On John Baird as Foreign Minister

Canada’s dynamic, blunt-talking Foreign Minister practices a unique but effective brand of diplomacy
From Macdonald Laurier Institute’s Inside Policy  December 2013 ‘John Baird Policy Maker of the Year’

“Aieeyahhhh.” And with a single swoop, John Baird brought his hand down on a three inch plywood board.

It didn’t crack.

Staff winced and the rest of us looked out the windows of the Pearson Building’s ninth floor diplomatic reception area. In the presence of parliamentarians, diplomats and other guests, Baird and Korean Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan had just signed a Joint Declaration on Enhancing the Strategic Dialogue. In his remarks, Baird had pressed again for Canadian admission to the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting-Plus. He committed to resurrect negotiations on the stillborn Korea-Canada Free Trade Agreement.

Now we were all enduring what diplomats describe as an ‘awkward moment.’

Baird smiled and joked that he should have practiced more. He had taken taekwondo while an undergraduate at Queen’s University. With his former coach watching, Baird had another go.


Guests and a relieved staff cheered. Coach Tae Lee presented Baird with an honorary black belt. The incident says a couple of things about John Baird.

First, he is not afraid to take risks. Baird is very determined and self-confident.  If at first he does not succeed, he’ll try again.

Second, it is hard not to like John Baird.

He has a sense of humour. His amour propre does not prevent him from laughing at himself and the ever-present smile takes the sting out of the sharp rhetoric and sometimes careless language. Importantly, he likes people. A useful trait when you are a globe-trotting Foreign Minister with a cause and little patience for bromides.

Foreign Ministers and Prime Ministers
Foreign ministers used to be second only to the leader. In the US line of presidential succession, the Secretary of State follows the Vice President and Speaker of the House of Representatives and President pro tempore of the Senate.

Until 1946, Canadian prime ministers were their own foreign minister. When Mackenzie King passed the job to Louis St. Laurent, it also signaled St. Laurent’s succession as leader and then prime minister. Lester B. Pearson became St. Laurent’s foreign minister and then leader and eventually prime minister. Paul Martin Sr. was considered the likely successor to Pearson until Trudeaumania (the 1968 version).

The last foreign minister to become prime minister was Jean Chrétien. His election is not ascribed to his short experience at the Pearson Building. In recent years, the stature of the foreign minister has declined. While they still require the constitution of an ox and the patience of Job, jets and instant telecommunications have changed their role.

With globalization, summitry has expanded exponentially. Every prime minister and president now plays not just a lead role, but in varying degrees has subsumed the role of the foreign minister as the principal participant in international diplomacy, especially in managing global finances. In Canada, this has always been the case on Canada-US relations.

With the Government’s decision to fold CIDA into DFAIT, the enlarged Foreign Affairs portfolio (DFATD) now has five ministers and every domestic minister now has international responsibilities that oblige travel and comes with their own ‘foreign’ service.

The changed global environment and structural adjustments cramp the freedom of movement once enjoyed by the Foreign Minister. They remain the default representative to funerals and inaugurations and international meetings the prime minister does not want to attend. Their calendar comes pre-filled with international conferences and meetings, including a speech to the UN General Assembly.

Thirty-one men and women have occupied the post of Canadian foreign minister. To have relevance they must have the trust of the prime minister. They usually need to spend a couple of years on the job to give them time to develop the confidence of their confrères, especially their US counterpart.

The first quality of a Foreign Minister is the ability to listen. They also need to appreciate and then use their Foreign Service corps to bring direction and domestic coherence to our international policy. On the international scene, the best possess imagination and the ability to connect the dots.

To be a great foreign minister you need to have personally led on a major initiative that advanced Canadian interests.

Arguably the Canadian pantheon would include Louis St. Laurent (post-war architecture including NATO), Lester Pearson (UN and peacekeeping), Paul Martin Sr. (Cyprus and Vietnam), Mitchell Sharpe (Third Option), Allan MacEachen (North-South), Joe Clark (South Africa, unification of Germanies), Lloyd Axworthy (Human Security agenda) and John Manley (‘Smart Border’ accord).

John Baird: The essence
John Baird has been Foreign Minister since the Conservatives won their majority government in May, 2011. An able parliamentarian with considerable cabinet experience, Baird served provincially from 1995 to 2005 in the cabinets of Premiers Mike Harris and Ernie Eves as the Minister for Children, Community and Social Services, Energy and Francophone Affairs and as Chief Whip. After his election to the federal parliament in 2006 he served as minister at Treasury Board, Transport, Environment, and as House Leader.

In contrast to his predecessors — Peter MacKay, David Emerson, Maxime Bernier and Lawrence Cannon — all of whom served in minority parliaments, Baird has the luxury of time for travel without having to be in the House of Commons for confidence votes.

Baird travels well and thrives on the networking opportunities. The Ottawa diplomatic community appreciates his accessibility. Last year he visited 31 countries and held well over a hundred substantive bilateral meetings. This year he has already visited 41 countries and participated in 12 multilateral conferences.

Baird has developed an impressive rolodex and he does not hesitate to pick up the phone to talk with his counterparts.

Importantly, he has the full support of Stephen Harper. In his essential profile of John Baird, the Globe and Mail’s Campbell Clark observed: “his penchant for bold steps and embracing strong leaders, his confidence in his own political compass, and the willingness he has displayed ever since high school to shrug off ridicule rather than abandon the task at hand make him the dynamic foreign minister Mr. Harper has long lacked.”

For Baird, words are weapons to be employed for effect as he illustrates in his speeches to the UN General Assembly and in his support for Israel.

In his first speech to the UN General Assembly Baird declared “Canada does not just “go along” in order to “get along.” Citing Margaret Thatcher (Baird greatly admired the Iron Lady and named a cat after her), he argued that “collective action does not mean uniformity.” Baird advanced the case for “enlightened sovereignty” and argued that the “greatest enemies of the United Nations are those who quietly undermine its principles and, even worse, by those who sit idly, watching its slow decline.”

