G20 Emergency Summit

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Colin Robertson is a former Canadian diplomat and current vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

The coronavirus is putting multilateralism and its values through the ringer.

Typically, this would spark its defenders, chief among them the Group of 20 (G20) nations, an initiative born in 1999 from economic trouble after debt crises in places such as Mexico, Thailand, Brazil and Russia, and then given powerful purpose after another wave of economic trouble in the form of the 2008 financial crisis. Since then, the G20 – representing about 80 per cent of global economic output and two-thirds of the world’s population – has effectively acted as the world’s management board, with its annual summits and communiques capping a year-long process of global governance.

The G20 is needed now more than ever – to muster collective action and secure supply chains for food, fuel, water, and direct health-care capacity (in collaboration with the World Health Organization) – and it is preparing to hold an extraordinary virtual summit meeting next week. Yet it is an open question as to whether or not it will be up to the enormous task ahead.

There are three areas that present the most immediate challenges. The first is health care. The world’s pandemic-preparedness systems have been revealed to be inadequate. We need a global approach to assessing needs and to producing masks and ventilators. And as highlighted by the fact that WHO inspectors were initially denied entry and information in China when the coronavirus first emerged, health monitors should be granted the same remit as election observers or nuclear inspectors, who travel and report without government interference.

The second is money. The International Monetary Fund has both a trust for catastrophic containment and relief, as well as a pandemic-financing facility, and both will need replenishing, as well as as new thinking on how to keep countries liquid. Public trust matters, as the 2008 financial crisis taught us: People must come first. Public money to business should be about bridging loans and equity, rather than bailouts. Governments that practice antagonistic “beggar thy neighbour” approaches in their economic recoveries should be sanctioned.

The third is transparency. A free media is critical for public trust. Misinformation breeds panic and incites racism. We need a code of conduct with watchdogs for traditional and social media.

The diversity of the G20 – north-south, east-west, authoritarians and democrats – reflects geopolitical realities, but it is also a weakness. Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman currently holds the G20’s rotating chair, but he is fixated with dynastic succession, the price of oil and regional intrigue. Meanwhile, a European Union report says Russian agents are mounting a “significant disinformation campaign” to subvert Western and EU countries’ communications around the pandemic.

Having stemmed the virus using invasive surveillance and coercive quarantine, Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are now providing masks to Italy, and they have promised to reciprocate for EU assistance come springtime. But they are booting out U.S. journalists, forbidding them to work out of China, Hong Kong and Macau because of their so-called biased reporting on the Xinjiang internment camps, corruption within China’s senior cadres, the Hong Kong protest movement and the initial cover-up around the coronavirus.

In 2008, G20 leadership came from U.S. presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. But this time, Donald Trump has resorted to an “America First” policy, expressed in reports that he sought exclusive rights to a potential vaccine made in Germany.

So it is unclear if the G20 can defend multilateralism in the face of all this. But if it cannot, we will need a new group of nations to take on the mantle. The leaders of the G20′s multilateral democracies – Japan’s Shinzo Abe, Germany’s Angela Merkel, France’s Emmanuel Macron, South Korea’s Moon Jae-in, Canada’s Justin Trudeau, European Council President Charles Michel and president of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen – could form the core of this new group. Singapore and Taiwan can offer lessons in reining in the coronavirus and SARS epidemics, even though Taiwan has been denied even observer status in the WHO because of China’s ridiculous demands.

Global governance is especially vital for displaced peoples who have been crowded into camps without hope of relief as borders close. Former Ontario premier Bob Rae’s work on behalf of the Rohingya helped galvanize a multilateral response, and Mr. Rae’s new assignment as special envoy on humanitarian and refugee issues is the kind of initiative the world needs from the multilateralists.

The global public needs to see that multilateralism works and that liberal democracies can act decisively while respecting liberty. Humanity will thank them for it.

CUSMA

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USMCA ratification brings stability to North American markets amid COVID-19 chaos

The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says Canada’s ratification of the USMCA restores economic stability to North American during an uncertain time as the result of dropping oil prices and the implications of COVID-19.

16 March 2020, at 10:48am

On Friday, the House of Commons passed legislation to ratify the United States-Mexico Canada Agreement after which the Senate signed off on the bill. Speaking to Farmscape, Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says ratification of the agreement by all three signatories brings much needed stability back to the North American trading platform.

“The uncertainty had basically frozen up investment by Canadians in Canada and certainly by foreign investment in Canada, as the Governor of the Bank of Canada had remarked,” says Robertson.

“A similar situation applied in Mexico as well so I think that it brings stability back to North America.

“The North American platform has everything going for it. We’ve got a young population, we’ve got a highly educated population, we’ve got a massive market of 500 million people with the United States, Mexico and Canada, we’ve got energy a plenty and we’ve been working together.

“The supply chain that we’ve established since the NAFTA came into effect in 1994 are working well and working better but what this agreement does is give the assurance to foreign investors and investors within North America that you can continue to do business with a set of rules which all have agreed to that includes dispute settlement.

“Now what we do is bring much needed stability back to the North American market at a time when, because of COVID-19 and the dropping price of oil, we really do need to bring stability back to North America.”

Robertson acknowledges each country still must go through the steps to confirm conditions for implementation have been met after which the USMCA will replace the current North American Free Trade Agreement.

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Evidence Senate Foreign Affiars and Trade Committee on CUSMA

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THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

EVIDENCE


OTTAWA, Tuesday, March 10, 2020

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 3:30 p.m. to study the subject matter of Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

Senator Leo Housakos (Chair) in the chair.

[English]

The Chair: Honourable colleagues, this is the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. My name is Leo Housakos. I am a senator from Quebec, and I’m the chair of the committeeThe committee has been asked by the Senate to do a pre-study of Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.This is the beginning of our hearings on the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement Implementation Act.

Colin Robertson, Vice-President and Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute: I encourage you to implement the Canada-U.S.-Mexico Agreement. It is not free trade, but it is freer trade. It is not perfect, but it is much better than no deal.

CUSMA gives us a set of revised rules essential for growing and sustaining our vital continental commerce, roughly about 75% of our trade. Its dispute settlement provisions provide the stability necessary for business and investment decisions. It draws much from the original NAFTA with updates drawn from the Trans-Pacific Partnership in digital commerce, intellectual property, labour and the environment.

