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January 16, 2009 (11:40 a.m. EST)
No. 11

Minister Day Confident of a New Economic Agreement with European Union

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, today concluded a successful two-day visit to Prague, where he met with several ministerial counterparts and built on progress that has been made in creating stronger Canada-European Union relations. The Czech Republic holds the Presidency of the EU from January to June 2009.

Building on momentum from last October's Canada-EU Leaders' Summit, Minister Day met with senior ministers of the Czech Republic to seek support for a closer Canada-EU economic relationship and to explore new opportunities for commercial cooperation.

"The Canada-EU commercial relationship has enormous potential. The EU is Canada's second most important partner for trade and investment, with two-way trade totalling $109.4 billion in 2007. There is no doubt that a closer economic partnership with the EU will help Canadian businesses thrive in this market, providing jobs at home and lowering the cost of consumer products imported from the EU," said Minister Day. "I'm in Prague to lay the groundwork for this revitalized and strengthened economic partnership. I am confident that we will be in a position to launch negotiations this spring."

Minister Day met various officials during his visit to Prague, including Martin Riman, the Czech Minister of Industry and Trade. In the meeting, Minister Day sought and received Czech support for working toward the launch of negotiations at the next Canada-EU Summit. Ministers also agreed to accelerate work on the recently concluded Canada-EU Air Transport Agreement so that it could be signed at the next Summit.

Both ministers noted the positive commercial relationship between our two countries, and expressed a desire to increase trade and investment in key sectors, including aviation, information and communication technologies, aerospace and defence, life sciences, agriculture and agri-food, and environmental technologies.

During a visit with the Deputy Prime Minister for European Affairs, Alexandr Vondra, Minister Day indicated a desire to build on Canada's historically strong relationship with the Czech Republic both during and beyond the Presidency. He made a point of saying that an enhanced economic agreement with the EU is a priority for Canada. Minister Day expressed confidence that once negotiations are launched, an agreement can be reached, citing recently concluded agreements such as the one with the European Free Trade Association, made up of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.

Minister Day addressed members of the Canadian-Czech Chamber of Commerce and visited the Canadian firm Adastra, a Toronto-based firm active in the Czech Republic that specializes in technology-based business intelligence and data management services for international corporations.

"Canadian and European companies are finding new opportunities to work together in trade, science and technology, and investment partnerships. Canadian businesses have proven to be world-class competitors, and opening doors to these companies is something that I want to vigorously pursue," said Minister Day.

Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and the Czech Republic totalled $558.1 million in 2007. Promising sectors for business development in the Czech Republic include primarily agri-food, aerospace and defence, and environment (renewable energy), as well as transportation, construction, and information and communication technologies.

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For further information, media representatives may contact:

Mélisa Leclerc
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada