By Dylan Robertson, The Canadian Press
BALI, INDONESIA — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in Bali, Indonesia on Monday for a gathering of leaders from the G-20 countries.
The world’s largest 20 economies meet each year in an attempt to collectively mitigate risks to the global economic system and find progress on issues ranging from climate change to nuclear safety.
As the summit host, Indonesia has asked leaders to focus on shoring up health systems and boosting food and energy security.
Indonesia has stressed the importance of focusing on consensus instead of division, a view at odds with Ottawa.
“My focus is going to be making sure that the world comes together to reinforce that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin made a terrible, terrible choice when he decided to invade a peaceful, neighbouring country,” Trudeau said Sunday, in reference to the ongoing war in Ukraine.
His remarks came at the end of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations in Cambodia.
“Russia is directly, uniquely responsible for a large part of the challenges the world is facing right now, whether it’s the global migration crisis, the global food crisis (or the) global energy crisis,” he said at a closing press conference in Phnom Penh.
Moscow is sending its foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to the Bali summit after weeks of speculation on whether Putin would attend. Trudeau noted the summit is meant for heads of government.
“In general, I don’t have a particular interest in speaking to Lavrov,” Trudeau said in French.
Some of the G-20 states say they want to maintain ties with Russia in spite of the conflict.
In recent months, China, India and South Africa have abstained from United Nations resolutions condemning Russia, and their leaders will be at the summit.
Trudeau said that amounts to a cop out when the war in Ukraine is affecting everyone.
“It’s at the heart of why so many of our citizens are struggling right now, and it would be irresponsible for us as leaders to not come together to recognize that,” he said in English.
“Even those countries that have not pronounced themselves as clearly as I think they should … will always stand up to defend territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
The meeting comes as Canadian industry leaders seek deeper ties with Indonesia, the world’s fourth most-populous country that has a soaring economy.
Indonesia’s poverty rate has dropped from a quarter of the population at the turn of the millennium, to 9.78 per cent in 2020. Nearly two-thirds of the population of roughly 280 million is of working age.
But COVID-19 slowed the country’s economic boom, and climate change threatens the world’s largest archipelago, with at least a third of its population at risk of natural disasters.
Indonesia is a key emitter of greenhouse gases, and Canada has pushed the government to better preserve its tropical forest and peatlands. Ottawa has argued that Indonesia’s pursuit of economic development is threatening its extensive biodiversity.
Ottawa has done two rounds of negotiations for a trade deal with Indonesia, aimed at growing the $3.5 billion in annual bilateral trade .
In recent years, the exchange has been roughly equally split, with Canada predominantly selling grain, fertilizer, wood pulp and oilseeds, and buying from Indonesia rubber, electrical equipment and apparel.
Canada played a key role in Indonesia securing its independence from the Netherlands in 1949. Ottawa’s then-ambassador to the UN, Gen. Andrew McNaughton helped dislodge an impasse in negotiations between the two. Relations between Ottawa and Jakarta have been relatively smooth, aside from disputes in the 1990s around human rights and tumult in East Timor.
In Bali, Chinese President Xi Jinping will attend the G-20 summit, but Trudeau has not said whether he wants to meet him. The summit is occurring as the Conservatives call for a probe in China reportedly interfering in Canada’s 2019 general election.
While attending the ASEAN summit, Trudeau made announcements aimed at deeper ties with Southeast Asia as a counterbalance to China.
He plans to meet with numerous heads of government during his time in Indonesia, and his office has confirmed an intent to meet for the first time in-person with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
Trudeau’s plane left Cambodia an hour and a half late Monday, which his office said was due to issues clarifying the flight path. That delay postponed a planned meeting with Indonesian President Joko Widodo.