USMCA passed

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USMCA expected to restore investor confidence in Canada

  • Corwyn Friesen, mySteinbach
  • Posted on 12/18/2019 at 10:16 am

The Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute says ratification of the USMCA should restore the confidence of investors in investing in Canada.

Following approval yesterday, by the Ways and Means Committee, the U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote tomorrow to ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement and, pending that approval, the Senate is expected to approve the agreement early next year.

Colin Robertson, the Vice President and a Fellow of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, says implementation of the agreement will be good for Canada.

It is significant because we had created a North American platform allowing for freer trade. Because we have energy, we’ve got a highly educated workforce and we’ve got a big market of 500 million people, when you look at North America in comparison to some of the other trading blocks, the European Union for example or what’s coming together in China and parts of Asia, we are highly competitive because we have the vital ingredients and we have the work force and we have market size. So this now gives investors both within North America and foreign investors, and investments are what creates jobs, the assurance to invest once again in North America.

I think Canada has a particularly advantageous position because we have freer trade agreements now with the European Union and with the leading countries in the Pacific, notably Japan, and that’s something the United States doesn’t have. So, from an investment perspective, this was quite important. Certainly over the last two years there had been a real fall off in investments both by Canadians in Canada and by foreign investors in Canada.

~ Colin Robertson, Canadian Global Affairs Institute

Robertson says this should give those who were concerned about Canada’s continued access to the biggest market in the world, the United States, that investing in Canada is something they can do with some assurance that their products can be sold under freer trade conditions into the U.S.

Parliamentary Committee on China

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Special Parliamentary committee to study relations with China

Following the actions of China internationally and in respect of the diplomatic and trade dispute still ongoing with this country, Canada will strike an all party committee to study and  recommend policy regarding dealings with China.

Colin Robertson is a former consular diplomat with Chinese experience and currently Vice-President at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, an independent, non-partisan research institute related to foreign policy

ListenMany political analysts in the recent past have suggested that Canada take a harder line against China. While internationally China has been criticised over its human rights abuses and such things as occupation of the South China Sea, relations with Canada have become particularly frosty.

This comes mostly from Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on an extradition request from the United States.

China responded by arresting two Canadians on what were widely viewed as being vague charges and simple retribution and suddenly upping the charges of two other Canadians arrested for alleged drug offence to that of a death penalty.

The opposition Conservative party has long pushed the Liberal government to take a harder line and last week in a vote in the House of Commons, they were supported by members of the other opposition parties in a request for an all-party committee to study China policy and make recommendations to the government. Conservative foreign affairs critic Erin O’Toole tabled a motion to “appoint a special committee with the mandate to conduct hearings to examine and review all aspects of the Canada-China relationship including, but not limited to consular, economic, legal, security and diplomatic relations.”

The Liberals had argued there was no need for such a committee as any such issues or policy reviews could be handled by the Commons foreign affairs committee. They opposed the motion but lost 148 to 171 in the first vote for the newly re-elected government.

Subi Reef, part of the Spratly chain of islets in the South China Sea, is seen in May 2015. China has been building up miltary reef bases in the sea to bolster its territorial claim to the area, which has been rejected by the U.N.and condemned internationally especially by countries in the region. (courtesy of the U.S. NAVY)

The committee will consist of six Liberals, four Conservatives, one Bloc Quebecois and one New Democrat. The committee would also have power to order Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Public Safety Minister Bill Blair, Foreign Affairs Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne and Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to China, to appear as witnesses if necessary.

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Trump & Civil Military Relatonships

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Trump’s Syria policy now appears to be — quite literally — ‘blood for oil’

Can allies trust an administration that boasts of using military power to pillage other nations’ resources?


U.S. President Donald Trump walks off the podium after the official group photo during a NATO leaders meeting at The Grove hotel and resort in Watford, Hertfordshire, England, Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2019. (Francisco Seco/The Associated Press)

It was perhaps the most jaw-dropping moment in Donald Trump’s impromptu, marathon news conference — an event which, along with the NATO leaders summit that provided the occasion, was already crowded with jaw-dropping moments.

