The Hon. Joe Volpe, Publisher
TORONTO - The Government of Canada would appear to have ONE pre-eminent asset – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Like “the Donald”, he was elected in part by the public’s [recurring] thirst for change.
Trump (the wrecking ball) is an untrained, instant expert whose ad hoc perspective on the consequences of his boisterous and muscular approach to international commercial and political issues is arguably a threat to both. At least there some checks and balances to mitigate his impact or around which alternative “proposals” might be inspired.
Trudeau – Canada - is one of those alternatives. Perhaps, prior to his China trip he, and Canada, might have been able to offer up a new nexus for multilateral commercial treaties and alliances.
Somehow, his handlers and his Ministers forgot that the Canadian Prime Minister is best served as a “closer” rather than as “negotiator” of any deal. What did his Ministers for International Trade or for Industry do to prepare the way for him with the Chinese counter parts. Where in that preparation was the work of the intelligence in their Departments and that of the Canadian Ambassador to China?
What do they now have to show for squandering that asset? A $125 million that the Chinese will spend over a five-year period to purchase Canadian beef. And “slights”, however small, to drive home the message that Canada is not a player as far as China is concerned.
Times were different when … Yes, under Chretien/Martin, it seemed the Chinese could not get enough of Canada. Chretien’s son-in-law (a former business associate of Martin) effectively headed the Canada China Business Council. (Full disclosure: I visited China on numerous occasions in various capacities, starting under the Mulroney administration).
We were the gateway to North America then, a great and convenient access vehicle to that market.
Foreign investment was attracted to the North-South flow of our Continental market. Foreign capital could see the advantage of investing in Canadian Manufacturing Infrastructure because the bulk of our “international trade” was within NAFTA. Absent that, the Canadian market is too and unappealing for “big boys”.
Those “big boys”, of which China is most assuredly one, may need some of our Western Natural resources. But China is already so deeply rooted in Africa (and elsewhere) that Canada’s West will become increasingly less attractive for them.
Yet, here we are: the PMO ships our Prime Minister – la vedette du jour – to China to sell our country as an alternative to the bully-boy market that is Trump-land. Just as the Donald threatens to eliminate the Canadian access to that Continental marketplace we call NAFTA.
He is arguably the best-looking, most photo-genic - charismatic even - “world leader”. But the Chinese have 1.3 billion mouths to feed.
Yes, they have a nineteen trillion-dollar economy, yet, most Chinese citizens live in a third world environment. Canada missed its chance after the Harper government derailed the Canada-China emerging partnership with his slap-in-the-face refusal to attend the Beijing Olympic Games.
Justin Trudeau’s entourage, starting with his Cabinet Ministers on the file, took the challenge a little too lightly; or maybe they are this much short of capability on the file.
The “deal” our PM struck on processed meat has the ring of an answer to the question:” where’s the beef?” Classic Chinese irony.