Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks to media after meeting with Canadian Coast Guard members aboard the Sir Wilfrid Laurier to discuss marine safety and spill prevention in Victoria on April 5, 2018. (Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)

Trudeau looks to turn page on China, India with next foreign trip

Prime Minister sets out on major 10-day tour

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will be looking to turn the page on his widely criticized trips to China and India — and land some new trade partners for Canada — when he embarks Thursday on a major 10-day foreign tour.

The stakes will be high, starting with Trudeau’s first stop in Peru for the 8th Summit of the Americas, which plays host every four years to more than 30 countries across the Western Hemisphere.

There had been speculation that Canada, the U.S. and Mexico would announce some form of an agreement in principle on a new North American Free Trade Agreement.

But while high-level talks are still expected to take place, the absence of U.S. President Donald Trump — he’s staying home, ostensibly to oversee the possible American response to a chemical attack in Syria — has dampened talk of ceremonial surprises.

Instead, the meeting is likely to be dominated by the political crisis in Venezuela, where president Nicolas Maduro, who will also not take part, has abandoned all pretence of democratic rule, cracking down on dissent in the face of spiralling economic calamity.

Canada has been an outspoken critic of Maduro and will no doubt join the chorus of condemnation in Peru while pushing for a tougher stand against corruption throughout the Americas.

READ MORE: Surrey MP invites convicted terrorist to Trudeau reception in India

Trudeau will also meet with leaders from the Pacific Alliance, a trade bloc comprising Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru, all of which have free trade deals — and close political relationships — with Canada. He’ll also get a rare chance to meet with Latin America’s largest trading bloc, Mercosur, which counts powerhouse Brazil as well as Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay among its members.

With the fate of NAFTA up in the air and efforts afoot to diversify trade away from the U.S., Canada and Mercosur quietly held a first round of free trade talks in March.

University of Ottawa professor Roland Paris, formerly Trudeau’s foreign policy adviser, says advancing trade discussions with Mercosur and the Pacific Alliance would top his to-do list.

Indeed, Trump’s absence could offer the perfect chance for Trudeau to speak freely with Mercosur leaders and other potential trade partners, said Pablo Heidrich, an expert on Latin America at Carleton University in Ottawa.

“He may be able to have a more direct conversation with Latin America,” Heidrich said. “That could open more space for Canada to further its negotiations in trade agreements and to try to sell something to other countries or to the same countries that Canada is already interested in.”

Trudeau, however, can’t afford the sort of missteps that plagued him in China and India.

Observers will be watching to see how far he goes in opposing Trump’s controversial comments on Latin American immigrants, as well as in promoting western democratic values without coming across as arrogant or preachy.

“Lecturing is what really brought Trudeau down in China and in India,” Heidrich said. “And so I hope the Canadian diplomacy does not go into lecturing, because it is not going to go well.”

Officials say the prime minister will also likely make Canada’s case, both during his visit to Peru and throughout the rest of the trip, for a UN Security Council seat in 2020.

Following two days of meetings in Peru, Trudeau will travel to Paris for his first official visit to France. There he will meet French President Emmanuel Macron, address the French National Assembly and hold several speaking engagements.

The visit will include a heavy emphasis on business, particularly in the context of the new Canada-EU free trade deal, but is also expected to include discussions on climate change, Russia, Syria, rising nationalism and Mali.

Canada has committed six military helicopters to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, where France has been conducting counter-terror operations for years alongside troops from several neighbouring African countries.

The prime minister will end his tour in London, where he will meet the Queen and British Prime Minister Theresa May before joining leaders from 52 other nations for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting, where trade will top the agenda — particularly in the face of Britain’s imminent departure from the EU and a natural impulse to look to its former colonies as new trade partners.

Lee Berthiaume, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Complete list of B.C. Interior wildfire coverage

Up-to-date information on blazes happening the Kamloops Wildfire Centre

Deadfalls in Salmon Arm pose risk for wildfires

Resident emphasizes need for fuel management plan in Little Mountain Park.

911 jams causes panic among residents

RDOS chair received several calls and texts from panicked residents unable to get through to 911

In photos: RCMP Musical Ride in Sicamous

In an awe-inspiring display of horsemanship the RCMP Musical Ride thrilled the crowd in Sicamous.

More thunderstorms on the way as fires still burn

Environment Canada is forecasting lightning for the Okanagan and Shuswap

Breaking: More evacuation orders for Mount Eneas wildfire, south of Peachland

The BC Wildfire Service is battling a large wildfire alongside Highway 97 in Peachland.

UPDATED: Okanagan Mountain Park fire forces evacuation alert

Properties from 6006 to 8888 Lakeshore Road are being placed on an evacuation alert

Update: Summerland wildfire forces PIB state of emergency

More than 40 firefighters are on scene of the wildfire near Mount Conkle, just outside of Summerland.

Cluster of fires fans smoke over West Kelowna

A cluster of three fires are burning above West Kelowna

Hockey trip fraudster receives house arrest

Man duped 16 families with Okanagan Elite Hockey Association out of over $100,000

Four wild fires still burning near Keremeos

One fire was extinguished and another reported after lightning came through area

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

UPDATED: Highway 97 closed again due to wildfire

Motorists may use an alternate route via Highway 97C, Highway 5A and Highway 3

Most Read