“Right now, the only soldiers we have in that area are essentially the soldiers that are keeping the oil,” the U.S. president said of the redefined role of American troops in eastern Syria. “So we have the oil. And we can do with the oil what we want.”

In that infamous hot-mic video of the reception for NATO leaders at Buckingham Palace, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was caught gossiping with other world leaders about watching the jaws of Trump’s staffers “hit the floor” upon hearing him announce that the next G-7 meeting would be held at Camp David.

Trudeau also was a witness to Trump’s tirade over the Syrian oil fields in that same “unscheduled” (the prime minister’s word for it) media event.

The U.S. president has, for over a month, railed on about securing control of Syria’s oil resources to America’s benefit — partly as a way to save face over his sudden abandonment of Kurdish allies in the face of a Turkish incursion into northern Syria, partly to paper over the broken promise to withdraw U.S troops from the country entirely.

Piracy as policy

What made this performance especially jaw-dropping was his suggestion that America should have — and by extension could have — pillaged the oil resources of other nations.

“We’ve taken the oil. I’ve taken the oil. We should have done it in other locations where we were. I can name four of them right now,” said Trump. (He did not name the other countries.)

It might have been the random musings of a stressed-out president facing impeachment. That might be too generous an interpretation, however, given Trump’s bottom-line approach to alliances — where cash transactions in exchange for Washington’s support rule the day.

It all leaves allies pondering some uncomfortable questions. What does this mean for the future? And how willing should any country be to support an America that muses openly — perhaps illegitimately — about stealing the resources of other nations?

At the very least, Trump’s repeated comments have given fresh ammunition to critics who’ve long claimed U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East is more about controlling the oil than supporting freedom and democracy.

‘Political whims’

Stuart Hendin, a University of Ottawa expert on the laws of armed conflict, said if U.S. allies — Canada included — weren’t paying attention, they should have been.

Trump’s remarks present a conundrum for U.S. allies in that they call into question U.S. policy aims and intentions.

“Why would one partner want to be with a force when you really never know [what] the political whims are going to be?” Hendin asked.

“What [the remarks] create is a fear and a potential lack of respect. The military ethos is that you have to have the respect and absolute trust of the people you’re in the field with.”


President Donald Trump and national security adviser Robert O’Brien speak to the media at Los Angeles International Airport. (Evan Vucci/The Associated Press)

Robert O’Brien, Trump’s national security adviser, provided a somewhat more rational policy explanation for holding the eastern Syria oil fields during the recent Halifax International Security Forum. He said the resources had been a revenue source for the Islamic State and keeping them out of the hands of newly rejuvenated extremists was a U.S. priority.

“It is totally consistent with our campaign to defeat to Daesh, to defeat ISIS, and we’re going to hold on to those oil fields as long as necessary to make sure ISIS doesn’t reconstitute,” he said.”The added benefit is that the Kurds can use some of that oil to pay for refugees, to guard the camps where ISIS prisoners are being held.”

A revenue source for Assad?

Many of those oilfields are in disastrous shape and in need of overhaul after eight years of civil war.

But who’s buying the oil from Syria’s Hasakah province? Do those customers include the rogue regime of President Bashar al-Assad?

O’Brien’s answer was astonishing.

“Some of the oil may be going to the Assad regime, some of the oil may be going to Turkey, some of the oil may be going to the Kurds in Erbil,” he said.

“I think the oil from those fields is going to be a number of different places. The main point is that the revenue from that oil is not going to ISIS.”

Colin Robertson, a former diplomat and vice-president of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, said Trump’s Syria decisions may have been knee-jerk, maybe even a strategic blunder, but allies can still have faith in the U.S. institutions that have been trying to hold America’s foreign policy and interests together in the face of a willful president.

“Certainly Trump is unpredictable,” he said, adding that “in the military establishment, certainly on the uniform side” there is a respect both for democratic institutions and international law.

He may have a point. It’s worth remembering that one of the key witnesses in the impeachment drama to date — one of the few people at the centre of U.S. power who have stood up to Trump — is a serving member of the military: Lt.-Col. Alexander Vindman.

