with an eye toward dealing with President Clinton or President Trump. Clinton previously served as Obama’s secretary of state.

Meanwhile, Alex Neve, secretary general of Amnesty International Canada, said refugees from Central American countries are regularly persecuted in Mexico and it’s “unconscionable” for leaders to talk about free-flowing borders without addressing this “dramatic human rights crisis.”

Preparing for Three Amigos Summit

Brexit prompts new agenda for North American Leaders’ Summit

Robert Fife – OTTAWA BUREAU CHIEF

The Globe and Mail

Published Sunday, Jun. 26, 2016 9:24PM

The three leaders of North America will trumpet the benefits of liberalized free trade and the necessity of countries to work in unison when they gather in Ottawa for a summit that had been set up largely to focus on the environment but has been turned upside down by the stunning British vote to exit the European Union.

Senior Canadian and Mexican officials told The Globe and Mail last week that there would be little focus on free trade at the summit to avoid causing any political damage to Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee, who is battling anti-free trade Republican contender Donald Trump in the U.S. presidential election.

But the shocking British vote to secede from the EU has forced the leaders of Canada, the United States and Mexico to reassess the game plan for Wednesday’s North American Leaders’ Summit, to be held at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, officials say.

“Obviously it is going to be a much bigger issue than had there been a Remain vote,” a senior Canadian official said on Sunday. “All three leaders, who have spoken on the phone, are all keen to express the sentiment that there is a part of the world that believes in openness and trade, and free exchange of people and goods.”

Officials say Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, who arrives in Canada on Monday for a state visit, will remind North Americans “how lucky we are to be where we are … and we are a lot more successful when we tackle shared problems together rather than put up walls.”

When the summit gets under way on Wednesday with the arrival of U.S. President Barack Obama, Environment Minister Catherine McKenna said, the world will hear a strong message about the advantages of free trade.

“These three leaders are aligned in believing we need trade relations and we are very lucky to have a continental approach,” Ms. McKenna said in an interview. “When you look at the North American market, it is a very significant market. It is a great message to the world that we are working together and we believe in trade.”

When Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Pena Nieto meet over the next two days, sources say their focus will be on forging a new partnership to act as a counterweight against rising U.S. protectionism.

The Mexican leader arrives in Quebec City, where he will be greeted by Governor-General David Johnston. He later flies to Toronto to speak to a business group and dine with Mr. Trudeau and Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne.

Mr. Trudeau will also rescind visa restrictions on Mexican travellers, a major irritant since 2009, when they were imposed by the former Conservative government to curb the flow of bogus refugees.

“We are a progressive government. The visas are being lifted. That is a campaign commitment to Mexicans,” Ms. McKenna said.

Sources say the two leaders will sign agreements on educational exchanges, and share “best practices” on ending the social isolation and exploitation of indigenous people in both countries. Canada will also offer intelligence and training to combat Mexico’s drug violence.

“We are going to have a wide-ranging discussion on security, and for Mexico, it truly has very significant security issues,” a Canadian official said. “We have world-class talent on that part on all of our institutions, from the RCMP, CSIS [Canadian Security Intelligent Service] and CSE [Communications Security Establishment]. We have world-class assets that countries like Mexico could really learn from.”

However, Canadian and Mexican officials say the real aim of the discussions is to set up a partnership to combat what both leaders see as rising protectionist sentiment in the U.S., their biggest trading partner.

A Mexican official noted that both countries teamed up to fight U.S. action, through the World Trade Organization, on country-of-origin labelling for meat products, as well as an attempt by the United States during the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations to allow Japanese vehicles to be imported tariff-free to North America, with just 30-per-cent content. Canada and Mexico forced the cap up to 45 per cent. It is currently 62.5 per cent.

“The protectionist fires are starting to blow, whether we are talking about Hillary Clinton and her opposition to TPP or Donald Trump, who is anti-everything and wants to build a wall between Mexico. We are going to need allies to try and fend off these protectionist winds,” Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said in an interview. “Working with Mexico on country of origin and the TPP, we were able to push back – but especially on country of origin, which is basically a protectionist measure. By both threatening retaliatory action, Congress folded. On our own, we would not have been successful.”

About 40 per cent of what the United States buys from Mexico starts out in the United States, while 25 per cent of what Americans buy from Canada comes from the United States.

Former prime minister Brian Mulroney said on Friday that continental free trade created almost five million jobs in Canada and doubled the country’s GDP to $1.8-trillion since 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement took effect.

Measures to tackle climate change, including a commitment from Mexico to join Canada and the United States to reduce methane gases by 40 per cent, will be announced on Wednesday, as well as harmonization of environmental regulations.

“This is a real opportunity – it doesn’t come that often where you have governments who are extremely aligned on a clean-energy, clean-growth strategy,” Ms. McKenna said. “There is an economic opportunity when we have standards that are similar, so when it comes to vehicles and trucks, there are things we can do there.”

Canada and Mexico will sign a memorandum of understanding to work together on sharing information on how to foster native languages, protect indigenous art and help women facing domestic and street violence, as well as look at ways to engage indigenous people as partners in resource development.

On Deputy Minister Daniel Jean

Global Affairs DM to bring expertise to national security

Daniel Jean with former foreign affairs minister John Baird, as he oversaw the merger of DFATD in 2013. The Hill Times photograph by Sam Garcia

By CHELSEA NASH

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, May 11, 2016 12:00 AM

Last week’s shuffle of deputy ministers included some “very rare” moves, say insiders.