CUSMA caps a decade-long effort by federal and provincial governments representing different political parties to open doors to key markets across the Pacific, the Atlantic and, of course, to sustain North America.

As this committee observed in its 2017 report, free trade agreements are a tool for Canadian prosperity. Trade generates two thirds of Canada’s GDP, making us the twelfth largest export economy in the world.

The trade deals — CUSMA, CPTPP, CETA — are a tribute to our leadership in governments, business and labour. They prove that we can make common cause on issues of national importance. Trade diversification is necessary, but for Canada, when it comes to trade and security, it will always be the United States and then the rest.

Now we need to make our trade deals work for us.

First, there is unfinished business when it comes to regulation, infrastructure and internal trade.

Initiatives launched by the Harper and Obama governments and continued by the Trudeau and Trump governments around regulatory cooperation and beyond-the-border action plans are buried within our bureaucracies. Progress requires political oversight. I encourage this committee to hold hearings to identify the roadblocks and keep governments’ noses to the grindstone.

U.S. Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed to a US$2-trillion infrastructure plan, although there is no agreement on how to pay for it. Since there is no procurement provision in the new trade agreement, Canada needs to link into this initiative. To get the best value for our citizens, premiers and governors need to work out the kind of reciprocity deal that the U.S. and Canada achieved in 2010. Again, it was the premiers.

Getting our goods to market means improvements to our ports, pipelines and grids, rail and roads. Canada has an infrastructure program, but is it moving fast enough? This should be an area of close collaboration with all levels of government. Again, parliamentary oversight of the process and progress is essential.

Free trade within Canada remains the unfinished business of Confederation and I applaud and underline the recommendations of the Standing Senate Committee for Banking, Trade and Commerce in its 2016 report, Tear Down These Walls.

Second, the all-Canada effort to remind Americans that our trade partnership is mutually beneficial must become a permanent campaign. American protectionism is older than the republic. It will continue no matter who is president.

While we can’t vote or make donations to campaigns, we can illustrate by district and state the jobs created by Canadian trade and investment. I encourage you to use your travel authority to go to Washington and meet your counterparts. I also encourage you to adjust the rules so you can travel throughout the United States.

This must be a permanent campaign encompassing all sectors, including our cultural industries. I applaud this committee’s recent report on making cultural diplomacy the main stage of Canadian foreign policy, and I would say that it starts with our North American market.

Third, we need to know more about North America, especially the United States.

Given our propinquity and innate understanding of the United States, why aren’t we turning this to our advantage? How many serious centres or research chairs focusing on the U.S. and our continental trade are there in Canada? You will be very disappointed in the answer.

Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a large extent by our understanding of the United States. By using our knowledge and relationships with Americans, our ability to leverage our influence in Washington and state capitals makes us a more desirable partner with the rest of the world. They also have to do business with our often complicated and sometimes confusing neighbour.

In conclusion, I encourage you to pass CUSMA while taking initiatives that will grow our commerce.

Senator Massicotte: Mr. Robertson, as you know, in negotiations they tried hard to improve the Buy American Act and all the infrastructure investments, but they got nowhere, and therefore they’re relying somewhat on WTO. What are your comments on that? Is there a way to get there? Because this is a big piece and a big number.

Mr. Robertson: Yes, I believe there is. Inevitably premiers and governors who have to administer the budget when it comes to infrastructure want to get the best value. One thing they also want to avoid is cartels within their state. So by opening it up to other vendors, you don’t necessarily take them, but perhaps it helps keep local vendors more disciplined. I referred to the 2010 reciprocity agreement on procurement.

At the federal level, we weren’t making much progress. It was something we knew. President Obama had put half a trillion dollars into infrastructure to restart the economy after the 2008 recession and we wanted a piece of it. This is how it turned out: Premier Wall came down with seven of the premiers to a conference of national governors in February 2010 in Washington and sat down. They said, “Look, we’ll open up our market if you open up your market, for the reasons I outlined.”

And it worked. We got this multi-page agreement. There were some exceptions and things, but at least it got us in the door.

I’m afraid that, with the pressure the U.S. is putting on the government procurement agreement negotiated in the WTO, we’ll have to resort to the relationships we have, and we are better placed than any country in the world to do that.

I talked about the relationships that you too can forge; many of you have. That’s going to be important, because more than any country in the world, Americans like us. We’ve got an advantage. We don’t like them as much as they like us, but we should take this as our advantage.

So I would say that we can achieve this, but it wouldn’t necessarily be the traditional trade policy route.

Senator Dawson: We had also said that, under the expectations, the Americans expected us to pass it quickly. That was many months ago. We promised them; we said, “Send it back to us, and we’ll pass it quickly.” So I don’t know how long we can continue working on the wording, but I certainly feel you’re right that we need to have some comments and give some direction to the government. But I certainly wouldn’t want to delay it that much.

Mr. Robertson, you were accused of using “weasel words” in the other place, so maybe you want to defend yourself as a parliamentary privilege.

Mr. Robertson: I thought what I said was clear, but I’ll just say that there is sometimes a temptation to look at trade agreements like a Christmas tree and put all sorts of things on them. I’ll just say that, with regard to data, there are other places where that is being discussed.

If it needs the time Dan says it does, I’m not sure this is the agreement. For that same reason, the environment is there and good, but we’ve got climate agreements, and we’ve gotten labour through the ILO. There are other fora where these things should be considered.

Never forget that we went into this thing with Mr. Trump saying that it was the worst deal ever negotiated, and his commerce secretary telling us that this was about Mexico and Canada giving and the U.S. getting. I think we’ve come out of this extremely well. It is our biggest market. It’s not perfect; it can doubtless be improved, but we can do an awful lot of this stuff under the existing agreement.

I’m not as fussed as some that there is a sunset clause, because there is a sunset clause in every agreement, effectively. You can dump these things off with six months’ notice, anyway. It is important, as with NAFTA, that you keep the thing evergreen. When we negotiated NAFTA, we didn’t travel with these things in our pockets. We weren’t thinking about big data, Google and Facebook. They weren’t around.

So this agreement is as good as it gets under the circumstances. We can make improvements, but let’s make improvements with it in place.

 

Senator MacDonald: I’ll direct my question first to Mr. Ciuriak, but I’d like the others to feel free to join in afterward.

I have two studies here, one from the C.D. Howe Institute and one from Global Affairs Canada. There are some discrepancies between these two studies.

