Justin Trudeau received a lot of negative publicity in the foreign media and to a lesser extent here at home after refusing to sign an agreement in principle for a new trade deal with 10 other Pacific Rim nations on Friday.
Whether he “sabotaged” the deal, as one Australian newspaper put it, or “screwed” the other leaders who waited for him on the sidelines of the APEC summit in Vietnam, the prime minister suffered a hit to his popularity on the world stage, something that really hasn’t happened since he took office two years ago.
Some observers are warning Trudeau may have made it more difficult for Canada to gain a desired foothold in two other organizations in the region: ASEAN, the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations, and the East Asia Summit, a key forum for discussing security issues in the region. He attended both this weekend as an observer. It was the first time a Canadian leader had been invited.
But whatever price he paid or will pay, Canadian officials insist the benefits far outweigh it.
They say Trudeau reinforced his message that Canada will not succumb to pressure and sign a trade deal he doesn’t believe is in the best interests of Canada.
Japan, Australia and Singapore, in particular, wanted to press ahead, even with few changes to the original Trans-Pacific Partnership that included concessions they had all made in order to get the U.S. on board before President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.
Canada’s position is that the value of increasing trade can’t take precedence over the progressive values Trudeau wants enshrined, not just by inserting clauses to protect the environment and promote labour and Indigenous rights, but in changing the name of the pact itself to the Comprehensive…