Canada, Mexico and NAFTA

Canada needs to lift visa requirement for Mexicans

Colin Robertson The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Oct. 28 2014

When it comes to statecraft, there is no better place to show the flag than the deck of a warship. This past week, HMCS Athabaskan moored at the Mexican port of Veracruz to help celebrate 70 years of Canada-Mexico diplomatic relations and 20 years of economic integration through NAFTA.

Canadians love Mexico – close to two million of us will visit this year making it our most popular foreign destination after the United States.

We do not reciprocate the Mexican welcome mat.

A visa requirement – imposed pre-emptively in the summer of 2009 after a surge in Mexican refugee claimants – remains in place. The Mexicans have since cracked down on the nefarious operators at their end, while the Harper government reformed our once-lax refugee system.

Lifting our visa requirement, or at least identifying a path to resolution, continues to be Mexico’s main “ask” of Canada.

For the Mexicans, the lack of progress on the visa situation is frustrating and poisons the relationship. It sticks in their craw the same way that the Obama administration’s rag-the-puck approach on the Keystone XL permit frustrates us.

Potential insult on injury lies ahead if Mexico is not included in the electronic travel authorization system that the Harper government will roll out in the coming months.

We need to find a way to include Mexico or to have a specific road map, resolving the visa issue, before the next North American Leaders’ summit, scheduled for Canada in the early spring.

Beyond its effect on official relations, the visa situation deters Mexicans from visiting, studying and doing business in Canada.

In 2008, the year before the visa requirement, Mexicans were our sixth source country for tourism, spending an estimated $364-million. They have since fallen to tenth place and their spending has halved. Mexican investment in Canada ($22-million) is dwarfed by Canadian investment in Mexico ($12-billion).

This hassle over getting to Canada is the biggest deterrent and led to the cancellation earlier this year of a buying mission to have been led by Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. With the passage of its energy reforms opening doors to foreign investment and partnership, Mexico is actively looking for the kind of energy and engineering skills that Canada has developed.

The provinces get it and they are taking the initiative to work with Mexican states and its national government. In June, Alberta’s Energy Regulator signed an agreement to work collaboratively on best practices in hydrocarbon development with its Mexican counterpart

The conditions for North American integration have never been better even if the personal chemistry between the three leaders – Stephen Harper, Enrique Pena Nieto and Barack Obama – is such that their meetings do not require air conditioning.

Commerce has expanded significantly since NAFTA took effect 20 years ago. The goal over the next decade should be to double the current trillion dollars plus in annual continental trade.

It’s doable if we can get our act together. Together, we have a market of 500 million with the resources, thanks to technology, to fuel a new manufacturing revolution revitalizing North America’s industrial base.

Later this week, the three trade ministers – Canada’s Ed Fast, Mexico’s Ildefonso Guajardo and Penny Pritzker of the U.S. – meet in Toronto. Their meetings with the business community and beyond are designed to advance North American competitiveness discussions, begun last October in San Diego, from “vision to action.”

They should start by looking at North American auto production. Last week’s decision by Ford to site their new engine production plant in Mexico rather than Windsor is a reminder that supply-chain dynamics have long outpaced the 50-year-old Canada-U.S. Auto Pact.

The ministers should prioritize developing a North American Auto Pact and position the countries, not as competitors, but collaborators in regional and bilateral trade deals.

It is estimated that 25 per cent of the content of goods Canada exports to the United States originated in the U.S. For Mexican exports to the United States, the U.S.-originated content is 40 per cent (contrasted with China, Brazil and India at 4 per cent, 3 per cent and 2 per cent respectively).

A beggar-thy-neighbour approach will only diminish our collective economies. We have evolved from the classic trade in goods to making things together.

All three nations have a vested interest to ensure that there is convergence in the rules-of-origin in the new trading pacts in which we are involved together – like the Trans-Pacific Partnership or independently.

NAFTA worked. It’s now time to move forward with a new regime that acknowledges the realities of North American economic integration and the benefits of “Made in North America.”

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Canada needs to conclude EU deal

Canada needs to conclude EU trade deal

The Globe and Mail Tuesday, Jun. 10 2014

Within last week’s G-7 communiqué was a commitment to conclude outstanding trade agreements. Topping this list was the Canada-EU agreement. We need to close this deal.