I want to speak to U.S. section 232, national security tariffs. The C.D. Howe Institute states:

. . . the failure of the new agreement to eliminate the application of US section 232 national security tariffs on imports from its North American partners signals future risk concerning assured access to the US market.

The CUSMA does not prevent the future application of Section 232 tariffs, which have been revived by the Trump administration for ad hoc protectionist purposes . . . U.S. forbearance in applying section 232 tariffs to Canada and Mexico on autos, should those measures be adopted, is only incorporated through a side letter.

On the other hand, Global Affairs seems to say the opposite, that Canada has secured an exemption for many future U.S. section 232 tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.

Did we secure a legal exemption or not? If we did, does it hinge on the way according to a side letter in the 60-day exemption?

Mr. Robertson: A lot of it comes down to interpretation. You have seen the official Canadian government interpretation that this gives us an exemption. That is the word we will take to our American counterparts, and we will have to continue to do that. Part of the reason that the steel and aluminum tariffs were lifted was because of the pressure that came from within the United States. It wasn’t Canadian pressure, although I think we helped make it possible by reminding all of the people who use Canadian aluminum — and they are in the hundreds of thousands. The actual number of steel and aluminum makers is maybe like 42,000, but there are hundreds of thousands who use our products. They were the ones who put pressure on their state legislators, their congressional delegates and on the administration to say, “Lift this, because it is doing measurable harm.”

The interpretation I would put forward would be the one that Global Affairs has taken, but it will be important for us to continue that permanent campaign to remind Americans of what they did. While Americans are extremely litigious, they also like to think they follow the letter of the law. If we put our interpretation of the letter of the law out, which is contained in the Global Affairs study, I think that will go some distance. I would just like to underline to you that when you deal with the United States, nothing is ever permanent. You have to be down there all the time reminding them of your interests. It is political.

Senator MacDonald: This question will again be for all three of you. It refers to article 32.10 of CUSMA, which requires the three parties to give three months’ notice to the other two countries before it begins negotiating a free trade deal with any non-market country. This provision has been described as unprecedented in that it requires any party to inform the other parties of the intention to convince any free trade negotiations with a non-market country at least three months before starting such negotiations.

I have a couple of quotes here from international trade law specialists. One is Clifford Sosnow, a Canadian international trade law specialist who said:

The measure sets up a level of closeness and consultation that one sovereign country typically doesn’t have with another sovereign country prior to reaching a trade deal with another country.

He added that:

It is quite remarkable.

Gary Hufbauer, senior fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics in Washington has further stated:

I know Chrystia Freeland says it’s not a restraint on Canada but we’ve never seen a provision like this, which holds out the threat of divorce if the U.S. doesn’t like the terms of an agreement.

Regarding that provision, Hufbauer also said that:

It puts a cloud over the ability of Mexico and Canada to negotiate with China and other ‘non-market countries.’

I guess I want to ask you two questions. Have you ever seen a provision like this in an international trade agreement? Is it not unusual that the Americans would, in essence, be informed about the content of Canadian trade objectives and in the negotiation with a non-market economy before the Canadian Parliament would be informed?

Mr. Robertson: I would concur with Larry. I am not fussed by it. I saw it, and I know some people are troubled by it. I think it was much less about Canada and Mexico than it was about internal politics in the United States and the Trump administration wanting to demonstrate to their base that they could do this. So I think, for the reasons Larry has outlined and as I have discussed with Gary Hufbauer, that, for the practical effect on Canada, the question is — and you can be Clintonesque here in semantics — when do you actually start an agreement? Some could argue that Mr. Harper and Mr. Trudeau had, in fact, already started to improve the economic relations with China. But as we know, they are in the deep-freeze for now, so I just don’t think it will have practical effect. It’s much more likely that the United States will have to be consulting us and Mexico as they move toward some kind of a closer agreement with China, which is certainly not what Mr. Trump had in mind when he insisted Mr. Lighthizer put this in the agreement.

enator Dean: Supply management was a major issue going into these talks, and it was a major and highly public expectation of U.S. negotiators to the highest level. We know what came out of it: some limited access to some limited products with a phase-in period.

I wonder if you have any reactions about where we started with this, what the expectations of U.S. counterparts were and where this ended up.

Mr. Robertson: Mine is perhaps not a conventional view on supply management. My view is we look at this through the wrong end of the telescope. Just as we compete extraordinarily well with agri-food, meat and pork or our grains, for example — and I think we could do the same with dairy — for whatever reason, we have decided to adopt a highly protectionist approach to what I think could be a great export for Canada. The better model for us would be New Zealand and Australia, which also had a kind of constrained market with high tariff walls. New Zealand now provides something like almost a third of that which is exported throughout Asia. There is big demand for protein in Asia now. It will grow. I think we could be a piece of this, but we have constrained ourselves.

Anybody who eats our cheese — I used to serve our artisanal cheeses from Quebec when I was on posting — would say, “Give us more of it. We simply can’t get it.” I think we should look at this as a way of 15 years ago or 20 years ago, as we opened up the grain market, at one point we had some constraints on our beef and pork. We compete extraordinarily well.

With dairy, for whatever reason, we have chosen not to. We have protected it. We protected it again. We have opened the market up, but still 90% of that market is highly protected for the 5,000 or 6,000 dairy farmers across Canada. It means we pay higher prices as consumers, and I think it also constrains an industry that could do very well, but there are some additional constraints in this with the Americans so that we will not be competing.

My view on this is not conventional. I think in terms of the negotiation tactics, the government did extremely well. They did what they said they were going to do. They managed to save it with very little opening to the United States. A couple of percentage points is what we basically gave through CETA and through the TPP as well.

enator MacDonald: I have a quick question about what Senator Dean was asking. I share a lot of people’s thoughts about supply management in principle. I’m not a big fan of it.

However, I always said I agree with it in practice when it came to the U.S. because the U.S. subsidizes their agriculture in a way that we do not, to tens of billions of dollars a year. Were you familiar with any effort of the Canadian government where they put U.S. subsidies of agriculture on the table? Or did we ask them to put them on the table as a counter to what they were asking us to do?

Mr. Robertson: I can certainly tell you, when we did the Canada-U.S. agreement and the NAFTA, we made a list of U.S. subsidies, and you’re absolutely correct. The agricultural subsidies in the United States make us look like pikers. I do not know for sure, but I would think that we would have done that kind of homework again as we went into this agreement because we weren’t sure where the Americans were coming from.

