Canada to boost defence, cyber security in Indo-Pacific policy, focus on ‘disruptive’ China

OTTAWA, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Canada launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy on Sunday, outlining C$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) in spending to boost military and cyber security in the region and vowing to tackle the “destructive China while working with him on climate change and trade.

The plan, detailed in a 26-page document, says Canada will tighten rules on foreign investment to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from grabbing critical mineral supplies.

Canada is seeking to deepen its ties with a fast-growing Indo-Pacific region of 40 countries that account for almost C$50 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, which is mentioned more than 50 times, at a time when bilateral ties are cold.

Four cabinet ministers at a press conference in Vancouver took turns describing the new plan, saying the strategy is critical to Canada’s national security and climate, as well as its economic goals.

“We’re going to engage in diplomacy because we think that diplomacy is power, but at the same time we’re going to be tough, and that’s why we now have a very transparent plan to engage with China,” Foreign Secretary Melanie Jolie said.

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government wants to diversify trade and economic ties that rely heavily on the United States. Official data for September showed that bilateral trade with China accounted for less than 7% of the total, compared with 68% for the United States.

Canada’s outreach to Asian allies also comes as Washington has shown signs of becoming increasingly suspicious of free trade in recent years.

The paper highlights Canada’s dilemma in building ties with China, which offers significant opportunities for Canadian exporters even as Beijing seeks to shape the international order in a more “permissive environment for interests and values ​​that increasingly diverge from our own.” adds in it.

CHALLENGE CHINA

Still, the document says cooperation with the world’s second-largest economy is needed to address some of the world’s “existential tensions,” including climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.

“China is becoming an increasingly disruptive global power,” the strategy said. “Our approach … is shaped by a realistic and clear assessment of today’s China. In areas of deep disagreement, we will challenge China.”

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Tensions with China spiked in late 2018 after Canadian police detained a Huawei Technologies executive and Beijing subsequently arrested two Canadians on espionage charges. All three were released last year, but relations remain strained.

Canada earlier this month ordered three Chinese companies to divest from their investments in Canadian essential minerals, citing national security concerns.

The document, in a section that mentions China, says Ottawa will review and update legislation that will allow it to act “decisively when investments by state-owned enterprises and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including our critical chains for supply of minerals’.

“Because the region is both large and diverse, one size definitely does not fit all,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce President Perrin Beatty said in a statement, adding that Canada’s priorities will need to be very nuanced both between and within countries. .

The document says Canada will strengthen its naval presence in the region and “increase our military engagement and intelligence capacity as a means of mitigating coercive behavior and threats to regional security.”

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This will include the annual deployment of three frigates to the region, up from the current two, as well as the participation of Canadian airmen and soldiers in regional military exercises, Defense Minister Anita Anand said at a separate news conference.

Canada is among the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that want significant measures in response to North Korean missile launches.

The document says Ottawa is engaging in the region with partners such as the United States and the European Union.

Canada should continue to talk to nations with which it has fundamental disagreements, she said, but did not name them.

($1 = 1.3377 Canadian dollars)

Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Danny Thomas, Leslie Adler, Daniel Wallis and Mark Porter

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

David Ljunggren

Thomson Reuters

Covers Canadian political, economic and general news, as well as breaking news from across North America, previously based in London and Moscow and winner of the Reuters Treasury of the Year Award.

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