I recently visited Ljubljana, Slovenia and Strasbourg, France, as part of a Canadian delegation to the Council of Europe. This was my second trip this year, as part of the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association, where parliamentarians exchange information and ideas with other parliamentarians from the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and individual parliaments of all countries of Europe. Furthermore, the parliamentary delegation is presented with an excellent opportunity to influence the policies of these parliaments before they are adopted.
The Canadian delegation traveled to Slovenia, as it will hold the next presidency of the European Union (EU), from January to July 2008. During our time in Strasbourg, the Council of Europe discussed many issues of international importance including: migration, the recent parliamentary elections held in Central Asia, the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, human rights, globalization, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the world economy, human trafficking, domestic violence, and preventive war.
I was invited to speak on the OECD and the world economy, as well as on how Canada is taking steps towards aligning itself with the economic opportunities being created in the world economy by globalization. In my address, I highlighted the various measures our Government has taken to become more competitive globally including: fiscal consolidation, tax reform, infrastructure investments, and regulatory streamlining. Canada has also been working hard in our Americas strategy and elsewhere to strengthen human rights and democracy; to build strong, sustainable economies through increased trade and investment linkages; and to meet new security challenges (i.e. natural disasters and health pandemics). Our Government feels that these are closely connected objectives and intends to work with our European partners towards them.
I also had the opportunity to raise Canada’s concerns with the lack of real progress in the Doha negotiations, especially with respect to the agricultural negotiations. The goal of our Government is to create a more level playing field through the elimination of export subsidies, as well as real and significant improvements in market access. Our Government strongly supports further trade liberalization in agriculture, both because it would benefit our agricultural producers and processors, but also because it is urgently needed to improve the prospects for developing countries.
During my time in Slovenia, I had the opportunity to meet Canada’s Ambassador to Hungary, Mr. Pierre Guimond. Ambassador Guimond also represents Canada in Slovenia. Our delegation also met with other consular staff, as well the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Slovenia and discussed issues of mutual importance. Trade between Canada and Slovenia has grown steadily over the years with total trade nearing $130 million in 2005. Canada and Slovenia also share an interest in trying to ensure stability in the Balkans through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and our common membership in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Our delegation’s trip was most successful, as we shared Canada’s significant knowledge and experience on many important issues that affect Canada, Europe, and the international community. I look forward to continuing my work on the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association and representing Canada’s interests abroad.