This year Baird told the General Assembly that while “the UN Charter mentions the word “peace” four dozen times….“ “peace” the word is easier to locate than “peace” the condition.” On Iran, he warned, “Kind words, a smile and a charm offensive are not a substitute for real action.”

Baird’s words can offend but his likeability helps to cushion the enmities that are often the result of fierce partisanship.

Baird has obliged the usually bland multilateral communiqués to include references to human rights. As he told the American Jewish Committee Forum: “for us it’s all about values… We respect freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Dignity for the people we serve. We have a history of defending the vulnerable, challenging the aggressor and confronting evil.”

Baird’s support for Israel is unequivocal: “Israel has no greater friend in the world than Canada,” and he told the UN General Assembly in September, “There can be no bargaining over Israel’s existence. While dialogue is a virtue, there can be no virtuous discussion with anyone wedded to Israel’s destruction.”

He is committed to advancing the cause of freedom and defending human rights, especially for those who are persecuted and without protection. From these elements he has articulated the ‘dignity agenda.’

The dignity agenda
Framed shortly after he became minister through speeches delivered in Montreal, the UN General Assembly in New York and Quebec City, the message is clear. People deserve the “dignity to live in freedom, in peace and to provide for one’s family.”

The dignity agenda specifically defends women, children and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) people and strongly opposes child, early and forced marriages.

Defence of LGBT rights has put him at odds with some in the Conservative base. He publicly denounced President Putin’s anti-gay policies as “mean-spirited and hateful.”

The dignity agenda neatly avoids the tiresome argument between values and interests by underlining that “doing what is morally right is in our national interest.” As Baird told the Foreign Affairs Committee in November, “Our government wants Canada’s voice to be heard, for it to be clear and for it to be unambiguously free of moral relativism.”

Its roots are bipartisan, acknowledging both Louis St. Laurent, who laid the foundations for modern Canadian foreign policy, and Brian Mulroney, for his work in Africa — especially South Africa.

The dignity divide is not left versus right but rather between systems that are open and those that are closed. If it is to succeed, the dignity agenda will need to demonstrate the kind of tangible accomplishments that Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy’s human security agenda achieved, notably the landmark Treaty on Land Mines and the creation of the International Criminal Court.

For now, the dignity agenda is a combination of policy instruments, notably the creation of the Ambassador for Religious Freedom. While politics and the Conservative base probably contributed to this decision, the Office, with its almost daily cascade of news releases, puts a useful spotlight on individual and group persecution.

In fashioning Canadian policy to Iran, John Baird has applied the force of the dignity agenda with targeted sanctions that will remain in place, notwithstanding the recent interim nuclear agreement, until there is evidence of Iranian good faith.

The Iranian effort has also included what Baird calls ‘direct diplomacy.’

Demonstrated in May, at Toronto’s Munk Centre, the Global Dialogue on Rights and Democracy in Iran used social media — Facebook and Twitter — as both amplifier and intervenor in the conversation. Designed to encourage open discussion in the lead-up to Iran’s June elections, Baird told his audience, including an estimated 350,000 in Iran, that they “have a friend in Canada.”

How effective is the dignity agenda?
In some respects it is a variation on and successor to the human security agenda articulated by Lloyd Axworthy. It, too, had its critics.

Morality and foreign policy “is a subject much wanting in thought” observed the American historian Gertrude Himmelfarb. Of necessity, international politics depends on hard power both as last resort and as first responder in time of disaster. At the same time, shining a bright light on human rights abuses has worked to both mitigate individual situations and eventually effect remedial change.

Getting right the mechanisms for policy delivery and adjusting them to the rapidly evolving global circumstance is essential if initiatives, like the dignity agenda, are to be effective.

Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development: A new design
The consolidation of diplomacy, trade and development as a single integrated vehicle makes sense. Notwithstanding best efforts at the senior political level, whether the government of the day was Conservative or Liberal, too often there was a disconnect, especially in the field, between foreign policy and development. The consolidation will require a change in the cultures of both former departments. It begins by bridging the gap between domestic priorities and international commitments in the development sphere.

The Government has promised a new direction that would link development programs directly to trade and foreign policy objectives.  CIDA partnerships would be broadened to include business as well as NGOs and multinational organizations. Former CIDA Minister Julian Fantino proclaimed “Canadian money” would be used to promote “Canadian values, Canadian business, the Canadian economy” and served notice that NGOs would not be funded “for life.”

This philosophical shift is not unique to Canada. It is supported by an emerging school of thought — notably renowned economists William Easterly and Dambisa Moyo — that argues that after half a century and $2.4 trillion in investment the West created a dependency culture in Africa. What is needed is sustainable jobs and economic development.

The trend in the West is to return development to the direction of foreign affairs. Then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton described development as an “indispensable foreign policy tool for advancing American interests and solving global problems.” The US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and other European countries are aiming at the same objective.

Hard questions need to be asked on how and where our foreign aid is spent. Integrating it into ‘economic diplomacy’ will be challenging and its critics deserve attention.

The emphasis should be on outcomes that visibly advance sustainable development and complement Canadian interests.

The Foreign Service
To deliver its ambitious international agenda: recruiting foreign talent to settle in Canada, negotiating trade deals, advancing the ‘dignity’ agenda and economic diplomacy, the Harper Government must rely on its Foreign Service to design and deliver these initiatives.

Unfortunately, as demonstrated by the costly and unnecessary sixmonth strike earlier this year, the Harper Government’s relationship with its Foreign Service has been more one of mutual contempt than collaborative partnership. If the Conservative Government is unhappy with its foreign service, why not ask John Baird to devote some attention to reforming it? The last serious look at the Foreign Service was a Royal Commission conducted by Pamela McDougall between 1979-80.

In tackling this challenge, Baird could either widen the scope of the outside advisory panel on the CIDA consolidation or create another panel to include a look at the terms and conditions of service. Such a review should include examining a more flexible approach to postings, improved language training, and better recognition of the spousal contribution. It would complement ongoing work on the Government’s Global Commerce Strategy and economic diplomacy initiative.

