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Greetings to thousands of readers the past month from the United States and Canada, as well as the United Kingdom, Russia, India, Germany, France, Japan and Latvia.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Optimism over prospects of "tweaked" North American Free Trade Agreement



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 19/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canadians are cautiously optimistic that any “tweaking” of the North American Free Trade Agreement won’t impact the country greatly.
   President Donald Trump told visiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the trade relationship with Canada is “outstanding,” calling only for a “few tweaks.”
   “If we’re going to change it, we’re going to do things that are good for both Canada and the United States,” said David MacNaughton, Canada’s ambassador to the U.S.
   Trump said his major concern was trade with Mexico that greatly puts the U.S. at a disadvantage.
   Both leaders are seeking common ground to help the middle classes prosper, Trudeau said.
   “What I saw from the American president was a focus on getting things done for the people who supported him and who believe in him, while demonstrating good relations with one’s neighbors,” he added.
   Later in the week, Trudeau addressed members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France on the passing of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement that Canada is to ratify by the spring.

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Sunday, February 12, 2017

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau prepares for meeting with President Donald Trump



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 12/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada and the United States intend to remain best of friends as Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and President Donald Trump prepare to meet on Monday.
   The Canadian nice, polite and friendly demeanor hopefully will prevail but if pushed on trade issues and jobs, Trudeau plans to stand his frozen ground.
   Somewhat unsettling is Trump’s public rift with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto that scrubbed plans for a trilateral meeting of North America’s leaders, dubbed the “Three Amigos.”
   As Trudeau heads off to Washington, his ministers have been preparing U.S. officials about the realities between life on both sides of the border.
   This includes the value of the North American Free Trade Agreement that Trump has said needs to be renegotiated to serve America’s interests better.
   As the world’s largest two-way trading partners, Finance Minister Bill Morneau said nine-million U.S. jobs are tied to trade with Canada while the trade surpluses and deficits are fairly even.
   Trudeau said he expects discussion on a “board range of issues,” including creating jobs and “opportunity for Canadian citizens through the continued close integration on both sides of the border.”
   “The president looks forward to a constructive conversation in strengthening the deep relationship that exists between the United States and Canada," said White House press secretary Sean Spicer.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Canadians reeling from terrorist killings at Quebec mosque



   Canada column for Sunday, Feb. 5/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada is not immune from senseless terrorist attacks after six men were killed and 19 wounded at a Quebec City mosque.
   “All of Canada has been shaken by this attack,” but it has unified the country in solidarity with Muslims, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said at a funeral service for the victims.
   “We will rise from this darkness stronger and more unified than ever before – that is who we are,” he added.
   Police said a gunman stormed the Grand Mosque in the suburb of Ste-Foy during prayers and opened fire before surrendering.
   Alexandre Bissonnette, 27, a Laval University student, faces six counts of first-degree murder and five of attempted murder.
   Among the victims were Khaled Belkacemi, 60, a Laval professor; Abdelkrim Hassane, 41, a Quebec government information technologist; and Aboubaker Thabti, 44, a pharmacist.
   Mohamed Yangui, president of the Islamic Centre of Quebec, said there is a need for greater understanding of Muslims.
   “We as moderate Muslims are not terrorists,” he said. ‘We practise a form of Islam that means we are full-fledged and solid members of our community.”

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Canadian PM awaits Trump visit; Keystone XL plan faces test



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 29/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau awaits a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump, TransCanada Corp. is again seeking U.S approval of its proposed Keystone XL pipeline.
   Former President Barack Obama rejected the multi-billion-dollar pipeline plan in 2015 but Trump has signed an executive order inviting the company to reapply.
   The pipeline would carry 830,000 barrels of Alberta oil a day 1,180 miles to Nebraska where it would connect with other lines leading to refineries along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
   TransCanada CEO Russ Girling said the project will help meet America’s growing energy needs and create substantial jobs and economic benefits on both sides of the border.
   “We look forward to working with all stakeholders as we develop this project in the interest of both our countries,” he said.
   The project has faced significant environmental opposition that is resuming.
   Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world and is the largest supplier of foreign oil to the U.S.
   Trudeau congratulated Trump on his election win and invited him to visit Canada first – a tradition for incoming presidents between the world’s largest trading partners.

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Monday, January 23, 2017

Dollar slips as Bank of Canada warns of possible rate cuts with Trump uncertainty



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 22/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Canada’s dollar slipped in value after the central bank warned further interest rate cuts are possible amid uncertainty surrounding U.S. President Donald Trump’s potential protectionist policies.
   Bank of Canada governor Stephen Poloz said there are concerns about the Canadian economy deteriorating as the dollar fell more than one cent to below 75 cents U.S. coupled with falling oil prices.
   Another concern were comments by Trump hinting he might be in favor of a weaker U.S. dollar.
   Poloz warned there would be “material consequences” for trade if protectionist policies come into effect under Trump between the world’s two largest trading partners.
   For now, the central bank has left its trendsetting interest rate at 0.5 percent where it has been since July 2015.
   A rate cut “remains on the table” and it will be there as long as downside risks are present, Poloz said.
   Canada’s annual rate of inflation rose to 1.5 percent last month, up from 1.2 percent in November, but was a smaller increase than expected as lower food costs helped offset gasoline price increases.

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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Prime Minister skips Trump inauguration, meets with Canadians instead



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 15/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   Prime Minister Justin Trudeau won’t be attending the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20, deciding instead to “re-engage” with Canadians.
   Trudeau is in the midst of a cross-country tour and also won’t go to the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.
   In his second year in office, Trudeau is making a campaign-style tour to meet with “average Canadians” across the country.
   The tour started Thursday in Ottawa, Canada’s capital, and visited cities including Belleville, Kingston and Peterborough before arriving in London, Ontario.
   Over the next few weeks, he will visit Quebec, British Columbia and Prairie provinces followed by Atlantic Canada and the North.
   Trudeau will meet with his cabinet for two days in Calgary before parliament resumes on Jan. 30.
   The at-home tour is a priority, said press secretary Cameron Ahmad, adding that will “provide many great opportunities to engage directly with Canadians.”

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Monday, January 9, 2017

Drunken pilot incident leads to government airline safety review



   Canada column for Sunday, Jan. 8/17

   THE CANADIAN REPORT
   (c) By Jim Fox

   The Canadian government is reviewing airline safety after a Sunwing Airlines pilot was arrested after being so drunk he passed out in the cockpit.
   Members of the flight crew said they noticed the pilot behaving oddly after boarding a Sunwing flight in Calgary last weekend.
   It was to fly to Cancun, Mexico by way of Regina and Winnipeg with 99 passengers and six crewmembers onboard.
   Pilot Miroslav Gronych, from Slovakia on a work visa in Canada, was arrested for being three times over the legal driving limit for alcohol consumption, police said.
   In Canada, it is against the law for pilots to consume any alcohol within eight hours of flying and individual airlines often have stricter rules.
   Sunwing’s Jacqueline Grossman said the airline has zero tolerance on drinking within 12 hours of duty.
   Transport Minister Marc Garneau told commercial air carriers he is “very concerned” about the incident and wants them to outline and confirm their safety protocols.
   “There is the need to ensure that protocols are up to date and are being implemented with all the required resources, including measures designed to confirm pilots’ fitness to fly,” he said.

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