Liberal MP Scott Brison spent the past several days in Colombia, a country he has spent a great deal of time in, especially after helping to get the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement passed by negotiating a human-rights-reporting regiment as part of the agreement. I spoke with Brison this morning after his press conference.
Q: Tell me about your trip to Colombia and what kinds of things you were doing there?
A: We met with some members of the new cabinet, the Santos government, including President Santos, and talked a lot about the kinds of investment opportunities that Canada has with Colombia. The opportunities for Canadian investors to invest in Colombia, a country that has good governance, a solid growth track in terms of its economy, good natural resources and a dramatic need for some of the things that we do well. Canadian companies are good at designing, building and financing infrastructure. Colombia has massive infrastructure needs – telecommunications infrastructure, electric production and transmission infrastructure, port, airport, road infrastructure, financial services competition – there are so many areas where Canadian investors and companies can be very strong partners with the people of Colombia. Coming back from Colombia this time, I’ve never been more convinced of the incredible potential of this partnership for both countries.
Q: I’ve noticed you’ve been keeping this on, even though you’re no longer trade critic. Is this something that’s become a personal investment for you?
A: It’s something I’m very interested in. Part of it is personal in that you have friendships there, and for the very reasons that we worked so doggedly on the free trade agreement itself and the human rights treaty, at some point it’s not just politics – there’s a level of personal engagement and commitment. That doesn’t change. We met with [former] president Uribe as well, and President Santos – I’ve got a better, clearer understanding of President Santos’ priorities. They seem to be very strategically well-placed for Colombia at this time. There’s been an increase in attention to social investment. These floods, these natural disasters and Colombia’s response, and one of the things that they have to do in the next couple of years is find housing for 300,000 Colombian families who had to be moved from the flood plains. The government faces some real challenges, but I think they’re facing this crisis with real commitment and vision. President Uribe and President Santos are quite different, but the strengths that President Uribe brought from 2002 until 2010 were required to turn Colombia around and get it on track, and I think President Santos’ strengths now, as a manager, are well-placed to bring Colombia forward to the next level.
Q: Have you heard much about the announcement this week about a fund named for Rémy Beauregard on the anniversary of his death, in order to help children in Colombia who were affected by armed conflict?
A: I haven’t heard anything about it this week, but I was with some Canadian business people this week, and one of the things I spoke of was the importance of hiring former combatants as part of Canadian investment in Colombia. I want to see Canadian companies hire former combatants who have demobilized and who have rejected and renounced violence. They’ve taken that step. We have a responsibility to try to make sure that they have legitimate economic opportunity.