Spurred by the retirement announcement of National Security Adviser Richard Fadden in late March, deputy ministers in several departments were moved around to fill the space, including Foreign Affairs DM Daniel Jean moving to fill Fadden’s role, and Ian Shugart, current DM of employment and social development, to fill Mr. Jean’s shoes.

The prime minister’s recent shuffle of deputy ministers could suggest an emphasis on international affairs when it comes to national security.

When asked if he thought moving Mr. Jean to national security was indicative of the government’s emphasis on national security threats abroad, Foreign Affairs Minister Stephane Dion said, “you could say that,” before stressing that Global Affairs also deals with national security.

Mr. Dion said Mr. Jean had been responsible for the fusion of departments at Global Affairs. “It was a huge task,” he said. “He’s a great manager, as it should be.”

In 2013, the Conservative government merged the Canadian International Development Agency with the foreign affairs department, which then became known as DFATD. Mr. Jean was brought on as DM in November 2013, months after the announcement was made that the foreign ministry would absorb CIDA.

Andrew Caddell, a senior policy adviser at Global Affairs, told The Hill Times that Mr. Jean is a meticulous and friendly manager, who is hugely invested in the skills of his team.

“Daniel Jean was one of the few deputies who really did identify with the regular foreign service officers and a lot of that was because he’d been on a few postings himself,” said Mr. Caddell.

He described Mr. Jean as a personable leader, who would often hold meetings over coffee, and be very prompt in getting back to people.

“He was the type of guy who’d go down to the cafeteria when he first started and I think subsequently too, and he would just go and sit at a table and chat with people.”

Calling Mr. Jean a reliable listener and a straightforward person, Mr. Caddell had nothing but good things to say about the future national security adviser.

“He was very, very frank about what the situation with the department was, what his objectives were, what his priorities were, and he’s a very, very good listener and took notes and was very quick to respond, and I think that was a sign of his sort of leadership.”

Mr. Dion said he’s not surprised that the prime minister wants Mr. Jean close by. He also stressed that Mr. Jean had gained valuable experience in security during his time at Global Affairs.

“At Foreign Affairs, we have a lot of responsibilities regarding security. A lot of the information received is completely secret and very touchy and we work very closely with the PCO and with [Public Safety Minister Ralph] Goodale’s office and department, and in defence. So the years that he has been in foreign affairs, he has [this expertise],” Mr. Dion told reporters after a committee meeting last week.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and current fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, wrote in an email that Mr. Jean is “a very experienced public servant who has never lost a sense of proportion.”

The two served together in Hong Kong during what was “a very intense time” Mr. Robertson said. The pair were so close that Mr. Jean even taught Mr. Robertson’s daughter how to swim. “He is a very good sportsman,” Mr. Robertson said.

At the time, Mr. Jean was responsible for directing the entrepreneurial immigration program. Mr. Robertson said he was “renowned” for getting to work at six in the morning in order to be able to leave in time for dinner with his family.

Mr. Robertson said that “despite the pressures” of their time in Hong Kong, “the program got high marks for its efficiency, satisfied clients and the good morale of those who worked with him.”

Mr. Caddell said “it’s very rare for a deputy of foreign affairs to become the head [national security adviser].”

The last person to do so was Marie-Lucie Morin, who served as associate deputy minister of foreign affairs from 2003 to 2006, then deputy minister of international trade from 2006 to 2008, before being appointed national security adviser to the PM in November, 2008.

“I think that’s a sign of how much the prime minister values his advice, and how he’s perceived at PMO and PCO for him to make that kind of a leap,” Mr. Caddell said.

Mr. Fadden told The Globe and Mail in a Q&A last month that he thinks Mr. Trudeau “comes to office with a very strongly-held view that national security is a core responsibility of the prime minister.”

Mr. Shugart, who will be taking Mr. Jean’s place, has a varied background that appears to be based largely in health. In the mid-90’s, Mr. Shugart was the executive director of the Medical Research Council, now called the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In the early 2000s, he served as assistant deputy minister in the health policy branch of Health Canada. After that, his focus shifted to have an emphasis on the environment, as he served as the associate deputy minister and then the deputy minister at Environment Canada.

His current position, which he has held since 2010, is deputy minister of employment and social development.

Mr. Dion said he does not know Mr. Shugart, but has been assured by Mr. Jean and Mr. Shugart’s current minister, Jean-Yves Duclos, that he will make a great replacement.

“I have heard only positive things. And perhaps it will not [do to] give one of the most demanding jobs you could imagine to someone who they would not have full confidence. It’s a recommendation of the clerk. The clerk knows that his reputation is directly linked to the quality of the person he will appoint at Foreign Affairs, at Global Affairs. It’s the deputy not only for me, but it’s the top deputy of Global Affairs. For Madame [Chrystia] Freeland and Madame [Marie-Claude] Bibeau as well,” he said, referring to the ministers of international trade and international development, respectively.
The changes go into effect on May 16.

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Three Amigos Summit

Justin Trudeau rolling out the Liberal red carpet for Mexico and U.S. presidents

Barack Obama will address Parliament, Enrique Pena Nieto gets state dinner with Mexican art

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: May 05, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: May 05, 2016 12:28 PM ET

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, will attend the so-called Three Amigos summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa at the end of June.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, will attend the so-called Three Amigos summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa at the end of June. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

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Justin Trudeau came to office promising to restore Canada’s relations with its North American neighbours. If dinner and speaking invitations are your measure well, then he’s off to a great start.

