A Conversation with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada
HAASS: I’m Richard Haass. Good morning and bonjour. I want to welcome all of you to the Council on Foreign Relations and to today’s on-the-record meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, also known as twenty-three.
TRUDEAU: Canadians will get that. (Laughter.)
HAASS: Prime Minister Trudeau is closing in on eight years as prime minister. He started out as one of his country’s youngest-ever prime ministers, but at the rate he’s going he will not end up that way. (Laughter.)
Let me just say one or two things about U.S.-Canadian ties. Our two countries are truly integrated, whether one is talking about homeland security across the world’s longest border or global security or our economies. We have the largest trade relationship in the world. And of course, we are two-thirds of the membership of the USMCA. There are obvious differences on the policy side between the two governments, but I’m glad to report this morning that relations between our two countries have been steadily improving since 1812. (Laughter.) Yeah, you get that. (Laughter.)
The prime minister and I are joined here today by CFR members in New York City and several hundred thanks to the technology of Zoom. I also want to welcome participants in our College and University Educators Workshop. This is part of CFR’s—the Council on Foreign Relations—large and growing commitment to being the leading educator in the world about the world. Run of show this morning is the prime minister will make some opening remarks, then he and I will chat for a bit, and then we’ll take questions from those here in the room and with us virtually.
Prime Minister, the podium’s yours. (Applause.)
TRUDEAU: Bonjour. Thank you, Richard, for having me here at the Council on Foreign Relations. Merci à tous d’être ici.
It’s great to be back in New York. This is a place where the world comes together, comes to connect, and the Council is a great institution for that very reason.
Last month, Canada welcomed President Biden to our Parliament. The president is a great guy. He’s not only a strong partner of Canada; he’s an enduring friend. Before he started his address, I remembered how President Reagan over three decades ago called the U.S.-Canada border a meeting place rather than a dividing line. And I pointed out that today our border is no longer just a place where we meet each other; it’s a place where we will meet the moment. And this is a moment of uncertainty like we haven’t seen in our lifetimes.
We are three years into a global pandemic. The rising cost of living is putting real stress on families. Despite job growth and wage growth, there’s a lot of economic anxiety. Climate change is having a real and terrifying impact on people’s lives. War has returned to Europe and authoritarianism is on the rise. Antagonistic states around the world are using our economic interdependence for their own geopolitical advantage. And all around us, we see more and more polarization. Every day it seems like new threats arise that threaten to weaken democracy.
So let’s talk about meeting this moment, what Canada can be for the U.S. and what we can be together for the world. But before I do that, let me talk about where we’ve been and how we got to this particular moment.
Let’s all think back to that time of Reagan and the optimism we all had about the inevitable triumph of our way of life. With the fall of the Berlin Wall, we were sure that market-based democracy was triumphant and it was going to take hold all around the world. Political elites devoted themselves to trade liberalization and
deregulation, to lowering taxes for corporations because the economy would grow faster and everyone would get richer.
Well, the former certainly happened; the latter, not so much. Jobs that went offshore weren’t being replaced and the wages that supported entire communities stagnated. When 2008 happened, banks got bailouts and families got foreclosures. People at home were getting left behind. The middle class was getting hollowed out. And at the same time, we had that promise of globalization—that the rising tide would encircle the globe and lift all boats. Well, let’s be honest with ourselves that we weren’t being straight with ourselves about that either. We talked up the superiority of our system but turned a blind eye to the authoritarianism, worker exploitation, and environmental degradation on the other side of the world, and that our prosperity relied on. And that prosperity? Well, those in charge weren’t making sure that it was being shared across the board at home, either. We were not living up to the promise of progress.
(Speaks in French.)
(Continues in English.) See, if we don’t step up, other forces will step in. As likeminded democracies, as major economies, we need to work together to meet this moment. We need to stand up for what we believe in and be honest with ourselves about where we’re not doing enough. We need to engage with the world and put in place policies that reinforce our values everywhere. If we believe in freedom, equality, a healthy environment, rule of law, then we have to believe it for everyone.
