Dominic Barton appears at committee hearing in Ottawa . . .
Dominic Barton, Canada’s ambassador to Beijing, appeared before the Special Committee on Canada-China Relations on Wednesday. During the hearing, Barton highlighted his three priorities in Beijing: securing the release of the detained Canadians, promoting and protecting human rights, and strengthening bilateral people-to-people ties. Barton said Canada and China are currently “both furious” at each other. At the same time, he insisted that Canada will not be bullied, and suggested Canadian agri-food exports could serve as a bargaining chip, as China needs access to high quality, safe products while Canada is willing to seek alternate markets. Barton also fielded pointed questions from opposition MPs on his previous work as the global chief of McKinsey & Company and alleged conflicts of interest.
The ‘China Committee’ . . .
The Special Committee’s creation speaks volumes about Canada-China bilateral relations, which plunged to their lowest point with the arrest of Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver in December 2018. Beijing quickly retaliated by arresting Canadians Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, upgrading the sentence of a convicted Canadian drug smuggler from 15 years imprisonment to death, and enacting bans on Canadian agri-food exports. Combined with increased concern over China’s attempts to garner influence in other countries, including Canada, the Conservative Party, with support from the NDP and the Bloc, voted to create the committee last December. The committee is mandated to examine all aspects of Canada-China relations, as well as to summon the ambassador and the prime minister as witnesses.
Politicizing China . . .
Canada is not alone in struggling to manage its relations with an increasingly influential and assertive China, which has posed unprecedented challenges to policy-makers around the world. The Committee could fill a valuable role by facilitating nuanced, reasoned discussions on our relations with China. But the vote on the Committee’s creation points to a Parliament divided on China along party lines, while the grilling of Barton over his former work and alleged conflict of interest led Liberal MP Rob Oliphant, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, to object to the “American-style” questioning of the Ambassador. On China, it is more important than ever for political leaders in all parties to proceed cautiously, and with a firm focus on Canada’s national interest.
- Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada: Canada as a 21st Century Pacific Power: Toward 'Broad Diversification' in Asia
- CBC: 6 things we learned from Dominic Barton's appearance before a committee of MPs
- The Globe and Mail: Canadian envoy to China grilled by opposition MPs over past business ties to Beijing