Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Another Cabinet Shuffle

I didn't see this one coming. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty is taking over Foreign Affairs from Peter McKay:
Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, in China to boost trade ties and mend fences amid a string of diplomatic spats with Beijing, said Wednesday he still plans to raise human rights concerns during his talks with Chinese officials.

Mr. Flaherty said it was his “duty to be frank” about Canada's concerns and that he would to raise the issue of Huseyin Celil, a Chinese-Canadian being held in a Chinese jail for alleged terrorism links.

“We raise issues that we believe are important to Canadians,” Mr. Flaherty said. “We believe in protecting the rights of Canadians around the world.”

With all due respect, why is Flaherty even speaking on this file? It is especially confusing, given who he meeting:
during meetings with his Chinese counterpart, Jin Renqing, and with the governor of the People's Bank of China, Zhou Xiaochuan.

Mr. Flaherty was also scheduled to meet with China's top insurance regulator, as well as banking and securities regulators and officials from its state planning agency, the National Development and Reform Commission.

If you want to tackle human rights issues, then bankers and the insurance industry are clearly the place to start? Huh? What exactly can Flaherty accomplish, except to further alienate? I thought Emerson's visit was primarily an exercise to thaw relations, now you have Flaherty spouting off to officials, that have no practical influence.

If Canada wants to raise human rights issues, then McKay and Harper should take the lead, either directly or indirectly. Canada doesn't need a Finance Minister shooting his mouth off to state planners. This area isn't part of Flaherty's portfolio, and the fact he feels it necessary to publicly chastize the Chinese lends credence to the view that he isn't well schooled in diplomacy. I'm sure the bankers will heed Flaherty's stern words.


Anonymous said...

No surprise here as Mackay is incompetent and not respected by the Chinese.
So along comes Jim.
Or is it Jean (Chretien)?

Scotian said...

Just when I think they finally might start seeing how one is supposed to handle the Chinese. I may not be surprised by this but I admit to being saddened. Publicly China will not give much indication it is peeved with this sort of grandstanding, no they will take it out on us quietly where it really hurts in terms of market access and further credence. Which when considering our fairly strong many decades old ties to China, one of the few Western nations to have reasonably good relations with them is no small issue in my book.

China is on the way to rivaling the American position as the global superpower or at the minimum becoming one in her own right among others over the next several decades. This is a given barring some fairly major catastrophic event drastically changing the entire global society/framework. It is important for us as a middle power to maintain our good relations with them and try to work with them as much as possible even when we have some fairly serious disagreements. It is one thing for the Foreign Minister or a special envoy to patch things up to be making such comments, let alone announcing the intent publicly prior. It is quite another for the Finance Minister to be doing so, especially on a file that is clearly the jurisdiction of the Foreign Minister and the PMO. When you add in who it is being told to this is as you say Steve confusing indeed. It really does have the appearance of saying that MacKay has done such a poor job that another senior Minister, in this case the Finance Minister must take it up but instead of with the foreign ministry of China he is going to talk to the bankers about getting a prisoner released?!?

Got to love the way this government loves to showboat its foreign actions defending Canadian and human rights regardless of how it plays with the country being targeted especially China (I haven't forgotten Jason Kenney's grandstanding back during the Martin minority). I sometimes think we are seeing so much of this not so much to pander to the Chinese Canadian community and some hard anti-Communist elements in the CPC base but more to be able to counter their minimal ability to do so on the domestic front. There the record for the CPC on defending Canadian/human rights is far less attractive, but compared to China what the CPC record is and would do is mild so they love to score points off the Chinese to make themselves look good. I really hope though that this fear/suspicion I sometimes get is not really at the heart of this government's/party's conduct, because if it is what that says about their foreign policy understanding of the world we live in and are evolving into is frightening indeed. If so then it yet again illustrates the need for this government to die a hard and sure death when the next election occurs. This sort of thing on top of everything else is doing damage in an environment where it takes decades to build a reputation and sometimes only hours/days to destroy it. Not the way to handle Canada's foreign policy IMHO.

Susan said...

Harper was probably stung by Chretien's comments at the convention about appropriate ways to handle the human rights issue with the Chinese, and since Mr. H.'s method failed to free the prisoner, Flaherty thought he would show us that they were still going to go ahead with their way of doing things - so there - the foot in mouth way. When are they going to bring up the US treatment of the prisoners at Guantanamo, and elsewhere, with Mr. Bush?

Anonymous said...

Compare this to the handling of Lebanan, where Canadians died in an attack on a soverign nation. Harpor gave very little comfort to those friends of the family that died, but made sure to spout the American response to the whole mess.
Now we've got the finance minister bringing his lucky charms and gift of blarney to China, maybe put an ol' Mike Harris headlock on their minister just to show we mean business.
If this isn't the gang who couldn't shoot straight, someone call the cops!