The wars of words between Donald Trump and Justin Trudeau may have grabbed headlines, but Canada has always remained a faithful US ally, apparently believing it’s a safe bet. The strategy, however, has backfired.
Trump’s presidency has been marked by a continued row with Canada’s ‘liberal’ Trudeau, which was fueled by a US trade dispute with its Western allies and incompatible views on climate change, for example. The war of words between the two neighbors apparently culminated during the G7 summit in June.
But do not be deceived by what you see. All this time Canada actually dutifully followed the US lead and even copied some of its trendiest policies. Be it following Russophobic hysteria or making billions worth of deals with some Middle Eastern autocrats, Canada was here to march in lockstep with its powerful neighbor. Its response to the alleged murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the hands of Washington’s key Middle Eastern ally – the Saudis – was also conspicuously reserved, particularly for a nation that portrays itself as a fervent champion of human rights.
Now China got a taste of Ottawa’s imitation game, as Canada seemingly decided to get involved into the unfolding economic ‘Cold War’ between Washington and Beijing. Last week Canadian authorities arrested Meng Wanzhou – the Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei’s chief financial officer and the daughter of the company’s founder, Ren Zhengfei who just happened to be also one of the most revered Chinese generals – provoking a furious reaction from Beijing.
This action was taken at the request of Washington, which is investigating Meng for allegedly circumventing US sanctions on Iran. Although the inquiry has been pursued at least since 2016, the provisional warrant suspiciously came following reports that Washington has embarked on a mission to bully its allies from using Huawei’s equipment which it considers a security risk.
It also comes as the US still actively seeks to ‘win’ its trade war with China by forcing Beijing to accept its terms, despite agreeing to a truce. As if picking sides in a costly economic war was not bad enough in itself, Ottawa also decided to pitch itself against the world’s second-biggest consumer market. Living in the shadow of its powerful neighbor for so many years, Canada apparently forgot that mimicking the US does not make you the US. Now, Canada’s economy, which amounts to some two percent of the world’s GDP has to bear the burden of consequences of such a decision all by itself.
And Trudeau didn’t have to wait long for them. Chinese authorities arrested two Canadians on security-related charges. Chinese consumers made the shares of Canada Goose clothing company – the second-best performer in Canada’s benchmark stock index this year – plunge by nearly 20 percent over just four days. With the legal process against Meng far from over, Trudeau might expect that there will be more to come.
Now, facing China’s rage over doing the US’ bidding, Ottawa desperately seeks to save face and avoid further politicization of an already explosive issue. On Wednesday, Canada’s Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland warned the US not to mess with the “pursuit of justice” after Trump said he could intervene in the extradition case if it benefits US trade interests with China.
However, it might be, in fact, too late as Canada has already backed itself into a corner. Regardless of the outcome of the legal proceedings, its relations either with Washington or Beijing are going to greatly suffer.