Softwood Lumber and Canada US trade

 

Canada must be careful not to become the U.S.’s trade target

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail   Wednesday, Sep. 28, 2016

There are bumpy times ahead for global trade and especially for trade with the United States, our biggest trading partner. Canadian governments will have to be nimble lest we get sideswiped or become a target, as is already the case on softwood lumber.

On Tuesday, the World Trade Organization announced that the pace of global trade has slowed to recession levels and it warned of creeping protectionism. Anti-trade rhetoric is a central feature of this presidential cycle, breaking an 80-year consensus within the U.S. that supported open trade and the liberal rules-based international order.

In Monday’s debate Donald Trump again bluntly declared that the U.S. has to renegotiate its trade deals “to stop” countries, specifically naming Mexico and China, from “stealing our companies and our jobs.” A more nuanced Hillary Clinton repeated that she could not endorse the current Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). Ms. Clinton has promised to name a chief trade prosecutor but in the debate she acknowledged that the U.S. has “5 per cent of the world’s population. We have to trade with the other 95 per cent.”

The most potent threat to Canada would be Donald Trump’s promise to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement. In a report last week the Washington-based Peterson Institute concluded that there is “ample precedent and scope” for a U.S. president to unilaterally raise tariffs and that blocking efforts through the courts or Congress would be “difficult and time-consuming.” Trade expert Gary Hufbauer warned that “enormous economic damage will ensue.”

Meanwhile the clock is ticking on softwood lumber, the Freddy Krueger of trade disputes. Settlement in 2006 depended on the personal intervention of President George W. Bush, tired of having it as a drag on his discussions with Prime Minister Paul Martin and then Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The 2006 agreement ran out last year and the cooling-off period concludes on October 12. Despite discussions between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the ongoing efforts of Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland and the United States Trade Representative Michael Froman, the U.S. industry soon will be seeking countervail duties on our lumber exports.

A resolution anytime soon is doubtful. With less than four months left in office, President Obama will spend his remaining political capital trying pass the TPP during the congressional lame-duck session following the November 8 election.

A congressional deal on TPP would likely oblige reopening the agreement. In the ensuing scramble, Canada’s supply management system for dairy products could potentially come into play. The Trudeau government should look at this as an opportunity to reform an inefficient system that costs Canadian consumers.

For now, Canadian negotiators need to understand the political geography around lumber (or timber as it is called in the U.S.) and reconcile the differences within Canada. The Maritimes, where most of the harvested land is in private hands, want a continued exemption from any managed trade deal. Quebec and Ontario have a distinct position. So does Alberta.

There are the differences between coastal and interior British Columbia, our largest lumber exporter. British Columbia’s protectionist policy on the export of logs needs reform. It not only incites U.S. trade action but it is a handicap in efforts to negotiate an economic partnership agreement with Japan.

Despite some initial wobbling, the Trudeau government is demonstrating a similar enthusiasm for freer trade as previous governments.

Ms. Freeland is an effective trade minister, especially in working the political relationships. Ms. Freeland’s personal efforts with U.S. Senate agriculture chair Pat Roberts, a conservative Republican, helped resolve the nearly decade-long country-of-origin dispute.

Earlier this month Ms. Freeland travelled to Germany to help secure the support of the Social Democratic Party for the Canada-Europe trade agreement (CETA). She named former trade and foreign minister Pierre Pettigrew to be our political point person for CETA. The deal is on track for signature in late October, with implementation of much of the agreement in 2017.

Meanwhile, the government’s cross-Canada TPP consultations have become a public education exercise around the importance and value of trade.

In recent years, western governments have gotten out of the habit of reminding their citizens why freer trade matters to their personal livelihood and to national prosperity. Trade is now very much about the politics of inclusion. The current U.S. presidential campaign and the recent Brexit vote are reminders that governments forget this lesson at their peril.

More Related to this Story

Canada works to counter protectionist mood of U.S. election campaign

Colin Robertson Why it’s so important for Trudeau to fix the Canada-U.S. border

At G20, Trudeau must reflect on tenure and plot inclusive economic course forward

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Canada and Iran

Release of jailed Canadian a sign Liberals making progress in relations with Iran

Marie-Danielle Smith | September 26, 2016 9:02 PM ET

OTTAWA — While Montreal Professor Homa Hoodfar was still imprisoned in Iran, Canadian and Iranian officials held several meetings this summer to negotiate the re-establishment of diplomatic relations, according to a source close to the Foreign Ministry.

Though impasses remain, some experts say Hoodfar’s release on Monday is a sign the Liberal government is making progress on a promise to reopen channels cut off when the previous Conservative government severed ties with Iran in 2012.

In the meetings, officials discussed irritants that could hinder progress. Iranians highlighted the Conservative-era Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act, which allows “victims of terrorism” to sue foreign governments labelled as state sponsors of terrorism — an issue that proved a “show-stopper” in negotiations, the source said.

Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion, who said earlier this year he has no intention of taking Iran off that list, met his Iranian counterpart for the first time at UN General Assembly meetings last week.

At the meeting, Dion brought up the cases of the imprisoned Iranian-Canadian professor and the children of Alison Azer, who were taken to Iran by their father more than a year ago.