Senator MacDonald: They have an oversupply problem. Wisconsin produces almost the same amount of dairy as Canada does.

Mr. Robertson: Part of the reason this was a big deal is because not only was Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer from New York pushing this one, but the then-Speaker at the time, Paul Ryan, was a Wisconsin cheese farmer.

Pass CUSMA

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The NAFTA replacement isn’t perfect , but it’s good enough. Ottawa should pass it

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail February 24, 2020

 

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement is not perfect. It is freer trade, not free trade, but Parliament needs to pass it and get on with making it work. Trade agreements are like riding a bicycle: Keep cycling and when you hit bumps make adjustments. But keep cycling.

Consider where we started. U.S. President Donald Trump damned it as the “worst trade deal ever.” For U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, it was for Mexico and Canada to give and the United States to get.

The Trump administration thought it had us over a barrel because of Mexico and Canada’s dependence on the U.S. market. While we each buy about 18 per cent of U.S. exports, the U.S. takes 75 per cent of Canada’s exports (and it’s even higher for Mexico).

Despite these challenges, we did well. We kept dispute settlement, drowned investor-state and preserved our sacred cows (supply management and the cultural exemption). Labour and the environment are integral parts of the agreement, intellectual property is updated, and digital trade is recognized. The unjust steel and aluminum tariffs are gone. The auto pact has become managed trade, but as with softwood lumber, we will cope.

While Mr. Trump would never acknowledge it, the new deal drew much of what is old from the previous North American free-trade agreement and much of what is new from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, another of his bugbears.

Thanks to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and congressional Democrats, a clause was removed from the agreement that would have extended protection (and costs) for biologic drug companies. This could lead to cheaper drug prices. Labour and environmental enforcement provisions are strengthened. The strong bipartisan congressional support for the deal may just exorcise the phobia around trade that dogged NAFTA. When surveyed, Americans generally endorse free trade over tariffs.

USMCA joins the transatlantic and transpacific agreements in giving us preferred access to those economies most committed to freer trade. These deals span the Harper and Trudeau governments. It’s a tribute to their leadership as well as those of our premiers and legislators, business and labour. Despite our current distemper, the trade deals prove that our leaders can make common cause on issues of national importance.

Trade generates two-thirds of Canada’s GDP. It makes us the 12th-largest export economy in the world. Now we need to consolidate our gains.

First, there is unfinished business when it comes to regulation and infrastructure.

Initiatives launched by the Harper and Obama governments around regulatory co-operation and Beyond the Border action plans are buried within our bureaucracies. Progress requires political oversight: legislative hearings to identify the roadblocks and keeping governments’ nose to the grindstone.

Getting our goods to market means improvements to our ports, pipelines and grids, rail and roads. This requires close collaboration between all levels of government. U.S. Democrats and the Trump administration have agreed to a US$2-trillion infrastructure plan (although there is no agreement on how to pay for it). Since there is no procurement provision in the new trade agreement, Canada needs to link into this initiative. To get best value for our citizens, premiers and governors need to work out the kind of reciprocity deal that the U.S. and Canada achieved in 2010.

Second, the all-Canada effort reminding Americans that our trade partnership is mutually beneficial must become a permanent campaign. American protectionism is older than the republic. It will continue no matter who is president.

While we can’t vote or make donations to campaigns, we can illustrate by district and by state the jobs created by Canadian trade and investment.

If we think we know everything about the U.S., we are wrong. How many serious centres for the study of U.S. issues do we have here in Canada? How many Canada research chairs focus on the United States and our trade? Not nearly enough.

Trade diversification is necessary for Canada, but when it comes to trade and security, it will always be the U.S. and then the rest. Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a large extent by our understanding of our southern neighbour.

By using our knowledge and relationships with Americans, we can leverage influence in Washington and state capitals. This also makes us a more desirable partner to the rest of the world. They expect and look to Canada for advice on how to handle our complicated, often challenging, neighbour.

Given the circumstances, USMCA is a good deal for Canada. Not perfect, but it secures access to our largest market. Parliament needs to move on its implementation and make the investments that will realize its potential.

Committee on International Trade CUSMA Testimony

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STANDING COMMITTEE ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE

EVIDENCE

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2020

The Chair (Hon. Judy A. Sgro (Humber River—Black Creek, Lib.)):

I’m calling the meeting to order, pursuant to the order of reference of Thursday, February 6, 2020, Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.

Mr. Colin Robertson (Vice-President and Fellow, Canadian Global Affairs Institute):

 

Chair, my remarks draw from my previous experience as a foreign service officer serving on the team that negotiated the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement and the NAFTA, on my postings in New York, as consul general in Los Angeles, as first head of the advocacy secretariat at our Washington embassy and, more recently, as a member of the trade advisory committee to the deputy minister of international trade.

I encourage members to pass the legislation implementing the Canada-U.S.-Mexico agreement. Trade agreements are like riding a bicycle: Keep cycling and when you hit bumps make adjustments as necessary, but keep cycling. CUSMA is the best possible agreement under the circumstances. It’s not perfect, but for Canada it both preserves access to our largest market and preserves the North American platform incorporating Mexico.

The Canada-Mexico story gets scant attention but it’s the hidden treasure of the NAFTA story. Mexico is now our third-largest trading partner and, as we witnessed, a valuable partner and ally in recent trade negotiations with the Trump administration with not just the new NAFTA, but in reversing U.S. protectionism through country of origin labelling.

The new agreement is not perfect. lt is freer trade not free trade, but consider where we started. President Trump claimed it was the worst deal ever negotiated. Commerce secretary Wilbur Ross said it was for Mexico and Canada to give, and the United States to get. The Trump administration thought they had us over a barrel because we, Mexico and Canada, were much more dependent on the U.S. than they were on us. We each account for close to 18% of U.S. exports, while for us the U.S. takes almost 75% of our exports. For Mexico, it’s about 80%.

Trade generates two-thirds of our GDP, making us the 12th-largest export economy in the world. For the U.S., trade represents just 27% of its GDP. Mr. Trump well understood these asymmetries.

Despite these disadvantages, we updated the NAFTA with new chapters on digital trade, intellectual property, labour and the environment while keeping dispute settlement and supply management. At the same time we managed to drown investor-state provisions. The unjust steel and aluminum tariffs are gone. Our auto trade is managed trade. It’s a bit like that of softwood lumber, but we should be able to manage this to support jobs and more investment.

Thanks to the Democrats in the House of Representatives, our gives on patent protection for biologic drugs that would have raised health care costs for provinces were rolled back. The Democrats also secured better enforcement on environmental and labour provisions, all of which we had sought in the negotiations.

ln short, we have a high-quality North American trade agreement, something we sought to obtain through the trans Pacific partnership. lnstead, we now have an up-to-date Canada-U.S.-Mexico agreement with the advantage over the U.S. in trans-Pacific and trans-Atlantic markets through CPTPP and CETA.

This leads me to my recommendations. First, CUSMA is the result of an all-of-Canada effort involving the Prime Minister, ministers, premiers, parliamentarians and legislators, business and labour leaders all working with their American counterparts with complementary messages and purpose. This work must continue and become a permanent campaign. American protectionism is older than the republic, and it will continue no matter who is president. We need trade diversification, yes, but we cannot change geography. That geography gives us access to the biggest and most innovative market in the world.

Working Capitol Hill daily from my embassy, and through my experience at my consulates, I learned that just as all politics is local so is all trade. While we can’t make donations to campaigns, we can illustrate the jobs that Canadian trade and investment create by district and by state. We need to keep this data current. Importantly, you as parliamentarians need to keep reminding Americans of these facts, and do this through regular meetings with U.S. legislators—local, state and federal.

There are lots of opportunities, and not just the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group but regional conferences of state and national legislators, important forums like PNWER and NASCO, as well as the sectoral industry and farm group meetings. First, you need to be there to develop relationships and to make the case for Canada. Use your travel points to go to Washington, and I encourage you to adjust the rules for travel throughout the United States. As you will appreciate, nothing is better than a meeting on your home turf.

Second, with the trade agreement in place there is still unfinished business when it comes to regulation and infrastructure. The thicket of national, provincial and local regulations and standards needs to be harmonized or made complementary. CUSMA helps, but we’re also working on, through separate initiatives launched by the Harper government and Obama administration, regulatory co-operation and beyond the border. These have been continued by the Trudeau government and the Trump administration. They continue, but after the initial burst of enthusiasm, I’m afraid they’re now buried within our bureaucracies. Progress requires political oversight by this committee, including hearings to identify the roadblocks, raise consciousness and keep government noses to the grindstone. Your constituents will thank you.

(1015)

People and trade pass through our border points, as well as roads, rail, hydro and pipelines, bridges and tunnels, airports and rail stations. They need improvement. Too often they are choke points that hamper passage and productivity. Canada has an infrastructure program, but is it moving fast enough? This should be an area of close collaboration by all levels of government. Again, parliamentary oversight of the progress is essential. The U.S. administration and Congress are already talking about a trillion-dollar infrastructure program. We need to ensure it is complementary to our efforts, and because procurement is not part of CUSMA, leave it to governors and premiers to work out a procurement agreement as we did in 2010.

Harvard’s Belfer Center points out that North America is the next great emerging market, possessing abundant energy, a skilled workforce, technology and a big market. However, we need infrastructure.

Meanwhile, we enjoy first-mover advantage of the U.S. with the European Union and CPTPP nations, but only if we seize these opportunities. Our competitiveness depends on our ability to get goods quickly to market, whether in North America or across our oceans.

Third, we need to know more about North America, especially the United States. Diversification is a laudable goal, but for Canada, when it comes to trade and security, it will always be the United States and then the rest. Anyone in business will tell you market intelligence is essential, whether you are buying or selling. For example, how many of you can tell your constituents how many of their jobs depend on U.S. investment and trade? We can do it for the U.S., and the Business Council of Canada has created an interactive map that can pinpoint jobs by congressional district and state. Why don’t we have one for Canadian constituencies, and why not include TPP and CETA? People understand why trade matters to them.

Given our propinquity and innate understanding of the United States, why aren’t we turning this to our advantage? How many serious centres for the study of the U.S. are there in Canada? How many Canada research chairs focus on the United States and our trade? You will be disappointed in the answer.

I encourage you as parliamentarians to pass CUSMA. I encourage you to press for investments that serve our national interest.

In conclusion, we always need to keep in mind that Canada’s influence in the world is measured to a large extent by our understanding of the United States. By using our knowledge and relationships with Americans, our ability to leverage our influence in Washington and state capitals makes us a more desirable partner with the rest of the world, because they also have to do business with our often-complicated neighbour.

Hon. Ed Fast:

I’m going to go to Mr. Robertson.

Welcome, Colin. You and I have known each other for a long time. You made a curious statement. You said that this was the best agreement under the circumstances.

“Under the circumstances” sound like weasel words. Essentially, we didn’t get a better deal. We didn’t get a win-win. We got the best we could under a Donald Trump. Is that what you were implying with those words?

 

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Yes, sir.

 

Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal:

Thank you.

My next question is for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. It is my understanding that you had a conference to discuss aspects of CUSMA with a range of experts, diplomats and consultants.

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Yes, we have an annual trade conference in Ottawa.

[Expand]

Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal:

What were the key messages from that conference about this deal?

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

The conference was held while the negotiations were still taking place. We’ve had two, and in each case we discussed various aspects of the agreement and what Canada should be seeking. We had participation from the current trade team, including people such as Steve Verheul.

[Expand]

Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal:

Are you satisfied that most of those discussions are implemented in this agreement?

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Yes, sir. Trade negotiations are a give-and-take. Again, as I was saying in response to Mr. Fast, the circumstances were that the United States came in, and as Mr. Ross, the commerce secretary, put it quite succinctly, it was for Canada and Mexico to give and the United States to get. I think we did extremely well under the circumstances. We preserved that access to the U.S. market, which is vital, as has been pointed out by other witnesses, and we were able to add new chapters on labour and the environment.

It’s not a perfect agreement. I would just also point out that we shouldn’t expect a trade agreement to be the be-all and end-all for anything. We have, after all, the Paris climate accords, which I think are the appropriate vehicle to deal with climate. We have the International Labour Organization measures, which we abide by. Trade agreements should not be seen as the catch-all for everything, because then they sink.

 

Mr. Daniel Blaikie:

Thank you very much.

