Canada’s new Indo-Pacific strategy is a step in the right direction and it sends a strong message to Beijing, a former ambassador to China says.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy ‘long overdue,’ shows ‘radical change’ on China: experts

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly unveiled the new strategy on Sunday, when she told reporters that China is an “increasingly disruptive global power” in a region where multiple countries are showing major economic growth.

“The Indo-Pacific is the fastest growing economic region of the world. By 2030, it will be home to two-thirds of the global middle class and by 2040, it will account for more than half of the global economy, Joly said.

“Every issue that matters to Canadians, our national security, our economic prosperity, democratic values, climate change or again human rights will be shaped by the relationship Canada has with Indo-Pacific countries.”

The strategy includes $2.3 billion in funding in the region over the next five years, all while strengthening security and intelligence networks, deploying additional military assets, investing in cybersecurity infrastructure and diversifying Canada’s trade opportunities in the region.

The plan is “a comprehensive one,” according to a former Canadian ambassador to China, and it sends a “tough” message to China, said Guy Saint-Jacques.

But he noted that a lot will remain to be seen in the “details on the implementation.”

Plan is ‘long overdue’ but experts are optimistic

Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said the strategy is a sign that “good things come to those who wait.”

“This is a good thing,” he said of the strategy, adding that it’s also “long overdue.”

One of the most important signals that the government is serious about the promises it laid out in the strategy is the amount of money Canada has earmarked to put the strategy in place, according to both Hyder and Saint-Jacques.

“What I’ve seen in there is content-rich, and it’s backed up by dollars. So the intentions are pure,” Hyder said.

The planned $2.3-billion funding over the next five years “confirms that the government is serious about implementing this strategy,” Saint-Jacques said.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy ‘long overdue,’ shows ‘radical change’ on China: experts
5:13 Anand announces $500M investment of new military initiatives in Indo-Pacific region

Those billions will be invested immediately as a “down payment” to start implementing the strategy, Joly said. Some of the promises, including an extra frigate, could come with an additional hefty price tag.

If the government intends to procure a new frigate rather than repurpose one in the existing fleet, that purchase alone could cost Canada billions, based on previous procurement figures.

In addition to deploying military assets to the region, investing in domestic and regional cybersecurity infrastructure, and bolstering Canada’s contributions to the global intelligence alliances, the strategy plans to grow economic ties with India and in southeast Asia.

Existing ties with Japan and South Korea are also supposed to be further strengthened under the plan, and a new Indo-Pacific Trade Representative will be appointed to advance Canada’s relationship with the region.

“If all politics is local, so too is all business,” Hyder said of the new trade representative appointment.

“And so to have actual resources on the ground who understand how local markets work, what the nuances are, what the sensitivities are, what the right thing to do is versus the wrong thing to do is, frankly, saves dollars.”

The strategy also hopes to boost travel and immigration opportunities between Canada and the region, fight anti-Asian hate, bolster human rights supports, and build a cooperative climate change strategy.

“I’m very pleased with the strategy because I see it’s a comprehensive one,” Saint-Jacques said.

“It addresses military and security issues, development issues, environment and climate change, trade, of course, and geopolitical questions.”

Devil in the details?

While it’s one thing to get good ideas down on paper, it’s another to actually implement them — a reality that couched the optimism Hyder and Saint-Jacques expressed.

“I think what matters now a bit is we’re able to convert … those intentions into actions and those actions into actual achievements,” Hyder said.

Two key areas of the strategy also gave Saint-Jacques pause.

While Canada has signalled that it intends to better protect its sovereignty in the Arctic — particularly as China and Russia increasingly eye the region — the government will have to put its money where its mouth is in order to make that intention a reality.

“We will have to invest a lot more in terms of (the North American Aerospace Defence Command) NORAD, in terms of buying additional ships and planes to patrol the north,” Saint-Jacques said.

“This is something that will have to be addressed at some point.”

