Thank you very much for telling me.
First, I'd like to begin with what I think are the four eye-openers for Canadians in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic; second, I'd like to talk about lessons for Canada; and third, recommendations for Canada.
Let me begin with the four important take-homes for Canada.
First, the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the initial Chinese government response in downplaying the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, but also the total lockdown of the city of Wuhan and the province of Hubei, revealed to Canada and the world that there is a systemic problem in the decision-making in the Chinese government that didn’t allow for a transparent, accountable and rules-based approach at the outset of the outbreak.
This has broad implications in how we manage our bilateral relations with China, but it also has important implications in terms of how we move forward in dealing with some of the more difficult issues Canada and China face at this moment.
Second, and importantly, the total lockdown of both Wuhan and Hubei severely affected supply chains and dramatically highlighted the problems of the global production network being centred in one country. The goods that were needed for global export were unable to be produced and exported to other countries, including Canada, until China was able to get the domestic outbreak under control.
Third, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the degree of friction between the United States and China. This is really important because what we've seen is an inability of these two important states to come together and marshal their resources to combat the global pandemic. Both states have politicized the issue, and the global pandemic has no end in sight due to this politicization.
Fourth, and importantly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made middle powers like Canada more vulnerable to economic and other forms of coercion.
I think points two to four are magnified by the pre-existing Canada-China tensions associated with the Meng Wanzhou arrest and will continue to intensify as Beijing attempts to pressure Canada to change its decision related to her extradition to the United States.
Let me move on to the lessons for Canada and this idea of new realism in building resilience through partnerships.
First, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's extremely important to establish both domestic and diverse supply chains of personal protective equipment, medical equipment and pharmaceuticals, among other goods. The United States, Japan, South Korea, and even Taiwan and other like-minded states and regions should work together to form an Indo-Pacific emergency initiative to stockpile equipment, share best practices and establish an information-sharing mechanism as well as other areas of co-operation, to ensure that the next pandemic can be quickly understood, best practices shared, and medical equipment dispersed as soon as possible to countries and cities in need.
Second, a smart approach to selective decoupling must occur. What I mean by that is diversification of supply chains within and outside China. This is an important distinction. The supply chain that was disrupted within Wuhan and Hubei significantly affected exports out of that region. Canadian businesses shouldn't put all of their manufacturing sites in one area of China; they should diversify within China. That being said, the political difficulties we are increasingly experiencing with regard to China also mean we need to diversify our supply chains outside China as well. That's what I mean by a smart approach to selective decoupling.
Third, there's an important need for pandemic-sharing strategies. The key candidates here are Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and Australia. They're not perfect matches for Canada, but each has ideas to mitigate another COVID-19 wave or transnational disease.
Let me move forward with some recommendations.
One of the important areas Canada needs to think seriously about is what I call enhanced co-operation with other middle powers. Middle powers include Japan, South Korea, Australia and many European states. These states have shared values and a shared understanding of the rule of law and rules-based behaviour.
Through enhanced middle-power co-operation, Canada and other middle powers need to lobby the United States to return to multilateralism, and need to work more effectively with the United States in building more resilient supply chains, of course in North America, but also resilient supply chains with like-minded countries.