Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is headed to the land of the rising sun today in what many hope will be a productive visit, as he embarks to Osaka, Japan for the 14th ever G20 summit.
For Trudeau, few objectives are likely in mind besides securing a diplomatic solution to the ongoing disputes with Canada’s second largest trading partner, China.
For those uninitiated, the bad blood between China and Canada began to spill when China detained two Canadians—a diplomat and an entrepreneur—just days after Canada arrested Huawei CEO and Chinese tech-royalty Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver on a U.S. extradition warrant in December.
A good showing for Trudeau is vital for the PM, who is a few short months away from the Canadian general election—an election in which pollsters currently predict a weak performance at the poll booth for his Liberal Party.
China has held back no punches in the months since the arrest. On Tuesday, China suspended its imports of Canadian meat. Canola, peas, and soybeans have also been in China’s crosshairs, as imports of all three from Canada have taken substantial hits.
With several balls still up in the air, Trudeau will be looking to get assistance from his counterpart just south of the border—the ever controversial President Donald J. Trump.
The main focus for Trudeau will surely be to raise the issue of the two detained Canadians, as the prime minister will even have a one-on-one meeting with China’s president Xi Jinping.
During Trump’s visit to France for D-Day commemorations, he expressed open optimism towards the summit, stating that the “opportunity to engage with the Chinese president directly is certainly something that we are looking at.”
Trump also expressed his support for Canada’s oversea detainees during a one-on-one with Trudeau last Thursday in Washington. “Are you trying to get a meeting? Anything I can do to help Canada, I will be doing,” remarked the president.
It’s help that is more than welcome for Trudeau, as one Canadian government official said the meeting between the three was unlikely to even occur.
Former Canadian ambassador to China David Mulroney has said to The Canadian Press that China’s reluctance to have a meeting between the three nations was a given. The vain that should be mined by Trudeau, so to speak, is the one being presented by Donald Trump.
“That would be the strongest card that could be played in our interests,” said Mulroney. “It would be an American card played to say, ‘If you want a normal relationship with us, you’ll leave our allies alone.’”
Mulroney, who served his role as ambassador to China form 2009 to 2012, said he would use the G20 summit to talk to other world leaders who have also been belittled by the Chinese government.
“If we can build this sense of shared purpose in pushing back against China, in not allowing ourselves to be isolated like this, that’s a big step forward,” he said.
“It is in America’s interest and it is in the interest of a lot of other countries to see China pull back from hostage diplomacy and bullying … The only way to counter that is through collective action and that is a long, hard slog.”
With a number of issues at hand, Trudeau is expected to meet with European leaders to discuss a variety of issues Friday.