Leaders also promised to strengthen the rules-based international trading system and to fight protectionism, and underlined the role of trade and investment as “key engines for jobs and growth.”

In the architecture of post-World War II institutions, the multilateral trade arena – first through the GATT and now the World Trade Organization (WTO) – raises global incomes and contributes to poverty reduction.

Trade negotiations, once the preserve of the trade-policy cognoscenti operating behind closed doors, are today highly public, very political and polarized on various fault lines: rich vs. poor, developed vs. newly developed nations.

Ambition is returning to the WTO, but negotiations among 160 members will be slower, and with more compromises, than focused initiatives among like-minded nations. Last year’s WTO ministerial meeting in Bali resulted in a Trade Facilitation Agreement that G-7 leaders have promised to swiftly implement.

Ultimately, in an era where goods are “made in the world” of supply chains, and of trade largely intra-firm or connected to global value chains (by some estimates, 80 per cent of all trade), business itself will demand one set of rules and the WTO likely will reassert its primacy as the main table.

For now, serious trade negotiations are conducted either bilaterally or regionally that increasingly head into “beyond the border” domestic regulations, public policy choices on investment (and dispute settlement) and innovation (intellectual property) and, for Asia, state capitalism.

The result is a ‘spaghetti bowl’ of different agreements. Companies parse the different agreements for advantages relating to differing rules of origin or intellectual property protection.

For Canada, trade and investment is vital to our continued prosperity. We rank 12th in the WTO table of leading exporters and importers and 17th in trade in commercial services. Half of what we produce is exported.

Include inter-provincial commerce and 80 per cent of our economy depends on trade. If we could bust barriers between provinces it could be even higher, with commensurate gains to consumers and provincial coffers.

Opening doors to trade involves the short-term pain of adjustment (eased through training in new skills). Better market access and improved productivity result in long-term gains, as demonstrated after implementation of the Canada-US FTA and NAFTA.

The Harper government boasts that it is creating the conditions for trade through an activist global markets plan – now 15 trade offices in China – and building infrastructure at home in the form of roads, rail, bridges, ports and pipelines.

Progress on our major trade negotiations can be grouped into three baskets:

  • What is important but won’t move fast: TRans Pacific Partnership is effectively stalled until the United States can secure Trade Promotion Authority from Congress. The Canada-Japan Economic Partnership plays a distant second fiddle to the TPP. Before the Japanese seriously engage they want assurance of pipelines to our Pacific coast with LNG terminals.

Then there is the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

Announced triumphantly last October, CETA is not wrapped up. International Trade Minister Ed Fast says the issues are technicalities. Others suggest there remain hurdles around issues like investor-state dispute settlement, intellectual property and financial regulations. EU Ambassador Marie-Anne Coninsx recently warned that “if it drags on too long then …momentum might get lost.”

For the EU and USA, CETA serves as a guide for their own negotiations.

Championed tirelessly by the Canada Europe Business Roundtable, Canadian business leadership wants a deal.

Canadian provinces, initially divided on CETA’s efficacy, are now invested in the agreement. Provincial participation at the negotiating table changes permanently, for the better, the future conduct of trade negotiations.

CETA symbolizes the Harper government’s trade agenda with ministers and MPs criss-crossed the country its case. In Brussels last week, Prime Minister Harper linked hands with EU Commission President Jose Barrosso.

But Mr. Harper did not bring home the bacon.

In trade negotiations, perfection is the enemy of the good. To get a lot, you have to give a little. Nor does delay make for a better deal. It can make for a lost deal.

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Asia and Indo-Pacific Relations

Six ways Canada can boost its business ties to Asia

The Globe and Mail Published Tuesday, Dec. 10 2013

If you had any doubt that the much-proclaimed Pacific, actually Indo-Pacific, Century applies equally to Canada, then look to Harper Government’s new global markets strategy.

Seventeen of its 20 emerging markets and four of its six established markets border or access the Pacific and Indian oceans.

Critics argue that it signals a radical departure from our foreign policy. But, when you look at the details, the new policy is evolutionary rather than revolutionary.

It also reflects recommendations of ongoing work by our think tanks, universities and businesses. There is broad consensus for more focus on new, especially Indo-Pacific, markets.