[English]

Mr. Robertson, I wanted to touch a bit more on the buy America provisions and the importance of procurement. You mentioned some of the ways in which Canada might consider trying to make up for what’s not in this agreement in terms of access to procurement.

I have New Flyer Industries in my riding, which produces a lot of buses and sells most of them into the United States. Buy America has affected jobs in Winnipeg because of the content requirements.

I was surprised recently when there was a meeting of governors and Canadian premiers, and Premier Pallister from Manitoba didn’t go and didn’t send anybody on his behalf. It seems to me that the province-to-state relationship is going to be important for businesses that export to the U.S. in terms of keeping jobs here in Canada. Could you speak to that a bit more?

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

I think you’re correct. Premiers and governors, because they’re the level where the spending usually takes place, particularly when it comes to major infrastructure, want best value, and best value often comes from having a variety of vendors, not just those in your state or province. Having outside competition that has equal access will often prevent cartels in your own province or state, and, therefore, you get far better value for public money.

This was really the philosophy that was behind…. When I was at the embassy, we were trying to get a procurement agreement at the national level. It wasn’t working. We since have one through the World Trade Organization, but when the United States under the Obama administration was doing their big build as part of the post-recession effort to recover, we wanted access, as you put it, for New Flyer and others so we could sell buses and things into the United States.

We found that the best way to do it was by having premiers go down and meet with governors. Both saw an advantage. Both of them were charged with spending monies that came from federal governments, so they worked out a deal in 2010.

 

  1. Rachel Bendayan:

Okay.

[English]

My next question is for Mr. Robertson from the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

Thank you very much for your testimony earlier. To follow up on a question from my colleague the Honourable Ed Fast with respect to your statement, which I believe was that this is the best agreement possible under the circumstances, would you, having reviewed the agreement in its entirety, agree that it is a better agreement overall for Canada than the original NAFTA was?

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

I think, grosso modo, it updates the original NAFTA, which was absolutely necessary. There are parts of it that are managed trade—and we talked about autos. There are pieces we would have liked, such as the procurement chapter, for example, but it wasn’t going to work. However, given the circumstances, it is the best possible agreement we could have negotiated, and we are much further ahead with it because it’s a kind of crown jewel. We have the CETA and the CPTPP, but the critical agreement for us is always having access to the United States. Now we have that security, under a very difficult and sometimes complicated administration.

[Expand]

Ms. Rachel Bendayan:

Thank you very much for that very political answer.

You mentioned the lack of statistics or estimates of the number of jobs in Canada that rely on trade with the United States, but there are some statistics. I’m thinking particularly of the percentage of our country’s exports that go to the United States. I wonder if you could speak to that.

(1115)

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

We do have statistics but we need…and you as members of Parliament, when you speak to your constituents, should be able to say, “Look, your jobs….” Again, we hear from Meadow Lake and we know the importance of trade, but people want to know specifically what it means. We can do this now down to the legislative and really the constituency level in the United States. We have the capacity to do it in Canada, and I think we should, because all members of Parliament should have access to those figures. I would include in those the importance of the European and Asian markets, because, I’d point out, we’re the 12th-largest exporting country.

 

Most people don’t realize how important trade is to our prosperity. That’s what pays for our health care and education. You as members of Parliament could be better equipped if you could get the statistics and make them available. They are readily available because we have the tools to do that with other countries.

 

Mr. Vance Badawey (Niagara Centre, Lib.):

Thank you, Madam Chair.

I appreciate the opportunity to sit on this committee today. As many know, I chair the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities. The reason I’m here today is the crossover that this issue and all the trade issues have for both committees. It’s a pleasure to be here and to bring forward some thoughts on behalf of that committee.

First off, Madam Chair, I want to preface my comments by stating that I do anticipate the passing of CUSMA, which will in fact align with CETA and, of course, the CPTPP. That’s what I’m going to premise my comments on today with the witnesses we have before us.

There was a mention earlier by Mr. Robertson of the trillion-dollar procurement program that we must embark on. In fact, if Canada wants to and needs to invest in strategic infrastructure investments to strengthen our overall international trade performance, it’s imminent that we begin to work with our different committees here in Parliament, but more importantly with our partners, both in the public sector—municipal in particular—and in the private sector.

I will be bringing forward today to committee a few motions that will align with some of that direction, including a study focusing on current and anticipated labour shortages throughout the country, in particular as it relates to the transportation sector; undertaking a study on Canada’s rural digital infrastructure and prospective solutions to the gaps in wireless infrastructure deployment throughout rural Canada; looking at the gas tax; and, of course, once again, the need to work with our municipal and private sector partners, as well as our indigenous communities, to put in place strategic investments that align with our trade agreements such as CUSMA, CETA and the CPTPP.

I want to ask a question that is primarily for Mr. Robertson of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

With respect to your comment on the trillion-dollar procurement program, I’ll throw a question out there for you. I’m going to stop talking and allow you to comment on what I’ve just talked about and the importance of same. How important is it for Canada, as a nation, to work binationally in establishing our procurement and, of course, the strategic infrastructure investments that will align with and complement the trade agreements we have in place?

[Expand]

Mr. Colin Robertson:

I think it’s vitally important. When we export, we don’t know which port it’s going to go to. Sometimes from Saskatchewan it goes through the United States and out through Portland and Seattle, whereas American goods sometimes will come up to Canada. Integrating those, that infrastructure, as I said in my remarks, is vital, especially as the United States appears to be, probably in the next administration—whether Democrat or Republican and working with Congress—prepared to put in really big money. I mentioned trillions of dollars. In fact, it could come to a couple of trillion dollars.

We need to be a piece of that, both in the access to it in terms of procurement but also in linking up rail, road and air. Again, it’s that North American capacity we have to become the truly competitive platform for the world. We now have the pieces in place, but we need the infrastructure. I would applaud what you and your committee are doing and your suggestions on how we can move forward, and I encourage you to talk with your American counterparts, because what really will make this happen is legislator talking to legislator.

Mr. Vance Badawey:

If I may, Madam Chair, I think that discussion has to continue, not only across standing committees here in Parliament but also across borders. Once again, I would be very interested to hear, in moving the yardsticks down the field to get ourselves to that goal line, what thoughts you and many witnesses have on those issues and also on what those strategic investments should be.

