At Sprawling San Fran APEC Summit, Canada Opts for More Intimate, One-on-one Approach


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau embraced a more intimate form of Pacific Rim diplomacy Thursday as he sat down with several world leaders on the margins of a sprawling international summit in California.

Even before all 21 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation group could gather for their traditional family photo, Trudeau had already hosted meetings with Japan, Thailand and Australia, with plans to meet Mexico and Vietnam in the afternoon.

Each meeting touched on familiar themes: shared concern about the Israel-Gaza war and the fate of hostages held by Hamas, the impact of the war in Ukraine on global food supplies and the ever-present perils of the impact of climate change.

The other common element was a mutual interest in expanding opportunities for international trade and economic growth throughout the Indo-Pacific.

“Canada has a long and deep friendship with Japan, but I have to say I don’t think it has ever been better or closer bilaterally than it has been this past year,” Trudeau told Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida through an interpreter.

“Whether it’s been an issue of energy security, of investments in the growing clean economy or fighting climate change and protecting nature, Canada and Japan have been working side by side on all these issues and I really look forward to doing even more.”

While those bilateral meetings were playing out, host President Joe Biden was telling his fellow leaders and corporate CEOs that the U.S. was fully committed to the idea of expanding Pacific Rim trade.

“We’re not going anywhere,” Biden said.

“The questions we must answer today are not about how much we trade, but about how we build resilience, lift up working people, reduce carbon emissions and set up our economies to succeed over the long run.”

As leader of the host nation, Biden later took centre stage for the traditional photo-op, which saw Trudeau standing alongside the summit’s biggest celebrity: Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Biden met with Xi on the margins of the summit Wednesday in an effort to ease tensions in one of the world’s most important geopolitical relationships.

“This is not all kumbaya, but it’s straightforward,” Biden said.

“We have real differences with Beijing when it comes to maintaining a fair and level economic playing field and protecting your intellectual property.”

He also insisted the U.S. is committed to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, a nascent trade agreement of sorts that hasn’t progressed as quickly or as effectively as the White House had hoped it would.

Canada would welcome the chance to join the U.S.-led trade initiative, but the work necessary to expand trade in the region is already well underway, International Trade Minister Mary Ng said Wednesday.

It’s probably just as well: trade agreements are not politically popular in the U.S. right now, and Congress is gun-shy with a critical election looming on the horizon next year.

Canada is already an enthusiastic partner in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, a salvaged version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership that former U.S. president Donald Trump abandoned in 2017, Ng noted.

“We have trading relationships, and we are doing trade, with many of these economies, including with the United States,” she said.

“So we welcome the opportunity to join (IPEF) when that time is right. But quite candidly, we’re already doing the work.”

Source : CTV News