OTTAWA, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Canada launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy on Sunday, pledging more resources to deal with a “disruptive” China while working with the world’s second-largest economy on climate change and trade issues. .
The 26-page document outlines spending of C$2.6 billion ($1.9 billion), including bolstering Canada’s military and cybersecurity presence in the region and tightening foreign investment rules to to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned enterprises from seizing vital mineral supplies.
The plan is to deepen ties with a fast-growing region of 40 countries representing nearly C$50 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, mentioned more than 50 times, at a time when bilateral relations are icy.
“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” the strategy said. “China seeks to shape the international order in an environment that is more permissive for interests and values that increasingly diverge from our own.”
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government wants to diversify trade and economic ties that heavily depend on the United States. Official data from September shows bilateral trade with China was less than 7% of the total, compared to 68% for the United States.
The strategy highlighted Beijing’s “foreign interference and increasingly coercive treatment of other countries.”
“Our approach…is shaped by a realistic and lucid assessment of China today. In areas of deep disagreement, we will challenge China,” he said.
Tensions soared in late 2018 after Canadian police arrested a Huawei Technologies executive and Beijing subsequently arrested two Canadians accused of spying. All three were released last year, but relations remain sour.
Earlier this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest themselves of their investments in critical Canadian minerals, citing national security.
The document, in a section mentioning China, says Ottawa will review and update legislation allowing it to act “decisively when investments by state-owned companies and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including our critical mineral supply chains”.
The document recognized significant opportunities for Canadian exporters and said cooperation with Beijing was necessary to address some of the “global existential pressures,” including climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.
Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada, said it’s important for the government to turn “aspirations into action and action into achievement.”
The document says Canada will strengthen its naval presence in the region and “increase our military engagement and intelligence capability to mitigate coercive behavior and threats to regional security.”
Canada belongs to the Group of Seven major industrialized nations, which wants significant action in response to North Korean missile launches.
The document indicates that Ottawa is engaged in the region with partners such as the United States and the European Union.
Canada should continue to speak to nations with which it had fundamental disagreements, he said, but did not name them.
($1 = 1.3377 Canadian dollars)
Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Denny Thomas, Leslie Adler and Daniel Wallis
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