Oman News Agency via AP

Oman News Agency via APRetired Iranian-Canadian professor Homa Hoodfar, left, speaks to the media in Muscat airport, Oman, after being released by Iranian authorities, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016While Azer’s plight continues, Iran’s state-run news agency IRNA reported Monday that the 65-year-old professor had been freed on humanitarian grounds and flown out of the country.

Margie Mendell, a Concordia professor and close friend, said Hoodfar’s niece, Amanda Ghahremani, met her in Oman, the first stop on her journey home.

“She’s very frail, she looks extremely thin … and very worn,” Mendell said of a report she received. “I suspect that she’s not in good health, but she’s free, she’s free and she’s out of Iran and she will get medical care and her medication.”

Hoodfar suffers from a serious neurological condition and her family had said requests for a check-up by an independent specialist doctor while jailed were ignored.

She was arrested and sent to Tehran’s Evin prison on June 6. The exact reasons for her detention were never made public but her family and colleagues have indicated she ran afoul of Iranian authorities due to her research on homosexuality and women’s sexuality in the context of Muslim countries.

Nader Hashemi, a Canadian professor of Middle Eastern studies at the University of Denver, said he thinks the timing of her release is not a coincidence.

Jacques Boissinot/CP

Jacques Boissinot/CPForeign Minister Stéphane Dion

“I suspect that now the prospects of diplomatic relations are much better today than they were yesterday,” Hashemi said Monday. “This was, I think, a condition that Ottawa placed before Iran.”

A statement from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the government had been “actively and constructively engaged at the highest levels” in Hoodfar’s case. The statement confirmed Canada worked with officials from countries with embassies in Tehran, including Oman, Italy and Switzerland.

“The government of Canada is committed to a step-by-step re-engagement with Iran. Engagement is a tougher path but a necessary one to deal more effectively with Middle East security issues and to hold Iran to account on human rights,” said Kristine Racicot, a spokeswoman for Global Affairs Canada.

Not all are convinced that this is a step in the right direction.

The Iranians still have “a great deal of explaining to do” with regards to Hoodfar’s imprisonment, said Conservative foreign affairs critic Peter Kent.

“I don’t want to speculate, but my gut tells me it has more to do with them not wanting to have yet another death that they can’t explain on their hands,” he said, a theory Hashemi also mentioned since recent reports indicated Hoodfar’s health was deteriorating.

“We are highly skeptical of any talks that may be going on at the moment,” he said, adding that based on Iran’s behaviour, “we believe that any discussions with the regime are of no value.”

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said for Canadian consular cases, “it’s better to be there.”

“We’ve got a lot of Canadians who would be considered dual nationals, and if you’re not there, you can’t protect their interests,” he said of putting Canadian officials in Tehran.

“This government has put a priority on people, and that would probably be something that was underlined in the feelers that were probably put out — that before we can move forward, we’ve got to see evidence of better behaviour.”

Still, this is going to be “more of a waltz rather than a quick tango,” Robertson said.

Peter Jones, associate professor at the University of Ottawa, noted that while the Iranian foreign ministry is “keen to re-establish relations” with Canada, its intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guard are much less eager.

A cautious step forward could be to accredit ambassadors in neighbouring countries, Jones said, who’d be able to visit Iran and work on Canadians’ consular cases without having to open an embassy.

Even that would be a boon for Alison Azer, whose four children were kidnapped to Iran by their father more than a year ago.

“One of the problems with Alison’s case is there is no diplomatic representation in Tehran to pursue the grievances and the problems that Canadian citizens have,” Hashemi said. “Up until now she’s had the door frozen shut.”

In a statement to the National Post Monday, Azer said she was happy to learn of Hoodfar’s release. “This demonstrates what diplomacy from the highest levels of government can accomplish,” she said.

“Today’s news gives me cautious optimism I will be reunited with my four beautiful children soon.”

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On Stephane Dion

What’s going on with Stéphane Dion?

Is he chopping logic on China, or is he contradicting Trudeau?

Tasha Kheiriddin IPOLITICS September 26 2016

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was turning heads at the United Nations last week. His chief diplomat, Stéphane Dion, gets mostly eye-rolls these days.

Late last week, the foreign affairs minister appeared to directly contradict the prime minister on the state of discussions with China on a possible extradition treaty that would see Chinese fugitives returned to the mainland — and to China’s highly politicized justice system.

A day after Trudeau stood beside visiting Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and defended the decision to pursue talks, Dion snapped at a Globe and Mail reporter who had called for comment on the story: “Your paper should check the facts. There is no negotiation. To write like pretending it is, it is wrong. Stop that please.”

Retired diplomat Gar Pardy described the exchange in one word: “Bewildering.”

“I doubt ‘negotiations’ in the narrow sense of the word are on,” he told me. “It’s more like the two governments agreed to sit down and discuss (the parameters). But why we have this confusion doesn’t make any sense.”

Pardy wonders if language is the issue — specifically the word “negotiations”.

“Language is a bit of a problem for Dion … There’s no reason why he needs to speak in English — he can say what he wants to say in French — but I was surprised at the snappiness to the Globe and Mail. I have not seen something like this ever before.

“If you can’t get your act together on something, then you kind of wonder what else is going on.”

Other observers are a bit more charitable. Retired diplomat Colin Robertson, now a senior strategic advisor for McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP, suggested that Dion’s comments may be a natural side effect of Trudeau’s commitment to a more cabinet-driven approach to government.

