The Canadian Press | Jan. 25 2015
Harper goverment talks free trade in Kiev as fighting intensifies
KIEV — International Trade Minister Ed Fast will be in Kiev for two days of meetings as fighting intensifies between Ukrainian forces and pro-Russian separatists in the east of the embattled country.
Mr. Fast, who arrived Sunday and has been to Ukraine twice is the last six months, is there to talk free trade his counterpart, Aivaras Abromaviius.
Negotiations towards such an agreement were given a high-level political jolt last fall during Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko’s visit to Ottawa, where he and Prime Minister Stephen Harper ordered officials to accelerate their work on the pact.
The minister arrived one day after 15 people were reported killed in shelling in the east Ukrainian port city of Mariupol.
The attack was blamed on Russian-backed rebels and follows the separatists’ rejection of more peace talks.
The United Nations said on Friday that 262 had been killed in the previous nine days.
The Harper government, which handed out $314-million in economic assistance to Kiev since the crisis began last year, sees strengthening the Ukrainian economy as a vital pillar in the strategy to resist Russian expansionism.
Canada and Ukraine already do about $322 million in trade.
The Harper government says it is looking for Canadian companies that want to invest in the agriculture and agri-food, aerospace, energy, mining and education sectors.
Fast is also expected to meet the country’s finance and agriculture ministers during his trip.