OTTAWA (Reuters) – Canada on Sunday launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy, which outlines spending C$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) to bolster military and cyber security in the region and pledged to engage with troubled China. While working with her on climate change and trade issues.
The plan, detailed in a 26-page document, said Canada would tighten rules on foreign investment to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned companies from seizing supplies of critical minerals.
Canada is seeking to deepen its ties with the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region, which includes 40 countries that account for nearly C$50 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, as mentioned more than 50 times, at a time when bilateral relations are cooling.
At a news conference in Vancouver, four ministers took turns outlining the details of the new plan, saying the strategy was critical to Canada’s national security and climate as well as its economic goals.
“We’re going to engage in diplomacy because we believe diplomacy is strength, and at the same time we’re going to be tough and that’s why we now have a very transparent plan to deal with China,” the secretary of state said. jolly. .
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s liberal government wants to diversify trade and economic relations that depend heavily on the United States. Official data from September shows that bilateral trade with China was less than 7% of the total, compared to 68% for the United States.
Canada’s outreach to Asian allies also comes as Washington has shown increasingly cautious signals about free trade in recent years.
The document highlighted Canada’s dilemma in forging ties with China, which offer significant opportunities for Canadian exporters, even as Beijing seeks to shape the international order in “an environment more permissive to the interests and values that alienate us more and more.”
However, the document says that cooperation with the world’s second largest economy is necessary to address some of the “existential pressures in the world”, including climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.
The strategy states that “China is an increasingly destabilizing global power”. “Our approach… is shaped by a realistic and clear assessment of China today. In areas of deep contention, we will challenge China.”
Tensions with China escalated in late 2018 after Canadian police arrested a Huawei Technologies executive, and Beijing subsequently arrested two Canadians on espionage charges. All three were released last year, but relations remain strained.
Earlier this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest their investments in critical Canadian minerals, citing national security.
In a section referring to China, the document says Ottawa will review and update legislation that allows it to act “decisively when investments by state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including those included in our critical mineral supply chains.”
“Because the region is so vast and diverse, one size certainly does not fit all,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Petit said in a statement, adding that Canada’s priorities should be between and within countries.
The document states that Canada will enhance its naval presence in the region and “increase our military engagement and intelligence capacity to mitigate coercive behavior and threats to regional security.”
This will include the deployment of three frigates annually to the region, from two currently, as well as the participation of Canadian pilots and soldiers in the regional military exercises, Defense Minister Anita Anand said in a separate press conference.
Canada is part of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, which wants to take significant steps to respond to North Korean missile launches.
The document indicates that Ottawa is engaged in the region with partners such as the United States and the European Union.
She said Canada should continue to talk to countries with which it has fundamental differences, but did not name them.
($1 = 1.3377 Canadian dollars)
(Reporting by David Longren). Editing by Denny Thomas, Leslie Adler, Daniel Wallis and Mark Porter
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.