Christine Lagarde was there, as was the host of this year’s Group of 20 heads of state summit, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. But the leader everyone wanted to see at one Sunday morning meeting was a 43-year-old just a fortnight into his job -- Justin Trudeau.
Snapping selfies and throwing smiles in the Turkish resort town of Antalya, attendees couldn’t get enough of Trudeau, who will face a tougher audience as the gathering wears on. The session’s moderator, Hakan Celik, tried to restore order yet he was also swept up in the adulation.
“We have to leave this area to access leaders and ministers and prime ministers immediately," Celik said, adding there’d be more time for photos later. He later tweeted two of his own of Trudeau.
Trudeau’s speech on Sunday at a fringe event for business and labor leaders was his first on the international stage as Canada’s prime minister following his Oct. 19 election. The eldest son of former leader Pierre Trudeau, he has revived his father’s Liberal Party and returned it to power for the first time since 2006, overcoming claims that he wasn’t ready to govern.
Trudeau will soon face demands for more than selfies and existing pledges, such as his commitment to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of the year.
“He can’t get by on style alone,” John Kirton, co-founder of the G-20 Research Group and a University of Toronto professor, said before the summit. “He’s going to be expected to deliver, and not just 25,000 refugees in Canada to come to our New Year’s Eve party. Will that impress Merkel, who’s taking a million? So, OK, Justin, what are you going to do?”
The pre-summit agenda for this year’s G-20 gathering had appeared perfect for Trudeau, with its focus on infrastructure spending, how to help refugees, and climate change, all pillars of his successful election platform.
Then came the Paris attacks, a terrorist outrage that’s dominating the Antalya summit and which, back home in Canada, has shifted focus on to Trudeau’s controversial pledges to pull his country’s fighter jets from the campaign against Islamic State militants and roll back parts of an anti-terrorism law.
The summit of world leaders is expected to pledge to redouble efforts to strike at the lifeblood of terrorist organizations by targeting how they are financed and the movement of foreign extremists across borders in the wake of events in Paris.
Speaking to reporters before departing for Turkey, Trudeau avoided directly answering questions on his security policy. A government official later said in the aftermath of Paris the government would not change its plans on the fighter jets.
Trudeau on Sunday offered some clues to his governing ambitions, as he stressed the need for infrastructure spending, and said he’ll go into deficit in Canada to fund a spending blitz.
“We’ve made significant pledges to invest” more than 60 billion Canadian dollars over the next 10 years, he said in an interview with Bloomberg TV. “We’re going to continue to do what we need to do to stimulate growth in the economy.”
In his speech, Trudeau urged collaboration. “We’re seeing challenges around the world in trade and conflict that are going to require all of us -- G-20 and beyond -- to pull together and start once again working to create opportunity and growth for all.”
He then preached multiculturalism and pluralism, calling on countries, two days after the Paris attacks, to not close their borders.
“Canada figured out a long time ago that differences can be a source of strength, not a source of weakness,” Trudeau said. “This is a lesson we all need to learn -- how to listen to people of different perspectives and backgrounds.”
Trudeau is scheduled to meet Monday with the leaders of China, Germany and Italy, as well as Erdogan, who was overheard before Sunday morning’s event asking for help identifying Trudeau. Judging by the crush of onlookers, it’s increasingly a rare position to be in.