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The Canadian government, in concert with what is left of the U.S. State Department, brought the old allies from the Korean War together in Vancouver on Tuesday, for no particularly good reason other than to remind North Korea that it has more to fear than the tweets of Donald Trump, and to remind the world that Canada remains among the last true defenders of the old global order.

There is no way to disguise how much things have gone downhill in the past 12 months. A year ago, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had powerful allies in the quest to preserve the Western alliance despite the arrival of a rogue U.S. president. Today, those allies are much weakened.

Four months after the German elections, Angela Merkel appears to finally have found a formula for cobbling together a new coalition. But a working government could still be weeks or even months away, and a recent poll has a majority of German voters hoping the veteran chancellor steps down before the next election.

Ms. Merkel hasn't confirmed whether she will be attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, next week. Mr. Trump will be there, as will Mr. Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron, who is expected to promote European social solidarity over the isolationist tendencies of the administration in Washington. Mr. Macron may be emerging as a new leader in the fight to defend a united Europe.

But he is also an isolated leader. Germany is currently MIA, and so is Britain, which is tearing itself apart over the decision to leave the European Union, and where Prime Minister Theresa May is distracted and unpopular. Mr. Trump's abrupt decision to cancel a planned visit to Britain has further strained what used to be called the Special Relationship.

Meanwhile, Eastern Europe continues its sad descent. Authoritarian, xenophobic tendencies are on display in Poland and Hungary, and the far right is on the rise in Austria and the Czech Republic. Europe has not been this disunited, angry and unfree since the Berlin Wall fell.

Mr. Trudeau also lacks allies in the Pacific, although he has only himself to blame for that. Relations between Canada and Japan are tense, thanks to Mr. Trudeau's bungling refusal to endorse the revised, 11-country Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement late last year. (Mr. Trump pulled the United States out of the original agreement.)

The Japanese aren't the only ones. The newspaper The Australian reported on Tuesday that Canberra's complaint to the World Trade Organization over alleged Canadian restrictions on wine imports "follows a souring in relations after Mr. Trudeau was accused of derailing the rejuvenated TPP11 at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit in Vietnam."

Perhaps Tuesday's meeting on North Korea will help heal these rifts. Either way, the Trudeau government needs to repair its Pacific relations.

But the biggest WTO challenge comes from Canada itself, launched last week against the United States – almost 200 examples of alleged U.S. bad behaviour against Canada and other countries.

"Even if Canada succeeded on these groundless claims, other countries would primarily benefit, not Canada," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer protested.

But that's part of the point. Among the other motivations for the complaint – impatience with one punitive U.S. action (softwood lumber) after another (Bombardier); setting up a WTO backstop in case the North American free-trade agreement negotiations fail – is the desire to present Canada as a leader in the struggle to preserve the global trading order.

The implication is clear: Mr. Trump, too, shall pass. The West is not in twilight; this President's disruptive power is already being contained, at least partially, by forces within the United States. Eventually he will leave, and the United States will return to its leadership role.

Until that time, Canada will continue defending the postwar status quo, hosting meetings and urging solidarity in the face of global threats and, yes, annoying other leaders when our Prime Minister's sanctimonious rhetoric is not matched by real commitments.

Canadian prime ministers have been doing this sort of thing for decades. It's just a particularly lonely job right now.

Justin Trudeau says China and Russia will be integral in securing peace with North Korea, despite excluding them from Tuesday’s meeting in Vancouver. The Prime Minister says the gathering is one of many steps towards a resolution.

The Canadian Press

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