In the aftermath of 2008, there was a lot of distrust and anger—understandable anger—from citizens. GDP grew, but wages stalled. And the promise of progress, that promise that each generation would do better through the hard work of the one before, no longer seemed to hold true.
So, by the mid-teens, people were faced with a political choice. One was to burn it all down—to attack our institutions, to be isolationist, protectionist, nativist. The other was to roll up our sleeves and get to work fixing it. In Canada, that’s the path we chose in 2015. While other places were tearing up trade deals, we actually signed more. Canada is the only G-7 country with a free trade deal with every other G-7 country. We signed onto the CPTPP. Canada has privileged access to almost two-thirds of the global economy. And the reason we were able to do it even at a time when people were anxious and turning inwards is because we made sure those deals were fair.
See, trade creates growth. We all know that. But you need deliberate and specific policies to ensure that that growth is fair and the benefits are shared by everyone. When we renegotiated NAFTA, we improved it by improving stronger standards for workers and more protections for our environment. And in so doing, we secured one of the biggest free-trade zones in the world, and with it millions of jobs right across North America. In order to get our trade deal done with Europe, we included gender and labor provisions and environmental protections. Going forward, we need to do even more of that strategic thinking.
(Speaks in French.)
(Continues in English.) So how do we do that? We can’t just push back or punish, single out bad actors. We can’t just say, for example, that we want our companies to restrict the amount of critical minerals they buy from China specifically. Instead, we should simply commit to sourcing our critical minerals from places that ban forced labor, that have safety standards, the pay their workers a living wage, that have high environmental protections, that work in partnership with indigenous peoples. That creates incentives that makes the right thing to do also the smart thing to do for economies around the world.
(Speaks in French.)
(Continues in English.) See, this is where the market is going. Countries in Europe that relied on Russian fossil fuels have accelerated their investments in clean energy. Here in the U.S., the Inflation Reduction Act is mobilizing capital towards a clean economy on a historic scale. Canada is making our own investments to meet this demand and be the reliable supplier of clean energy a net-zero world will require. We already have one of the cleanest electricity grids in the world, with around 83 percent of our electricity generated from non-emitting sources. And our plan is to reach 100 percent by 2035, even as we massively increase generating capacity. This is a huge competitive advantage for Canada.
And we see these choices at play in other ways too. On the industrial scale, take a look at what’s happening with steel, for example. Global demand is fairly flat, but the demand for green steel, well that’s going through the roof. You know who makes some of the cleanest steel in the world? Workers in Canada. But that didn’t happen by accident. To use a Canadian expression, our government saw where the puck was going. (Laughter.) And we started making investments in our workers’ future. We saw what was coming with climate change, and the trillions of dollars of global investment that were lining up to build the clean economy. So we invested in a decarbonization project at the ArcelorMittal Dofasco plant in Ontario that’ll see Canada make some of the cleanest steel in the world.
And that’s good for the company, and it’s good for the brand, and it’s for the environment. But mostly it means that third-generation steel workers can know that good, middle-class jobs that were there for them, their parents, their grandparents, will also be there for their kids, their grandkids, and their great-grandkids. We have secured seventh, eighth, ninth generation steel workers for that mill, and opportunities for all the new Canadians coming to our country every year too. That’s opportunity. That’s possibility. That’s growth. That is reassuring for citizens.
When everyone can see the possibilities for themselves, everyone has a stake in our success, which is so important. Because democracies like ours, for them to work everyone has to feel like they have a stake in it, like they’re going to benefit from it. And I mean everyone, from the newly arrived racialized immigrant to the fifth-generation blue-collar working dad who just doesn’t see where he fits in anymore. And as leaders, we have to create the conditions that create opportunity for everyone.
In Canada, we’ve invested in strengthening the middle class. We’ve invested in education, in skills, in health care, in dental care, and childcare. And we’re already seeing the results on a macroeconomic scale. By rolling out $10 a day childcare, we’ve seen women’s participation in the workforce already reach all-time highs. Global investors—global investors are looking around the world. They’re looking for stability. They’re looking for growth in the workforce. They’re looking for workers that are well supported. They’re looking for a constructive political environment. That’s why they’re coming to Canada.
