NAFTA Renegotiation

NAFTA GETS NASTY

Wendy Mesley reports on how trade between the U.S. and Canada got some unwanted attention this week

http://www.cbc.ca/news/thenational/nafta-gets-nasty-1.4091817 00:00 05:29

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Common interest will ensure Canada-U.S. trade conflicts get solved: Chris Hall CBC

Beyond the ‘noise’ of Trump’s rhetoric are compelling interests for trade co-operation, experts say

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Apr 29, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Apr 30, 2017 2:35 PM ET

NAFTA renegotiations won't be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber.

NAFTA renegotiations won’t be completed quickly, says former ambassador to the U.S. Raymond Chrétien, which provides an incentive for the Trump administration to complete a deal with Canada on softwood lumber. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

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Sunday Scrum: Mixed signals on NAFTA 9:45

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Canada remains confident a deal can be reached with the United States on softwood lumber without repeating the drawn-out trade litigation of the past.

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr says reaching a new long-term deal is the best option, even as he repeats his warning that jobs will be lost in Canada as a result of the U.S. lumber industry’s lobbying for new duties on Canadian imports.

“The complications are that you have lobbies at work, lots of political pressures. But our experience is, in all of these conversations, at every level of the United States government and beyond … people see the common interest.”

The U.S. Commerce Department imposed preliminary duties of between three and 24 per cent on Canadian softwood imports this week. More anti-dumping duties are expected in the future.

‘We won’t sign a bad deal’

Trump’s Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said that the White House had hoped to get this dispute out of the way before NAFTA negotiations begin.

Michael Froman, who served as former president Barack Obama’s top trade negotiator, told CBC News that a deal was in reach, but the Canadian side felt it could get better terms with Trump.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump shake hands after a joint news conference at the White House in Washington in February. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

But in an interview with CBC Radio’s The House, the natural resources minister said there was “no good deal possible from the Canadian perspective” with the Obama administration.

“We weren’t prepared to sign a bad deal. We won’t sign a bad deal. If we have to wait it out we will,” said Carr. “And we’ll use all the options available to us, but I don’t think that’s in the interests of either Canada or the United States.”

Even so, Carr believes there’s an opportunity to get a deal. It’s a view shared by Quebec’s lead negotiator, Raymond Chrétien, who served as Canada’s ambassador to Washington in the 1990s.

“I’m confident that there’s a window perhaps for a negotiated settlement for the following reason: Mr. Trump has indicated that he wanted a quick … renegotiation of NAFTA, but this is not possible in my view,” Chrétien said.

“So why not solve the lumber dispute before you tackle the more comprehensive, complicated NAFTA negotiations? So hopefully there’s a small window there, and I’m sure that in Ottawa they would welcome a softwood lumber deal.”

Pushback from U.S. exporters

Softwood is not the only trade irritant Trump is highlighting. He’s blamed Canada for being unfair to American dairy producers. He’s still threatening to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement unless he can negotiate a fair deal for American workers.

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Trade experts say U.S. President Donald Trump’s aggressive posture on trade has alarmed the U.S. agriculture sector, which relies on foreign markets. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington, D.C., said Trump’s rhetoric this week claiming NAFTA has been horrible for the U.S. and a disaster doesn’t match the reality that the trade deal “has been pretty darn good” for the U.S.

“When Donald Trump’s announcements were coming out this week, the U.S. agriculture sector pushed back really hard. U.S. farms depend on exports to Canada and Mexico, and they were having none of this. So he’s gotten a lot of pushback.”

Dawson said the Trump Administration is trying to stir up American opposition to free trade following the failure to get rid of Obamacare and as it meets congressional opposition to a budget plan.

That’s why Dawson thinks Trudeau’s approach is the right one, reminding Trump in one of their phone calls this week of the negative impact that scrapping NAFTA would have on jobs and businesses on both sides of the border.

Partner with Mexico

Dawson said Canada should also work with Mexico as both countries prepare to discuss changes to NAFTA.

Trump Trade

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto shakes his fist as he talks about the value of made-in-Mexico products. Canada and Mexico should work together in advance of NAFTA talks, says trade expert Laura Dawson. (Rebecca Blackwell/Associated Press)

“Mexico has really strong retaliatory power in the United State. Every bit of corn the U.S. exports is bought by Mexico. If they stop buying U.S. corn that would be a big deal for U.S. agriculture. Similarly, the security front — if they stop co-operating on the U.S. southern border … that’s a big deal for the United States.