This reflects two broad trends: First, the reassertion of Asian economic power after a 150-year hiatus; and, second, the need to find alternative markets to the United States.

This quest for counterweights to the U.S. dates back to Sir John A. Macdonald. It has found new advocates with the realization that when it comes to getting the best price for our resources – oil, gas or lumber – we need a second market.

Looking westward makes a lot of sense but keep in mind the following:

First, an Asian policy is a misnomer. One size does not fit all. It is a continent of different regions, religions, ethnicities and languages. There are democracies and dictatorships. If we are to effectively advance Canadian interests we need to tailor policies by country, by region and by sector.

Second, with ties of family, Asian Canadians give us privileged access to Asian markets. They are our best salespersons to attract more talent to our country as either immigrants or students.

Canada is the envy of the world when it comes to practical pluralism. We need to market this advantage as we grow our population.

Recognize the importance of education as a service industry. It is Australia’s fourth largest export. Our government is getting its act together after initial ambivalence. But we are playing catch-up and are well behind the U.S, U.K. and Australia.

Third, use our history. We have trade links dating back more than a century through insurance, banking and shipping, missionaries, teachers and doctors.

Chinese diplomats ask why we do not do more with Norman Bethune. Whatever his politics, he is a Chinese hero. Why not, for example, Bethune scholarships modeled after the successful Fulbright program?

As we reform our Foreign Service, we should also target Asian Canadians who have the practical language skills and family ties that can make all the difference in closing a deal.

Fourth, we want to trade in Asia but first we must exhibit our bona fides on security. China’s recent declaration of an Air Identification Zone is not just a Japan-China-U.S. dispute. It is a challenge to maritime law and freedom of navigation. It threatens the strategic power balance in the region.

Half the world’s shipping passes through South China Sea. That is more than 41,000 ships a year, double the number that pass through the Suez Canal and nearly triple the total for the Panama Canal.

Our trade and commerce depends on these sea routes being secure.

We need to demonstrate that we are as invested in the security of the Indo-Pacific, especially the North Pacific, as we are in the North Atlantic.

This means building our promised fleet and deploying our submarines and maintaining the readiness of our expeditionary capacity.

On North Korea, our policy of controlled engagement is counterproductive. It limits discussions with the North Koreans to issues of regional security concerns, human rights, and consular issues. This effectively means no engagement with the North. This does not help our friends in South Korea.

Fifth, it means being there. We can’t achieve our ‘economic diplomacy’ goals without an active official Canadian presence. Unlike in the West, a government presence in Asia is a big deal. We need more consulates in China, India and Indonesia.

Just because Jean Chrétien, a Liberal, pioneered successful Team Canada missions of premiers and CEOs doesn’t mean that Stephen Harper, a Conservative, shouldn’t do the same. Remember Deng Xiaoping’s observation on white and black cats – it doesn’t matter as long as it catches the mice.

Sixth, our policy must have a democracy angle. It’s who we are as a people.

Mongolia, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong – these are middle-income countries possessing nascent democratic institutions. Engage them, not just government-to-government and student-to-student, but party-to-party.

Ties of family and history give us advantages in Asia if we use them. Contributing to its regional security will help us to trade successfully in the Indo-Pacific.

China's swinging indicators for 2013 point to a bumpy road ahead for Beijing as it pushes forward with key reforms in the new year. Tara Joseph reports.

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NAFTA: Next Steps

NAFTA’s enduring lesson: Never forget your neighbours

Special to The Globe and Mail Wednesday, Nov. 13 2013

Colin Robertson

Twenty years ago, Americans and a lot of Canadians tuned in on a November evening to watch Larry King host what turned out to be seminal debate on free trade. It pitted then U.S. vice president Al Gore against Ross Perot.

Mr. Perot, the irascible Texan, was riding a wave of popular discontent with his warning that Americans should listen for a ‘giant sucking sound going south’ as jobs fled to the Mexican maquiladoras. The appeal netted him 19 per cent of the popular vote in the 1992 election, making him the most successful third party challenger since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

Gore dismembered Perot in debate and subsequently, support for the Clinton administration’s NAFTA legislation rose from 34 per cent to 57 per cent; the debate contributed to its passage a week later in the House of Representatives.

