Carr skip­ping G20 trade meet­ing

The Prince George Citizen - - Money - Mike BLANCHFIELD

OT­TAWA — Canada’s new in­ter­na­tional trade min­is­ter is tak­ing a pass on a meet­ing of his G20 coun­ter­parts in Ar­gentina on Fri­day.

Jim Carr was re­cently shuf­fled into the port­fo­lio with the main pur­pose of di­ver­si­fy­ing Canada’s eco­nomic re­la­tions with coun­tries other than the United States, its largest trad­ing part­ner.

The G20 in­cludes China, In­dia and Brazil – coun­tries that Canada is keen to ex­pand eco­nomic ties with.

Carr’s spokesman says the min­is­ter will at­tend an event in his home prov­ince of Man­i­toba on Fri­day, and that Canada will be rep­re­sented at the G20 meet­ing by Canada’s deputy min­is­ter for in­ter­na­tional trade.

Carr will be in Win­nipeg to an­nounce the start of re­pairs of the rail­way line that runs to Churchill, Man. Sec­tions of track were washed out dur­ing a May 2017 flood, wip­ing out the only land link to the town on Hud­son Bay.

Carr’s ab­sence from Fri­day’s G20 gath­er­ing does not di­min­ish Canada’s com­mit­ment to the group or the in­ter­na­tional trad­ing sys­tem, said spokesman Joe Pick­er­ill.

“We ab­so­lutely be­lieve in the rules-based sys­tem, the in­ter­na­tional trad­ing or­der on which we’ve de­pended for our pros­per­ity for decades,” said Pick­er­ill.

Pick­er­ill pointed to the fact Carr will host a small group trade min­is­ters, many of whom are G20 mem­bers, next month in Ot­tawa to dis­cuss much needed re­forms to the World Trade Or­ga­ni­za­tion.

The agenda is still be­ing crafted, but govern­ment of­fi­cials said min­is­ters from Aus­tralia, Brazil, Chile, Ja­pan, Kenya, South Korea, Mex­ico, New Zealand, Nor­way, Sin­ga­pore, Switzer­land and the Euro­pean Union have been in­vited.

Robert Lighthizer, the U.S. Trade Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, will also be ab­sent from the gath­er­ing of G20 trade min­is­ters on Fri­day.

That has fu­elled spec­u­la­tion that Lighthizer might be hold­ing his sched­ule open for a re­turn visit to Wash­ing­ton by For­eign Af­fairs Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land, his po­lit­i­cal coun­ter­part in the on­go­ing rene­go­ti­a­tion of the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment.

Cana­dian and Amer­i­can ne­go­tia­tors con­tin­ued their talks Thurs­day af­ter Free­land’s lat­est visit to Wash­ing­ton on Tues­day.

Free­land briefed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau on the state of the NAFTA talks at the Lib­eral cau­cus re­treat in Saskatoon on Wed­nes­day.

Af­ter­wards, she said lead ne­go­tia­tor Steve Ver­heul and David MacNaughton, Canada’s am­bas­sador to the United States, would re­turn to Wash­ing­ton to re­sume ne­go­ti­a­tions.

The G20 lead­ers’ sum­mit is set for later this fall in Buenos Aires.

A lead­ing in­ter­na­tional af­fairs an­a­lyst said it is not nec­es­sar­ily a bad thing that Carr and Lighthizer de­cided to skip Fri­day’s G20 min­is­te­rial meet­ing.

The G20’s rel­e­vance and im­por­tance has been fad­ing over time since its cre­ation a decade ago to deal with the Great Re­ces­sion of 2008-09, said Fen Hampson, a global pol­icy ex­pert with the Cen­tre for In­ter­na­tional Gov­er­nance In­no­va­tion in Water­loo, Ont.

“It un­der­scores the di­min­ish­ing rel­e­vance of the G20 as an in­sti­tu­tion,” he said.

Trudeau said Thurs­day the govern­ment planned to pass leg­is­la­tion this fall al­low­ing Canada to join the re-booted Trans-Pa­cific Part­ner­ship that in­cludes 10 other Pa­cific Rim coun­tries.

U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump with­drew his coun­try from the orig­i­nal TPP in Jan­uary 2017.


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