The prime minister hopes to discuss the worsening security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo during his trip there for the Francophonie summit later this week, but the economy will still be on his mind.
Canada is looking to strengthen commercial relations with other members of the Francophonie in order to “benefit Canadian businesses,” the prime minister’s press secretary, Andrew MacDougall, told reporters during a briefing Monday. “For instance, Canada is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with 22 Francophonie member countries or observers.”
In an accompanying release, the government outlines one of its objectives within the Francophonie is “to promote the principles of sound economic management and policies aimed at ensuring greater transparency in public administration.” To that end, it says, Canada will call for the Francophonie “to focus on elaborating on an economic strategy as part of its next ten-year plan.”
Part of Canada’s focus will be on natural resources and environmental issues. “Canada believes it is in the interest of all partners (governments, civil society and the private sector) that the extractive industries operate in a responsible manner,” the government said in its release. Natural resources, it said, are “an increasingly important source of economic growth, employment and government revenue,” putting the value of oil and mineral exports from African countries at almost $400 billion in 2008.
Resource extraction in the DRC is increasingly fraught with violence, due to the value of what have been dubbed “blood minerals” used in many consumer electronics. Many of those minerals, like coltan, are found in eastern Congo. Civil wars killed an estimated 5 million people in Congo in the 1990s. The fighting deteriorated into a scramble for Congo’s minerals that drew in the armies of eight African nations. Though the conflict ended in the rest of Congo in 2002, armed groups still operate in the mineral-rich eastern portion of the country.
Canada is the co-chair of the Group of Special Envoys and Friends of the Great Lakes region, which supports the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region “in the fight against exploitation and trafficking of minerals” in the area. And while Canada has no formal bilateral trade agreements with the DRC, some Canadian mining companies operate in the country, and have encountered controversy recently.
In 2010, a group of Congolese citizens filed a lawsuit against Canadian mining company, Anvil Mining Ltd. It claimed the company helped provide logistical support – like planes, trucks and drivers – that helped the Congolese military quash an October 2004 rebel uprising in the central African country.
For the rest of this article, please go to the iPolitics.com website: http://www.ipolitics.ca/2012/10/09/harper-to-talk-blood-minerals-conflict-trade-in-drc/