Canada, Britain to sign deal to 'link up' embassies abroad
Published Sunday, September 23, 2012 1:48PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, September 23, 2012 10:06PM EDT
As British Foreign Secretary William Hague arrives in Canada, CTV News has learned that he and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird are set to announce an agreement to establish joint Canada-U.K. diplomatic missions.
In a written statement provided to CTV News Sunday, Hague noted British Prime Minister David Cameron's remarks to Parliament last year, that referred to Canada and the United Kingdom as “two nations, but under one Queen and united by one set of values.”
"We have stood shoulder to shoulder from the great wars of the last century to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and supporting Arab Spring Nations like Libya and Syria," Hague wrote, describing the international relationship as one of first cousins.
"So it is natural that we look to link up our embassies with Canada’s in places where that suits both countries. It will give us a bigger reach abroad for our businesses and people for less cost."
It is expected that, in countries where Canada has a diplomatic mission and Britain does not or vice versa, the two country's envoys will share facilities.
Officials told CTV News that the two countries will first explore sharing embassies in the growing economic hot spots of Asia.
Canada is expected to gain access to British missions in Africa while Britain will link with Canadian embassies in the Caribbean, including Haiti.
While the move could be seen as a cost-cutting measure, some experts say it would restrict Canada’s foreign policy reach globally.
“It raises questions of whether or not we’re really an independent country, or whether we’re still some kind of colonial appendage to the U.K,” said former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker.
University of British Columbia professor Kurt Huebner told CTV News Channel on Sunday that linking embassies provides little political advantage for Canada.
“I don’t think that embassies and foreign policies should be run alongside budgetary considerations,” he said, explaining that an embassy’s key role is to produce intelligence and build relationships with foreign governments.
“If you have an embassy in the country, it’s truly helpful and prepares you for all kinds of opportunities in the future,” he said.
NDP MP Paul Dewar said he fails to see the advantage for Canada in linking certain embassies.
“What’s in it for Canada? Just simply to be a partner for the U.K. to look like they are stronger versus the EU?” said Dewar. “That’s a continental game we shouldn’t be a part of.”
Hague has indicated that he hopes the agreement, expected to be signed in Ottawa on Monday, will be extended to include Australia and New Zealand as well.
However, Huebner said when it comes to foreign policy, the same values may not be shared among all countries.
“If you take up this political reference Mr. Hague made today, even cousins can have different views on things,” he said. “When we look back at the Iraq war (Canada and the U.K.) were not on the same side.”
The move is also seen as an attempt to countervail the European Union's push to extend its presence abroad in the expanding European External Action Service.
“The U.K. fears that they are isolated, and this could be the driving force behind this initiative,” said Huebner.
With a report from CTV’s Richard Madan
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