NATO at 70

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ANALYSIS: Trump will remember Trudeau’s NATO snickers — so may Canadian voters

 U.S. President Donald Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” after a video appeared to show him and other world leaders apparently talking candidly about the president.
They were three schoolyard chums — the U.K.’s Boris Johnson, France’s Emmanuel Macron and Canada’s Justin Trudeau — snickering about the schoolyard bully — America’s Donald Trump — confident that none of their yuk-yukking and nudge-nudging would ever make it out of their corner of the playground.And then it did. And only one of those chums got caught: Trudeau.

But the bully’s response was surprisingly charitable. He only called Trudeau “two-faced” before shrugging Trudeau off as “a very nice guy” who was hurt after Trump correctly called him and Canada out for being lightweights when it comes to defence spending.

READ MORE: Trump calls Trudeau ‘two-faced’ after video appears to show leaders gossiping

And as both leaders jetted back to their respective national capitals Wednesday, the chattering classes in Washington and Ottawa got down to figuring out how this would affect a Canada-U.S. relationship that was already a little more than slightly chilled.

“My view is that President Trump made his mind up about Justin Trudeau at [the 2018 G7 summit in] Charlevoix — ‘very dishonest and weak’ — and now has been confirmed in this impression because Trudeau was nice to Trump face to face and then catty about him with Macron later,” said Christopher Sands, director of the Center for Canadian Studies at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced Studies in Washington.

“This is not good for their personal relationship, but the machinery of government will continue to handle most issues on the bilateral agenda for now, so there will not be an explicit price for Canada to pay now. But as we have seen with Mitt Romney and others, Trump has a long memory for slights and I expect there will be consequences down the line.”

Trudeau addresses candid comment seemingly made about Trump at NATO summit

Trudeau addresses candid comment seemingly made about Trump at NATO summit

Indeed, even though the Trudeau-Trump relationship might remain unchanged — for now — it may make things more difficult for those working on Canada’s behalf in Washington. On social media and the cable news networks, Republicans reminded anyone who would listen that, when he’s travelling outside the United States, Trump represents all America and that America’s allies at least ought to have a little respect for the office. That was a point made on Twitter by a Democratic representative — who is no fan of Trump — on Twitter.

Ted Lieu


When @POTUS travels outside our country, he represents us to the world. We are all Americans. We should wish him well and want him to succeed. Basic courtesies should be extended to the American President and First Lady. What Princess Anne did was unnecessary and disrespectful. 

Sky News


Is Princess Anne in trouble?

The Queen appears to glance awkwardly at Princess Anne who responds with a shrug 👀🤷‍♀️ as the royals greet US President Donald Trump and the First Lady at Buckingham Palace.

More here: 

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In any event, to the extent that one believes that Trump is a strategic thinker when it comes to politics — and that’s obviously a highly debatable point — Trump has bigger problems than catty comments by Trudeau, Macron or Johnson.

For example, Trump needs to get the new NAFTA through Congress, where it’s known as the United States-Canada-Mexico agreement. As he enters his re-election year, Trump needs a foreign policy win.

READ MORE: Video captures Trudeau seemingly speaking candidly about Trump at NATO summit

“Trump needs NAFTA more than anyone else does,” said Kim Richard Nossal, a professor of political studies at Queen’s University and a longtime student of Canada-U.S. relations. “Trump’s got nothing to show for his three years. Everything he’s touched in global affairs has turned to dust.”

If Trudeau can push the USMCA over the finish line, Trump may more quickly forget the NATO snickers.

Colin Robertson, a veteran Canadian diplomat who is now a fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, noted that, so far as the NATO summit was concerned, Trudeau’s “unforced error” is not the most significant issue. Trump, Robertson said, has a problem with the Pentagon. His generals are suspicious and annoyed at Trump for the way he has destabilized the NATO alliance. Trump needs to patch that relationship up and he got a start in London by seeming to be a defender of the kind of NATO-bashing that Macron engaged in.

And Robertson agrees with Sands that Trump’s ‘two-faced’ comment is not a big deal, as he has said worse about Trudeau in the past.

“I think this will pass.”

