Québec Premier Jean Charest kicked off his official trip to Europe in Davos, Switzerland in late January. Seeking to promote the proposed economic partnership between Canada and the European Union (EU), Mr. Charest reiterated the potential benefits of such an agreement in the present economic environment and stressed the need to resist the lure of protectionism.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, the new EU President, Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, expressed support for the proposed trans-Atlantic partnership. The Czech Republic will hold the EU presidency until July 1 after taking over from France earlier this year. Premier Charest and Raymond Bachand, Minister of Economic Development, Innovation and Export Trade, attended the Forum with a view to initiating discussions on how to address the global economic slowdown and to promoting investment opportunities in Québec with key economic decision makers.
The proposed partnership also figured prominently on Mr. Charest’s agenda in Brussels, where meetings were held with Catherine Ashton, the European trade commissioner, and with José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, who reiterated his interest in the project. The Premier also raised the topic with Belgium’s Prime Minister, Herman Van Rompuy, and with Kris Peeters, Minister-President of Flanders, as well as at a luncheon meeting organized by Québec Government Office in Brussels and the Canada/Belgium/Luxembourg Chamber of Commerce.
At the conclusion of his visit, Mr. Charest said he was confident that formal negotiations on a trans-Atlantic partnership agreement could be launched at the upcoming Canada-EU summit in May 2009.
Proposed Canada-EU economic partnership (in French)