Justin Trudeau was at the G20 Summit in Buenos Aires this weekend and the Prime Minister took the opportunity on the world stage to remind people that Canada is a strong nation that will continue to do the right thing on global issues despite whatever resistance we might face from our southern neighbours. Not only did he combat yet another Trump-shake, the PM also rebranded the USMCA, called out dictators to their faces and donated a tonne of money to help girls education initiatives. What a whirlwind 72 hours!
The USMCA, or rather, the CUSMA
Trudeau’s biggest project at the G20 was to finally get the new NAFTA deal signed by all three leaders of North America — U.S. President Donald Trump and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. Not only did the three get it done, Trudeau took several opportunities to subtly show the world that he’s not going to be pushed around by Donald Trump, who we have to admit, can be a bit of a bully.
If you’ve been paying close attention (as we have) to the times Trudeau has spoken publicly about the USMCA, you might have noticed that he rarely refers to the deal by that name. Up until this weekend he almost exclusively called it “The New NAFTA,” presumably as a reference to how it’s not really that different from the original agreement. On Friday, he took that shade to another level by calling the deal the “CUSMA” (Canada first?) in a press release about the event. Mexico is also rebranding the deal for their own people as the T-MEC (Tratado entre México, Estados Unidos y Canadá).
At the public signing, Trump and Trudeau also continued their handshake saga and Justin kept his cool even when Trump peeked over his shoulder to see where to sign and insisted on writing his signature in marker.
— CTV News (@CTVNews) November 30, 2018
During the ceremonial USMCA signing, Trump used a large black marker while Pena Nieto and Trudeau were given regular pens. This was the result –> pic.twitter.com/j9MMfqFp1L
— Alex Mallin (@alex_mallin) November 30, 2018
Trudeau Confrontation: Donald Edition
In the press conference after the signing, Trudeau addressed Trump directly, calling him “Donald” very pointedly — Trump has mockingly referred to the Canadian PM as “Justin from Canada” in the past — and stating clearly that Canada is not going to give up on renegotiating the steel and aluminium tariffs the U.S. continues to impose on the country.
“Donald, [the General Motors decision is] all the more reason why we need to keep working to remove the tariffs on steel and aluminum between our countries,” he said.
The U.S. has been resistant to discussion of the tariffs since they were put in place earlier this year and Trudeau has taken every public opportunity since then to make his disapproval of the prohibitive costs known.
Moments ago at the signing of the new USMCA deal, Trudeau tells Trump that GM closing plants in both countries is another reason why the president should remove steel and aluminum tariffs #USMCA #NAFTA #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/4V92HGzS8C
— Michel Boyer (@BoyerMichel) November 30, 2018
Trudeau confrontation: Putin, MBS Edition
Two of the world’s most controversial leaders (who are also apparently buddies?) Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman were both present at the G20 and heading into the summit, it was unclear if Western leaders were going to confront them about their recent controversies. Trudeau announced at a press conference at the conclusion of the summit that he had “frank and direct” conversations with both of them.
“I took a moment to speak directly to President Putin, impressing upon him our concerns with the situation in the Sea of Azov and the Ukrainian sailors that have been taken prisoner, asking him to release those Ukrainian sailors and permit free passage into the Sea of Azov,” Trudeau said.
PM Trudeau says he spoke directly w/ both Vladimir Putin & Mohammed bin Salman at G20 in Buenos Aires.
– says he asked Putin to release Ukrainian sailors
– says w/ MBS he discussed Khashoggi, need for Yemen ceasefire, “diplomatic discord” between Saudi Arabia & Canada #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/qpM2WfJbtN
— CPAC (@CPAC_TV) December 1, 2018
Last Sunday Russian ships attacked and boarded Ukrainian vessels passing through the Kerch Strait which separates Russia from Crimea — the region Putin invaded and annexed from Ukraine in 2014. World leaders have been calling on President Putin for the past week to release the Ukrainian sailors who were taken captive by Russia.
“I also spoke directly to the prince [Mohammad bin Salman] to highlight our concerns and need for better answers on the killing of [Jamal] Khashoggi and also the need for an immediate cease-fire and humanitarian aid to go to Yemen, which is the largest humanitarian catastrophe going on in the world right now,” Trudeau continued.
Trudeau was referring to the killing of Saudi Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Turkey. Originally, the Saudi government claimed Khashoggi left the consulate unharmed, then their story changed several times as more and more evidence suggested the journalist was murdered. The most recent understanding — after an investigation led by the CIA — is that Khashoggi was killed on the orders of the Saudi Crown Prince.
The Yemen war and humanitarian crisis is long and complicated, but the Saudi government has played a major role in destabilizing the area.
Trudeau’s conversation with MBS is particularly significant because tensions between Canada and Saudi Arabia have been high since the former tweeted its disapproval for the latter’s jailing of activists in August this year. Trudeau also said that he addressed that issue with MBS personally in a side conversation at a G20 dinner.
“We discussed the diplomatic discord between Canada and Saudi Arabia that has been going on since August, highlighting that Canada would always stand up strongly and clearly for human rights in and around the world,” Trudeau said. He added that he also reiterated Canada’s concerns over the jailed activists from the summer.
You get an education, you get an education
After the G20 concluded, Trudeau had one more trick up his sleeve; he pulled an Oprah on us and pledged a bunch of money to funding girls education initiatives. During the celebration of Nelson Mandela at the Global Citizen Festival Sunday, Trudeau tweeted that Canada would donate $50 million to Education Cannot Wait, an organization that works to educate children who are in areas of crisis. He addressed the tweet to Trevor Noah who was hosting the event and exclaimed “This is amazing!” when it was projected on a screen at the concert.
Hey @Trevornoah – thanks for everything you’re doing to celebrate Nelson Mandela’s legacy at the @GlblCtzn festival. Sorry I can’t be with you – but how about Canada pledges $50M to @EduCannotWait to support education for women & girls around the world? Work for you? Let’s do it.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) December 2, 2018
— Trevor Noah (@Trevornoah) December 2, 2018
While many people were thrilled and proud of the PM, there were also critics who disapproved of such a large sum being donated by the Canadian government to foreign countries rather than to domestic initiatives. Among the detractors was Conservative leader Andrew Scheer.
Of course, the PM isn’t perfect by any means, but he sure had a great weekend on the world stage.