John McCain: A friend to Canada


Canada had a friend in John McCain

iPolitics

Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance.
Location is everything in Washington. Canada’s splendid Arthur Erickson-designed embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue, just across from the National Gallery of Art, is at the start of the presidential inaugural parade that is held every four years. The embassy’s sixth-floor balcony overlooks the Capitol building. Its superb view down Pennsylvania Avenue makes it a prize site for schmoozing while keeping an eye on the parade.

Our invitation to members of the new Congress, incoming administration and the movers and shakers of Washington is always a draw. For the second George W. Bush inaugural parade on January 20, 2005, we welcomed former Speaker Newt Gingrich and incoming West Virginia governor (and now Senator) Joe Manchin . But our prize catch was Arizona Senator John McCain who came along with one of his daughters, who lived in Toronto.

The Senator made straight for the balcony. He was not there for any ‘networking’. He had come to watch the parade.

It was a cold January – mitts, scarf and toque weather. The Senator positioned himself against the balcony and stayed put, long after everyone else had gone in for something warming. I stood beside him and tried to engage him on some of our issues – softwood lumber and beef. He grunted acknowledgement, his eyes on the marching bands.

“I marched myself as a midshipman at Annapolis in the second Eisenhower inaugural… it was another cold day.”

For the next hour, he did colour commentary, displaying an encyclopaedic, opinionated knowledge of the various marching bands, punctuated with his trademark wit and pungent humour. His daughter came out at one point and fastened a scarf around him but he stood bare-headed and with his hands in his dark wool coat.

‘Dad, it’s really cold out here…come in.’

‘No thanks…I’ve been in colder places than this.’

It was another insight into this doughty American hero.

I first met Senator McCain when I served as Canadian Consul General for the southwestern USA. Arizona was part of the territory and the senior Senator from Arizona’s office was supportive of our efforts to create the Canada-Arizona Business Council. The CABC set about increasing by tenfold the number of direct flights between Arizona and Canada. It was eventually realized thanks to CABC efforts, especially those of CEO Glenn Williamson, now our Honorary Consul in Phoenix.

When I was assigned next to establish the new Advocacy Secretariat at our Embassy in Washington, Senator McCain was an obvious target for our outreach efforts. He had served in Congress since 1983 and run well as the maverick ‘Straight Talk Express’ against George W. Bush for the GOP nomination in 2000. In 2008 he would be the GOP presidential nominee.

Senator McCain’s Washington staff was as efficient as those in Arizona. Perhaps not surprisingly, given his similarities to Teddy Roosevelt, we found that he was an environmentalist and his staff gave us useful advice on the somewhat obscure, but important, Devils Lake environmental issue. Run-off from Devils Lake in North Dakota was running into the Red River that flows north into Manitoba. We wanted the Army Corps of Engineers to put in a filtration system. Senator McCain, who early on recognized the dangers of climate change, helped us. He also traveled, with Hillary Clinton, across the north of Canada to Churchill to assess the changes wrought by global warming.

Senator McCain was a warrior and he understand the values of collective security. He was also a democrat and indeed championed the idea of a league of democracies sustained by a military alliance. One of the most successful initiatives of the Harper government that the Trudeau government has wisely continued to support is the Halifax International Security Forum, a three-day world-class security forum for the democracies. Set up under the direction of then Defence Minister Peter MacKay it has succeeded under the tireless direction of its CEO, Peter van Praagh.

Critical to the HISF success is the congressional delegation that flies up from Washington each November. John McCain was a driving spirit behind the American presence. Not only did he attend every year, he personally cajoled and convinced his colleagues, Republican and Democrat, to come with him. This congressional presence, often more than come to Canada in an entire year, ensured high-level participation from ministers and flag-rank officers both trans-Atlantic and trans-Pacific.

In what was his last appearance, weeks after the election of Donald Trump in November 2016, Senator McCain was unequivocal in his support for NATO, as well as the NAFTA. They needed to be preserved and strengthened. And when it came to conduct in war, he was equally forceful telling us “I don’t give a damn what the president (elect) wants to do…we will not waterboard. We will not torture people.”

Yes, Senator McCain is an American hero. He was also a friend to Canada.

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The Final Round NAFTA?

A little more than a year after negotiations began on a revised North American free-trade agreement, a deal looks possible, although big questions remain.

For much of the past two months, Mexican and American negotiators have wrestled with the U.S. demand around the content rules for our most-traded commodity, the automobile. North Americans produce 17.5 million cars or trucks annually. The original U.S. demand of 85 per cent North American content with 50 per cent of that “Made in the USA” has apparently morphed into 75 per cent North American content with 40 per cent to 45 per cent made by workers making US$16 or more a hour.

