Canada’s Role on the Global Stage

“We have paved the way in making middle class growth not just a Canadian priority, but an international priority.”

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August 21, 2019

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for your warm welcome, and thank you to Pierre and the folks at CORIM for having me here today.

In a few days, I’m heading to Biarritz, where I’ll meet with other G7 leaders to address today’s most pressing challenges.

So today, I want to offer a positive vision of Canada’s unique and multi-faceted role in an increasingly unpredictable era. One where we support the middle class, stand firm for our interests and values, and step up when others step back.

Ours is a country rooted in diversity and openness. We are a trading nation. Collaborative and influential, but not big enough to single-handedly dictate world affairs on our own.

For these reasons and more, Canadians directly benefit from global cooperation, multilateral institutions, and international relations governed by rules and principles.

We’ve always understood that global issues affect Canadian interests, which is why having a voice in shaping the world is important.

Over the last several decades, we’ve lived in a time when that’s not only possible, but expected.
It’s become easy to take the G7, the G20, the UN, NATO, the WTO, and other institutions for granted.
But let’s not forget how revolutionary the idea of global cooperation was in the wake of two world wars.

The vision was of a connected world forged on the basis of respect for international law and human rights. One in which might is constrained by common principles and standards. One where economic growth provides a better present for many, and a brighter future for all.

Thankfully, this vision caught on.

It has produced incredible results, and Canadians have played an important part throughout. Over the past four years as Prime Minister, I’ve had many varied conversations with Canadians, world leaders, experts, and the incredible professionals working in our diplomatic corps – and the one constant I’m hearing more and more often is that the world has changed, and quickly.

2019 looks very different than 2015.

Citizens are losing faith that their leaders, their institutions, and their economic systems will deliver a brighter future for them. They struggle to believe that globalization benefits anyone other than the top one percent.

More and more, countries are turning inward, succumbing to the easy but dangerous lure of populism and nationalism. They choose to blame foreigners for their domestic challenges, and retreat within their borders.

And the result is a more unpredictable and unstable world, where some have chosen to step away from the mantle of international leadership, even as others challenge the institutions and principles that have shaped the international order.

That has a direct impact on today’s world.

Protectionism is on the rise, and trade has become weaponized.

Authoritarian leaders have been emboldened, leading to new forms of oppression.

Calls for democratic reform, from Moscow to Caracas, are being supressed.

Crises that were once met with a firm international response are festering, becoming regional emergencies with global implications.

And all of this is making it more difficult to solve the problems that demand urgent global action.

Climate change is an existential threat to humanity, with science telling us we have just over a decade to find a solution for our planet.

And technological change is happening at an unprecedented rate, transcending borders, re-shaping our societies, and leaving many more anxious than ever.

Our government has responded to this new world by rejecting populism, and restoring people’s confidence that their governments can work for them.

As I said at the UN in 2016, “Fear has never fed a family, nor created a single job. And those who exploit it will never solve the problems that have created such anxiety.”

We understand that too many people feel left behind, and so in Canada, we are focusing on building an economy that works better for everyone.

That means cutting taxes for the middle class, and giving parents more money to help raise their kids. It also means investing in the next generation, and uniting behind shared values.

But we understand that these anxieties are not unique to Canadians.

That’s why we have driven the global conversation around middle class prosperity, including last year in Charlevoix, where the G7 agreed to a new commitment on equality and economic growth.

We have paved the way in making middle class growth not just a Canadian priority, but an international priority.

But we have also recognized that in this more unpredictable world, Canada will need to stand firm for our interests and values, and step up when others step back.

Take our relationship with the United States as a good example of our approach.

To say that the United States is our closest ally is an understatement. Canada has long benefited from this relationship, and from American leadership in the world. We are friends and partners more than mere allies.

We share more than just a border – we share culture, food, music, business. We share a rich history, and we share many of the same core values.

And so, we have relied on one another since the creation of our two distinct countries. This is not an accident of history. It reflects the conscious choice to pursue our common interests, while respecting our differences and resolving our disagreements through frank negotiation.

So the change in the US administration, their approach to America’s role in the world, and their threat to rip up NAFTA presented a novel and serious challenge.

But our government – including the brilliant and tenacious Chrystia Freeland – took a steady, reasoned approach from day one: we chose not to escalate needlessly, but stood firm for Canadian interests and refused to back down.