NAFTA worked.

All three nations enjoyed a decade of prosperity that created jobs and balanced budgets. North America’s share of world trade rose to 36 per cent before receding, in face of recession and the rise of Asia, to 25 per cent.

Unfortunately, the continued fear-mongering of Mr. Perot, Ralph Nader and Pat Buchanan – described by Republican leader Bob Michel as the ‘Groucho, Chico and Harpo of the opposition’ – took root in the United States. Flaring up during presidential primaries, NAFTA became, inaccurately, a code word for job loss.

After Sept. 11, security trumped trade as the U.S. ramped up its border presence, tripling budgets to build walls on its southern border and launching drones to patrol its northern frontier.

NAFTA leaders’ meetings, when held, have become competing conversations – one between the Canadian prime minister and the U.S. president and the other between the U.S. and Mexican presidents.

By necessity, the energy for trilateral reform requires the personal leadership of the U.S. president as both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton demonstrated on NAFTA.

George W. Bush launched the Security and Prosperity Initiative, but its scope was too broad and the vigor required was too little. Barack Obama shelved it, endorsing a bigger deal with the Pacific, as part of the U.S. pivot, or rebalance, towards Asia.

Given the deep economic integration, it would have made more sense for President Obama to caucus first with his North American counterparts. If you can’t define a relationship with your neighbours, how can you define a relationship with the world?

Our political leadership sometimes fails to appreciate what our business community already understands: Our mutual competitiveness depends on working together.

Global positioning starts with getting our act together in the neighborhood.

Bob Pastor, tireless champion of the North American idea, recently hosted a conference in Washington that brought together business, legislators, civil society and the key officials from all three countries.

The conference released a survey showing that in all three countries there is strong support for trilateral free trade.

A series of practical suggestions were offered including:

– Resurrecting a high-level business advisory group that is more than just a photo opportunity.

– Given that there is no appetite or money for the new institutions, using more effectively those already in place, notably the Commission on Environmental Cooperation, and the moribund Commission for Labor Cooperation.

– Develop a North American climate strategy that the leaders can take to the international table. Why not, for example, an international price on carbon, starting with North America?

– Better high-level coordination within government and across governments (including states, provinces and cities) to maximize and sustain continental collaboration.

A coalition to inform and educate at the regional and community level will be led by the highly effective Pacific Northwest Economic Region and the Border Trade Alliance.

The recent announcement by U.S. Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker, Mexican Economy Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and International Trade Minister Ministers Ed Fast to work on a ‘constructive agenda’ is encouraging. It needs to look at better coordinating infrastructure and transportation grids, including pipelines, roads, rail and ports.

A take-away from the recent Canadian American Business Council conference in Ottawa is the requirement for a continental approach to talent, including co-ordinating training and skills development.

There are other efforts underway, including a Council of Foreign Relations Task Force led by David Petraeus and Robert Zoellick. They should start by reading the CFR’s 2005 report led by co-chairs John Manley, Pedro Aspe and William Weld.

Twenty years on, the best tribute to NAFTA’s enduring success would be a forward-looking strategy. Next spring the leaders will meet in Mexico. Their challenge: a plan to build a North American century.

Colin Robertson is a former diplomat, vice-president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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Canada and ASEAN

These Asian countries have formed a tight-knit web. Why is Canada still outside?

Special to The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Aug. 21 2013

It doesn’t get a lot of attention but ASEAN – the Association of Southeast Asian Nations – is like the little engine that could. Its growing appeal as a launching pad into the rest of Asia is fuelled by its aggregate population of more than 600 million and estimated GDP of US$2.2 trillion.

This week International Trade Minister Ed Fast will meet in Brunei with ASEAN Economic ministers to promote Canadian trade and investment.

The ten nations – Brunei, Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – just celebrated their 46th anniversary. Created initially as a bulwark against communism, it has become an Asian model for regional economic cooperation. Four of its members – Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam – are also in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.

ASEAN’s goal is to develop an Economic Community with free flow of goods, services and investments by the end of 2015. ASEAN nations are working on improving competition policy, increasing foreign equity in services industries, mutual recognition of professional qualifications – the kinds of things we should do more of within the Canadian federation.