Singh comments on Trudeau ‘mocking’ Trump at NATO reception, says other things to criticize about

Singh comments on Trudeau ‘mocking’ Trump at NATO reception, says other things to criticize about

But Trudeau has given Canadian voters yet another reason to think that he is not a serious player on the international stage.

Indeed, during the just-concluded election campaign, it was easy to find Liberal partisans at Trudeau rallies who, though they certainly planned to vote for him again, thought his conduct on the foreign affairs file in his first mandate was disappointing, mostly because of that ill-fated trip to India.

But most polls over the last few years have, by and large, shown that Canadians generally approved of the tone and approach that Trudeau took when dealing with the combustible American president. Trudeau was respectful but not deferential; firm but not aggressive. His approach yielded a new NAFTA that could have been much worse and ensured that the illegal and damaging steel and aluminum tariffs levied on Canadian firms last for as short a period as possible.

Trudeau’s handling of his Washington neighbour — a neighbour polls have shown that very few Canadians like — may have helped Trudeau in the election.

And though it may be two or three years before voters are asked to render their second verdict on Trudeau’s time as prime minister, they, like Trump, may have long memories for slights.

NATO at 70: leaders meet in London today

Most alliances historically don’t last more than a couple of decades, but the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance is 70 this year, and has grown over that time to its now 29 members.

Originally formed as a protection against the Soviets, new and much different types of threats lurk, and there are divisions in the organisation.

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and a Vice President of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute. discusses the issues.

ListenU.S. President Donald Trump has been forcefully scolding many members of the Alliance for not living up to defence spending. In 2018, the Alliance widened the rules as to what counts as defence spending.  Canada is among several members, including France and Germany, not living up to the commitment to spend at least two per cent of GDP on defence.

Colin Robertson, VP Canadian Global Affairs Institute, former Canadian diplomat (supplied)

This now includes for example, pensions paid to former soldiers. The Liberal government has been meticulously searching for any expense that might be counted as defence spending including RCMP expenses for members involved in peacekeeping, costs for Canada’s spy agency-the Communications Security Establishment (CSE) and even death benefits for veteran’s survivors. Canada now spends about 1.27 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product on defence.

Robertson notes that the Alliance is burdened with disagreements, but that this is not unusual in NATO’s history.

Members of the enhanced Forward Presence Battle Group Latvia wait for helicopters in the training area during Exercise TOMAHAWK Soaring at the Lielvārdes Military Base, Latvia on Oct. 3, 2018. Canada points to such efforts and training missions of other NATO troops as a demonstration of its commitment, beyond mere dollars. (eFP BG ROTO 10 LATVIA Imagery/CAF)

It now faces new and much different threats from the more simpler Cold War period, such as new state actor threats, social but somewhat fluid and unorganised threats like piracy and mass migration, and non-state actors like Al Queda and DAESH, and a move by Russia and China to militarise space. While it has its hurdles to overcome, Robertson feels the Alliance will remain strong coming out of this week’s meetings.

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NAFTA, Trade, Defence and the US Relationship

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If we thought passage of the new North American free-trade agreement would get Donald Trump off our back, think again. We’ve been served notice that Canada has got to pony up more on defence and security. We should do so, not because the U.S. wants us to, but because it serves Canadian interests, especially in exercising Canadian sovereignty in our North.

The Trump administration is close to a deal with Speaker Nancy Pelosi on congressional ratification of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) on trade. The possible changes to the agreement signed last November will not trouble Canada. Tougher labour and environmental standards enforcement – “trust but verify” – are aimed at Mexico. Another change would shorten the patent-protection period for new pharmaceutical drugs.

The USMCA could pass through Congress before Christmas. But even if the deal gets stuck, Mr. Trump’s threat to rescind NAFTA is increasingly remote. The more Americans learned about NAFTA, the more they liked it, especially in the farming community and Mr. Trump needs their votes if he is to be re-elected next year.

A new trade agreement does not mean complacency about trade.

