The future will be defined by the geopolitical tussle between the United States and China, and the rest of the world will increasingly become collateral damage unless they pick the right side.
Of course, Canada must align itself four-square with its traditional and compatible partner, the United States. As a middling nation, Canada belongs safely coddled inside the “U.S.-Canada” trading and protected bloc. This has been the case during most of the post-war period, but there’s a need to alter course due to a damaging drift in attitudes by Ottawa.
For instance, Ottawa can no longer cling to the naive belief that multilateralism and equal treatment for all countries is sacrosanct. This notion must be disavowed in light of the bi-lateralization of trade and foreign affairs. Going forward, big matters most and smaller nations like Canada must declare their loyalty accordingly.
The other problem is an imperious attitude toward the U.S. by elites, most dangerously manifested in the current prime minister’s sniping against America’s elected president. Such behaviour is counter-productive in a partnership and would not be appreciated if the same bad-mouthing occurred in reverse.
Consider the damage caused already:
Exhibit 1 — This week’s announced Phase One trade deal between the U.S. and China outlines a special trading relationship, leaving behind the world’s multilateral equal treatment template. This redefines the global economy as mostly two trading blocs and the “rest.”
Their bilateral deal demands that China dramatically hike agricultural imports from the United States in exchange for an end to tariffs. In essence, the deal will re-route Chinese market share away from other countries such as Canada, Australia and others.
Exhibit 2 — The new trade settlement is completely silent on Canada’s trading issues with China, namely the fact that Canada has paid a huge price for its loyalty to the Americans. Next week, Canada begins its controversial extradition hearing in Vancouver involving Huawei chief financial officer Meng Wanzhou on behalf of the United States who asked for her arrest in 2018.
Canada is meeting its legal obligations under the Extradition Treaty to do this, but China retaliated viciously by cancelling billions in canola and other agricultural imports, and imprisoning Canadian businessman Michael Spavor and former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig. The two men have been in cells for a year without access to lawyers or family.
Canada complained about China to the WTO but Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also asked President Donald Trump to help negotiate getting the two “hostages” released. In a recent Quebec TV interview, Trudeau asserted that the U.S. would “not sign a final and complete (trade) agreement with China that does not settle the question of Meng Wanzhou” and the fact that China jailed two Canadians in retaliation.
But this week’s Phase One deal not only harms Canada’s agricultural export ambitions but doesn’t address China’s “hostage taking.”
So, the brave new world is about navigating between two superpowers which is why Prime Minister Trudeau’s indirect swipe at the United States for creating the conditions that led to the murder of 176 passengers on a jetliner leaving Tehran was inappropriate and damaging.
Instead, Canada must carve a new path forward between China’s predation and America’s self-interest.
This is why Canada should fight back in tandem with the Americans. It must ban Huawei from the market and from financing universities to do its “research” here. It must pull its weight in NORAD and NATO in terms of military spending, something the Liberals have not done. It must out China for its human rights abuses. It must retaliate against Beijing’s bullying by halting all future student visas, immigration and work permits to residents of China until the two Canadian businessmen are returned safely to Canada. Officials must never bad-mouth American officials.
Anything less than such stances will continue to leave Canada betwixt and between and will run the risk of alienating our partner by allowing Canada to become China’s backdoor entry into our trading bloc.