“So I think Canada needs to be a partner for Mexico.”

Colin Robertson, a former Canadian diplomat in the U.S., wrote this week for the Canadian Global Affairs Institute that managing the Trump file — and getting it right — has to be Trudeau’s first priority.

“While much of Mr. Trump’s rhetoric is merely noise, what is dangerous about the noise is the effect it is having on business confidence, both domestic and foreign.”

What’s gone beyond noise now is the dispute over softwood lumber. Carr said the federal government is prepared to assist those in the forest sector who are affected.

“There will be closures. Sawmills will be under pressure. But nothing yet is certain except that we are prepared with a number of policy options that we will work out with our provincial counterparts, and we will be ready.”

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Trump and Trudeau

Trudeau’s imminent meeting with Trump carries substantial political risk

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Jan 31, 2017 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Jan 31, 2017 7:49 AM ET

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is preparing to meet as early as this week with U.S. President Donald Trump, a visit intended to underscore the deep economic and security ties between the two countries.

But it also carries substantial political risk.

While the date and location have yet to be confirmed, Canadian sources say the prime minister wants to sit down with Trump as soon as possible to explain the importance of the cross-border trade relationship that’s worth more than $660 billion annually and supports millions of American jobs.

Trump, as anyone who follows the news will know, is a free-trade skeptic. He’s said the Keystone XL pipeline should be built, but only with American steel. He’s made it clear that companies looking to expand or build should do so in the U.S. or face stiff tariffs.

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Trump addresses the ‘Make America Great Again! Welcome Celebration’ at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington on Jan. 19. He and Trudeau have already spoken three times by phone. (Mike Segar/Reuters)

But economics is only one of the course requirements Trudeau needs before his first face-to-face encounter with Trump. National security and values are the other big ones.

The prime minister will have to convince Trump that Canada’s decision to admit 40,000 Syrian refugees doesn’t pose any security risk to the U.S.

That task took on far more importance on the weekend when Trump signed an executive order banning all citizens from Syria and six other predominantly Muslim countries from entering the U.S.

The decision created chaos for travellers and has been condemned by many around the world. On Saturday, Trudeau tweeted, “To those fleeing persecution, terror & war, Canadians will welcome you, regardless of your faith.”

It was retweeted more than 420,000 times, the kind of activity that might very well have caught the eye of a U.S. president who uses Twitter to take on his critics and make policy announcements.

“The prime minister will have to tread very carefully,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“He has to make it clear that Canada is a reliable ally and important trading partner, but at the same time Canadians will expect him to be the champion for progressive policies.”

The risks

Trump invited Trudeau and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto to Washington this week for separate, bilateral meetings, to be followed by a Three Amigos summit to discuss North American issues.

But the Pena Nieto visit was cancelled after Trump signed an executive order to begin the design and construction of his promised wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Mexican government officials tell CBC News they understand Canada will go ahead with its meetings to defend its own interests. Mexican newspapers have been less charitable. “Canada abandons Mexico in NAFTA negotiations” was a headline in El Excelsior.

Officially, the Mexican officials remain hopeful that Canada will continue to stress the importance of NAFTA and Mexico’s role as a partner.

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Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto gestures as he delivers a message about foreign affairs in Mexico City on Jan. 23. He cancelled a visit to Washington after Trump signed an executive order to begin work on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. (Edgard Garrido/Reuters)

There’s also a risk of alienating progressive Canadians by meeting with Trump at all.

New Democrats argue Trudeau needs to be much more forceful in denouncing Trump’s travel ban. But Conservative MP Randy Hoback says priority No. 1 is to keep the border open to Canadian goods.

“He should focus on those things that reinforce the partnership.”

In other words, when Trump talks about getting back into coal-fired power generation, Trudeau should talk up Canada’s carbon-sequestration technology.

If Trump wants to talk about border taxes, the prime minister should remind him that 35 states list Canada as their largest trading partner.

Whatever he does, Trudeau is sure to be criticized.

British Prime Minister Theresa May, the first foreign leader to meet Trump at the White House, is under considerable pressure to withdraw an invitation to have him visit the U.K. The Independent newspaper reported Monday that a petition calling on the government to cancel the state visit has a million signatures.

