US, Canada and Finland form ‘Ice Pact’ to project influence into Arctic region

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Canada, the United States and Finland say a newly announced “Ice Pact” to build a fleet of polar icebreaker ships will challenge China’s control of the market as nations scramble for influence in the Arctic.

The deal, announced during the Nato summit in Washington, could see as many as 90 icebreaker ships produced by the three countries in the coming years.

“As leaders of Arctic nations, Canada, Finland and the United States, recognizing the enduring importance of the region to our collective economic, climate and national security, we resolve to deepen our cooperation to ensure the polar and Arctic regions remain peaceful, cooperative and prosperous,” Justin Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister, said in a statement on Thursday. “Over the next six months, we also will jointly develop an implementation plan for this collaboration to build these highly complex and critical vessels for our allies and partners with interests and responsibilities in the Arctic and Antarctic regions.”

As part of the Icebreaker Collaboration Effort – or Ice Pact – Canada would build two polar icebreakers in Vancouver and a fleet of six from shipyards in Quebec.

Amid a rapidly changing climate in the Arctic, Russia and China have expressed an interest in new polar routes for both trade and military purposes, prompting wariness from Nato nations.

Last year, the two nations signed an agreement to cooperate in the Arctic. Russia currently has the largest Arctic fleet, its 40 ships far outpacing both the US and Canada.

“The Ice Pact will reinforce the message to Russia and China that the United States and its allies intend to … doggedly pursue collaboration on industrial policy to increase our competitive edge in strategic industries like shipbuilding, to build a world-class polar icebreaking fleet at scale,” a senior US official told reporters.

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“Without this arrangement, we’d risk our adversaries developing an advantage in a specialized technology with vast geostrategic importance, which could also allow them to become the preferred supplier for countries that also have an interest in purchasing polar icebreakers.”

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