The devil is always in the details, but Canadian industry and its workers can live with this and, if this gives U.S. President Donald Trump his “win,” then we are on our way to a deal.

So, too, with the “sunset” clause. Originally, the United States wanted the new agreement to lapse after five years – something investors said would freeze investment, especially into Canada and Mexico. U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reportedly says it will now be 16 years with a review after six years. We can live with that.

On dispute settlement, or Chapter 19, the picture is murky and we will need clarification. The Trump team originally wanted to jettison the binational mechanism, and it appears there will be investor-state provisions, something U.S. industry lobbied hard to retain, and some form of recourse, beyond the U.S. system, for energy and infrastructure. Canada and Mexico need to stand firm. We need recourse from U.S. trade-remedy legislation – countervail, anti-dump and, as the Trump administration misapplies it, national security.

If reports are accurate, there appears to be near-agreement on agriculture (good for Canadian farmers) and on intellectual property (unchanged) but again, the devil will be in the details.

The negotiators were originally aiming for 30-plus chapters of NAFTA but until now only nine had been closed and, of course, nothing is truly closed until it is all done.

So what remains and how might they be resolved? From Canada’s perspective, assuming we can work out dispute settlement, we need to see action on three more items.

  • Government procurement: Canada wants to retain open access, but the United States is offering a derisory dollar-for-dollar deal. If we cannot work this out, we should leave it to governors and premiers to work out the kind of reciprocal procurement deal that they achieved in 2010. This could be regional or national; the incentive for both sides is that an outside bidder curbs local price-fixing. This will be important especially if Mr. Trump proceeds with his trillion-dollar “Big Build” infrastructure initiative.
  • Labour mobility: We want to update for the digital age the ease of passage for designated occupations. Businesses, especially those with North American supply chains, need this to maintain competitiveness. In the current U.S. environment, this is probably a stretch. We would do well if we can maintain the current list and punt this over to a separate negotiation.
  • Dairy access: Mr. Trump continues to single this out. It is time to reform supply management just as we did with our wine industry through the original Canada-U.S. free-trade agreement in 1987 and then our managed trade in grain. Provide adjustment assistance but open up our dairy and poultry industries, which make good products and, like our beef and pork sectors, and now our grains and pulse production, they can be world-beaters.

While Mr. Trump thinks negotiations can wrap up this week, we will likely see fall leaves and probably snow before the deal is done. Legislative ratification, especially in the United States, is an even bigger question mark. It will likely be the next Congress, chosen in November and taking office in January, that will give “up or down” approval to the new accord. It won’t be easy.

The coming days – more likely weeks – will be a test of Canadian negotiators. They are a very experienced team and they are up to the task as long as the government has their backs.

This is the bigger question: Can the Trudeau government take the political flak that will inevitably come its way? It won’t be sunny ways. If it can stick it out, the Trudeau government will make as big a contribution to Canadian well being and competitiveness as Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative government did with the original Canada-U.S. FTA and then the NAFTA. It would be no small legacy.

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Grading NAFTA: A year on

While some progress has been made, a deal still hasn’t been reached. Autos and the U.S. demand for a sunset clause have been key sticking points. Meanwhile, Canada has become one of Donald Trump’s main targets in recent weeks with the U.S. president threatening more tariffs on Canadian car imports if a deal isn’t struck.

Below, four experts weigh in on Canada’s progress in the talks so far and offer their view on what needs to happen next.

 

What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

COLIN ROBERTSON, VP AND FELLOW, CANADIAN GLOBAL AFFAIRS INSTITUTE

Grade: A, for exhibiting Hemingway’s definition of courage: “grace under pressure”

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Donald Trump. Does he want a NAFTA or not?  Is the administration prepared to negotiate on the remaining critical issues: dispute settlement (chapters 11, 19, 20) and government procurement?”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“We are still in negotiation and the Canada-Mexico partnership remains solid.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“U.S. intransigence and the sense that their negotiating team is awaiting instructions on their mandate and scope for negotiation.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Keep negotiating and trying to make progress on the issues. Keep in mind the average negotiation for a deal of this size even renegotiated is three-to-five years. We are actually making reasonable progress given the complexities involved. Granted, a lot of what is being negotiated was already negotiated by the U.S., Canada and Mexico in the TPP and many of the negotiators are the same. So there is familiarity with the issues and one another.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“Donald Trump’s personal involvement. He has so much policy ground to choose from but he has made NAFTA a personal interest as we have learned to our surprise and disappointment in his tweets.”

 

Ottawa mulling steel safeguards: Is this a wise move?

