Louise Leger: Canada’s Voice in Florida for Nine Years
Louise Leger: Canada’s Voice in Florida for Nine Years
There are few random matters in terms of diplomatic affairs, especially for countries like Canada. That’s the first impression after interviewing Louise Leger, Canada’s Consul General in Miami, whence she takes care of Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Leger gave this interview to PanamericanWorld right when she’s closing this stage of her career, after having diplomatically represented her country throughout 9 from Miami, so this conversation was a window into that experience. Her new destination is Ottawa, the Canadian capital.
Consul Leger is an experienced official, with over 34 years of work in the fields of diplomacy and international trade. Her career began in Colombia, but she has worked in many countries around the world and several in the continent, so her Latin American expertise has been a key element to this position. Her consulate developed an important study that shows the reason why South Florida has been baptized “Door of the Americas”, geographical and cultural reasons that define it as such. The study helps Canadian companies make the most of institutions, infrastructure and the framework of law. It’s a tool to compare the advantages offered by Florida when compared to other American or Latin American cities.
Leger extraordinarily masters the Spanish language, but beyond the language she confesses that she has learned to understand the way the Caribbean and South America think. Back in 1995, she was the ambassador to Panama; in 2001 she took that office in Costa Rica, with simultaneous accreditation in Nicaragua and Honduras.
Is the number of Canadians growing in Florida? How much money do they handle? For how long do they stay?
In what areas is the consulate supporting Canadian companies?
Beyond trade and consular attention, the consulate is focused on three sectors: sciences, green technologies and TIC´s (information, technology and communication). As Florida is the center of the Americas, it has helped us look for many opportunities to the south of the continent.
If you take a look at the corridor of the I-95, you see that it is the technology corridor in Florida and it is clearly drawing attention from Canada. We’re not only trying to make business, we’re also making alliances and we want to make the most of the local knowledge and experience so as to foster our own companies in an initial phase. In all times, we used to have incubators where the companies were sent and it was all about long-term cultivation. They are now called accelerators, but it’s the same principle. We want to develop something like that in Florida, which would be very small and modest and we could encourage Canadian companies to come here, join those existing companies, create alliances and help them succeed, not only in Florida, but also looking south.
The relation between our two countries has always been the largest trade relation in the world, which is pretty interesting if we take into account our differences. Canada is 10 times smaller than the United States; nevertheless, when we look at the amount of US exports, Canada buys 3 times more US products than any other country.
Both countries are delivering humanitarian help in the Caribbean and Central America. As for culture, Canada is attracting talents from all fields. Over the past years, we have moved many representatives from the musical, movies and television industries to Canada. You had previously mentioned sports, sports are very special and we will always be number one in sports, specifically in hockey. The Americans can win in different aspects, but when it comes to playing hockey we will always be the number 1 –she laughed -.
What do you think about what has happened with the NAFTA?
The North American Free Trade Agreement, which at the very beginning was a bilateral agreement between USA and Canada and subsequently included Mexico, has made the international trade among these countries grow 10 times, 21 years after its creation. We have learned from this agreement to bring up to date and sign other free trade agreements. But NAFTA has simply worked very well for all of us, especially in terms of the production of cars and energy.
You can show an image of a car and check where the parts come from. You will see that the parts come from Canada, USA and Mexico. So you realize how the economy of these three countries is connected through those two sectors.
What are the existing demands between Canada and the USA, related to the commercialization of Canadian wood and meat?
First of all, let me talk about soft wood. That particular situation has always been there. It’s a complicated matter and throughout these years we have succeeded in allowing some flow. During the most recent economic crisis, the demand of wood in the United States was significantly reduced and the construction sector reached its lowest point. The Canadian producers, in order to deal with an excess of offer, succeeded in diversifying their markets; so most of the wood that used to come to the United States is now sent to Asia. That reduced the immediate pressure in the search of solutions. However, the agreement we presently have will come to an end in October 2015. We’ll discuss it with our industries, but we would agree to prolong the agreements from the government.
As for the meat and what we call FRESCO (label by the country of origin), which is the most recent dispute, it is a very delicate matter between our countries. A new policy was established in 2008 and that was particularly problematic to the beef and pork sector. Once again, the fact is that nearly 50 percent of our trade is connected, and the same happens in terms of cattle. The World Trade Organization has reviewed the meat issue in three different moments. The WTO has found unconformity in this respect, and now the United States has appealed that decision, so the organization will have to check it again.
Finally, Mrs. Leger invited the whole American continent to join Canada for the 17th edition of the Pan-American Games to take place in Toronto. She announced that their consulates around the world will be carrying out coordinated activities, a beautiful opportunity for the world to know more about Canada.