Trudeau will play host in the final week of June to U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto at the first gathering of the so-called Three Amigos to be held in Canada in nearly a decade.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s Canada’s turn after all.

But the leaders were supposed to have gathered here last year. Instead, former prime minister Stephen Harper postponed the summit amid disputes with the U.S. over the now-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, and with Mexico over his government’s decision to require all Mexicans to have a visa to travel to Canada.

Harper knew there was no recipe for success if the summit went ahead.

Pena Nieto, in particular, already cancelled a 2015 visit with a delegation of business leaders in protest against the visa requirement. It was unlikely he would even have come if invited. But he is now, in large part because Trudeau has promised to lift the requirement.

Dinner and a speech

And the summit isn’t really the main political event when the three leaders arrive in Ottawa next month.

The prime minister has also invited Obama to address Parliament, an invitation he extended when the president feted him in Washington two months ago.

And, not to play favorites, Pena Nieto will be in Ottawa ahead of the summit for a state visit of his own. It includes a formal dinner hosted by the prime minister at the National Gallery of Canada where a special exhibit of Mexican art is planned.

So. A summit. An address to Parliament. A gala dinner.  Amigos de nuevo. Friends again. Even if friendship only goes so far in politics.

‘Dirty words’

The real measure of the relationship, as always, is what gets done.

“I think they need to make a new commitment to North America,”  Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC, said Wednesday on the podcast edition of CBC Radio’s The House.

“If you listen to any of the U.S. election coverage right now: North American trade. Immigration. Canada. Mexico. These are all dirty words in the campaign.”

Just listen to Donald Trump. He’ll build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and make the Mexicans pay for it if elected president. He’ll rip up NAFTA.

It’s the kind of rhetoric that grabs headlines and dominates political talk shows. Breaking through with discussions of harmonizing regulations or reducing trade barriers are hardly the tools to do it.

Midweek pod: return of the Three Amigos

25:58

A legacy address

“Trump is going to be the elephant in the room,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

“Part of what this exercise is going to be about at the end of June, is to shore up and provide insulation for both the Canadians and Mexicans against what might come, and to take full advantage of Obama’s desire for a legacy which includes North America.”

Obama US Canada

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Prime Minister Justin shake hands following the conclusion of a joint news conference March 10 at the White House. The two leaders asked officials to report back within 100 days on how to address the softwood lumber issue. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Obama, no doubt, will say all the right things in his Parliamentary address about Trudeau’s shared commitment to address climate change. He’ll pledge to continue to work cooperatively on border security and harmonizing government regulations. But there’s no escaping that his time in office is rapidly running out. His ability to get any new initiatives through Congress, may already have.

For example, softwood lumber. Obama and Trudeau gave their senior trade officials until June 12 to work out a way to prevent another trade war over softwood lumber. Sources say a solution is unlikely.

Ditto on efforts to update NAFTA to reflect new trading realities.

Mexican travellers looking for reprieve

Trudeau takes a sunnier view.

“One of the things any U.S. president and Canadian PM will always agree on is the need to create economic growth and prosperity for our citizens,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We all know that trade is an important part of creating that.”

Fair enough, but both Robertson and Dawson believe the real opportunities in June rest with Mexico, at least in the short-term as Americans choose a new president.

The first step is to address the visa requirement imposed in 2009 by the Harper government after a spike in refugee claimants arriving from Mexico.

That will take time. As an interim, Dawson expects Canada to accept Mexican travellers who hold a U.S. visa, and for Canada to include Mexico among the first countries to qualify for the Electronic Travel Authorization introduced in March for visa-exempt travellers arriving in Canada.

But Robertson says there’s much more that can be done without the U.S..

“We should go and recruit 500,000 Mexican students to Canadian universities. Mexico has a middle-class population of 40 million. They’ve got students looking for places. Why not bring them to Canada? We’ve got university capacity. That would make a profound difference in the Canada/Mexico relationship.”

It’s one of a number of measures where progress can be made in the North American relationship, especially when the biggest of the Three Amigos is pre-occupied at home.

Wednesday May 04, 2016

Return of the Three Amigo

Then, after more than two and a half years, the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will convene next month in Ottawa for a summit.

So what does the return of the Three Amigos mean for the state of the North American relationship?

“It’s tremendously significant,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

“I think this is a new commitment from Canada to the whole North American project.”

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson agrees, telling Chris Hall the upcoming summit is a signal that Canada is back in the game in North America.

“We’ve been a dog in the manger on the North American side — it’s been really Mexico and the United States, and we’ve been sor tof an unwilling partner,” Robertson says.

“Certainly the Mexicans see in Mr. Trudeau someone who understands the broad concept of the Americas, but now we have to deliver and that’s what [the meeting] is all about.”

Both Dawson and Robertson share their insights into the trilateral relationship and their hopes for what the summit will achieve, including a North American climate framework and a boost to Canada-Mexico relations — no matter who occupies the Oval Office after the U.S. presidential election.

“We need to encourage Canada and Mexico to align together on many, many more issues,” Dawson says. “Canada and Mexico have not had a united front. Canadians and Mexicans need to speak much more about what their common objectives are in North America.”

