According to a report by Terry Glavin in the National Post, in Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s new ‘official Ottawa‘ “a full-bore free trade deal with the Chinese regime is on the table, along with the proposition that Canada should back China’s admission into the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement …“
Now, the rest of the article makes it very, very clear that Mr Glavin is opposed to all that, and I understand his principled opposition to doing business with a despotic regime … like, say, almost any regime in Africa, those in the Middle East (leaving aside almost only, Israel, Jordan and Lebanon), any country at all in South West Asia and a large slice of Central America, too . But, somehow, we seem able to stifle out outrage at doing business with, say, Saudi Arabia and Sri Lanka and Senegal, too. Our hands may get a bit dirty, but that’s why we have soap and towels, isn’t it? And we are used to using very long spoons when we sup with devils.
I, on the other hand, am not outraged; in fact I’m saying “Bravo!” to Prime Minister Trudeau. I favour dealing with the whole world, even Russia and Iran, because I think that amongst the things we can export are good examples, or, as it was phrased by Professor Stephen Saideman of Carleton University (who I seem to be quoting a lot this week) back in February, we can help by “working with the relatively young democracies of the region to cement their institutions and develop democratic norms.” It seems to me that the best way to “work with” countries that do not (yet and, to be honest, may never) share our strong democratic values is to open and maintain free and fair trade links with them ~ with the Philippines, with Malaysia, with Vietnam and, yes, with China, too.
I hope it is clear that I am a committed free trader, just as principled in my views as Mr Glavin is in his. The Chinese government is, indeed, a cruel dictatorship, so are, according to many reputable groups who examine these things, the governments of 50 other countries … and some sources say that China is far from the worst.
I understand that, as Terry Glavin suggests, our government is mounting a propaganda exercise to “manufacture consent” for better relations with China, as Noam Chomsky so famously put it, and I rather wish that wasn’t necessary, but I think that a free(er) trade deal is good policy and good business, for Canada, too, and if Canadians are, as Mr Glavin suggests, mostly suspicious of China then maybe the government does need to do a bit of “preparation” of public opinion before it embarks on an ambitious trade negotiation.
While I understand Terry Glavin’s reservations, which I affirm I believe to be principled, I support the governments actions and I urge other Conservatives to support them too. This time Prime Minister Trudeau deserves a BZ.* Free(er) trade with China is good for Canada’s economy and binding China more and more tightly with the web of institutions is a real form of “peacekeeping,” in its own right.
* The navy flag hoist to signal “well done”