The federal government has unveiled its long-awaited Indo-Pacific Strategy, which details a decade of plans for investment and partnerships in the region, and signals a tougher stance on China going forward.
In an interview with CTV’s Question Period with Joyce Napier, airing Sunday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said the document simply puts in writing what Canada and its allies have long been moving toward when it comes to how they will engage with China.
“We’re calling a spade a spade,” she said. “When it comes to our engagement with China, we’re clear: this is about protecting our national interests without compromising our values.”
“I’ve said it many times, and I’m saying it again: this is about making sure that we will compete with China when we ought to and we will co-operate with them when we must, and that includes on the question of climate change, on the question of pandemic prevention and also nuclear non-proliferation.”
The 23-page Indo-Pacific Strategy outlines the next decade worth of Canada’s initiatives and investments — totalling nearly $2.3 billion over the next five years — to bolster Canada’s economic and strategic role in the region.
Joly called the budget detailed in the plan a “first down payment” to assert Canada’s role as a “reliable partner in the region.”
“We have to look at the Pacific because that’s where, indeed there are geopolitical tensions, but also that’s where there is a lot of growth,” Joly said. “So we need to make sure that we step up our game, and that we invest.”
The strategy document dedicates a few pages to presenting Canada’s stance on China, but it does not detail specific initiatives or their cost.
Here’s some of what Canada say it plans to do as it relates to China going forward:
push back “against any form of foreign interference on Canadian soil”;
protect Canadian market access in China while working with clients to “diversify within, and beyond, that market”; and
push back “against any unilateral actions that threaten the status quo in the Taiwan Strait, as well as the East and South China Seas.”
“China is an increasingly disruptive global power,” the strategy states, adding Canada is aligning its approach to China with partners in the region and around the globe, including the United States.
The release of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy comes less than two weeks after a tense interaction between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit was caught on video.
“In areas of profound disagreement, we will challenge China, including when it engages in coercive behaviour—economic or otherwise—ignores human rights obligations or undermines our national security interests and those of partners in the region,” the document also states, in an embargoed copy given to reporters before its official release. “We must all abide by international rules.”
As part of Canada’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific, the document also states Canada plans to increase its naval presence, have intelligence and security forces in the region, and will take a leadership role in preventing cyber threats, including the spread of disinformation and ransomware.