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Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May walk at the White House on Jan. 27. May invited Trump to visit Britain, but a million petitioners have reportedly asked her to cancel. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Greg MacEachern, a former Liberal staffer who runs the Ottawa office of Environics Communications, says Trudeau has a duty to meet with Trump even if the president’s statements about women, Mexicans and other groups are so at odds with his own commitment to inclusiveness and equality.

“The prime minister can still stand up for Canadian values,” he says. “But the U.S. is just too important a trading partner, and Trump’s campaign was so heavily focused on jobs and trade, that there’s no other choice.”

The goal

Trudeau and Trump have spoken on the phone three times since the president’s election victory in November, most recently on Monday when Trump called to offer his condolences and support following the shooting at a Quebec City mosque that killed six and left five others with critical injuries.

Key cabinet ministers like Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr and Transport Minister Marc Garneau are planning visits to Washington, as soon as their American counterparts are confirmed by the U.S. Senate, to discuss energy and infrastructure priorities and to show how Canadian and American interests in these areas intersect.

And Andrew Leslie, the new parliamentary secretary for Canada-U.S. relations, who knows a number of Trump’s cabinet ministers from when they were all ranking military officers, has already been several times.

The goal here is to show Trump that Canada is a safe, dependable and valued partner. Even when, as last weekend shows, there are issues on which the two will disagree.

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Joe Biden Visit

Joe Biden drops in for a visit without any gifts: Chris Hall

U.S. vice-president could provide insight about what to expect from next administration

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Dec 08, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Dec 08, 2016 7:57 AM ET

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit.

U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden will arrive in Ottawa on Thursday for a two-day official visit. (Jessica Hromas/Reuters)

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He’s just a few weeks away from becoming just another ordinary Joe. But that’s not stopping U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden from making an official visit to Ottawa, where the Canadian government will roll out the red carpet.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will play host to Biden at a dinner on Thursday night that’s being billed as an occasion to celebrate the Canada-U.S. relationship.

The next morning, the man who’s been Barack Obama’s No. 2 for the past eight years will meet with premiers and Indigenous leaders who, by happy coincidence, are in the nation’s capital for their own two-day visit with the prime minister to discuss climate change and health care.

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President-elect Donald Trump is getting ready to take over the White House from Barack Obama, which might explain why some files that concern Canada seem to have stalled. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Biden will hold bilateral meetings with Trudeau on Friday to discuss the “strong partnership” between Canada and the U.S. He’ll then join the first ministers to discuss the state of Canada-U.S. relations as well as other global issues.

But, given the season and all, anyone expecting Biden to come bearing gifts will be disappointed. There’s been no deal brokered in the final days of the Obama administration to resolve the softwood lumber dispute. No new measures to co-ordinate climate change policies. No pipeline approval wrapped up neatly with a bow.

What to expect from Trump

“It’s really a salutary visit intended to make Canadians feel good about the relationship with the U.S.,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. “There’s not much of substance for him to offer when he’s unconnected to the incoming administration of Donald Trump.”

That’s not to dismiss the visit as merely the first stop of a Biden farewell tour. As vice-president, and before that as a two-time chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, he’s well-positioned, as one Canadian diplomat put it, “to showcase the bilateral relationship.” Perhaps most importantly, he can at least explain what Canadian politicians should look for when Trump becomes president next month.

“There are a lot of concerns about the Trump election and what it means for trade and the border,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson, who’s now a vice-president and fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute.

“As a former longtime senator, Biden can underline that while presidents have a lot of power, the checks and balances inherent in the U.S. system mean that major legislative changes require congressional approval.”

Even though the Republicans control the House of Representatives and the Senate, that doesn’t necessarily mean Trump will always get his way.

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Some of Trump’s statements and tweets have caused real concern in Canada. (Shannon Stapleton/Reuters)

It all speaks to the ongoing uneasiness caused by what Trump’s been saying (and tweeting) on any number of issues that directly affect Canada, and the growing uncertainty about whether the president-elect actually means what he says.

There’s no shortage of these pronouncements. Trump’s going to scrap NAFTA, withdraw U.S. support for the Paris climate accord, roll back the number of Syrian refugees, tighten the border and end the days when freeloading members of NATO could simply count on American military might.

Dawson would add the near-certainty that Trump’s trillion-dollar infrastructure pledge will re-insert Buy American provisions that would exclude Canadian manufacturers and producers.

“Canada needs to be vigilant to avoid becoming collateral damage,” she says. “That’s something on which the vice-president can offer some reassurance that the deep ties between the two countries, at the operational and regulatory level, will remain intact.”

