European leader bristles at Canadian criticism
Published Monday, June 18, 2012 7:49AM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 18, 2012 9:59PM EDT
As world leaders gathered in Mexico for the G20 summit, the head of the European Commission bristled at "lectures" from other countries, including Canada, on how to manage the European economy.
"Frankly, we are not coming here to receive lessons in terms of democracy and in terms of how to run an economy because the European Union has a model that we may be very proud of," Jose Manuel Barroso said Monday.
"We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all of our partners were so open about their own difficulties," he said.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is among the leaders who have been urging the European Union to move quickly to address its financial problems, including a growing economic crisis in Greece.
At the same time, he is insisting that Canada will not contribute any more money to the International Monetary Fund to stabilize the world economy.
Canada pledged $10 billion to the IMF in 2009 and now stands alone with the United States in rejecting further contributions.
For his part, U.S. President Barack Obama has sought stronger signals from Europe that it has the economic mess under control and will keep the damage contained.
The countries' refusal to give money to the IMF has angered many leaders and officials at the G20 summit, CTV's Roger Smith, who is travelling with the prime minister, reported Monday.
Barroso, the president of the European Commission, is "quite angry with Canada and others who said they don't want to help anymore, making the point that if this crisis spirals out of control, all countries will suffer," Smith told CTV's Power Play.
Scott Clark, president of S.C. Clark Consulting who served as Canada's executive director at the IMF and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, told Power Play it's "very unfortunate" that Canada is not joining the G20 initiative to boost IMF's resources.
"In the past, Canada has always punched above its weight," he said, adding that the country now faces "diminished credibility" at the summit as other countries join the European bailout efforts.
"When you join these types of organizations, you are supposed to participate. You don't sort of pick and choose when you want to be in the organization," Clark said.
He said that "not a cent" of taxpayers' money would go to the IMF if Harper changed his mind. The money would come from Canada's foreign exchange reserves, which currently total about $70 billion, Clark said.
"You don't give money to the IMF, you lend it to the IMF and the IMF guarantees to pay you back," he said.
Meanwhile, the Prime Minister's Office was playing down expectations Monday that Canada is set to receive a much sought-after invitation to participate in a nine-country free-trade agreement with the U.S. and the Asia-Pacific region.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in Los Cabos, Mexico to attend G20 meetings with other world leaders.
Harper has been pressing since last year to join the group, but some nations have resisted, unhappy with protectionist measures in place for Canadian dairy and chicken farmers, Smith told CTV News Channel earlier Monday.
Harper has recently had Nigel Wright, his chief of staff, working behind the scenes in Washington to build American support for the bid. International Trade Minister Ed Fast is also working on the file.
"Free trade is really the cornerstone of the Tories' economic agenda, and the entry of the top official in the PMO shows Stephen Harper really wants to get in on these negotiations," Smith said.
G20 leaders welcome Greek election results
Leaders attending the G20 summit also expressed relief Monday that Greek voters had chosen to elect a government that supports austerity measures and reforms as a trade off for European Union bailout funds.
Greece held its election on Sunday, and many leaders worried that voters would choose an anti-bailout government that could have led to the nation's exit from the eurozone, which could have been a crippling blow to the rest of Europe.
Leaders at the G20 meeting welcomed the news.
"The Greek people have spoken," European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said in a joint statement. "We salute the courage and resilience of the Greek citizens, fully aware of the sacrifices which are demanded from them to redress the Greek economy and build new, sustainable growth for the country."
Also on Monday, International Trade Minister Ed Fast and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced Canada was taking steps to end its complaint against South Korea over its ban on Canadian beef imports.
In January, Seoul agreed to allow the resumption of Canadian beef imports. It had put the ban in place in May 2003 when Canada's first case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease.
With files from The Associated Press