I’ll ask a question. With respect to, as you mentioned, rail, road, air and water, of course in my riding in Niagara we have the Great Lakes, which are binational. With the trade that’s going to be coming in from and out of the Midwest—a lot of it—especially in regard to going over to the EU and other diversified areas versus just the United States, we’re recognizing that the Great Lakes, and of course the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Welland Canal, will be used a lot.

What investments do you see with respect to binational investments, infrastructure investments among the rail, the water, the air and the roads, between both Canada and the U.S., as well as internationally?

The Chair:

I’m sorry, but I have to interrupt.

Mr. Robertson, could you give us a short answer? My apologies, but just a short answer, please, because you have 20 seconds remaining.

Mr. Colin Robertson:

Okay. I’ll just say that NASCO, which is tri-country, has come up with a whole series of excellent recommendations, which I would refer to your committee.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

USMCA/CUSMA Approval

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Canada’s House of Commons expected to approve USMCA by Easter

The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute is confident the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement will be approved by the House of Commons by Easter.

19 February 2020, at 11:10am

The USMCA has been ratified by the United States and Mexico with hopes of implementation by 1 July leaving only Canada to finalise the agreement. Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute notes the Trudeau Government has identified ratification as a top priority but the Liberals do not hold a majority and will need to pick up additional votes.

“The Conservatives have said they will not obstruct the current and interim leader, Andrew Sheer, who has resigned as leader and there will be a Conservative leadership in June to replace him,” says Robertson.

“He has declared that the Conservative party will support the legislation and not hold it back. He’s doing so in part because of strong encouragement from all of the premiers.

“The premiers have written to all of the parties saying they would like to have this passed as quickly as possible. My sense is that it will go through fairly quickly because the official opposition supports it, as does the government.

“As for the other parties, the next largest party is the Bloc Quebecois with 32 seats and they are all based out of Quebec. Their leader has said they want to see better compensation for dairy farmers. The NDP has never met a trade deal that they liked, at least federally.

“This is interesting because all provincial premiers, including the NDP Premier of British Columbia support this agreement, as did previous NDP premiers from Saskatchewan and Manitoba from in an earlier time with NAFTA, so they’ll oppose it.

“The Greens will likely oppose it but it shouldn’t have any problem getting through the House of Commons before or just after Easter.”

Robertson says, assuming the deal is approved in the House if Commons, it is then likely to spend a couple of months in the Senate. He expects it to receive Senate approval in mid-June at which point it will be given Royal Assent by the Governor General.

Canada and the UN Security Council

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Canada, Ireland and Norway are competing within our regional grouping for two seats with two-year terms beginning in January, 2021. Winners require two-thirds of the votes cast.

With five months left, it’s an open race, although some think Canada will lose. We started later than Norway and Ireland. Both have good campaigns.

Norway’s development assistance consistently averages 1 per cent of gross national income (GNI) – well above the 0.7-per-cent UN target. The Norwegian government’s recent paper on multilateralism is compelling and articulate. Ireland’s A Better World development strategy is also first-class. Emphasizing gender equality, climate action, governance and humanitarian need, it commits Ireland to achieve the 0.7-per-cent target by 2030. Irish aid is currently about 0.4 per cent. The Irish celebrate their neutrality but participate in peace operations; Ireland currently fields 623 peacekeepers while Norway deploys 135 and Canada 45. The Irish have also enlisted U2′s Bono in its bid to secure a seat.

While Canada ranks with Norway among the top 10 givers of humanitarian assistance, that aid represents just 0.26 per cent of GNI. Canada’s detailed election platform for the UN seat focuses on climate change, gender equality, peace, economic security and multilateralism. It builds on our 2018 G7 Charlevoix summit program.

The last time Canada ran for a seat, we lost to Germany and Portugal. Until then, we had run and won in every decade since 1946. Losing in 2010 was rationalized as the Stephen Harper government’s lacklustre campaign. They were ambivalent about the UN, taking perverse pride in the mantra “we don’t just go along to get along.”

We are in this race because Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wanted it. What better way to demonstrate that “Canada is back?”

To win, Mr. Trudeau needs to campaign hard. Where he cannot go, he should send our former prime ministers and governors-general, former ambassadors and internationalists. We should set a date by which we will meet the 0.7-per-cent GDP development targets and make the proposed Canadian Centre for Peace, Order and Good Government a funding vehicle for our effective but impoverished development non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

A total of 129 votes are needed to win. We need to tie down the 33 votes from Latin America and the Caribbean, go after the 54 votes from Africa as well as the 53 votes from Asia and the Pacific. The Norwegians and Irish probably have most of Western Europe’s 28 votes, while the 23 from Eastern Europe are problematic. We need to cultivate our fellow members of the Commonwealth (52 votes) and la Francophonie (74 votes). While our support for Israel may deter some Muslim nations (50 votes), others are impressed by our work on behalf of the Rohingya and our refugee resettlement.

The recent African visits by Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne, International Development Minister Karina Gould and other officials need to be part of an ongoing engagement with this often “forgotten” continent. A tour before June by Mr. Trudeau should be part of the strategy, to coincide with the port visits of HMCS Shawinigan and Glace Bay.

The ground game at the UN counts because the vote is secret and cast by each nation’s ambassador. Personal relationships among the envoys matter. Canada’s ambassador, Marc-André Blanchard, is respected, but so is Ireland’s Geraldine Byrne Nason and Norway’s Mona Juul. Ms. Juul was elected in July to lead the UN’s central platform for development.

Scholar Adam Chapnick’s Canada on the UN Security Council should be read by our campaign team. It is filled with useful insights into previous campaigns and Security Council experience. Beating the drum in Ottawa, for example, helps keep the foreign diplomatic corps informed and raises Canadian awareness. Mr. Chapnick warns, however, that by personalizing the current campaign, Justin Trudeau risks making it partisan when what we need is an all-Canada effort.

And if we win? Our traditional role is that of the helpful fixer, and it is necessary. A seat will also give us ongoing access to the Chinese and Russians, which can help defrost these relationships.

A seat will require more resources – people and money – for diplomacy and development. We need embassies in hot spots such as Pyongyang and Tehran. Diplomatic relations are not a housekeeping seal of approval but the practical means for conducting business. The Iranian plane-crash tragedy is a reminder of the utility of having diplomats in difficult places.