“Mr. Trudeau has sought to restore cabinet government and this will mean ministers take the lead in their portfolios. This is always complicated in foreign affairs where there is inevitable overlap between prime ministers and foreign ministers.”

open quote 761b1bThis is a diplomatic dance of the highest order. The last thing anyone needs is a minister who keeps stepping on his partner’s toes.

Robertson went on to add that the episode might actually have a silver lining for Canada: “In dealing with the Chinese, who are often opaque, a bit of ambiguity on our part may not be a bad thing in advancing Canadian interests, especially when the game is long, as it usually is with the Chinese.”

But this isn’t the first time Dion has undermined the official government line as foreign affairs minister. When the Trudeau government decided to stick with a controversial arms deal with Saudi Arabia negotiated by the Stephen Harper government, both Dion and the PM said that the deal was done and Canada had no choice but to follow through. “We have said during the campaign — the prime minister has been very clear — that we will not cancel this contract or contracts that have been done under the previous government in general,” Dion told the CBC’s Power and Politics in January 2016.

As it turned out, this assertion was false: The deal had not been finalized, because doing so required the signing of export permits — by none other than the foreign minister. Months later, Dion quietly OK’d these in April 2016 — without Trudeau’s input. Dion saw nothing wrong with this: “It’s not a cabinet decision. It’s a minister’s decision,” he said during an editorial board meeting with The Globe and Mail.

In defence of that choice, Dion cited the example of Sweden, which had reneged on a military contract with the Saudi regime over human rights concerns. “Sweden did a bit the same about a contract and the reaction has been very harsh. Saudi Arabia reacted in a way that cut many things … They cancelled a contract and the reaction has been very harsh.”

That wasn’t entirely accurate, either. When contacted by the Globe, a spokeswoman for the Swedish Foreign Ministry insisted that “we have not experienced any economic effects due to the issue that you mention and our bilateral relations with Saudi Arabia are good.” While it is true that Saudi Arabia recalled its ambassador and temporarily suspended business visas for Swedes after the incident, the paper reported that the two countries began normalizing relations just a few weeks later, and that there were no lasting consequences “other than a decline in military trade.”

The minister of foreign affairs is Canada’s chief diplomat. The job requires both the careful use of language and the maintenance of a unified front with the prime minister. Projecting an image of organization and strength is critical, especially on such a sensitive issue as the negotiation of an extradition treaty with China.

“An extradition treaty a fairly complex affair,” Pardy said. “It’s all based on issues of dual criminality — the Chinese cannot ask to extradite persons for a crime that is not a crime in Canada, and vice versa.”

In other words, this is a diplomatic dance of the highest order. The last thing anyone needs is a minister who keeps stepping on his partner’s toes. Dion needs to rein in his pedantic impulse to be uber-correct, and get better in sync with the PMO. If not, Trudeau would be wise to assign him a different dance card in the next cabinet shuffle.

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Implications for Canada of US Election

September 26, 2016

Canada touts trade as protectionism looms over US campaign trail

WATCH ABOVE: Trump and Clinton facing different challenges ahead of first debate

OTTAWA – Canadian diplomats are fanning out across the United States to talk up the benefits of trade with state and local leaders and counter what senior officials see as a worrying mood of protectionism swirling through the U.S. election campaign.READ MORE: Trump, Clinton’s tough talk on trade more bark than bite: report

Amid voter anger about the supposed harm done by international trade deals, both Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton have talked about altering the three-nation North American Free Trade Agreement. That could have calamitous results for Canada, which sends 75 percent of all its exports to the United States.

From trade forums in Kentucky, California and Illinois addressing state legislators and small-business owners to meetings with mayors, labour unions and interest groups, a team of diplomats has gone coast to coast to explain how important Canada is as a trading partner.

The diplomatic offensive comes amid concerns in Ottawa about both candidates, who opinion show are in a tight race ahead of the Nov. 8 election.

Trump has talked about renegotiating the NAFTA treaty with Canada and Mexico to secure more favourable terms for the United States. But he has also said he would revive TransCanada Corp’s cross-border Keystone XL pipeline project, which Democratic President Barack Obama’s administration blocked over environment concerns. Clinton has said she opposes Keystone XL.

READ MORE: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton: which president would be better for Canada’s economy?

Current and former government officials in Ottawa said a Clinton presidency posed its own challenges for Canada.

They see the Democrat as tough on trade and more hawkish than Democratic President Barack Obama, who quickly struck up a warm relationship with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

While tough talk on trade has occurred in previous U.S. election campaigns, “there is an undercurrent and a mood here which is concerning me,” said David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to Washington.

A Clinton campaign representative declined to comment when asked about her approach to Canada if she were elected. Trump’s campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

MacNaughton, who took up the job in March, has already visited Denver, Colorado Springs and Boston and plans trips to Massachusetts, Michigan and California next month.

An embassy spokeswoman said diplomats were intensifying their outreach effort and doing more events than usual. At every meeting, they hand out tip sheets showing Canada is the top export destination for 35 U.S. states‎ and that 9 million U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada.

‘Pretty difficult situations’

Trudeau will not say which candidate he favours, stressing he is happy to work with whomever U.S. voters elect. But his centre-left Liberals have more policies in common with U.S. Democrats. Elected last October, he and Obama have become close, exchanging visits to each other’s countries.

