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NEWS: Harper to push trade deals in Davos

The Toronto Star reports, “Prime Minister Stephen Harper is launching a major trade charm offensive this week at Davos, Switzerland in a bid to woo Asian and European trade partners after a stinging rebuff from the U.S. on (the Keystone XL pipeline). …He will renew a push to enter talks the Americans are also in with Asia-Pacific countries to negotiate a Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, and to nail down a Canada-European free trade deal, now in its final stages.”

“International Trade Minister Ed Fast said Monday that negotiations with the European Union on a free-trade deal are in the final stages. ‘The negotiations are essentially at a point where we have completed nine full rounds. We don’t expect there will be any additional rounds. Certainly in Canada, I can’t emphasize enough how important this agreement is to our long-term prosperity as a country,’ he stated, adding that broadening trade with Europe could increase economic activity in Canada by $12 billion a year and create 80,000 Canadian jobs.”

“The Harper government has moved to boost trade with Columbia, Costa Rica, Honduras, Jordan and Panama, as well as with other South American and South East Asian markets. …In addition to an upcoming trip next month to China where trade will top the agenda, Harper is likely to travel to Thailand, Taiwan and possibly India later in the year in his bid to secure new markets, though no visits have yet been announced. …In an important change in international policy, the Conservative government announced late last year that it wants to take part in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which would lower trade barriers among an economically powerful group of regional nations including Australia, the U.S., Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia, Vietnam and possibly Japan.”

Fast, Foreign Minister John Baird and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will be accompanying Harper to the World Economic Forum, which runs January 25 to 29.

To read Council of Canadians trade campaigner Stuart Trew’s blog on ‘Harper’s trade agenda in 2012’, please go to http://canadians.org/blog/?p=13028.