Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly has warned businesses against deepening ties with China as part of her long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy, which she said will be launched in early December.
In remarks Wednesday morning, Jolly said Canada seeks deeper ties with more democratic and reliable countries like India.
“The plates of the world power structure are shifting,” Jolly told the University of Toronto’s Munch School of Global Affairs. “Canada should be clear about how we intend to not only engage, but lead.”
Canada’s foreign ministry is tasked with training more Chinese experts and placing them in “major embassies” around the world.
“This will be the focus of our diplomatic efforts,” Jolly said.
She said China’s values are increasingly at odds with Canada’s, so businesses operating in the country are at risk of political interference and trade rules violations.
“China is an increasingly disruptive global force,” Jolly said.
She said Canada can work with China on issues such as climate change and will continue to trade, but has serious concerns that Beijing will undermine global security, commerce and peace.
“Canada will not apologize for its national interest. We will not regret seeking to uphold the global rules governing international trade and international human rights,” she said.
Part of that includes “credible accounts of human rights violations and crimes against humanity” in the Xinjiang region against the Muslim minority known as the Uighurs.
Jolly also touched on Canada’s current military presence in the region, and hinted that there may be a greater focus on containing China’s maritime borders and suppressing invasions of Taiwan.
The remarks represent an important turning point for the Liberal Party, which has generally sought to avoid hostile rhetoric against Beijing despite China’s arbitrary detention of Canadian nationals Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for nearly three years.
“I would say to Canadians doing business in and with China: You need to keep your head up,” Jolly said, noting the “geopolitical risks associated with doing business in the country.”
Sponsored by the Canadian Asia Pacific Foundation, a government think tank, the speech heralded an increase in federal spending on the diplomatic corps.
“We must both deepen our existing friendships and find new allies,” Jolly said as he checked India’s name.
“We have to stand at the negotiating table, step up our game and increase our influence.”
Canada provides natural resources, food and a “spirit of innovation” while serving as “a stable democracy that welcomes talent from around the world,” she said.
Jolly also said Wednesday that she will launch an Indo-Pacific strategy within a month.
Business leaders and former diplomats have been pushing the strategy, and the Liberals have pledged on multiple fronts in recent years.
Jolly unveiled five goals for the policy, including peace, supply chain resilience, human and women’s rights, climate change and deepening Canada’s global presence.
She will begin a tour of the region with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday for summits in Cambodia and Indonesia, but will not visit Thailand.
—Dylan Robertson, Canadian Press
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