We’re still paying tariffs on our lumber exports. Protectionism, especially in procurement, is endemic. We need to sustain the Team Canada effort with Congress, governors and state legislators. Rather than blame Ottawa, provincial premiers need to remind their neighbouring states why trade and investment is mutually beneficial. Premiers and governors should strive for a reciprocity agreement on procurement.

But if our trading relationship is shifting out of crisis mode, defence and security will take that space. Continued free riding by the allies, as the Trump administration sees it, is not an option.

With the end of the Cold War, Canada took the peace dividend and then coasted in our defence spending. But today’s world is meaner with a rising China and revanchist Russia.

The Trudeau Government thought its defence policy – titled Strong, Secure, Engaged – and its promise of new warships, fighter jets and active missions in Latvia and Iraq, would suffice. Wrong. For Mr. Trump, the bottom line is the 2014 commitment by the governments of North Atlantic Treaty Organization member-countries to achieve spending of 2 per cent of gross domestic product on defence by 2024. Canadian spending, according to NATO, is currently 1.27 per cent. It is scheduled to rise to around 1.4 per cent by 2026-27, well short of the allies’ pledge.

If we are going to spend more, then let’s invest in northern sovereignty

Brian Mulroney persuaded Ronald Reagan to tacitly acknowledge Canadian sovereignty through Arctic waters. Since then, the Americans have pressed us to exercise that sovereignty. Stephen Harper instituted Operation Nanook and he made annual summer visits to the North. But the promised Arctic base in Nanisivik, Nunavut, has never materialized. The promised icebreakers are still to be built.

In contrast to the AmericanChinese and Russian policies, Canada’s long-delayed Arctic policy framework, finally released in September, is sophomoric. It ignores both defence and security.

The Americans want us to collaborate in updating the postwar North Warning System. Jointly managed as part of our NORAD alliance, its replacement will be expensive. But it’s also an opportunity for us to lead in the development of innovative space and underwater applications that would buttress our Arctic sovereignty. We can take inspiration from HMCS Harry DeWolf, the first of our offshore patrol ships. The largest Canadian warship built in 50 years, it is now afloat in Halifax harbour.

We are also an Indo-Pacific country. The almost year-old Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) gives us first-mover advantage over the U.S. in places such as Japan. But our Pacific partners expect us to demonstrate greater commitment to their security. This means more navy and air reach. Is our Pacific posture adequate? Does our capability, including our bases, meet the new threat assessments?

Managing the trade relationship with the Trump administration is hard. David McNaughton was the right ambassador for the Trudeau government’s first term and its focus on trade. Mr. MacNaughton’s outreach strategy needs to become a permanent campaign.

Our next ambassador will need demonstrated security chops in addition to political savvy. Handling defence and security is going to be really hard. But as a friendly ambassador, whose country faces the same challenge, observed at the recent Halifax International Security Forum, we Canadians are going to have to toughen up.

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong: pro-democracy wins local elections; Canada’s reaction?

With pro-democracy protests still ongoing, albeit, slightly calmed, the elections for the lower echelon of government, the regional councils, were held on Sunday.

Pro-democracy candidates won almost all positions and now 17 of the 18 regional councils are dominated by pro-democracy members.

Colin Robertson gives an analysis of the implications, and Canada’s position. He is Vice-President at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, an independent, non-partisan research institute related to foreign policy and a former Canadian consul in Hong Kong


The message that Chief Executive Officer Carrie Lam had been promoting to the press and apparently to Beijing is that a silent majority in Hong Kong were fed up with the protests and wanted authorities to firmly end them. The massive public turnout and vote in favour or pro-democracy candidates has clearly shown that not to be the case.

Robertson notes that Beijing’s reaction has once again been a firm warning of the west not to meddle in China’s affairs which include Hong Kong. He suggests that these results may calm the demonstrations now that the pro-democracy movement has at least a small voice in politics.

Meanwhile, the BBC is reporting that virtually all coverage of the pro-democracy result has been downplayed by China, with some news stories claiming tampering in the results.

