Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he’s not convinced that Russia will hold up its end of a deal to reopen Ukrainian Black Sea ports to grain exports.
Russia and Ukraine signed separate agreements Friday with Turkey and the United Nations clearing the way to export millions of tonnes of desperately needed Ukrainian grain, as well as Russian grain and fertilizer — ending a wartime standoff that had threatened food security around the globe.
When asked Friday if he trusted Russia to uphold its end of the deal, Trudeau said he had next to no faith in Moscow.
“Canada’s confidence in Russia’s reliability is pretty much nil. They have demonstrated nothing but poor faith,” Trudeau told reporters during a media availability.
Russia and Ukraine, both among the world’s biggest exporters of food, sent their defence and infrastructure ministers respectively to Istanbul to take part in a signing ceremony, the two sides said.
WATCH | Trudeau discusses deal to export Ukrainian grain:
Russia created global food, energy crises: Trudeau
The blockade by Russia’s Black Sea fleet has worsened global supply chain disruptions and, along with Western sanctions imposed on Moscow, has stoked high inflation in food and energy since Russian forces swept into Ukraine on Feb. 24.
Trudeau accused Russia of creating both crises by invading Ukraine.
“They have precipitated a global energy crisis, a global food crisis with their illegal invasion of Ukraine, and the rest of us have been working very, very hard to try and mitigate those issues around the world,” he said.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov signed separate deals with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar. The ceremony was witnessed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
UN chief calls deal a ‘beacon of hope’
“Today, there is a beacon on the Black Sea,” Guterres said. “A beacon of hope, a beacon of possibility, a beacon of relief in a world that needs it more than ever.”
“You have overcome obstacles and put aside differences to pave the way for an initiative that will serve the common interests of all,” he said, addressing the Russian and Ukrainian representatives.
Trudeau said he spoke with Guterres in recent weeks and was “optimistic” about the deal, but added he wants to ensure Ukraine’s sovereignty and security aren’t put at risk.
“That’s what we’ll be watching very, very closely, to make sure this does not put Ukraine further at risk,” he said.
Trudeau’s agriculture minister struck a more optimistic note on Friday.
“I sincerely hope that this agreement will move forward and that [Ukraine] will be able to export their grain and other food produce to countries that are in need,” Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said at a press conference.
Restarting grain shipments a ‘major test,’ expert says
Prior to the war, Ukraine typically exported between five and six million tonnes of grain every month. Getting exports back to those levels may be difficult even with this new agreement in place, said Joseph Glauber, a former chief economist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“That’s going to take time, I think, and it will be very tenuous in the near term,” he said.
Glauber said it might be hard to find insurance companies willing to insure vessels and grain shipments while the conflict is ongoing.
“Hopefully this will lead to a more normalization [of] agrarian trade and so the insurance companies can get back in and say, ‘OK, well, we’re willing to take these risks,'” he said. “I think that will be the major test, frankly.”