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Staffing the Foreign Minister’s Office

The people behind foreign policy: A look inside the foreign minister’s office
Former diplomat says ‘first-rate people’ are working for Stéphane Dion.

Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion walks down to the House of Commons chamber with his press secretary, Chantal Gagnon, on budget day, March 22. The Hill Times photograph by Jake Wright

By CHELSEA NASH

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, April 27, 2016 12:00 AM

Political staffers, no matter their ambition, don’t always get a chance to shape events outside the walls of Parliament.

In the case of those hand-picked to work for Global Affairs Minister Stéphane Dion (Saint-Laurent, Que.) that’s exactly what they’ve been hired to do. A new government invariably wants to project a new image of Canada to the world. Not just anyone can—or should—be trusted to paint that picture.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat, personally knows a few of the people working in Mr. Dion’s office, including Christopher Berzins, director of policy, and Jocelyn Coulon, senior policy adviser.

Mr. Robertson said he’s impressed with how the new Liberal government has been hiring “first-rate people.”

“They’ve recruited people based on subject matter expertise and ability to get on,” he said. Getting along is important when you’re working with an administration that touts government by cabinet, he said. Inter-departmental relations are important, but so are a ministerial office’s relationships with civil servants—the people actually implementing the policies government decides on.

“One thing this government, I think, does want to do differently is I think they want to work well with the civil service,” Mr. Robertson said. The ministerial mandate letters handed out by Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau noted ministers—including Mr. Dion—should engage in “meaningful engagement” with public servants, something they accused the previous Conservative government of doing poorly.

Mr. Dion was named a cabinet minister right off the bat when he became an MP in 1996, serving as intergovernmental affairs minister under Jean Chrétien and later as environment minister under Paul Martin, before his stint as Liberal Party leader from 2006 to 2008. Ergo: he is no stranger to staffing offices on the Hill. He seems to be hiring from a more pragmatic standpoint, Mr. Robertson said, something that could be attributed to his previous academic background.

“The people I have met have been hired probably less for their political conviction than for their policy smarts. Which I think is a good thing. In that sense I think this will be a much less ideological government than the last one.”

Take Julian Ovens, for instance, Mr. Dion’s chief of staff.

Mr. Ovens comes from a mining background, having spent 14 years in the industry. He worked for Canadian mining company Alcan before moving to BHP Billiton, where he stayed until November 2015 before moving into the minister’s office, according to his LinkedIn profile.

Mr. Robertson said that experience is relevant for the business side of foreign affairs. “I think that probably gives him a highly practical sense of ultimately one of the goals of foreign policy, which is to protect Canadians and advance the national interest. You advance the national interest by generating opportunities for us to do business,” he said.

Canadian mining and international business go hand in hand, of course. Mr. Ovens previously told The Hill Times that he had travelled to more than 60 countries in his life. His work in the mining industry took him abroad to Paris, London, and Singapore, as well as all over Canada.

Mr. Dion has also recruited several serious academics to work with him in advancing Canada’s international agenda.

Pascale Massot, for instance, is a policy adviser who recently completed her PhD at the University of British Columbia in comparative politics and international relations, with a focus on political economy and Chinese politics. Her supervisor, Yves Tiberghien, had nothing but glowing things to say about her, raving that she was “really the complete deal.” He said she’s a “very thoughtful, deep thinker,” good at rationally assessing situations and “very savvy in terms of human relations, social issues, and policy issues.”

Mr. Tiberghien said he’s not surprised in the slightest that she was recruited by the minister’s office because she really has the eye and the interest for policy.

“Pascale is not at all your typical academic,” he said.

Mr. Robertson said as much about Mr. Dion himself. “I remember briefing him and he was extremely rigorous. He came in looking like a bit of a student, he had his backpack on and the rest, but when we sat down it was like doing the defence of your thesis.”

Jocelyn Coulon, Dion’s senior policy adviser, was recruited with a specific emphasis on peace operations—“which is of course one of the things that the new government wants Canada to get back involved in,” Mr. Robertson said. Mr. Coulon also served on Mr. Trudeau’s International Council of Advisors, set up in December 2014 ahead of last year’s federal election campaign.

Mr. Coulon was in the media recently for penning an op-ed in La Presse about the government’s controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia.

“Let’s not be naive. The Saudi and Iranian regimes are two dictatorships—the first decapitates women accused of murder and the other stones them for adultery,” he wrote in a column published Jan. 10.

Six weeks after that, Mr. Coulon was hired to the department. Despite Mr. Coulon’s previously-stated opinions, it wasn’t long after that that Mr. Dion took essential steps in finalizing the deal.

In April, Mr. Dion signed permits allowing $15 billion in light armoured vehicles to be exported to Saudi Arabia. Though the contract itself was signed by the previous government, Mr. Dion’s office came under criticism for implying there was no turning back—and for only releasing the export permits publicly when a lawsuit required the department to do so.

Mr. Robertson said, “Anybody who joins government knows that, ultimately, government is about compromise. And if you’re that uncomfortable, then you resign or you don’t take the job.”

Other policy advisers in Mr. Dion’s office include Jean Boutet, who was with Mr. Dion when he was environment minister. After the 2006 election bumped the Liberals into opposition status, Mr. Boutet worked at the environment department before returning to Mr. Dion’s office.