Maryscott Greenwood, CEO of the Canadian American Business Council, joins BNN Bloomberg to discuss Ottawa’s decision to launch consultations with the aim of protecting Canada’s steel industry, and what’s ahead for NAFTA.

MARYSCOTT GREENWOOD, CEO, CANADIAN AMERICAN BUSINESS COUNCIL

Grade: I for incomplete

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“I would say the unpredictability of the U.S.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Raising awareness in the U.S. and Canada of the importance of our economic relationship.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“Not getting a deal done yet.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Canada needs to come to the table with practical deals in mind. Focus on the practicality as opposed to the principle.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The fact that [Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador], the new president of Mexico, has been eager to conclude a modernized NAFTA before he takes office on Dec. 1.”

 

Trump’s focus on tariffs still truly remain China: Trade expert

Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at Johns Hopkins University, joins BNN Bloomberg’s Catherine Murray for a look at the growing ripple effects from Trump’s tariffs.

CHRISTOPHER SANDS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CANADIAN STUDIES, JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY

Grade: C

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“Overcoming an initial impression (given by President Trump) that the renegotiation of NAFTA would involve only ‘tweaks’ with regard to Canada-U.S. trade arrangements. This led Canada to play it safe with a defensive strategy that was hard to abandon when the gravity of the talks became more apparent (lots of clues are visible in retrospect).”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“Mobilizing an impressive outreach to the Congress, state governors and legislators on the benefits to the United States of trade with Canada … Combined with a thoughtful outreach to the Trump administration, including White House staff and cabinet departments, the Canadian effort was more extensive that any that a foreign country has ever mounted in the United States.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“It would be a tie for me. First, the failure of the impressive Canadian outreach to garner a single concession from the United States – not on softwood lumber, not on gypsum – which was then followed by the self-destructive Canadian attack on U.S. trade remedy practices now pending before the World Trade Organization, a clear sign of Canadian frustration.

“Second, the business community in both Canada and the United States has been far less effective at defending the integrated continental supply chains that link the three NAFTA economies. Why? I still don’t really know.”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“Heal the breach with the Trump White House.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations? 

“Almost all of the things I have mentioned above surprised me, but the suspension of the NAFTA talks in June followed by their resumption on a bilateral basis by the U.S. and Mexico was the biggest surprise.”

 

Trump playing ‘old-fashioned leverage’ with Canada freeze-out: Trade lawyer

Mark Warner, principal at MAAW Law, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on Trump’s latest tweet on NAFTA, in which he essentially says he’s freezing Canada out of talks.

MARK WARNER, PRINCIPAL, MAAW LAW

Grade: A+ for effort in engaging with key stakeholders, B+ overall

What has been the biggest hurdle for Canada so far?

“The biggest hurdle for Canada in the NAFTA negotiations so far has been in grappling with the scope of the Trump administration’s demands to roll back some of the perceived gains from NAFTA in the area of dispute settlement (and demand for a sunset clause) and to deal with traditional U.S. demands for concessions in areas like supply management for the price of maintaining NAFTA rather than for new U.S. concessions.”

What has been Canada’s biggest success?

“The biggest success for Canada has been to keep drawing out the negotiations without Trump triggering a notice of withdrawal to Canada and Mexico. That said, the price of doing so has been increased investment uncertainty and the strategy has led Trump to seek other opportunities for leverage in the negotiations outside NAFTA, most notably in Canada’s inclusion in the Section 232 national security tariffs on steel and aluminum and threatened ones on autos.”

What has been the biggest disappointment?

“The biggest disappointment is that Canada has adopted a passive, defensive approach to the NAFTA renegotiation with engagement mostly with U.S. stakeholders rather than proactively engaging stakeholders in Canada for self-interested policy or market access concessions that could be offered up to move Canada out of Trump’s attention (e.g. supply management).”

What is the most important thing Canada needs to do going forward?

“The most important thing Canada needs to do right now is to find something to offer in the NAFTA negotiations to avoid Trump imposing Section 232 national security tariffs on exports of autos and auto parts from Canada. And to end the spiral of ‘tit for tat’ tariff retaliation, which is a game that ultimately Canada cannot win because of the asymmetries in the size of the two economies and relative importance of bilateral trade to each country.”

What has been the biggest surprise throughout the negotiations?  

“The biggest surprise to me is that Canada and Mexico have managed to hang together, at least publicly, until recently, although I wonder whether the time horizons of the newly-elected Mexican president and the Canadian prime minister approaching his re-election year will stay aligned if the NAFTA negotiations continue.”

