Canada seeks larger world role as U.S. retreats: foreign minister

Reuters News
Posted: Jun 06, 2017 11:30 AM

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada will seek to play a larger role on the world stage as the United States retreats, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said on Tuesday, in remarks underscoring strains between Washington and its closest allies.

Freeland spoke in the wake of recent NATO and G7 summits where U.S. President Donald Trump upset world leaders to such an extent that German Chancellor Angela Merkel expressed doubts about the reliability of the United States.

Freeland, noting that "international relationships that had seemed immutable for 70 years are being called into question," stressed the value of bilateral ties with the United States, traditionally seen as Canada's closest friend. She also made clear those bonds might loosen.

"The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership, puts into sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course," she said in an address to parliament outlining her foreign policy vision.

"For Canada that course must be the renewal, indeed the strengthening, of the postwar multilateral order," she said.

Trump, elected on a promise to put 'America first,' criticized North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies over not picking up their fair share of military spending and then announced he was pulling out of the Paris climate change pact.

Freeland, praising the role the United States had played since World War Two, said Canada would try to persuade Washington that its continued international leadership was in the interests of the free world.

"Canadians understand that, as a middle power living next to the world's only super power, Canada has a huge interest in an international order based on rules," Freeland told legislators.

Canada, she said, would "strive for leadership" in multilateral international forums such as the G7, the G20, NATO, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

She stressed that NATO and Article 5, the alliance's mutual defense doctrine, lay at the heart of Canada's national security policy. Trump upset NATO leaders by not personally affirming his commitment to the article.

Freeland reiterated that Canada was deeply disappointed by the decision to withdraw from the Paris pact but made no other criticisms of U.S. policy and did not mention Trump by name.

Canada is about to start crucial talks on renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement, under which it sends a majority of exports to the United States.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)