Reputation for plain talk

Biden’s own reputation for plain talk and straying from talking points may not rival Trump’s. But it could benefit Canadian politicians who want an unvarnished view of where this critical bilateral relationship is heading. Biden’s the one most likely to deliver it.

The visit even offers an opportunity for ordinary Canadians to contribute their own Joe Biden memes. The collection of captioned photos in which the vice-president concocts all sorts of plans to sabotage Trump’s arrival at the White House has flourished online since the Nov. 8 election. It’s helped burnish what The New Yorker has called Biden’s “singular place in the pop culture of American politics.”

Trudeau, of course, is no slouch as a pop culture icon.

The prime minister’s closeness to Obama is well-documented on both sides of the border. It goes beyond the shared ideologies of Liberal and Democrat to the kind of working relationship between a prime minister and president that, in the past, produced treaties on free trade and acid rain.

It doesn’t seem likely that Trudeau and Trump will forge that bond.

So the Biden visit, at least, reinforces the connection with the outgoing administration, and could help nail down decisions on outstanding issues, such as mutual co-operation in the Arctic and the legislation to expand the number of locations offering customs pre-clearance for U.S.-bound travellers, before Trump sits in the Oval Office.

It’s not much. But these days, it’s all the soon-to-be ordinary Joe really has to offer.

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Obama Speech to Parliament

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Three Amigos Summit

Justin Trudeau rolling out the Liberal red carpet for Mexico and U.S. presidents

Barack Obama will address Parliament, Enrique Pena Nieto gets state dinner with Mexican art

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: May 05, 2016 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: May 05, 2016 12:28 PM ET

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico's President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, will attend the so-called Three Amigos summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa at the end of June.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s President Enrique Pena Nieto, left, will attend the so-called Three Amigos summit with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Ottawa at the end of June. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)

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Justin Trudeau came to office promising to restore Canada’s relations with its North American neighbours. If dinner and speaking invitations are your measure well, then he’s off to a great start.

Trudeau will play host in the final week of June to U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto at the first gathering of the so-called Three Amigos to be held in Canada in nearly a decade.

This shouldn’t be a big deal. It’s Canada’s turn after all.

But the leaders were supposed to have gathered here last year. Instead, former prime minister Stephen Harper postponed the summit amid disputes with the U.S. over the now-rejected Keystone XL pipeline, and with Mexico over his government’s decision to require all Mexicans to have a visa to travel to Canada.

Harper knew there was no recipe for success if the summit went ahead.

Pena Nieto, in particular, already cancelled a 2015 visit with a delegation of business leaders in protest against the visa requirement. It was unlikely he would even have come if invited. But he is now, in large part because Trudeau has promised to lift the requirement.

Dinner and a speech

And the summit isn’t really the main political event when the three leaders arrive in Ottawa next month.

The prime minister has also invited Obama to address Parliament, an invitation he extended when the president feted him in Washington two months ago.

And, not to play favorites, Pena Nieto will be in Ottawa ahead of the summit for a state visit of his own. It includes a formal dinner hosted by the prime minister at the National Gallery of Canada where a special exhibit of Mexican art is planned.

So. A summit. An address to Parliament. A gala dinner.  Amigos de nuevo. Friends again. Even if friendship only goes so far in politics.

‘Dirty words’

The real measure of the relationship, as always, is what gets done.

“I think they need to make a new commitment to North America,”  Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Centre in Washington, DC, said Wednesday on the podcast edition of CBC Radio’s The House.

“If you listen to any of the U.S. election coverage right now: North American trade. Immigration. Canada. Mexico. These are all dirty words in the campaign.”

Just listen to Donald Trump. He’ll build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico, and make the Mexicans pay for it if elected president. He’ll rip up NAFTA.

It’s the kind of rhetoric that grabs headlines and dominates political talk shows. Breaking through with discussions of harmonizing regulations or reducing trade barriers are hardly the tools to do it.

Midweek pod: return of the Three Amigos

25:58

A legacy address

“Trump is going to be the elephant in the room,” says former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson.

“Part of what this exercise is going to be about at the end of June, is to shore up and provide insulation for both the Canadians and Mexicans against what might come, and to take full advantage of Obama’s desire for a legacy which includes North America.”