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Saudi-Canada and the USA

Who would have imagined that a tweet could have sparked such a crisis in Saudi-Canada relations? In this still-developing saga, there is a lesson, questions and a challenge.

The lesson is obvious: Diplomacy by tweet is a bad idea.

The too-clever-by-half tweet on the Friday before the August long weekend was likely written to assuage constituent pressures – the Montreal family of the imprisoned Badawis. But was it given sufficient scrutiny by our professional diplomatic corps?

The tweet would have been fine had it been sent by Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch. Diplomacy needs nuance and circumspection to effect actual change. While a useful social-media tool for priming an event or announcement, 280 characters are insufficient for launching a human-rights initiative to transform Saudi conduct.

The questions: Did Mohammed bin Salman, the Saudi Crown Prince calling the shots in the desert kingdom, check with U.S. President Donald Trump before proceeding with his attack on Canada? Given their close personal relationship – Mr. Trump’s first foreign visit was to Riyadh – was there a conversation before the Saudis launched the diplomatic equivalent of DEFCON 3 on the United States’ closest ally? If so, what was said?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau needs to call Mr. Trump to discuss the Saudi situation. If it turns out that Mr. Trump gave the Crown Prince a wink and a nod to proceed, then Mr. Trudeau needs to make it clear that this is not acceptable.

The challenge for Canada is what to do next.

The Saudis are ratcheting up their campaign. Their social media have called Canada an oppressor of women and the homeless. The tweeted picture of an Air Canada jet headed for the CN Tower – shades of the Twin Towers – was reprehensible. The Saudis are also calling in their chits. The Arab League, Organization of Islamic Co-operation and the Gulf Co-operation Council have all dutifully lined up behind Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Arab News says Mr. Trudeau should send a delegation on “the first plane” to make amends or there is a “real risk of upsetting the entire Muslim and Arab worlds.”

The Washington Post editorialized (with an Arabic version) that the extreme nature of the Saudi punitive actions requires solidarity from like-minded countries who see human rights as a fundamental value.

The response to date from our Group of Seven partners is disappointing. The U.S. State Department suggested the two countries – “both close allies of the USA” – work it out, as though Canada and Saudi Arabia were on equal footing. Susan Rice, who served as president Barack Obama’s UN Ambassador and then National Security Adviser, got it right: ”the administration left Canada swinging in the wind.”

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland now has to manage the fallout and continue her efforts to persuade like-minded countries to take a principled stand.

Are there sanctions we and our allies should be taking against the Saudis for their human-rights abuses, including treatment of women, oppression of religious freedoms and their intervention in Yemen? And why not invite its Foreign Minister to Canada? Perhaps he could join Ms. Freeland for a walk through our splendid Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg.

Ms. Freeland has given some good, punchy speeches defending the rules-based order recently, in Washington and in Singapore. Words matter. On her next trip to Europe, she should speak about human rights and remind our allies that they are fundamental to civil society. Mr. Trudeau should make human rights a principal theme of his UN General Assembly speech in September.

It is doubtful the Trudeau government intended to launch a new initiative targeting Saudi human rights. It already has a charged foreign-policy agenda – tense NAFTA negotiations, NATO commitments, climate talks, G7 chair obligations, peace operations in Mali and now refugee claimants from the United States. But Saudi bully-boy tactics shouldn’t give the kingdom a free pass on human rights.

As we have learned through our initiatives to help the Rohingya in Myanmar and to constrain the Maduro regime in Venezuela, advancing human rights in countries that don’t care is a difficult proposition. But if a feminist foreign policy and advocacy for human rights is to mean anything, we have to stand up, even if we stand alone.

US refuses to back Canada in Saudi Arabia dispute

As the diplomatic feud between Canada and Saudi Arabia worsens, the United States has remained notably silent, leaving Ottawa both perplexed and frustrated.

It all began last week with a tweet from Canada’s foreign minister criticising Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

That unleashed a barrage of punitive measures from Saudi Arabia including expelling Canada’s Ambassador, recalling its own Ambassador from Ottawa, freezing business and trade ties and ordering home thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada.

The US State Department has urged the two sides to use diplomacy to resolve the dispute but President Donald Trump’s silence for its northern neighbour hasn’t gone unnoticed in Canada.

