Let’s take a Putin-era energy, economic and climate strategy seriously: Freeland

WASHINGTON — Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister on Tuesday urged the world’s democracies to confront the hard economic truths of a perilous new world order and seek common cause in the shared values ​​of prosperity, energy security, protection of the planet and free and fair trade.

Chrystia Freeland delivered an eloquent obituary for the relative peace and stability of the 33 years between the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and Russia’s “barbaric violation” of Ukrainian sovereignty in late February this year.

The end was difficult to process, especially after the sacrifices of World War II and the nuclear superpower that followed it, Freeland told Canadian-American scholars and speakers at the Brookings Institution, a think tank in Washington, D.C. .

“It was a relief and a vindication to imagine the whole world peacefully marching together towards global liberal democracy,” she said. “It’s disheartening and scary to accept that it’s not.”

And she sounded a cry of alarm to the countries that oppose Vladimir Putin: the dangers facing the Western world are not limited to the Russian president, nor will they disappear if Ukraine triumphs.

“We will most likely continue to face a tyrannical Russia on Europe’s border and powerful authoritarian regimes elsewhere,” Freeland warned.

“We need to understand that authoritarian regimes are fundamentally hostile to us. Our success is an existential threat to them. This is why they tried to overthrow our democracies from within and why we should expect them to continue to do so.

As a result, the world’s current reliance on “petro-tyrants” in countries like Russia, which are vital international suppliers of oil and natural gas, simply cannot continue.

“As autumn turns to winter, Europe braces for a cold and bitter lesson in the strategic folly of economic dependence on countries whose political and moral values ​​are hostile to ours.”

Freeland preached the virtues of “friend-shoring” – a term coined last summer by US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to describe fortified, climate-friendly and shock-resistant supply chains that rely primarily on neighbors and like-minded allies.

The concept is music to the ears of many in Canada, a country whose economic fortunes have long depended on ties with the United States, where free trade is now seen as raw business and protectionist sentiment is part of the discourse. everyday politics.

She cited the example of the Curbing Inflation Act, a multi-billion dollar climate, tax and healthcare spending package passed by Congress in August, which includes an appropriation program for tax designed to encourage the production and sale of electric vehicles.

These credits will now apply to vehicles manufactured in Canada and will also require that the battery of an eligible vehicle include a percentage of essential minerals from countries with which the United States has a trade agreement, of which Canada is a part – a measure designed to curb Chinese domination. in the supply chain of critical minerals.

Freeland failed to mention that President Joe Biden’s original vision reserved the richest credits for vehicles assembled in the United States with unionized workers, an existential threat to the Canadian auto industry that has sparked a frantic lobbying effort by year and threatened to strain Canada and the United States. relationships at breaking point.

“If we want to link our economies even more closely, we must be confident that we will all follow the rules of our trade with each other, even and especially when it would be easier not to.”

Common approaches to trade will be vital, she added, as will a mutual willingness to “spend national political capital in the name of the economic security of our democratic partners”.

Freeland mentioned the European Union’s willingness to allow its vaccine makers to honor existing contracts with non-European allies, including Canada, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Canada remembers,” she said. “Canada must and will show similar generosity in accelerating, for example, energy and mining projects that our allies need to heat their homes and build electric vehicles.

That sentiment is sure to raise eyebrows among critics who accuse Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government of dragging their feet on approving energy projects like liquid natural gas export terminals.

Trudeau has since said Canada would be willing to relax regulatory requirements for such projects to help ease the supply shortage in Europe, but also said it would be up to industry to decide whether such a venture would be feasible.

Freeland is in the U.S. capital this week for the annual meetings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, which released their own dire forecasts on Tuesday: “The worst is yet to come,” said IMF chief economist Pierre -Olivier Gourinchas, who warned that 2023 will “look like a recession” for many around the world.

Several Canadian business representatives also made the trip and were present in person, including Flavio Volpe, President of the Association of Automotive Parts Manufacturers, and Goldy Hyder, CEO of the Business Council of Canada.

Hyder described Tuesday’s speech – he dubbed it “the Freeland Doctrine” – as a “refreshing and serious prescription” for what is currently sick in the world.

“The real test, however, is whether Canada can convert intentions into action and be a reliable supplier of much-needed energy and critical minerals,” Hyder said.

“Can Canada fast-track projects, as the Prime Minister has proposed, while providing regulatory predictability to attract the capital needed to build much-needed infrastructure? Hyder asked.

“This is what we will ultimately be judged on: can we provide the goods countries need to live out their values ​​by breaking away from dependence on autocratic oil and gas.”

Volpe added, “What we do next is the most important part of this laudable proposal.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on October 12, 2022.

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