Canada has had a formal relationship with ASEAN since 1977. In recent years we have upped our regional commitment with the 2009 appointment of an ASEAN ambassador, 2010 accession to their regional peace treaty, and the 2011 joint declaration on trade and investment.

In addition to our contributions through the Asian Development Bank, CIDA invests more than $130 million focusing on human rights and disaster risk.

After nearly a decade of few high level visits, Governor General Johnston and Prime Minister Harper have recently made official visits, with recurring missions by Ministers Baird and Fast.

‘Face’ and sustained relationship-building matters in Asia and our record has been weak on both counts. We need to sustain high-level engagement, especially if we are to gain admission to the security-focused East Asia Summit.

ASEAN nations represent Canada’s 7th largest trading partner. Our investment in the region is greater than in China and India combined. ASEAN investment in Canada grew over four-fold during the last five years, including the acquisition of Progress Energy by Malaysia’s Petronas.

While our focus is on trade, sustaining the relationship requires a commitment to regional security as well as the socio-cultural. The people-to-people ties are growing. Nearly ten thousand students from ASEAN countries study each year in Canada. Last year we admitted more than 37,000 permanent residents and there are nearly 18,000 temporary foreign workers from the region.

Created in 2012, the membership of the Singapore-based Canada-ASEAN Business Council numbers twenty-one companies, representing our financial, mining, manufacturing and engineering industries.

In proclaiming Canada to be an Asia-Pacific nation at last week’s ASEAN reception at Ottawa City Hall, Foreign Minister John Baird underlined the importance of ties with ASEAN promising that “we will continue to increase our engagement to its fullest potential.”

We have work to do.

ASEAN has free trade area agreements with Korea, India and China and a comprehensive economic partnership with Japan. The ASEAN-Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area eliminated tariffs on incoming ASEAN products last year and restrictions in both directions will end by 2020.

The US-ASEAN Expanded Economic Engagement Initiative is ambitious and results-oriented. It includes simplified customs procedures and joint development of investment principles along the level of ambition set by the Trans Pacific Partnership. The US-ASEAN Business Council is highly developed and has offices throughout the region.

The European Union is the largest foreign investor in the region. ASEAN is the EU’s third largest trading partner after the USA and China. The EU is in FTA negotiations with Malaysia, Vietnam and Thailand. Their long-term goal is a EU-ASEAN FTA.

The Europeans finished negotiating a free trade agreement with Singapore last year. The US-Singapore FTA was concluded in 2004. Our own FTA negotiations with Singapore (like those with Korea) stalled.

We risk developing a reputation as a country that can’t close a deal.

A recent report, prepared for Canadian business looked at six sectors aerospace, agrifood, automobile, clean tech, ICT, oil and gas arguing that Canadians wanting to get into the market need to identify their niche and then determine the best entry point. It warned that Singapore aside, the biggest impediments to doing business in ASEAN are corruption, infrastructure and inept bureaucracy.

Connectivity is the mantra of ASEAN. Their ‘master plan’ envisages huge investments in infrastructure and technology including upgrades to roads and rail, and megaprojects like a high-speed rail line from Singapore to China. We have the capacity to get a piece of the action.

If we are serious about ASEAN we need to sustain our embrace. Ministers have to make regular visits across the Pacific. Deliverables – regional and country-by-country – need to be realistically defined and priorized. For obvious strategic reasons, Indonesia, whose Foreign Minister is in Canada this week, requires special attention.

We are playing catch-up with the competition in ASEAN but the rewards will be worth the effort.

A former diplomat, Colin Robertson is vice president of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute and a senior strategic advisor to McKenna, Long and Aldridge LLP.

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Canada’s Foreign Service needs fixing

No wonder diplomats are on strike: The foreign service needs fixing

Colin Robertson Special to The Globe and Mail, Wednesday, Jun. 12 2013

For a nation whose prosperity and growth depends on a strong, active internationalism, it makes no sense for our government to be at war with our foreign service.

The Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers, the bargaining agent for Canada’s diplomats, is now into a second month of active protest. This has included a series of rotating walk-outs that have affected visits abroad by the Governor-General, the Prime Minister and ministers.

The PAFSO complaint is a growing pay gap between foreign service officers and more highly paid economists, commerce officers and lawyers who are doing the same job, often working side-by-side.

