At a G20 summit that has been overshadowed by geopolitical tensions, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced pledges Tuesday to help developing countries improve their infrastructure, go green and make COVID-19 vaccines.
Trudeau has earmarked $750 million for a Crown corporation to finance infrastructure projects in Asia over three years, starting next March.
It’s the largest funding agreement the Liberals have made as part of their forthcoming Indo-Pacific strategy, and part of a G20 project meant to help low- and middle-income countries have safer and more sustainable cities.
“It will also make our supply chains stronger and create good jobs,” Trudeau said during a closed-door event hosted by Indonesia, the U.S. and the European Union.
The funding will be administered by FinDev Canada, which already has a mandate to operate in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean. It is now adding developing countries in Asia to the list.
Trudeau told leaders that sovereign wealth funds can help governments abroad build schools and hospitals.
“If we want to close the infrastructure gap, we’ll need to continue finding ways to incentivize greater private sector investment. No amount of public money can single-handedly fix this issue,” the prime minister said.
Trudeau also announced $80 million for global health systems, with most of the funding going to a World Bank project that helps countries prevent pandemics and respond to them.
The funding will support projects that help developing countries manufacture COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.
The NDP reacted to the news by arguing that Liberals have not done enough to advocate for patent waivers, which would help countries manufacture their own vaccines.
In Bali, Canada alsoco-launched a partnership with G7 and Nordic nations to help Indonesia wean itself off coal, agreeing to put up $10 billion and soliciting the same amount from the private sector.
Indonesia is one of the world’s heaviest emitting countries, and has agreed to “the accelerated retirement of coal plants, conditional on international support.”
Yet geopolitics will likely overshadow the pledges leaders make at the summit, as countries debate how to respond to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s growing assertiveness.
Canada is among the most forceful in pushing for G20 leaders to call out Russia for contributing to worsening inflation and threatening global security through its war in Ukraine.
Other countries have held back in an attempt to maintain good relations with both the West and Moscow.
But Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said that even those countries recognize the wide-ranging impact of the war.
She told reporters there is a “reckoning” within the G20 that the war in Ukraine, along with its “tremendous human toll,” is also having major impacts on the global economy and households.
As host, Indonesia has urged countries to focus on finding common ground, to make sure there is some statement of consensus when the summit closes Wednesday.
“We can see that they’re going through conniptions, trying to kind of get a declaration to save them from the embarrassment of not having a communique. So this is going to be very tricky,” said Andrew Cooper, a professor with the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister’s Office said Trudeau had to intervene at a closed-door G20 health forum Tuesday after Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergey Lavrov claimed American biolabs were undertaking nefarious activities in Ukraine.
Trudeau’s office said he told his peers that the claims were “absolute garbage” and that leaders must work with facts. A spokesperson said in French that Trudeau was “extremely clear on Canada’s position” and denounced all forms of disinformation and lies from Russia on Ukraine.