And I’ve sketched out a few ideas here this morning but let me connect the dots. The world is a tough place. Democracy is under threat. The old way of doing things isn’t going to work anymore. Things are changing fast. People are polarized. We are at an inflection point. People are anxious about the changes that lie ahead. We’ve got authoritarian states claiming that the reason democracy isn’t winning is because there’s a flaw in the theory of democracy. But we know that’s not true. But of all the things that erode democracy, the failings of the promise of progress has got to be the most pernicious. That people no longer believe that the next generation will do even better than this one, here at home or anywhere around the world.
Canada and the U.S., as robust democracies, as trading partners, as G-7 partners, as NATO allies, have a role to play in making sure that we are living up to that progress, to that promise—to that promise of progress we make to people all around the world when we talk about how our system works.
(Speaks in French.)
(Continues in English.) Canada has worked to demonstrate that when we strengthen the middle class we strengthen social cohesion, we reinforce faith in our democratic institutions at home, and engage with the world in consequential and positively impactful ways. And major global investors are looking around the world to where they can be part of that.
Canada will always be a reliable partner because the key is simple. Make sure you’re putting people first. As your president says, grow the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. Put people’s dignity, their rights, their environment, and their future at the center of what we do as policymakers, as businesspeople, as commentators, as champions of democracy and rules-based trade. That’s how we deliver on the promise of progress for everyone.
(Speaks in French.) (Applause.)
HAASS: Merci beaucoup.
TRUDEAU: Merci. (Laughter.) I know, I know. You’re working on your high school French, but—(laughter)—I’m speaking to Canadians at home too, and we do both.
HAASS: We’re about to make Spanglish the official language of the Council on Foreign Relations. (Laughter.) So not to worry.
First of all, thank you. The idea that democracies need to deliver in order for people to maintain their faith in democracy is a powerful message. Thank you for making it. I wanted to start with a different part of your speech, if I may. This will probably drive your staff crazy. I apologize. But you said the world’s a tough place. And we’re the Council on Foreign Relations, so I wanted to pick up on that. It is a tough place. And you mentioned a lot of the things at the beginning of your speech.
You’ve got in many ways a security—a deteriorating security environment. We see the aggression in Europe, something thirty years ago when Europe was proclaimed to be whole and free we were not expecting. You mentioned Ronald Reagan. We see the growth of Chinese power, much greater assertiveness abroad. We see the challenges in the Middle East. You mentioned global challenges.
So the question is, do—let’s talk about Canada’s response to this. There’s been some speculation or controversy about it, whether you think Canada’s response to a deteriorating security environment is adequate. And to the extent you don’t, what’s your thinking about what Canada needs to, again to use your phrase, meet the moment?
TRUDEAU: Hmm. We need to continue to invest more in defense, among many other things. I think that’s probably part of what you’re going at. The previous conservative government, for all its saber rattling in our country, managed to drop defense spending to below 1 percent of our GDP. And we have invested billions, including buying new fighter jets from the United States, investing billions in modernizing NORAD. And we’re going to continue to do that. There’s no question about that.
We are the sixth-largest defense budget in NATO. And whether it’s being active in training up the Ukraine defense forces since 2015, which is actually part of the story of why Ukraine is able to hold against a much larger Russian Army, is because NATO allies like Canada, the U.K., and others stepped up. We trained about 35,000 Ukrainian defense forces. We’re present in Latvia. We’re present around the world. Canada continues to step up, and we will. There’s no question about that. And we’re going to continue doing it in a responsible way.
HAASS: Well, let’s talk about the biggest immediate security challenge, which is Ukraine, what Russia’s doing there. Many of the countries, including the United States, have essentially said they will—their position is to support Ukraine for as long as it takes.
TRUDEAU: As long as it takes with as much as it takes, yeah, that’s what we say as well.
HAASS: And is that your position?
TRUDEAU: Yes, absolutely.