We were relentless in conveying to our American partners just what was on the line if we were all to suddenly wake up one morning without NAFTA in place. And it wasn’t just our governing team that put in the leg work – business leaders, unions and workers themselves, other orders of government, Indigenous groups, and ordinary Canadians stepped up.

Together, we formed one Team Canada.

And when the Americans put unfair 232 tariffs on our steel and aluminum exports, we reacted with dollar-for-dollar retaliation.

By staying disciplined, focusing on our shared goals, and ignoring the Conservative Party’s insistence that we roll over and capitulate, we got the tariffs lifted, we renegotiated NAFTA, and we got the job done.

We are where we are today because we stood our ground, and didn’t walk away from the table.

We have secured free trade access to our largest and most essential partner, in an era of American protectionism.

Canadian steel and aluminum workers are no longer facing unfair tariffs.

Canada’s exports to the US are at a record high.

And we have done it all while maintaining a strong, constructive relationship with our American counterparts.

That, my friends, is a win for Canada.

And let’s not forget that NAFTA wasn’t the only major trade deal we closed.

We also negotiated CPTPP and CETA, securing market access across the Asia-Pacific and to Europe at precisely the moment in our history when trade diversification mattered most – a moment where the belief in the benefits of trade is under siege.

Canadians now have free trade access to two-thirds of the global economy. And Canada is the only G7 country with a free trade deal with every other G7 country.

Over the last four years, with NAFTA, CETA, and CPTPP, we got results while refusing to compromise our values. Because we know that free and fair trade is essential to our economic growth, but only if it delivers benefits for everyone. The old way of doing trade won’t work anymore.

The fact that trade creates growth is not in dispute – increased economic activity means more opportunities for businesses. The free flow of goods and services is a positive thing for economies.

But simply assuming that the benefits of trade will make their way down to citizens is careless and wrong. And just hoping that trade won’t have adverse impacts on the environment, or labour, or cultural industries, or Indigenous peoples is an incorrect and dangerous assumption to make.

Trade hasn’t worked for everyone.

But that doesn’t mean we should close our borders and refuse to engage —we need to take a new approach. We need to shape deals that think beyond the single bottom line, and make a conscious effort to focus on people as much as on numbers.

Free and fair trade must reflect the beliefs and values of Canadians. And making that case for trade is how citizens buy in to what we’re pursuing in their name. Showing we’re focused on delivering benefits for our kids and grandkids is how we get public support for trade, and helping people and industries who face disruption is an important part of that.

Failing to understand this new reality is naïve.

In our recent trade negotiations, we have proven that being pragmatic, progressive, and principled gets results.

Take CPTPP and CETA – negotiations for both deals started under the Harper government, but stalled. It took our government, with a new approach and unparalleled levels of engagement, to close the deals.

With CPTPP, we moved ahead when the US withdrew, forging important new partnerships with growing economies in the Asia-Pacific, because the world’s economic centre of gravity is moving eastwards. Canada is now better positioned for the future of global economic growth. Not only that, we ended up with even stronger ties with longstanding allies like Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.

With CETA, our government showed the Europeans that we understood that modern trade deals must benefit everyday people and respect the public interest, including on the environment. Canada made the case that if our EU partners couldn’t do a deal with us, a like-minded country with high standards and a progressive government, then with whom exactly could they sign a deal? I was invited to the French National Assembly where I made the case for trade. Meanwhile, some members of the opposition wrote letters urging legislators to vote against this important agreement.

In the end, CETA passed the vote. We are setting a new standard for trade that also represents a momentous shift forward in our historic friendship with Europe. This was the foundation for a significant deepening of ties, which we saw reflected when we hosted the Canada-EU Summit recently in Montreal.

And as for NAFTA, it is worth remembering that Conservative politicians slammed Canadian priorities, like setting better labour standards for workers and protecting the environment. But ironically for them, it will actually be those progressive elements that will help get the deal through a Democratic-majority Congress.

These were major successes with partners, new and old. But if global trade is to be sustainable and deliver benefits to everyone, it needs to be governed by rules and underpinned by institutions that work.

And so, Canada has stepped up to work with our partners on a pressing problem.

Canada convened a group of WTO members, known as the Ottawa Group, to help modernize this organization in its crucial role of facilitating international trade and resolving disputes. And while we seek to reform and strengthen the WTO, Canada is also working with the EU to establish a new appellate mechanism so that it will still be possible to arbitrate trade disputes in the meantime.

