Diplomatic faux pas
Diplomacy is an art. At least that is how I interpret news about trade negotiations, foreign delegations and international visits.
Belgian King Philippe and Queen Mathilde, as well as a delegation of ministers and business leaders, are in Canada for a week-long tour, stopping in Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. This is the first royal visit from Belgium in over 40 years.
It started off with a flag faux pas. A German flag, which is very similar to the Belgian flag, was mistakenly put up then quickly taken down at a tree planting with the royals. (I’m sure my Belgian-immigrant grandfather will have something to say about that.)
The royal visit is important, especially because Belgium is a member of the Canadian-European Trade Agreement (CETA) working to ratify the agreement. The trade deal is one that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau championed himself, in light of ongoing NAFTA negotiations.
Trudeau is noticeably absent from the itinerary of the royal visit. Instead, he is on an important tour of Canadian aluminium and steel facilities. However, I think Trudeau could have used the visit to solidify trade deals with the Belgians. It’s an about-face to his previous visits with royalty and world leaders on home soil and abroad. And one that is a surprise after his (bumpy) visit to India.
Trudeau shouldn’t “snub” such an ally, nor should he ignore an opportunity to solidify trade deals, especially with NAFTA being so rocky.
Putting Canada first
This week Justin Trudeau is being criticized for “snubbing” the Belgian royals and their business delegates.
While it’s true it would probably have been a nice gesture on the prime minister’s part, I don’t think it’s necessary, and here’s why.
First, it’s not like he left the foreign dignitaries out in the cold. Governor General Julie Payette is the official host. She represents the monarchy and she’s hosting foreign royals. Right, that makes sense.
The Belgian delegation also met with numerous Canadian cabinet ministers, including International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne. For those who say Trudeau needs to forge strong bonds in the face of CETA and free trade deals, isn’t this the best option? Have Canada’s official representative for international trade meet with foreign dignitaries to have intelligent and informed negotiations.
Finally, it’s not like Trudeau is off on vacation totally ignoring his duties. The reason he’s not available to meet the Belgian royals is that he’s taking care of his country.
He’s touring steel and aluminum facilities in Ontario and Quebec, which are voicing opposition to the potential U.S. tariffs on their products. He couldn’t have planned that trip for another date. President Donald Trump made the 25% tariff announcement last week.
Damage control doesn’t wait until after royal visits.
I think Justin Trudeau is in the right place at the right time.