Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne attends a news conference during an official visit to Switzerland at the Von Wattenwyl Haus, in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Anthony Anex, Keystone

Canadian Foreign Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne attends a news conference during an official visit to Switzerland at the Von Wattenwyl Haus, in Bern, Switzerland, Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Anthony Anex, Keystone

5 things about Canada’s foreign-policy end run around Donald Trump

Canada had to adapt to that primarily because its economic fate is inextricably tied to its top trading partner south of the 49th parallel

Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne was recently pondering Canada’s place in the world from his home in Shawinigan, Que., “the command centre of foreign policy, these days,” as he called it.

“Pax Americana is probably behind us,” Champagne said in the interview. “Now, we need to see what’s our interests, our values and our principles. We can advance them with our traditional partners, and also with new alliances around the world.”

Champagne never mentioned Donald Trump by name, nor did he specifically mention the wrecking ball the U.S. president has taken to the international institutions created out of the devastation of the Second World War — the United Nations, the World Bank, NATO and others — that were devoted to ensuring a sustainable global peace.

But he was clearly noting how part of that postwar deal, the notion of the superpower America leading that new multilateral order by supporting and enforcing “American Peace” had clearly devolved toward “America First” over the last four years.

Canada had to adapt to that primarily because its economic fate is inextricably tied to its top trading partner south of the 49th parallel.

So Canada’s foreign policy morphed, drawing on the playbook of gridiron football played on this continent — Canada did an end run around the United States. Here are five ways that played out:

End running the White House on NAFTA

Trump repeatedly called the North American Free Trade Agreement the worst trade deal ever and threatened many times to rip it up. Canada responded to his existential economic threat with a “Team Canada” approach that eventually helped forge a new trilateral trade deal in 2019. This saw cabinet ministers, provincial premiers, business and union leaders target individual members of the U.S. Congress, state governors, local politicians and business counterparts. The Canadians were armed with data that showed exactly where in the U.S. Canadian products were going, and sought to show in dollar terms that trade with Canada was essential to the U.S. It was distilled into this talking point: Canada is the chief export market of 35 U.S. states, and nine million U.S. jobs depends directly on that. “I think that has to be a permanent campaign because … our (COVID-19) recovery is going to depend, once again, on the United States,” said retired diplomat Colin Robertson, who held several postings throughout the U.S.

Fixing the World Trade Organization without the U.S.

Canada led more than a dozen countries — minus the U.S. and China — in an effort to reform the World Trade Organization, which Trump calls “horrible.” Trade Minister Mary Ng convened the Ottawa Group virtually this past week, following the work started by her predecessor Jim Carr, to find ways to make the world’s trade referee work more effectively and then try to win over the U.S. with solid proposals. The U.S. has essentially crippled WTO’s Appellate Body, one of its dispute-settlement arms, because it declined late last year to appoint new judges. Canadian trade lawyer Lawrence Herman said the U.S. has valid criticism of the WTO but is doing nothing to fix it. “They are being unilaterally obstructionist,” he said. “They are basically saying, ‘We don’t like what’s happening, and we are prepared to put a freeze on a lot of WTO processes.’”

Reaching out to Europe

Trump has defunded the UN World Health Organization because, he says, it conspired with China to downplay the threat of COVID-19 in January. Canada continues to support the WHO and joined with the European Union in May to support its anti-pandemic efforts. Before that, Canada joined France and Germany to be part of a new group called the Alliance for Multilateralism. The U.S. wasn’t invited. Its goal: defend the global institutions fighting for their survival. In April, the alliance issued a statement supporting the WHO and saying the pandemic fight “requires more and enhanced international co-operation and worldwide solidarity.” Bessma Momani, an international affairs expert at the University of Waterloo, said the new alliance represents a “symbolic” broadside against populist political movements in Poland, Hungary, Italy and within France itself. “The signalling there is really, really interesting,” she said. “I don’t think there’s a lot of substantive outcome one should expect from the France-Germany-Canada alliance.”

Stoking the fire with the old British BFF

Champagne made a special point of stopping in Britain to meet personally with his British counterpart, Dominic Raab, on his late summer four-country trip. Since then, Canada and Britain taken joint action on some high-profile international security issues, levelling sanctions against the autocratic leaders of Belarus and calling for a ceasefire in the fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Raab and Champagne also joined forces with Germany to condemn Russia for its poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. While Canada may appreciate the newly rekindled camaraderie, Momani said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson likely feels the same, given his country’s decision to stage a Brexit and leave the European Union, because it shows “they still have friends in the world.”

Building a coalition to counter China

The U.S. request to extradite Chinese executive Meng Wanzhou has made Canada, and its two imprisoned citizens, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, collateral damage in Trump’s trade war with China. Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has spoken out forcefully about the detention and the president told Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in June 2019 that he would see what he could do about the two Michaels in an upcoming conversation with Chinese President Xi Jinping. It’s not clear what Trump did on that front. Meanwhile, Canada has built a coalition of support in the international community that has extended beyond the U.S. to several dozen countries, a move that has angered Beijing. David MacNaughton, Canada’s former ambassador to the U.S., said this past week all help on China is welcomed, including from the Americans, because what lies ahead is a “decade-long struggle in terms of redefining the relationship between the West and China.”

Mike Blanchfield, The Canadian Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from the beach in rescue attempt in Nanaimo

Animal dies in spite of efforts of marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

RCMP say a woman turned herself in to police after hitting a pedestrian and fleeing the scene of the accident in downtown Nanaimo on Friday morning. (File photo)
Driver flees, then turns herself in after hitting pedestrian in downtown Nanaimo

Nanaimo RCMP say woman was struck in marked crosswalk after driver ran red light

Police in Nanaimo found multiple sites with tags they allege were made by three men arrested for mischief in Maffeo Sutton Park on Feb. 15. (Photo submitted)
Graffiti taggers caught in Nanaimo with paint on their hands

Three suspects arrested at Maffeo Sutton Park last week

Uplands Park Elementary School. (News Bulletin file)
COVID-19 cases reported at Uplands Park, McGirr, Dover Bay schools

Contact tracing completed by Island Health, says Nanaimo Ladysmith Public Schools

A crossover utility vehicle smashed through the front of a business on Bowen Road on Friday evening. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Vehicle smashes all the way into business on Nanaimo’s Bowen Road

No serious injuries reported after incident at Venue Financial Centres

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Several BC Ferries sailings are cancelled Friday due to adverse weather. (Black Press Media File)
All B.C. Ferries sailings cancelled due to winds, adverse weather

Adverse weather causes cancellations across several BC Ferries routes

Wayne Allen's graduation photo from Chemainus Secondary School. (Photo submitted)
Brother charged with murder in Vancouver Island teenager’s Ontario death

Jesse James Allen stands accused in the death of Wayne Allen, a 2020 Chemainus Secondary grad

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing leads to stabbing in Nanaimo

Suspect arrested on Gabriola Island an hour after incident Wednesday, Feb. 24

British Columbia provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry arrives to view the Murals of Gratitude exhibition in Vancouver, on Friday, July 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Death threats mount against Dr. Bonnie Henry, sparking condemnation from Horgan, Dix

Henry has become a staple on televisions in homes across British Columbia since January 2020

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

The first of 11 Dash 8 Q400 aircraft's have arrived in Abbotsford. Conair Group Inc. will soon transform them into firefighting airtankers. (Submitted)
Abbotsford’s Conair begins airtanker transformation

Aerial firefighting company creating Q400AT airtanker in advance of local forest fire season

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Nanaimo-raised singer records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

Most Read