On this, we can thank Jim Carr for his great work.

And Canada will need to show more of this kind of leadership in the years ahead, including on the environment.

Now, Conservative politicians continue to say that our focus on the environment – in trade deals and more generally – is misplaced. But what they don’t seem to understand is that Canadians are demanding action on climate change.

Climate change is an existential threat. The Conservative Party doesn’t understand that. But we shouldn’t be surprised.

Remember, Stephen Harper was awarded “Fossil of the Year” at the UN Climate Change Conference – several years in a row.

This wilful blindness to the threat of climate change contributed to the decline of Canada’s stature and influence worldwide. It hindered our ability to get energy infrastructure built, and threatened trade deals like CETA.

We need to be clear that climate change will shape relations between states in the decades ahead, and will only increase in impact. Most importantly, it will be the singular issue upon which future generations will judge us.

Our government understands the vital importance of addressing this problem. And we know that pollution isn’t bound by borders, so it’s crucial that we work with our allies to protect our planet.

Thanks to Minister McKenna’s leadership, we’ve achieved some incredible results.

Canada was a key driver of the Paris Agreement, a landmark pact signed by 195 countries with the express goal of fighting climate change.

When we hosted the G7 in Charlevoix last year, we put forward a world-leading Ocean Plastics Charter, which outlined concrete actions to tackle plastic pollution. This Charter has since been endorsed by 21 countries. Just a few months after Charlevoix, Canada co-hosted the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference, alongside Japan and Kenya.

And finally, while we phase out coal, ban harmful single-use plastics, protect our oceans, and put a price on pollution here at home, we’re also giving support in the billions of dollars for ambitious and essential climate action in developing countries.

Re-committing to the developing world is yet another way that we broke from the previous government’s approach to foreign policy.

We understand that a more stable, peaceful, and prosperous world is only possible if we offer a brighter future for all, including the most vulnerable.

That’s why we created a ground-breaking Feminist International Assistance Policy. Now, the majority of Canada’s aid dollars support the social, political, and economic empowerment of women. Because when women and girls succeed, economies grow and communities thrive.

But in order to support those women and girls throughout their lives, we need to make sure they have access to the same education that so many take for granted.

This was a key focus when we held the G7 Presidency, and I’m very proud to say that by working with our partners, Canada was able to raise a historic $3.8 billion for the education of women and girls in crisis and conflict states.

At the same time, we recognize the vital importance of guaranteeing access to high quality health care.

We supported Prime Minister Harper’s efforts to expand maternal, child, and newborn health. But we also understood the need to expand this assistance in ways that recognized the full needs of women and girls.

And on this, we have heavily relied on Minister Monsef.

And so, we hosted the 2019 Women Deliver Conference in Vancouver, the world’s largest conference on gender equality. There, we committed to raise our funding to $1.4 billion annually to support women and girls’ health around the world. Of that funding, $700 million per year will be dedicated to sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Whether it’s supporting the Thrive agenda and creating the Equality Fund, establishing FinDev Canada, or working with the private sector to build sustainable infrastructure, we understand the need to create new, innovative coalitions and tools for the modern era.

But let’s be clear – in this more unstable world, Canada must also be prepared to both defend ourselves and step up when called upon.

Our Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, understands this better than most.

We’ve made an historic investment in Canada’s hard power, increasing our defence budget by 70% so that our women and men in uniform have the equipment and training they need to operate at their very best.

This includes capabilities to better defend Canada and contribute to continental security. Recognizing the impact of both a changing climate and growing maritime traffic in the Arctic, we’re renewing our Coast Guard fleet, building Arctic Offshore Patrol Ships, and expanding satellite surveillance and remotely piloted systems. We’re also rebuilding and upgrading facilities, as well as better supplying the Canadian Rangers.

Compared to four years ago, we have more patrol ships, icebreakers, and light armoured vehicles on order. We have new search and rescue aircraft on the way. And after a decade of Conservative bungling, we have an RFP for Canada’s new fighter jet fleet – a fleet that will be 35% larger to better meet our needs and obligations.

We understand that protecting Canada doesn’t stop at our border. We make the greatest contribution to global stability when we match what Canada does best to what the world needs most. Our approach has been to focus on working in partnership, putting our unique Canadian expertise and capabilities on offer to build sustainable peace wherever we’re engaged.

