The 12-day trip to the Pacific Rim of Asia was the most extensive foreign journey of his 20 months in office. The mission was to sell Canada and its products, to attract investment and to present the Prime Minister as a globe-trotting leader conferring with the powerful. But Brian Mulroney’s diplomatic tour of Japan, China and South Korea—following the Tokyo economic summit—was shadowed by the controversy in Ottawa that led to the resignation of Industry Minister Sinclair Stevens (page 14). And as he completed his tour last week in South Korea, Mulroney’s mission was also tarnished at home by criticism that his cabinet seemed unable to stay out of trouble.
Still, the Prime Minister claimed at the close of his trip in Seoul that his meetings with Asian business and political leaders had been immensely successful. Said Mulroney of his South Korean visit: “I am impressed by the prospects for a healthy two-way expansion of this bilateral trade relationship.” Korea agreed for the first time to import shipments of anthracite coal for domestic fuel and canola oilseed from Western Canada. The coal accord will involve an initial trial ship-
ment of between 30,000 and 60,000 tons at $60 a ton beginning this year—in addition to the $252 million worth of softer bituminous coal for steel and power plants that Canada already sells to Korea each year. The canola deal involves an initial shipment of 12,000 tons beginning this year at about $280 a ton. As well, the Koreans agreed to lower the tariff on canola to 10 per cent from 40 per cent, making it more competitive with U.S. soybeans.
Although no agreements were reached, Mulroney and Korean officials also talked about lowering Seoul’s timber tariffs in order to reduce Canada’s $831.4-million annual trade deficit with South Korea. That deficit is largely the result of I high tariffs on Canadian staples, including lumber and agricultural products. But Korean exports of Hyundai automobiles, for one—the country’s most profitable export—are allowed into Canada tariff-free until 1987 and are not regulated by quotas because Ottawa classifies Korea as a developing country.
As well, the Prime Minister found time for an unscheduled visit to the United Nations-controlled Demilitarized Zone separating North and South
Korea. There he praised the courage of the 516 Canadians who died during the Korean War and he stepped over the border into North Korea for three minutes. Mulroney criticized the lack of human rights in the North, but also spent about half of a two-hour meeting last Tuesday with South Korea’s President Chun Doohwan petitioning him for democratic reforms in South Korea. Chun, who seized power in 1980, has ruled with an u iron fist ever since. Rez cent rallies—attended
1 by tens of thousands of 5 Koreans —have called
2 for direct presidential 25 elections to replace the
electoral college, whose members are clearly Chun supporters.
The South Korean president has said that he will step down in 1988, a pledge he reaffirmed during his meeting with Mulroney. Chun did not offer guarantees on electoral reform, but one Canadian government official commented, “We were not told to mind our own business.” But in South Korea the Prime Minister came face to face with one aspect of Chun’s regime: press censorship. Reporting on his talks with Chun, the country’s two English-language dailies omitted any mention of human rights discussions. And after Mulroney praised the Canadian parliamentary system during his address at a banquet in Chun’s palatial Blue House, the Korea Herald deleted Mulroney’s comments from its version of the text.
Meanwhile, the Stevens affair, the resignation of backbench Tory MP Robert Toupin and 50 charges related to bribery, breach of trust and fraud upon government that the RCMP laid against Montreal Conservative MP Michel Gravel cast a large cloud over the Prime Minister’s trip. At his closing press conference in Seoul, Mulroney insisted that the resignations of ministers during the past 15 months showed a commitment to parliamentary tradition that is “a sign of strength,” not weakness. And on Wednesday, while addressing the Pacific Basin Economic Council—a group of businessmen from Pacific Rim countries—he also made a reference to his party’s problems. From a prepared text he spoke of Canada’s “political stability.” Then, looking up, he ad-libbed, “And I hope it stays that way.”
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