Harper and Merkel to talk trade

OTTAWA — Expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel to steer clear of enthusiastic endorsements of Canada’s free trade pact with the European Union when she meets Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, say German officials.

OTTAWA — Expect German Chancellor Angela Merkel to steer clear of enthusiastic endorsements of Canada’s free trade pact with the European Union when she meets Prime Minister Stephen Harper this week, say German officials.

That’s because the negotiations for the coveted deal are about to enter a final, contentious round, and the cautious, calculating German leader is not about to risk compromising progress with ill-timed public pronouncements.

“I think Angela Merkel would be wise not to make … any direct statements,” said a senior German official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“She’s always prepared. She’s a physicist. She’s always very careful.”

Make no mistake, Germany wants Canada to strike a deal — one Canada estimates could boost its economy by $12 billion annually — with its wealthy 27-country trading bloc.

“We are very much interested in having success. We are in sort of an endgame,” the German official said. “Our interest is big.”

Harper wants a deal struck by the end of the year. He said this week that the EU trade talks were progressing well, and he made it clear that it will be a topic of discussion when he hosts Merkel for two days starting Wednesday night.

Obstacles to a final text remain — on agriculture, intellectual property and pharmaceutical patents.

The other irritant that hovers over Merkel’s visit is Canada’s refusal to contribute to a global bailout package through the International Monetary Fund.

But both leaders share the view that austerity — not more government spending — is essential to the recovery of the world economy.

“There are a few little things and maybe a few elephants in the room like the contribution or non-contribution of the Canadian side to the IMF funds for Europe, but these are not crisis problems,” said the German official.

“If it comes up it will not a discussion point that consumes too much time.”

Harper’s chief spokesman Andrew MacDougall said Canada’s position has not changed, and the Germans know that.

“It’s certainly clear what Canada’s position is on that: Europe has the resources to deal with its problems there,” said MacDougall.

Harper and Merkel meet regularly at world events and have grown to genuinely like and respect each other, officials say.

The German chancellor’s private dinner Wednesday night at the prime minister’s Harrington Lake retreat in Gatineau, Que. will undoubtedly cement that relationship further.

That rare event will be followed by a more formal meeting Thursday morning in Harper’s Parliament Hill office, with a full military honour guard welcome.

It will be Merkel’s first bilateral visit to Canada, one that the German side sees as long overdue. She visited Canada two years ago for the G8 and G20 summits in Toronto and Ontario’s Muskoka region.

Since then, the political landscape has shifted dramatically, leaving both Merkel and Harper as the two ranking leaders in the G8, with the added credentials of having guided their respective countries through months of economic upheaval.

“Whether it has been at summits or international meetings, the prime minister has always valued the chancellor’s view on matters,” said MacDougall.

“And I think the reverse is true as well. These are two leaders who have been through it … and have some insights to share.”

Merkel may be the most powerful leader in Europe, but having just finished her summer holiday, she faces a tough year, including a fight for re-election in late 2013. That because Germany’s financial support of its faltering EU partners — Greece in particular — has sown deep resentment among its electorate.

Harper will be keen for an update on Europe’s woes, and the two will have a rare, uninterrupted session at Harrington Lake that is set for two hours but could go longer. There will be no aides, no agenda, just a free-flowing discussion.

“This is a different setting without the usual time pressure of having another meeting,” said the German official.

That is, until Thursday morning, when they sit down in Harper’s Parliament Hill office with their officials and agenda books.

Merkel heads directly back to Germany on Thursday with a late afternoon stop in Halifax. She’ll take part in the signing of a memorandum of understanding on ocean research between the Halifax Marine Research Institute and the Helmholtz Institute.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A commercial building, housing two businesses, in Stettler was completed destroyed by a fire Thursday. (Photo courtesy Stettler Regional Fire Department)
Fire destroys commercial building in Stettler

A commercial building just outside of Stettler was destroyed by a fire… Continue reading

Almost half of Alberta's population should have at least one shot by the end of May said Premier Jason Kenney Monday morning.
Alberta poised for economic ‘renaissance’ after pandemic, says premier

Economic recovery is Alberta’s “next big challenge,” says the province’s premier. “It’s… Continue reading

Red Deer has a new welcome sign at the south end at the new entrance from Hwy 2. (Photo by SUSAN ZIELINSKI/Advocate staff)
Red Deer ranks 241st on MacLean’s Best Communities list

The list features 415 Canadian communities

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

A FedEx worker loads the 255,600 doses of the Moderna COVID‑19 vaccine which came from Europe into a freezer trailer to be transported during the COVID-19 pandemic at Pearson International Airport in Toronto on Wednesday, March 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Canada’s incoming supply of Moderna vaccine slashed in half through end of April

Procurement Minister Anita Anand says Canada’s incoming vaccine supply from Moderna will… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Have an opinion you'd like to share? Submit letters to the editor through our website, via email or the postal service. (Heather Colpitts/Black Press Media)
Letter: MLAs who are against tougher restrictions have no plan for consequences

The group of UCP MLAs pushing to end lockdowns are exacerbating what… Continue reading

Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair leaves the police station after being charged with two counts of sexual assault dating back to 2014, Friday, May 29, 2020, in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Preliminary inquiry in September for ex-PQ leader Boisclair charged with sex assault

MONTREAL — Former Parti Quebecois leader Andre Boisclair will have a preliminary… Continue reading

Three vials of the Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine are pictured in a new coronavirus, COVID-19, vaccination center at the Velodrome-Stadium in Berlin, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Michael Sohn, pool
Trudeau sending help to Ontario as Pfizer vaccine supply bolstered by 8 million doses

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says more doses of COVID-19 vaccines are coming… Continue reading

Teachers demonstrate outside a school during a morning walk out in Longueuil, Que., Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the job for several hours on April 27. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
73,000 Quebec teachers plan to walk off the job for more than two hours April 27

MONTREAL — Around 73,000 Quebec teachers say they will walk off the… Continue reading

People line up in the rain for a COVID-19 vaccine at a pop-up clinic at the Masjid Darus Salaam in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood in Toronto on Sunday, April 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario science advisers urge six-week stay-home order as province pleads for help

TORONTO — Ontario’s science advisers called for a six-week stay-at-home order and… Continue reading

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, 66, died Tuesday at Chinook Regional Hospital. (Cornerstone Funeral Home)
Lethbridge doctor becomes 7th Alberta health-care worker to die from COVID-19

Dr. Wayne John Edwards, who was 66, died Tuesday at the Chinook Regional Hospital in the southern Alberta city

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney updates media on measures taken to help with COVID-19, in Edmonton on Friday, March 20, 2020. Alberta is set to join three other provinces in exploring the feasibility of small modular reactors as a clean energy option. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Students in Alberta town ready to return to school after quarantining

ATHABASCA, Alta. — A superintendent of schools in northern Alberta says the… Continue reading

Britain’s Prince Charles, with Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, visits the gardens of Marlborough House, London, Thursday April 15, 2021, to look at the flowers and messages left by members of the public outside Buckingham Palace, following the death of Prince Philip. (Jeremy Selwyn/Pool via AP)
Princes William, Harry won’t walk side-by-side at funeral

LONDON — Prince William and Prince Harry won’t walk side-by-side Saturday as… Continue reading

Most Read