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Canada Sweden Relations: Some thoughts from H.E. Kenneth Macartney, Canada’s Ambassador to Sweden and H.E. Per Sjögren, Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada.
Canada Sweden Relations
Past, Present, Future
We asked H.E. Kenneth Macartney, Canada’s Ambassador to Sweden and H.E. Per Sjögren, Sweden’s Ambassador to Canada, to share some thoughts on the relationships between Canada and Sweden.
How would you describe relations between Canada and Sweden?
KM They are excellent -and represent the sum of countless personal connections, commercial activities, political and official level interactions, research and academic collaboration, cultural exchanges, curiosity over how each country deals with similar societal, political or economic challenges… and of course a shared passion for hockey! I recently hosted the iconic Swedish radio show, “Sommar i P1” and was overwhelmed by the really warm response by Swedes who wanted to share with me their personal connections with Canada.
PS Sweden and Canada share the same values – respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Our governments goal is to create societies focused on the safety and welfare of the individual and regardless of background all should be guaranteed basic security in all aspects of life. When I visit Canadian provinces and meet representatives of governments, local authorities, business representatives and Swedish communities, I sense that these common values between our countries are strong. Consequently there is an interest in Canada about the open and transparent Swedish society and our good results in terms of growth, employment, gender equality, competitiveness and living conditions. Likewise I would like to mention our interest in Canadian achievements in orderly economic migration and integration as well in the education system. The positive view on migration in Canada as a vehicle for economic and social development and respect for multicultural societies are of great interest to Sweden. In the industrial field we share the view on Corporate Social Responsibility and the respect for the environment
What role can you as ambassadors play?
KM Our job as Ambassadors is to seek opportunities to facilitate, expand and deepen the quality and quantity of such exchanges. Happily, our task is to build on a rock-solid foundation. We have a shared international outlook and many commonalities in terms of values, societal norms and structures, geography and climate, and natural resources wealth, as well as the fact that we are both export-oriented economies noted for advanced research and innovation.
PS As Ambassador for my country my main task is to strive for close and deep relations between our countries in all fields of activity. I feel privileged to be an Ambassador in Canada where I am met by a positive, generous and friendly attitude. In the light of this it my ambition is to bring our governments, business communities and people closer. This can be through facilitating and supporting cooperation in education and research, innovation as well as fostering contacts between Swedish companies and the Canadian market. Both our countries are highly industrialized, technologically advanced and strive to balance commerce with conscience. This common base is conducive to close co-operation in my assignment as the Swedish Ambassador to Canada.
KM Sweden and Canada have a long history of cooperation and consultation on international issues, in the UN and other multilateral fora, with a shared interest in promoting human rights and democracy, peace and security, and sustainable development, as well as close collaboration in the Arctic Council.
Every year, there are many visits and exchanges. Any comments_
PS We receive every year at the Embassy numerous visitors both at political and other levels who represents different interests of Swedish society. Four ministers from the Swedish Governments covering a wide range of issues visited Canada in 2014 in addition to delegations from our Parliament, local and regional authorities, the business community, students and research fellows active in Universities all over Canada to mention some of the most frequent visitors. Migration, integration, education and research cooperation are some areas of special interest for our Swedish delegations and visitors. Education and the student exchange program between Sweden and Canada are areas of increasing interest in both countries. During last year the number of Swedish students at Canadian universities amounted to about 600 persons who build bridges between the young generation in our countries. Representatives from Swedish businesses naturally have an important role while a key task for the Embassy in close cooperation with Business Sweden and the Swedish Chamber of Commerce is to promote the Swedish industry on the Canadian market.
KM I have been consistently impressed by the delegations that visit back and forth to exchange best practices in many different sectors. Swedish policy-makers frequently visit Canada to study how we manage immigration and integration, and Canadians are interested in how Sweden is managing a large influx of refugees. Sustainable cities is the focus of many Canadian municipal and private sector groups visiting Sweden, keen to learn more about how city planning integrates quality of life, energy efficiency, climate and clean technology goals. Swedish authorities have also reciprocated, visiting Vancouver and other Canadian centres. Research exchanges continue to blossom including in areas such as life sciences and bioenergy, and Canadians are very proud that Dr. Arthur McDonald is receiving the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics in Stockholm.
