Policy Roundup: Episode 23, June 12-16, 2017

  1. U.S. Withdrawal from the Paris Accord

On June 2, President Trump announced the United States’ intent to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, much to the dismay if not anger of global leaders, including those of the G7. The U.S. withdrawal came quickly after it was revealed that G7 leaders failed to deliver a joint statement regarding climate change.  The U.S. is now in the somewhat unenviable position of joining Nicaragua and Syria as countries who disagree with the Paris Agreement.


  • Now that U.S. Federal government will not lead, will responsibility shift to States/municipalities? Minister Freeland’s foreign policy speech, for example on Tuesday, June 6, suggested that Canada was ready to “seek opportunities for constructive progress on the environment… at all levels of government and with partners in business, labour and civil society.” American business leaders have already voiced their continued intent to push clean/environmentally friendly technologies, with or without Federal support. States and municipalities have done the same (see: U.S. Climate Alliance, We Are Still In campaign.)
  • Critics of the Trump administration would argue that this is furthering the erosion of U.S. leadership/soft power at the global level. Is the U.S. harming the perception of “western” ability to tackle global issues like climate change? Will other countries of the G7 fill this void or be able to take leadership?
  • The U.S. retreat on many levels is allowing China an increased role on the world stage. Reportedly during the G7 meetings, when President Trump refused to back a statement on climate change, President Macron of France said: “now China leads.” Is the G7 ready to work with China on climate change and other global issues? Can the Paris Agreement survive without U.S. participation?
  1. GCC Countries cut off Diplomatic ties with Qatar

On June 5, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates announced they are officially cutting off diplomatic ties with the State of Qatar. The Government of Saudi Arabia, who initiated this action, justified these actions by claiming that they had evidence to prove that the Qatari government was sponsoring terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood, claims which the Qatari government denies.


  • Many believe that this is action is evidence of the fact that the Saudi government feels now emboldened to greater action in the region following a visit by President Trump not long ago. This is backed up by the fact that President Trump came out and attacked the Qatari government.
  • This represents further division in the region as both Turkey and Iran rush to the aid of Qatar, turkey providing troops, and Iran food aid. Some analysts are viewing this as an rise in tension between the major regional powers (Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Iran) to increase their influence and control.
  • Due to the closing of the only land border (from Saudi) and a denial of access of airspace from all sanctioning companies this could mean not only a major economic crisis but could very well impact preparations for the 2022 World Cup as well as the operations of Qatar Airways, one the world’s largest airline companies.
  1. Shifts in Canadian Foreign Policy

It was quite an exciting few days last week for Canadian policy enthusiasts, as the government released new policies that will dictate Canada’s global engagement for the foreseeable future. Highlights include a significant increase in defense spending over the next decade, and a re-oriented international assistance policy primarily focused on advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.


  • In her speech in the House of Commons, the Minister of Foreign Affairs reaffirmed the Canadian government’s commitment to multilateral institutions and to free trade. While he wasn’t specifically mentioned by name, the speech was clearly a response to the action (or inaction) of the Trump administration on the world stage. Moving forward, it will be interesting to see how Canadian foreign policy diverges from our American counterparts, and how that will affect our relationship.
  • In positioning the new international assistance policy as a feminist policy, it’s clear that the government aims to position Canada as a gender equality leader on the world stage. Doing so undoubtedly impacts the decisions about who will receive Canadian assistance, what initiatives the assistance will target, and how it will be delivered.
  • The specific details of the new Defense and International Assistance policies present and sobering dichotomy in terms of funding. While Defense is touting cash-based spending growth of over 70 percent over the next decade, the new feminist international assistance policy effectively proposes no new funding. Depending on how you believe Canada can best exert its influence as a middle power, this will be an interesting policy decision to follow in the coming years.

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