Joly: Canada is working to revive relations with Beijing


In conversation with David M. Herszenhorn of POLITICO for an episode of the EU Confidential podcast, Canada’s foreign minister discussed trade deals, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and the Trudeau government’s foreign policy. Here are some important points:

Make the news: Joly revealed that she will release the Trudeau government’s long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy in the “coming weeks.” The framework will focus on Canada’s relationship with China, she said.

Diplomatic relations between Canada and China hit rock bottom in December 2018 after Meng was arrested in Vancouver on a US extradition warrant. A few days later, Chinese authorities arrested Kovrig, a diplomat on leave, and Spavor, an entrepreneur.

Meng’s arrest has infuriated Beijing, which has also halted imports of key Canadian agricultural products, including canola seeds.

Last September, Meng was released to return to China after reaching an agreement with US prosecutors. A few hours later, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the release of Kovrig and Spavor.

Easing tensions: In recent weeks, Canada and the superpower, its second largest trading partner, have shown signs of rapprochement.

Late Wednesday, the Trudeau government announced that Beijing has restored market access for two major Canadian canola seed exporterswho have been banned from sending products to China since March 2019.

Diplomatic relaxation: High-level conversations between Canada and China largely broke down after Meng’s arrest.

During the interview with EU Confidential, Joly said she shared a call last month with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi.

A Canadian reading of the appeal said the ministers discussed “the challenges of recent years, including cases of arbitrary detention, and the importance of frank dialogue”.

According to the summary, Joly told Wang that the world is watching China’s actions closely in relation to Russia’s war against Ukraine.

“We are fully aware that China could certainly do more to counter Russia’s positioning on the Ukraine issue,” Joly said in the interview. “[China] is in a position to send a strong message to Russia that its action is completely unacceptable.

Reading the Chinese governmentwho said the call was at Joly’s request, showed an openness from Beijing to move past the “serious setback due to the Meng Wanzhou case.”

“China and Canada have no historical differences or actual conflicts of interest,” the Chinese summary said. “China hopes Canada will keep in mind the goal of mutual benefits and win-win results.”

Awaiting instruction: Canada’s policy on its complex ties with China remains a work in progress. An updated policy has been expected end of 2020.

In October of the same year, Canada celebrated the 50th anniversary of its diplomatic relations with China. with a statement who pledged to re-evaluate the relationship.

“The use of coercive diplomacy is causing Canada to re-examine its approach, emphasizing multilateral cooperation,” said then Canadian Foreign Minister François-Philippe Champagne. “As we build a new framework for our relationship with China, Canada will work with its partners to hold the Chinese government accountable to its international obligations.

Washington is watching: The Biden administration has also been keen to see Canada’s China policy.

David Cohen, the new United States Ambassador to Canada, said in December that he had a “high level of confidence” Washington and Ottawa would be aligned.

“Both Canada and the United States are working on a reformulated China policy,” Cohen told reporters during the presentation of his credentials in Ottawa. “The two countries share a commitment to the defense and pursuit of human rights and a social and just society – things to which China does not share a commitment.”

The United States is expected to unveil its own China strategy soon, although no date has been set.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken was due to deliver a major speech on China earlier this month, but the event was postponed after he tested positive for Covid-19.

On Thursday, Biden will make his first trip to Asia since taking office 16 months ago, with visits to South Korea and Japan. The trip will give the president a key opportunity to meet with regional allies about China.

Looking towards Europe: Joly told POLITICO that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine served to strengthen Canada’s transatlantic ties.

She said Canada will be a reliable partner in helping Europe achieve energy and food security.

When it comes to trade relations, Joly said she has heard “positive vibes” from EU partners about those who have yet to ratify the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement European.

CETA, which has mostly been in force for five years, has been beneficial for both parties, she added.

Following the agenda: Once CETA is ratified, she said Canada wants to move to the next level of partnership – creating integrated supply chains for energy, technology and critical minerals.

“There is no other country in the world that has more engagement with the EU than Canada,” said Joly, who said she has visited Europe seven times in seven months.

Become personal: In response to a question about her life away from politics, Joly shared that war and job demands have complicated fertility treatments. Joly, whom Trudeau appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs last fall, has been very public about her goal of becoming a mother.

“Felix and I have been trying to have kids for a while,” she said of her husband, Felix Marzell. “I have been undergoing IVF treatment for some time and of course the war has been difficult in the context of continuing these processes, but I am privileged.”


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