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Expert Urges Ottawa to Show Credibility to Allies in Implementing Indo-Pacific Strategy

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister of Vietnam Pham Minh Chinh (not pictured) during the ASEAN Summit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, on Nov. 12, 2022. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

By Andrew Chen an Epoch Times reporter based in Toronto.

Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy has pledged to work with allies in pushing back against threats posed by authoritarian states in the region, but it has much work to do to prove that it will walk the walk, an expert at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute (MLI) said.

Stephen Nagy, an MLI senior fellow and an associate professor at the International Christian University, said allies in the Indo-Pacific region may find some elements in Ottawa’s new strategy less relatable or agreeable.

“I think it’s a lot of the progressive issues that were being propagated within the strategy. Quite frankly, most of the countries within these regions before the policy was released, and after the policy was released, don’t share these Canadian values. And as a result, they see this not as a good use of resources within the region,” he said.

Rather, the strategy should place more focus on the security challenges posed by authoritarian states like China and North Korea, Nagy said.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy, introduced last month by Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly, is committing a $2.3 billion investment in the region over the next five years, which Nagy said is dwarfed by the $3.4 billion assistance that the federal government has pledged for Ukraine.

“I think it raises eyebrows within the region of how sustainable and meaningful the Canadian footprint will be with that much larger set of resources being deployed in the region,” he said.

Nagy noted that Canada’s credibility challenges also shape how allies view its Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“What I hear in the region over and over is we have challenges in terms of credibility,” he said, pointing to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s last-minute withdrawal in 2017 from the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, an 11-member trade agreement among countries in the Pacific region.

“I think relatability, reliability, and resources are really key ways to understand how the region sees Canada after the Indo-Pacific Strategy has been released,” Nagy said.

‘A Weak Policy’
 

Charles Burton, a senior fellow at MLI, said he “certainly welcomes” the Indo-Pacific Strategy, but said that apart from plans to bolster Canada’s military presence by sending frigates to the region, the strategy is unclear about how it will push back against China’s “behaviours that undermine international norms” as it has pledged.

“It is a weak policy, … it’s mostly full of aspirational statements, not about actual action that our government plans to take,” Burton said during a panel discussion held by the MLI on Dec. 14.

“Nothing specific about things … like a foreign agents registry act, like a strong statement on support of Taiwan, like some determination to declare persona non grata Chinese diplomats who are coordinating harassment and interference activities inside Canada, or coordinating the large program of espionage against dual-use military technologies out of our universities.”

Burton’s remarks referenced recent reports that China has at least five secret police service stations operating in Canada, among over 100 such outposts in 53 countries around the world. According to studies conducted by Spain-based NGO Safeguard Defenders, some of the police stations may be involved in harassment and intimidation targeting Chinese nationals and human rights defenders living abroad. He also referred to Beijing’s accused interference in Canada’s 2019 federal election by providing funding to at least 11 candidates, according to a Nov. 7 Global News report.

Burton, however, gave credit to the strategy’s indication that Ottawa is preparing to beef up China expertise in the government and that it has a willingness to work with other like-minded allies to come up with a common approach toward China, which is labelled as an “increasingly disruptive global power” in the Indo-Pacific Strategy.

“I see the policy as a promising starting point,” he said.

“I think that ultimately we’ll end up doing better … than the strategy currently indicates because there’s a general trend going on in the world for the liberal West to try and defend the rules-based international order against China’s very explicit policy to undermine it and replace it with what China calls the ‘community of common destiny [for] mankind’ and reorient the global economy towards China through the Belt and Road Initiative.”

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