Link maker

A Canadian strategy for the Indo-Pacific must link aspiration with pragmatism

On May 3, Canada and Japan signed a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific. More recently, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly and Defense Minister Anita Anand received mandate letters to develop a Canadian Indo-Pacific Strategy, or IPS.

Despite these steps toward a Canadian SPI, in closed-door discussions with other Indo-Pacific stakeholders, the common refrain is “Where is Canada in the Indo-Pacific? “. So what will be in his IPS? How will it differ from the American IPS?

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau favors a progressive approach to foreign policy. Chrystia Freeland, Deputy Prime Minister, says Canada has a “feminist foreign policy” approach that is central to its efforts to eradicate poverty and support inclusive development.

So what should be the basis of a Canadian foreign policy approach to the Indo-Pacific, and is there room for the Trudeau government’s progressive domestic policy agenda?

In the area of ​​trade, standard setting and maritime security cooperation, some progressive political advocacy has been an obstacle to protecting Canadian interests in the region. The Trudeau government’s emphasis on progressive policies was behind the failure of a bilateral free trade agreement with China. It nearly sank the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and strained relations between Canada and India.

Progressive foreign policy advocacy has prompted trade and security partners in the region to ask whether Trudeau wants to talk about trade and security or cultural issues.

In areas such as inclusive development, good governance and climate change, there are ways to marry Canada’s national values ​​to an SPI.

Canadian Indo-Pacific priorities resonate with the EU, Japan, Australia and the United States. They understand that China represents a systemic challenge to the current order that prioritizes international law, transparency, and international institutions that promote good governance through transparent rules-based systems.

The rules-based order is not calcified. It is open to change based on emerging governance dilemmas. China has participated in this rule-making process in the past. The current order has grown to include climate change targets, trade regulation and shared tax approaches. In the future, it will have to evolve further to address the issue of artificial intelligence, e-governance, digital economy and other issues.

Canada has a national interest in ensuring that the rules that emerge to govern these new technologies and emerging issues reflect Canadian values ​​at home.

Any Canadian IPS will need to make a pragmatic link between Canada’s progressive domestic aspirations and the realities of the complex Indo-Pacific heterogeneity and its commitment to ASEAN centrality.

Given these limitations, a Canadian IPS will likely rest on these pillars: inclusive development, trade and economic resilience, climate change, maritime security, critical energy and mineral security, and middle power diplomacy.

Through unilateral and multilateral partnerships, the inclusive development pillar of a Canadian IPS will focus on development projects with an intersectional approach in an attempt to address inequalities, particularly among minority and underrepresented groups. of the region.

Japan, Korea and Australia have similar approaches to their development programs and would be force multipliers if properly coordinated in this endeavor.

Trade and economic resilience remain essential to Canada’s economic prosperity. As a member of the CPTPP, Canada has every interest in seeing the agreement expand. Its emphasis on protecting intellectual property, limiting the role of state-owned companies, and strengthening labor and environmental laws make the CPTPP a high-level agreement. This agreement protects research and development and ensures that rules-based market forces remain the arbiter of economic competition.

Working with CPTPP members, Canada will need to advocate for its expansion into economies such as the UK, South Korea and Taiwan. Increasing CPTPP membership also serves to protect Canada and other members from economic coercion by diversifying their trade ties with like-minded trading partners. It also helps Canada be a decision-maker rather than a rule-maker.

Canada’s SPI should include investments in resilient infrastructure and connectivity in the country and in the region to address supply chain issues and non-traditional security challenges such as transnational diseases, extreme weather conditions linked to changes climate and geopolitical frictions.

The Indo-Pacific is home to the three most populous countries and regions in the world: India, China and Southeast Asia. Climate change will have a negative impact on the food and water security of each region. This will foment social, economic and political instability that will not stay in the region. Refugees, food and water shortages, and disruptions to supply chains and trade will destabilize the most economically dynamic part of the world, rendering current inflation problems insignificant.

A pillar on climate change will see investments in climate change mitigation, promotion of environmentally friendly governance and business systems, and technology transfers. The scale of the problem will require regional and global coordination.

Maritime lines of communication need stability to continue transporting energy and goods in the region. By working bilaterally and with and within groups such as the Quad or the Rim of the Pacific exercise, a maritime security pillar of a Canadian IPS will continue to improve maritime domain awareness and the United Nations Convention United on the Law of the Sea through naval activities, diplomacy and dialogues 1.5 tracks.

Canada’s SPI will include a component on energy and critical mineral security. With natural gas, oil and critical minerals in abundance, Canada will combine its commitment to climate change with domestic technology development to provide reliable, environmentally friendly energy and critical mineral resources to the world. ‘Indo-Pacific.

Although intimately tied to the United States, Canada does not want to be either a bystander or an accidental victim of heightened strategic competition between the United States and China. He also doesn’t want his strategy to be seen as subordinate to a securitized US IPS. Therefore, Canada will invest in middle power groups tasked with addressing issues, which could include the United States, such as the 2020 Declaration Against Arbitrary Detention in State-to-State Relations.

These six Canadian pillars of the IPS are likely to be the outlines of a sustained, inclusive and meaningful role in the Indo-Pacific. They allow Canada to connect to existing mini-lateral partnerships such as the Quad or AUKUS to add value on a case-by-case basis. At the same time, Canada can continue its multilateral engagement with international institutions such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the CPTPP and the UN. Essentially, these pillars allow Canada to complement the efforts of its allies and friends in the region to contribute to a free and open Indo-Pacific.