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Trudeau pledges cash for infrastructure and making vaccines in developing countries

$750 million earmarked to finance infrastructure projects in Asia over three years
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau takes part in the first working session of the G20 leaders summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick

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

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 in remarks prepared for a closed-door event hosted by Indonesia, the U.S. and the European Union.

The funding will be administered by FinDev Canada, which currently has a mandate to operate in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It will now also help fund projects in developing countries in Asia.

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

“If we want to close the infrastructure gap, we 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’s remarks read.

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.

Canada 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 of countries pushing for G20 leaders to call out Russia for contributing to worsening inflation and threatening global security through its war in Ukraine.

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

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

“There is a reckoning within the G20 that not only is the war in Ukraine — and Russia’s illegal and unjustifiable invasion of Ukraine — (having) a tremendous human toll … it has a really big impact on the global economy, and on households at the grocery stores,” she told reporters.

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 communiqué. 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, who studies G20 summits.

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.

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 important indeed to keep channels open,” said Joly, who separately spoke 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,” Joly said.

Cooper told reporters in Bali that Canada could be following the same pattern Australia faced 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, told reporters in Bali.

He also said Ottawa needs to outline its trade priorities in Asia.

“It needs to be holistic; it needs to be well communicated, so people know what the policy is,” he said.

He added that Canadian business need 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 on the part of Canada to put those resources to work and to ensure that we’re able to actually deliver those commodities to the rest of the world,” 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.

—Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press

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