Joseph Pickerill is Mr. Dion’s director of communications. Most recently, he worked as communications director for the Centre for International Governance Innovation. He was only there for about three months before being approached by the minister’s office. Tammy Bender worked under him at CIGI, and said he was an admirable leader and an “extremely effective communicator.” He was incredibly well-liked there and they were sad to see him go, she said.

Dahlia Stein is Mr. Dion’s director of operations and also comes from an academic background. From Calgary, Alta., she used to work as a senior policy adviser for Health Canada. According to her Facebook profile, she studied the economics of climate change at the University of Cambridge.

Rounding out the top staffers in the office, Jamie Innes is Mr. Dion’s director of parliamentary affairs, and is the only one in the office with a strictly political background, having made his way up through the Liberal Party of Canada.

Chantal Gagnon serves as Mr. Dion’s press secretary.

Mr. Robertson told The Hill Times that Global Affairs Canada has approached him for advice on staffers who might have good expertise on both the Americas and the Middle East, as they are still looking.

cnash@hilltimes.com
The Hill Times
Canada welcomes new top diplomats; Dion hiring

Governor General David Johnston receives a letter of credence from High Commissioner Clarissa Sabita Riehl of Guyana. Rideau Hall photograph by Vincent Carbonneau

By CHELSEA NASH

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, May 4, 2016 12:00 AM

Canada welcomed three new heads of mission on April 26 when they formally presented their letters of credence to Governor General David Johnston.

Clarissa Sabita Riehl, the new high commissioner for the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, succeeded Harry Narine Nawbatt.

Ms. Riehl was the one of the first female military officers in Guyana when she joined in 1966, the same year Guyana achieved independence. She eventually entered the political world in 1992, when she was became a member of the People’s National Congress, and also served as deputy speaker for 14 years.

The other two heads of mission are posted in the United States, but will serve Canada from there. Hassana Alidou will be the new ambassador of the Republic of Niger. She presented her credentials to U.S. President Barack Obama on Feb. 23. Her background is in education, with a specific emphasis on educating African children in their native language rather than colonial English or French.

The third head of mission, Elisenda Vives Balmaῆa, is the new ambassador of Andorra. She holds six degrees, including two postgraduate degrees in law and comparative politics and a PhD in history and a master’s in gender differences. She speaks four languages: Catalan, Spanish, English and French. Previously, she was posted to UNESCO as the president of the Andorran National Commission and as the permanent representative of Andorra to the United Nations. She is posted to New York, N.Y.
Dion looking for new policy adviser

Minister Stéphane Dion’s office is apparently looking for a new policy adviser.

Former Canadian diplomat and current Global Affairs Institute fellow Colin Robertson told The Hill Times that he was approached by director of policy Christopher Berzins about possible suggestions for people who might be knowledgeable about the Middle East and/or the Americas.

“Because we have extensive networks through our fellows, and they’re looking for someone with specific research skills, so that’s why…They just asked if I knew anybody,” he said.

He said he thinks they’re looking for “various positions,” and that the areas they inquired about included Latin America and the Middle East.

He said he just spoke to the policy director as recently as two weeks ago.

Joseph Pickerill, Mr. Dion’s communications director, said in an email, “All I can say at this point is that we’re always looking for good people to cover policy in both geographic and thematic areas but we do not elaborate further on human resource decisions.”

Currently, the office has two policy advisers in addition to three senior positions. Julian Ovens, the minister’s chief of staff, has extensive experience working in the mining industry. Christopher Berzins, director of policy, is well-versed in Europe and the United States, having spent the past two and a half years at the Canadian embassy in Washington, and was the deputy director for North and South Europe at Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, which has since been renamed Global Affairs Canada.

Jocelyn Coulon is the senior policy adviser, and according to Mr. Robertson, was brought on for his expertise in peacekeeping. He is a former journalist and was on the board of governors for the International Development Research Centre, and has written several books on peacekeeping.

The remaining two policy advisers have expertise in China and the environment. Pascale Massot has a PhD specializing in the political economy of China, and Jean Boutet worked in the public service at the environment department.

Carlo Dade, director for the Canada West Foundation’s Centre for Trade and Investment Policy, said if Dion’s office was looking, Mr. Robertson is who they should go to.

“Colin’s an old hand. He’s kind of the dean on North American issues, foreign policy issues…He’s more of an insider,” he said.

Asked whether or not six months into its mandate was a long time for Mr. Dion’s office to still be looking for policy advisers, Mr. Dade said he “wouldn’t read too much into it.”

He said that while the Conservatives may have had trouble finding self-identified Conservative experts in foreign policy, he’s “not too worried that [the Liberals] haven’t had access to people who have some background.”

However, he said that when it comes to policy on Latin America, he could see the Liberals having trouble finding someone who is moderate enough.

“A lot of the Latin Amerincanists are left of centre, to be blunt about it,” he told The Hill Times. “This government is centrist. I don’t think they’re going to want someone who’s said that NAFTA’s been terrible and that trade agreements are terrible,” he said.

This future policy adviser, whether it’s one person or more, has potential to shape Canada’s foreign policy in these regions.

“Trudeau appears to be letting his ministers have free rein,” Mr. Dade said. “So this person could actually have some influence rather than just executing.”

A former adviser to multiple Conservative ministers, who spoke under the condition of anonymity due to his current political position, said that political staff can develop the ability to influence what a minister might decide to do because they “know where the minister’s head is.”

While a junior policy adviser might not have that much influence, having the minister’s trust can mean you develop some influence, he said.

