Ambassador of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay Robert Fry
Ambassador of Canada to Argentina and Paraguay Robert Fry

Since I arrived in Buenos Aires in May 2015, I have witnessed the capacity and willingness of the Argentine people to change and improve their reality. The latest and most concrete evidence is the women’s marches last month, where thousands of women from all ages gathered in Buenos Aires and around the country. Similar events were organized on March 8 in Canada because Canadians, like Argentines, strive to build countries where women and girls no longer face high walls and glass ceilings, and are free to realize their full potential.

What has also changed drastically since my first day as Ambassador to Argentina is the relationship shared by Canada and Argentina. By selecting Argentina as the first country to visit in South America, Prime Minister Trudeau sent a strong signal about our shared values and interests and his November 2016 visit to Argentina highlighted the enormous potential in our trade and bilateral relationships.

Mercosur-Canada Towards a Free Trade Agreement

On March 9 in Asunción, Canada’s Minister of International Trade announced the launch of negotiations to sign a trade agreement with Mercosur along with his counterparts from Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. This is another example of how Argentina is rapidly transforming and strengthening its relations with Canada, the region and the world.

A Canada-Mercosur free trade agreement is a strategic opportunity for Canada to advance its progressive trade agenda in an important and growing region. For Argentina, it means enhancing trade and investment flows through a comprehensive free trade agreement. In concluding exploratory discussions, Canada and Mercosur concurred that the outcome of any future negotiations would have to be commercially meaningful, mutually beneficial, comprehensive, progressive and balanced. The first round of FTA negotiations took place in Ottawa from March 20 to 23, 2018.

G20/G7 – Working Together for an Inclusive International Agenda

Throughout 2018, Canada and Argentina will have the responsibility and privilege of hosting the two most important forums on international politics and economy. Canada will host the G7 Summit in June in Charlevoix, in the French-speaking province of Québec, and intends to move forward on five main issues: investing in growth that works for everyone; preparing for jobs of the future; advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment; working together on climate change, oceans and clean energy; and building a more peaceful and secure world.

For its part, Argentina will chair the G20 and host the Summit in Buenos Aires in November. The topics proposed by Argentina align well with Canada’s priorities at the international level and will drive this major global forum for economic, financial and political cooperation: the future of work; infrastructure for development and a sustainable food future.

Canada will share its experience with Argentina to ensure access to high-quality training to develop new skills in the age of the digital revolution, to create sustainable projects as the bedrock for national well-being and to ensure high-quality food management in the face of rapid population growth and climate challenges.

The international agenda for the advancement and empowerment of women will be transversal to all the discussions of both the G7 and the G20. Canada is committed, together with Argentina, to the participation of all actors -not only governments- in the G20, for that reason Canada will actively support the participation of civil society, academia and business community in various G20 engagement groups: Business, Civil Society, Labour, Science, Think Tanks, Women and Youth.

Argentina Is on the Right Path

The Argentine presidency of the G20 is one of the many examples of how successful Argentina can be when it puts aside partisanship, uniting to work together for the betterment of all citizens of Argentina. The current government said it would reinsert itself into world affairs. Argentina has done this brilliantly and the international community has shown many times over the last two years that Argentina is welcome back in the international realm. Argentina is taking a leadership role domestically, regionally and internationally on priorities dear to Canada, such as gender and human rights issues, the fight against corruption, drug trafficking, climate change, sustainable economic growth, and the reduction of poverty. Like Argentina, Canada is a federal country, so we know first-hand how difficult it can be to achieve consensus internally. As President Macri said recently in his speech to Congress, all parties need to come to the table in good faith to work together, bridge differences and have an open dialogue, to benefit all citizens, not narrow interests. Reforming the INDEC was a necessary first step, as was lifting controls on the peso. Argentina has now moved on from recession and the economy is expected to grow steadily over the next years, as the inflation continues to decrease. Out of necessity, Argentina must make difficult choices but the sacrifices being made will pay off. As a positive signal from the private sector, we are seeing increased interest and investments by Canadian companies across sectors in Argentina, creating growth in both Argentina and Canada.

Strong Cultural and Academic Ties

Our bilateral relations are also based on strong academic connections and people-to-people ties. Argentine and Canadian scientists work together in multidisciplinary exchanges, among them marine sciences and polar issues. Hundreds of Argentine students participate in undergraduate scholarship programs such as Emerging Leaders of the Americas or doctoral and postdoctoral programs in Canada. Education and culture also represent effective bridges for dialogue that bring forwards values often linked to inclusive and sustainable growth. In 2017, I had the pleasure of welcoming renowned authors Dany Laferrière and Margaret Atwood to Buenos Aires, with the support of the National Library of Argentina, directed by Argentine-Canadian Alberto Manguel – as well as the excellent General Idea exhibit at MALBA and presentations by the Cirque du Soleil – as part of Canada 150 celebrations. We were also pleased to welcome to Argentina in 2017 various Canadian artists such as Arcade Fire, Tegan and Sara, The Weeknd, Bryan Adams, and BADBADNOTGOOD, among others. In May 2018, Canada will host the first America’s Cultural Summit to bring together leaders in public funding of arts and culture from across the Americas to discuss their role and impact on the rise of cultural citizenship, including many Argentines.

More Connected, Looking Ahead

For more than 75 years, Canada and Argentina have forged a bilateral relationship based on trust and friendship (and some Malbec wine, of course, as Canadians are among the top three consumers of Argentine wines). I am convinced that the next 75 years will bring our countries even closer; celebrating what Canadians and Argentines can do together. Starting in May 2018, there will be a new Air Canada direct flight between Buenos Aires and Toronto, and I believe this new connection will further strengthen the already strong people-to-people and business ties between our two countries.

For Canadians living in Buenos Aires, and Argentines wishing to connect with the Canadian community in Argentina, follow us on Facebook to know more about the Embassy’s activities and priorities, and consult our cultural calendar.

If you are a Canadian living, studying, working, travelling in Argentina, please remember to sign in to our Registration of Canadians Abroad (ROCA) systemThe personal information obtained through registration is confidential and is used in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act.