HAASS: So what is your view about the potential role of negotiations and diplomacy? Because to say “as long as it takes,” given Ukraine’s aims, is essentially to liberate all the taken territory going back to 1991, but the 2014 and the 2022 Russian aggressions. And is there a role, as you see it, for negotiations? Or is this simply a military policy, essentially, to liberate territory?
TRUDEAU: I think there’s two parts to that question. First of all, it’s not for us to decide what should be acceptable to Ukrainians. It’s up for them to decide. They need to decide, you know, when is enough, or when the conditions to negotiate, or what they’re willing to cede or what they’re willing to continue to fight and die to make sure that they hold. And our job is to be there so that they can be confident that they can choose the moment. Now, we know this doesn’t end militarily. This only ends with a political resolution of some sort. But Ukraine needs to be able to decide that, when that is, what it is that they’re willing to accept, and what it is they’re willing to continue to fight over. And we need to be there for them.
And it’s not just about Ukraine. This is the second part. This is what people are—actually, it is—it is great to see my conversations with—not just with thoughtful Council on Foreign Relations people, but ordinary people across our country and around the world get that this isn’t just about standing up for our Ukrainian friends. This is about standing up for the U.N. Charter, for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity that have led to close to eighty years of peace and stability not just in Europe, but everywhere around the world. The values and the principles that underpin all of our freedoms and our systems of democracy, and the right of people to choose what their future is, is what is being contested right now by Russia.
The idea that might could somehow make right once again. And it’s not just about Russia and Ukraine, obviously. Everywhere around the world authoritarian states that have a slightly bigger army than their neighbor are looking at that little patch of terrain across a river where they speak your language, or where there’s, you know, a few hundred years ago the British drew a line on the map that, you know, they felt was in the wrong place, and say: Well, what if we were to decide to redraw that map? Everywhere around the world, people are looking at Russia’s decision to invade Ukraine and saying: Hey, if that works out, maybe it can work out for me.
And that’s why the West in general, but countries around the world—142, or so, at the vote at the U.N. a number of months ago—stood up and said: No. What Russia is trying to do cannot succeed. It’s the wrong direction for our world. And they can’t redraw the lines on the map or resettle what the international rules-based order is. That’s why Ukraine matters. That’s why Ukraine matters in Africa, in Asia, in South America, and everywhere around the world. It’s not just, oh, war has come back to Europe and we all have to be worried about that. It’s the underpinning of our system that is being directly challenged by an authoritarian state that must not succeed. That’s why, as much as it takes, as long as it takes, until the folly and the mistake of Putin’s decision I clear for everyone.
HAASS: One of the 142 countries that didn’t stand up at the U.N. and say no is looking across a body of water. And that’s China looking at Taiwan. What is Canada’s position in terms of your willingness to signal China: You ought not to act coercively. We understand—we acknowledge your claims, but we do not—we’re not prepared to tolerate aggression against Taiwan. What are you prepared to do to deter or, if need be, defend against Chinese action there?
TRUDEAU: We’ve continued to do, like the U.S. and many allies, continued to engage with a military presence in the Pacific, demonstrating that we’re there to uphold the status quo. We recognize the One China Policy, but
we also recognize that there are no changes to the status quo. And we’re going to continue to engage with China in a way that is aligned with our values and the principles that underpin our democracy. And that means obviously recognizing that China has chosen to be an increasingly disruptive global power.
That there are things that we’re going to need to work with China on. A great example was COP-15 in Montreal, the nature COP, that we cohosted with China just in December, where we managed to put forward some really ambitious commitments to protect 30 percent of our land and 30 percent of our water around the world to protect biodiversity. So there’s ways we’re going to be able to work and need to work with China, particularly around the environment.
But we’re going to have to continue to challenge and compete with China on an economic level. And we are going to be contesting China on the issues of human rights, whether it’s in Xinjiang, or Hong Kong, or elsewhere. And abuses and challenges around the world, we’re going to continue to step up. So being—ignoring China is not an option for anyone. But being strategic, and thoughtful, and firm, and clear on how we engage with it is the path forward for all of us.