He also said that when it comes to the different file assignments, “you don’t always have to have a neat, cookie-cutter approach to ‘this is what this person is doing.’ That works in the civil service, but in the political world, it’s more fluid than that.”

If Dion is looking for one person to fill both files, it’s likely because all the other files have already been spoken for, said Dade. That specific combination of regions would be hard to find in one person in academia, though would be more common in someone with a background in the foreign service, he said.

“Stéphane Dion kind of knows his way around internationally, and he has some very strong opinions. So it will be interesting,” Mr. Dade said.

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Terrorism and Philippines

Sask hostage facing Monday execution deadline

Jason Warick, Saskatoon StarPhoenix, Saskatoon StarPhoenix 

Two men with Saskatchewan roots are at the centre of a hostage crisis in the Philippines.

One of the four hostages facing Monday’s execution deadline, John Ridsdel, grew up in Yorkton and worked for a period in Regina. Canada’s ambassador to the Philippines, Melfort native Neil Reeder, is seeking his release.

Reeder and other officials are likely working around the clock through formal and informal channels to evaluate all options, said Colin Robertson, a retired Canadian diplomat and former colleague of Reeder.

“He’s a good guy, an experienced hand,” Robertson said of Reeder, who represented Canada in far-flung postings including Costa Rica, Morocco and Brunei before he was named Philippines ambassador in 2013.

“The ultimate concern is the lives of these hostages.”

The four were taken hostage by armed gunmen near a resort several months ago in the southern Philippines, one of the world’s most volatile, dangerous regions. In a video posted online last week, hostage takers vowed to execute one of them on Monday if the ransom of 300 million pesos ($8 million CND) was not paid.

As of Friday evening, there had been no change in their status.

Robertson, a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and executive fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy, said Reeder and the other embassy staff are probably in close contact with their Filipino counterparts. Robertson is not involved in Ridsdel’s case, but outlined the likely scenarios facing everyone involved.

Robertson, who lived for several years near Moosomin and represented Canada in various countries and the United Nations, said the U.S. government and military are likely being consulted as well due to their global reach, particularly with a strong ally such as the Philippines.

The safety of the hostages is paramount, but there are multiple other considerations, Robertson said. How do the affected families feel? Should there be a rescue mission? Should the ransom be paid? How will any actions affect relations between countries? What message will any action send to future kidnappers?

Robertson said Canada has made it clear publicly that it doesn’t pay ransoms. However, there can be distinctions between official statements and what’s happening behind the scenes, he said.

“There may be informal channels,” Robertson said. “It’s a delicate balancing act.”

An online campaign started by a Saskatoon man, Don Kossick, urges the Canadian government to do everything possible to secure the hostages’ release. Reeder did not respond to an email interview request on Friday.

According to reports, the other three hostages are fellow Canadian Robert Hall, Filipino Marites Flor and Norwegian Kjartan Sekkingstad.

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Canada-US Relations after Obama

Publié le 31 mars 2016 à 05h00 | Mis à jour le 31 mars 2016 à 05h00

Justin Trudeau prépare l’après-Obama

Justin Trudeau a rencontré des étudiants de l'Université... (PHOTO PC)

Agrandir

Justin Trudeau a rencontré des étudiants de l’Université américaine, à Washington, le 11 mars dernier. La veille, le premier ministre canadien a été reçu en grande pompe par le président américain Barack Obama à la Maison-Blanche.

(Ottawa) Le premier ministre Justin Trudeau multiplie les visites aux États-Unis. L’objectif est de préparer tranquillement le terrain pour l’après-Obama en tissant des alliances avec les décideurs américains, mais aussi avec le monde des affaires.

M. Trudeau effectue aujourd’hui une troisième visite chez nos voisins du Sud en moins d’un mois après avoir été reçu en grande pompe par le président Barack Obama à la Maison-Blanche le 10 mars et après s’être rendu au siège des Nations unies, le 16 mars, afin d’annoncer que le Canada tentera de décrocher un des sièges temporaires au Conseil de sécurité pour un mandat de deux ans à compter de 2021.

Officiellement, M. Trudeau se trouve dans la capitale américaine aujourd’hui afin de participer au sommet international sur la sûreté nucléaire organisé par le président américain. Le scénario d’une «bombe sale» qui pourrait tomber entre les mains de djihadistes du groupe État islamique (EI) alimentera les travaux de ce sommet.

M. Trudeau profitera tout de même de l’occasion pour prononcer un discours devant les membres de la puissante Chambre de commerce des États-Unis. Même s’il évitera comme la peste de s’immiscer dans les primaires américaines, M. Trudeau rappellera l’importance des relations canado-américaines.

Dans les rangs libéraux, on soutient que les nombreuses visites du premier ministre sur le sol américain – il sera de nouveau à New York le 22 avril afin de signer l’accord de Paris sur les changements climatiques – s’inscrivent dans une volonté de tisser rapidement des liens avec les décideurs de la scène politique et du monde des affaires.

Car les autorités canadiennes auront éventuellement besoin de ces nouveaux liens pour faire avancer les dossiers qu’elles jugent prioritaires une fois que Barack Obama aura terminé son mandat.

«C’est une excellente stratégie»

Selon l’ancien ambassadeur du Canada aux États-Unis Raymond Chrétien, il est tout à fait avisé pour le premier ministre de tisser de tels liens avec les leaders politiques et les gens d’affaires afin de préparer l’après-Obama.