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NAFTA and Trump

 Sentiment Factoring Into NAFTA Negotiations
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for August 13, 2018

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute suggests a growing protectionist sentiment within the United States is factoring into the NAFA negotiations.
Negotiations aimed at modernizing the North American Free Trade Agreement are essentially on hold until next year awaiting results of the U.S, mid-term elections.
Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says the U.S. public and now a large number of elected representatives in Congress and at the state level, recognize the value of NAFTA but the tide of protectionism is increasing.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
Polling, and I rely particularly on Pew, P E W, I think they’re the gold standard for polling in the United States, their most recent poll, which I think was March or April, suggested that a majority of Americans, around 55 to 60 percent see value in free trade agreements.
They think the United States has actually got something out of it.
They see particular value in a Canada-U.S. free trade agreement because they think we’re fair traders.
However the same polling shows that the base of the Republican party is becoming increasingly protectionist, more protectionist indeed than their representatives and it is that base that Donald Trump relies upon.
A good 40 percent to 50 percent of his base is really anti-trade.
When he speaks on trade he’s playing to that base and that is a factor we have to take into account because that’s the group he’s going to rely upon if he wants to seek reelection in 2020.

Robertson  suggests pressure from the farm community, which voted mostly for President Trump, and the manufacturing sector, many of whom voted for President Trump, is probably what has kept him from rescinding the NAFTA but it has not influenced the administration to bend on some of its more unreasonable positions.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

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Lopez Obrador and NAFTA

Stand of Mexican President-Elect on NAFTA Positive
Colin Robertson – Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Farmscape for August 9, 2018

The Vice-President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute observes the stand being taken by the President-Elect of Mexico on the North American Free Trade Agreement appears positive.
Among the key recent developments in terms of the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement has been Mexico’s election of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
Colin Robertson, the Vice-President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, notes Lopez Obrador won 53 percent of the popular vote, he took a majority in their House of Representatives, their Senate and a significant number of the 31 Mexican states so he goes in with a big mandate.

Clip-Colin Robertson-Canadian Global Affairs Institute:
Obviously a new administration will take a different perspective and this is the first truly left wing government we’ve had in Mexico in really 100 years and he’s assembled a cabinet that, by most pundant’s assessment, are technocrats and could fit almost into any administration.
While there had been some concerns that he was opposed to NAFTA, he’s certainly not indicated that.
In fact he seems to be committed to continuing the policies of the Pena Nieto regime in terms of participation in the NAFTA and in staying in close alignment with Canada.
Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland and our new Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr where in Mexico two weeks ago and they met with the transition team as well as President-Elect Lopez Obrador and, coming out of that meeting, the staff of President Lopez Obrador said that he wanted to remain working closely in partnership with Canada in the NAFTA negotiations and to continue to improve the Canada-Mexico partnership generally.

Robertson suggests Canada and Mexico need to stand together.
He says we also need to double-down on our outreach pointing out to our American friends that North American trade is a proven win-win-win proposition.
For Farmscape.Ca, I’m Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

 

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NAFTA

What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

  • 08/09/2018 – 3:15 PM EDT
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    Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal,...

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    What’s ahead for NAFTA as U.S. and Mexico meet again without Canada

    Colin Robertson, VP and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and member of the team that negotiated the original NAFTA deal, joins BNN Bloomberg to provide perspective on what’s ahead in NAFTA 2.0 negotiations, as the U.S. and Mexico meet.

 

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Diplomacy by Tweet

Trudeau says Canada standing firm on Saudi Arabia’s human rights abuses

OTTAWA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says diplomatic talks with Saudi Arabia will continue but he’s not backing down on Canada’s criticism of the kingdom over the arrest of several social activists last week.

Trudeau said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland had a long conversation with her Saudi counterpart on Tuesday and Canada is engaging directly with the Saudi government in a bid to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries. But an apology from Canada or a withdrawal of the human rights concerns Canada raised, is not on the table.

“As the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights,” Trudeau said during an event Wednesday in Montreal.

The diplomatic dispute began last week after Freeland tweeted concerns about the arrests of social activists, including Samar Badawi, who has advocated for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Her brother, blogger Raif Badawi, has been in prison since 2012 for criticizing the government, but his wife and children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens earlier this year.

On Aug. 2, Freeland called for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi and, a day later, her department tweeted further criticism and called for the “immediate release” of Samar Badawi and all peaceful human rights activists.

On Sunday, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador, suspended diplomatic relations and slammed the door to new trade with Canada. It has since recalled thousands of Saudi students studying in Canada, moved to transfer any Saudi patients out of Canadian hospitals and barred the import of Canadian wheat. As of next week, the Saudi-owned airline will cease direct flights to and from Toronto and there is at least one report that the government has also ordered state-owned pension funds and banks to sell off Canadian assets.

Many Saudi media outlets and online personalities have taken to the web and airwaves to criticize Canada for everything from the opioid epidemic to its treatment of Indigenous Peoples.

Trudeau said Canada’s goal is not to have a bad relationship with Saudi Arabia.

