Author Topic: Harper goes one-on-one with QMI  (Read 1276 times)

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Harper goes one-on-one with QMI
« on: June 25, 2010, 11:07:16 »
Harper goes one-on-one with QMI
By DAVID AKIN, National Bureau Chief
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Prime Minister Stephen Harper interviewed by Sun Media National Bureau Chief David Akin, June 22, 2010, in Harper's office in Langevin Block on Parliament Hill.

AKIN: I wanted to begin with some broader foreign policy stuff. I had a chat with [former Foreign Affairs deputy minister] Peter Harder the other day and it was his impression - probably mine, too - that when you and the Conservatives took office, you might have been skeptical of the value of summits. And Peter actually found you - and this is his phrase - “incurious” about the world but, as he watched you, he found you engaged in summits and that you’d become a master of whatever happens at these summits and you now see a value about them.

HARPER: My observation would be that, generally, opposition parties are almost exclusively concerned with domestic policy. I think if you look around the globe, David, that’s what you’ll find. And then when you become government, foreign policy becomes a much bigger part of your reality. I would say the one thing that has really struck me in the last four years has been the degree to which everything is international. There are just so many important issues . Economy - the biggest one - climate change, you just go through the list, even sport with Canada hosting the Olympics. Everything now has such important international dimensions. The economy especially. There’s lots we’re doing in Canada to improve the relative performance of the Canadian economy. And we talk about how we’re doing better than the Americans or better than other Western developed economies but nevertheless the trajectory of our economy is still determined by what’s happening globally because we’re in a global economy.

So that would be my biggest observation. The military is another thing - Afghanistan, our defence and military policies are all part of an international system. So we really are in a global world. There’s not much that can’t be done without reference to foreign policy - especially in Canada - without reference to the United States because obviously we’re in a very integrated economy.

AKIN: But there’s no playbook for a PM. You don’t get a manual when you take the job. You have to learn how negotiate these summits.

HARPER: No, you don’t. And I would qualify what Peter said there. I think the truth is, yeah, some summits have really caught my interest and really engaged me but more so than others. Some summits are much more useful than others.

AKIN: You were saying yesterday the G8 was the one you found particularly valuable.

HARPER: I’m not going to get into which ones are and which ones aren’t but some summits are ... I know, for instance, that (U.S.) President (Barack) Obama has had a frustration that he’d like a more flexible approach to summits. You may notice he called a nuclear summit. He wants to call a summit on a particular topic as opposed to just doing an annual circuit of summits. Some of the annual circuit of summits are less productive than they should be. So I think that’s the challenge. There’s two things you do at summits. One is: You have summit meetings. The summit meeting itself is the reason you’re there. But even at summits that are sometimes less useful, you sometimes get more use out of it by having important bilateral meetings that you might not have a chance to do at other times. And really, a lot of these bilateral meetings can replace a lot of travel. People will say, well, Harper hasn’t been to this country this many times but the truth is I may have met the leader numerous times in the course of my prime ministership.

I’m not much for just the diplomatic game but at these summits, often, a lot of real business is done.

AKIN: The big defining mission for Canada’s foreign policy for the last decade has been Afghanistan. And we’re going to see a change on that. I wonder if you have some thoughts on what’s going to be the defining mission for the next decade.

HARPER: Obviously for Canada, the Afghan mission has been pretty important. For the country’s military, for its self-image. I would say, though, that the most important development for all countries in the last decade has been what’s happened in the last two years, and that’s the development of the G20 as the world’s principal economic forum. Because what we’ve learned - and I’ve said this before - as a Conservative, I’m a big advocate of a market economy. But we do know from history that markets, even free markets, require some form of governance to avoid instability. And essentially we were part, until very recently, of an almost completely ungoverned international economy. And we see through the contagion of the banking sector the problem that got us into. So now there has developed, through the G20, a semblance of global governance. And that is a very important development. And the challenge of this summit and those going forward will be whether that global governance can continue to take form and demonstrate co-ordinated action, demonstrate solidarity, not just at time of crisis but in times of recovery and even times of growth.

AKIN: Thinking about non-economic issues, what about the Arctic? You’re going to have some resources freed up diplomatically, militarily that will be freed up for something you’ve made a big priority in your four years in office.

HARPER: Canada’s northern sovereignty is a big part of this government’s mission. It’s something that Canadians as a whole have responded to. That isn’t all. Some of that’s an international issue. We’re on the Arctic Council. We have the Arctic coastal states. We do these kinds of forums. We do co-operative military exercises with some of our allies. That said, there’s a lot we have to do as a country in terms of social policy, environmental policy, even defence policy to really assert our sovereignty in the Arctic.

AKIN: China’s building icebreakers. They think they have a claim up there.

HARPER: Yeah, that’s an interesting development because it’s not an Arctic nation, is it?

AKIN: Do you and President Hu (Jintao of China) - does this come up at all, Arctic stuff, in your meetings?

HARPER: It certainly comes up between our governments. We’re watching these developments very carefully. China is increasingly an important partner of Canada in the economic realm. In other realms, we and other Western countries are still not that close to China, so we watch some of these other developments very carefully.

AKIN: Swinging back to the economy: As you look around the world from a regional standpoint, are there some regions that are a bit more of a concern than others right now?
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