Cabinet reshuffle: is Canada ready to review its foreign policy?

Canada has therefore changed its foreign minister for the fifth time since the election of Justin Trudeau six years ago. Stephen Harper has had seven ministers in ten years in office. The incumbents of this post follow one another at such a pace that we can no longer remember their names. In any case, in Ottawa and certainly in the rest of the world, no one has given the minister in office any consideration for a long time since foreign policy is defined in the Prime Minister’s office.

The fact remains that in these troubled times, we must revitalize Canadian foreign policy. The new incumbent, Mélanie Joly, is an intelligent woman, but with limited international experience. She moved to the head of a ministry where her two ephemeral predecessors, François-Philippe Champagne and Marc Garneau, had themselves inherited a diplomacy neglected by Chrystia Freeland, while busy renegotiating the free trade agreement. with the United States.

A difficult exercise

The new minister will have her work cut out for her. Canada has suffered many diplomatic failures over the past dozen years, the most spectacular of which has been its inability to be elected as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2010 and 2020. Relations with China, Russia, India and sometimes the United States are difficult, if not confrontational. Voices are rising across the country to demand a review of foreign policy in order to establish guidelines for navigating in a rapidly changing environment where each other’s positions are hardening.

The exercise of rethinking foreign policy must be seen as taking into account new international realities in economic, military and political matters, the effects of which affect all aspects of international relations. It opens the door to a reconfiguration of the positioning of a State on the international scene.

Thus, the United Kingdom recently engaged in this exercise, which many felt was necessary after Brexit. Prime Minister Boris Johnson was aware that the country’s exit from Europe, or at least from European institutions, was forcing him to rethink his country’s place in the world. The Integrated foreign policy review whose government gave birth last March meets this imperative. As its name suggests, this document embodies British ambitions in matters of diplomacy, security, defense and development. The course is set: diversify economic relations, relaunch multilateralism, strengthen military alliances and give priority to the Indo-Pacific region. The focus on this region also found its first concrete application in September with the signing of a military alliance between the United Kingdom, Australia and the United States aimed at countering the rise of China.

In France, the rivalry between the United States and China, the loss of Western influence in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Africa, the return of Russia and the political and social divisions within the Union itself. European Union raise questions about the country’s place on the international scene. On the right and on the left, many experts, diplomats and members of the political staff are suggesting a redefinition of foreign policy in order to preserve France’s status as a great European and world power. Michel Duclos, former diplomat and author of France in the upheavals of the worldThis is a radical suggestion. It is necessary, he says on a daily basis Le Figaro, “Take the initiative of an integrated strategic review as the British have done, that is to say a review of all aspects of foreign policy: diplomacy, defense, culture, geography. economy… This is the only way to thoroughly rethink our strategic positioning in the XXIe century ”.

A necessary reflection

Does Canada need to go that far? At first glance, no. We have not experienced an event like Brexit. We are not engaged in a politics of power on a world scale like the United States or France are. At the same time, the strategic realignment of the United States towards Asia and our collision with China in the Huawei affair undermine some of our certainties and require a reflection on our diplomacy.

So, whatever Joe Biden may say, the United States is slowly breaking away from Europe. This decoupling will place the Europeans in front of their responsibility for the defense of the continent. NATO is in danger of withering away. We will soon be alone against the United States. In Ottawa, have we started to think about the consequences of this redevelopment?

We will also have to review our relationship with China, whose behavior is increasingly brutal. How to approach the subject? Conservatives and Liberals are divided on what to do next. However, we are not intellectually deprived in the face of this situation. A few days ago, former Quebec premier Jean Charest called on Canadians to take note of China’s superpower status and find a way to come to terms with it. He said we were in a good position to redefine our ties with China given our experience managing our relationship with the US superpower.

The last revision of our foreign policy dates back to 2005, during the reign of Paul Martin. It was of the same magnitude as that of the United Kingdom and it remains relevant in many aspects. However, in view of all of the above and many other questions, it is high time to resume the exercise.

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