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Canada readies new Asia-Pacific strategy to challenge China

Canada will soon announce a new Asia-Pacific strategy to challenge China on human rights issues while cooperating with the world’s second-biggest economy on the climate crisis and other shared goals, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has said.

Canada sees relations with Asia-Pacific countries as vital to national security as well as its economic and environmental goals, Joly said in Toronto on Wednesday ahead of an official trip to the region.

China was an “increasingly disruptive, global power,” Joly said, and would need to be a major part of the strategy expected to be announced within the next month.

“It seeks to shape the global environment into one that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly depart from ours,” she said.

In a broad outline of Ottawa’s new policy roadmap, which is due to be released in the coming weeks, Joly said it will be critical to expand relations with India and other countries in the region, as well as Taiwan.

Diplomatic tensions between Canada and China have been running high since the detention of Huawei Technologies executive Meng Wanzhou in 2018 and Beijing’s subsequent arrest of two Canadians on spying charges.

While the standoff ended when all three people were released last year, relations have remained sour. Citing national security concerns, Ottawa banned the use of 5G gear from Huawei in May and last week ordered three Chinese companies to divest from critical minerals in Canada.

This week Beijing pushed back against Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s accusations that China was attempting to interfere with Canadian elections and said Ottawa should stop making remarks that hurt relations.

Bolstering network of China experts

“We will challenge China when we ought to. We will cooperate with China when we must,” Joly said.

“The Indo-Pacific region is the epicentre of a generational global shift,” she said, predicting that it will account for half of the global economy by 2040.

Joly also noted an increasing Canadian military presence in the Pacific and pledged more staff at its embassies tasked with analysing impacts of China policies and actions.

“It’s sheer size and influence makes cooperation necessary to address the world’s existential pressures such as global health, nuclear non-proliferation, climate change and biodiversity loss,” Joly said.

She said Ottawa was investing to better understand how “China thinks, operates and plans.” To do that, Canada will spend C$50 million ($37 million) to bolster its network of China experts in embassies, a source close to the matter told Reuters.

Joly warned that there were risks in doing business with China, telling Canadians, “you need to be clear-eyed. The decisions you take as business people are your own.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the region holds “great potential for Canada,” and that businesses planned to work with the government to build on their economic activities in the Asia-Pacific.

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