Canadian foreign policy doesn’t need review, needs more action and results

SURREY – According to recent media reports and opinions expressed in Canadian medias our foreign policy will be faced with another review and probably major facelift. To some this is totally appropriate approach to one of the most important political elements of our system, probably one of the strongest and best import products to any world country. Others are sure Canadian foreign policy is good just needs minor clarifications with reconsidering steps towards some of the important partners on the international scene. Both sides are pretty sure Canada needs to play bigger role on international scene, to boost it’s influence and continue be one of the worlds strongest importers of positive principles of political system and human rights standards. 

Interesting opinion come this Friday in The Globe and Mail by Canada’s former ambassador to Washington, Derek Burney, and Director of the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University, Fen Olser Hampson. Burney and Hampson as many others are convinced that Canadian foreign policy doesn’t need any further reviews or changes but effective implementation which would place Canada at the right place at right time. Often foreign politics and policies are confusing elements of every political agenda expressed in heavy worded documents almost incomprehensible to anybody else but those who author them, so in effort to avoid that Burney and Hampson are proposing several good ideas.

John Baird, Canada's Foreign Affairs Minister
John Baird finally has all resources to conduct real diplomacy

“At the very least, the government should make a virtue of simplicity and precision, offering a clear-headed view of what our priorities need to be and why, while avoiding “feel good” nostrums about how we’d like others to see us”, they wrote on Friday.

Where I totally agree with Burney and Hampson is that Canada must to work on better relations with United States leaving behind us all sentimental feelings towards our southern neighbours but because that’s the best way to preserve our three vital interests – economic, security and global influence capacity. What is very well known in the world of diplomacy is if your equation with the most important regional or global countries is right your influence and relevance could be on exponential rise. On the other side if equation is bad your influence or relevance when it comes to resolution of the most important issues wanes and sometimes is permanently damaged.

“The dramatic shift in economic power power to rising stars such as China, India, South Korea and Brazil should also dictate a change of focus for Canada, especially since trade is major component of foreign policy and many of these countries need commodities, which are pivotal to Canada’s growth prospects. What needs to be recognized, however, is that conventional rules for trade and investment don’t apply as much to those emerging markets whose production and investment fall largely under government control. Canada would benefit more from a strategy that leverages our resources base as the means to secure better access for our exporters and investors in markets currently enjoying high rates of growth”, said Burney and Hampson.

Well as we know PM Harper will soon visit China trying to score significant political points but also to sell Canadian oil after Barack Obama’s decision to postpone XL pipeline project. During this visit Harper will need to balance he’s stands on Chinese human rights record and our need to do a business with them. When it comes to India as one of the Canada’s targets on economic cooperation in the world Harper should look into the British Columbia which is heavily populated with immigrants from India, and already started new approach to Indian markets. Recently premier Clark visited India starting new era in relations, opening new doors into one of the biggest economies in the world. Beside these clear targets on international scene it wouldn’t be bad to considered also targeting some of the stabile but emerging markets and important players as Malaysia and Singapore. Both are emerging as great replacement to previously important players, especially after devastating earthquake in Japan last year, that could be Canada’s new field of cooperation with Asia-Pacific region.

While Burney and Hamson are calling for Canada’s limited actions on behalf of United Nations and NATO in accordance to our own national interests on international scene, I’m not quite sure Harper government has any interests to do any extra important job in United Nations. That comes out of the fact that Foreign Affair Minister John Baird clearly declared Canada’s lack of interest to run for new term on UN Security Council, and we know that if you want to play any important role in UN you must to be either on Security Council or confidant of one of permanent member states. As our relations with major number of permanent states need major upgrade I don’t think Canada will play any significant role in UN actions in recent future. On the other side after our success in Libya mission we can expect new and important roles to be delegated to our military forces probably whole missions will be commanded by Canadian generals. Northern Africa and Africa are still places where we can expect armed disputes or major violations of human rights, and that’s Canada’s chance to recuperate influence on international scene through NATO.

“The Middle East is a quagmire where the earnestness do Canada’s desire to be involved exceeds any rational analysis of our direct interest or our capacity for influence. But the same can’t be said for our relations with Turkey and Persian Gulf states such as Qatar that are playing constructive regional roles and with whom our ties need strengthening”, said Burney and Hampson.

In line with my previous observations I would say that better ties Turkey could open new doors for cooperation when it comes to Northern Africa for example resolution of growing problems with Assad regime in Syria or playing important role in reshaping of Libya, Egypt and Tunisia’s regimes in post-dictatorship era. Turkey also plays very important arbitrary role in troubling Balkans region especially in relations between Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia. As we known Canada downgraded it’s presence in Bosnia, Montenegro and Macedonia. Bosnia is covered through consulate in Sarajevo, while Canadian ambassador in Belgrade covers Montenegro and Macedonia. Bosnia is still in political turmoil unable to overcome national, ethnic and political differences while for example Macedonia is still fighting with Greece over it’s national name and presence at international institutions. Having Turkey in our corner will open the doors to continue having downgraded diplomatic representation but having influence on  future events through strong partner and some sort of representative in resolution activities.

Conducting new review of Canadian foreign policy would be just a waste of time and money, Foreign Affairs should start working hardly and devotedly on implementation of our already set goals and policies. If John Baird and his predecessors had problems with implementation of their ideas while Conservatives were in minority, now they have all votes and funds available to do what they plan, so old Balkanian proverb should be considered seriously: “More work, less talk”.


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