Trudeau at the G20

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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.”



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:

Download the PDF