Former foreign affairs minister John Manley says he 'would not travel to China right now'
Rachel Gilmore, Power Play producer
Published Monday, January 7, 2019 7:15PM EST
Last Updated Monday, January 7, 2019 8:15PM EST
Former foreign affairs minister John Manley would not travel to China right now -- and he’s advising executives of businesses he’s affiliated with to follow suit.
"I would not, save and except for having a diplomatic passport, go to China at this point in time. I think there's just too much uncertainty," Manley told CTV Power Play host Don Martin on Monday’s episode.
Despite escalating uncertainty, Canada has not updated its travel advisory to China. The United States renewed its China Travel warning on Jan. 3.
Manley’s comments come as a delegation of Canadian senators and backbench MPs heads to China where they plan to, among other things, raise the issue of two detained Canadians.
Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor were both detained in an apparent retaliation for Canada’s December arrest of Chinese telecom executive Meng Wanzhou in Vancouver. Canada arrested Meng at the behest of the United States, which has an order for her extradition.
Despite his own plans to stay away from China, Manley said the parliamentarians made the right move in going ahead with the trip as tensions escalated.
“A delegation of Parliamentarians -- that’s highly noticeable in China,” Manley said.
“It’s not necessarily going to release the two men, I mean there’s going to be other things that have to be done in order to get to that outcome, but I think that this is at least a contribution to the communication.”
However, Manley was less optimistic about another stated purpose of the delegation’s trip to China -- the effort to deepen trade relations between Canada and China.
China Daily, a publication known to be controlled by the Chinese government, warned in a Monday op-ed that if Canada continues to act as a “loyal adherent of the U.S.” in the Meng detention, “it may not benefit much from a big trading partner like China.”
“I think that threat was implicit from the day that this became an international incident,” Manley said in response to the op-ed.
He went on to say that the issue highlights a broader problem rooted in Canada’s relationship with the United States.
“This is not a time when we are comfortable under the American umbrella,” he said.
Manley said U.S. President Donald Trump’s “unpredictable” behavior, exemplified by his revocation of trade agreements and insults directed at Justin Trudeau, means “the comfort we always enjoyed of being really connected to the United States in every possible way is not there anymore.”
“So we do need to worry about what other countries are saying,” Manley added.
He pointed to the communication between Trump and Trudeau as a key issue in the Canada-China dispute.
“I think it’s a case of the U.S. trying to gain leverage in a trade dispute and they abused our process,” he said.
“My view is that we got played here a little bit. That we shouldn’t be in this in the first place.”
Manley explained that he doesn’t believe the rule of law is the issue at the heart of this case. He said there was room for discretion on both sides -- and that discretion could have been exercised in another way.
The former foreign affairs minister did, however, stop short of giving the government a failing grade when it comes to Canada-China relations.
“Let’s see what the outcome is before we get there,” Manley said.
Meng is scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 6.