Justin Trudeau is in Davos, Switzerland this week, joining elite business leaders, activists and other politicians at the uber-exclusive World Economic Forum. While the PM talks trade, economics and social justice on the world stage, back home seventh-round talks in the NAFTA negotiations between the U.S., Mexico and Canada are underway in Montreal. Trudeau is still expressing confidence in the trade talks, but his agenda at the Forum has made it clear that he’s not putting all of Canada’s eggs in the nuclear-charged Trump basket.
Open for Business
According to The Globe and Mail‘s Laura Stone, Trudeau’s main message going into the Forum is that Canada is open for business. Global business. Unfortunately, we’re coming off of a few major setbacks and swerves by other countries. In the past year, the Trans Pacific Partnership has fallen through and it looks increasingly like Donald Trump is going to pull the States right out of NAFTA if they don’t get exactly what they want. On the plus side, it also looks like if that happens both the U.S. and Mexico are open to bilateral trade deals.
We’re also coming off of an outright rejection from China to increase trade. When Trudeau visited in December, he went with the intention of penning a trade deal only for that to fall through when China refused to agree to Canada’s terms on the environment and women’s rights. It was a hard line for us, so no deal.
The goal of Trudeau’s involvement in Davos is to encourage international businesses and foreign governments to invest in Canada.
All the classics
Trudeau is one of just a few global leaders out of the 3,000 attending who have been asked to speak over the course of the week. He’s on a list that includes fellow global heavy-weights Donald Trump, Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel.
His talk Tuesday covered those tried and true Trudeau topics — global gender equality, women’s empowerment, positive environmental policy — and also showed his support for the Me Too and Time’s Up movements.
“Me Too, Time’s Up, the Women’s March, these movements tell us that we need to have a critical discussion on women’s rights, equality and the power dynamics of gender,” he told the crowd of 1,000, “Sexual harassment, for example — in business and in government — is a systemic problem and it is unacceptable. As leaders, we need to act to show that truly, time is up.”
He encouraged gender-balanced hiring all the way up the corporate ladder and promised that this year would see pay-equity legislation for Government of Canada workers (wait, why don’t we have that already, Trudeau?).
The PM also — to the amusement of us here at home — called out the world’s corporations for being disconnected from the average person and their needs (something Trudeau has been ruthlessly criticized for doing in the past year).
“We cannot neglect our responsibility to the people who matter most, to the people who aren’t here in Davos and never will be,” he said, referencing the fact that participation in the Forum costs tens of thousands of dollars. “Do we want to live in a world where the wealthy hide in their gated enclaves, while those around them struggle? Or do we want to help create a world grounded in the notion of fairness?”
Let’s just hope that Trudeau’s recent town halls are getting him better acquainted with the concerns of the average Canadian so he can also fulfill that himself.
— World Economic Forum (@wef) January 23, 2018
NAFTA work while abroad
It may be puzzling or discouraging to see that Trudeau, Finance Minister Bill Morneau and Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland are all abroad this week while the NAFTA negotiations go down on home soil. It seems like Trudeau is pulling his star players in a game he knows he’s going to lose, but this move could actually be a good one. It might be way easier to get real negotiations and policy hammered out without the big names in the room. This way the real negotiators can get down to business doing what they do.
Had the pleasure to meet with my #NAFTA counterpart @ildefonsogv in Toronto today. Canada pleased to welcome his negotiators to #Montreal this week. We will continue to promote economic prosperity across North America. pic.twitter.com/QXj6VVjOIs
— Chrystia Freeland (@cafreeland) January 22, 2018
Trudeau will also be hosting a Canada-U.S. Economic Round Table later in the week which will bring together business leaders from both countries to emphasize the link between the nations and the potential for further growth it holds.
Canada certainly isn’t giving up on NAFTA yet, but the feds are making sure to foster existing and create new international relationships just in case. Hey, diversifying trade never hurt anyone, right?