(OTTAWA) Canada could establish itself as a leader in sectors such as lithium mining if international companies make a point of ensuring that their imports respect the environment and labor standards, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Trudeau made the comments Monday at an event alongside visiting German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, which stressed the importance of democratic values ​​as Russia and China are vying for greater influence.

During a public debate at the University of Ottawa, Mr. Trudeau argued that instead of outright turning their backs on products made in China, companies should more often opt for materials and products from countries which have less impact on climate change and where workers’ rights are respected.

“There are places in the world where labor standards are terrible, but companies can get goods for less. You just have to be consistent with our values,” Mr. Trudeau explained.

Mr. Trudeau noted that Canadian-made products do more to uphold these values ​​than “cheap lithium batteries from China.”

The Prime Minister also argued that investors appreciate the stability of countries with strong social safety nets, and Mr. Steinmeier reiterated that this was an example of the benefits of liberal democracies.

President Steinmeier’s visit is strongly focused on the importance of democratic values, but Mr. Trudeau reminded that there is still work to be done to uphold them around the world.

“If our democratic system is so great, how come for so many years we have turned to the resources of autocracies that do not enjoy our freedoms? asked Mr. Trudeau, arguing that “if we really want to be a model for the world, we must be consistent in all our approaches”.

“We certainly shouldn’t be vulnerable to decisions that countries like Russia or China might take to endanger our prosperity and our future, because they don’t agree with our policies,” he said. minister.

At a reception hosted by the German ambassador in Ottawa on Monday, Steinmeier warned that the ambitions of autocratic rule, combined with the decline of multilateral cooperation, could jeopardize liberal values ​​of inclusion. and rule of law.

“The next few years will require a huge effort, because our societies are facing major changes,” he said, recalling that liberal democracies take their freedoms for granted.

“We must prevent ourselves from being politically and economically vulnerable. Our democracy is also part of our critical infrastructure: it must be protected against attacks,” he said.

Both men also warned against misinformation and spoke of the need for citizens to have a shared set of facts for democracy to work.

“Citizens have a responsibility and have an impact on the community around them,” said Mr. Trudeau. You have to be open to differences, listen and talk with others – even with your brother-in-law who is against vaccines. »

Mr. Steinmeier also mentioned that the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated the importance of electing governments that are able to respond to crises even with limited information.

“It is to be expected that one day or another we will find ourselves in a similar situation, where everything is not black and white and where the government must still make a decision for the well-being of the population. population,” he said in German.

He also added that China poses a challenge to liberal democracies in several ways.

“The detention of the two Canadian nationals and the allegations of Chinese interference in Canadian elections show what this means for our liberal democracies,” he said.