March 2, 2012 -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper made the following remarks at a joint news conference with Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of the State of Israel.
“Good afternoon everyone.
“First of all, Prime Minister, I want to say what a pleasure it is to have you back here in Canada.
“I know that our wives are spending a little bit of time together today and I look forward to not just the discussions we've had and the discussions we are going to have, but spending a little bit of time with you and I'm delighted you are able to spend some quality time with us here in Canada on this occasion.
“Ladies and gentlemen, in our meetings today, Prime Minister Netanyahu and I discussed economic priorities including negotiations on expanding and modernizing our free trade agreement and increased cooperation in science and technology.
“We also discussed security issues of global concern.
“As we all know, this is an especially challenging time in the Middle East.
“Canada will keep working with our international partners to bring pressure to bear on the Assad regime in Syria, to stop killing its own people and to step down immediately.
“We will keep working with the international community to pressure the Iranian regime to abandon its nuclear weapons program, to immediately allow international inspectors of all its nuclear sites and to comply with United Nations Security Council resolutions.
“And of course, we will continue to uphold Israel’s right to exist, as a Jewish state, in peace and security.
“Canada will continue to do our part to help achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the region.
“So once again, it’s great to welcome you here, Prime Minister, and I look forward to your comments.”
Trade and Investment Relations
Canada’s diversified bilateral trade with Israel reflects the sophistication of both economies. Israel is Canada’s fourth-largest merchandise export market in the Middle East and North Africa. This year, 2012, marks the 15th anniversary of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA) which extends preferential tariff treatment to goods originating in the territory to which Israeli customs laws are applied.
In 2011, bilateral merchandise trade between Canada and Israel was valued at $1.38 billion. Canada’s exports to Israel – valued at nearly $400 million in 2011 – consist primarily of precious metals and stones, electrical machinery, sulphurs, paper and paper products, and medical instruments. Canada’s imports from Israel – valued at $982 million in 2011 – consist primarily of pharmaceutical products, electrical machinery, precious metals and stones, machinery and medical instruments.
Various bilateral agreements support Canada’s commercial activities with Israel. These include a Double Taxation Agreement (1977), the Canadian Space Agency - Israeli Space Agency MOU for Space Cooperation (2005), the Arrangement for Industrial Security Protection between the Israeli Ministry of Defence and Public Works and Government Services Canada, and the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation.
Canada and Israel enjoy strong and multifaceted bilateral relations, which have been enhanced in recent years through increased cooperation in several areas, including public security, defence, trade and investment, and the increased frequency of ministerial visits. Canada values its long-standing relationship with Israel, which is based on shared values, common interests and strong political, economic, cultural and social ties. There are approximately 20,000 Canadians living in Israel. The Canadian Jewish community – approximately 350,000 strong – acts as an important bridge between Canada and Israel.
Support for Israel and its right to live in peace and security with its neighbours has been Canadian policy since 1948. Canada is committed to the goal of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East, including the creation of a viable and independent Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security with Israel as a result of a negotiated agreement.
Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member state and has spoken on numerous occasions in favour of Israel’s engagement in multilateral fora. Canada supported Israel’s successful bid for membership in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which Israel joined in September 2010. Canada has also spoken out strongly against Palestinian efforts to seek member state status in the UN prior to a negotiated peace agreement with Israel, and has voted no or abstained on most Middle East resolutions at the UN to demonstrate our deep concerns about this unbalanced process. This, combined with Prime Minister Harper’s strong stance against anti-Semitism, is deeply appreciated in Israel.
Recent High Level Visits and Consultations
A series of regular, high-level bilateral visits and consultations have contributed to furthering the relationship.
Most recently, Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and Minister of Finance Jim Flaherty traveled to Israel and the West Bank in January for a series of high-level meetings on the Middle East peace process, regional security and economic cooperation. Minister of State for Industry Canada (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear attended the annual Israeli President’s Conference “Facing Tomorrow” in June 2011; Minister of Public Safety Vic Toews went to Israel in June 2011; Minister of Defence Peter MacKay visited in January 2011; then-Minister of State for Foreign Affairs (the Americas) Peter Kent visited in September 2010; then-Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan visited in October 2010; then-Treasury Board Minister Vic Toews visited in 2010, and then-Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon visited in 2009.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Canada in May 2010. Minister of Industry, Trade and Labour Shalom Simhon and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman visited Canada in September 2011. Minister of Defence Ehud Barak visited Canada in November 2011. President Peres is expected to visit Canada in May 2012.
Regular consultations occur on the bilateral relationship, economic relations, strategic security issues and defence issues.