A team including management, security guards, councillors and the Hong Kong Red Cross, search rooms for any remaining protesters hiding at PolyU on Tuesday. It is thought that by having at least a small political voice as a result of the elections, the violent demonstrations such as that at the university, may be calmed (Anthony Wallace/AFP via Getty Images)

Robertson notes that with recent trade actions by China against Canada, concerns about human rights treatment of China’s minority groups and dissidents, and potential security issues, Canadians are starting to become more wary of China.  It is unclear how this may play out in terms of Canadian policy at this point. While other members of the so-called “Five Eyes” countries have banned Huawei from developing a 5G network in their countries,  Canada has yet to decide whether to deny or allow the Chinese electronics giant to participate in Canada.

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Francois-Philippe Champsgne as Foreign Minister

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Smart,’ ‘dynamic’ Champagne set to put traits to test as foreign minister

Champagne, then Canada’s trade minister in December 2017, was left behind for what would be two days of intense closed-door meetings in the Chinese capital while Trudeau and his entourage decamped to their next destination.

For the next two days, Champagne was thrown into an intense set of talks, in an attempt to find some sort of way forward on a free-trade negotiation with China — an effort that ultimately failed.

Now, the unflappable and unfailingly upbeat Champagne is headed back into the thick of Canada’s thorny international relations as one of Canada’s faces to the world, second only to the prime minister.

Champagne, 49, may not have the name recognition that his predecessor Chrystia Freeland brought to the post as an author and ex-journalist in London, Moscow and New York, but his easygoing manner belies his own ambitious rise in business and international-trade law, which earned him a “Young Global Leader” award from the World Economic Forum.

Champagne has held the Quebec riding of Saint-Maurice-Champlain since 2015. It includes the city of Shawinigan, whose famous son, former prime minister Jean Chretien, is a personal hero of Champagne’s.

Champagne has also publicly and privately hinted he might one day aspire to the same job Chretien once held.

In January 2017, Champagne took over from Freeland in the trade portfolio, tasked with delivering a massive trade deal among Pacific Rim countries known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

“Champagne’s experience with the skirmishes over TPP and Canada’s first ill-fated venture into trade talks with the Chinese is good experience for some of the continuing battles he will be facing — especially when it comes to the Chinese,” said Fen Hampson, of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University.

Shortly after, Trudeau shuffled his cabinet again and put Champagne in charge of infrastructure spending.

In an interview after the shuffle, Champagne joked about how he had banned the word “spend” at Infrastructure Canada, because money it deploys is an investment, and talked about a need for the government to “move from numbers to impact.”

And then a short while later, he also showed he can be blunt. “It’s about doing things better and smarter,” he said about getting infrastructure dollars out the door. “I know that may sound very logical, but trust me, it might not always have been the case.”

Champagne often held roundtable meetings with local officials during his countrywide travels, and rarely missed a gathering of Federation of Canadian Municipalities officials. FCM president Bill Karsten said Champagne’s ability to build relationships with big-city mayors and rural reeves was evident.

“He put a lot of focus and his trademark energy into consistent, direct federal-municipal communication and partnership, including giving out his own cell phone number, which undoubtedly caused some anxiety for staff on both sides,” Karsten said.

“No matter how difficult it might be to meet in person or how complicated the logistics were, he (was) willing to do whatever it took to make a conversation happen.”

Now, those skills will be put to a new test as Canada’s place in the world has never been quite so precarious, from its relations with China to unprecedented threats facing the world’s institutions and traditional alliances — from NATO to the World Bank to the European Union.

Roland Paris, Trudeau’s first foreign-policy adviser, called Champagne “smart and dynamic,” adding the new foreign minister will need every ounce of those capacities to meet the significant challenges that await him.

“He will need to deal with the situation with China, clarify and co-ordinate Canada’s broader Asia strategy, work with the trade minister to diversify and expand Canada’s trade,” said Paris, of the University of Ottawa.

Canada also faces an uphill battle for a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council, a vote for which will take place in June for a term that would begin in 2021. Canada faces stiff competition for the two available seats.

Colin Robertson, a retired diplomat and foreign-affairs analyst, said Champagne will have to “run very hard and with a strategy and a campaign plan” if he hopes to land the seat and make up Norway’s and Ireland’s head starts.

