Friday, April 24, 2009

Canada Needs Bigger Profile Abroad: Provinces

(The Canadian Press)

The Harper government needs to beef up Canada’s profile overseas if it wants to stimulate more trade and create jobs, say provincial trade ministers. The ministers were meeting with their federal counterpart, Stockwell Day, on Thursday to discuss strategies to help exporters and investors during the economic downturn.

One of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s priorities when he took office was bolstering Canada’s presence on the world stage. But some provinces – as well as retired diplomats and former Conservative Trade Minister David Emerson – have been critical of his cuts to the Foreign Affairs Department. In particular, budget reductions in diplomacy and closures of Canadian missions abroad have been condemned as short-sighted. The latest closures, revealed this week, are slated for Cambodia and Bosnia.

Meanwhile, the United States has been pouring more resources into its international profile, as has the United Kingdom and Australia.

Ontario Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello complimented Day for his “activist agenda,” saying he took the trade portfolio in the right direction with an aggressive travel schedule that has taken him to China and India for long sojourns.

Harper has not visited India, China or Brazil – the world’s biggest emerging markets – since taking office three years ago.

“In our experiences abroad, we are given a clear message by leadership in other countries that they do want to see Canada,” Pupatello told reporters. “And while they really do appreciate provincial intervention, they really anticipate seeing ministers and the prime minister.” Read more here.