World needs to em­brace open­ness, free trade, PM says

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - NATIONAL NEWS - MIKE BLANCHFIELD

GUANGZHOU, China — The world is at a “pivot point” and will fail un­less coun­tries em­brace free trade and el­e­vate their cit­i­zens who have been left be­hind by glob­al­iza­tion, Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau warned Wed­nes­day.

Trudeau de­liv­ered that dire, anti-pro­tec­tion­ist mes­sage to a high­pow­ered busi­ness au­di­ence at a ma­jor in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ence in this bustling south­ern Chi­nese city of Guangzhou.

Trudeau came to the For­tune Global Fo­rum, a Davos-style gath­er­ing of the world’s busi­ness elite, to sell Canada as good place for for­eign in­vest­ment, but he went off script and de­liv­ered a stern warn­ing about the dan­gers of al­low­ing pro­tec­tion­ism and in­equal­ity to flour­ish.

“We are at a pivot point in the world right now, where we de­cide whether we work to­gether in an open and con­fi­dent way and suc­ceed or whether we all fal­ter separately and iso­lated,” he said.

“As that anx­i­ety spreads, peo­ple start to turn in­wards. They start to close off. They start to get fear­ful,” he added. “If that con­tin­ues to hap­pen, make no mis­take about it, we will all lose.”

Trudeau didn’t men­tion the Don­ald Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion in Washington, but he’s al­ready spo­ken out in China on the need to save the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment from demise. He was de­liv­er­ing the mes­sage to a gath­er­ing of busi­ness lead­ers meet­ing un­der the ban­ner of “Open­ness and In­no­va­tion: Shap­ing the Global Econ­omy,” that brought to­gether the chief ex­ec­u­tives from the world’s big­gest com­pa­nies.

In his speech, he sing led out China as kin­dred economic spirit, say­ing it is “well aligned” with Canada to fight for lib­er­al­ized trade.

“In this new era, we refuse to get left be­hind; in­stead we have cho­sen to lead. We know there are sig­nif­i­cant dis­rup­tions around the world, in our work­places, within our bor­ders in our coun­tries.”

Canada and China are still work­ing to­wards start­ing for­mal free talks, a task that has been given to In­ter­na­tional Trade Min­is­ter Fran­cois-Philippe Cham­pagne, who stayed be­hind in Bei­jing where Trudeau held meet­ings ear­lier in the week.

Trudeau’s meet­ings in Bei­jing with China’s top lead­er­ship failed to move Canada-China free talks for­ward from a long round of ex­ploratory talks to the start of for­mal ne­go­ti­a­tions. But both coun­tries say economic bonds are stronger than ever as Trudeau was warmly wel­comed by Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping and Premier Li Ke­qiang in Bei­jing.

Trudeau had sep­a­rate meet­ings and din­ners with Xi and Li be­fore jet­ting south, where he spent the first of two days glad-hand­ing with busi­ness lead­ers from For­tune 500 com­pa­nies.

Trudeau re­newed his friend­ship with bil­lion­aire Jack Ma, the founder of the Asian e-com­merce pow­er­house Alibaba, who praised the prime min­is­ter for a new pol­icy that will speed the Cana­dian visa process for skilled work­ers.

“It’s go­ing to be huge news among the Chi­nese young peo­ple,” Ma told him.

They have gath­ered at a 36-story lux­ury ho­tel that shoots through a dense haze over­look­ing the Pearl River, the grand wa­ter­way that winds through the busiest in­dus­trial con­cen­tra­tion of com­pa­nies on the planet — 70 mil­lion peo­ple in nine south­ern Chi­nese cities.

Canada is no slouch ei­ther, the prime min­is­ter said.

“We’re be­com­ing the go-to econ­omy for am­bi­tious com­pa­nies look­ing to take their busi­ness to the next level,” Trudeau said in his key­note ad­dress.

He said Canada is be­com­ing a world leader in ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence, ro­bot­ics, and quan­tum com­put­ing. He said Canada is a sta­ble and pre­dictable des­ti­na­tion for in­vest­ment with a good bank­ing sys­tem. The prime min­is­ter made it clear he wants Canada to move for­ward with the trade talks with China but said there needs to be an agreed frame­work that in­cludes pro­gres­sive el­e­ments such as gen­der, labour rights and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“China and Canada share the be­lief that more open­ness and more col­lab­o­ra­tion is the right way for­ward. Clos­ing our doors will only hurt our busi­nesses, and our cit­i­zens,” Trudeau said.

“The old model won’t cut it any­more.”

Trudeau be­gan Wed­nes­day with a meet­ing of Chi­nese Vice Premier Wang Yang, who de­cried the forces of pro­tec­tion­ism as like liv­ing in a “dark room.”

Trudeau dis­played a fond nos­tal­gia for this city, which he vis­ited 22 years ago he was a stu­dent back­packer. He told Wang the con­nec­tions be­tween this city and Canada run deep be­cause many of the ear­li­est Chi­nese im­mi­grants came from this re­gion.

SEAN KILPATRICK/THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau de­liv­ers a speech at the For­tune Global Fo­rum in Guangzhou, China, on Wed­nes­day.

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