And contrary to the Harper government’s indifference – and even hostility – toward multilateral cooperation, we’ve chosen to not only re-engage in important bodies like NATO and the UN, but also take on a leadership role in their efforts.

Alongside the US, UK, and Germany, we’re leading NATO’s defence of Europe’s Eastern flank through our battlegroup in Latvia. The Last year, I visited the troops stationed there and saw firsthand the key role that Canada is playing.

And after contributing to the defeat of Daesh, Canada is helping Iraq rebuild and find sustainable peace, including by taking command for the first two years of NATO’s new training mission.

And we’ve undertaken these roles while continuing to stand strong with other partners like Ukraine.

Canada-Ukraine ties have never been stronger. We recently signed a new free trade agreement, and Canadian election observers, led by former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, worked to protect the integrity of Ukraine’s last election.

When Ukraine reached out for help in 2015, asking Canada to help train their troops, we stepped up. And we just recently expanded and extended the mission until 2022, because Canada will always defend Ukraine’s sovereignty. Russia’s aggression and illegal annexation of Crimea is completely unacceptable, and we will oppose it at every turn.

At the UN, we’ve chosen to re-engage in deliberate ways that will strengthen its ability to promote peace and security in the years ahead.

Over the past year, Canadian peacekeepers have been supporting a UN mission in Mali. Thanks to Canada, our partners have been able to access remote and vulnerable areas of the region, with the goal of delivering long-term peace and prosperity.

And we’ve also led the charge on advancing the UN’s Women, Peace, and Security agenda, and building support for the Vancouver Principles on child soldiers.

In a world of growing authoritarianism and instability, Canada has repeatedly stepped up to lead.

As a key player in the Lima Group, we’ve worked more closely than ever with our Latin American allies to defend democracy in Venezuela from the illegitimate Maduro regime. Earlier this year, Canada hosted the Lima Group, which produced the Ottawa Declaration for Venezuela, and has since been endorsed by nearly two dozen countries.

Concerned by the slow international response to the ongoing genocide of the Rohingya, Canada appointed former Premier Bob Rae as a Special Envoy to Myanmar. Special Envoy Rae has been a tireless advocate, and was instrumental in shaping Canada’s response, which includes more than $300 million in funding to address humanitarian needs, as well as promoting accountability for the crimes that have been committed.

Now, I’m not saying that we’re done, that we’ve solved the ills of the world. Nor am I saying that everything we’ve tried so far has worked.

But in this new unpredictable era, we can’t refuse to try simply because the outcome isn’t guaranteed.

We must find a way to make progress.

Preserving the rules-based international order and adapting international institutions to our current reality means that Canada will need to work with a wide range of partners.

Newly-influential players are asserting their place at the table with new approaches and new ideas. And we need their support to solve some of the world’s problems.

The challenge is to accommodate global change in a way that seeks common interests and seizes new opportunities, but also preserves fundamental international principles.

Take China.

It is the world’s second largest economy, home to almost one and a half billion people. Our countries share a long history of diplomatic relations – 50 years next year, in fact. We have deep people to people ties, and we recognize real economic opportunities for Canadians.

But we’ve also had our share of disagreements. We know well that China has a political system and core values that differ from ours.

We are monitoring developments in Hong Kong closely and are mindful of the 300,000 Canadian citizens who are there. Alongside international partners, we have emphasized the need to exercise restraint and reject violence. Now is the time to engage in dialogue and respect fundamental freedoms, including the right to peaceful assembly.

Our government has been working tirelessly to secure the safe release of Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor. This has included generating widespread support from the international community.

Canadians expect us to be unwavering in our commitment to human rights, while upholding the paramount importance of international treaties.

We are also very concerned about developments in Hong Kong. Alongside international partners, we call on local authorities to respect the rights of Hong Kong citizens to assemble peacefully. Now is the time to exercise restraint and listen to citizens.

As a global community, we must recognize that China is a growing power and increasingly assertive towards its place in the international order. But make no mistake: we will always stand firm for Canadian interests.

Canada has a long history of dealing directly and successfully with larger partners. We do not escalate, but we also don't back down.

And there are, of course, other pressing issues that demand our attention.

White supremacy, Islamophobia, and anti-Semitism are an increasing scourge around the world, and at home.

Gender equality is backsliding.

Human rights are increasingly under threat.

This is the world we’re in. And so we cannot lose sight of our core values. That means being prepared to speak up, and knowing that sometimes doing so comes at a cost. But when the courage of our convictions demands it, so be it.