For Hyder, the strategy suggests the government has missed a big opportunity with respect to pushing for expanded market access for Canada’s liquid natural gas (LNG) supply.

“As someone who has been to Korea and Japan and other places and in the North Pacific, I will tell you that they are keen on getting our energy and particularly our LNG, and so I thought it was a huge miss,” Hyder said.

Canada’s LNG supply is not only helpful to push for decarbonization, Hyder said, but also to provide Canada with an economic advantage “at a time in which there may well be recessionary winds on the horizon.”

“So it’s a big miss and I think it’s something that needs to be asked and addressed,” Hyder said.

Opposition calls for action to match promises

Politicians are also calling on the government to release more specifics about the plan, as NDP MP Heather McPherson said on her way into question period on Monday.

When a reporter asked what’s missing from the strategy, she said: “the details.”

“What is that going to look like? How are we going to get there?” she wondered aloud.

“The Liberal government is great at saying the right things. We’re going to be watching very closely to make sure that they do the right things.”

The Conservatives have also already asked the government to prove it meant it when the strategy promised to challenge China on human rights issues.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy ‘long overdue,’ shows ‘radical change’ on China: experts
2:19 Canadian military to play stronger role in Indo-Pacific region: Trudeau

In the Indo-Pacific strategy, the government pledges that “in areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behaviour — economic or otherwise — ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region.”

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre cited this quote in question period on Monday as he asked the government to “indicate to Beijing” that the major protests in China against Beijing’s “COVID Zero” policies should be “allowed to go ahead” and “any crackdown should be resisted.”

The Liberal parliamentary secretary for foreign affairs replied that “protesters should be able to peacefully protest and share their views without fearing for their safety,” adding that Canada “will continue to follow the events very closely.”

At the same time, the strategy does not indicate that Canada is “decoupling economically from China,” Saint-Jacques said.

“The reality is that it’s an important market for our exporters,” he said.

Canadian exports to China totalled $28.84 billion last year, according to Statistics Canada customs data, accounting for over four per cent of all exports. Imports from China, meanwhile, totalled $85.67 billion, or 14 per cent of Canada’s intake.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy ‘long overdue,’ shows ‘radical change’ on China: experts
10:32 New Indo-Pacific Strategy outlines Canada’s approach for China

However, the strategy is now providing a “choice” for Canadians to take their supply chains “elsewhere” and “develop new markets” with the government’s help.

Overall, the strategy shows a “radical change” in Canada’s approach to China, which for years had tried to pursue a free-trade deal with Beijing before ultimately shelving the proposal in response to China’s hardball negotiation tactics.

“I think there was no choice for Ottawa but to adopt a much firmer approach towards China,” Saint-Jacques said of the new approach.

“China can put aside international laws and norms when a country does something that it doesn’t like. We have seen also that Xi Jinping conducts a very aggressive and assertive foreign policy. … So I think for the government, it had to do something.”

The “big question,” Saint-Jacques said, is whether China will “want to play ball.”

“The message for China is a very tough one. We are telling China: ‘You are a bully. As long as you are acting as a bully, we will limit our engagement. We have no choice but to engage with you, but it will be much more limited,’” Saint-Jacques said.

“So I expect that maybe China will not want to engage too quickly, but we’ll have to wait.”

— with files from Global News’ Sean Boynton

NEWS RELATED

The week in theatre: Othello; The Unfriend; On the Ropes – review

Photograph: Tristram Kenton/The Guardian Frantic Assembly’s roughed-up, seized-by-the-scruff-of-its-neck version of Othello keeps shining new lights on Shakespeare’s play. When I first saw Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett’s adaptation 14 years ago, the switch of setting – to a pool bar in the 21st century – was invigorating, but the ...

View more: The week in theatre: Othello; The Unfriend; On the Ropes – review

Triple killer asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai threatened me after lying about his age to go to my school

A FELLOW pupil of asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai has told how she was threatened by the triple killer after he lied about his age to attend her school. Despite being four years older, Afghan Abdulrahimzai had falsely claimed he was 14 and that his parents had been killed by ...

