Toronto Star

PM makes his mark in first foray

Trudeau worked hard at summit to put Canada ‘back’ on the world’s radar


OTTAWA— It was a globe-spanning trip marked by trade talk, a terror attack, personal introducti­ons and some celebrity frenzy.

Trudeau returned to the nation’s capital Friday after a marathon first outing on the world stage, a week of travel that took him around the world in his military Airbus jet on a trip that covered 33,321 kilometres and just over 36 hours of flying time.

It was not an ideal time to make an initial foray abroad, coming mere days after taking office, with the work of setting up government back home still in the early stages.

But for a leader keen to reinforce his claim that Canada is indeed “back” in the world, attending the G20 summit in Turkey and then on to the meeting of leaders of the AsiaPacifi­c Economic Cooperatio­n forum in Manila gave Trudeau an invaluable opportunit­y to make a quick round of introducti­ons.

By the time he boarded the jet for the final leg home he had rung up an impressive list of encounters. There were 10 formal meetings with other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, Filipino President Benigno Aquino and President Park Geun-hye, of South Korea.

He met his fellow North American leaders, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto and U.S. President Barack Obama. And at the two summits, there were numerous informal chats and meetings with other leaders, such as British Prime Minister David Cameron and a brief encounter with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In several of those conversati­ons, Trudeau found that the travels and diplomacy of his father, former prime minister Pierre Trudeau, had given the younger Trudeau an entree among some Asian leaders.

Park, of South Korea, told Trudeau that his father had shaped Canada’s “modern trajectory” and was “integral” to raising the nation’s stature in the world.

“In particular he spent a great deal of energy strengthen­ing and enhancing Canada’s relationsh­ip with Asian countries and likewise I do trust that you will serve the cause of peace and prosperity in the Asia Pacific as well,” she said during their meeting.

Xi, of China, noted that under Trudeau’s father, Canada establishe­d diplomatic relations with China 45 years ago.

“That was an extraordin­ary political vision,” said Xi. “China will always remember that.”

As he wrapped up his last day at the APEC summit, Trudeau reflected on the value of his week’s meetings.

“I’ve known for a long time that internatio­nal relations often come down to personal relationsh­ips,” Trudeau told reporters in Manila.

“I’ve seen it from my father but for me to be here, to be able to engage in formal and more casual conversati­ons with leaders from around the world has truly reminded how important it is that we establish strong connection­s so that we can yes, work together on issues where we align but also agree to disagree and to work through issues where we might have different perspectiv­es,” he said.

If his welcome from world leaders was warm, the reception from some others was downright frenzied. In Manila, he got a rock star welcome from a shrieking mass of young fans who swooned as he made his way through a convention centre.

It’s been a long time, if ever, since a Canadian political figure got that kind of welcome while travelling abroad. The local newspaper wrote that Trudeau was in a competitio­n with the Mexican president for the title of “APEC hottie.”

Asked whether he worried this kind of attention took away from his efforts to establish himself as a serious player on the foreign file, he likened it to the “buzz and interest” he said has accompanie­d every stage of his political career because of his lineage.

“Rapidly after working hard for a few months in (his Quebec riding of ) Papineau, I got people to focus on the actual substance because I had things to say,” Trudeau said.

On the policy front at both summits, Trudeau talked up the themes of so-called inclusive growth, steps to help the middle class and big investment­s in infrastruc­ture to spur economic activity.

He reinforced the message that Canada’s new government will bring a new approach on climate change, a message that was especially well-received by the Americans.

And compared to his Conservati­ve predecesso­rs, it was delivered in more relaxed style that was noted — and appreciate­d — by diplomats and bureaucrat­s along the way.

The trip started on a dark note and served up a misstep. As Trudeau prepared to depart Ottawa on Nov. 13, news was breaking of the terror attack in Paris. The prime minister was briefed by Canadian security officials and then delivered a short statement expressing his shock and sadness.

Apart from a short response to a reporter’s question on Sunday, Trudeau didn’t address the attack again in any depth until Monday.

As other leaders conveyed anger and condemnati­on and vowed to step up their fight against Islamic State extremists, and as the attack and the global response seized the agenda at the G20 summit, Canada’s leader was largely silent for two days.

Instead, it was left to an aide to tell reporters Saturday that the attack would not alter commitment­s to bring in 25,000 Syrian refugees by year’s end and to end Canada’s combat mission against the Islamic State group.

Trudeau has just a few days in Ottawa before he jets out again next week, this time to London to meet the Queen, then to Malta for a meeting with fellow Commonweal­th leaders and finally to Paris for the start of climate change talks.

 ?? BULLIT MARQUEZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in Ottawa after a marathon first outing on the world stage.
BULLIT MARQUEZ/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is back in Ottawa after a marathon first outing on the world stage.

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