Ultimately, Canada’s credibility and influence depends on our partners knowing who we are and what we stand for.

Let me give you just a few examples of this approach in action.

Out of our entire community of nations, it is Israel whose right to exist is most widely – and wrongly – threatened. On this, we have always been clear: Canada is a steadfast friend of Israel. At the same time, mutual understanding and progress through peaceful negotiation is more important than ever. That’s why we continue to stand for a two-state solution.

On LGBTQ2 rights, we were proud to recently serve as co-chair of the Equal Rights Coalition alongside Chile. With 42 member states, this organization works to advance the rights of LGBTQ2 people around the world.

And while the Conservatives blocked the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, we stood in front of the UN General Assembly to talk about how we must do better for Indigenous peoples in Canada.

Ladies and gentlemen, a world of populism, uncertain leadership, and global challenges is a world in which Canadians have important choices to make.

Conservative politicians are once again relying on the politics of division, including here in Canada.

They envision a world where Canada ignores the reality of climate change – just last week, the former Conservative Finance Minister, Joe Oliver, said that climate change is a great thing for Canada. He should try telling that to Canadian families who have lost their homes due to flooding or forest fires.

They envision a world where they deny critical support for vulnerable and marginalized women by refusing to fund sexual and reproductive health and rights. Where skepticism about international cooperation leads to Canada’s retreat from institutions like the UN.

The Conservatives envision a world where Canada hectors from the sidelines – where we refuse to participate, but still expect a platform from which to shout.

They envision a world where Canada flirts with the forces of populism, whipping up fear and spreading misinformation.

They criticize without abandon, but haven’t actually offered up alternatives when asked what they’d do differently.

But this much is clear: their approach to foreign policy will leave Canada diminished on the world stage. It will be a return to the Harper era, where Canada does less, and matters less.

But there is also a forward-looking, positive vision on offer, based on the success of the last four years. One that understands the anxieties driving international instability, the importance of Canadian leadership in a more unpredictable world, and the imperative to solve fundamental global challenges.

In the years ahead, Canada should place democracy, human rights, international law, and environmental protection at the very heart of foreign policy. We have long believed in these principles, but are now called upon to do more to defend them, both because it is right and because it is in our national interest.

A world with more authoritarian states, less respect for human rights, and weaker international rules is a world where Canada is worse off, has fewer friends, and faces greater threats.

Still, over this past four years, we’ve accomplished a lot in this uncertain world. But there’s more we need do to advance Canadian interests, and Canada’s place on the international stage.

Here’s some of what I’d like to see happen next.

We need find ways to make the full breadth of Canadian expertise available to countries seeking to democratize, advance justice, and build stronger, better, and more transparent governments.

We should stand side by side with those who put themselves at risk in the defence of democracy and pursuit of peace, and be prepared to offer refuge when they face persecution abroad.

We need to make it easier for small and medium-sized Canadian businesses to engage in trade, and do the constant hard work to ensure that all Canadians benefit from trade.

As some step back from global leadership, we should work with others to mobilize international efforts, particularly by ensuring the most vulnerable and marginalized have access to the health and education they need.

Canadians have found strength in diversity and benefited from openness to the world. Financial strain should never hold Canadians back from exploring the world or building positive connections abroad, especially when it comes to young people and seniors.

I look forward to saying more soon on these proposals and others.

Ladies and gentlemen, in three days, the countries of the G7 will meet in France. The state of the world and concerns about the global economy will be at the top of our agenda.

My message will be clear.

We need to invest in an economic future that benefits everyone, and focus on helping the middle class. We need to work to ensure that international relations and international trade is governed by predictable rules and principles. And we must never forget that peace and prosperity comes when governments listen to and serve their citizens.

That’s the Canadian approach.

We are a proud liberal democracy, and a vibrant multicultural society. We value human rights, equality, and economic opportunity.

We know that newcomers strengthen our communities.

We know that trade should be free and fair, while also reflecting our values.

We know that securing our national interests demands that we step up to deal with international issues.

We know that we Canadians can punch well above our weight when it comes to preserving peace and security.

We know that climate change is the most pressing of many problems requiring global solutions.

And we know that a strong and thriving middle class is the most effective bulwark against destructive populism.

My friends, that is the Canada our allies know.

That is the Canada I am so proud to serve.

And that is the Canada that this turbulent world needs us to be.

Thank you.