READ MORE: Trump vs Clinton debate: Should moderators be fact checkers?

 

“Some of the issues that we are going to be facing will be very much the same regardless of who wins. … I think we have to prepare to deal with some pretty difficult situations on the trade front,” said MacNaughton, adding that some Americans had little idea about the size of the U.S. trading relationship with Canada.

Roland Paris, who served as Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser until late June, said Trump had tapped into some very strong anti-trade sentiment.

“Those feelings aren’t going away any time soon … we may be heading into some protectionist headwinds, even with a Hillary Clinton presidency,” he said.

Trump and Clinton also oppose a proposed Pacific trade deal that could benefit Canada. One person with day-to-day knowledge of the U.S.-Canada trade file also predicted strains over Canadian exports of softwood lumber, as well as Canada’s system of protection for its dairy industry, which U.S. producers strongly dislike.

Military spending

Another potential area for concern is Canada’s defence spending, which is 0.98 percent of gross domestic product, far below the 2 percent commitment agreed on by NATO members.

MacNaughton said that in his talks with Republicans and Democrats, both had raised the issue of “U.S. allies stepping up to the plate” in military terms.

Trump stirred concerns among allies and even some Republicans earlier this year by saying he would decide whether to come to the aid of Baltic NATO allies in the event of Russian aggression only after reviewing if they “have fulfilled their obligations to us.”

READ MORE: Donald Trump called ‘the devil’ by Mexican economic minister

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who had several postings in the United States, also predicted hard discussions with Clinton administration officials over defence.

“We will be circled because we are at 0.98 percent,” said Robertson, vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

That may not sit well with Trudeau’s government, which is pledging to run large budget deficits for at least the next five years to fund investment in infrastructure and social programs.

A government source said Canada had taken part in a number of high-profile NATO missions and was ready to push back on demands to increase spending in the military.

“We’re quite prepared and proud to stand up on our record and explain why there might be a discrepancy between numbers … and our actual contribution,” said the source, who asked not to be identified given the sensitivity of the topic.

Reporting by David Ljunggren

 

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The 8-11 Effect: Get the Border Right

 

Why it’s so important for Trudeau to fix the Canada-U.S. border

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Sep. 13, 2016

Call it the 9/11 effect. Fifteen years on we are still paying the price of that tragic day. It changed how we trade. Tourism to Canada by Americans has never recovered. It also altered, probably permanently, the easy trust that characterized what was once the “longest undefended border.”

The trade effect with the United States is the most evident. A smart and secure border must be the Trudeau government’s priority with the next administration.

Notwithstanding a series of initiatives – Smart Border, Security and Prosperity, and now Beyond the Border, the border has thickened. While rail shipments have increased, especially for oil in the absence of new pipelines, trucks remain the primary mode of cross-border transport although truck traffic is down almost 20 per cent since 9/11.

A study by Statistics Canada (2015) concluded that the premium paid to move goods across the border rose, from 0.3 per cent of the value of goods shipped prior to 9/11, to about 0.6 per cent after 9/11 because of inspection and a surge in paperwork required for passage.

Verification programs for “secured” carriers and goods and regulatory co-operation have mitigated border delays. But we are still awaiting the promised single electronic portal that will satisfy the information requirements of governments and their agencies.

The Nexus card, held by over one million Canadians, has become the fast pass with special lanes at the land border and at airports. It is smart security. Finding the baddies is like looking for a needle in a haystack. You shrink the size of the haystack through advance screening.

The “trusted traveller” formula is now being applied to employers because so much of our trade is intrafirm, including servicing, or moving goods as part of supply chain manufacturing, especially in the auto industry.

We still have work to do.

Both the U.S. Congress and our Parliament have yet to pass the enabling legislation for preclearance, benefiting travellers at Billy Bishop and Jean Lesage airports and those travelling south by train from Montreal and Vancouver. We also need to implement the long-promised Entry/Exit system that will give us an accurate portrait of who is coming and going within North America.

Tourism from the U.S. has not recovered: it is just over half of what it was in 2000.

We need to do a lot more to aggressively promote travel to Canada in the U.S., starting with the estimated 38 million Americans living within a two hour drive of the border. We are safe, we are close, and the U.S. dollar enjoys a 30-cent premium.

Part of the problem is the requirement for a passport. Only 38 per cent of Americans, compared to 70 per cent of Canadians, hold passports. Provincial governments should work with border states to make the smart drivers licenses, that also allow land border transit, the default option.

Canadians, meanwhile, continue to flock south. We spend over 238 million nights a year in the U.S.: over 8 million nights in Las Vegas and 91 million nights in Florida. And even with our drooping loonie, it is estimated that this year Canadians will spend $20.5-billion in the U.S., with Americans spending $9.5-billion in Canada.

The trust issue requires constant effort by Canadian leadership.

The 9/11 Commission worried about lax Canadian immigration standards. This was fixed by the Harper government. But still there is suspicion that Canada is the broken back door. In February, the Senate Homeland Security committee held hearings on Canada’s decision to take in the Syrian refugees to be sure we were not taking any “shortcuts.”

Americans feel more vulnerable, ranking terrorism second only to the economy and ahead of health care, according to a recent Pew survey.

