LOS ANGELES –
It’s an itinerary worthy of Hollywood: the governor of California, the man who runs Google and the president of the United States.
Day 2 at the Summit of the Americas is shaping up to be a busy one for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
After he meets with President Joe Biden and holds a news conference with Gov. Gavin Newsom, Trudeau will take in the summit’s first leader-level plenary.
He’s also meeting with the president of Argentina before sitting down with Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company.
On Wednesday, Trudeau spent the day talking to Latin American and Caribbean leaders about helping their countries achieve their sustainable development goals.
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, says today might be the day to put Canada’s own needs on the table.
“The world is changing … and as a response, new alignments are taking shape,” said Hyder, who wants Ottawa to get more assertive with the U.S. on bilateral issues.
Supply chains are changing in real time, thanks to the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and governments are realizing that the private sector has a key role to play, he added.
Canada should be asking, “How are we going to partner? How are we going to address climate change? What are we going to do about supply chain integrity?” Hyder said.
“These are things that we can work on together, the public and private sectors … we need to learn and do more of that if we’re going to help Canada navigate its way through an extremely complicated world.”
On Wednesday, Trudeau spent the day focused on the ever-present challenges facing countries in Latin America and the Caribbean — challenges that manifest in the U.S. and Canada in the form of economic constraints and migratory pressure.
Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley described a “triple crisis” in her country: the lasting economic and health effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, soaring fuel and food costs exacerbated by the war in Ukraine, and climate impacts that are felt most acutely in tiny island nations like hers.
Mottley suggested that it’s time the rest of the world began taking those concerns more seriously.
“We don’t expect things to change immediately,” Mottley said.
“But what we expect is fairness, what we expect is transparency, what we expect is that just as we want to see people here, we want people to see, feel and hear us as well.”
Mottley and Trudeau later took part in a roundtable discussion with leaders from Chile, Belize, Ecuador and Jamaica, where they heard complaints about financial institutions that could be doing more to support growth in the developing world.
It’s vital for democracy to thrive in small and developing nations, and for their citizens to share in the rewards and realize the benefits.
“We need — as like-minded countries, but quite frankly, as a world — we need democracies to succeed,” Trudeau said.
“In order for democracies to succeed at a time where they’re backsliding, where they’re under pressure from all sorts of corners of the world, we need our citizens to feel that success.”
Fostering economic success and social stability at home is a key part of the strategy for staving off another problem confronting the hemisphere: the constant migratory tide of would-be refugees who are making their way to the Mexico-U.S. border.
“Nobody leaves his or her home because they want to, they leave because there are no opportunities — because they’re facing poverty and an untenable situation,” Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly after the first of her two scheduled meetings with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We have to look at the question of creating opportunities in our hemisphere. We need to give trust in people that they can be living in their country, having access to services, to good education for their children, and good health care.”
Canada’s goal, she added, is “to make sure that some of the concerns of these countries are addressed by our American friends.”
Biden used the summit’s opening ceremony to unveil a new hemispheric “partnership” aimed at driving economic growth across the region, which the White House says accounts for 31.9 per cent of global GDP.
The new initiative appears to be a continental cousin to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, Biden’s new partnership with regional powers like Japan, India and South Korea to counter the growing influence of China.
It’s also an excuse for Canada to get serious about partnering with the United States, said Hyder, who has excoriated the government for getting left out of the Asia-Pacific network.
“It’s an opportunity for us to not just seem to be, but actually be a reliable partner that the United States can count on to help advance our collective interests,” he said.
“You assert yourself into these things, because it is in our national interest … it’s best to be in the room than on the outside looking in.”
Canada is using the summit to push for “urgent action” to confront climate change, another key factor in fuelling out-migration, and looking for funding initiatives to help countries in the region.
Advancing gender equality and fostering the economic and democratic growth that comes with it is another pillar of Canada’s summit strategy.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2022.