Trudeau says protectionism in US, Europe unlikely to reach Canada

by Andy Blatchford THE CANADIAN PRESS

HANGZHOU, China—Justin Trudeau spent days urging world leaders to fight back against rising anti-trade sentiments, but he says there’s little risk that protectionist forces seen in the United States and Europe will spill over into Canada.

The prime minister, who made the remarks Monday at the end of the Group of 20 summit in China, said he believes Canadians in every demographic group broadly support positive engagement with the world.

“I’d be very careful and hesitant to apply situations that might be described in other countries to Canadians because we’ve seen Canadians are—and all demographic groups combined—generally open and positive and optimistic about the future,” Trudeau told a news conference in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou.

The Canadian delegation at the G20 wove the theme of talking up trade into all their discussions with G20 peers, Trudeau said.

On Sunday, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said growing anti-trade movements had complicated free trade talks with Europe and on softwood lumber with the U.S.

In the summit’s final communique, G20 leaders agreed to “reject protectionism” and promote global trade and investment.

Trudeau, attending his second G20 since taking office last year, said he had discussions on many different subjects with just about every leader, including U.S. President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

He also held slightly more formal sit-downs on the sidelines of the summit with British Prime Minister Theresa May, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the European Union, the OECD and Singapore. His only bilateral meeting was with Chad’s President Idriss Deby Itno, who also serves as chair of the African Union.

“Yes, there are a number of formal bilaterals, but the conversations that go on in the margins are equally important on wide range of issues,” he said, when asked why he didn’t hold more bilateral meetings.

Trudeau was also encouraged that superpowers China and the U.S. both announced they would formally join the ambitious Paris agreement on climate change.

He said there was a “clear and positive” consensus around the table that ratification of the Paris accord needs to happen soon, a goal outlined in the summit’s closing communique.

“The significant momentum generated by both China and the United States ratifying is an encouragement to all countries around the G20 table, and indeed around the world, to move forward with ratification as quickly as possible,” said Trudeau, who has been engaged in ongoing talks with the provinces to ratify.

Canada, however, isn’t quite ready to ratify the accord just yet and a country-wide climate plan remains a work in progress. Still, Trudeau, who has been negotiating with the provinces, insisted that Ottawa intends to ratify in the coming months.

John Kirton, director of the G8 Research Group at University of Toronto, was expecting other G20 countries to quickly follow China and the U.S.

“One would have expected when the two most-powerful polluters on the planet jointly agreed that they would ratify, or the legal equivalent, the Paris accord that others would have stepped up and said, ‘Me too,’ ” said Kirton, who was at the summit site.

‘But stunning silence from Japan, from Germany and even Canada… Yes, consultation, co-operation back home a good thing, but how long can you wait?”

The Paris accord envisions measures to hold the average global temperature increase to ‘well below two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels” and closer to 1.5 degrees.

Trudeau is nearing the end of his eight-day trip to China, during which he also held bilateral talks focused mainly on trade and investment with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Premier Li Keqiang.

Trudeau reiterated during the news conference his government’s goal to deepen ties with China. He was asked if Chinese leaders raised their long-held concerns over Canada’s restrictions on investment by foreign, state-owned enterprises.

‘That specific issue wasn’t brought up by the Chinese in any of my meetings,” said Trudeau, who appeared open to discussing the issue.

“But we’re always happy to listen to questions and concerns that the Chinese may have and we’re always looking to create opportunities for Canadians and Canadian businesses.”

On Monday night, Trudeau flew to Hong Kong. He will hold meetings with business leaders there on Tuesday and participate in wreath-laying ceremony at the city’s Sai Wan War Cemetery.