Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly is warning businesses against deepening their ties with China as part of a long-anticipated Indo-Pacific strategy which she says is coming by early December.
In a Wednesday morning speech, Joly said Canada seeks deeper ties with more democratic, reliable countries such as India.
“The tectonic plates of the world’s power structures are moving,” Joly told the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. “Canada ought to be clear about how we intend not just to engage, but to lead.”
Canada’s foreign service will be tasked with training more China experts and placing them in “key embassies” around the world.
“This will become a focus of our diplomatic effort,” Joly said.
She said China is increasingly diverging from Canadian values, and so businesses operating in that country face risks of political interference and the violation of trade rules.
“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” Joly said.
She said Canada can work with China on issues like climate change and will continue trade, but has serious concerns about Beijing undermining global security, commerce and peace.
“Canada will not apologize for its national interests. We won’t be sorry for seeking to uphold the global rules that govern international trade, international human rights,” she said.
Part of that includes “credible accounts of human rights abuse and crimes against humanity” in the Xinjiang region against the Muslim minority known as the Uyghurs.
Joly also spoke of Canada’s current military presence in the region, and suggested there may be more focus on containing China’s maritime boundaries and disincentivizing an invasion of Taiwan.
The remarks represent a major pivot for the Liberals, who have generally tried to avoid hostile rhetoric about Beijing even as China arbitrarily detained Canadian nationals Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig for nearly three years.
“What I would like to say to Canadians doing business in and with China: you need to be clear-eyed,” Joly said, noting “the geopolitical risks linked to doing business with the country.”
The speech, which was sponsored by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, a government think tank, portends more federal spending on diplomatic missions.
“We must both deepen our existing friendships and seek new allies,” Joly said, name-checking India.
“We must be at the table, step up our game, and increase our influence.”
She said Canada offers natural resources, food and an “innovative spirit” while acting as “a stable democracy that welcomes talent from around the world.”
Joly also said Wednesday she will launch the Indo-Pacific strategy within a month.
Business leaders and former diplomats have been pushing for the strategy, which the Liberals have promised at multiple points in recent years.
Joly unveiled five objectives for the policy, including peace, supply-chain resilience, human and women’s rights, climate change and deepening Canada’s global presence.
She will join Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on a trip to the region starting Thursday, with summits in Cambodia and Indonesia, but not his visit to Thailand.
—Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press