“We don’t want to have poor relations with Saudi Arabia,” he said in French. “It’s a country that has a certain importance in the world and is making progress on human rights. But we will continue to underline challenges when they exist there and everywhere in the world.”

Earlier Wednesday, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters in Riyadh that Canada has been given the information it needs to correct the tweets and that it’s up to Canada to step up and fix its “big mistake.”

The intensity of Saudi Arabia’s response has puzzled many, who say it is an extreme reaction to a relatively tame tweet that isn’t much different from what Canada has said before.

Former diplomat Colin Robertson, now vice-president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says Saudi Arabia’s “Defcon 3” response is extraordinary, but thinks Canada’s decision to send the message on Twitter may be partly to blame.

“We are becoming too carefree with tweets,” said Robertson.

The 140-character limit, or 280 in some cases, is not enough to allow for the level of nuance that is required in diplomatic relations and tweets may not be subjected to the same rigorous review process, including sign off by the ambassador, that an official statement would be, he said.

“It is diplomacy by tweet that is responsible,” he said. “When you’re the government of Canada and the ministry of foreign affairs you’ve got to be careful.”

Trudeau, who was heavily criticized for his 2017 tweet welcoming refugees to Canada as the U.S. was clamping down on its asylum system, didn’t apologize for making use of the medium in this situation.

“I think people understand that in today’s world there are a broad range of communications tools available to individuals, to countries, to share messages, to make statements,” he said. “We will continue to use the full range of methods of communication as appropriate.”

Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole said his sources have told him it was patronizing language in the Arabic translation of the Canadian tweet that really got the Saudis upset. He said the Trudeau government’s apparent preference for social media over person-to-person communications is a mistake.

“Increasingly, both ministers and departments in this government have started using Twitter as a primary means of expressing concern and that has already caused a number of embarrassments for Trudeau.”

Canada needs to learn from its mistake and work on its face-to-face diplomatic skills, said O’Toole, who nonetheless characterized the Saudi response as being “over the top.”

Pm Trudeau says talks are ongoing between Saudi Arabia and Canada to address the diplomatic dispute. Glen McGregor reports.

Saudi Arabia is reportedly planning to sell off its Canadian assets. CTV’s Michel Boyer reports.

Observers say it is unlikely that Saudi Arabia will back down in an escalating diplomatic feud with Canada. Joyce Napier has the latest.

 

Laura PaytonOttawa News Bureau Online Producer

@laura_payton

Published Wednesday, August 8, 2018 10:37AM EDT 
Last Updated Wednesday, August 8, 2018 4:37PM EDT

OTTAWA — The federal government should have been more careful when it tweeted concerns about the arrest of human rights activists in Saudi Arabia, a former diplomat says.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a career diplomat, says “diplomacy by tweet” is a bad way to issue policy statements.

“Diplomacy by tweet is best taken with great care… as we have learned to our cost,” Robertson said in an interview with CTV News.

“You cannot say in 247 characters or 400 characters the nuance that you want to capture in a diplomatic statement.”

Robertson says a tweet about Saudi Arabiaarresting women’s rights activists is the cause of Canada’s current problems with the kingdom, whose leaders took offence to the call for the activists’ “immediate release.”

“They felt it prejudged their judicial system,” he said.

A number of human rights organizations have raised repeated concerns about the Saudi Arabian judicial system, which sentences people to lengthy prison sentences and employs corporal punishment as well as the death penalty. Amnesty International says torture remains common, and activists have been sentenced to death following “grossly unfair trials.”

Former foreign affairs minister John Baird agrees Twitter was the wrong platform on which to send the message.

“This relationship has gone south and it’s gone south fast, and it’s not too late to rescue it,” Baird said in an interview with CTV News.

“We share an important amount of interest with Saudi Arabia. They’re battling the Islamic State, they’re battling Iran, who has taken out the government in the neighbouring country of Yemen, and it’s in our interest to work cooperatively.”

Baird says he spoke for 15 minutes about women’s rights when he met with the man who is now Saudi King Salman. Baird was Canada’s foreign affairs minister from 2011 to 2015. He now advises several companies and has three clients who do business in Saudi Arabia.

Trudeau must fly to Riyadh to speak directly to the King or Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman.

“You do it respectfully and face to face, and not do diplomacy via Twitter,” Baird said.

Officials say Canada routinely raises human rights issues in private meetings with Saudi Arabia and noted that Freeland raised them in May during a bilateral meeting with the Saudi foreign minister. They did not directly answer whether she raised the concerns noted in the tweet before it was sent.

Speaking in Montreal, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Canadian government continues to engage with the Saudi Arabian government.

