Why choose Canada over China for battery supply, according to Trudeau
Plus, more committee discussions on research partnered with China.
Hello, China watchers!
This week, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had a fireside chat at the annual conference of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) in Toronto. During his conversation with Flavio Volpe, the president of APMA, they delved into several crucial topics regarding Canada's role in the global electric vehicle supply chain. As someone who closely follows China, Trudeau's pitch for Canada as a dependable, alternative battery supplier as opposed to China caught my attention. But how does Canada compete with a cost-effective supplier like China? Trudeau gave us three reasons: reliability, environmental friendliness and workers' ethics.
“But people are starting to understand that pure lowest-cost production is not all it’s cracked up to be. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, as shown what happened when Europe got overly reliant on cheaper, easy energy coming in from Russia. They became highly dependent on oil and gas from Russia in a way that when Russia showed its true colours or decided to make that horrific mistake it did in invading Ukraine. It's costing them an awful lot to try and lurch and create more reliable supply chains. And we know that China is a big and important part of the global economy, but having a nearly 100 per cent reliance on China, for our batteries of the future for our green economy and our technological advancements is not a wise choice for any country to make or even any company to make. So when Canada stands up and says: A, we are a reliable partner that will never weaponize our economic resources against an ally; B, we're going to do things in environmentally responsible ways and generate the technologies that allow us to be cutting-edge environmentally responsible because that's what consumers are asking for more and more around the world; C, we're going to build strong livable communities for workers make sure the union wages or their equivalent are part of our offering with good health. Care with opportunities for advancement and education and strong livable communities. Those are three advantages that a lot of countries around the world simply cannot offer anymore.”
It’s worth noting that both Trudeau and Volpe acknowledged that the realization of Canada’s EV ambition is a long-term goal, China expected to maintain its dominance in the industry "for the foreseeable future."
The full video is here.
Province; funding; Screening; Country-agnostic list
I wanted to do something different this week for our parliamentary committee notes section. I will summarize the themes or issues that baffled all the MPs on the committee, with more background and context.
Province or federal? Many, including Canadians, often mistakenly assume that Canadian federalism closely resembles that of the United States. I remember learning about this distinction in one of my early journalism lectures. In Canada, provincial powers are generously interpreted, giving them a substantial role in the balance of power. The United States, however, has moved in the opposite direction while the constitutional plan was one of states’ rights, the result has been a strong, central government. Canada’s more parallel hierarchy between local and federal governments makes their collaboration an ever-interesting topic.
Last week, we touched on a question raised during the Science and Research Committee meeting by former provincial politician Lena Diab, who inquired about plausible collaborations between provinces and the federal government to address the China issue. This week, the committee carried on with its probe into federal grants for China-related university projects, and the committee members delved further into the potential for provincial-federal collaborations to address this challenge.
MPs proposed a list and screening process to protect Canadian intellectual properties. Specifically, Richard Cannings asked: “So this is something where you see the federal government providing some of that capacity because some provinces may say we can't check all these things that are going on in our universities. Would that be a role the federal government could play as long as the provinces agreed on that list and those guidelines?” From Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa: “I think that would be a very good place to start. Having come from the world of federal-provincial relations, I know that those things can drag on. And so I would hope that those consultations would be held in a very speedy manner that conveys the level of urgency that we all have to these questions.”
More from McCuaig-Johnston: “...I would like to see the provinces being at the table every step of the way. Be part of the decision-making in terms of what's communicated to universities, but beyond the provisions that are stipulated around the spending of federal research dollars, virtually everything else is provincial. And so it's going to be important that the provinces relay lists and really directions to universities, in terms of which companies not to partner with, for example, and give additional help to university researchers.”
More on that list and should it be agnostic? Last week, the committee heard from Cherrie Wong who insisted on a country-agnostic list that’s not solely focused on China. This week, two witnesses who testified disagreed with that approach. Again from McCuaig-Johnston: “So I'm not in the camp of being agnostic…and making researchers go through this process for every single country in the world. I also have a concern on the registry that may be what it's going to look like. I think we should be focusing on those countries that are a problem and that we know are a problem and that's documented and China's certainly number one and number two and three and four.”
Jeffrey Stoff, before he was cut off by MP Michelle Rempel Garner, also argued against an agnostic approach to the list: “...I disagree with the notion that we should be country agnostic, because of China's apparatus that it's established with state-mandated directives to acquire know-how and transfer it and commercialize it and weaponize it.”
We need more funding: Many provincial governments have reduced core funding for universities across Canada. Consequently, these institutions have become increasingly dependent on international student fees and research funding to sustain themselves. Philip Landon, Interim President and Chief Operating Officer at Universities Canada called for increased funding to protect our research from being susceptible to Beijing. “I think absolutely. We need to increase the funding that is available to Canadian researchers. I don't believe that we need to reduce the international collaborations…I think it's very important that we maintain the advantage And I think it's a very important advantage to Canada…And so if you were talking to a researcher in a university in Canada, who is struggling to find enough funding for their research, are struggling to find a student that has research funding attached to them, because the researcher may not. And China is an obvious solution to that for some researchers. This could help if we funded our students properly and if we funded our researchers”
Refugee; Chinese media; Investments; AIIB
Chinese dissident in Canada: Lu Yuyu, a former Chinese activist blogger who was once jailed for documenting social unrest in China, has fled to Alberta, Canada and has been granted permanent residency. He arrived in Calgary after a journey through Laos and Thailand. Lu, known for posting online tallies of protests and demonstrations in China, was detained in 2016 along with his then-girlfriend Li Tingyu. This move is part of a trend of dissidents seeking refuge abroad due to increasing political restrictions in China under President Xi Jinping. Xi's regime has cracked down not only on overt dissent but also on activists and civil society groups.
Canada in Chinese media: An op-ed in the Global Times, the Chinese Communist Party's flagship newspaper, harshly criticized Canada for the recent tribute to a Nazi veteran at the parliament. Titled Fooling with history, Canada turns itself into a laughingstock, the piece ridicules Canada and says the decision of inviting a Nazi veteran shows a lack of historical context and critical thinking. The Chinese media has been trolling Canada for not only the Nazi scandal but Ottawa’s recent diplomatic fallout with India.
Investment in China: Evan Siddall, CEO of the Alberta Investment Management Corp. (AIMCo) discussed the intricacies of investing in China during a Canadian Club Toronto event. After giving a speech, the $158-billion pension and endowment manager sat down with Sabrina Maddeaux from The National Post and touched upon various topics, including the future of investment in China. Siddall said that China in particular can be a problem in terms of the rule of law and transparency, it’s a market that's “cheap and growing.” “And so my guess is what we'll probably do is position ourselves in economies around that market that can participate in the growth but don't have some of the reasons.” Siddall also said the market could be a good place with some “unconventional opportunities.” AIMCo has currently minimal investment in China according to Siddall. In its recent expansion into Asia, the organization opted for Singapore as its destination, deliberately steering clear of China. The full conversation is here.
AIIB: During a meeting in Frankfurt with China's Vice-Premier He Lifeng, German Finance Minister Christian Lindner pledged to continue supporting the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), which ranks as the world's second-largest multilateral development bank after the World Bank. Germany’s decision comes despite the Canadian government’s decision to suspend its ties with the AIIB following allegations of "communist dominance" made by a former Canadian executive at the bank. As one of the AIIB's founding members, Germany expressed its commitment to strengthening cooperation with Beijing on AIIB-related matters.
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