Even while President Barack Obama was making his first official trip to Canada in February, 2009, drones began patrolling our shared border. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker mused last year, while seeking the Republican nomination, about building a wall with Canada. A subsequent Bloomberg poll revealed that 41 per cent of Americans agreed with this idea.

The 9/11 effect has changed how Americans view the world and manage their borders. There is still too much emphasis on enforcement and not enough on expediting legitimate travel. If we have learned anything from 9/11 it is that the answer is not more guns, guards and gates but rather smart screening and risk management.

In our daily dealings with the U.S. we need to remind them that our shared economic prosperity is predicated on the ability to trade goods and services. But because Americans put a premium on security, Canadians need to constantly reassure them and visibly demonstrate that we have their back.

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On Peter Boehm

DM Peter Boehm earns colleagues’ respect as mentor, mental health advocate

Leading the government’s foreign aid portfolio, the new DM has worked his way up his department over 30 years in the public service.

Peter Boehm, a longtime foreign service officer recently made deputy minister of international development, in front of a Neil Young poster hanging in his office at Global Affairs last week. The Hill Times photograph by Chelsea Nash

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 12:00 AM

When I emailed Peter Boehm, the new deputy minister for international development, for an interview, he responded almost immediately. He’d be happy to speak with me, either over the phone or to meet me in person at his office. It was a pleasant surprise: high-level government officials such as Mr. Boehm are rarely so accessible and generous with their valuable time.

As Janice Stein, a friend of Mr. Boehm’s and founding director of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto said, “When people become deputy minister, every five minutes counts.” She herself has not spoken to him since he assumed his new role, as acting deputy minister in November, and as confirmed deputy minister in March.

But open and approachable are exactly the words former colleagues and friends use to describe the career diplomat. He’s the “quintessential diplomat,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, and “uniformly highly regarded,” says Tim Hodges, former head of the Canadian diplomats union Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, and a friend and colleague to Mr. Boehm.

He has a large presence. A tall man, he stands out in any crowd, but he also has the sometimes-intimidating aura of someone whose approval needs to be earned. “Professional, curious, well-read, well-travelled, and deliberative in his judgments,” is how Mr. Robertson described him in an email.

He has a dry sense of humour, and is quite soft-spoken, though he doesn’t hold back while answering questions.

Mr. Hodges, who worked directly under Mr. Boehm at Canada’s embassy in Washington, D.C., and regards him as a mentor, said as much. Mr. Boehm was minister in charge of political and public affairs there from 2001 to 2004.

“He’s a tough brief, in the sense that he will read what you send him, and he will digest it, and you had better be up to speed when you get back to have a discussion about what you’ve written,” he said. A demanding boss, but in a good way, said Mr. Hodges, because he doesn’t simply ask for the best, but demonstrates it. Above all else, he is a leader, he said.

“He’s been my mentor, whether he knew it or not, for many years. I think he’s been a mentor for many other people…He not only cares about people, but he cares about people moving up through the system. That is usually voluntary; it’s not required for the job. It usually is after-hours, or find time at lunch time to have a sandwich with someone and talk about a problem,” he said, speaking of the extra effort that Mr. Boehm has given the department over the years.

The DM has been with the department since he first joined as a foreign service officer more than 30 years ago. He is the only deputy minister in the department to bring first-hand experience within the foreign service—18 years worth, in fact—to the position.

Born in Kitchener, Ont., he grew up speaking German and English, and received a bachelor of arts in English and history from Wilfrid Laurier University in the region in 1977, according to biographies of him by his alma mater and his department.

His time at Carleton University’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs, where he earned his master of arts in 1978, first sparked his interest in the foreign service. He applied then, but never heard back. So instead, he went to the University of Edinburgh on a scholarship, where he completed his PhD in history. At the time, teaching seemed to be the natural course of action for him, however, he wasn’t having much luck with his applications. He decided to try the foreign service again. This time, he heard back.

Next thing he knew, he was on his first posting in Havana, Cuba. He hopped after that to places including Germany as ambassador  from 2008 to 2012, and San José, Costa Rica. He’s also been ambassador and permanent representative to the Organization of American States from 1997 to 2001, and from 2005 to 2008, he was the senior official responsible for the North American leaders’ summits. Along the way, he’s earned the Public Service of Canada Outstanding Achievement Award and the Canadian Foreign Service Officer Award for his help toward achieving peace in Central America.

“It’s fair to say he’s a very results-oriented person, and he wants to deliver. He’s focused always on: what’s this going to deliver? How are we going to execute this? I think that’s a very good combination, to be open at the front end and focused at the back end,” said Ms. Stein.

Aid program review wrapping up

Interestingly enough, “open at the front end and focused at the back end” seems to mirror the format of the international development review the department is in the process of wrapping up. Public submissions on the future of Canada’s foreign aid program stopped being accepted at the end of July, and Mr. Boehm said they are in a period of “internal assessment, and trying to see what are the policy thrusts we are going to suggest to the minister.”

It was the first review of its kind the department has done, he said. Both in terms of the technology used to conduct the review—the department had a portal on its website to accept input—as well as the format of the review itself: the department accepted thousands of submissions from “really anyone in the world.”

Mr. Boehm said “a number of trends are already emerging,” including a focus on women and girls, and their rights and empowerment. Education and climate change are also important themes, he said.

