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Canada aims to increase presence in Indo-Pacific with its new strategy

Canada has unveiled its new economic and diplomatic strategy for the Asia-Pacific region, allocating 2.3 billion Canadian dollars (US$1.7 billion) over the next five years to the plan aimed at mitigating risks posed by China.

The government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has based its strategy on five major planks: promoting peace and security, notably by sending a warship to the region; bolstering trade and investment; boosting “feminist international assistance”; financing sustainable infrastructure; and increasing its diplomatic presence.

“The future of the Indo-Pacific is our future; we have a role to play in shaping it. To do so, we need to be a true, reliable partner,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said in a statement introducing the policy paper on Sunday.

She said the new strategy “sends a clear message to the region that Canada is here, and they can trust we are here to stay.”

In an interview with the French-language daily La Presse to coincide with the introduction of the new policy, Joly said the message being sent was specifically aimed at Beijing, with which Ottawa has had fraught ties.

“There is a fundamental problem with the fact that China currently does not respect international norms and tries to change or interpret them to its own advantage,” Joly told the newspaper.

While the minister said the government would not go so far as to advise Canadian companies not to do business in China, she said, “My job is to explain the risk. And I’m saying there is a geopolitical risk in doing business in China.”

The government said the strategy “presents a comprehensive road map to deepen our engagement in the Indo-Pacific over the next decade, increasing our contributions to regional peace and security.”

READ MORE: Canada readies new Asia-Pacific strategy to challenge China

Souring relations

The announcement comes on the heels of Trudeau and Joly’s trip to Asia for the Group of 20 summit in Indonesia, the ASEAN summit in Cambodia and a meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Bangkok.

At the G20 summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping scolded Trudeau in an unusual public dressing-down, caught on video.

Relations between the two countries plunged into the deep freeze when Canadian authorities arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 for allegedly flouting US sanctions on Iran.

Beijing later detained two Canadian citizens in China, Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig, in what critics called a tit-for-tat response.

Meng and the two Canadians were released last year after lengthy negotiations.

Canada: Lawmakers’ Taiwan trip is no pretext for China aggression

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