Obama US Canada

U.S. President Barack Obama, left, and Prime Minister Justin shake hands following the conclusion of a joint news conference March 10 at the White House. The two leaders asked officials to report back within 100 days on how to address the softwood lumber issue. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press)

Obama, no doubt, will say all the right things in his Parliamentary address about Trudeau’s shared commitment to address climate change. He’ll pledge to continue to work cooperatively on border security and harmonizing government regulations. But there’s no escaping that his time in office is rapidly running out. His ability to get any new initiatives through Congress, may already have.

For example, softwood lumber. Obama and Trudeau gave their senior trade officials until June 12 to work out a way to prevent another trade war over softwood lumber. Sources say a solution is unlikely.

Ditto on efforts to update NAFTA to reflect new trading realities.

Mexican travellers looking for reprieve

Trudeau takes a sunnier view.

“One of the things any U.S. president and Canadian PM will always agree on is the need to create economic growth and prosperity for our citizens,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “We all know that trade is an important part of creating that.”

Fair enough, but both Robertson and Dawson believe the real opportunities in June rest with Mexico, at least in the short-term as Americans choose a new president.

The first step is to address the visa requirement imposed in 2009 by the Harper government after a spike in refugee claimants arriving from Mexico.

That will take time. As an interim, Dawson expects Canada to accept Mexican travellers who hold a U.S. visa, and for Canada to include Mexico among the first countries to qualify for the Electronic Travel Authorization introduced in March for visa-exempt travellers arriving in Canada.

But Robertson says there’s much more that can be done without the U.S..

“We should go and recruit 500,000 Mexican students to Canadian universities. Mexico has a middle-class population of 40 million. They’ve got students looking for places. Why not bring them to Canada? We’ve got university capacity. That would make a profound difference in the Canada/Mexico relationship.”

It’s one of a number of measures where progress can be made in the North American relationship, especially when the biggest of the Three Amigos is pre-occupied at home.

Wednesday May 04, 2016

Return of the Three Amigo

Then, after more than two and a half years, the leaders of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico will convene next month in Ottawa for a summit.

So what does the return of the Three Amigos mean for the state of the North American relationship?

“It’s tremendously significant,” says Laura Dawson, director of the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington.

“I think this is a new commitment from Canada to the whole North American project.”

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson agrees, telling Chris Hall the upcoming summit is a signal that Canada is back in the game in North America.

“We’ve been a dog in the manger on the North American side — it’s been really Mexico and the United States, and we’ve been sor tof an unwilling partner,” Robertson says.

“Certainly the Mexicans see in Mr. Trudeau someone who understands the broad concept of the Americas, but now we have to deliver and that’s what [the meeting] is all about.”

Both Dawson and Robertson share their insights into the trilateral relationship and their hopes for what the summit will achieve, including a North American climate framework and a boost to Canada-Mexico relations — no matter who occupies the Oval Office after the U.S. presidential election.

“We need to encourage Canada and Mexico to align together on many, many more issues,” Dawson says. “Canada and Mexico have not had a united front. Canadians and Mexicans need to speak much more about what their common objectives are in North America.”

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Trudeau and International Summits

CBC Power and Politics host Rosie Barton interviews CIGI Director Fen Hampson and CGAI VP Colin Robertson on PM Trudeau’s upcoming summitry

Find at 1 hour and 15 minute mark

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2678713362

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On CBC The National on Trudeau’s international series of summits interview with Catherine Cullen

http://www.cbc.ca/player/play/2678760522

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Analysis

Justin Trudeau’s travelling, week-long world leader seminar: Chris Hall

Bilateral meetings already set up with Obama, China’s Xi

By Chris Hall, CBC News Posted: Nov 13, 2015 5:00 AM ETLast Updated: Nov 13, 2015 9:29 AM ET

Off to see the world. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads out today for a week-long stretch of international summiting, beginning Saturday in Turkey and finishing up next week in Manila.

Off to see the world. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads out today for a week-long stretch of international summiting, beginning Saturday in Turkey and finishing up next week in Manila. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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Trudeau on refugees and Premiers meeting 1:57

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He’s still flying high at home. And now Justin Trudeau takes off on his first foreign trip, a week-long journey to attend economic summits in Turkey and the Philippines that will bring him face-to-face with leaders of some of the most powerful countries in the world, each of them intent on gauging — and engaging with — the new prime minister.

For many of those leaders, Trudeau is the first Canadian prime minister not named Stephen Harper they’ll be dealing with on the world stage.