HAASS: And that extends to—so China understands that Canada would be prepared to oppose any aggression against Taiwan?
TRUDEAU: We will continue to stand for the principles of the rules-based order and international law.
HAASS: Let me talk about trade for a second. You mentioned the USMCA. What is your sense of how well this is going? And do you envision 3.0—if NAFTA was 1.0, and this is 2.0, in the back of your mind, or maybe in the front of your mind, do you have a sense of 3.0, where we need to take this going forward?
TRUDEAU: I think the natural extension of trade is understanding that trade is—trade is a mechanism. Trade is a way to create growth. But for a long time we all fussed around, you know, sign the trade deal, sign the trade deals, open the market access. And we didn’t think about what we were going to do with the benefits of that trade, or how we were going to ensure trade works. I think the USMCA is now—CUSMA, as we call it, or NAFTA as I seem to revert to all the time—is one of those deals that is going to demonstrate the benefits for citizens as we see job growth, as we see opportunities improve.
We should be competing with the world as a continent incredibly effectively. We should be demonstrating, and the IRA demonstrates well, that we can bring into this continent investments in technologies of the future. Canada, unlike other countries that are a little further from the United States, our level of integration into the American economy, the supply chains, the interoperability in the auto sector, to technologies, to minerals, to academics, means that, you know, what’s good for the United States ends up having positive spinoffs in Canada. I don’t like to think about a 3.0, because I think what we have right now is going to last a very, very long time.
HAASS: Is there any tension between a Canada, as you described it, that is signing more trade agreements than anyone, and a United States that essentially is out of the business of signing trade agreements? We’ve become more protectionist, industrial planners, what have you. You’ve clearly embraced free trade, or a version of it with fairness. Do you worry that that means that these two integrated economies in some ways now are on slightly different trajectories?
TRUDEAU: Not particularly. The United States has always been a big enough market unto itself to be able to not have to worry too much about trade. Trade is good. Trade is a bonus. Trade should happen. Canada has always had far too many resources of the number of people that we have. So we’ve always needed to look to trade. So that has been a part of our makeup, and part of our respective identities for a very, very long time. And we’ve ended up working it out in very complementary ways, where Canada can be more open to the world and the U.S. perfectly happy chugging along doing its own thing, for the most part. (Laughter.)
And we—you know, you can’t be Canadian without being aware of the U.S., because the scale is so much bigger, right? (Laughter.) I mean, that’s just—so as soon as you’re aware of one other country, you’re easy to be aware of all other countries. Americans do just fine being very aware of America. (Laughter.) And, you know, you have the size that backs it up. So there’s always going to be that slight—that slight misalignment. But, you know, we make it work for us. And, you know.
HAASS: You should go into politics. (Laughter.) Good. That’s good. I want to—and my part of this, with coming back to—circle back to where you began, talking about democracies under pressure. I just have two questions. One is about Canada. You emphasized the importance essentially of the Canadian economy delivering. Some people got up, and they saw that their lives and most likely their children’s lives would improve.
What, though, if anything, needs to be done politically in Canada? Just say that were to happen, does that ensure that Canadian democracy endures in a thriving way? Or are there any structural problems in Canada? We were talking before about education, for example, and what is or is not being taught in schools. Essentially, will economic performance alone get Canadian democracy where it needs to be later this century? Or does Canada also have to in some ways tend to its democracy in a more narrow political educational sense?
TRUDEAU: Like all democracies, Canada didn’t happen by accident and it won’t continue without effort. You have to tend to your democracy. People have to understand their responsibilities as citizens to be part of it. And, yes, education, and civic education, is really important. But fundamentally it’s about confidence in community, confidence in institutions. We went through that with the pandemic, right? In Canada, we were able to deliver income supports extremely quickly, so people who lost their jobs in the beginning of the pandemic because of the pandemic had to stay home and didn’t even miss a paycheck. And we gave, you know, really big supports to small businesses as well.
