G20 summit: Trudeau pledges cash for infrastructure, making vaccines

BADUNG, Indonesia –

At a G20 summit that has been overshadowed by geopolitical tensions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced pledges Tuesday to help developing countries improve their infrastructure, go green and make COVID-19 vaccines.

Trudeau has earmarked $750 million for a Crown corporation to finance infrastructure projects in Asia over three years, starting next March.

It’s the largest funding agreement the Liberals have made as part of their forthcoming Indo-Pacific strategy, and part of a G20 project meant to help low- and middle-income countries have safer and more sustainable cities.

“It will also make our supply chains stronger and create good jobs,” Trudeau said during a closed-door event hosted by Indonesia, the US and the European Union.

The funding will be administered by FinDev Canada, which already has a mandate to operate in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It is now adding developing countries in Asia to the list.

Trudeau told leaders that sovereign wealth funds can help governments abroad build schools and hospitals.

“If we want to close the infrastructure gap, we’ll need to continue finding ways to incentivize greater private sector investment. No amount of public money can single-handedly fix this issue,” the prime minister said.

Trudeau also announced $80 million for global health systems, with most of the funding going to a World Bank project that helps countries prevent pandemics and respond to them.

The funding will support projects that help developing countries manufacture COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

The NDP reacted to the news by arguing that Liberals have not done enough to advocate for patent waivers, which would help countries manufacture their own vaccines.

In Bali, Canada also co-launched a partnership with G7 and Nordic nations to help Indonesia wean itself off coal, agreeing to put up $10 billion and soliciting the same amount from the private sector.

Indonesia is one of the world’s heaviest emitting countries, and has agreed to “the accelerated retirement of coal plants, conditional on international support.”

Yet geopolitics will likely overshadow the pledges leaders make at the summit, as countries debate how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness.

Canada is among the most forceful in pushing for G20 leaders to call out Russia for contributing to worsening inflation and threatening global security through its war in Ukraine.

Other countries have held back in an attempt to maintain good relations with both the West and Moscow.

But Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that even those countries recognize the wide-ranging impact of the war.

She told reporters there is a “reckoning” within the G20 that the war in Ukraine, along with its “tremendous human toll,” is also having major impacts on the global economy and households.

As host, Indonesia has urged countries to focus on finding common ground, to make sure there is some statement of consensus when the summit closes Wednesday.

“We can see that they’re going through conniptions, trying to kind of get a declaration to save them from the embarrassment of not having a communique. So this is going to be very tricky,” said Andrew Cooper, a professor with the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau had to intervene at a closed-door G20 health forum Tuesday after Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed American biolabs were undertaking nefarious activities in Ukraine.

Trudeau’s office said he told his peers that the claims were “absolute garbage” and that leaders must work with facts. A spokesperson said in French that Trudeau was “extremely clear on Canada’s position” and denounced all forms of disinformation and lies from Russia on Ukraine.

Trudeau also spoke Tuesday with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and his office said he raised concerns about Chinese interference in Canada, following claims of de facto police stations operating in Canada and of China reportedly meddling in the 2019 general election.

The two leaders also spoke about North Korea’s missile launches and the UN summit on biodiversity that China is hosting in Montreal next month.

“It was a good conversation and it is indeed important to keep channels open,” said Joly, who spoke separately with Chinese Foreign Affairs Minister Wang Yi. “I said to my counterpart (that) it was on China’s shoulders to show that it was respecting international norms.”

Cooper told reporters in Bali that Canada could be following the same pattern as Australia a decade ago, when it was isolated by China but gradually found areas of consensus with Beijing while forming stronger ties with other countries in Asia.

“Canada’s been in the penalty box for a few years now,” he said.

“This is a very different China. President Xi (is) in a consolidated position. If he’s not the new Mao, he’s certainly in a position where he can be a central figure that can work in a way that we didn’t anticipate when the G20 was created.”

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce said the Liberals are taking a practical approach to dealing with China, and said it will help inform businesses of the risks of working in China and let them decide whether to do so.

“You need to work with China on issues like climate change, but also we have to recognize that China’s a strategic rival, and they don’t play by the same rules as everybody else,” Perrin Beatty, the group’s CEO, said in Bali .

He also said Ottawa needs to communicate its trade priorities in Asia in a “holistic” way.

He added that Canadian business needs help to take advantage of the numerous trade agreements Ottawa has signed and is currently negotiating. “The three Fs — food, fuel, fertilizer — Canada has in bundles. And what’s needed now is a clear strategy,” he said.

Beatty also said Canada should do “a full post-mortem” of supply-chain shocks during the COVID-19 pandemic, and figure out whether to warehouse critical goods in Canada, and to what extent Canada should limit trade to friendly countries.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 15, 2022.

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