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‘Striking’ APEC confrontation causes uncertainty ahead of G20





The opening photo call at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit Saturday turned out to be a useful roadmap for what unfolded in Papua New Guinea’s capital this past weekend.

Front and centre in the shot: Xi Jinping. Stiff and straight, offering an authoritarian smile.

Maybe it was the alphabet that put the Chinese president in the front row (Justin Trudeau was just off-centre, to Xi’s right and the world’s left, with Chile between them.) But it’s a useful visual metaphor, so let’s continue.

Just over Xi’s left shoulder stood Vladimir Putin’s No. 2: Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Medvedev. 

Who was missing? Donald Trump’s representative. U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence’s itinerary didn’t prioritize the opening photo.

The leaders carried on without him.

The opening photo call, with China’s Xi Jinping in the front row and U.S. Vice-President Mike Pence absent, served as a sign of things to come at the 2018 APEC summit. (Aaron Favila/Associated Press)

Such was the APEC summit in 2018: the commanding presence of China driving its agenda, with an isolated United States pursuing competing goals, leaving others looking very uncomfortable.

When trade watchers marvel at the failure of this group to come up with even a general consensus statement on a few issues, they do so because this isn’t meant to be a forum for fighting.

Co-operation: it’s right there in APEC’s name.

APEC doesn’t usually get into security issues or high politics, University of British Columbia Asia specialist Yves Tiberghien said.

“This confrontation… as far as I know it was the first time,” he said. “It’s striking.”

Stark contrast to ASEAN

APEC is usually a friendly summit, where the head of the International Monetary Fund offers a briefing and affiliated business advisory councils “engage” politicians on their regional priorities.

Hot for 2018: “strengthening the digital economy” and — in an effort not to look too elite among the Maseratis ferrying VIPs around APEC’s poorest country — enabling “a more open, accessible and secure online environment, so communities and businesses of all sizes can participate.” (Canada was pleased to see an emphasis on digital privacy issues, an official said.)

Many of the leaders, Trudeau included, arrived in Port Moresby from Singapore, the host for the 2018 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia Summit talks.

The contrast was stark, even jarring: from the luxury fashion labels of a city capitalizing on its region’s fast-growing wealth, to the broken windows and tin roofs of a developing country pushed beyond its limits to host.

Holidays were declared to clear out the city for its international visitors, who were warned not to stop at roadside stands trying to attract the attention, and money, of foreigners.

“This is the biggest thing Papua New Guinea has done in their history,” said Jonathan Pryke, director of the Pacific Islands program at the Lowy Institute, a non-partisan Australian think-tank. The country has “acute development issues,” something Australia has been providing low-key help with for years, particularly in its remote and rural regions.

China winning ‘both above board and below board’

Australia’s support overall dwarfs the Chinese money that flowed into Port Moresby to ensure the summit’s success. But there was nothing subtle about China’s role: a huge Chinese gate outside the brand new Hilton Hotel, with a giant roadside banner celebrating “co-operation” and “peace,” made it pretty obvious who was paying.

Chinese aid is strategic, Pryke says, and usually followed by contracts for China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs).

“Corruption is a real thing here,” he said. “These SOEs don’t operate on the same playing field as a lot of Western commercial enterprises here. But they’re also competitors. So they are winning contracts both above board and below board.”

China’s presence and influence could be felt throughout Papua New Guinea’s capital city of Port Moresby during the APEC summit. (Mark Schiefelbein/AFP/Getty Images)

Extrapolate that Chinese strategy to a global scale and it gets easier to see what Donald Trump is on about, and why the Americans are so unhappy with the aspects of the World Trade Organization that enable market-distorting, state-subsidized competition.

Fundamental issues stood in the way of a final communiqué at APEC, with some countries wanting reform, and China strenuously objecting to accusations it isn’t playing by the rules laid out when it joined the WTO in 2001.

According to reports from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, China tried to strong-arm the summit’s host into the language it wanted. No dice.

This disagreement isn’t something that a few more hours, days or weeks of conversation will resolve, despite Xi’s suggestion that multilateralism — talking — is the answer to the escalating trade war that’s slapped hundreds of billions of dollars in disruptive tariffs on the world’s products.

