Two items in the Globe and Mail caught my eye just the other day:
First, Campbell Clark says that “Dominic Barton is the catch that Justin Trudeau wanted to get last time. Now he’s going to China after times have changed … [because] … Two Canadians are in Chinese jails, and Beijing’s official mouthpieces regularly fire derisive and bullying shots at Canada. Mr. Trudeau’s tone in dealings with China has gotten tougher. So the fact that Mr. Barton, a silver-tongued charmer with extensive contacts in Asia, is being sent to Beijing as Canada’s ambassador says something … [and] … Mr. Barton is a believer in the importance of engagement with China, so it’s pretty clear he is being sent there to try to re-engage. Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer is calling for a strategic pullback from China, arguing Canada needs to accept that China doesn’t share our interests, and look to develop trade elsewhere. The appointment of Mr. Barton, only days before the start of an election campaign, is a sign that Mr. Trudeau believes Canada can’t afford to do that;” but
Second, Stephen Chase reports that a new paper from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute [MLI] says that “The economic punishment Beijing has inflicted on Canadians after the extradition arrest of a top Chinese executive last December should spur Canada to reduce its trade reliance on China … [economist and senior fellow at the MLI Duanjie Chen says that] … Canada is not the first country to suffer what she calls “economic coercion” from China.“
My first point is that everyone is right … up to a point.
Justin Trudeau is correct to believe that Canada cannot afford a large scale “strategic pullback” from China. China matters too much, not just economically. But Dr Chen and Andrew Scheer are also correct in saying that now is the time for Canada to look elsewhere in the world, especially in Asia, to diversify our trade.
““China’s ban on major Canadian agriproducts has opened a new chapter in its habitual deployment of economic coercion against countries whose lawful actions it finds offensive,” Dr. Chen writes … [and] … She said Canada needs to use this crisis to restructure its relationship with China, adding that key Asian countries have withstood the same kind of coercion from China by diversifying trade away from the country.” I agree 100%, but: diversify to where?
Dr Chen argues that “The nature of Canada’s trading relationship with China makes it easier to replace Chinese buyers … [because] … Canada’s top exports to China are farm goods. If China doesn’t buy them, other countries will purchase them at the prevailing world price. “Producers who will be filling in the Canadian share of the Chinese market … must vacate their existing non-Chinese markets for Canadian farmers to supply” … [andDr Chen said that] … Canada should expand its farm-insurance programs to help Canadian farmers cope with China’s economic coercion and use some of the capital that Canada had set aside for our share in the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank [for that purpose] …[but, she adds] … Canada also has options to counter and lessen China’s economic coercion …[and] … These include banning Huawei from supplying gear for the next-generation 5G wireless networks in Canada – as countries such as Australia and the U.S. have done – on the grounds that the Shenzhen-based company represents a security risk, citing the fact that businesses in China are legally required to conduct espionage at the request of Beijing’s security services … [and] … She recommends Canada also require the registration of all Chinese research-and-development funding at work in Canada and block any relationships that are taking intellectual property out of this country.“
There are, certainly, other markets for our agricultural products, but America and Europe are both largely self-sufficient and both are highly protectionist, especially in agricultural products. Asia is the best market and India, of course, is a giant market with fast-growing demand … but Justin Trudeau put a half-century of warm Indo-Canadian relations into the deep-freeze because of his personal vanity and stupidity … yes, that’s the right word. Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, Singapore and South Korea are also likely target markets … but not for our trash, please.
India is a fast-rising great power, perhaps the natural one to contain China in Asia. It is vital that Canada restore good relations with India, more important, in my opinion, that improving relations with China. That cannot happen so long as Justin Trudeau leads the government. He, personally, is poison to Prime Minister Modi, a Hindu nationalist, because he is seen to be both sympathetic to Sikh separatism and to Islamism, both of which are anathema to Modi’s India.
The appointment of Dominic Barton might, at any other time, be seen as excellent. Doing it right now makes Justin Trudeau look desperate. This is clearly timed to beg for Chinese support against Andrew Scheer. Remember a few months ago when John McCallum virtually invited China to support Justin Trudeau’s Liberals because, he suggested, Andrew Scheer would be hard on China? That made Trudeau’s Canada look desperate. The appointment of Mr Barton, right now, makes Canada look weaker and even more desperate … but it’s not Canada that is weak and desperate, it is Justin Trudeau.
Justin Trudeau, the man-child prime minister, and the incredibly inept Chrystia Freeland have mangled Canada’s relations with almost everyone except, perhaps, Afghanistan and Zimbabwe. There is no way to restore Canada’s once-proud place in the world except by tossing Trudeau and his team onto the political dung-heap where they belong.