Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Canadian Prime Minister Kicks Off Latin America Tour

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Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper today begins a weeklong tour through South and Central America with a focus on boosting trade ties. He will visit four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Honduras.

Harper’s arrival in Brazil last night marks his first official visit to the country in more than five years as prime minister. His bilateral meeting with President Dilma Rousseff today and speech to the São Paulo business, political and academic communities tomorrow underscore his goal to aggressively improve Canadian-Brazilian commercial relations. The rise of Brazil is a focus of the Spring 2011 issue of Americas Quarterly and of the AS/COA’s Latin American Cities Conference in São Paulo tomorrow.

Canadian-Brazilian ties have become rocky in past years, especially amid disputes over government subsidies for Brazil’s Embraer aerospace conglomerate and Canada’s Bombardier, Inc. aircraft manufacturer. Brazil is Canada’s 10th-largest export destination and Jayson Myers, president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said that “of any major emerging economies, Brazil presents Canada with the most opportunity for export.”

Harper will continue Wednesday to Bogotá to meet with President Juan Manuel Santos. The two countries enjoy close ties and the Canada-Colombia free-trade agreement (FTA) enters into force next week. President Santos—in an exclusive interview with AQ on Friday—emphasized the importance of a similar FTA with the United States. Harper finishes his trip in Central America, visiting Costa Rica and Honduras on Thursday and Friday. The Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa notes that Harper will be the first foreign leader to visit Honduras after its readmission into the Organization of American States in June.

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