“The minister of foreign affairs [Chrystia Freeland] had a long conversation with their foreign minister yesterday and diplomatic talks continue,” he said.

“But as the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights.”

Saudi Arabia selling Canadian assets: report

The repercussions now include Saudi Arabia’s central bank and state pension funds issuing orders to eliminate new Canadian investments “no matter the cost,” according to a report by the Financial Times.

The move could explain Tuesday’s poor performance by Canadian markets, which fell due to selling activity by an unknown investor.

The reported sell-off is the latest in a series of measures taken by Saudi Arabia since the Canadian government called on the kingdom to release detained female bloggers and activists.

The Saudi government instructed Saudi nationals staying in Canadian hospitals to leave the country. More than 15,000 post-secondary students were previously ordered to leave Canada and return to Saudi Arabia.

Canada’s ambassador to the country was expelled earlier this week, while the Saudis recalled their own ambassador from Ottawa. Trade has also been frozen between the two countries.

Analysts say the moves suggest Saudi Arabia is using Canada to send a message to the rest of the West about attempts to interfere in what it sees as its internal affairs.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister shifted responsibility for resolving the dispute back to Canada, telling a news conference in Riyadh that “Canada knows what it needs to do,” according to multiple reports.

Adel al-Jubeir said there’s nothing to mediate in the spat, and said Saudi Arabia is considering additional measures against Canada.

“A mistake has been made and a mistake should be corrected,” he said, according to a Reuters report.

The Canadian government says it continues to seek clarity from the kingdom “on various issues” and referred questions about the reported asset sell-off, as well as about the foreign minister’s remarks, to the Saudi government.

“The Embassy’s trade officers in addition to the wider Trade Commissioner Service are actively engaged with Canadian business interests and will continue to work with them and the relevant authorities in the coming days,” Amy Mills wrote in an email to BNN Bloomberg.

Export Development Canada, a Crown corporation that provides financing and advice to Canadian exporters, says it is reviewing its position on Saudi Arabia. The commercial institution had the country listed as open for business with a low risk of political interference, the National Post said Tuesday. By Wednesday it had removed the previous assessment and noted the review is happening “in light of recent events.”

With files from CTVNews.ca staff

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Trade and Trump


Canadian Global Affairs Institute@CAGlobalAffairs

Our Colin Robertson (@robcolin) joined @AmandaLang today to talk about how the U.S. is doubling down on with and :

📺https://www.bnnbloomberg.ca/video/u-s-trade-rhetoric-heats-up~1453910 

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Trudeau going into Year Four

Justin Trudeau is in trouble, but he can fix that

Michael Bociurkiw is a global affairs analyst and a former spokesperson for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. A native of Canada, he has written for the Globe & Mail, the Winnipeg Free Press and frequently comments on Canadian television. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his; view more opinions on CNN.

(CNN)There was a jarring sense of déjà vu last week in Canada as images of yet another attack on innocent civilians in Toronto played out on newscasts. A reportedly mentally ill man went on a gun rampage on Sunday evening in Toronto’s popular Danforth neighborhood, killing two people and injuring 13 others. The attack occurred less than three months after a man drove a van into pedestrians in another busy part of Toronto, killing 10 people.

And those were just in 2018. In January 2017, in Quebec City, a man using a restricted firearm killed six people and injured others. And in September of that year, in Edmonton, a man carried out a stabbing and van attack, injuring five.
According to Toronto police, up to half of the guns on the streets of Toronto are smuggled in from the US, and the Canada Border Services Agency is routinely seizing illegal firearms at the Canada-US border. (Media reports say the semi-automatic handgun used in last week’s Sunday shooting originated in the US, although Canadian-sourced illegal firearms arms are a big part of police seizures as well).
Michael Bociurkiw