If we are to develop a 21st century Foreign Service and achieve the economic diplomacy goals, our ambassadors and trade commissioners must use social media. If the foreign services of our US and European allies can use these new tools of public diplomacy — to blog, tweet and speak out in support of their national interests — why can’t we?

Getting down to business
When the new president, John F. Kennedy, asked the old prime minister what he most feared, Harold MacMillan reportedly replied, “Events, dear boy, events.”

Managing the files is like playing pinball. In advancing objectives, a foreign minister is constantly dealing with the unexpected.

On his appointment as Foreign Minister, Baird immersed himself in the Libyan and Syrian files and he has since travelled to the Middle East and North Africa on over a dozen occasions. On Syria, he has directed the increase in Canadian assistance for the over two million refugees who have fled the country and underlined the need to protect religious minorities.

Baird has taken a particular interest in Burma. Prior to the April, 2012, Burmese elections he gave a reference library on democracy to Burma’s Speaker and then presented dissident leader and Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi with honorary Canadian citizenship.

On China, Baird wants more engagement, a perspective not shared by some of his senior colleagues in caucus and the cabinet. But as Baird told the Canada-China Business Council in October, we “recognize that we have much to offer one another, that our respective strengths are remarkably complementary and that we have significant unfulfilled potential.” In terms of potential, implementing the Foreign Investment Protection Agreement will be a test of Baird’s ability to bring along his colleagues.

A file on which Baird has devoted considerable personal attention is the implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. As he told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in November, his recent visit to Laos where he saw the horrific effects on children left him “deeply moved.”

Declaring that “no Canadian soldier will use cluster munitions, ever,” Baird notified the committee that we will exempt our Forces to avoid future criminal prosecution because of our necessary interoperability with our US allies. A sensible approach and it is illustrative of the often opaque choices facing foreign ministers.

An interim assessment
It is, of course, premature to make a final assessment of John Baird’s performance as Foreign Minister. He is a work in progress. His rhetoric still needs to avoid the gratuitous.

The dignity agenda offers promise, especially in its support of women, children, and minorities like LGBT. It is right to focus on the odious practice of child and forced marriages but it needs a measurable accomplishment, like multilateral sanction through the UN, to give it weight.

The consolidation of CIDA into Foreign Affairs should create the mechanism necessary to deliver on the government’s ambitious international policies on trade, development and foreign policy. Partnership with the private sector is the best way to create jobs and long-term economic development. It will also advance our economic diplomacy goals.

Indispensible to delivery is a trusted, resourced Foreign Service that can use all the new tools of diplomacy.

John Baird has distinguished himself well in a challenging job. If he can deliver on these three initiatives and deal with the inevitable ‘events’, then he will have earned his place in the pantheon of our great foreign ministers.

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A Rising Canada: Harper Foreign Policy

Debate: Making Sense of Harper’s Foreign Policy

On December 9, 2013, the National Capital Branch of the Canadian International Council held a debate in Ottawa on the foreign policy of the Harper government featuring Colin Robertson and Roland Paris.

Watch the FULL VIDEO (from CPAC)

Colin Robertson is the Vice President of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a Senior Strategic Advisor at McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP. He’s a frequent contributor in the Globe and Mail and a former senior diplomat.

Roland Paris is the Director of the Centre for International Policy Studies and Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. He’s a former foreign policy advisor in the Privy Council Office.

– See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/debate-making-sense-of-harpers-foreign-policy/#sthash.hfYaoSY3.dpuf

Stephen Harper’s world view iPolitics Insight

By | Dec 15, 201

Stephen Harper and a ‘Rising’ Canada

Posted on December 12, 2013 Also on CIC Open Canada as

The Harper Approach

Binary, brash, and biased toward economic growth.

By Colin Robertson, Vice President, Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute

Stephen Harper aims to position Canada as a ‘rising power’. While protecting our privileged access to the USA, Canada under Harper’s leadership actively seeks new markets for our goods and resources. It draws on our pluralistic population with family entrees to every nation on earth, especially in an ascending Asia.

The Harper approach to the conduct of Canada’s foreign policy is brash. He has little respect for traditional diplomatic politesse nor those who practice it.

To achieve his objectives, Harper has rearmed the Canadian Forces. Defence policy is ‘Canada First’ especially in the exercise of Arctic sovereignty.

Economic diplomacy is now central to our foreign policy. Immigration policy has been reformed to serve Canadian interests.

Development is now firmly integrated to complement and support foreign policy, especially trade and commerce.

Harper’s ultimate goal is to position Canada as rising power. Getting there will require pragmatism, compromise and, like it or not, respect for diplomatic politesse.

On certain ‘values’ issues like Israel, Harper is unequivocal. In defence of these values, Harper will is stand alone and let the rest of the world know it.

In the aftermath of war, Secretary of State for External Affairs Louis St. Laurent, who would shortly become Canadian prime minister, called Canada a power of the ‘middle rank’.

St. Laurent’s Gray Lecture (January 1947) laid the foundations for the conduct of foreign policy that has since guided Canadian prime ministers. It has three dimensions: close partnership with the USA and Britain; upholding and extending the international rule of law and rules-based institutions; and a strong commitment to multilateralism through the United Nations and the Commonwealth.

While Stephen Harper recognizes the importance of the relationship with the United States and Britain, he is doubtful about the value of multilateralism. He is prepared to depart from the norms of international law when they do not serve Canada’s interest. Nor does he aspire to ‘middle rank’.

Play our cards well – using our geo-strategic position, complemented by our resources and pluralism – and he believes that Canada can be a rising power.

Elected on a platform of government as enabler for the free market, Stephen Harper’s principal policy goal has been to build the Canadian economy.

See also:

Convinced that Canadians are more conservative than liberal, Harper’s political goal has been to polarize Canadian politics into a right-left contest that eliminates the center-straddling Liberal Party.