U.S. President Barack Obama has already lined up a formal bilateral meeting with Trudeau late in the week when the two are at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation Summit in Manila.

Others are also setting up chats at the G20 meeting in Turkey this weekend. That list now includes China’s Xi Jinping, Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto and Italy’s Matteo Renzi, who, for what it’s worth, is three years younger than Trudeau.

What this all suggests is that beyond the grip and grin and the “family photos” that characterize these summits, there’s a strong interest in measuring the new Canadian leader through a more substantive discussion of the issues.

And Trudeau knows it, telling reporters on Thursday he intends to put the same issues before these world leaders that he put in front of Canadians.

“I’ll be talking about the fact that in order to create more global growth … that we need to be investing in our countries’ futures, we need to be investing in the kinds of opportunities that allow us to grow and continue to flourish as nations.”

The ISIS threat

But the global economy is not the only issue Trudeau will have to confront. The war in Syria, climate change and the new Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal will all be discussed.

Turkey, the host of the G20 gathering, is trying to cope with the influx of an estimated two million refugees who are fleeing the violence in neighbouring Syria and Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added the conflict to the summit’s normal agenda of global economic issues, insisting the world needs to do more to respond to both the refugees crisis, while expressing concern over the coalition’s efforts to contain the ISIS threat.

Turkey believes Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has to be removed from office before any lasting peace can be brokered. But Erdogan’s new government is also worried that international efforts to arm and train Kurdish fighters — Canada is involved in the training — in the war against ISIS poses a threat to Turkey’s own internal security.

It’s a delicate balance for any political leader, let alone a Canadian PM whose government only took power last week.

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Not always the closest of international partners, former prime minister Stephen Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama were nonetheless thrown together for much of the last decade. Obama’s tour of duty is almost over as well. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

Trudeau’s already signalled that Canada intends to resettle 25,000 Syrian refugees by the end of the year, and that his government will end Canada’s participation in the air strikes against ISIS targets.

“I made it very clear during the election campaign that it is Canada’s intention to withdraw from the bombing mission, but to do so in a way that is responsible and in coordination with our allies, to continue to demonstrate that Canada is committed to the fight against ISIS as a member of the coalition in the fight against ISIS,” he told reporters on Thursday.

He added the government would have more to say about that role in the weeks ahead.

China tricky

Former Canadian diplomat Colin Robertson says that first pledge to help resettle refugees will be well-received. And he believes Trudeau’s decision to withdraw from the air mission in Iraq is a bigger media story than a real point of contention with the the U.S. because the Americans recognize the Canadian military’s expertise at training and in helping anti-ISIS forces identify legitimate bombing targets.

“As long as we are staying involved and helping with training — that’s a more important contribution,” Robertson says.

He also suggests that the bilateral meeting with Obama provides a chance for the two leaders to talk about climate change, North American energy security and the Pacific Rim trade deal.

“Obama is very much looking at legacy,” Robertson says. “The Trans-Pacific Partnership is part of that. So is climate change. So he and Trudeau will have a lot to talk about.”

China isn’t part of the Trans-Pacific deal, and David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, says that makes the face-to-face discussions with Xi delicate.

Taiwan

China’s President Xi Jinping is hoping to have a one-on-one with Trudeau at the G20 in Turkey this weekend. They are two leaders who could share the world stage for a while. (Jason Lee/Associated Press)

His advice: “Don’t over-commit. Pick your issues, and they should be largely economic.”

The latter part is important. China is locked in a dispute with the U.S. and many of its Asian neighbours over its territorial claims in the South China Sea — claims based in part on the creation of man-made islands in a busy international shipping area.

Mulroney, who is now president of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, says that, under Stephen Harper, Canada skipped many ministerial-level meetings with APEC members, sending diplomats instead.

“You can’t just say ‘Canada’s back’ to the other leaders. Well, we can say it, but it doesn’t mean anything if Trudeau doesn’t deliver. He has to re-engage with Asia.”

Mulroney says that means building relationships, establishing the bonds and trust so you can at some point raise what he calls the difficult issues such as security and human rights.

“Justin Trudeau needs to demonstrate that he has strong negotiating skills as well as the personal qualities that attracted and excited Canadians in the last election.”

That demonstration begins this week.

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Discussions at the G20

Colin Robertson in discussion with Power and Politics Chris Hall on G20 in St. Petersburg: Syria, Canada-US relations, XL pipeline, value of G20

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