Canada and Argentina have more in common than many people might think.
Europeans first arrived on Canadian and Argentine shores 500 years ago. Both countries started developing their own political institutions 200 years ago. Both have towering mountains, long coastlines, abundant natural resources and vast territories that stretch to the farthest reaches of the planet.
But history has not been kind to Argentina.
While Canada has enjoyed years of peace, order and good government, Argentina has suffered from civil war, revolution and dictatorship. More recently, the country stumbled through another dark decade of slow growth and protectionist policies.
Since the election of Mauricio Macri as Argentine president in 2015, the clouds seem to be parting. President Macri has pledged to undertake significant reforms to stabilize the country’s economy and normalize its trade relations.
With many of Canada’s traditional trading partners looking inward, now is a pivotal time to demonstrate the benefits of international partnership and commerce by forging closer ties with a long-lost cousin.
We also have an opportunity to show our support for the reforms the Macri government is implementing.
To this end, as chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I helped lead a fact-finding mission to Argentina last year to meet with counterparts there, including cabinet members, non-governmental organizations and union leaders.
Following many months of additional hearings in Ottawa, our committee has now released its report, A Turning Point in Canada-Argentina Relations?, with recommendations for the federal government.
The areas for potential cooperation are numerous; the possibility of gains for Canada and for Argentina are undoubtedly present.
In the political realm, Argentina is currently examining options to reframe its federal-provincial equalization formula — a system with which Canada is well acquainted. We are well placed to lend a hand. This kind of cooperation would also strengthen the Organization of American States (OAS) and increase Canada’s clout within that body.
With regard to economic issues, Canada can help Argentina improve on the roughly 75 development programs currently funded by the Canadian government in Argentina. We can share expertise in renewable energy and conservation, and improve regulations and corporate social responsibility practices in the mining sector. This would mean strengthening Canadian businesses, while also promoting responsible, sustainable development.
We also need to foster ties that go deeper than government-to-government dealings. We need cultural contact. Canada should build on past initiatives, such as the Emerging Leaders in the Americas Program, to increase student exchanges between Argentina and Canada.
The stakes are even higher for Argentina. It is seeking an economic stability not consistently found in its history. The proposed reforms of the Macri government will be difficult to achieve. Canada has the chance to play a valuable role in supporting Argentina’s democratic institutions and economic prosperity.
With hard work and a little luck, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Raynell Andreychuk is a senator representing Saskatchewan. She is chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, and a member of the Senate Committee on National Finance and the Senate Committee on Human Rights.
This article appeared in the June 6, 2017 edition of the Hill Times.