The new Polish ambassador says in the next few years trade revenue between Canada and Poland “should double very easily,” and one of his priorities is to focus on building relations with potential Canadian corporations to invest in Poland.
Andrzej Kurnicki arrived back in September and presented his credentials to former governor general David Johnston on Sept. 12. He replaced Marcin Bosacki, who served for four years.
During an interview on Jan. 29 at the Polish Embassy, located in Ottawa’s Sandy Hill neighbourhood, Mr. Kurnicki said that with the provisional implementation of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) on Sept. 21, he expects that trade will increase.
“We see some strong activity with Canadian corporations willing to invest in Europe…and Poland is very attractive because the entry cost [for exporting] is much lower than investing in Europe,” he said, adding there is heavy activity coming from industries such as aerospace, construction, oil and gas, and agriculture.
Bilateral trade between the two countries was $2.2-billion in 2015, and Canadian direct investment in Poland was $264-million in 2014, according to Global Affairs Canada. It added that investors include Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada, McCain, Apotex, Valeant, Redknee, SNC-Lavalin, Heli-one, and CGI.
Poland has not ratified CETA yet, but Mr. Kurnicki said he expects that by the middle of this year the “Polish parliament will ratify with a solid margin [in favour of the deal].”
Like his predecessor, Mr. Kurnicki is a political appointee, but he said he does not have any political affiliation, nor has worked for a political party.
He comes to the job with expertise in the banking, finance sectors, as well as work in academia.
For the past three years, he was working at Lazarski University as head of the capital markets and banking and finance departments.
From 1989 to 1998, Mr. Kurnicki worked in the United States for various companies including New York Life Insurance Company, Prudential Financial, and investment company Legg Mason.
He said he wasn’t certain, but believed that his background could help with building investment relationships.
He noted he’s already been speaking with the Manitoba Business Council, and others representing the Alberta energy and oil sectors because “they are interested in expanding [their] business to Europe.”
Mr. Kurnicki said he doesn’t think a recent shift in Poland’s political climate will affect bilateral relations with Canada.
His country has turned to a more social-conservative bent after the far-right party Law and Justice won a majority in 2015 with 37.6 per cent of the vote against the governing party Civic Platform, described as liberal-conservative, that only got 24.1 per cent.
He said the differences actually help others in the international community to learn from Canada’s progressive social platform that raises awareness for women’s rights and multiculturalism.
Mr. Kurnicki said his priorities in his role will also include engaging with the Polish community in Canada, which includes about 1.1 million people according to the 2016 census.
“[The community] has been in Canada for 200 years. It’s a vibrant community,” he said, adding he has spoken to universities to continue exchange programs for students.
Mr. Kurnicki resides in Ottawa with his wife Agata Malgorzata Wrzol-Kurnicka, and the pair have one adult son who is currently working in the banking industry in the U.S.
The first presentation-of-credentials ceremony for the year happened on Jan. 26 ushering in six new envoys.
Tania Molina Avalos, the new ambassador of El Salvador, has replaced Edgar Ferman Palacios Bermudez.
Aster Mamo Ana is the new ambassador of Ethiopia, and she replaced Birtukan Ayano Dadi.
Fahad Saeed Mohamed Abdulla AlRaqbani is the new ambassador of the U.A.E. He replaced Mohammed Saif Helal Al Shehhi.
Fadi Ziadeh is the new ambassador of Lebanon and will be taking over from Sami Haddad, the embassy’s chargé d’affaires.
Doma Tshering is the new ambassador of Bhutan and has replaced Kunzang Choden Namgyel.
Shaikh Abdulla Rashed AlKhalifa is the ambassador of Bahrain and will be based out of the country’s embassy in Washington, D.C.
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