By William Ging Wee Dere – Nov 3, 2022
Canada continues its efforts to be the main “running dog” of the US empire. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s two-day (Oct 27-28) visit to Ottawa was to review Canada’s desire to join the US-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and to pressure Canada to send a military mission to intervene in the latest Western-created problems in Haiti.
Canada has gone all-in on the Indo-Pacific with the US. At a joint press conference with Blinken, Canada’s foreign minister Mélanie Joly promised “that Canada would play a “bigger role” and “deepen engagement with the US” in the Indo-Pacific region. Further, she said, “I’m pleased to announce that Canada will seek membership to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework,” and the two countries “also agreed to hold the first Canada-US strategic dialogue on the Indo-Pacific to further align our approaches.”
While other countries in the IPEF may be wary of US intentions, Canada does not seem to have any qualms. As long as the US maintains tariffs and a protectionist approach to trade in the Indo-Pacific region, it would be a challenge to create another free trade pact. There are already two free trade pacts in effect for the region. The RCEP is the largest free trade agreement in the world and the CPTPP is the successor to the TPP. It would be more advantageous economically for Canada to apply for membership in the RCEP.
Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework
When Trump pulled out of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the US was again isolated in trade with Pacific Rim countries. The TPP trade pact was initiated by the Obama regime. It purposely excluded China as part of Obama’s strategy to isolate the People’s Republic. However, when the US withdrew, the TPP was never ratified, and it fell apart in 2017.
The remaining 11 countries then formed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in 2018. The CPTPP includes Canada, as did the TPP. The new agreement was a spin-off trade pact of the original TPP, only without the US. Beijing has applied for membership in the CPTPP.
China, along with 14 other Asia-Pacific countries then formed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), a free trade pact of 15 Pacific Rim countries in 2020, which includes the 10 countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The RCEP countries account for about 30 per cent of the world’s population (2.2 billion people) and 30 per cent of global GDP ($29.7 trillion).
President Biden wanted to break out of the US isolationist trade policy and to play a bigger role in Asia-Pacific economic affairs. The IPEF is intended to shore up the economic aspect of the American Indo-Pacific policy and they want Canada to follow suit.
Instead of applying for membership in the two existing trade pacts, the CPTPP and the RCEP, Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework in May 2022. The US-instigated IPEF includes many of the same countries as the original TPP but expanded to include India. What is telling is that Canada was excluded in the original list of invitees, just as this country was excluded from the QUAD (Australia, India, Japan and US) and the AUKUS (Australia, UK and US) pacts. A provision in the IPEF allows other countries to apply for membership, and Canada is tailing after the US for admission.
The IPEF is not a trade pact, as its name implies, it is a forum to discuss a framework to enter into any trade agreement. Critics of the IPEF say it is another US attempt to isolate China and sow division in the Asia-Pacific. “Is the US trying to accelerate the recovery of the world economy, or is it creating economic decoupling, technological blockade, industrial chain disruption, and aggravating the supply chain crisis?” Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi asked. He added, “The ‘Indo-Pacific strategy’ is concocted by the United States under the banner of ‘freedom and openness’, but it is indeed keen to form cliques to create ‘small circles’ with the aim of changing China’s surrounding environment in an attempt to contain China, using Asia-Pacific countries as ‘pawns’ for US hegemony.” Canada is playing its role to contain China, and application to join the IPEF seems to be a prerequisite to its Indo-Pacific Strategy under discussion, and due to be released by the end of 2022; but it was also promised for the end of 2020.
Behind Closed Doors: Debate on Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy
A previous article in The Canada Files analyzed the various divisions within the Canadian political and economic class to decide on a coherent Indo-Pacific policy. An Advisory Committee was formed in June to finalize the policy after the first draft was deemed to be too soft on China.
To get to the bottom of this division on the Indo-Pacific policy which seems to result in a “policy paralysis,” The Canada Files Editor-in-chief, Aidan Jonah requested through the Access To Information process (ATIP) (16/08/22) for “All memos, presentations, briefing notes or documents related to Canada’s Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee. …” and a second ATIP request (23/08/22), “All emails sent at ADM level and above related to Canada’s Indo-Pacific Advisory Committee.” The response to these requests from the Office of the Information Commissioner of Canada was that “the request is for a large number of records and meeting the original time limit would unreasonably interfere with the operations of the Department.” And that it would take between 180 days to 270 days “to complete the processing of the request.”
The government appears not to want Canadians to have access to information on how the Indo-Pacific policy is being debated and decided. By the time the request for information is honoured, in six to nine months, presumably Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy would be made public, if the government keeps its year-end deadline; and with Canadians having no prior knowledge on how it was determined. Meanwhile, the Canadian foreign minister and the American secretary of state are holding “joint dialogue” on “the Indo-Pacific to further align our approaches.”
Will Indo-Pacific Strategy feature an aggressive military posture?
Canada’s increasingly aggressive military posture in the Pacific has seen multiple sailings of naval frigates through the Taiwan Strait and warships are employed in the Pacific to blockade the Democratic People Republic of Korea (DPRK), supposedly to enforced UN sanctions.
Will the new Indo-Pacific Strategy justify the new frigate program which will cost Canadians $306 billion over the 65-year life cycle (construction, operating, maintenance and disposal costs) of the 15 new warships? The construction cost alone could hit $85 billion.
All indications point to a closer alignment with American economic and military policies in the new Indo-Pacific strategy. While two of the Five-Eyes countries in the Pacific region, New Zealand and Australia are demonstrating some misalignment with US and NATO nuclear weapons policies, it seems that Canada is again marching in step with Uncle Sam on the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). New Zealand has for decades declared itself a nuclear free zone. This year New Zealand is one of the 46 countries that sponsored the annual resolution calling for states to join the Treaty on the prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. 124 countries supported the resolution. Australia abstained for the first time after years of opposing the resolution. The US has always opposed the Treaty.
While Canada pays lip service to the “non-proliferation, arms control, and disarmament of conventional arms and weapons of mass destruction,” it has not agreed to sign the TPNW. When the Treaty to prohibit nuclear weapons was proposed in 2016, Canada voted NO. This posture is in line with its commitment to NATO. The Canadian people do not agree with the government as 74 per cent of citizens are in favour of signing the UN treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons.
NATO is expanding into the Asia-Pacific region as it invited Australia, New Zealand, Japan and South Korea to the June meeting in Madrid. It has also labelled China a “systemic challenge.” While distracting the public with talks about a Russian nuclear threat, the Americans are strengthening its nuclear weapons stockpiles in European countries like Germany, Belgium, Italy and Netherlands. Canada has committed itself to NATO policy. Will this commitment extend to the new Indo-Pacific Strategy?
Now that Canada is riding the US coattail on the IPEF, should Canadians be concerned with this country also following the US war-like positioning in the Asia-Pacific? These are some of the questions we need to ask while waiting for the new Indo-Pacific Strategy to be released.
William Ging Wee Dere is a member of The Canada Files’ Advisory Board. He is the author of the award-winning “Being Chinese in Canada, The Struggle for Identity, Redress and Belonging.” (Douglas & McIntyre, 2019). He was a political organizer and a leading activist in the 2-decade movement for redress of the Chinese Head Tax and Exclusion Act. He is a member of the Progressive Chinese of Quebec.
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 29, 2022
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 29, 2022
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/
Orinoco Tribune 2https://orinocotribune.com/author/yullma/November 25, 2022