In their provocative book, The Big Shift, John Ibbitson and Daryl Bricker argue that Harper has upset the Laurentian ‘liberal’ consensus that has governed Canadian affairs since Confederation.

In its place, Harper would build a conservative Canada, building on the shift of people and power to the more libertarian western Canada. He also seeks to enlist new Canadians, the majority now coming from Asia, who favour less government and want more emphasis on law and order.

But it is economic conservatism that is Harper’s central idea and overriding objective.

Government should enable the market to create growth. This, Harper believes, will produce the greatest economic benefit for the people.

This means less government intervention in the economy – lower taxes, less regulation – and a more restricted interpretation on the application of federal powers than previous governments.

Foreign policy is a means towards this end, mindful that Canada that must survive, and can thrive, by trade.

Harper sees our resources, especially energy, as a powerful enabler. Shortly after taking power he declared that Canada was an ‘energy superpower’. We have abundant energy resources but until we can find a second market – now an avowed Harper goal – we are second-tier price-takers.

Ideology matters for insurgencies. To a degree greater than previous prime ministers, Harper views the world through Manichaean or binary lens.

There is good and bad, and right and wrong. This is most visibly and forcefully expressed his support for Israel – constant and unequivocal, and ready to go it alone. It helps that this view is shared by two of his three strongest ministers: Jason Kenney and John Baird.

The Harper approach means more emphasis on key bilateral relations – the US – or those multilateral forum where we can make economic gains: the TPP, CETA, and Pacific Alliance.

It means less emphasis on the multilateral talking-shop forum like the UN, Commonwealth and Francophonie because they matter less.

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The Arctic is part of the Canadian zeitgeist and a critical piece in Harper’s foreign policy.

Not all has worked out as planned. On climate change, the Prentice doctrine of moving in lock-step with the United States has withered. We are still awaiting the promised oil and gas regulations and this has not helped efforts to secure Mr. Harper’s principal US ask – the presidential permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Actively supporting democracy abroad has fallen apart on Palestine, Afghanistan and the Arab Spring. It is replaced by the Baird ‘dignity agenda’ but it has still mostly words.

It is too soon to assess whether the recent merge of development into trade and foreign policy is going to work. Development may have embraced trade, but will trade embrace development?

Approaching eight years in office, Harper has delivered on the economic front. “Relative to our peers, Canada is working,” said former Bank of Canada Governor Mark Carney in his farewell remarks (May 2013).

While they may doubt his empathy and handling of the Senate scandal, most Canadians give him better marks than his political adversaries on handling the economy. This, of course, was Harper’s overriding objective from the outset.

Harper’s ultimate goal is to position Canada as rising power.

Getting there will require pragmatism, compromise and, like it or not, respect for diplomatic politesse. A binary approach does not win friends or influence people.


A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP. This commentary is based on his presentation on “Making Sense of Harper’s Foreign Policy” at the National Capital Branch of the Canadian International Council, December 9, 2013.

– See more at: http://cips.uottawa.ca/stephen-harper-and-a-rising-canada/#sthash.FfSuyrEh.dpuf

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Asia and Indo-Pacific Relations

Six ways Canada can boost its business ties to Asia

The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013

If you had any doubt that the much-proclaimed Pacific, actually Indo-Pacific, Century applies equally to Canada, then look to Harper Government’s new global markets strategy.

Seventeen of its 20 emerging markets and four of its six established markets border or access the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Critics argue that it signals a radical departure from our foreign policy. But, when you look at the details, the new policy is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It also reflects recommendations of ongoing work by our think tanks, universities and businesses. There is broad consensus for more focus on new, especially Indo-Pacific, markets.

This reflects two broad trends: First, the reassertion of Asian economic power after a 150-year hiatus; and, second, the need to find alternative markets to the United States.

This quest for counterweights to the U.S. dates back to Sir John A. Macdonald. It has found new advocates with the realization that when it comes to getting the best price for our resources – oil, gas or lumber – we need a second market.

Looking westward makes a lot of sense but keep in mind the following:

First, an Asian policy is a misnomer. One size does not fit all. It is a continent of different regions, religions, ethnicities and languages. There are democracies and dictatorships. If we are to effectively advance Canadian interests we need to tailor policies by country, by region and by sector.

Second, with ties of family, Asian Canadians give us privileged access to Asian markets. They are our best salespersons to attract more talent to our country as either immigrants or students.

Canada is the envy of the world when it comes to practical pluralism. We need to market this advantage as we grow our population.

Recognize the importance of education as a service industry. It is Australia’s fourth largest export. Our government is getting its act together after initial ambivalence. But we are playing catch-up and are well behind the U.S, U.K. and Australia.

Third, use our history. We have trade links dating back more than a century through insurance, banking and shipping, missionaries, teachers and doctors.

Chinese diplomats ask why we do not do more with Norman Bethune. Whatever his politics, he is a Chinese hero. Why not, for example, Bethune scholarships modeled after the successful Fulbright program?

As we reform our Foreign Service, we should also target Asian Canadians who have the practical language skills and family ties that can make all the difference in closing a deal.

Fourth, we want to trade in Asia but first we must exhibit our bona fides on security. China’s recent declaration of an Air Identification Zone is not just a Japan-China-U.S. dispute. It is a challenge to maritime law and freedom of navigation. It threatens the strategic power balance in the region.

Half the world’s shipping passes through South China Sea. That is more than 41,000 ships a year, double the number that pass through the Suez Canal and nearly triple the total for the Panama Canal.

Our trade and commerce depends on these sea routes being secure.

We need to demonstrate that we are as invested in the security of the Indo-Pacific, especially the North Pacific, as we are in the North Atlantic.

This means building our promised fleet and deploying our submarines and maintaining the readiness of our expeditionary capacity.

On North Korea, our policy of controlled engagement is counterproductive. It limits discussions with the North Koreans to issues of regional security concerns, human rights, and consular issues. This effectively means no engagement with the North. This does not help our friends in South Korea.

