August 28, 2014 6:57 pm
Updated: August 29, 2014 12:09 pm

CETA today, energy partners tomorrow: A chat with Germany’s ambassador

Germany's ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnendt.

Leslie Young
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Germany’s foreign representatives have gathered in Berlin to discuss the future of Germany’s foreign policy. High on the agenda was Germany’s place in such ongoing global crises as Ukraine and Iraq. Not unlike Canada, Germany wants to be active and vocal without being directly embroiled in foreign conflict – certainly not on its own.

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I met up with Germany’s ambassador to Canada, Werner Wnendt, on Tuesday. Wnendt has been stationed in Canada since 2012. Before that, he served as head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe mission in Kosovo and assistant deputy minister for culture and communication in Germany’s foreign ministry.

After he fetched me from the overzealous security guards at the door of the foreign ministry, I joined him at the “Kanada” table for a chat about the Canada-Germany relationship.

So what does Canada bring to the [foreign affairs] table?

We have seen in 2014 many crises which took us by surprise. The Ukraine is an example, but we have also seen the ongoing crisis in Syria, the explosion of the conflict in the Middle East, and what’s going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Nigeria.

There are so many countries and regions in the world where it is absolutely necessary that countries like Canada and Germany, North America and Europe work together to provide humanitarian aid and other kinds of assistance. And to get ready to get politically involved, if necessary. As we’ve seen now in the case of Iraq, we will have to consider getting involved militarily, at least in the sense that there should be arms delivered to the participating forces there in Iraq.

Why try to push forward with delivering arms to the Kurds?

This is something that is in our interest right away because what is happening in Iraq, these Islamic State terrorists, it’s not just threatening Iraq and the people of Iraq, but it is a threat to the region and it is a threat to our countries because some of these terrorists that originally come from Europe and Canada and other countries, they come back. They bring the terrorism back. This is a particularly bloody and cruel terrorist movement, so I think that can justify even the deliverance of arms to the opponents who fight against these terrorists.

What are Germany’s specific interests in Canada, economically?

They are manifold. We have a partnership and many German companies are involved in the field of trade. Germany is among European states [except for the UK] the leading partner of Canada when it comes to exports from Europe to Canada and I think we are number two when it comes to Canadian supplies to Europe. …

We have a strong relationship when it comes to science and technology, and research. I think there are more than 400 MOUs being signed between universities on both sides of the Atlantic.

And people of course. We have many tourists from Germany coming to Canada. We hope that more people from Canada will come to Europe and come to Germany. We have millions of Canadians who have some roots in Germany who have either come themselves as immigrants to Canada or their families a long time ago somehow arrived there.

We have tens of thousands of Canadian soldiers that served after the Second World War in Germany. Some of them brought also a wife from Germany.

And of course our cooperation in the G7 group of states, and G20 and the NATO alliance. There is a lot.

Can you give me some examples of German companies which do significant business in Canada?

Well, just a few: We have Mercedes-Benz that is doing a very important research project. They’re doing this in British Columbia. They’re doing a fuel cell project. This is their world-wide centre for research.

We have recently opened a factory of the leading producer of pizza in Germany. This is Dr. Oetker. They are producing in Canada for North America. Much of what they produce goes to the United States. They opened only a few weeks ago. That was a hundred million dollar investment in Southern Ontario, in a brand new factory which will deliver pizza all over Canada and in the United States.

Or we have the biggest world leader in producing fertilizer, K+S, a German company, which has its headquarters not so far from Berlin. They invest in the potash deposits in Saskatchewan. This is a multimillion dollar investment. When they start producing, they will produce fertilizer for much of South America, for Asia.

How will some of the provisions in [the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union] change the economic relationship?

I think CETA is a very comprehensive agreement. Once it comes into force, it will bring all tariffs and custom duties almost to a zero level. For 99 per cent of all products, there will be no custom duties anymore. It gets rid of non-tariff barriers.

… It is also about procurement at a regional and local level. In the future procurement contracts will be open to European companies and to big Canadian companies in Europe. If ever there is a project in Finland or Italy, Canadian companies could take part in this competition.

All in all, for both sides, it’s a very advantageous agreement which will create economic growth and jobs on both sides.

You will always have some people who fear competition more than others. Because they are well-protected, they have their own habitat to work and live in, but this is not sustainable in the long run.

If one of [Canada’s] pipelines to the Atlantic does get built, is this something Europe will be interested in?

I think Europe in the long run will depend on imports of oil and gas for some time. Germany and other countries do invest a lot in renewable energy, in environmentally safe energy. But this is a long-term effort. We cannot change overnight. And of course Canada is an important producer of oil and gas. It is a reliable partner. It is a politically and economically stable partner. It has a legal system which is similar to our own system.

I think it would be very wise if with a long term perspective Canada and Europe would look at a partnership. I think Canada has a lot to offer and I think Europe has a lot of interest to diversify. Also against the debate on Ukraine and the situation in Ukraine, and the discussion about whether Russia is a reliable supplier of gas and oil, we should do this partnership, develop a partnership with Canada in any case.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Leslie Young is doing a two-month Arthur F Burns fellowship based in Berlin, Germany. Follow her observations here

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