And that was important because our bounce-back was six months faster than the United States in terms of return to full employment. But it was also really important because when people have confidence that their institutions are working, that we’re able to say, yes, stay home and we’ll cover your paycheck so you can stay home and be safe, that level of confidence spreads to other areas as well. People were confident in our public health authorities saying, you know, wear masks, stay home, be careful. When it came time to get vaccinated, we got double vaccinated to close to 90 percent. Which is why we had proportionately far, far fewer deaths than most of our other comparable countries.
And it’s because the confidence in our institutions held. And outside of pandemic times, that’s what has to happen as well. People have to know that the social contract is there, that if they continue to pay their taxes, and support, and vote, and behave in constructive ways that contribute to their community, their community will in turn ensure a better future for themselves, and a path to retirement, opportunities for their kids, clean air, fresh air, a protected environment, opportunities to work hard and contribute. All these things that are the deal that go with democracies, with strong, stable societies.
So it’s not just about education. It’s about a sense of community, a sense of being there for each other, of being a part of something larger. And the anger and the polarization that is popping up in populism around the world, including in Canada, of saying just everything’s broken, for example. We just need to take down our institutions, and start again, and make sure we’re including people who weren’t—well, nobody’s going to want to tear something down unless they feel that it really isn’t working. And demonstrating—that’s why I was talking about the promise of progress. Demonstrating that there is, despite all the uncertainty—war, and pandemics, and climate change—there is a good path forward. There is opportunity for everyone. Good, middle-class jobs, even in an AI, offshore world. These are the things that we have to build democracy on. This is why it’s under threat.
I mean, there’s a town in southern Ontario, part of our auto sector, called St. Thomas, that lost the Ford plant in 2010. That was on a string of rust belt losses, that you guys know all too well in the United States, as manufacturers left. And jobs that contributed to a strong, middle-class lifestyle, companies that sponsored the local little league games or hockey tournaments, jobs that were the backbone of all the restaurants, and farms and suppliers around, that created strong communities, started disappearing. And there’s a real understanding by people who, you know, used to be able to take pride in working hard, long hours, in gritty, blue-collar jobs, that could feed for their family—feed their family and build their community, suddenly that doesn’t happen anymore.
Well, in St. Thomas, Ontario Volkswagen has just decided that they are building the very first of their battery manufacturing plants outside of Europe right there. And I had a long conversation with the folks at Volkswagen when they were making that decision. And, yes, we had to put up enough money to match the IRA. And I’ll be honest, there are places in the United States that were putting up way, way more money than what we put on the table to try and get that gigafactory, million batteries a year, to come to their communities. And ultimately, Volkswagen said: OK, we’re showing up with a plant that’s not going to be there for five years, or ten years. It’s going to be there for fifty years, maybe even more. We need to invest in a community that is going to be investing in itself and in that future.
And that’s where, for all the money that we were able, or others were able, to put on the table, the decision came down to: OK, this is a place where the electricity grid is already clean. That’s what our customers want. Where the workers have childcare, and health care, and dental care, live in strong, growing communities that keep growing because we’re welcoming immigrants from around the world at a time of labor shortage. People are optimistic and forward looking. The best educated country in the OECD, highest education levels. World-class universities churning out STEM grads by the tens of thousands. We have—we have all the resources above ground, and we have resources—lithium and critical minerals. We have partnerships with indigenous peoples that we’re going to be able to deliver into those supply chains in a resilient way, so you’re not dependent on places around the world.
Volkswagen made the decision to come to Canada because over the past eight years we’ve been working on environmental standards, including putting a price on pollution. We’ve been working on partnerships with indigenous peoples to get those trusts rebuilt and those projects built for the benefit of everyone. And we’ve been investing in a middle class, not ginning up anger, telling them everything is broken, and you need to burn it down. We’ve been delivering childcare, and a family benefit that gives hundreds of dollars a month tax free to low-income and middle-income families. Supports for our seniors—the kinds of things that ensure that people are confident and optimistic about the future.