Fifth, it means being there. We can’t achieve our ‘economic diplomacy’ goals without an active official Canadian presence. Unlike in the West, a government presence in Asia is a big deal. We need more consulates in China, India and Indonesia.

Just because Jean Chrétien, a Liberal, pioneered successful Team Canada missions of premiers and CEOs doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper, a Conservative, shouldn’t do the same. Remember Deng Xiaoping’s observation on white and black cats – it doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mice.

Sixth, our policy must have a democracy angle. It’s who we are as a people.

Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong – these are middle-income countries possessing nascent democratic institutions. Engage them, not just government-to-government and student-to-student, but party-to-party.

Ties of family and history give us advantages in Asia if we use them. Contributing to its regional security will help us to trade successfully in the Indo-Pacific.

China's swinging indicators for 2013 point to a bumpy road ahead for Beijing as it pushes forward with key reforms in the new year. Tara Joseph reports.


Video: China report card shows an economy needing improvement

A riot -- rare in the ordered city state of Singapore - breaks out when a foreign worker is killed when hit by a bus. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).


Video: Aftermath of riot in Singapore

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Stephen Harper and foreign policy


By jennifer campbell, Ottawa Citizen December 10, 2013

Does Prime Minister Stephen Harper have a foreign policy? Former diplomat Colin Robertson says he does indeed.

“It’s brash, it is bold, it is ideological and in some ways, it’s a departure from (traditional) Canadian foreign policy,” Robertson said, naming departures from old practices that include sticking with traditional allies, adhering to rules-based institutions and committing to the United Nations and the Commonwealth. A major thrust of his foreign policy, Robertson said, is driven by his desire to see Canada do well economically.

Robertson was speaking as part of the Canadian International Council’s National Capital Branch program titled Making Sense of Harper’s Foreign Policy. Also discussing the issue was Roland Paris, director of the Centre for International Policy Studies at the University of Ottawa.

Paris, who worked in the Privy Council Office for a time, called Harper’s foreign policy more incoherent than ideologically based. “With the exception of a few areas and a few relationships and a couple of issues, it’s been more defined by neglect and a lack of attention to how the little pieces the government is focussed on fit together,” Paris said.

Paris garnered a round of applause from the audience when he talked about how the Harper government hasn’t used its diplomats to full advantage.

“I think the prime minister has a bit of idée fixe, to his own detriment, about diplomats and diplomacy as being kind of unnecessary luxuries,” Paris said. “I don’t think he’s serving his own interests or our nation’s interests by downgrading diplomacy in this way.”

Commenting on the trade file, Paris said Canadian trade policy has to be about two things: getting the Canada-U.S. relationship right and taking advantage of rapid growth in the Asia-Pacific area.

“To my knowledge, the government has not concluded a single free-trade agreement with an Asia-Pacific country yet,” Paris said. “Secondly, the core economic priority between Canada and the United States — the border. There were initial gains, but things have really stalled on Beyond the Border, and third, there’s failure on the Keystone Pipeline. If (the prime minister) fancies himself a CEO, that would be a firing offence for a company. CETA is lovely and important, but will the European area grow at 10 per cent per year? No.”

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Canadian Policy in the Indo-Pacific



OTTAWA, Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 4:15 p.m. to study security conditions and economic developments in the Asia-Pacific region, the implications for Canadian policy and interests in the region, and other related matters.

Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair. We are pleased to have before us Mr. Colin Robertson, Vice President, of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute, as well as a fellow at the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy.

Colin Robertson, Vice President, and Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute: By way of background, I served in the Canadian Foreign Service for almost 33 years.  Since leaving the Foreign Service, I worked as vice‑president of the Canadian Defence & Foreign Affairs Institute, a non‑partisan think tank based out of Calgary that is aligned with the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.  I should note that, next March, the school is going to host a conference on Canadian geopolitics, trade and the shaping of relationships in the Indo‑Pacific with Robert Kaplan.  I’m also a senior adviser to McKenna, Long and Aldridge, a Washington‑based law firm, and we have Asian clients.  As a volunteer, I serve with great pride as an honourary captain in the Royal Canadian Navy attached to the Strategic Communications Directorate.  I am also current chair of Canada World Youth, a youth leadership program, as many of you know founded by the late Senator Jacques Hebert, and we have long had interests in Asia.  This gives you a sense of where I come from, but my five observations are my own and do not represent those of any of the hats I wear.

I served as consul in Hong Kong for five years with accreditation to China.  I would travel north to Gangzhou to observe the economic progress.  I would take the Star Ferry, then get on the train in Kowloon and travel through the New Territories, crossing in Shenzhen.  During that time, that small town literally changed from bucolic rice paddies and oxen into a thriving, ramshackle city of many millions.  There was no regard for environmental and labour standards, but there was remarkable energy and a determination to get it done.  Shenzhen was the wild west of the Orient.  For me, it visibly illustrated the Deng Xiaoping transformative influence and his conclusion that it doesn’t matter whether a cat is white or black as long as it catches mice.

I’ve travelled much of Asia since then, including India, Pakistan, Nepal, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand, including a week 18 months ago in Tibet.  I travelled on the Trans-Siberian Express through Beijing, through Mongolia and Siberia to St. Petersburg.

This leads me to my first observation.  While we have a tendency to speak of Asia as an entity, it is a continent of different regions, religions, ethnicities and languages.  There are democracies and there are dictatorships.  Our policies need to reflect these basic facts.  An Asian policy is a misnomer.  One size does not fit all.  If we are to effectively advance Canadian interests, we need to tailor policies by country, by region and by sector.

Everywhere in my travels I would meet people with friends and relatives in Canada.  We are much envied, and this takes me to my second observation.  Through ties of family, Asian Canadians give us privileged entree to Asian markets.  They are our best salespersons to attract more talent to our country as either immigrants or students.

