As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau endeavours to represent an open, interconnected and inclusive Canada on the multilateral stage, his last Liberal predecessor, Paul Martin, says this year’s G20 summit in Hangzhou, China presents an opportunity to make globalization really work.
Martin was an architect of the G20. To have finance ministers, and now leaders, meet to discuss international financial institutions, the economy and a wide range of other issues is a Canadian idea — and the former prime minister says it’s time for Canada to emerge as more of a leader.
Martin spoke to Marie-Danielle Smith on Sunday about international co-operation and his advice for Trudeau as he departs Monday for a weeklong visit to China, including G20 meetings Sept. 4-5.
What can the prime minister expect on this trip?
“In my time, the focus of the G20 was not on four walls. It was focused on getting the job done,” Martin said. “There has been a tendency … and I hope this is not going to be the case here, for the photo ops to be the principal focus. And I don’t think that anybody wants that.
“The leaders themselves have got to look each other in the eyes,” he said, and use the forum for “peer pressure.”
Martin said Trudeau “handles himself very well” around other world leaders and deals with issues “in a quite straightforward manner, which is appreciated.”
How can Canada improve its relationship with China?
On the Canada-China bilateral relationship under his successor Stephen Harper, Martin said he believes “the relationship has not been what it should’ve been,” and though none of this is “easy,” he thinks Trudeau has a good grasp of the issues and how to move forward constructively.
There will be opportunities for co-operation. At the G20, both Canada and China will be strong advocates for infrastructure, for example, Martin said, despite cooler reception for that kind of spending in Europe ahead of next year’s summit in Germany.
On a broader level, as Canadian officials said during a briefing ahead of Trudeau’s visit, Canada’s prosperity is increasingly tied to China’s — and there’s a sense of imperative in making sure Canada doesn’t get left behind as the world looks to Asia.
There has been a tendency … and I hope this is not going to be the case here, for the photo ops to be the principal focus
Why will the G20 matter?
International issues such as the refugee crisis and global health can be discussed at venues like the G20, but so can the strength of the world’s multilateral institutions, Martin said.
There’s a consensus, he suggested, that the World Trade Organization shouldn’t be written off the way it has been in recent years — and that the central banks have gone as far as they can go with monetary policy “without the fiscal side playing its role.”
In advocating for support for these and other multilateral institutions, Trudeau has an opportunity to “play the leading role in making globalization work,” Martin said.
He added greater continuity from year to year is something Canada should push for since “this will play out over several summits.”
How can the G20 address growing protectionism in some countries, including the U.S.?
The biggest economic issue the world is facing is slow economic growth, Martin said, and that’s the root of domestic insecurity in countries such as the U.S.
“There are those who blame trade for this,” he said, but it’s important to point out that aging populations are taking a significant toll on growth, in Japan, China, North America and Europe alike.
“In an economy that is changing dramatically because of the tremendous onset of technological change, the answer there is going to be found in education, it’s going to be found in research and innovation and it’s going to be found in education,” said Martin.
That means more co-operation, not less.