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Justin Trudeau in Papua New Guinea to discuss trade with Asian leaders – National

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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks into this weekend’s APEC leaders’ summit with a chance to smooth over lingering sore feelings with some of Canada’s key trading partners on the Pacific Rim.

Trudeau will meet his counterparts from Australia and Japan, and have the opportunity to bump into leaders from the 21 countries in the hallways of the busy summit in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.


READ MORE:
Justin Trudeau pushes for negotiations with Asian trade bloc as early as next year

Observers say Japan, Australia and the remainder of an 11-nation Pacific Rim trade pact are still upset over how Trudeau skipped a key meeting last year where the group was expected to agree on a final text.

A deal did arise out of the fracas – the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP for short – but observers say Trudeau’s counterparts continue to have hard feelings about last year’s incident.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is greeted by Charles Abel, Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer of Papua New Guinea as he arrives in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea.

THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

“I still think the APEC summit will be damage repair from the last summit – almost pulling out of the (CPTPP) and the Japanese upset with us and the Australians cursing us – so I think there still needs to be some repairing of the relationship,” said Carlo Dade, an expert on trade in the Pacific region from the Canada West Foundation.

Canada became one of the first six countries to ratify the CPTPP, giving domestic businesses first crack at gaining a foothold in overseas markets. Quickly ratifying the agreement could help mend relationships, Dade said.

Trudeau arrived after dark in this island nation, walking a red carpet at the airport between two lines of traditional dancers before being whisked off to prepare for the opening of the summit on Saturday.

WATCH: PM renews push for trade with China and ASEAN nations






At a news conference Thursday, Trudeau said he planned to talk about expanding trade in the region during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

“There are certainly discussions to be had around the APEC table about how we will continue to strengthen these trade ties,” Trudeau said.

“The APEC summit is specifically an economic summit for partnership with Pacific nations and that’s exactly what we’re going to be focusing on.”

Looming over the summit will be an economic tit-for-tat between the world’s two biggest economies – the United States and China.

U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence, who is attending the summit in place of President Donald Trump, is expected to force countries to pick sides as China looks to use the summit to extend its influence to smaller Pacific island nations in attendance.

WATCH: Trudeau reveals personal connection to Singapore






Chinese President Xi Jinping is also expected to have some choice words in response.

Asked about it Thursday, Trudeau would only say that he looked forward to what Pence had to say.

Sen. Yuen Pau Woo, an expert on the Asia-Pacific from before his time in the Senate, said the divide between the two biggest players at APEC poses an existential threat to the trade region APEC was formed to foster. Without the U.S., there is a need for a North American voice to champion trade around the Pacific, Woo said.

“The only country that’s able to take up this leadership role…is Canada and it would be important that the prime minister, I think, assumes some of this responsibility,” Woo said.

“There is no other player in the Americas that, I think, at this stage has either the will or the means to be a champion for the Asia-Pacific region.”

Patrick Leblond, a senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, said countries like Japan want to know Canada will be involved in the Asia-Pacific region more than it has been to help counteract China’s growing influence.


READ MORE:
Trudeau says he’s looking at ‘thoughtful ways’ to expand trade with China

“They want to have Canada as a partner in terms of dealing with the pressures that the Chinese and now the Americans are doing in terms of trade,” Leblond said.

The economic battle has an unlikely backdrop in Papua New Guinea, one of the poorest members of APEC. Canada’s annual trade with Papua New Guineau is roughly one per cent of the amount of trade that goes across the Canada-U.S. border every day.

Global Affairs Canada’s travel warnings about Papua New Guineau warn of assaults, sexual assaults and violent crime often with the “use of firearms or machetes,” and suggest visitors “consider hiring private security” because police cannot be relied upon.

The meeting itself has caused a series of negative headlines for the national government over spending millions on a fleet of 40 Maserati cars to ferry around dignitaries.

China and Australia have invested heavily in the region, hoping to gain some influence. Trudeau will have a chance to address island nations Saturday, where he is expected to talk about climate change.

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‘Business as usual’ for Dorel Industries after terminating go-private deal

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MONTREAL — Dorel Industries Inc. says it will continue to pursue its business strategy going forward after terminating an agreement to go private after discussions with shareholders.

« Moving ahead. Business as usual, » a spokesman for the company said in an email on Monday.

A group led by Cerberus Capital Management had previously agreed to buy outstanding shares of Dorel for $16 apiece, except for shares owned by the family that controls the company’s multiple-voting shares.