Hong Kong

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Hong Kong protests: a former diplomat’s viewpoint

Many of the several hundred students barricaded at Hong Kong University have surrendered to police early this morning. However, it seems unlikely that the protests, now several months old, will abate anytime soon.

Colin Robertson, is Vice-President at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute, an independent, non-partisan research institute related to foreign policy a former diplomat, as Canadian Consul in Hong Kong,

Former Canadian diplomat in Hong Kong gives his analysis of protest situation there

Reports this morning say only a handful of student protesters remain in the university, but without food or water so that situation is likely over.

As Robertson says however, with about 2 million supporters of the movement, the overall protest situation will likely continue. He also suggests that with such strong support the legitimacy of the Beijing supported Carrie Lam government is in serious doubt.

While there has been some suggestion that China could send in the military, Robertson thinks that unlikely at this point, if for no other reason than the international optics that would represent.

It also appears unlikely that neither the Hong Kong government or China will relax their positions, in light of protesters demands for democratic guarantees or reforms.

Police have been accused of excessive use of force, including use of rubber bullets. (Tyrone Siu-Reuters July 2019)

Fears of a mass exodus of ex-pats with Canadian, British, U.S. and other citizenship seems not on the immediate horizon.

Nonetheless, Hong Kong’s status as entry point into the vast Chinese and wider Asian market, and an exit point for those same countries is weakening, as Robertson says, due to the uncertainties and disruptions of the protest movement, and in the shadow of the U.S-China trade dispute. This is says is not good for Hong Kong, for China, for Canada-because of a long trade relationship, as well as for other countries with similar trade and business ties with Hong Kong.

Additional information-sources

  • CBC News report Nov 18/19
  • Canadian Press (via CP24) Nov 18/19: Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

Hong Kong

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    The University of British Columbia says 32 of its students on exchange in Hong Kong have either left the city or confirmed they are safe after the school urged them to leave the area for their own well-being.

    Hong Kong has been roiled by six months of anti-government protests. The once peaceful demonstrations have steadily intensified, and are now punctuated by shootings and violent clashes between protesters and police.

    UBC administration said Friday that staff had reached out to exchange students advising them to leave their schools. An email from university officials Monday confirmed 11 students have left Hong Kong, while the remaining 21 “are safe and accounted for.”

    The email said the school is helping students with travel plans. Any student who is choosing to stay in Hong Kong has been asked to watch for directives from their host university and monitor International SOS for updates and guidance on how to stay safe.


    Simon Fraser University says it has 17 students on exchange there and they have all confirmed they are safe. The university says it is working with each student on their return to Canada.

    Montreal’s McGill University, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., and the University of Toronto are also urging all their students to head home.

    Universities have become the latest battleground for protesters, who used gasoline bombs and bows and arrows in their fight to keep riot police off of two campuses in the past week.

    Police backed by armoured cars and water cannon tightened their siege of Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) Monday, where hundreds of protesters remained trapped in a sign of a fresh escalation for the movement.

    Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat and a former Canadian consul in Hong Kong, expressed sympathy for the students locked inside who are protesting for freedoms many in Canada take for granted.

    He says the protests have taken a worrying turn.

    “When you look at the pictures today, and you know this has gone on for six months, it’s hard to be optimistic about what might happen,” he said.  “I hope I’m wrong.”

    Protests raged across other parts of the city, fuelled by public anger over the police blockade of the school and the desire to help the students stuck inside.

    The UBC students had been studying at four different schools — Chinese University of Hong Kong, City University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, and Hong Kong University — and not the polytechnic university, the Canadian school said.

    The protests started peacefully in early June, sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed criminal suspects to be extradited to the mainland. By the time the bill was withdrawn, the protests had hardened and broadened into a resistance movement against the territory’s government and Beijing.

    Jane Li, a born-and-raised Hong Konger who now lives in Vancouver, is a spokesperson for the group Vancouver Hong Kong Political Activists.

    Li says the protest movement has reached a tipping point.

    “This morning I got on the phone with a friend and she said, ‘I don’t know if there’s going to be a tomorrow.’ That really hit me,” Li said.

    “It seems like for both sides, it’s going to be a really violent ending.”