I delivered the opening speech at the Summit on Canada's Global Leadership in Ottawa on November 27, 2019. The event brought together several hundred Canadian development practitioners along with academics and experts in other areas of foreign policy.
Canada faces extraordinary international challenges, I argued, due to tectonic changes in international affairs that are not going away. Although Canadians have often viewed foreign policy as something of an afterthought, we can no longer afford to do so. The stakes are too high.
Foreign policy has rarely figured prominently in Canadian elections. With few direct threats to our security, privileged access to the world’s largest and richest market confirming and international rules and institutions that sustained a relatively open and stable world order, Canadian voters have understandably tended to treat foreign affairs as an afterthought.
Today these conditions are decaying, leaving Canada more exposed than ever. A crucial question confronts our political leaders: How will Canada respond to these tectonic shifts in international affairs?
Five specific challenges, all touching on Canada’s core interests, warrant particular attention.
First, how will Canada manage its relations with the United States in the coming years? No one should assume that U.S. President Donald Trump is an aberration. He will eventually leave office, but Trumpism may remain a powerful force in U.S. politics for some time, just as Jacksonian populism outlasted the presidential term of i...
Canada has found itself in serious diplomatic disputes over the past year with Saudi Arabia and China. The Saudis took issue with the Canadian foreign minister’s call to release human rights activists from prison, whereas China was angry at Canada’s arrest of a senior Chinese executive on an extradition request from the United States. These incidents should not be viewed as isolated aberrations. Authoritarian regimes seem increasingly emboldened to lash out at countries that displease them, including allies of the United States. But Ottawa has succeeded in rallying considerable international support for its position in the China dispute, suggesting that while Canada may be exposed, it is not destined to be alone
Canada will stand for election to the United Nations Security Council in June, 2020. Our competitors are Norway and Ireland. Of the three countries, two will win seats on the council and begin their two-year terms in January, 2021.
There is no guarantee of victory for Canada, but it is still worth the effort. As international tensions mount and the United States retreats from global leadership, Canada and like-minded countries must do what they can to sustain co-operation and the wobbling structures of a rules-based international system. This task extends far beyond the United Nations, but the world body remains the flagship of the multilateral system.
At the core of the UN is the Security Council, still the most important table in international politics. Its 15 members, including five permanent ones – the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France – and 10 that hold rotating seats, grapple with the world’s most pressing security problems. With geopolitical rivalry on the rise,...