As the smallest of the public-service bargaining agents, PAFSO has gotten short shrift from the Treasury Board Secretariat. Treasury Board has probably made the calculation that there is not a lot of public sympathy for bureaucrats, especially those perceived to lead a ‘glamorous’ existence on the international cocktail circuit, courtesy of the Canadian taxpayer.

That this perception is a myth is beside the point. The foreign service does not have a natural constituency. Yet its work is crucial to the government and the public it serves.

Get into trouble through injury or with the local authorities and need help? Want a lead on selling or buying a product? Want to sponsor your fiancée or parents for immigration to Canada? Call our embassy and who responds: a foreign-service officer.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his government have developed an ambitious international agenda. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney is actively recruiting new Canadians; this requires careful screening and issuance of immigration visas. International Trade Minister Ed Fast is negotiating a series of trade deals. Foreign Minister John Baird is determined to advance the ‘dignity’ agenda.

The foreign service often designs and always delivers these initiatives. Without its active effort and involvement, government objectives would be difficult to achieve.

Within the civil service, the foreign service has traditionally been the closest to the Prime Minister. The foreign service was effectively an adjunct of the Prime Minister’s Office from its inception in 1909 until 1945, during which time successive prime ministers from Robert Borden to William Lyon Mackenzie King also held the portfolio of Secretary of State for External Affairs.

The foreign service was housed with the prime minister in the East Block until they moved into the Pearson Building in 1973. Even then, foreign service officers traditionally served on the staff of the prime minister and a senior foreign service officer accompanied the PM on travels abroad.

Pierre Trudeau once complained that he could read all he needed to know in the New York Times, but he came to rely heavily on the foreign service, especially in the promotion of his valedictory ‘Peace Initiative.’ Brian Mulroney promised ‘pink slips and running shoes’ in his first months of governing, but before long his chief of staff, lead speechwriter and communications director were all from the foreign service.

Today, there is a perception that, after seven years, the Prime Minister and the international portfolio ministers have no confidence in their foreign service even if they trust individual officers. If so, then now is the time to reform the foreign service rather than continuing to rubbish it.

The last serious look at the foreign service was a Royal Commission conducted by Pamela McDougall between 1979-80.

Prime Minister Harper has had success with task forces, such as that on Afghanistan, with clear objectives, a short time-frame, and designed to produce practical recommendations.

Mr. Harper should mandate a task force to determine what kind of foreign service we need for the future. Terms and conditions of service – including a more flexible approach to postings, improved language training, and better recognition of spousal contributions – should be a part of the inquiry. It would complement ongoing work on the government’s Global Commerce Strategy.

Both efforts need to bring us into the 21st century by also allowing our foreign service to use social media. If the foreign services of our U.S. and European allies can use the tools of public diplomacy – to blog, tweet and speak out in support of their national interests – why can’t we? Today’s foreign service long ago embraced the tenets of guerrilla diplomacy, exchanging pinstripes for a backpack.

For its part, PAFSO should lift its guild-like grip on lateral entry into the foreign service. In the future we are going to need the best talent we can find and this will require a creative approach to appointments.

In the meantime, the Treasury Board should look carefully at the PAFSO case and provide compensation commensurate with what it pays those doing the same kind of work. We need our foreign service back on the job.

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Excerpted from

Lee-anne Goodman, The Canadian Press
Sun, 30 Jun 2013

“There certainly seems to be no sign of any inclination from the government to find a resolution,” Colin Robertson, a former diplomat who was once the head of the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers union, said in an interview.

“You’re also getting into a situation now in which good people are leaving, they’re just fed up and saying it’s not worth it because this government doesn’t value us. And so the government, by holding out, may win this battle but it’s likely to be a Pyrrhic victory, because they’re leaving a very unhappy group.”

It’s time for the Conservative government to make some decisions about the foreign service, Robertson added, given the strike is creating a lengthy visa backlog that’s having an impact on Canada’s tourism and education industries.

Tourism stakeholders have said it may cost the industry $280 million this summer, while some students have been forced to withdraw from Canadian university courses because they didn’t get their visas on time.

“The government needs to take a look at what they want from the foreign service; it needs to use the strike as an opportunity to figure out where they want the foreign service to be in 10 years.”

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