Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken his tough talk about the European economic crisis to the G20 summit in Mexico, but his position earned him some criticism Monday from the head of the European Commission.
Harper welcomed Sunday night's Greek election result but warned again that the problems in Europe remain severe.
"We’re obviously very pleased the Greek people have given a clear mandate to remain in the eurozone and to fulfill the commitments they’ve made," Harper told reporters at the Mexican resort of Los Cabos.
"What European countries need to do and what we will be looking to see are clear commitments they are willing to take all the actions, all the necessary actions that are within their capacity to deal with their problems," Harper said.
That kind of tough talk has irritated some of Canada’s key EU partners here.
In a news conference, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso expressed frustration that Canada and the U.S. have refused to contribute to an IMF fund to help Europe — something all other countries here have agreed to.
Canada and the United States reject the idea of contributing to the IMF, a position Harper repeated Monday. Canada already pledged $10 billion to the fund in 2009.
In response to a Canadian reporter’s question, Barroso lashed out at the criticisms being offered up by Harper and others.
"We are not complacent about the difficulties. We are extremely open. I wish that all our partners were so open about their own difficulties. We are extremely open and we are engaging our partners but we are certainly not coming here to receive lessons from nobody," he said.
Barroso added it’s in Canada’s interests to ensure the eurozone is economically stable, noting that Canada is currently seeking a free—trade deal with the region.
"By the way, we are trying to conclude an important agreement on trade with Canada. Why? Because all the other parts of the world look at Europe as a source of possible growth for them," he said.
"And, in fact, they also have an interest. The sooner the situation is stabilized in Europe, the better for them."
Harper refused to respond to Barroso’s comments, calling them internal European politics. But he said he believes most of the G20 leaders agree with his position.
Some observers here say Harper is right — he has won support for his tough stand, especially among the less powerful G20 members.
Mexico invited to TPP talks, as Canada waits
Harper also reiterated Canada’s interest in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership trade talks with Pacific countries. The United States welcomed Mexico into those trade talks today.
Canada's trade restrictions on dairy and poultry products present the biggest obstacle to joining the nine-country talks.
The prime minister was coy when asked if Canada would be invited to join the talks.
"We're delighted that Americans and others have indicated an interest in seeing Canada join the Trans-Pacific Partnership," Harper said. "I think for now I'll just leave it at that."
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