The U.S. may be big enough for a go-it-alone, protectionist strategy, but others — Canada included — are not. Their prosperity depends on trade, and their future economic growth likely requires selling new things to China’s enormous market.

However, their security may depend on continuing to line up with the U.S. So rhetorical demands to pick sides are unwelcome.

Singapore’s prime minister said this week that ASEAN countries need a good working relationship with both China and the U.S. to thrive. The appetite to confront American trade bullying may fade in the face of security concerns, like North Korea’s nuclear program.

‘Coalition in the middle’

The road to the seat of government in Port Moresby was paved by the Chinese. But the warships in its harbour were Australian and American.

Pence turned up at APEC with a commitment to work with Australia to redevelop a naval base on Manus Island to try to counter China’s growing influence in the region.

Beyond the trade war between the U.S. and China, there’s a second confrontation underway about globalization itself, Tiberghien said.

“Clearly there is an interesting clash where the U.S. is saying ‘trade has left too many people behind’ … we have to ‘rein in trade,'” he said.

The tension between the U.S. and China was one of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 APEC summit. (Mark Schiefelbein/Associated Press)

Here the U.S. is not alone: Malaysia, a Pacific Rim trade partner Trudeau also met with this weekend, has voiced similar concerns (and not ratified the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership yet.) So have populist politicians in Europe, including some of the champions of Brexit in the U.K.

It’s a “redrawing of camps,” Tiberghien said.

Trudeau’s father Pierre championed a “third way” foreign policy, hoping to diversify its relationships beyond its Commonwealth history and its geographic ties to the U.S.

Now the son finds himself in need of a third way in trade policy — if the U.S. won’t champion a multilateral trading system anymore, who will? Canada’s working with allies like the European Union, Japan and Australia on how to reinvigorate a rules-based system.

But when the G20 meets in two weeks, the fighting between the two biggest players may suck oxygen away from topics like WTO reforms.

“It’s a very tense environment for making any breakthrough,” Tiberghien said. “But on a secondary level, Canada can show a good image by saying ‘we’re here, we’re reasonable, we stand for principles, we’ll stand with partners that believe in the same principles’ and maybe, over time, build a coalition in the middle.”


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Real Estate

The cost of renovating your bathroom in Toronto in 2021





Home renovations can be a big task, especially bathroom renovations where you have to work with either an awkwardly shaped space, or one with lots of pipework and very little natural light.

Nonetheless, getting a bathroom renovation by Easy Renovation to change your existing bathroom layout, improve the ambience or add more natural skylights can be worth all the trouble. But determining how much a bathroom renovation would cost is important while setting a budget.

The pandemic has changed a lot of things with social distancing rules, working from home, and for some, being made redundant. Therefore, having a complete grasp of the financial implication of a bathroom innovation is very important.

Owning your dream bathroom can be made a reality and the good thing is, regardless of your financial situation, there are always available options. If you also decide to put up your property for sale in the future, a bathroom upgrade would be a great investment—as it would add significant value to the property. Your bathroom renovation project, like every home renovation, can either be very affordable or extravagant, but one thing is certain, you’re bound to have a more refreshed, stylish and modernistic space.  

Looking through detailed sketches of luxurious and expensive bathrooms can be quite tempting, especially when you’re on a budget. However, your bathroom can be equally transformed into something that looks just as modern, stylish and refreshing but without the heavy price tag.

Conducting a partial bathroom renovation means you only have to change a little part of your existing bathroom rather than tearing it down and starting from scratch. If you intend to carry out this type of bathroom renovation in Toronto, depending on the size of your bathroom, you can spend between $1,000 – $5,000. With a partial bathroom renovation, you can save money by tackling smaller problems that exist in your present bathroom—or you can just upgrade a few of its features.

Partial bathroom renovations are quite affordable and would leave your bathroom feeling new and stylish without being time-consuming or a financial burden—which is important considering the economic impact of the pandemic. Repainting the bathroom walls, replacing the tiles on the floor and in the shower area are examples of partial bathroom renovations which is the cheapest to accomplish.