« C’est une excellente stratégie, après sa très belle visite à la Maison-Blanche. M. Trudeau fait d’une pierre deux coups. D’abord, il participe à un sommet international important sur la sécurité nucléaire. Ensuite, il profite de l’occasion pour s’adresser aux gens d’affaires. Il ne reste plus que huit ou neuf mois au président Obama », a affirmé à La Presse M. Chrétien, aujourd’hui associé et conseiller stratégique chez Fasken Martineau.

L’ancien diplomate aux États-Unis Colin Robertson a abondé dans le même sens. «Cela est tout à fait logique. Les gens d’affaires aux États-Unis sont conscients de l’importance de la relation commerciale entre les deux pays. Mais le protectionnisme est à la mode dans les deux partis. Normalement, on peut compter sur le Parti républicain pour défendre le libre-échange. Mais il y a eu un revirement important dans l’attitude des républicains qui appuient Donald Trump, qui évoque l’imposition de tarifs», a affirmé M. Robertson, vice-président de l’Institut canadien des affaires mondiales.

La Presse a rapporté hier que des regroupements de gens d’affaires du Canada s’inquiètent du discours résolument protectionniste qui domine les primaires américaines depuis plusieurs semaines. À la Chambre de commerce du Canada, on soutient que les propositions de certains candidats pourraient bien provoquer le chaos économique si elles étaient mises en oeuvre.

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Homeland Security scrutinizes Canadian Syrian Refugees

Canadian officials have assured U.S.counterparts that Syrian refugees face multiple layers of security screening before they are settled inside Canada.

Canadian officials have assured U.S.counterparts that Syrian refugees face multiple layers of security screening before they are settled inside Canada.
Photo Credit: CBC

U.S. scrutinizes Canada’s screening of refugees

The U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is hearing testimony on Canada’s process of quickly bringing in 25,000 Syrian refugees. Some prominent American leaders have expressed concern that Canada’s screening of refugees may not be adequate and that dangerous people could too easily cross the Canada-U.S. border. About 400,000 people cross every day.

Canada uses several layers of security screening

Canada’s Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale has told his American counterparts that Canada employs several layers of security screening. Only refugees screened and approved by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees are chosen. They are then screened by Canadian officials abroad and biometrics are collected.

This is by no means the first time prominent Americans have suggested terrorists have easy access to the U.S. from Canada. Canadian officials have had to work hard to dispel the myth.

Terrorist myth persists

“Ever since (the terrorist attacks of) 9/11, there has been this sense amongst many well-placed Americans including people like the chair of the Armed Services Committee and former presidential candidate John McCain and current presidential candidate Hilary Clinton that some of the bad guys came in from Canada. It’s not true. It’s mythology. But it remains there out as a kind of suspicion,” says Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

ListenNo ‘fast pass’ into the U.S.

Robertson points out that after multiple screenings, refugees are still not granted easy access to the U.S.  “They still come as stateless or Syrian citizens. They can’t travel to the United States without filling out all the forms that the Americans require…So it’s not as if they are getting a fast pass into the United States through the back door of Canada.”

Some Americans would like to step up border security measures by having Canada share its no-fly list and by having both countries share entry and exit information about people crossing the common border. Canada is reluctant to do so because there is more pressure to respect privacy concerns.

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Kazakhstan and Central Asia

Ottawa Expertise on Display In Kazakhstan/Central Asia

January 21, 2016 2:59 pm

Downtown Astana, photo by Ken and Nyetta.

Kazakhstan is a country on the move.

Kazaks are the ancestors of the great Genghis Khan. Today, their diverse multicultural society, with its historical tribes, numerous languages and religions and their international outlook in global affairs has made it one of the most compelling countries to watch in Central Asia.

Economic growth in Kazakhstan is led almost exclusively by the coal, iron, gold and copper sectors. It is the world’s largest supplier of uranium. It has the second largest uranium,  chromium, lead, and zinc reserves, the third largest manganese deposits and one of the world’s largest copper reserves. It is a significant diamonds exporter and has one of the world’s largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The giant Kashagan field in the Caspian Sea has made Kazakhstan one of the world’s top oil exporters. The past decade has also seen exponential growth in its banking and financial services sector. The country is on a roll but none of this came easy. After the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Kazakhstan experienced a difficult transition from a planned to a market economy. One of the key problems was dealing with the consequences of the fallout of 456 Soviet nuclear weapons tests held in northern Kazakhstan between the 1950’s and late 1980’s covering a geographic area larger than France. Over 1.5 million Kazakhs still suffer radiation-related illness from those tests today. Under the leadership of its first (and only) President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, Kazakhstan voluntarily rid itself of all nuclear weapons and signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation and the Comprehensive Test Ban treaties. Nazarbayev then launched Project ATOM (Abolish Testing is our Mission) to promote nuclear disarmament and end nuclear testing resulting in the passing of the Declaration on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free World at the UN General Assembly. These efforts were supported by Canada.

Nazarbayev also devised an economic plan for the newly emerged country. A slow but gradual recovery began in the early 2000s, followed by a rise in Kazakhstan’s total trade in the second half of that decade, when it became one of the world’s top grain exporters and its mining economy started moving into overdrive. As a result, the Kazak people have seen their standard of living, incomes and quality of life improve dramatically. Nazarbayev’s free market economic reforms have made Kazakhstan Central Asia’s strongest and wealthiest economy and its capital, Astana, has become one of the most important financial centres in Central Asia.

