As major Pacific summit wraps, Canada is sidelined on a new U.S.-led trade initiative

Goldy Hyder laughed a bit when a reporter asked him Thursday evening what he thought Canada had accomplished at this week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in San Francisco.

“It’s a short list, unfortunately,” the president of the Business Council of Canada said, before lamenting something Canada hasn’t accomplished yet: membership in U.S. President Joe Biden’s Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). It’s a group of 14 trading partners that concluded agreements this week on supply chain protections, lowering carbon emissions and fighting corruption — while promising more collaboration to come.

There’s no question Canadian officials from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on down were busy taking meetings all week.

“We’re doing the work,” Trade Minister Mary Ng insisted when reporters questioned why Canada still isn’t in IPEF, despite her insistence that all the current members would support having Canada at the table.

Unlike the U.S., which pulled out of its Pacific Rim trade deal, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, when Donald Trump took over in 2017, Canada stayed in and pushed to rename the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

As Canada takes over as chair of the CPTPP in 2024 and celebrates its fifth year of implementation with its first new recruit — the dubiously Pacific nation of the United Kingdom — Ng said one of her top three priorities would be ensuring the deal lives up to its “progressive” rebranding and supports smaller businesses, women entrepreneurs, and Indigenous enterprises.

But it’s this kind of values-driven foreign policy that’s left stakeholders frustrated with how Trudeau’s government approaches summits like APEC.

Hyder suggested multiple times this week the Liberals need to read the room and understand how things have changed during their tenure. Given wars in Ukraine and Gaza, and growing threats in the South China Sea, investors are anxious about big international ventures that could otherwise be driving economic growth.

“This is a complicated environment in which we operate,” he said. “It is not the time to preach … It is time to be pragmatic.”

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