“It’s a very exciting moment because there’s never been a consultation that has been undertaken in this way in our history,” he said, “in terms of really trying to get the most input from as many actors as we can, and trying to come out with a policy that is very 21st century, that is very forward-leaning, and can serve as an example for other countries.”

He said in his capacity as G7 sherpa—representative of the prime minister to the G7 summit—he has also been consulting with his counterparts from other countries for the development review, and talking to them about their challenges and successes.

“There is an exponential need for humanitarian assistance. The needs are high, but we also have traditional development. There’s a squeeze there in terms of how we use the budget, the dollars, to greatest effect. That also suggests looking at new and creative ways of programming and addressing these challenges,” he said.

Mental health advocate

Mr. Boehm also has a reputation for advocating for mental health initiatives, and has made great strides within the department to provide a support structure for foreign service officers.

Ms. Stein said mental health “was an important issue for him long before it became an important issue for many people…He does it in a very quiet, but very persistent, way—which again, reflects who he is.”

Mr. Boehm attributes his determination to advance mental health initiatives and to reduce stigma to his own experience. One of Mr. Boehm’s sons, who was born abroad, is autistic.

“Just travelling with him, and making sure he gets the supports he needs was probably the greatest challenge of my life,” he said. “I’ve been pushing it and I’ve blogged about it internally in terms of my own experience. And if I can talk about it, and write about it, then why can’t others?”

He is the father of three other children as well, ranging in age from 12 to 33. They are all over the globe, from Vancouver to Budapest, doing “different things.” None want to follow directly in his footsteps, he said, though they all seem to have caught his interest in international affairs.

“My 12-year-old, I have a plan for her,” he said with a coy smile. “Prime minister.”

The 62-year-old was reluctant to admit his age, saying he doesn’t think like he’s 62. That’s what his 12-year-old daughter tells him, anyways. And, having only been in his current position since November 2015, Mr. Boehm said retirement is not on his horizon anytime soon.

“Oh I’m not gone yet,” he said. “I’d like to stay involved in international issues. I think I have contributions to make.”

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On Results of the China Trip and G20

NEW PODCAST: ‘THE GLOBAL EXCHANGE’
Post-G20 Discussion: Trudeau and China

g20open.jpg
For Immediate Release

6 September 2016 – Ottawa, ON

On today’s ‘Global Exchange’ Podcast, host Colin Robertson looks at last weekend’s ‘Group of 20’ Summit in Hangzhou, China. Join Colin for a discussion with four experts in international relations – Rob Wright, Randolph Mank, Hugh Stephens, and Marius Grinius – as they look to identify the significance and impact of the most recent G20, along with the importance of Trudeau’s visit to China preluding the Summit.

What does China’s increased role international affairs mean for Canada? What did we get out of Trudeau’s visit to China, and at the G20? Does Canada have a role to play at summits such as the G20? All this and more are discussed on this weeks episode of ‘The Global Exchange’.

Bios:

  • Colin Robertson (host) A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a Senior Advisor to Dentons LLP.
  • Rob Wright – served as Canadian Ambassador to China from 2005-2009. He served as Ambassador to Japan from 2001-2005.
  • Randolph Mank – a three-time former Canadian ambassador and businessman, with over thirty years of experience in Asia and around the world.
  • Hugh Stephens – Executive-in-Residence at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada and Vice Chair of the Canadian Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation.
  • Marius Grinius – joined the Canadian Foreign Service in 1979 after serving in the Canadian Army for 12 years. His early overseas postings included Bangkok, NATO/Brussels and Hanoi. Assignments back in Ottawa included desk officer for nuclear arms control, Director for Asia Pacific South and then Director for South East Asia.

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Canada playing ‘long game’ on China as it tries to counter protectionism in the global economy

Marie-Danielle Smith | September 6, 2016 1:21 PM ET
More from Marie-Danielle Smith

Justin Trudeau answers a question from Bloomberg Television anchor Angie Lau during a Canada-Hong Kong business luncheon, held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, during his visit to Hong Kong on September 6, 2016.

Anthony Wallace / AFP / Getty ImagesJustin Trudeau answers a question from Bloomberg Television anchor Angie Lau during a Canada-Hong Kong business luncheon, held by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, during his visit to Hong Kong on September 6, 2016.

HONG KONG — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wrapped up his first official visit to China Tuesday with another push for close co-operation, including on human rights, and for openness and inclusiveness in the global economy.

“The kinds of anxieties we’re seeing around the world as people are closing in are going to leave us all poorer and worse off,” he said in Hong Kong Tuesday, expanding on messages Canada brought to the G20 table Sunday and Monday.

“There are not as many bright spots in terms of growth and openness and trade as we’d like to see around the world.”

Though it has yet to be ratified, one example could be the Canada-EU trade agreement, as election rhetoric in the U.S. could leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal dead in the water.

During his tour, Trudeau tried to make the case that the relationship between Canada and China could be another such bright spot.

In Beijing, finance minister Bill Morneau signalled Canada’s intent to apply for membership in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, joining other countries such as the U.K. and Australia. (The United States is not a an AIIB member.)