As an example, we just have to look at the composition of this committee, of the Senate and the House of Commons to know that there are a number of members in both chambers that were born in Asia, have come to Canada and are now making a contribution to Canadian life in this very chamber.

Canada is the envy of the world when it comes to practical pluralism, and we need to do more to market this as we grow our population.  We have a large and vibrant Asian community in Canada.  Vancouver has often been called the most Asian city outside of Asia.  We should embrace this identity and present ourselves as a Pacific country.

We have not always appreciated education as a service industry.  It is Australia’s fourth largest export.  Our government is getting its act together after initial ambivalence, but we are playing catch‑up and we are well behind the U.S.A., U.K. and Australia, where once we led.  In Asian culture, the best advertisement is through family ties.

I’m frequently asked by Chinese diplomats why we do not do more with Norman Bethune.  Whatever his politics, he is a Chinese hero, so why should we not draw on this advantage?  Bethune, in my view, should feature more prominently in our outreach to China.  Why not, for example, Bethune scholarships modelled after the successful Fulbright program?

As we reform our Foreign Service, we should also target Asian Canadians who have the practical language skills and family ties that make all the difference.  Let’s use our historical ties, trade ties dating back over a century through insurance, banking and shipping, as well as missionaries, teachers and doctors.

While posted in Asia, I travelled up the Khyber Pass with a Khyber rifle as the Russians were leaving Afghanistan.  In Peshawar, we watched Afghan refugees play buzkashi using the traditional carcass of a headless goat.  On the Afghan side, it was said they played the game with the heads of Russians.

Canadians fought in Asia during the Second World War, Korean War and as peacekeepers in Indochina and the Kashmir.  We are still in Afghanistan.  While in Hong Kong, I would annually lay a wreath in Sai Wan cemetery for Sergeant John Osborn, VC, who they later named the Osborn Barracks in Winnipeg after.

Security is still a life‑and‑death matter in Asia.  If this is to be the Pacific century, then we need to pay close attention to what happens in North Korea and the disputed islands in the north Pacific and south and east China seas.  Given China’s recent declaration of an air identification zone, Canada’s interests in issues of maritime law and freedom of navigation in that part of the world are as important to our long‑term prosperity and security as those in our own waters.

It starts with sea power and maritime command.

It is estimated that 80 per cent of global trade goes by sea.  The busiest sea lanes are those in the Indo‑Pacific.  Shop at Canadian Tire?  At any moment, a third of their inventory is at sea.  The same would apply to the Hudson’s Bay Company and other merchants.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is campaigning to get our oil and gas to tide water, and the government has just announced its economic diplomacy initiative.  Both depend on getting our goods by sea across the Indo‑Pacific.  Half the world’s shipping, with cargo valued at $5.3 trillion, passes through the South China Sea.  That’s more than 41,000 ships a year ‑‑ more than double the number that pass through the Suez Canal and nearly triple those that pass through the Panama Canal.

Our trade and commerce depends on these sea routes being secure.  All of this to support my third observation:  We want to trade in Asia, but first we must exhibit our bona fides on security.  If we want into the East Asia Summit and the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting, we need to demonstrate that we are as invested and interested in the security of the Indo‑Pacific, especially the North Pacific, as we are in the North Atlantic.  This means building our promised fleet and deploying our submarines, and maintaining the readiness of our expeditionary capacity.

There are a couple of other things we can do to be constructive.  Ten days ago Canada hosted 50 nations at the fifth annual Halifax International Security Forum.  The forum for democracies, originally those of the trans‑Atlantic, it focuses on security and defence.

Apply this model on our West Coast and invite the Indo‑Pacific nations to our Pacific coast and focus attention on trade and security.  If it did nothing more than provide a forum to entangle the facts about the disputed islands ‑‑ a Track Two  approach ‑‑ it would have done good work.

As Churchill observed, “to jaw‑jaw is better than to war‑war.”

And let’s not forget that our engagement across the Pacific starts on this side of the Pacific with the Pacific Alliance, and if they’re interested, the United States.  This would also underline our commitment to the Trans‑Pacific Partnership negotiations that Dr. Curtis has just spoken about.

On North Korea, our policy of controlled engagement is counterproductive and needs to be revised if we are to be helpful to regional security.  Introduced in 2010, it limits discussions with the North Koreans to issues of regional security concerns, human rights and consular issues.  This effectively means no engagement with the north, because they don’t want to talk to us about these.  This does not help our friends in South Korea.  The Kim Jong‑un regime is bad, mad and dangerous, but this is all the more reason why we should be engaged.

This leads to my fourth observation.  It also means being there.  We can’t achieve our economic diplomacy goals without an active, official Canadian presence.  Unlike the West, a government presence in Asia is a big deal.  This means opening more consulates, especially in China and India, and don’t forget Indonesia.

This means having ministers and the Prime Minister lead trade delegations of Canadian business.  This is how business is done.  For decades, partly a reflection of minority governments and austerity, we were out of the game.  Just because Jean Chrétien, a Liberal, pioneered Team Canada Missions of premiers and CEOs doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper, a Conservative, shouldn’t do the same.  Promoting Canadian trade is not about politics; it’s about putting bread on the table.

Jim Prentice has observed Chinese investment into Canada has slowed.  We need to make it clear that we welcome Chinese investment.  At the same time, we should work with our like‑minded partners ‑‑ the U.S., Australia, New Zealand ‑‑ through the Trans‑Pacific Partnership to come up with a code of conduct for state‑owned enterprise investment; make clear the rules of the road.  Governor General Johnson recently made a visit to China and met with President Xi Jinping.  Encourage Prime Minister Harper to do the same and make it a regular practice.  The Australians do.

And let’s put into force our foreign investment promotion and protection agreement.

The Chinese see us as a potential bridge to the West, especially the United States.  It is up to us to build the bridge and profit from the relationship.  Remember Deng Xiaoping’s observation on white and black cats:  It doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mice.

