San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Canadian Minister Lobbies For Free-Trade Agreement

Peter Kent, Canada s secretary of state for exterior affairs for the Americas, visited Nicaragua last week as part of a push to renew talks for a free-trade agreement between Canada and Central America.

Kent met with Nicaragua s Foreign Minister Samuel Santos and other high level officials as part of a push to deepen bilateral ties with Nicaragua.

This trip will reinforce our commitment to playing a larger role in the Americas Central America is a key region where the issues of security, prosperity and democratic governance are crucial, Kent said in a statement about his Jan. 12-16 visit.

Canada, which has had trade interests in Central America since the late 1800s, traded $111 million with Nicaragua in 2007, though trade statistics don t include millions in trade of products such as bananas, coffee and melons that are shipped through the United States or Europe.

There are about $170 million in Canadian investments in Nicaragua, namely in mining, oil and gas exploration, apparel manufacturing, finance and energy generation, according to the Canadian Embassy in Nicaragua. Canada s 37-year-old aid program in Nicaragua has injected some $300 million in areas of education, energy, farming and electoral observation. Some 34,000 Canadians visited Nicaragua in 2007.

Canada and the CA-4 countries (Nicaragua, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador), started free-trade talks in 2000, thought they haven t made much progress since the latest round of negotiations in 2004.

Kent s tour also took him to El Salvador and Guatemala. Canada hopes to sign the free-trade agreement with Central America in 2009.

Blake Schmidt


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