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Canada focuses on Latin America

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, Stabroek News – Last week the Canadian Foreign Minister, John Baird, made a diplomatic foray into Latin America, in a follow-up to, or probably reassessment of, Canada-Latin American relations since Prime Minister Stephen Harper visited the area in 2007. As part of Latin America, or the Americas as they are sometimes referred to in North America, Baird took in two countries that are part of the Cariforum system, Cuba and the Dominican Republic, in both of which Canada has maintained a substantial interest. But no Caricom country has been engaged by Canada on this occasion, though both Cuba and the Dominican Republic have, over the last few years, enhanced their relationships with the Caricom, being now, though in different forms, engaged with the rest of Caricom in the Cariforum. Canada, like other major countries in the world, has become more intensely interested in the Latin American zone, particularly as many of them seem to have survived what is now described as a global recession. They have showed impressive rates of economic growth, expansion and diversification of their international trade, while becoming increasingly attractive to North America in particular as sources of investment, at a time when China has quietly established a substantial presence there. Since Harper’s visit in 2007, Latin America’s foreign trade in goods has increased by 40% and poverty has fallen by nearly 30%. At that time, Harper observed, in commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement, that “re-engagement in our hemisphere” was “a critical international priority for our Government.” And Baird’s visit must be seen as a Canadian recognition of the fact that the significance of the area to Canada’s efforts at enhancing its activities in Latin America need to be reinforced, as the Latin American states themselves have begun to adopt a posture of collective diplomatic expansion into areas which link them not only to North America, but to other dynamic economies on their Pacific Ocean side.

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