Losing in 2020 would be traumatic for the Trudeau government and a rude shock to Canadians’ international self-image. We need to put our campaign into high gear and make it an all-Canada effort.

I would also encourage you to listen to this podcast with Adam Chapnick and read his CGAI paper on Canada and the UN Security Council. 

Canada and the UN Security Council seat

THE GLOBAL EXCHANGE PODCAST

January 27, 2020

On today’s Global Exchange Podcast, we are joined by Adam Chapnick to discuss Canada on the UN Security Council.

Participant Biographies:

  • Colin Robertson (host): A former Canadian diplomat, Colin Robertson is Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.
  • Adam Chapnick: Deputy director of education at the Canadian Forces College and a professor of defence studies at the Royal Military College of Canada.

Related Links:

Recommended Books:

UN Security Council Seat

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Canada needs to campaign harder in UN Security Council bid, analysts say

OTTAWA—The ill will of autocratic countries like China, and some worthy head-on competitors, should compel the Trudeau government to campaign harder for a seat on the United Nations Security Council, analysts said Friday.

That advice came as Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne said, after a series of meetings in Africa, he is “cautiously optimistic” about Canada’s chances of winning a seat on the Security Council this year. Champagne was following Rob Oliphant, his parliamentary secretary, and International Development Minister Karina Gould, who have taken separate trips to Africa this month.

Speaking to reporters Friday after a trip to Mali and Morocco, Champagne brushed off criticism by many analysts who say that Canada’s low spending on foreign aid and its contribution of only a few dozen military personnel to UN peacekeeping will hurt it in the upcoming election.

“I was pleasantly surprised by the support I received from the host nations I visited. I think people recognize Canada can play a positive role in the world,” Champagne said.

Canada faces stiff competition from Norway and Ireland for the two temporary seats coming open on the most powerful UN body, which will be the subject of a June vote for a two-year term starting next year. Both countries spend more on aid and have contributed more military personnel to peacekeeping missions.

Countries vying for seats need two-thirds support in the secret-ballot process — more than 128 votes — and Africa is one of the most influential blocs, with 54 countries voting.

Canada needs the support of Muslim and Asian countries and two of the major players in those regions, Saudi Arabia and China, have unresolved diplomatic spats with Canada. While both countries are influential in their voting blocs, China has spread its diplomatic footprint into Africa with big spending on infrastructure and by generously doling out its own development spending to win friends and influence policy.

“We are still being outspent by others and have plenty of autocratic countries who don’t want to see Canada get a seat and use it to be righteous in human rights, gender, and other values we hold dear,” said Bessma Momani, an international-affairs expert at the University of Waterloo.

She pointed to China, Saudi Arabia and Russia as countries that oppose Canada’s candidacy.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed Canada to a Security Council run in 2015 as part of his “Canada is back” pledge, following the 2010 loss of a seat to smaller and economically fragile Portugal under the previous Conservative government.

In September, Canada sent a delegation led by former prime ministers Jean Chretien and Joe Clark to the annual UN General Assembly meeting of world leaders to press Canada’s case.

Colin Robertson, vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute and a former diplomat, said Trudeau himself needs to get out of the country and campaign or brace for a “real setback” in foreign policy.

“Losing in 2020 will be traumatic for Justin Trudeau,” said Robertson, a retired diplomat. “And it would be a rude shock to Canadians who think the world likes us.”

If Trudeau decides to campaign hard, the election is still winnable, he added: Norway will likely win one of the two seats, but Canada could still edge out Ireland.

Robertson said Trudeau should set a target date for Canada to meet the UN’s benchmark for development spending of 0.7 per cent of gross national income. Canada’s current level is less than 0.3 per cent.

Fen Hampson, a diplomacy expert at the Normal Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, said Canada’s politicking for UN votes will essentially boil down to what it can concretely offer specific regions and countries. And in Africa, that usually leads to a conversation about foreign aid, he added.

“This is a buying-votes game,” said Hampson.

“I think we’re mounting a very solid campaign. It’s going to take more than nice words and friendly homilies about ‘Canada is back.’”

Champagne was noncommittal Friday about whether he was optimistic about any increase in aid spending in the Liberals’ upcoming budget.

“When it comes to the overall budget, there are going to be discussions around that.”

USMCA paased by US Senate

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Congress just passed the USMCA. Now it’s Canada’s turn.

Marielle Segarra Jan 17, 2020

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, U.S. President Donald Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, sign the USMCA. Martin Bernetti/AFP via Getty Images

Three years ago, the leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico signed the new trade agreement. But the trade deal hasn’t actually gone into effect yet, because it needs to be approved by the legislatures in all three places.

Mexico has signed off on it. The U.S. Senate just did yesterday, after House Democrats negotiated for more environmental and labor protections. Now it’s down to Canada.

It shouldn’t be that hard to get the USMCA through the Canadian Parliament. The Liberal Party, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, supports the deal. According to Colin Robertson, vice president at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, the conservative opposition party will come around.

“The previous leader of the Conservative Party said he could have got a better deal, but I do not anticipate that the conservatives will oppose it because they are pro-free trade as well,” Robertson said.

The country did make some concessions in the trade deal — like allowing U.S. farmers to sell more of their dairy products tariff-free in Canada.  

But Robertson said he doesn’t expect the Canadian government to change anything about the deal — even though the U.S. did — because Canada has been negotiating behind the scenes this whole time. Eric Miller, a global fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center Canada Institute, made a similar observation.

“At one point, Chairman Neal, from the House Ways and Means Committee, paid a visit to Ottawa to brief Canada on where the discussions were going,” Miller noted.

Steps like these gave Canada a chance to say what it was OK with, and what it wasn’t.

Trudeau Foreign Policy

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Throughout his first term as PM, Justin Trudeau was successful in boosting diversity, social justice, environmentalism, and Indigenous reconciliation, but he struggled in the House of Commons and mishandled some key events that put a strain on Canada’s national unity. Colin Robertson with the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says Trudeau’s foreign policy decisions left many shaking their heads, as Canada found itself caught in the middle of the dispute between the US and China. With Canada in the running for a seat on the UN Security Council in June, Robertson says losing would be “traumatic” for Trudeau’s government “and their sense of Canada’s place in the world.” Robertson joins Gormley to discuss his new report scrutinizing Trudeau’s foreign policy over his first term in office, and – more importantly – what Trudeau should be doing differently this time around.