A final recommendation:  Our policy must have a democracy angle; it’s who we are as a people.  Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and Hong Kong are all middle‑income countries possesses nascent democratic institutions.  We should engage with them, not just government to government and student to student, but party to party.

In conclusion, we can trade successfully in Asia and the Indo‑Pacific but we need to make commensurate contribution to its regional security.  To protect and enhance our interests and build partnerships, we need to be a credible player, respected by all friends and foes alike.  This requires long‑term strategic engagement in the region with the necessary dedicated assets to make it happen, and being there frequently and often.

Start by making full use of the people‑to‑people relationships we enjoy thanks to our shared history and ties of family, actively contribute to the development of democratic institutions, and never forget the power of the maple leaf in close, continuing engagement in support of Canadian interests.

Senator Downe: Chair, I know others have questions.  I have one quick final one for Colin.

Mr. Robertson, your point four and five, as you know, Canada spends over $1 billion on international assistance in the region.  Would you see our money better spent, if you had a choice, allocated towards a larger presence: embassies, government offices, trade offices?  Or to your point number five about having a democracy, is the money better spent in reinforcing a strong public service, judiciary and institutions within these fragile democracies already in the region?

Mr. Robertson: Senator, I think you can do both.  You have to be there to have effect but, at the same time, working through institutions on the democracy front.  I think it is probably more effective for us and for it to be seen as Canadian.

I’ll give you an example.  When I was in Hong Kong, we brought over the former commissioner of the Northwest Territories.  We brought over the Chief Electoral Officer.  We brought over a whole series of practical experts in how you run elections and how you run a democracy.  That was extremely well received, and still does us good in Hong Kong.  We couldn’t have done that if we didn’t have that presence on the ground.

We worked with the local Chinese, we worked with the government of Hong Kong.  They were happy that we brought these over, and we were simply there to try and help support the growth of representative and democratic institutions.  We weren’t selling them a particular brand of democracy, but saying this is what it was about.  But we couldn’t have done that if we didn’t have the people on the ground.

Senator D. Smith: To relieve you, I won’t muse about my early trip to China when Mao was living ‑‑

The Chair: Thank you.  We have very little time.

Senator D. Smith: ‑‑ or Chrétien or team Canada or even visiting Colin when he was consul.

But I’d really like both of your thoughts on what I regard as a litmus paper issue, and it’s this disputed island issue.  I mean, you’ve seen the videos; they’re rocks.  It’s hard to make a case that it’s a strategic defence thing.  They really don’t have a strong legal case, and it kind of strikes me that this is really a muscle thing.  It’s an ego thing.  It’s kind of a statement, “Look, we’re a world power,” and one of two.  They passed Japan two years ago as the second strongest economy in the world, and they will pass the U.S., maybe not in my lifetime but within a couple decades, I’m sure.

I’m just wondering how both of you interpret this sort of muscle statement that’s got to put their neighbours off a bit, but is there some benefit to this?  How do you interpret this very aggressive disputed island claim?

Mr. Curtis: This is yours, Colin.  I’ll only make one point.  Depends which islands one is talking about.  I’ll assume it’s the ones in the East China Sea, not the south.

Senator D. Smith: Yes.

Mr. Curtis: If one looks at history, my understanding is historically those were Chinese islands, as was Tibet, but in the last hundred or so years they’ve been Japanese islands from the treaty.  I’m not sure that history should dominate everything; it causes all sorts of troubles in other parts of the world, as we all know.  But at least it’s important to understand where China is coming from, not that it’s excusable.  If one at least looks at the history and tried to figure out if there is any basis of these territorial claims.  Really, it’s Colin’s point.

Maybe I can make a final comment.  I always say the Chinese and the Americans basically deserve each other.

Mr. Robertson: Senator, I would say that the history is disputed but, from a Canadian perspective, in the late 1980s and early 1990s we had something called the North Pacific dialogue.  We were trying to be useful on this very subject with China and Japan.  Joe Clark was foreign minister and Brian Mulroney was the Prime Minister.  It was actually a useful initiative which we called Track II, which I know this committee has heard about from other witnesses.  I think that could be something useful that Canada could do.

I was recently at the Japanese ambassador’s residence and they had over one of their scholars who was here to basically give us the Japanese perspective on those disputed islands.

Senator D. Smith: Make their case on it.

Mr. Robertson: And he has a different perspective than that which John just outlined as to who owned what.  But I asked him specifically, I said, “Could we be helpful?”  And he said yes, the whole idea of a Track II, of just getting the facts out.

That’s what I was talking about in my statement.  This is dispute.  Better they should be talking.

Senator D. Smith: What do you think is driving it?

Mr. Robertson: Partly, the new leadership in China has got to somehow try and ‑‑ there has been for a long time an active nationalist movement.  You just read some of the blogs translated from the Chinese.  It would disturb you to read how anti‑Japanese it is.  I witnessed this when I was in Hong Kong since then.  Trying to contain that, they have to let a bit of the steam out and that’s part of what we’re seeing.  There are also those forces within China, because remember we have those who aren’t happy to see the direction the new leadership is taking, which they see as perhaps too western inclined.  So from our perspective it’s important that this not get out of hand.  The danger would be the kind of incident we saw in 2001 when an American plane knocked down a Chinese jet that got too close.  Fortunately, at the time George W. Bush kept that thing from getting out of hand.  You want to avoid this thing becoming more than it is.

I should share with you, I was in Stanford January this year and met with Frank Fukuyama, the great political philosopher, and he said to me the one area of the world he really worried about, I asked him looking forward, was exactly what we are witnessing right now.  He said he thought this could be the new Sarajevo.  Don’t forget, as I observed to the committee, in many ways China today is analogous to where Germany was in the last century, a growing economic power.  We didn’t handle Germany very well in the first half of the last century.  We’ve got to be sure that we handle China much better this century because the stakes are much higher and the weaponry that we can employ are much more devastating.