So, yes, right now the pandemic’s tough and people are, you know, ground down by inflation and high interest rates. But people in St. Thomas and right across the country are seeing that Canada is one of those places—whether it’s steelmaking, or lithium mines, or AI, or quantum—there’s room for people to see their success in an uncertain world. And having people be optimistic about there is room for them in the future is what you need to underpin democracy at home and everywhere around the world. And that’s what we’re working on.
HAASS: Last question from me, which is—(applause). I’d like to get your views on another democracy, the one to your south, which is, given how important the United—
TRUDEAU: Mexico. (Laughter.)
HAASS: Given how important the United States is to Canada, given what you just said, are you worried in any way about the future of this country, for what it might mean for yours?
TRUDEAU: Obviously. You know, the level of interconnectedness and interdependence. But also, we’re worried for you guys as a friend. (Laughter.) You know? You guys are the greatest democracy in the world.
And right now, it’s not just that it’s being taken for granted by so many of your citizens, it’s actually being devalued to a certain extent. That’s not people’s fault. I mean, the same forces are happening in Canada and elsewhere. It’s that too many people feel the system is rigged against them.
And in politics, and the political choice that is running rampant around all of our democracies—and in Canada we have the same thing—political parties who know people are anxious and angry and say, wow, I can just reflect that back at them and they’ll feel heard, and they’ll support me. Because amplifying anger is a very effective short-term mobilization policy—strategy for politics, or tactic even for politics.
The tougher challenge is to figure out how to roll up your sleeves and solve it. And say, well, how do we address that? And that’s the choice that your current president, President Biden, is trying to focus on. And it’s a really, really tough thing to propose the earnest hard work of fixing something in incremental, complicated, difficult steps, as opposed to, hey, let’s just snap our fingers and light a fire, burn things down. But the level of confidence I have in people’s ability to do it is not, you know, pie-eyed optimism. It’s an understanding of what Canadians and Americans have accomplished over the past decades and centuries, through incredibly difficult circumstances.
Our citizens have always been able to roll up their sleeves, work hard, and build a better future. They just need governments, and business leaders, and community leaders that are giving them the opportunity to do that. The problem with our countries and our democracies right now isn’t that people, you know, are being worked too hard, it’s that they’re not being asked to work enough, and smart enough, and well enough to actually contribute. When people are having to take gig jobs, people are having to work three or four jobs to try and make ends meet, and they’re underpaid in each one of them. When they’re not feeling that their contributions are valued or even valuable, that’s where the system breaks down.
You need to—we need to be drawing on everyone’s capacity to roll up their sleeves and solve this problem head on and be part of the solution. That’s how we fix it. That’s what we’re trying to do in terms of including everyone in the path forward.
HAASS: Let’s get a question from here in New York. We don’t have too much time. Just let us know who you are. Remember, it’s on the record. Yes, ma’am.
Q: Hi. Kate Kroeger from Urgent Action Fund.
You’ve spoken about Canada’s leadership role and taking consequential policy stands. And one thing Canada has done, which has been excellent, is to commitment to a feminist foreign policy. And I’m curious if you could talk a little bit more about that, and also say something about when you might be releasing the policy guidance to—within the government of Canada, so that they can go forward and implement what could be a very constructive leadership role.
TRUDEAU: Yeah. Thank you. A few years ago we moved forward with a feminist foreign assistance policy, humanitarian aid policy, development policy. It was grounded in recognition that a lot of the heavy lifting out there around the world on building stronger communities, on defending democracy, on standing up for rights, on creating prosperity, was being done by women. And the best way to change the world was actually to support women specifically and directly. And, you know, there are lots of very big aid organizations that do a good job reaching out to all sorts of different structures. But we decided to actually take, in addition to the work we do through the traditional means, to specifically target grassroots women’s organizations around the world.
And actually, yesterday I made a—we made an announcement that we were extending and expanding a program called Women’s Voice and Leadership in our humanitarian aid, with about $195 million over the next five years, and money ongoing. Because it gives to women’s rights organizations around the world what they’ve been asking for. Which is core funding, not project-based funding, that is flexible e
enough for the
And we let them and allow them with that money to do the things that they need to do, whatever it is they are. We’re not telling, OK, this is the project we approve, or anything. It’s, like, what do you need to do.
