Fancy a double whammy of international beef? As if Canada didn’t have enough trouble hanging out with China, the U.S. has added to its growing list of painful China–bashing on Saturday by announcing it’s ousting China from the International Olympic Committee. Now, Canada must have some explaining to do. Faced with a Canadian cabinet that looks completely awkward in shirtsleeves, a snub from its biggest trade partner and the loss of important Olympic exposure to a rival, Ottawa could be laying itself open to the kind of criticism it received at home about its lukewarm support for Boeing after the country’s decision to buy the Air Force’s new Super Hornet fighter jet.
The quarrel with China is another chapter in an escalating international trade battle that Ottawa was warned it was facing when it “walked a tightrope” over the matter. According to Reuters, a speech a few weeks ago from U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer challenged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau over Ottawa’s decision to buy 18 Super Hornet jets and raised the possibility of involving Beijing in trade issues going forward. The timing of this week’s announcement—a few weeks after Trudeau apologized to China over the West Gate Bridge—is somewhat convenient, if not insulting.
On the one hand, the politicians on both sides made a huge effort to avoid a diplomatic spat and to show respect to one another. On the other hand, this incident is yet another feather in the cap of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to elbow Canada out of the way in favour of a greater role in the Asia-Pacific. Earlier this year, he caused a controversy when he suggested Beijing would need to “make friends with everyone, even with others that are not friendly to China.” Now, with two disputes in play—the tit-for-tat drug policy row with Canada and the resurgent China–Africa relations—Washington is ratcheting up the pressure.