PS And Alice Monro receiving the Nobel Prize in literature in 2013
Trade is of particular interest and importance for Swedish – Canadian relations
KM Indeed, Sweden and Canada, both trade-oriented countries, enjoy close commercial, investment and innovation ties, which can be leveraged to complement our respective strengths. Bilateral merchandise trade stands at about $2 billion annually, but trade in services and increasing two-way investment is also a very important story. Many Swedish multinationals as well as SMEs have chosen to invest in Canada, employing thousands of Canadians – companies such as Ericsson, Securitas, Volvo AB, Atlas Copco, Sandvik, AstraZeneca, and Autoliv – not to mention retail giants IKEA and H&M. In Montreal, Ericsson is completing construction on an enormous data centre, the only one it has chosen to open outside of Sweden. Bombardier, WSP, CGI, Couche-Tard, OpenText, and Borealis are some of the Canadian companies with a presence in Sweden, also employing thousands of Swedes. Canada remains committed to working with Sweden to expand our commercial relationship for the mutual benefit of both our countries, including enabling the concentration of our efforts on areas of greatest business potential.
PS Trade is of particular interest and importance for Swedish – Canadian relations. Both Sweden and Canada are sitting on top of large markets. Sweden is an excellent gateway to Europe for Canadian companies. Likewise Canada is an ideal place to start in North America. These are factors that will play an even greater role after the ratification and implementation of the EU-Canadian free trade agreement.
There are around 110 Swedish companies represented in Canada employing approximately 35 000 Canadians. Swedish companies are likewise huge investors in the Canadian market which binds our countries close together. Together with colleagues in Business Sweden and SCCC the Embassy will continue to support and enlarge the presence of Swedish industry in Canada.
What do you think will be the impact of CETA?
KM The trade relationship between Canada and Sweden will only deepen as we move forward towards entry into force of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the most ambitious trade agreement that either Canada or the EU has ever concluded. CETA will provide significant new opportunities to expand Canada and Sweden’s trade and economic relationship. On day one, 98% of tariff lines will be duty free, and exporters will benefit from simplified border procedures to make trade easier, more predictable and transparent. CETA will also deliver substantial commitments that will improve the flow of trade and investment across a range of other areas, including: technical barriers to trade, regulatory cooperation, intellectual property, government procurement, investment, and services. For the first time in a Canadian trade agreement, CETA also includes chapters on sustainable development, labour and the environment.
PS The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU now presents further opportunities for economic exchange and growth to the benefit of both countries. It is now my task in close collaboration with Ambassador Macartney to inform and promote CETA with aims to increase trade, investments and business opportunities in both Sweden and Canada. The SCCC has an important role to achieve these aims.
What role can organizations such as SCCC play to expand trade between the two countries?
PS The Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce is a key organization in the concept of Team Sweden together with the Swedish Embassy and Business Sweden. Our common aim but with somewhat different roles is to bring together and promote the Swedish Business community in Canada for the promotion of Swedish industry and export. SCCC is a meeting point for the Swedish business community and is thereby creating contacts between companies but also in relation to the Canadian business community. SCCC has local chambers in both Sweden and Canada which contribute to this task of being a facilitator for contacts. SCC also has an important role in connecting Swedish companies with local chambers of commerce in both Sweden and Canada.
KM Given the significant opportunities that will be presented by CETA, it is important to spread knowledge of CETA’s benefits so that Canadian and Swedish companies can take advantage from the moment the agreement comes into force. Business associations, such as the Swedish Canadian Chamber of Commerce, can play an important role in this. Indeed, championing CETA would be a fitting 50th anniversary goal for this organization that has done so much to promote Canada-Sweden economic relations over the years. Happy 50th!