 

Trudeau downplays chance of protectionist rise in Canada 2:00

And in Shanghai, trade minister Chrystia Freeland signed $1.2 billion worth of commercial deals with Chinese corporations, followed by another series of signings in Hong Kong Tuesday. A foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with Hong Kong also went into force.

In Hangzhou, just before the G20 summit got underway, Trudeau launched a Canadian pavilion on Alibaba Group’s e-commerce platform. It was, Canadian businesspeople said on Saturday, a positive way to reach more of the Chinese consumer market.

Trudeau’s high-level meetings with Chinese leadership showed strong support for trade and investment on both sides.

A spat over Chinese restrictions on Canadian canola — which Global Affairs Canada fellow Colin Robertson said was “China showing its muscle and trying to intimidate us” — was temporarily resolved amid further negotiation.

AP Photo / Vincent Yu

AP Photo / Vincent Yu Trudeau speaks with scouts at the Sai Wan war cemetery in Hong Kong, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016.

Addressing concerns in Canada, Trudeau strengthened his language on human rights Tuesday, appearing more relaxed in Hong Kong on the last day of his visit. He said he didn’t see a trade-off between human rights and a closer economic relationship.

“I think you have to talk fully and frankly about human rights and engage and talk about the challenges that need to be faced,” Trudeau said.

He added that in talks with Chinese leaders, he raised the example of a scathing 2014 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples in Canada.

I don’t think it means any less of us that we recognize that there is still work to do, and that was the tenor of the conversations I had with the Chinese leadership

“I don’t think it means any less of us that we recognize that there is still work to do, and that was the tenor of the conversations I had with the Chinese leadership.”

This is all part of a “long game,” according to Roland Paris, Trudeau’s first international adviser who now teaches at the University of Ottawa. Trudeau, Paris said, is setting a positive tone to Canada’s inevitable relationship with the world’s second-biggest economy.

According to Chinese sources and social media, Trudeau remains a popular figure in China. The prime minister’s celebrity, even if often focused on his appearance, “gives Canada more attention,” Robertson said, “which thus far is almost uniformly positive.”

The fact China hosted Canada in the busy lead-up to the G20 was a strong sign of “the importance that the Chinese put on their relationship with Canada,” said Paris.

Paris rejected suggestions that Canada is pivoting away from the U.S. by joining the AIIB. “The United States will remain our principal partner, trading partner and ally just by virtue of geography,” he said. He added that the U.S. is beating Canada in the race to capitalize on trade with Asia — something Canada “can’t afford not to pursue.”

At the economy-focused G20 summit, Trudeau wasn’t in the spotlight and didn’t hold many bilateral meetings, though he did meet with new U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May.

The failure of the U.S. and Russia to reach a deal on Syria stole significant attention at the summit, but Trudeau avoided commenting on the issue.

Still, in the context of the G20’s economic focus, Paris said the prime minister showed himself to be “one of the world’s leading voices for openness and inclusion and against protectionism and discrimination and xenophobia and building walls.” Trudeau, Paris said, offered a “full-throated” defence of small-l liberal values to other leaders.

With careful language around issues sensitive to China, including the South China Sea and the results of a legislative vote in Hong Kong that saw some young pro-democracy candidates elected, Trudeau appeared to want to protect a friendly start to his relationship with Chinese leadership.

And Trudeau will have an unusually short time to prepare for his next encounter with the economic giant — Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is expected to travel to Ottawa in mid-September.

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Trudeau at the G20

After being well-received while visiting China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets leaders of the world’s major trading nations at the G20 on Sept. 3 and 4, 2016.

After being well-received while visiting China, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets leaders of the world’s major trading nations at the G20 on Sept. 3 and 4, 2016.
Photo Credit: Chinatopix via AP

G20 meeting to focus on open trade

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been well-received in China, both by its people and politicians.  He managed to stave off a plan to dramatically restrict Canadian exports of canola to China, and raised human rights issues with leaders behind closed doors, to avoid annoying the host country and allowing it to save face.

“To go in a bull-in-a-china-shop approach would not serve our interests. They would have just shut him down,” says Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Ambassador raised the issue of human rights

“By having our ambassador…who has had several postings in China say that…there has been a decline in human rights, that will register probably more profoundly than if Justin Trudeau has raised it or if (foreign affairs minister) Stephane Dion had raised it.”

Listen

Clay figures of Chines President Xi Jinping, centre, and other foreign leaders are displayed in a shop window ahead of the G20 summit.
Clay figures of Chines President Xi Jinping, centre, and other foreign leaders are displayed in a shop window ahead of the G20 summit. © Ng Han Guan/AP Photo

Trudeau moves on Tto the G20 meeting of major trading nations hosted for the first time by China on Sunday, Sept 4 and 5.  “For China, after feeling that they had been supressed and subdued by the west from roughly 1800 to 1950, they feel in essence that they have spent the last 50 years re-establishing China as a great power,” says Robertson.

Calming the winds of protectionism

It is important for Trudeau to meet face-to-face with world leaders at the meeting to discuss economic multilateralism. “Basically it means business and trade, so kind of a short hand for globalization,” he says.

There are winds of protectionism blowing, he adds, noting comments from both U.S. presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton and China’s effort to restrict the import of Canadian canola. So, leaders will seek to renew their commitments to open trade.

Themes important for China and Canada

China has listed climate and sustainable development as major themes for this meeting. Mitigating climate change is a topic Trudeau was elected on and Canadians place a high emphasis on sustainable development.

