Federica Mogherini, the High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Chrystia Freeland, the Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, met on Nov. 6 to discuss trade relations between the EU and Canada. The public discussion, titled “Navigating uncharted waters: EU and Canada closer than ever,” touched on the implications of foreign policy, Brexit, and what it means to be a woman in the current political landscape.
Mogherini served as an Italian member of the Chamber of Deputies before being promoted to Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and now represents the EU at the United Nations (UN). She was a key player in drafting the Iran nuclear deal in 2015 and making climate change a prominent topic of conversation. In her opening remarks, she expressed optimism for the EU’s relationship with Canada.
“I think, with Canada, we share not only interests and policy agenda, I think we also share a [cooperative] philosophy of international relations that looks for the common grounds, win-win solutions, and finds a way to accommodate things [by] finding practical solutions,” Mogherini said. “I think we also share one fundamental thing, [and] that is the value of diversity.”
Chrystia Freeland was appointed Minister of International Trade in 2015 and Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2017 under Prime Minister Trudeau. She has since succeeded in renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.
When asked about how Brexit will impact trade negotiations with Britain and the EU, Freeland appealed to deep historical ties.
“We are supportive of both the UK and the EU in what is a difficult process,” Freeland said. “All Canadians are pretty familiar with the complexity [and the] the existential national character of a trade negotiation [….] I think, for Canada, this is just about continuing some great relationships in a new configuration. Canada has an extremely close, deeply-historic relationship with Britain. We’re more than historic allies: We’re family.”
In response to a question about being a woman in politics, Freeland asserted the importance of providing equal opportunities.
“When I think about myself and how being a woman shapes my own [life], one of the things that has struck me the most is that I really hate it when, in international relations, people assume that a particular group of people, by virtue of their ethnicity, or their history, or their religion [are not] desiring of the full panoply of rights that we enjoy in a liberal democracy,” Freeland said.
Attendees brought forward additional queries on current issues with a focus on sanctions on Russia and trade with China. Throughout the discussion, both women emphasized the importance of multilateral cooperation in their economic relationships with the rest of the world.
“What I have noticed […] is that, around the world, more and more people are looking at Europe, at Canada, and at us together as a point of reference,” Mogherini said. “When it comes to human rights as a basis for foreign policy, when it comes to free and fair trade, when it comes to [supporting] the UN system, peacekeeping, you name it, countries [and economies] that, maybe, are smaller than ours are looking at us as ones that can help them join the club of those that are supporting multilateralism.”
In his closing remarks, the Chair of McGill’s Board of Governors Ram Panda elaborated on the faces behind the trade deals and Canada’s role in peacekeeping.
“It’s quite easy to forget, when we talk about free and fair trade, [that] it is always negotiated by people, [there are] individuals behind it who exhibit a sense of warmth and wisdom,” Panda said. “Creating the world that you would like to live in is an essential part of creating peace [….] I’m so glad to see that Canada and Europe remain the torch-bearers of the flame of peace. Our peace and prosperity depend on the peace and prosperity of everybody in this world.”