Trudeau to meet key Pacific trade partners at APEC leaders’ summit

Canada became one of the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks into this weekend’s APEC leaders’ summit with a chance to smooth over lingering sore feelings with some of Canada’s key trading partners on the Pacific Rim.

Trudeau will meet his counterparts from Australia and Japan, and have the opportunity to bump into leaders from the 21 countries in the hallways of the busy summit.

Observers say Japan, Australia and the remainder of an 11-nation Pacific Rim trade pact are still upset over how Trudeau skipped a key meeting last year where the group was expected to agree on a final text.

A deal did arise out of the fracas, namely the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP for short — an outcome the Liberals believe is a sign that all is well among the countries.

RELATED: China says butt out; Canada calls for release of “arbitrarily” detained Muslims

Observers say Trudeau’s counterparts continue to have hard feelings about last year’s incident.

“I still think the APEC summit will be damage repair from the last summit — almost pulling out the (CPTPP) and the Japanese upset with us and the Australians cursing us — so I think there still needs to be some repairing of the relationship,” said Carlo Dade, an expert on trade in the Pacific region from the Canada West Foundation.

Canada became one of the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP, giving domestic businesses first crack to gain a foothold in overseas markets. Quickly ratifying the agreement could help mend relationships, Dade said.

Trudeau arrived after dark in this island nation, walking a red carpet at the airport between two lines of traditional dancers before being whisked off to prepare for the opening of the summit on Saturday.

At a news conference Thursday, Trudeau said he planned to talk about expanding trade in the region during the APEC summit.

“There are certainly discussions to be had around the APEC table about how we will continue to strengthen these trade ties,” Trudeau said.

“The APEC summit is specifically an economic summit for partnership with Pacific nations and that’s exactly what we’re going to be focusing on.”

Looming over the summit will be an economic tit-for-tat between the world’s two biggest economies — the United States and China.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, who is attending the summit in place of President Donald Trump, is expected to force countries to pick sides as China looks to use the summit to extend its influence to smaller Pacific island nations in attendance.

Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to have some choice words in response.

Asked about it Thursday, Trudeau would only say that he looked forward to what Pence had to say.

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, an expert on the Asia-Pacific from before his time in the Senate, said the divide between the two biggest players at APEC poses an existential threat to the trade region APEC was formed to foster. Without the U.S., there is a need for a North American voice to champion trade around the Pacific, Woo said.

“The only country that’s able to take up this leadership role…is Canada and it would be important that the prime minister, I think, assumes some of this responsibility,” Woo said.

“There is no other player in the Americas that, I think, at this stage has either the will or the means to be a champion for the Asia-Pacific region.”

Patrick Leblond, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said countries like Japan want to know Canada will be involved in the Asia-Pacific region more than it has been to help counteract China’s growing influence.

RELATED: Canada wants free trade deal with southeast Asian nations, Trudeau says

“They want to have Canada as a partner in terms of dealing with the pressures that the Chinese and now the Americans are doing in terms of trade,” Leblond said.

The economic battle has an unlikely backdrop in Papua New Guinea, one of the poorest members of APEC. Canada’s annual trade with Papua New Guinea is less than one per cent of the trade that goes across the Canada-U.S. border every day.

Global Affairs Canada’s travel warnings about Papua New Guinea note assaults, sexual assaults and violent crime often with the “use of firearms or machetes,” and suggest visitors “consider hiring private security” because police cannot be relied upon.

The meeting itself has caused a series of negative headlines for the national government over spending millions on a fleet of 40 Maserati cars to ferry around dignitaries.

China and Australia have invested heavily in the region, hoping to gain some influence. Trudeau will have a chance to address island nations on Saturday, where he is expected to talk about climate change.

Jordan Press, The Canadian Press

ng>Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Shames Mountain creates new fund for youth in memory of late founder

The ‘Billey Season Youth Pass’ will be given out annually

Coastal GasLink gets interim injunction against Unist’ot’en

The LNG pipeline company can start work Monday with enforcement approved by court.

Terrace users on Facebook post warnings about vehicle break-ins

RCMP say it’s important to always lock your doors

Oil tanker ban to be reviewed by committee

Indigenous groups for and against Bill C-48 travel to Ottawa to influence the Senate’s decision

Tyler Dozzi breaks national record, ‘running like a madman’

Terrace runner sets new time in Boston in his last U20 race

VIDEO: Royals reveal the images on their Christmas cards

Prince William and his wife Kate are shown outside in casual clothes, their three young children in tow

ICBC to apply for 6.3% hike to basic insurance rates

Crown Corporation said it will be submitting its next basic rate application to the British Columbia Utilities Commission Friday

Media, robotics, Indigenous studies coming to B.C. Grade 12 classrooms in 2019-20

Provincial tests are also being changed for students in Grade 10 to 12, the Education Ministry said

Stranded B.C. trucker writes final wishes before being rescued 3 days later

‘I was just praying someone would come along’

Canfor Corp. extending temporary curtailment of sawmills in B.C.; cutting hours

Vancouver-based company says the decision is due to declining lumber prices, high log costs and log supply constraints

Canada’s prospective world junior team members await final roster decisions

Thirty-four players were invited to the national junior selection camp

Family searching for B.C. professor last seen at Colombian salsa club

Ramazan Gencay, a professor in economics at Simon Fraser University, was last seen in Medellin

Rash of bomb threats a learning opportunity for response capacity, Goodale

Thursday’s wave of bomb threats swept across communities on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border

Mike Duffy can’t sue Senate over suspension without pay, judge rules

Duffy’s lawsuit sought more than $7.8 million from the upper chamber

Most Read