But Dorel chief executive Martin Schwartz said the Montreal-based maker of car seats, strollers, bicycles and home furniture pulled the plug on a deal on the eve of Tuesday’s special meeting after reviewing votes from shareholders.

“Independent shareholders have clearly expressed their confidence in Dorel’s future and the greater potential for Dorel as a public entity, » he said in a news release.

Dorel’s board of directors, with Martin Schwartz, Alan Schwartz, Jeffrey Schwartz and Jeff Segel recused, unanimously approved the deal’s termination upon the recommendation of a special committee.

The transaction required approval by two-thirds of the votes cast, and more than 50 per cent of the votes cast by non-family shareholders.

Schwartz said enhancing shareholder value remains a top priority while it stays focused on growing its brands, which include Schwinn and Mongoose bikes, Safety 1st-brand car seats and DHP Furniture.

Dorel said the move to end the go-private deal was mutual, despite the funds’ increased purchase price offer earlier this year.

It said there is no break fee applicable in this case.

Montreal-based investment firm Letko, Brosseau & Associates Inc. and San Diego’s Brandes Investment Partners LP, which together control more than 19 per cent of Dorel’s outstanding class B subordinate shares voiced their opposition to the amended offer, which was increased from the initial Nov. 2 offer of $14.50 per share.

« We believe that several minority shareholders shared our opinion, » said Letko vice-president Stephane Lebrun, during a phone interview.

« We are confident of the long-term potential of the company and we have confidence in the managers in place.”

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Anglais

Pandemic funds helping Montreal businesses build for a better tomorrow

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Many entrepreneurs have had to tap into government loans during the pandemic, at first just to survive, but now some are using the money to better prepare their businesses for the post-COVID future.

One of those businesses is Del Friscos, a popular family restaurant in Dollard-des-Ormeaux that, like many Montreal-area restaurants, has had to adapt from a sit-down establishment to one that takes orders online for takeout or delivery.

“It was hard going from totally in-house seating,” said Del Friscos co-owner Terry Konstas. “We didn’t have an in-house delivery system, which we quickly added. There were so many of our employees that were laid off that wanted to work so we adapted to a delivery system and added platforms like Uber and DoorDash.”

Helping them through the transition were emergency grants and low-interest loans from the federal and provincial governments, some of which are directly administered by PME MTL, a non-profit business-development organization established to assist the island’s small and medium-sized businesses.

Konstas said he had never even heard of PME MTL until a customer told him about them and when he got in touch, he discovered there were many government programs available to help his business get through the downturn and build for the future. “They’ve been very helpful right from day one,” said Konstas.

“We used some of the funds to catch up on our suppliers and our rents, the part that wasn’t covered from the federal side, and we used some of it for our new virtual concepts,” he said, referring to a virtual kitchen model which the restaurant has since adopted.

The virtual kitchen lets them create completely different menu items from the casual American Italian dishes that Del Friscos is known for and market them under different restaurant brand names. Under the Prasinó Soup & Salad banner, they sell healthy Greek options and their Stallone’s Sub Shop brand offers hearty sandwiches, yet the food from both is created in the same Del Friscos kitchen.

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Anglais

Downtown Montreal office, retail vacancies continue to rise

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Some of downtown Montreal’s key economic indicators are heading in the wrong direction.

Office and retail vacancies in the city’s central core continued to climb in the fourth quarter of 2020, according to a quarterly report released Thursday by the Urban Development Institute of Quebec and the Montréal Centre-Ville merchants association. The report, whose first edition was published in October, aims to paint a socio-economic picture of the downtown area.

The survey also found office space available for sublet had increased during the fourth quarter, which may foreshadow even more vacancies when leases expire. On the residential front, condo sales fell as new listings soared — a sign that the downtown area may be losing some of its appeal to homeowners.

“It’s impossible not to be preoccupied by the rapid increase in office vacancies,” Jean-Marc Fournier, the former Quebec politician who now heads the UDI, said Thursday in an interview.

Still, with COVID-19 vaccinations set to accelerate in the coming months, “the economic picture is bound to improve,” he said. “People will start returning downtown. It’s much too early to say the office market is going to disappear.”

Public health measures implemented since the start of the pandemic almost a year ago — such as caps on office capacity — have deprived downtown Montreal of more than 500,000 workers and students. A mere 4,163 university and CEGEP students attended in-person classes in the second quarter, the most recent period for which figures are available. Border closures and travel restrictions have also brought tourism to a standstill, hurting hotels and thousands of local businesses.

Seventy per cent of downtown workers carried out their professional activities at home more than three days a week during the fourth quarter, the report said, citing an online survey of 1,000 Montreal-area residents conducted last month.

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