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

A power outage on Westside Road affected thousands of residents Thursday morning. (BC Hydro map)
Power out for thousands on Westside

Outage sparked early this morning and BC Hydro crews on scene

Faith columnist Jim Taylor packed away Thanksgiving decor and hung Christmas seasonal items in their place despite new orders from Dr. Bonnie Henry cancelling worship. (Photo by Clearwater Times News Staff)
COLUMN: Church decorated for Christmas despite COVID-19 regulations banning worship

Faith columnist Jim Taylor explains why he prepared the church despite new health orders

North Okanagan Knights KIJHL Junior B Hockey League players Ethan Matchim (from left), Cade Enns and Jake Dubinsky helped out a toy drive organized by Vernon’s COBS Bread. (Photo submitted)
Trio of North Okanagan Knights give assist to toy drive

KIJHL players help out Vernon bread store with toy drive

Seventeen-year-old Joyce is battling cancer in BC Children’s Hospital in Vancouver, but mother Irma Hopkins said she is ‘one tough cookie.’ A GoFundMe campaign has been launched to raise funds for Joyce and her family. (Contributed)
Vernon rallies behind teen fighting cancer

Joyce, 17, is ‘one tough cookie,’ her mother says; she’ll be in hospital in Vancouver until sometime in June

The Township of Spallumcheen is now handling applications for planning and development. (Morning Star - file photo)
Township of Spallumcheen handling development, planning applications

Convenient service for township residents, businesses, who no longer have to travel to Coldstream

Janet Austin, the lieutenant-governor of British Columbia, not seen, swears in Premier John Horgan during a virtual swearing in ceremony in Victoria, Thursday, Nov. 26, 2020. Horgan says he will look to fill gaps in the federal government’s sick-pay benefits program aimed at preventing the spread of COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. premier says province prepared to patch holes in new federal sick-pay benefits

Horgan said workers should not be denied pay when they are preventing COVID-19’s spread

(Google Maps)
Osoyoos Credit Union staff member tests positive for COVID-19

The credit union made the announcement Dec. 1

Elkhart Gas Station, located on Highway 97C about 60 kilometres west of Peachland, opened in November 2020. (Google maps)
The Okanagan Connector now has a gas station

The highway previously ran for over 117 kilometres without a place to fuel up

The Hughes’ Grinch was stolen from their front yard Wednesday, Dec. 1, 2020. The Santa suit the Grinch is wearing is 50 years old and has sentimental value. It was once worn by April Hughes’ dad. (Hughes photo)
Grinch stolen from Penticton home is ‘irreplaceable’

The Hughes have had a Christmas display for 25 years on Grandy Avenue in Penticton

Midway RCMP’s Cpl. Phil Peters spoke at Greenwood’s city council meeting Monday, Nov. 23. Photo: Laurie Tritschler
B.C. Mountie builds fire to warm suspect with hypothermia prior to rescue

Cpl. Phil Peters said the civilian helped police track, apprehend and eventually rescue the suspect

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Revelstoke COVID-19 cluster linked to non-essential travel: Horgan

There have been 46 cases of COVID-19 in the community

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation at the legislature, Nov. 30, 2020. (B.C. government)
Hockey team brought COVID-19 back from Alberta, B.C. doctor says

Dr. Bonnie Henry pleads for out-of-province travel to stop

Most Read