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Merkel, Harper to tackle tough issues

By Jessica Murphy, Senior Washington Correspondent

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (Petersberger Klimadialog) in Berlin July 16, 2012. (Reuters/THOMAS PETER)

Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel speaks at the Petersberg Climate Dialogue (Petersberger Klimadialog) in Berlin July 16, 2012. (Reuters/THOMAS PETER)

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OTTAWA ­ - German Chancellor Angela Merkel's 24-hour visit to Canada - the first of its kind in a decade - will give her and Prime Minister Stephen Harper time to flesh out some issues the leaders touched on during meetings on the sidelines of previous high-level summits.

"This visit was long in the pipeline," German embassy spokesman Peter Finger said Tuesday, noting Harper extended the invitation to the chancellor.

"(They) can talk about bilateral interests in general, but also about the big elephants in the room - the Euro crisis, the Arab spring, Syria and all the other problems on the current political agenda."

The discussions will start over barbecue at Harper's Harrington Lake cottage Wednesday evening and continue during a tete-a-tete on Parliament Hill Thursday.

Strengthening business ties and trade between both countries will also factor heavily in talks, and Merkel is travelling with five high-ranking members of the German business community, including representatives from chemical, boat building and agriculture sectors.

Canadian business is also of "fairly significant and fairly broad" interest in the European country, said Jason Langrish, executive director of the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business.

Harper will also likely raise the issue of free-trade talks between Europe and Canada, said Langrish, adding that while Merkel doesn't speak for her European counterparts, she has a lot of influence.

"She can certainly help push the peanut along, and she can take messages from her conversations with Harper back to her colleagues," he said. "If you're going to talk to any individual leader in Europe, she would be the one you would want to talk to."

The full schedule kicks off Thursday, starting with Gov. Gen. David Johnston meeting the German chancellor at Ottawa's Rideau Hall in the morning.

Merkel will then be greeted with pomp on Parliament Hill, take part in a bilateral meeting with Harper, hold a joint news conference and a have working lunch with the business delegations.

The chancellor will wrap her visit with a brief two-hour pit stop in Halifax and a visit to Dalhousie University.

Gerhard Schroeder was the last German government leader to come to Canada for a bilateral meeting, in 2002.

In 2011, there was an 8.9% rise in Canadian foreign direct investment in Germany and an 15.6% increase German investment in Canada.

 

 

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