When it comes to co-operation with Canada, Marcela López Bravo has a lot to talk about.
On a bone-chilling February day, Peru’s new ambassador to Canada spends an hour in her Albert Street high-rise office explaining to a reporter where things stand on everything from education to defence co-operation.
The Canadian foreign ministry’s website describes ties with Peru as “warm and growing.” Ms. López calls the two “strategic partners.” Peru’s president visited Canada in 2014, following a visit by Canada’s prime minister to Peru the year before.
A big part of that relationship is Canadian companies’ investment in Peru. The mining sector is the most prominent. Ms. López pulls out a paper with information from 2014 from the mining industry research company InfoMine, detailing more than 70 mining companies listed on either the Toronto Stock Exchange or TSX Venture Exchange that did business in Peru, including big names like Barrick Gold, Hudbay Minerals, First Quantum Minerals and Teck Resources.
Peru is Canada’s second-largest bilateral trading partner in South and Central America and the third-largest spot for Canadian direct investment in the region, according to the Canadian government.
Ms. López is preparing for Peru’s representation at a massive Toronto mining trade show next month known as PDAC by the name of the industry association that runs it. She sees it as a good opportunity to promote Peru as a country with a healthy economy and a secure place to invest.
Human rights and mining watchdog groups have been critical of what they see as the harmful environmental and social impact of some Canadian mining companies operating in Peru, and the Canadian government’s close partnership with mining companies on aid projects.
Ms. López suggested that Canadian investors in Peru are taking care of social responsibility. She also highlighted a recent law meant to give indigenous communities a say about development of their lands, though some observers have pointed out what they see as continued gaps in protecting indigenous rights.
Canadian investment in Peru is not just about mining, the ambassador pointed out. Financial firms like Scotiabank and construction and engineering businesses like SNC Lavalin are also present in the Latin American country.
Boosting trade is a top priority for her. Peru and Canada have a free trade deal brought into force in 2009, and they’re both members of the 12-member Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact signed this month but not yet in force. Two-way trade has gone up for both sides since the trade deal. Ms. López is hoping to keep the momentum going by expanding Peru’s export reach, especially for agricultural products, past traditional markets in Ontario and Quebec and into western Canada, she indicated.
Besides trade, she said she expects the two countries to sign a mutual accountability framework before the end of June, detailing both sides’ ongoing obligations when it comes to development co-operation. Peru is a focus country, to which Canada funnels millions in aid dollars. Areas of co-operation include technical capacity-building for small businesses to export to international markets, she said.
“It’s not only for Peru, it’s a win-win for Canada, because in these terms, Canada has the opportunities to sell industrial machines,” she said.
PM visit expected
In keeping with their tight ties, Peru and Canada have yearly scheduled talks on political and environmental matters, and the new aid agreement would provide them in that area too, she said.
On the environment, the ambassador said she wanted to “congratulate” Canada on its behaviour at last year’s Paris climate change summit, which followed a similar international gathering in Lima, Peru’s capital, the year before. She’s happy to see Canada financially support countries dealing with the effects of climate change. Peru has faced melting ice in its highlands, she said.
Since arriving in November and officially starting her duties the next month, she’s communicated to a top federal environmental official. She’s seeking Canada’s support for her country’s bid to host a biodiversity summit in 2020, and also for Peru’s eventual bid to become a member of the OECD.
She expects Prime Minister Justin Trudeau may visit Peru late this year when the country hosts an APEC leaders summit. It would be under the helm of a new leader, as the country is set to hold presidential elections this spring and the incumbent, Ollanta Humala, is not constitutionally allowed to run again.
It’s Ms. López’s second time around in Canada. A career diplomat who’s served since 1972 in countries including Brazil, Cuba, Honduras, Venezuela, Italy and, from 2007 until 2013 as ambassador to Korea, she worked as first secretary, chargé d’affaires and chief of the consular section at Peru’s Ottawa embassy from 1982 to 1986.
“My children grew up here,” she recalled. They were about eight and 12 years old when she served here last, and her husband, Diego Fernando Del Risco Valencia, was commuting back and forth to Montreal to work at a partner company of his construction company in Peru.
This time around, her kids are grown and living in Brazil and the United States (“That is the diplomatic life,” she said with a chuckle) and her husband is at home in Lima working.
She doesn’t plan to be without company in Ottawa, though. She hopes to get a puppy.