Senator Johnson: Mr. Robertson, can I ask you something very important?  I know how much work you do with the United States.  Can you tell us what the short‑ and long‑term implications for Canada’s profile are in this region and these regions, with its November 2013 agreement with the United States on Asia‑Pacific defence policy cooperation?

Mr. Robertson: We have managed the North Atlantic through NATO.  We don’t have anything similar in the Pacific, and the United States through its pivot is starting to create a brace of agreements.  They have some going back; they have a certain number of defence agreements already in place with some of the nations there, but the United States is determined it will put 60 per cent of its navy in the Indo‑Pacific.  They are trying to create a network, a kind of de facto alliance, which is similar to what has secured the sea lanes and kept trade flowing in the Atlantic for the last half century.  It is in everybody’s interests, including those of the Chinese, to ensure that those sea lanes are secure, and if this kind of an agreement can help manage that, that’s a good thing.

Senator Housakos: I’ll try to be brief.  Without a doubt, in the last couple of decades, trade between Canada and Asia‑Pacific has been growing exponentially, in large part us shipping out natural resources to Asia‑Pacific and, of course, receiving back finished goods, but if you look at the same period of time as we’ve continued to exchange growth with our two main trading partners, the United States and the EU, two sectors that have also grown in large part have been our technological sector and our service sector.  Those two sectors have grown in leaps and bounds with our trade with the United States and with the EU.

I would like your perspective in terms of those two sectors, vis‑à‑vis how have they been going in the last decade or so in the Far East, in the Asia‑Pacific areas.  What are the impediments, if there have been any, and what are the prospects for increased technological sector trade and service sector trade between Canada and Asia‑Pacific?

Mr. Robertson: Obviously, this reinforces again the importance of having the agreements in place.  What we’re basically asking Asia to do is to sign up for trade architecture that we designed in the west.  That’s, from our perspective, a good thing, the fact that China and India and other nations are doing so, which would take me to answer the FIPA question:  Yes, I think we should put into force the FIPA and continue to move forward because that’s one way to create openings for Canadian companies so they can trade with greater assurance and dealing with problems, intellectual property theft and things like that; but at the same time bringing Asia into how the West does business certainly works to our mutual advantage.

The Chair: I have three other questioners.  I’m going to ask that the questions be put and perhaps both panellists can respond.

Senator Dawson: You are early in our process in the development of this study.  Mr. Robertson, you mentioned Team Canada.  I’m a big fan of Team Canada.  I think it was a very good approach.

We have to start focusing.  Excluding China and India, if we were to have a Team Canada approach, what would be your target? I understand the question of transport, security and the Maritimes, but what are the countries that we should be targeting in our study?

Mr. Robertson: In my view, it’s obviously the big ones.

The Chair: Let’s ask the questions first, and then you can reflect on the answers together.

Senator Ataullahjan: Thank you.  I had many questions, but I think I’ll stick to the shortest one.

You mentioned that Canada needs to make contributions to security.  What are you talking about specifically, current involvement in Afghanistan, where we’re there as teachers and trainers?  Or are you looking at something more?

I enjoyed your references to Peshawar, Buzkashi and Khyber Pass.  You know only the brave and the crazy go through that area now!

Senator Oh: Basically, I would like to make one point.  Mr. Curtis, you mentioned about the disputed island that belongs to China, but back in history, the island was under China’s control for a long time, since day one.  In fact, when World War II was over, China was having a civil war going on.  The Chinese side was in a mess.  They had no one to receive anything after the war, and the island was to be returned to China.

In fact, a few years ago, China was asked to defer the disputed island to the international court.  But for the last 10 years, the new Japanese regime, which is more military style, started disputing the island.  The dispute has escalated until today where so far, internationally, no other country has sided with Japan on the disputed island.

The Chair: I’ll start with you, Mr. Robertson, to answer any of those questions or to make comments, and then I’ll turn to Dr. Curtis.

Mr. Robertson: Senator Dawson, on Team Canada, I think it really does work, particularly because of the importance of having your political leadership be seen visibly to open the doors for business.  This is how Asia works.  It’s not how the West works but it’s how Asia works, so that’s another reason why expanding our diplomatic presence is a very good thing because the flag really does make a difference.

Again, this is not a partisan statement.  Prime Minister Chrétien understood this, as did Prime Minister Mulroney and Prime Minister Trudeau.  The Team Canada approach, in my observation, was the most effective approach because it involved our political leadership at various levels.  The federal level, obviously led by the Prime Minister, makes a huge difference.  The premiers do this already.  The premiers have made several trips in the last few years to effect, particularly from Western Canada.  I think that is something we want to encourage.

You asked about the countries.  Obviously, the countries with the biggest market potential are China, India and Indonesia, but this is where I would endorse and take a hard look at the fine print in the government’s new Global Markets Action Plan, which they have just announced.  They have actually broken things down aggregately:  Here are the markets we want to look at.  This is a very good thing.  Forget about the politics of this economic diplomacy; we actually now have a blueprint of how to approach countries where we can make a difference.  It was done by the hard work of people in the field and at home.

Again, I think there should be a Team Canada mission led by the Prime Minister every year involving premiers.  It would be a very good thing.

On security, I think building our fleet is the biggest thing we can do because that’s the coin of the realm in terms of security.  Being out there, it’s a big ocean, and we do have to protect those sea lanes.  The Americans have already signaled with sequester and budget cuts that they are looking to the allies to play up, and the Asians have told us that if we want to play, they want to see us contributing to that broader security.  And I would align to that, because Canada can do this extremely well.  Both the Asians and the Americans have told me this.  If we were to hold the kind of Track 2 Pacific dialogue we hosted in the late 1980s, early 1990s ‑‑ and I used the Halifax International Security Forum as an example because it’s a splendid example of a Canadian model that works extremely well.  I would apply it, take it to the West Coast and discuss the kinds of issues we are talking about ‑‑ the disputed islands and the rest ‑‑ but I would make it about a balance of trade and security, and I would obviously include countries that are not currently democracies.

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