Trudeau – the rock star at the Asean Sum­mit

The Star Malaysia - - Nation -

MANILA: From a stand­ing ova­tion upon his en­trance into the hall to be­ing mobbed by selfie-tak­ing jour­nal­ists, Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau is – with­out doubt – the most pop­u­lar world leader at the 31st Asean Sum­mit here.

While US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump may be the most pow­er­ful man in the world, Trudeau is the rock star for the me­dia cov­er­ing the sum­mit.

In a coun­try that idolises its politi­cians, even Philip­pine Pres­i­dent Ro­drigo Duterte doesn’t get as much at­ten­tion.

Ar­riv­ing in Manila on Sun­day, the first thing that Trudeau did – break­ing from pro­to­col – was to get a take­out at Jol­libee, the Philip­pines’ ver­sion of McDon­ald’s.

Not only did he buy food, he also posed for pho­tos with the over­whelmed staff at the out­let.

The suave and smooth Cana­dian leader had the world’s me­dia eat­ing out of his hands when he gave a press con­fer­ence on the last day of the sum­mit at the International Me­dia Cen­tre here.

Al­ter­nat­ing be­tween English and French, Trudeau en­deared him­self with the host when he said that Ta­ga­log was spo­ken across all states in Canada as Filipinos were the largest group of im­mi­grants in the coun­try.

That set the tone for his charm of­fen­sive as he tack­led ev­ery­thing from cli­mate change to sex­ual and re­pro­duc­tive rights and even con­tentious top­ics like ex­tra­ju­di­cial killings and the Ro­hingya cri­sis.

Asked if he had ques­tioned Duterte and Myan­mar’s Aung San Suu Kyi over the drug war mur­ders and the hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis in Rakhine, Trudeau said in both cases, he had asked the “un­com­fort­able ques­tions”.

“Canada is a coun­try that al­ways brings up hu­man rights is­sues. When you en­gage with Canada, you will have to bear with these con­cerns, but I do ad­mit that our own indige­nous peo­ples have also suf­fered marginal­i­sa­tion and ne­glect for decades,” he said.

This is Trudeau’s sec­ond time in the Philip­pines – his first be­ing in 2015 – and don’t bet on him not com­ing back to the re­gion be­cause his stated goal was to get his coun­try in­volved in the East Asia Sum­mit, a con­fer­ence of Asean plus its di­a­logue part­ners.

“Asean has a pop­u­la­tion of 640 mil­lion – that’s twice the pop­u­la­tion of US. Asean is also Canada’s sixth largest trad­ing part­ner. So, be­com­ing part of the EAS makes sense. It will cre­ate eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties for Cana­dian busi­nesses as well as NGOs,” he said.

Trudeau at­tended the clos­ing cer­e­mony of the 31st Asean Sum­mit with the other lead­ers be­fore fly­ing back to Van­cou­ver for a se­cu­rity sym­po­sium start­ing to­day.

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