Analysis | A historical approach to Germany

(Ottawa) Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s three-day visit last week marks a turning point in relations between Canada and Germany.

Posted at 6:00 am

Joel Denis Bellavance

Joel Denis Bellavance
The press

It made it possible to lay the foundations for a solid rapprochement between the two countries on three fronts: political, economic and energy.

Germany is Europe’s largest economy. Alongside France, she has a considerable influence on the positions of the European Union. But in Ottawa circles of power, priority has always been given in turn to the United States, which remains by far Canada’s most important trading partner, followed by Great Britain and then France. Germany popped very high on the radar, although as of 2007 “Germany” is the fourth economy on the planet behind the United States, China and Japan.

As evidence, when in March Minister François-Philippe Champagne asked officials at his ministry to prepare an information book and a list of phone numbers of heads of major German companies in anticipation of a commercial tour he planned to conduct in May, that was the excitement. After a few days we were struggling to find the information he asked for. Among other things, he was suggested to call 1800 Volkswagen to get the desired information about the members of the management of the automobile giant, it is said behind the scenes.

“Germany wasn’t really on the radar at the ministry,” said a government source, who preferred to speak on condition of anonymity.

“Minister Champagne organized a week-long visit to Germany and said to the Ministry: You are welcome if you want to follow me! Through the contacts he has in Europe, he has managed to develop all of this,” the source added, stressing that Mr Champagne has spent almost 20 years in Europe.

trade mission

Within a week, Minister Champagne and his entourage traveled to five cities to advocate Canada’s cause to German businessmen. In particular, he traveled to Berlin, Wolfsburg, where Volkswagen’s headquarters are located, Stuttgart to meet Mercedes-Benz executives, and Munich (BMW).

Why did he decide to undertake such a trade mission? His close associates had sent him a text message from the daily newspaper The New York Times in March, which explained that Germany’s major industries wanted to pick up the pace to make their supply chain greener.

“When I went to Germany, I had a message: I understand your problem of decarbonization. […] Canada is part of the solution. We have the third largest corridor, that is, Windsor-Detroit, after China and Germany. We have the talent. We have more than 500,000 people working in the automotive industry. We have natural resources, renewable energy and I have duty-free access to 1.5 billion consumers thanks to free trade agreements,” the minister stressed to his interlocutors.

This message did not fall on deaf ears. Subsequent meetings with executives from automakers took place at the Davos summit in June. Text messaging has increased. calls too. Four months later, the fruits of these efforts were reaped.

agreement

Last Tuesday, the Canadian government signed separate agreements with Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz, giving the two German automakers access to Canadian raw materials (cobalt, graphite, nickel and lithium) for electric vehicle batteries. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chancellor Olaf Scholz attended the signing ceremony in Toronto.

The next day, in Stephenville, Newfoundland, Mr. Trudeau and his German counterpart signed another deal, this time to produce green hydrogen and build a transatlantic supply chain from 2025. Germany is banking on this clean energy to decarbonize its economy and move away from from its dependence on Russia and its natural gas.

“The Germans now also see Canada as a partner of choice, as a serious partner and as a strategic partner. It is now up to us to make this a reality,” Minister Champagne explained in an interview The press.

Nicknamed the “Energizer Rabbit” by many in the Liberal ranks, the man claims these deals send a strong message to foreign investors.

“When big manufacturers like this come to Canada, it sends a message to the rest of the world: Canada is a key player in the green automotive supply chain of the future,” he said.

“We envisioned the ecosystem of electric vehicle batteries. We built it. We did it with Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon in Quebec and we did it in Ontario too. And now we’re in the process of optimizing it,” he said.

In July, Mr. Champagne traveled to Japan to deliver the same message to business people. In less than three weeks, when he receives a Japanese delegation in Ottawa, we will know if he will have managed to strike “a deal” again, to use Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s expression, if he believes in his minister’s powers of persuasion speaks when Moderna decided to open a factory in Quebec.

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