Canada and South Korea have agreed to cooperate on supply chains of critical minerals needed for electric vehicles as the two countries work to strengthen their economic ties and reduce their dependence on China.
“China remains a big player in the global economy,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Wednesday in Seoul during a joint press conference with South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol.
“There are places, such as on climate change, where we will work with China as we did at COP15 in Montreal, there are issues on which we will compete with China for market share, on international trade,” he continued.
“We have to know where we are going to compete with China economically and where we have to challenge China on human rights and other issues,” he said. It is something that we will both continue to do in a way that makes sense for our own countries and our own situations. »
Prime Minister Trudeau, on his first official visit to South Korea, signed a memorandum of understanding on critical minerals, clean energy transition and energy security, which he says will mean more investment and trade for Canada.
Ottawa has increasingly focused its attention and resources on bolstering its critical minerals sector, in part to build a more robust supply chain in the manufacture of goods such as batteries for electric vehicles.
And the increased cooperation with South Korea comes as G7 countries increasingly discuss the concept of an “affinity economy”.
Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland last week met with other G7 counterparts and said she had discussed how to increase cooperation between like-minded countries.
It would be about “differentiating our economies to make our supply chains more resilient and create good jobs for people in Canada and around the world,” she said at a press conference last Friday. “Specifically, (by) working together to respond to the economic coercion of authoritarian regimes. »
Both Canada and South Korea released their Indo-Pacific strategies within the past year. These strategies provide roadmaps for strengthening military and economic relations in the region to counterbalance Beijing’s influence.
But even as Western countries and their allies feel increasingly threatened by China, they seem to remain cautious in their talk about the country.
China has called hypocrisy claims by the United States and other G7 countries that they are preserving a “rules-based international order” against Beijing’s “economic coercion” and other threats. China itself is a victim of economic coercion, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said on Friday.
“If any country is to be criticized for its economic coercion, it should be the United States. The United States has abused the concept of national security, abused export controls and implemented discriminatory and unfair measures against foreign companies,” Wang said at a routine press conference, according to an official English translation.
Negotiations with Stellantis
While the Liberal government calls the visit to South Korea a success, Ottawa is currently in litigation with automaker Stellantis, which halted construction of an electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ontario, in partnership with the South Korean battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution.
This suspension of work illustrates the challenges the federal government faces as it charts the course for a green economy by competing with other countries, namely the United States, over subsidies.
The two companies sent a joint letter to Trudeau last month when Volkswagen announced it had reached an agreement to build a battery plant in St. Thomas, Ont. Under the deal, Canada offered a capital contribution of $700 million and $8 billion to $13 billion in production subsidies, with the aim of matching what Volkswagen would get in the United States in tax credits. to production under the Joe Biden administration’s “Cutting Inflation” Act.
The Canadian government has said it is negotiating with Stellantis, but wants Ontario to contribute more than the $500 million in investment costs that Doug Ford’s government has put on the table so far.
Mr. Trudeau had little to add when questioned on the subject in Seoul. “Canada has succeeded in creating great middle-class jobs across the country thanks to investments from partners around the world. We will continue to do so,” he said.
Mobility and North Korea
Mr. Trudeau also concluded a new agreement on youth mobility, with an annual quota of 12,000 people, which he said will provide new opportunities for young people to work in both countries.
“We welcome thousands of Korean students to our universities every year and now we want to do even more,” the premier said.
Canada and South Korea are also committed to working together to advance human rights in North Korea. Trudeau said the government will continue to support human rights organizations.
“We continue to deplore the regular military activities, including nuclear missile tests by North Korea, which not only destabilize the region, but threaten the security of the whole world,” he said in Seoul.
He recalled what Canada is doing to enforce the maritime sanctions against North Korea within the framework of Operation NEON.
Earlier Wednesday, Trudeau delivered a speech to South Korea’s National Assembly, where he warned that authoritarianism was gaining ground around the world.
In his 23-minute speech delivered almost entirely in English, the head of the Canadian government added that “antagonistic countries” take advantage of economic interdependence to their own geopolitical advantage.
Trudeau told parliamentarians the world currently faces ‘uncertainty’ as countries recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, while economic anxiety and climate change add stress to life people.
He argued that Canada and South Korea can be partners in the fight against climate change, which he says is also a way to guard against geopolitical instability and build more resilient economies.
Before flying to Hiroshima to attend the G7 leaders’ summit, Trudeau was to attend the opening ceremony of the Kapyong Battle Memorial Trail on Thursday. This trail is intended to honor Canada’s contributions during the Korean War.