Trade minister Ed Fast. (ANDRE FORGET /QMI AGENCY)
OTTAWA - When Canada eventually opens an embassy in Burma, International Trade Minister Ed Fast promises it will include a full-time trade commissioner as well.
"Establishing a Canadian trade commissioner in Burma ensures that Canadian businesses will have dedicated resources on the ground to help identify new business opportunities, assess economic and political risks and will ensure that local partners in the Burmese market are individuals and companies of the highest ethical standards," Fast said during a Monday teleconference from Burma.
Fast's trip comes amid warming relations with Burma, as the government there enacts democratic reforms, opens its economy, eliminates media censorship and promises to allow the publication of daily newspapers.
Fast's Southeast Asian trade tour also took him to Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam, where he says major economic opportunities exist.
"Some of these countries desperately need modern communications systems to allow them to develop their economies, so telecoms are very important," he said.
He named agricultural development, educational partnerships and financial services as key opportunities, while Canadian companies are keen to cash in on Burma's natural resources too.
Still, human rights issues are always near - especially in Vietnam where the officially atheist Communist dictatorship routinely persecutes Christians and other minorities.
"I can assure you that in my meetings with Vietnamese authorities I've raised these issues with them," said Fast. "We do so respectfully, but we do so assertively."
Cambodia, meantime, is trying to overcome the legacy of the Khmer Rouge regime as former leftist leaders are tried for crimes against humanity.