10/23/2015 08:18 EDT | Updated 10/23/2016 05:12 EDT

What Trudeau's First 100 Days on the World Stage Will Look Like


A day after securing a decisive Liberal majority government, Justin Trudeau had a message for Canada's friends around the world: "We're back."

What will he face in his first 100 days? What is certain, he will have a busy first month abroad as he will be attending the G20 Summit in Turkey, followed a few days later by the APEC Summit in the Philippines and a major UN climate conference in Paris soon after. Indeed, on foreign policy, the new prime minister will have plenty of opportunities to mark Canada's return to the world.

To begin with, Justin Trudeau will have to select a foreign affairs minister who has an understanding and appreciation of Canada's role in the world. Indeed, the PM-designate has indicated an intent to establish a Cabinet by Nov. 4. The prospective candidates that stand out for the foreign affairs top job are Marc Garneau, who served as the Liberal foreign affairs critic, Chrystia Freeland, who is well-versed on international issues, and Andrew Leslie, the retired Canadian Forces lieutenant general who has also recently served on Trudeau's international affairs advisory council. Once Trudeau selects his foreign minister, he will have to shift his attention on strengthening Canada's diplomatic corps and reverse the decreasing morale and negative programmatic effects that budget cuts have had to that department under the Harper government in the last decade.

In reconfirming Canada's indispensable partnership with the United States, Justin Trudeau has already spoken by phone with U.S. President Barack Obama. They reportedly discussed Canada's role in the fight against ISIS, climate change as well as the Keystone XL pipeline. Trudeau campaigned on a promise to deepen the relationship with Washington, one that had been downgraded over the years from that of BFFs to a businesslike relationship, notably due to Harper's aggressive lobbying efforts in support of Keystone XL.

Interestingly, there has not been a left of centre head of government in both countries since the 1990s when Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and President Bill Clinton were in office. It goes without saying that leaders with similar political stripes have a tendency to find common cause more easily. It is very likely that the new prime minister will meet with President Obama on the margins of the G20 summit in a few weeks and have an opportunity to hit it off. In reflecting the importance of the cross-border partnership, Trudeau should plan a visit to Washington in his first hundred days as his first bilateral trip oversees.

At APEC, leaders from the other signatories of the Trans-Pacific Partnership will be curious as to whether the new prime minister will ratify it, which Trudeau is likely to do. On climate change, Trudeau will be in Paris for the climate conference. While Canada's position at the conference will be determined in the coming weeks, Trudeau has pledged to combat climate change and reduce Canada's carbon emissions.

It is likely that Trudeau's promise to refocus Canada's mission against ISIS will begin to take shape in the early months of his government. In efforts to maximize Canada's contributions, the PM-designate has pledged to maintain Canada's military participation but to end its combat mission. In doing so, Trudeau will pull Canadian fighter jets from the skies over Iraq and Syria and has committed to increasing Canada's humanitarian and advisory role by assisting in the training of local security forces. On the migration crisis, in recognizing the dire situation in the region, Trudeau has pledged to welcome 25,000 Syrian refugees by Jan.1 -- hopefully a first among many steps in the right direction.

In his first 100 days, Prime Minister Trudeau will also have an opportunity to initiate the restoration of diplomatic ties with Iran, particularly if the UN nuclear watchdog's mid-December report confirms that Iran has implemented key steps under the historic nuclear agreement that was signed with world powers last summer. To be sure, this would be consistent with Canada's NATO and G7 partners who are working to develop stronger ties with Iran. By re-establishing diplomatic ties, Canada will have the ability to engage the Iranian government on issues such as human rights and countering violent extremism, particularly in the fight against ISIS. Pursuing ties with Tehran could also position Canadian companies to seek business opportunities once sanctions begin to lift. What is more, re-engaging Iran would facilitate the sizeable Iranian Canadian community's ability to maintain links with their motherland.

To be sure, the new prime minister will have ample opportunities in his first 100 days to signal Canada's shift in its foreign relations and reclaim its rightful place as a valuable contributor to a more peaceful and prosperous world.

The views here are solely those of the author.


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