“Both of these are major themes as part of economic guidance of the economy that, I think, Justin Trudeau will want to see moved forward and that Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general would like to an action plan come out of this,” says Robertson.



For Immediate Release

2 September 2016 – Ottawa, ON – The Canadian Global Affairs Institute today released, “A Canadian Primer to the G20 Summit: Hangzhou, China, September 4-5, 2016”.

This Sunday and Monday the leaders of the major economic nations, along with their finance ministers and central bankers, will meet in Hangzhou China to discuss global economic and financial issues. This G20 Summit takes place against the backdrop of the ongoing Syrian crisis and terrorism inspired by extremism; European challenges surrounding Brexit and the refugee crisis; tensions in the South and East China Seas and North Korea; and the approaching US election.

This primer, by CGAI Vice-President and Fellow Colin Robertson, explains the concept of the G20 summits, covers key issues on the agenda, and realistic deliverables from both the official meetings and the more informal discussions. Included in the text is the following:

  • Introduction
  • Who and what is the G20
  • The G20’s Standing Agenda
  • What does the Hangzhou Summit want to achieve?
  • What about deliverables from the Hangzouh?
  • A role for Canada?
  • Do we really need a G20?
  • Additional Reading

The complete report, “A Primer to the North American Leaders’ Summit”, is available: www.cgai.ca/a_canadian_primer_to_the_g20_summit

Download the PDF

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Canada at the G20 in Hangzhou, China

 

At G20, Trudeau must reflect on tenure and plot inclusive economic course forward

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Friday, Sep. 02, 2016

No longer the debutante, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Hangzhou, China, to attend his second G20 summit (Sept. 4-5). For Mr. Trudeau it’s an opportunity to strengthen personal relationships and to share perspectives with fellow leaders on a global economy that is anemic and an international landscape that is increasingly disoriented.

In his initial summiteering, hopscotching from Commonwealth to climate, from G20 to APEC and later at Davos, Mr. Trudeau’s message was that “Canada is back.”

Subsequent actions are defining its form: more emphasis on humanitarian relief for victims of the ISIS conflict, while still supporting military efforts to bring it to an end; resettlement of Syrian refugees; a Canadian brigade for Latvia to support NATO’s collective security; a robust peace operations commitment; measurable action on climate-change mitigation; and restarts in out relations, first with the U.S., and now China.

At a time of of popular discontent with leaders and government, Mr. Trudeau is an anomaly. He is more popular today than on his election and his government is getting some difficult things done. G20 leaders will be interested in the Trudeau method. They will also want his take on the U.S. election.

As he reflects on his first year as Prime Minister, Mr. Trudeau could make the following observations:

First, there is no magic bullet on economic growth. It takes a lot longer to put stimulus policies into effect, especially when implementation is shared with different levels of government. Well-meant but time-consuming permitting obligations means getting things done in a four-year mandate is very difficult. What is the balance between action on nation-building projects and consultation around social license?

Second, focus on outcomes, recognizing that one size does not fit all. Canada’s provinces were already far ahead in the practical implementation of carbon pricing. But just as their regional energy mix is different – oil and gas, nuclear and hydro-power – so too are their mitigation policies, such as a carbon tax, carbon levy, cap-in-trade.

Third, using social media is essential if democratic leaders and their governments are to sustain public support. A picture and a tweet are more effective in delivering a message than a thousand press releases.

Canadians are assumed to understand Americans better than anyone else, and this interpretive capacity gives Canadian leaders a diplomatic advantage, especially in multilateral forum like the G20. Given his “bromance“ with President Barack Obama, fellow G20 leaders will want Mr. Trudeau’s insights into the post-Obama U.S.

If Mr. Trudeau is shrewd, he should reach out to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto – who has just met with Donald Trump. Developing a joint approach in their diagnosis, and the opportunities and challenges of the next U.S. Administration and Congress, would serve both countries’ interests. While neither Canada nor Mexico may be the immediate target of U.S. trade action, they will certainly be collateral damage should the U.S. succumb to the protectionist impulse.

For now, developing a united front with the other G20 leaders in support of freer trade and open markets will encourage like-minded allies within the U.S.

Canada also needs to look at other options, especially if the U.S. rejects the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Should, for example, Canada and Mexico seek admission to the China-inspired Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership that also includes Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations?

Even though it lacks the democratic cohesion of the G7, the G20 is the global economic leadership forum. It was the brainchild of former finance minister Paul Martin, who recognized that the G7 lacked sufficient inclusiveness to address globalization. Elevated to the level of leaders in 2008, the G20 helped mitigate the Great Recession and prevent it from becoming a second Great Depression. One aim of the Hangzhou summit is to help integrate recent climate and sustainable-development goals in global economic governance.

Cynics who doubt the utility of the G20 need to appreciate that the process is more important than the communiqué. The summit sits atop a year-long series of meetings of ministers and central bankers, and formal consultations with business, think tanks, labour, youth, women and civil society.

Complicated, time-consuming and often without an obvious outcome, the G20 in some ways resembles a Canadian First Ministers meeting. But leaders talking together has its own value, especially when the international environment is disordered and chaotic.

More Related to this Story

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What Trudeau wants and risks with visit to China this week

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