BELEK, Turkey, Nov 15 – Justin Trudeau, Canada’s charismatic new prime minister, made his international debut on Sunday and was greeted by business executives seeking selfie pictures and an appointment book full of meeting requests from the world’s most powerful politicians.
Canadian leaders rarely cause a stir at international gatherings but there was no chance the energetic 43-year-old Trudeau would remain unnoticed at a Group of 20 summit in Turkey.
His Liberals won a big election victory last month by promising “sunny ways” and an era of respect after a decade of rule by Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who rarely smiled and relished attacking his domestic opponents.
Trudeau turned up a meeting of business and labor leaders on Sunday morning and stood patiently for several minutes as dozens of people shook his hand and posed for selfies. His mere presence in public generates similar scenes in Canada.
The warm welcome rather overshadowed a short speech he then gave, urging his audience to work together to tackle the world’s challenges.
Canadian officials say world leaders are lining up to shake Trudeau’s hand, with more than two dozen logging requests for meetings during the three-day summit.
Harper usually looked dour during photo opportunities but Trudeau – the first Canadian politician to rack up a million Twitter followers – chatted animatedly to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto on Sunday as cameras clicked.
One senior G20 diplomat said Trudeau was portraying politics as a positive force at a time of public cynicism about politicians – an approach which intrigued his international peers.
“What will be interesting is to see whether the tone of other governments’ political and public assertions changes a little bit, if they feel he wooed people in a way they haven’t,” said the diplomat.
Trudeau named a cabinet packed with young ministers, which was evenly split between men and women for the first time. When asked why, he replied “because it’s 2015.”
The world’s media could not get enough – glossy Paris Match magazine splashed Trudeau, his wife and three young children on the front cover, the Times of London ran a gushing profile and the New York Times praised him in an editorial.
“It’s a bit of a Camelot era … there is a lot of pent-up enthusiasm,” said a second G20 diplomat, referring to the glowing coverage of former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who came to power in 1961 with a photogenic young family.
The world has seen nothing like this from Canada since Trudeau’s flamboyant father Pierre became Liberal prime minister in 1968 and launched an era of so-called Trudeaumania.
His performance at a 1969 conference in London, especially pictures of him escorting women around town, generated headlines such as “He-man Trudeau pinup of meeting” and “The Show Stealer – that’s Pierre Trudeau.”