A more expensive and popular bathroom renovation is the standard 3- or 4-piece renovation. This renovation type involves a lot more services that are not covered by a partial renovation budget. To execute a standard bathroom renovation in Toronto you need a budget of about $10,000 – $15,000.

Unlike with a partial renovation, you would have to make a lot more changes to various elements of your bathroom without the hassle of changing the overall design. You can easily restore your current bathroom into a modernistic and classy space that fits your existing style. Making changes to more aspects of your bathroom is quite easy since there is more room in your budget to accommodate it.

A standard 3- or 4-piece renovation includes everything in a partial renovation plus extras such as revamped baseboards, installing a new bathroom mirror, buying new lights, installing a new vanity, changing the toilet, and buying new shower fixtures.

If you’re one of those looking to make a complete overhaul of your existing bathroom, then the option of a complete bathroom remodel is for you.

Unlike a bathroom renovation, remodelling means a complete change of your current bathroom design and layout for one that is newer and completely unrecognizable. The possibilities when remodelling a bathroom are endless especially when you have a large budget of over $15,000. That way, you can get the opportunity to create the perfect bathroom for yourself.

In addition to all that’s available with a standard bathroom renovation, bathroom remodelling allows you to make bathtub to shower conversion, relocation of plumbing, relocation of the toilet, reframing the bathroom and even relocating the shower.

In conclusion, a bathroom renovation can be a very important upgrade to your home and depending on the features that you decide to include, in addition to the size of your bathroom, this would influence the total cost of the project.

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Real Estate

7 Tips For First-Time Home Buyers In Calgary





Buying a house for the first time can be overwhelming to say the least. If you’re wondering what neighbourhood to go with, what you can afford, or even how to just get started on the process, let us take some stress off your hands! We’ve teamed up with Hopewell Residential to give you 7 tips to ensure the home you end up with is everything you dreamed of.

Hopewell Residential is a five-time Developer of the Year award winner, so their expertise is second-to-none in Calgary and beyond. Who better to learn home-buying tips from than the homebuilders themselves?

Create a checklist of needs & wants

This is a biggie. When you’re buying your very first home, you’ll want to weigh your needs vs. your wants. Ensuring you have what you love in your first home is a big, big deal.

What should you do? Easy. Set up a list of needs and a list of wants, but be pretty strict with yourself, and make sure you take your lifestyle into consideration. With the increase in remote work over the past year, it’s important to keep in mind that a home office or flex room might just be the key to maximizing at home happiness. Especially if you’re thinking you might be expanding your family later on, spare rooms and extra space is key (but more on that later!).

Or for instance, you might need a home in an area with a high walkability score, but you want to be close to certain amenities. Set yourself up with the right level of compromise and the number of homes that actually fit your ‘perfect’ idea will skyrocket.

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Real Estate

‘Don’t give up’: Ottawa Valley realtors share statistics, tips for homebuyers in ‘extreme’ sellers market





The real estate market in the Ottawa Valley can be summed up this way: people from far and wide are in a buying frenzy, but there’s hardly anything to buy at the “store,” and the limited inventory is overpriced.

This “stampede” — as one realtor described it — will affect rural towns as residents grapple with finding affordable housing and agonize over their inability to purchase homes in their price range.

“We are seeing a lack of inventory in all price ranges,” said Laura Keller, a real estate agent from Carleton Place.

Helen Vincent, a Renfrew realtor, said she’s never seen a market like this in her 36 years of practice. “We postpone offers for four to five days in order to get all the buyers,” she said.

Multiple offers — between seven and 10 — became the norm, with cash offers and no conditions, as buyers faced bidding wars. “In Ottawa, they have up to 50 (offers),” she added.

“It’s very stressful. You’re going to get nine (people) ticked off, and one happy. So many people are disappointed,” Vincent said.

Terry Stavenow, an Arnprior realtor for 40 years, said that “the pent-up need took over with inventory going low. It made a stampede on everything that was available.“

“Brand new housing — it’s very much gone. Several building developers are rushing to get inventory. They usually don’t do construction in the winter months,” said Stavenow.

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