Canada will be holding a federal election on October 21. Analysts say that whoever wins will be making a harder stand against China.
“Whoever is elected will have to take a tougher stance. Public opinion has shifted significantly against China’s favor,” said associate professor at the University of Toronto’s department of political science and Asian institute, Lynette Ong.
According to some polls, the incumbent Prime Minister and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau is trailing behind Andrew Scheer of the Conservative Party.
The United States and China are two of the largest trading partners of Canada. Hence, it finds itself caught between the two countries and their ongoing trade war.
“Under the Trudeau government, Canada has been trying not to pick sides, even though Canada and the US are close allies, in military and economic terms. Canada sees China as a growing power that it needs to engage, which makes it hard to navigate the current imbroglio,” Ong adds.
According to the director of the global economy at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Canada, Roy Fay: “The US-China trade war makes things more difficult for Canadian policymakers.”
“It’s not about picking sides. Rather it is about making sure that Canadian businesses have access to many markets for their products and services,” stated Fay.
The United States is the top trading partner of Canada. According to the U.S. Trade Representative Office (USTR), an estimated $714.1 billion worth of goods and services were traded between the two countries in 2018. The USTR adds that the U.S. was the third-largest supplier of imported goods.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s stand on the trade issue with China has affected several countries including Canada.
In March, Trump’s administration increased the tariffs on aluminum and steel. However, the tariffs were removed in May 2019 following the United States Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA). This agreement is the updated version of the NAFTA deal.
“The USMCA is yet to be ratified in the U.S., and therefore the U.S. has considerable leverage, making Canada very vulnerable right now,” said Paul Evans, professor at the public policy and global affairs school at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
As for China, it is the second-largest trading partner of Canada. Based on the records by Statistics Canada, the trade between the two countries was only about $37.9 billion. The exports to China only accounted for about 4.6% or about $25.3 billion.
The relationship between China and Canada is currently in hot water after Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou was detained in Vancouver. She also happens to be the daughter of the Chinese tech giant’s founder. The arrest was carried out at the request of the United States.
Following the arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the U.S. banned Huawei from pushing its 5G technology in the country and has asked its allies to act on the matter.
Washington alleges that Huawei’s 5G technology could be used by the Chinese for espionage. Huawei has been denying its involvement in such matters.
“There is no question that Washington is putting very heavy pressure on Ottawa to ban Huawei in our 5G system,” Evans said
“Many Canadians have felt that the U.S. has thrown Canada under the anti-china, cold war bus with the Meng’s arrest. It is a widespread view among tech experts in Canada” that Huawei’s 3G and 4G technology worked well in Canada,” he added.
With the ongoing tension between the Beijing and Washington, Ottawa finds itself in a tough spot.
According to Evans, if Canada chooses to follow the U.S. in banning Huawei, it could affect its bilateral relationship with China. If Canada does not heed to the United States’ request to ban Huawei, it could be facing some retaliatory actions from the United States.