View more: Triple killer asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai threatened me after lying about his age to go to my school

Marie Kondo revealed she's 'kind of given up' on being so tidy. People freaked out

Marie Kondo speaks at a media event in New York on July 11, 2018. Seth Wenig/AP hide caption toggle caption Seth Wenig/AP Marie Kondo, the queen of tidy, says her house isn’t so tidy anymore. “I have kind of given up on that in a good way for me,” ...

View more: Marie Kondo revealed she's 'kind of given up' on being so tidy. People freaked out

I won more than £650 after mysterious STRANGER placed winning bets on my phone – I want to give them £300 to say thanks

A PUNTER scooped up more than £650 after a stranger placed a string of winning bets on his lost phone. Chris Dennis misplaced the device while out boozing with pals at the Champion Of The Thames in Cambridge on January 16. Chris Dennis pocketed more than £650 after a ...

View more: I won more than £650 after mysterious STRANGER placed winning bets on my phone – I want to give them £300 to say thanks

I’m 16 and skipped college… now I have my own STORE – here’s how I did it

A TEENAGER has opened his own store at just 16 after deciding to pass on going to college. The ambitious teen, who lives with his parents in Alsagers Bank, runs the shop on his own every day. Josua Mancell-Chesters, 16, has opened his own shop MCS NutritionCredit: BPM Josua ...

View more: I’m 16 and skipped college… now I have my own STORE – here’s how I did it

We live in town with cheapest rent in UK – mouldy homes are on brink of collapse… others are turned into drug factories

AT the corner of two rubbish-strewn streets, which are dotted with boarded-up houses, sits a two-bedroom apartment which is currently on sale for just £1,000. Locals will tell you it's overpriced. This property in Hartlepool is for sale for just £1,000Credit: Glen Minikin Figures show that Hartlepool is one ...

View more: We live in town with cheapest rent in UK – mouldy homes are on brink of collapse… others are turned into drug factories

Novak Djokovic beats Stefanos Tsitsipas for 10th Australian Open title

MELBOURNE, Australia —  Novak Djokovic was simply too good at the most crucial moments and claimed his 10th Australian Open championship and 22nd Grand Slam title overall by beating Stefanos Tsitsipas 6-3, 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5) in the final at Rod Laver Arena on Sunday night. The victory allows Djokovic to ...

View more: Novak Djokovic beats Stefanos Tsitsipas for 10th Australian Open title

Fearne Cotton calls out trolls for 'judging' her body in mirror pic: 'I love food'

Fearne Cotton criticises online trolls for ‘judging’ her body after posting mirror selfie. (Getty Images) Fearne Cotton has responded to online trolls “judging” her body for being too slim after she posted a mirror selfie. The star, 41, defended her “knobbly knees” and “spindly ankles” from criticism in the ...

View more: Fearne Cotton calls out trolls for 'judging' her body in mirror pic: 'I love food'

Impractical Jokers' Murr Made A Movie (& It's Worse Than You Could Imagine)

How fear of fatness is turned into a horror movie

Jesse Marsch confident Patrick Bamford will be back to his best sooner rather than later

NYC Mayor Adams’ pal Robert Petrosyants named in sexual harassment lawsuit

Leonard Greene: Add stupid to the list of charges against the Memphis cops who beat Tyre Nichols to death

Can AI be used to help people with disabilities? Experts say yes, with the ‘right data set’

Quebec City mosque shooting: Ceremony to mark 6th anniversary of attack

Hit-and-run motorcylist who mowed down schoolgirl, 12, after jumping red light AVOIDS jail

Nadhim Zahawi is SACKED by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak over tax row after ‘serious breach’

Document shows majority of federal affordable homes approved not yet constructed

Biden climate law spurred billions in clean energy investment. Has it been a success?

Utah's governor has signed a bill banning gender-affirming care for transgender youth

OTHER NEWS