SYLVIE BÉDARD

Ecuador 2020 | DIPLOMACY | INTERVIEW

Though located geographically far from one another, Canadians and Ecuadorians are coming closer thanks to multiplying trade links.

Sylvie Bédard
BIOGRAPHY

Sylvie Bédard joined the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade in 1995. She served as director of the Centre of Learning for International Affairs and Leadership in the Canadian Foreign Service Institute from 2016-2018. She also served as deputy director of Aboriginal Affairs from 2005-2006, Canada-US Relations from 2002-2004 and Inter-American Affairs from 2001-2002. She served in the Canadian embassy in Paris, as director of the Canadian Cultural Centre from 2011-2016. She also served in the Canadian embassy in Santiago, as a political and public affairs officer. Between 2007 and 2011, she worked in the private sector as manager of community, Aboriginal, and Native American relations with TransCanada.

How would you assess the overall economic and commercial relationship between Ecuador and Canada and the role of mining in it?

The trade relationship between Canada and Ecuador is solid and increasingly growing. Canada and Ecuador are two countries of the Americas that share similar geographies in terms of an abundance of natural resources and the same values on trading in a transparent and responsible manner. Because of these fundamentals, there is great potential for growth in our trade relationship. In 2018, when Canada was the number-one investor in Ecuador, mainly because of our investment in mining. There was USD2 billion of investment in Ecuador for many sectors, but mostly mining. The more Canadians do business in Ecuador, the more confidence there will be in Ecuador. The new direct flight between Toronto and Quito will ensure the relationship will grow. Already, trade in goods between both countries is worth USD520 million. Most of Ecuadorian exports to Canada are natural products, including fruit, cacao, and shrimp. With this direct link, we can create more opportunities for these products to reach Canada. This flight will also boost tourism on both sides. Ecuador is becoming a more familiar, attractive destination to Canadians as Canadians are attracted to Ecuador's nature. Over 36,000 Canadians visited Ecuador in 2018, and that number will grow. Ecuador is the third-largest source of South American students who come to study in Canada, and the new flight will help more students study in Canada. Additionally, major Canadian players in the oil business returned to Ecuador and participated successfully in the Intracampos oil round due to their world-renowned experience.

What is the potential contribution of Canadian companies to ensure that a more responsible mining sector takes shape?

The contribution from Canadian companies is hugely important, and they have risen to the task in Ecuador. One of the goals of the Ecuadorian government is to grow exports, and mining is essential to achieve that. The development of the mining sector is important, not only because it can help diversify the Ecuadorian economy, but also because most of that development takes place in remote regions of the country. These communities are marginalized, so the development of mining can help them prosper. This has to be done in a sustainable manner, however, and Canada has significant experience in this area. There are many Canadian mining companies in Ecuador, so we can expect this contribution to grow. Furthermore, Canada is the only country with an international Ombudsperson for Responsible Enterprise who can review certain complaints from a Canadian company's operations abroad and take actions accordingly.

How does the Canadian embassy in Quito and its commercial team help ensure investors a smooth journey in Ecuador?

The embassy has an extremely well-trained team of experts, and we work hard to accompany this government to make their strategic development a success. We recognize the challenges in going from an economy that it is highly dependent on oil to one that is diversified and has many sources of revenue. When we talk about the mining sector, we work in a collaborative manner with the government to develop large-scale mining projects. We have a great deal to share in terms of framework, bureaucracy, permitting processes, and other areas, because Canada has gone through much of this already. Like Ecuador, we have many natural resources and indigenous peoples who live in remote areas where extractive activities take place. We have gone through the process and can share our experience. We also have a great deal of experience in terms of PPPs. The Quito airport is a great example. It is a PPP project that the Canadian government and a Canadian company developed together with local authorities. It is one of the few airports in Latin America that is carbon neutral and has been a catalyst to connect Ecuador to the world.