On November 19, the CBC's The National broke the
story of a leaked government document prepared by the Department of
Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The document sets out the
main thrusts of the government's foreign policy agenda and was
intended for Cabinet consideration.
The overarching theme of the document is that under the
Conservative Government the over-riding objective of Canada's
foreign policy agenda is to support economic growth and prosperity
for Canadians. In particular, the Government is moving
quickly and aggressively to build the kinds of economic
relationships needed with the worlds new and emerging economic
powers, particularly those in Asia.
The emphasis on the need to engage the emerging world is very
consistent with the recommendations contained in an outside report
Winning in a Changing World: Canada and Emerging Markets
presented to Prime Minister in late June. This report, of which
Gowlings was the lead sponsor, is available online,
click here for a copy.
Much of the content in the leaked report is not
surprising. The Prime Minister's travels in 2012 and the
announcements around new trade, investment and economic
negotiations (Japan, possibly Thailand, and most importantly, the
Trans-Pacific Partnership), plus an investment agreement with China
and nuclear cooperation agreements with China and India, show that
the policy agenda set out in the leaked document is well into its
The media coverage of the Foreign Affairs document has
emphasized the following points (comments in parentheses):
Canada needs to expand its economic and political engagement
with Asian countries to make up for some lost time.
Latin America also presents economic opportunities and must be
emphasized. (This is consistent with the government's
"Americas Strategy" which was its major foreign policy
initiative over its first 5 years in power.)
The United States continues to be seen as the
"bedrock" of our economic future, something the PM
repeated in his speech November 19 to a Canadian American business
group meeting in Ottawa. (It counters any perception that the
government is talking about alternatives to the US. Rather,
additional steps in Asia and elsewhere are needed to secure its
economic future. Indeed, many routes to these fast growing
economies and global value chains pass through the United States,
where we must remain engaged.)
Africa is seen worthy of renewed attention in light of signs of
strong growth in some African countries and better economic
prospects generally for the continent offering economic
opportunities for Canadians.
The report stresses that political relationships need to be
nurtured and developed to support the primary economic
Human rights concerns remain very important. (Some critics have
said the communication of these concerns will be more muted and
confined to behind-the-scenes discussions rather than expressed
The Canadian Arctic is a key dimension of Canadian foreign
policy and can possibly be leveraged for Canadian economic gain in
relations with other countries.
Canada's international aid decisions will continue be
influenced by Canadian economic interest.
Economic interests will also play increasingly into decisions
around the deployment of Canadian military or police personnel in
international security operations.
To date, the Conservative government has not published a
"foreign policy white paper" or similar document setting
out its own approaches. This internal paper, however, has
reportedly been under preparation for many months under the
direction of Foreign Minister Baird. It therefore does
provide significant insight into how the Government views this
critical area of its mandate, and how it is changing the thrust of
Canada's foreign policy away from that followed by previous
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