You may have seen the footage of Justin Trudeau going to shake the hand of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro at the G20 leaders’ summit in Osaka, Japan last weekend.
It’s a painful moment to watch.
If you weren’t popular in high school you may relate to that agonizing moment as Bolsonaro turns from him and Trudeau waits, hand still outstretched, looking bemused. Utter rejection and he’s literally left hanging.
To Trudeau’s credit, he doesn’t give up (which not all clips show) when a few seconds later, he gets Bolsonaro’s attention again and completes the greeting.
Those few minutes of footage are painful to watch for other reasons as well.
The other side of this story, and the seating arrangement, is Chinese President Xi Jinping to Trudeau’s right.
Once Trudeau takes his seat, for several minutes while the cameras and eyes of the world are watching, he makes no attempt to speak with or even acknowledge Xi, even turning his back on the president, the one person Trudeau most needed to make inroads with at the summit.
So much is riding on Canada being able to make nice with China — the release of the two Canadian prisoners, Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor, the embargo on Canadian canola, peas and soy beans, and the more recent threat of a ban on Canadian beef.
Trudeau’s big strategy to win over China and make progress in seeking the release of the two detained Canadians? Make friends and rely on Trump.
The Prime Minister’s Officer later stated that Trudeau and Xi had other interactions throughout the day, just not at the lunch. While that may be true, the only “interaction” being reported is of the two chatting for a few minutes outside of a function.
Trudeau’s people skills are the one thing we can usually count on, but his charm and nice smile didn’t seem to get him anywhere at the G20. He sure picked a poor time to metaphorically be the kid on the playground who peed his pants that everyone is laughing at, and even the school bully (Trump, in this scenario) is taking pity on him and telling the other kids to play nice.
For China, the reason for the cold reception is clearly due to the detainment of Chinese high-tech scion Meng Wanzhou in December. The detainment of Canadians is widely viewed as a retaliation for that.
Why the other nations seem to be snubbing dear old J.T. is more of a puzzle. Maybe they got wind of his plastic drink box water bottle sorta thing.
Conservative opposition leader Andrew Scheer points to Trudeau’s, “poor judgment on the world stage and weak approach to China” to explain Canada’s current predicaments with China.
With Trudeau’s credibility on the global stage so shaky, relying on the U.S. may have actually been the best possible strategy, but that doesn’t make it any less sad.
It was at the request of the U.S. that Canada detained Meng, so in a way, in seems fair that Trump get Canada out of the mess that situation created, but so far there hasn’t been any solid reports of Trump making any progress on the front of the detained Canadians either.
That the Liberal government failed, either through a lack of trying or lack of interest on the side of China, to secure an official one-on-one sit down with the Chinese president would seem to be a colossal failure on the PM’s part.
Kovrig and Spavor have been detained for over six months, as wells as dozens of other Canadians on questionable grounds, while Canadian farmers continue to lose millions while the Chinese market remains closed.
That some contact with Xi was made could be seen as progress, with at least the ice getting broken, but with urgent matters at hand, Canada needed more and at the least, the lack of results is disappointing.