In his sunset years, Nazarbayev is now working to secure the future for Kazakhstan and protect his legacy with Constitutional changes that embrace democratic governance models and the rule of law, all overseen by the country’s freely elected bicameral Parliament.

Some of the wealth and profits generated from Kazakhstan’s diverse economy have gone to underwrite the wonderfully extravagant capital of Astana. This city is like Dubai on steroids. To see it is to believe it. Astana has an energetic vibe and boasts an impressive skyline of buildings, ministries, museums, malls and boulevards that scream 21st century. Kazak citizens are young, educated, professional, multi- ethnic and busy. Very busy. They are true internationalists and whether it’s in the private or public sector they look to other countries to gain knowledge about how to best develop their own governance and business models. Canadian diplomats and NGO institutions from the Ottawa area are playing an important and active role in this effort.

On December 9th the Canadian Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) organized the inaugural Central Asia Security Innovation in Astana in cooperation with the Kazakhstan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the five Central Asian states (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan Republic, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan) to discuss security governance challenges in five major key areas: anti-terrorism, border management, human and drug trafficking, energy and nuclear security, and transboundary water management. CIGI policy experts were on hand to provide a Canadian perspective these matters.

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The tone was set at the outset of the conference by Shawn Steil, Canada’s Ambassador to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan and Ottawa based Margaret Skok, Senior Fellow, CIGI and a former Canadian Ambassador who both observed that there was an absence of region-wide cooperation between Kazakhstan and its smaller neighbouring countries. Skok suggested these five countries work on setting aside their various enmities and try to work on a multilateral relationship that could provide them with a collective influence as a Central Asian bloc. Steil said it was his experience that “lots of dialogue, conversation and programs are the key things that build trust between states.” He also said this was easier said than done, noting that “Kazakhstan must balance the competing interests between its geographical neighbours, Russia and China, against its determination to maintain its own hard won independent foreign policy and economic relationships with the European Union, the United States and Canada.” Steil and Skok suggested Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian republics – Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan – have a vested interest in closer regional co-operation.

Stockwell Day, Canada’s former Minister of International Trade and former Minister of Public Safety, said that the Central Asian states should work together and share information wherever possible on mutual security matters, on technical matters and on health issues. Day noted that the United States-Canada relationship was “a friendship based on respect and the ability to link arms and work together on issues and share information in areas of mutual concern in security, trade technical matters, health issues and even military.” He said that cooperation and preparation are the things that can get countries “through moments that could otherwise be disastrous” and noted that “Canada had learned from disasters within its borders and among its neighbours.”

A common theme raised by the five central Asian countries was the issue of how to prevent Central Asian citizens from joining international terrorist groups like ISIL and then returning home to cause havoc. Former Canadian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and former CSIS Director Reid Morden responded to these security issues with a recommendation that Central Asian governments consider coordinating their intelligence efforts. Reid said that “intelligence today comes from across all areas whether its transportation, health, immigration, export, trade or other areas, but intelligence gathering must be based in law through an act of Parliament.” When asked about the guidelines and rules related to the collection of intelligence, Reid said that “while intrusiveness is allowed, it must be governed by the proper oversight and that there must always be a balance between security needs and the inherent rights of citizens.”

Ambassador Steil said that better communication between Central Asian states was the first step in moving forward to form a “Central Asian bloc” and that region-wide cooperation in a variety of areas including trade, border controls and the harmonization of customs regulations were good starting points. CIGI invitee and Former Ambassador of the United States to Kazakhstan (2009–2011) and Tajikistan (2003–2006) Richard Hoagland said that the kind of cooperation that could drive Central Asian prosperity would be stunted unless there was an end to “endemic and sometimes government-sanctioned” corruption. He said that the Central Asian states themselves need to understand that it is in their interest to fight corruption for their own international reputation and credibility.

Colin Robertson, a trade expert, former Canadian diplomat, CIGI fellow and Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute stressed the importance of these Central Asian nations to develop a professional civil service. He said that those involved in the military, policing and border security should be “well educated, well trained and have a high esprit de corps because these are traits that help protect countries from corruption practices.” He added that “border enforcement is important but so is trade, and it is important to expedite goods at the border and keep them moving.” Robertson said that the Central Asian countries should not see cooperating and the sharing of information as something that weakens their country, but as a strength. He noted “that sharing info builds trust and that the Central Asian countries should share info on infrastructure, roads, and pipelines.” Robertson provided numerous examples of cooperation between the American and Canadian governments in trade, commerce and border issues. He said that Canada and the United States understand the importance of dialogue and communication on many issues but they also understand that on other issues “good fences make good neighbours.” Attendees to the conference  included representatives from key ministries in Kazakhstan and the four other Central Asian governments and a large group of Central Asian university students. Two graduate students told Ottawa Life Magazine that they were impressed with the views of the Canadian participants. One said he was very impressed by the way Reid Morton explained the requirement in democracies to balance security needs with citizens’ rights and a female student said she thought Ottawa’s Margaret Skok was an outstanding moderator who “got Kazakhstan” and really seemed to understand Central Asian issues.

– See more at: http://www.ottawalife.com/2016/01/ottawa-experitse-on-display-in-kazakhstancentral-asia/#sthash.mwbwKHQ2.dpuf

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