The global security environment after the Sept. 11 attacks and the changing WTO agenda have created a challenging situation that requires strategic thinking, visiting former Canadian foreign minister Lloyd Axworthy said yesterday.
"The combination of the post-911 [environment] and the WTO created a very different and quite challenging set of [circumstances] ... that really requires people to think how to act their way through it," Axworthy said during his talk on "sovereignty, security and economy with a human face."
The events of Sept. 11 "showed the vulnerability of the people who find their innocence exploited and violated ... and even the strongest and most powerful country in the world did not have the capacity to stop them," the Nobel peace prize nominee said.
There is also a certain "contradiction" in the Sept. 11 attacks in that even the buildup of massive military power in the US failed to protect innocent people from what Axworthy termed a "criminal" act.
Although attention had been drawn to possible joint action to combat global terrorism prior to Sept. 11 -- for instance at related discussions held during G8 meetings in the late 1980s -- the rhetoric had far outweighed the commitment to united international action, Axworthy lamented.
The former foreign minister told his audience in Taipei that it's crucial to understand "the global nature of the threat" posed by terrorists and that the solution to that threat requires joint action on a global scale.
Axworthy, director and CEO of the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues at the University of British Columbia in Canada, also highlighted the difficulty faced by the private sector in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The private sector has faced "a harsh reality" in that the calculation of risk has "stretched substantially." Companies have seen sharp changes in transportation costs, as well as major changes in the demand for security.
"With the accession of Taiwan and China to the WTO, those kinds of economic and risk assessments and calculations could become far more crucial, and that requires strategic thinking not just for the existing [WTO] members but also for the new members," Axworthy argued.
Following the Doha meeting last year, the WTO also began to deal with environmental, intellectual property and energy issues -- a fact that would make strategic thinking in dealing with the "new security environment" all the more important, he said.
Axworthy, however, was careful in responding to questions from the floor about how Taiwan should deal with its giant neighbor, China.
"[It's like] making love to a concubine, do it carefully," said Axworthy, using what he termed "an old Canadian expression."
Meanwhile, President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) told Axworthy yesterday during their meeting that Taiwan's entry to the WTO could serve as a window of opportunity for boosting trade between Taiwan and Canada, according to a Presidential Office press release.
Chen also urged Canada to support Taiwan's bid to join the UN and the WHO, according to the statement.
Axworthy, Canada's foreign minister from 1996 to 2000, is the key architect of the so-called "Axworthy Doctrine," which has the concept of "human security" as its cornerstone.
Axworthy has defined human security as "a condition or state of being characterized by freedom from pervasive threats to people's rights, their safety, or even their lives. ... It is an alternative way of seeing the world, taking people as the point of reference, rather than focussing exclusively on the security of territory or governments."
Some have argued that the notion of "human security" has become all the more relevant following the Sept. 11 attacks, suggesting that the notion of security should not be defined exclusively in military terms, but rather on a broader basis.