Canada to strengthen defense and cyber security in Indo-Pacific policy and focus on ‘disruptive’ China

OTTAWA, Nov 27 (Reuters) – Canada launched its long-awaited Indo-Pacific strategy on Sunday, spending C$2.3 billion ($1.7 billion) to boost military security and cyber security in the region and pledging to engage with troubled China. While working with him on climate change and trade.

The plan, detailed in a 26-page document, said Canada would tighten rules on foreign investment to protect intellectual property and prevent Chinese state-owned companies from grabbing critical mineral resources.

Canada is seeking to deepen its ties with the fast-growing Indo-Pacific region, which includes 40 countries and represents approximately C$50 trillion in economic activity. But the focus is on China, which has been mentioned more than 50 times at a time when bilateral relations are cold.

At a press conference in Vancouver, the four ministers took turns detailing the new plan, saying the strategy is critical to Canada’s national security and climate as well as economic goals.

“We will engage in diplomacy, because we believe that diplomacy is power, and we will also be tough, and so we now have a very transparent plan for working with China,” Secretary of State Melanie said. Jolie. .

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government wants to diversify trade and economic ties that are heavily dependent on the United States. Official data for September show that bilateral trade with China is less than 7% of total trade, compared to 68% with the United States.

Canada’s engagement with its Asian allies also comes at a time when Washington has shown increasingly cautious signs of free trade in recent years.

The document highlighted Canada’s dilemma in building relations with China, offering significant opportunities for Canadian exporters even as Beijing sought to shape the international order “in an environment of more permissive interests and values ​​that increasingly alienates us.”

China challenge

However, the document says cooperation with the world’s second-largest economy is necessary to address some of the “world’s current pressures,” including climate change, global health and nuclear proliferation.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau visits members of the Canadian Armed Forces at a military base in Adazi, Latvia, March 8, 2022, following Russia’s aggression against Ukraine. REUTERS/Ents Kalinins/ Photo

“China is an increasingly destabilizing global power,” the strategy says. “Our approach … is shaped by a realistic and clear assessment of China today. In deeply contested areas, we will challenge China. »

Tensions with China rose in late 2018 after Canadian police arrested the head of Huawei Technologies and later Beijing arrested two Canadians on espionage charges. Although all three were released last year, relations remain strained.

Earlier this month, Canada ordered three Chinese companies to divest from their investments in critical Canadian minerals, citing national security.

Ottawa will “review and update legislation that allows us to act decisively when investments by state-owned companies and other foreign entities threaten our national security, including access to our critical mineral supply chains,” the section referring to China said in the document.

“Because the region is so vast and diverse, one size does not fit all,” Canadian Chamber of Commerce president Perrin Petit said in a statement, adding that Canada’s priorities must be across and within countries.

Canada will strengthen its naval presence in the region and “increase our military presence and intelligence capabilities to reduce coercive behavior and threats to regional security,” the document says.

Defense Minister Anita Anand said at a separate press conference that this would include deploying three frigates a year to the region, up from the current two, as well as the participation of Canadian pilots and soldiers in regional military exercises.

Canada is part of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that want to take significant steps to respond to North Korea’s missile launches.

The document shows that Ottawa is engaged with partners in the region such as the United States and the European Union.

He said Canada should continue to talk to countries with key differences, but did not name them.

($1 = 1.3377 Canadian dollars)

(Reporting by David Leungren). Edited by Danny Thomas, Leslie Adler, Daniel Wallis, and Mark Porter

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