And the impact of those projects around the world has been exceptional. When we change the paradigm and actually empower women to shape their communities, to defend their democracies, everything starts to change. I mean, I can go into examples of Sudan and where that breakdown is all part of it. We had our ambassador for women, peace and security yesterday talking about that. These are the things we need to really focus on doing. And there’s obviously more to do, and we’re going to keep doing it. But getting more countries around the world to do that as well is one of those strongest levers for making a difference in the trajectory of our communities around the world.
HAASS: Let’s get a quick question from Zoom-land.
OPERATOR: We will take our next question from Adam Silverschotz.
Q: Thank you, Prime Minister.
You spoke about the Volkswagen plant. I’d love if you could just expand a little bit more broadly your EV strategy and critical minerals strategy both at home and abroad. I think a couple days ago Canada’s only rare earth mine facility shuttered operations because of lack of economic viability. So would love to understand kind of your domestic industrial policy perspective there. And then from a foreign policy standpoint related to this area, Africa is clearly an area of a lot of proxy involvement from China and from the West. A lot of rare earth or critical mineral capacity there. So how do you think about Canada’s role in engaging on that front as well? Thank you.
TRUDEAU: Oh, excellent. A few years ago Canada was ranked sixth in the world in terms of battery supply chains. As of last year, we were second in the world, only to China, in terms of battery supply chains. We made a very, very deliberate choice to invest in—Canada does mining well. We also do a lot of things well. (Laughter.) But recognizing that we have—
HAASS: Baseball, even.
TRUDEAU: —we have significant sources of lithium in Canada. And right now, through very strategic choices made by China over the past decades, almost all the lithium in the world, used in all of our cellphones, all our electric vehicles, comes through China. Not necessarily mined in China but processed in China. And if the pandemic taught us anything it’s, you know, resilience, redundance, and reliability in our supply chains, particularly for something that’s going to be so core to our future, is going to be really important.
If we’re being honest, and I’m always going to be honest, the lithium produced in Canada is going to be more expensive because we don’t use slave labor, because we put forward environmental responsibility as something we actually expect to be abided by, because we count on working with—in partnership with indigenous peoples, paying fair living wages, expecting security and safety standards. What the world needs to decide, and are still in the process of deciding, is whether or not we’re actually going to value the things we value throughout our supply chains. We wouldn’t expect someone to be able to open up a company upstream from our towns and dump effluent into the river here. Why do we accept that we pay for goods that come from companies that do the exact same thing on the other side of the world?
If we want democracies to win, our values to win, we have to understand that the problem following the fall of the Berlin Wall was not that there was something wrong with our democracies. It’s that it wasn’t—we weren’t holding true to our values the whole way through the supply chains. We were counting on cheap oil and cheap
goods from parts of the world that do not abide by the goals that we have for ourselves and our communities. And that’s the process that’s turning around.
That’s why Volkswagen chose to come. That’s where Michelin is continuing to invest in Nova Scotia. That’s where Rio Tinto is making huge bets on hydrogen processing in our iron ore facilities. This is why companies like Stellantis, and Ford, and GM are coming back to Canada in a big way, because they see that that reliability and that quality through the supply chains is a key part of where we’re moving forward. And there are going to be bumps along the way, as you pointed out with Vital Metals. But we’re on the right track. And this is the track the world is increasingly demanding. And I think we just got a bit of a head start in Canada.
HAASS: It’s 9:15. I think you’ve got a hard stop. I apologize. I know there’s lots of hands. I apologize we couldn’t get to more questions. The prime minister made clear that Canada was second in the world now in battery supply chains. I want to make it official that it’s always second in the world on socks on this platform today. (Laughter, applause.) And not the first time the prime minister’s been here at the Council. It’s always a real treat and an honor to have him. And we look forward to it again in the future. Thank you, sir
TRUDEAU: Thank you, Richard. (Applause.)
This is an uncorrected transcript.