Se­cu­rity in­vite a first for Canada

Duterte goes ‘out on a limb’ to get Trudeau in­vited to key se­cu­rity event

The Standard (St. Catharines) - - NATIONAL - ANDY BLATCH­FORD

MANILA, Philip­pines — Ro­drigo Duterte went “out on a limb” to se­cure a key in­vi­ta­tion for Justin Trudeau to at­tend a pres­ti­gious Asi­aPa­cific se­cu­rity event along­side pow­er­ful world lead­ers, gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say.

But one se­nior in­sider in­sists the Philip­pine pres­i­dent’s help­ful ges­ture won’t have any im­pact on whether Trudeau con­fronts him about hu­man-rightsvi­o­la­tion­sinthe­south­east Asian coun­try that have shocked peo­ple around the world.

Trudeau has hinted he might bring up the is­sue of hu­man rights with Duterte, if he gets the op­por­tu­nity.

The lead­ers have no one-on-one meet­ings planned while the prime min­is­ter is vis­it­ing the Philip­pines for sum­mits re­lated to the As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions.

Fran­cisco Fer­nan­dez of the Philip­pines em­bassy in Ot­tawa says Canada asked for the in­vi­ta­tion and Manila didn’t hes­i­tate to grant it, in part be­cause of trade and in­vest­ment ties and in part be­cause 837,000 peo­ple of Filipino de­scent live in Canada.

Thanks to Duterte’s ef­fort, Trudeau will have a cov­eted op­por­tu­nity Tues­day to par­tic­i­pate in a work­ing lunch in Manila ahead of an ASEANaf­fil­i­ated meet­ing known as the East Asia Sum­mit. Trudeau will join lead­ers from 18 coun­tries, in­clud­ing China, Rus­sia and the United States, to dis­cuss se­cu­rity is­sues.

It re­mains to be seen if Trudeau will chal­lenge Duterte face to face over his vi­o­lent drug war. Duterte’s bloody crack­down has in­cluded ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings by his gov­ern­ment that have left thou­sands dead.

“There are a range of is­sues that I could bring up with him, that I may bring up with him, if we have an op­por­tu­nity,” Trudeau said Sat­ur­day in Danang, Viet­nam. “There’s al­ways hu­man rights con­cerns to bring up with a wide range of lead­ers.”

Fer­nan­dez said Duterte’s po­si­tion is clear: “He was elected on the plat­form that he would be ad­dress­ing the il­le­gal drugs sit­u­a­tion in the Philip­pines and that is what he’s do­ing.”

Trudeau’s ticket to Tues­day’s lun­cheon is a break­through be­cause no other Cana­dian prime min­is­ter has ever been in­vited. He’s ex­pected to dis­cuss North Korea and the vi­o­lent at­tacks on Ro­hingya Mus­lims in Myan­mar.

Even­tu­ally, Canada hopes to be­come a per­ma­nent mem­ber of the East Asia Sum­mit.

Trudeau will also be the first Cana­dian leader to par­tic­i­pate in a one-hour ex­change at the ASEAN sum­mit, dur­ing which mem­bers will ask him ques­tions and de­bate the depth of Canada’s co-op­er­a­tion in the re­gion.

The op­por­tu­nity ar­rives at a time when Trudeau is mak­ing ef­forts to raise Canada’s in­ter­na­tional pro­file and demon­strate it can wres­tle with com­pli­cated chal­lenges, at home and abroad.

With­out the in­vi­ta­tion from Duterte, who is the sum­mit’s chair, Trudeau wouldn’t have made it through the door.

“It is the pre­rog­a­tive of the chair each year of ASEAN to in­vite guests,” said one se­nior gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial, who spoke on con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause they weren’t per­mit­ted to dis­cuss the mat­ter in pub­lic. “Tra­di­tion­ally, there have been very few of those, so in a way the Philip­pines have gone out on a limb, let’s say.”

Fer­nan­dez said Canada has been ce­ment­ing its re­la­tion­ship with ASEAN and has a per­ma­nent am­bas­sador to the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s sec­re­tariat in Jakarta.

“We are of the im­pres­sion that part of the rea­son that Canada wanted to be present in Manila for the East Asia sum­mit is to again show their com­mit­ment to ASEAN as a re­gion,” he said.

Look­ing to the fu­ture, the of­fi­cial said Canada hasn’t re­ceived any sig­nals that the East Asia Sum­mit is ac­cept­ing new mem­bers.

But it’s still viewed as an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for Trudeau to de­liver a sales pitch on why Canada would make a good mem­ber and how it can con­trib­ute as a Pa­cific na­tion it­self.

Fer­nan­dez said the ASEAN mem­ber coun­tries have agreed on a mora­to­rium on new mem­bers “at this time,” but it is pos­si­ble Canada could join if that con­sen­sus changed.

Carlo Dade of the Canada West Foun­da­tion said join­ing the group would mean a long-term com­mit­ment.

“It also has the Cana­dian PM sit­ting around a ta­ble where he or she will be called upon by Cana­dian hu­man rights groups to yell and point fin­gers with a group that doesn’t want to dis­cuss hu­man rights is­sues and cer­tainly doesn’t want to be lec­tured by Canada,” Dade said in an email.

He said sit­ting with Duterte could mean po­lit­i­cal headaches, es­pe­cially for a prime min­is­ter who has tried to stress hu­man rights.

“This makes a mock­ery of (the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment’s) whole ‘pro­gres­sive’ agenda,” he added.

Dade said he thinks Canada should join the group, “but only if do­ing so does not do more harm than good.”

Un­der Lib­eral and Con­ser­va­tive gov­ern­ments, Ot­tawa has taken steps in re­cent years to en­gage more ac­tively with ASEAN.

On Mon­day, Trudeau held a bi­lat­eral dis­cus­sion, which in­cluded talk of re­gional se­cu­rity is­sues, with re­cently elected New Zealand Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern on the side­lines of the ASEAN meet­ings.


Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau shakes hands with Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte, right, be­fore the open­ing cer­e­mony of the 31st As­so­ci­a­tion of South­east Asian Na­tions (ASEAN) Sum­mit in Manila on Mon­day.

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