Canada Proposes Western Economic Coordination Against China

Prime Minister Trudeau’s idea is good, but just empty verbiage so far
December 27, 2021 Updated: December 27, 2021

Commentary

On Christmas, Canada’s Global television aired an interview with the country’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. He made excellent points on the need for democracies and their allies to cooperate more in dealing with the China threat.

“We’ve been competing and China has been, from time to time, very cleverly playing us off each other in an open market, competitive way,” he said, according to a Reuters report.

“We need to do a better job of working together and standing strong so China can’t play the angles and divide us one against the other.”

Canada has in fact joined allies to take a few tough stands against Beijing.

That vast country to America’s north is joining the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics, which will be held in February. (Too bad Ottawa didn’t publicly offer to hold the games in Canada.)

Ottawa stuck to the 2018 detention of Meng Wanzhou for over two years despite intense economic and diplomatic pressure from the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Chinese police took two Canadians hostage, named Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, just days after the Meng detention.

That medieval response to the Meng arrest did more to wake up the Canadian public, along with the 30,000 deaths from COVID-19, than it did to soften Canada’s China policies.

Canadians are now paying attention to Beijing.

Canada, and the two Michaels, deserve our admiration and thanks for processing Meng according to the law, despite the CCP’s bullying.

Unlike Australia and New Zealand, Canada has resisted joining China’s Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which is a large free trade agreement led by Beijing.

So Trudeau’s proposal to “do a better job of working together and standing strong so China can’t play the angles and divide us” is in line with much of the prior tough stands that Canada has taken.

However, Trudeau’s latest comment is lacking in the policy details that might make it effective.

While liberals often promote free trade agreements that leave China out, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), this is weak tea when considering China’s proven ability to expand its bilateral trade with countries globally, and transship through second and third countries that act as middle men.

Unmitigated free trade agreements, even among democracies and their allies, make us overly dependent on international trade in times of emergency, like pandemics or wars.

Conservatives in Canada are skeptical of Trudeau’s commitment to enact the innovative and tough policies necessary to defend Canada, and the world, from the CCP’s growing power.

Dean Baxendale, the CEO of Optimum Publishing International in Toronto (full disclosure: this author’s latest book was published by OPI), responded by email that the prime minister’s statement was “Better late than never.”

Sam Cooper, who authored a book on Beijing’s influence in Canada called “Wilful Blindness, How a network of narcos, tycoons and CCP agents Infiltrated the West,” also replied to Trudeau’s statement with cautious optimism.

“It’s encouraging [that] the Prime Minister seems to be adopting the strategic thinking that countless Canadian intelligence briefs have stressed to Canadian politicians in recent years, with regards to [the] PRC’s [People’s Republic of China] economic tactics and ‘elite capture’ efforts,” Cooper wrote in an email.

Baxendale ascribes the tardiness of Trudeau’s “few words of contrition as it relates to The CCP’s Hybrid War,” to a possible deflection from domestic issues.

“It is interesting that he [Trudeau] has chosen to deflect from the mess here in Canada that successive governments from [Jean] Chretien on down have created.”

Baxendale noted that Canadians are still waiting for China’s “promised liberalization” and adherence “to our agreements.”

According to the publisher, who is responsible for Cooper’s book on Beijing’s influence in Canada, “The fact that he [Trudeau] can’t admit he has been compromised by the CCP through proxy think tanks like the Asia Pacific Foundation and Canada China Business Council along with [the CCP’s United Front Work Department] agents representing state interests is shocking.”

While Trudeau can relatively easily score political points through grand statements of future cooperation with allies, which is undoubtedly and obviously needed, he has simultaneously neglected the shorter-term, highly effective, and readily available policy options against Beijing’s growing power.

“It remains to be seen … whether his government follows up and adopts the recommendations already available to it through parliamentary security and intelligence committees, such as following the example of Australia to enact tough foreign interference laws,” wrote Cooper, “and taking the logical step of deepening security and trade and supportive relations with countries like Australia and Lithuania, that have already stood up to [the] PRC’s economic leverage and divisive tactics, which aim to exploit business elites and turn them against democratic governments, so that China’s foreign policy goals are promoted.”

Yes, Trudeau is correct that democracies and their allies need to band together more closely to counter Beijing’s growing economic clout. But the devil is in the details. Without actually detailing or executing the necessary policy change, Trudeau’s verbiage is just more empty politicking.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.

Anders Corr
Anders Corr has a bachelor's/master's in political science from Yale University (2001) and a doctorate in government from Harvard University (2008). He is a principal at Corr Analytics Inc., publisher of the Journal of Political Risk, and has conducted extensive research in North America, Europe, and Asia. His latest books are “The Concentration of Power: Institutionalization, Hierarchy, and Hegemony” (2021) and “Great Powers, Grand Strategies: the New Game in the South China Sea" (2018).