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NEWS: Harper to attend Pacific Alliance summit in Colombia, May 21-23

Prime Minister Stephen Harper will be in Cali, Colombia on May 21-23 to meet the leaders of the Pacific Alliance to consider if Canada should join this ‘trade’ bloc of Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru. The alliance has a combined GDP of close to $2 trillion. Canada has had observer status with them since November 2012.

Last October, an advocate of Canada joining the Pacific Alliance wrote, “If one wants partners serious about advancing new trade agendas to face Asia, then the Pacific Alliance, not NAFTA, is the preferred club. …The Pacific Alliance is on track to begin negotiating with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, a bloc of 600 million people in 10 countries. ASEAN includes Indonesia and Thailand (not now involved in the Trans Pacific Partnership talks)… China has also stated its desire to open talks with the Pacific Alliance.”

Today, Globe and Mail columnist John Ibbitson writes, “The Pacific Alliance represents about a third of Latin America’s economy; Costa Rica wants to join, and others are considering it. It intends to focus on Asia, eyeing trade agreements with partners like ASEAN…”

He adds, “The members of the Pacific Alliance … have dropped visa requirements so their citizens can travel freely within the bloc without forms and fees. They’d expect Canada to do the same if it joins, letting their citizens visit without getting a visa in advance. …(But) Ottawa imposes visas on some countries so they can screen out people who might claim refugee status here. The pressure to lift them forces choices about the asylum system. …Lifting (visas) immediately would raise concerns about a flow of refugee claimants from Colombia or Peru.”

Ibbitson suggests one option for Harper may be to deem these countries ‘safe countries’. He notes, “Ottawa put Mexico on the list of supposedly safe countries… Refugee advocates say protections were sacrificed for Canada’s trade interests. Adding Colombia or Peru to the list would amplify the charge.”

For more, please read:
Are Conservatives stonewalling trade committee with the Pacific Alliance?
NEWS: Will Harper seek full membership in the Pacific Alliance trade bloc?
NEWS: Canada eyes joining the ‘Alianza del Pacifico’ trade bloc