And these stories are not just anecdotal. According to the Canadian government, the number of homicide victims killed by firearms has been steadily increasing over the last three years. With gun violence on the rise in North America’s fourth-largest city, the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau must now contend with growing calls for a crackdown on guns in Canada where, unlike in the US, people do not have a constitutional right to bear arms.
The surge in violence on Canadian streets adds to the list of issues Trudeau is going to have to deal with as he prepares for a federal election next year. Just three years into his mandate, the photogenic Trudeau must juggle a host of controversies that have hurt his popularity. Introducing a possible handgun ban in response to the violence and adding a new post for “border security and organized crime reduction” in a cabinet shuffle on July 18 are some of the ways Trudeau is getting battle ready.
But it will take more than that. With his protracted honeymoon over, Trudeau must project himself less as a Prime Minister known for viral selfies and more as a decisive leader willing to stand up to external threats. That may require a shakeup of his own team to prioritize issues management and damage control.
His focus should be on what he can control, starting with curbing the flow of migrants crossing into Canada. Ottawa is also under growing pressure from provincial premiers and big city mayors who say they are overwhelmed with the burden of caring for new migrants who can languish for years as they grind their way through Canada’s notoriously clogged immigration processing system. Last year alone, more than 20,000 “irregular” asylum seekers were intercepted by police along the US-Canada border. These are individuals who have either transited through the US or have already claimed asylum in the US and use a loophole to cross into Canada where the chances of staying are much higher (all the while receiving such benefits as free health care, shelter and work permits).
Little of what the government has done so far has plugged the loophole, and if the northward flow continues, the Trudeau government could be forced to make the entire border off limits to those who don’t use official crossings. Although images of distressed asylum seekers from Nigeria and Haiti may not play well on TV in an election season, cracking down on what some Canadians regard as queue jumpers would have little political downside.
Tough language, a cabinet shuffle and making Canadians feel safer. But with just a little over a year to go before voters head to the polls, is this too little, too late?
Recent public opinion polls seem to indicate a bumpy road ahead for Trudeau, who came into office at 43 with little political experience but good looks, charm and a weighty legacy as the son of Pierre Trudeau, Canada’s third-longest serving prime minister.
According to CBC’s poll tracker, which incorporates several public opinion surveys, with a spread of less than 1%, if an election were held today, the Liberals would either be defeated or end up with a minority government.
Considering that in 2015 the Liberals achieved the largest-ever seat gain in a Canadian election, the plunge in popularity is nothing short of stunning.
Many trace the pivot point back to the Prime Minister’s disastrous week-long, state visit to India last February, when he was widely ridiculed for dressing his entire family in traditional Indian attire. (As Sun Media’s Adrienne Batra put it, the India visit featured more wardrobe changes than a Cher concert). Further damage came first from revelations that a convicted terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, had been invited to two events with the Prime Minister, and then from suggestions from an official in Ottawa that factions in the Indian government had sabotaged Trudeau’s visit.
With an election on the horizon, the disastrous India visit is expected to make for explosive campaign ammunition. “The Tories will play and re-play the India trip dress-up that went down very badly. The lesson being, don’t combine family trips with state visits,” said Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations

Justin Trudeau addresses groping allegations 00:57
But also looming in the background, and considered by pundits as legitimate election fodder, are groping allegations against Trudeau from 18 years ago that have just become public and which many feel have been insufficiently addressed by the Liberal leader, who’s branded himself as a fierce defender of women, even booting a Liberal MP from the cabinet for allegedly calling a woman “yummy” almost a decade ago. Having raised the ethical bar so high, and yet possibly unable to live up to his own standards, the gap will almost certainly be played by political opponents as evidence of hypocrisy. As for Trudeau, he has gone on the record saying he has no recollections of the incident but added, “I respect the fact that someone else might have experienced that differently.”
Then there is a questionable environmental record, damaged by the government’s billion dollar bailout of a controversial pipeline that would bring oil from Alberta, via British Columbia, to Pacific Ocean ports. The nationalization of the US energy firm Kinder Morgan’s pipeline has already generated heated protests in BC and has called into question Trudeau’s green credentials. And it could get worse — a lot worse — should environmental activists and aboriginal groups block construction bulldozers. Ottawa political analyst Yaroslav Baran told me “At the end of the day, if there are First Nations protesters chained to the pipeline right of way, Mr. Trudeau won’t have the guts to send in the army to remove them.”
But, as Canadians prepare for the next election, Trudeau may benefit from an unlikely source: President Donald Trump. In the past weeks, the Trump team has mercilessly taunted Trudeau and rallied against Canada for everything from unfair trade practices to disagreements at the G7 summit in Quebec. Trudeau has been fiercely standing up for Canada — or donning the “Captain Canada hat” as Baran puts it — which in turn has been giving him a slight boost in the polls.
And with every anti-Canada or anti-Trudeau tweet, it’s the gift that could keep on giving for the Trudeau camp. “The federal government’s firm but polite pushback against an increasingly combative Donald Trump on the international stage is playing well politically for the Trudeau government,” said Shachi Kurl, executive director of the Angus Reid Institute of Vancouver.
But, as she and others pointed out, if job layoffs, especially in the auto sector, start to occur as a result of the trade disputes, the going could get really tough for the Trudeau government. He may need to get relief from punitive tariffs from Trump — similar to what the EU achieved last week — all the while shoring up the Canadian economy against growing competition from a super-charged US economy.

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