דונלד טראמפ משנה דעתו כל הזמן: מתנגד להסכם הסחר עם קנדה ומקסיקו, תומך בו, מתנגד לו ותומך בו. (צילום: Gage Skidmore)
נשיא ארה”ב, דונלאד טראמפ, ממשיך לשנות את דעתו בכל נושא ונושא גם במלאת מאה ימים לכהונתו. אף אחד ממקורביו, בממשלו, ממשלתו ובקרב חברי הקונגרס מטעם מפלגתו, לא יודעים מה ילד יום וממה לצפות מטראפ שמעורר מבוכה רבה. לכן גם לא מפתיע במיוחד שטראמפ שהודיע כי הסכם הסחר הצפון אמריקני של ארה”ב עם קנדה ומקסיקו – נפט”א “הוא גרוע ביותר בהיסטוריה”, לאחר מכן אמר כי יוכנסו בו רק תיקונים קטנים בכל הנוגע לקנדה. אחרי כן הודיע טראמפ בשבוע שעבר כי הוא יבטל את הסכם נפט”א (ואף כבר הכין טיוטה של צו נשיאותי לסגת מההסכם), ולאחר יום חזר בו והודיע כי הוא כי ימשיך לתמוך בו, תוך הכנסת תיקונים מסויימים. זאת לאחר ששוחח בטלפון עם נשיא מקסיקו, אנריקה פנייה וראש ממשלת קנדה, ג’סטין טרודו, שביקשו ממנו להשאיר את הסכם הסחר על כנו, כי אחרת יגרם נזק גדול יותר לשלושת הצדדים, ולפעול במשותף במטרה לשפרו. טראמפ ציין כי אם הוא מסוגל לעשות עיסקה הוגנת עבור ארה”ב במקום לבטל את ההסכם המדובר, זה מה שהוא יעשה. נשיא ארה”ב הוסיף: “אנחנו מתכוונים לתת הזדמנות טובה למשא ומתן מחודש לשיפור תנאי ההסכם, שהתחיל ממש כבר בימים אלה”.
טרודו מצידו אמר לעיתונאים לאחר ששוחח עם טראמפ בטלפון, כי השיחה בין השניים הייתה מוצלחת. בשיחה הוא הבהיר לנשיא ארה”ב כי יציאת ארה”ב מההסכם תגרום כאב גדול לשתי המדינות. שני האישים סיכמו ביניהם לשפר את תנאי ההסכם לטובת שלוש המדינות השותפות בו. טראמפ אישר לאחר מכן כרגיל באמצעות טוויטר כי הסכים לבקשתם של טרודו לשנות את תנאי הסכם הסחר במקום לבטלו.
הסכם ליצירת אזור סחר חופשי של צפון אמריקהי בין ארה”ב, קנדה ומקסיקו – נפט”א – נולד בשנת 1994. אז חתמו עליו ראשי המדינות: נשיא ארה”ב ביל קלינטון, ראש ממשלת קנדה, בריאן מלרוני ונשיא מקסיקו קרלוס סאלינס. אגב מלרוני השמרני נחשב למקורב לטראמפ במשך שנים, ולכן הוא משמש כיום כיועץ לממשלת טרודו הליברלית שמנסה ללמוד כיצד לנהוג במגעים מול הנשיא האמריקני הבלתי צפוי לחלוטין.
נפט”א נועד לביטול רוב המכסים בין שלוש המדינות וכן להסדיר את מעבר כוח האדם והסחורות בין ארה”ב למקסיקו. ההסכם יועד בעיקר לשפר את מצבם של ענף החקלאות, ענף ייצור המכוניות וכן ענף הטקסטיל. ההסכם שנחשב למבורך בעיני רבים בהם גם מומחים בתחום הכלכלה, שילש את כמות המסחר וההשקעות בין ארה”ב, קנדה ומקסיקו. במונחי שווי כוח הקנייה של התוצר הלאומי הגולמי של החברות בהסכם, הוא יצר את גוש הסחר החופשי הגדול בעולם. ובמונחי תמ”ג נומינלי נחשב נפט”א להסכם הסחר השני לאחר הסכם איגוד הסחר החופשי של הגוש האירופאי המאוחד.
הסכם נפט”א הביא לכך שהתגבר סחר החוץ בין שלוש המדינות וכלכלן צמחו במהלך התקופה מאז נחתם. כלכלת קנדה צמחה בקצב הגבוה ביותר, אחריה כלכלת ארה”ב ואחרונה כלכלת מקסיקו. לפי משרד המסחר של ארה”ב: מאז חתימת ההסכם רמת האבטלה במשק האמריקני ירדה, בו בזמן שנרשם גידול מתמיד בשכר העובדים הריאלי לשעה. כן נרשם גידול בשכר העובדים של מקסיקו ואף גידול ביצוא החקלאי של ארה”ב לקנדה ומקסיקו. המומחים מציינים כי נפט”א הזיק לתעסוקה בארה”ב הרבה פחות מהתחרות עם סין ומדינות אחרות, ודווקא ביטולו עלול לפגוע בתעשיות האמריקניות.
B.C. Finance Minister Michael de Jong speaks at the Canadian reception in Tel Aviv, kicking off the Nov. 13-17 trade mission to Israel. (photo from flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos)
In November, B.C. Minister of Finance and House Leader Michael de Jong led a provincial trade mission to Israel. The invitation to delegates was sent by the minister and Dr. Moira Stilwell, MLA for Vancouver-Langara.
“A lot of the impetus for this [mission] derived from the tech sector, the health sciences sector, the cybersecurity sector itself here in B.C., who said, look, we are seeing increasing opportunities and we’d like to explore those further, is the government prepared to work with us?” de Jong told the Independent in a phone interview. “And that led to a conversation between myself and Moira – of course, she has been, for many years, a big proponent of growing the bilateral relationship – and, out of that emerged this formal trade delegation.”
It was de Jong’s second mission to Israel. His first was about five years ago, during his tenure as the province’s minister of health.
“The role the government and a minister can play is to help facilitate partnerships and contacts between people, and this particular group had done a lot of that work themselves,” he said. “So, for example, the Rick Hansen Institute had already created the beginnings of a partnership with Hadassah [Medical Centre] and we saw that go to the next level in terms of formalization. We went out to Technion University, which is this world-leading institute – in their hallway, they feature Nobel laureates the way other institutions feature alumni – it’s quite remarkable…. [On] the cybersecurity side, some of the folks who were with us are even now actively pursuing with colleagues in Israel opportunities for exchange and for trade and, ultimately, that’s what this is all about.”
Delegates on the Nov. 13-17 mission traveled to Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Beersheva, Haifa and the West Bank to meet with various government, university and other stakeholders. Among those accompanying de Jong was Nico Slobinsky, director of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Pacific Region. CIJA hosted an optional tour and Shabbat dinner on Nov. 18 for delegates who stayed after the mission was officially over, Slobinsky told the Independent.
“CIJA was delighted by the Government of British Columbia’s initiative to lead a trade delegation to Israel composed of B.C. entrepreneurs and professionals involved in life sciences and cybersecurity,” he said. “This mission assisted in cementing existing relationships, creating new partnerships and promoting opportunities in the province by deepening the economic, cultural and academic ties between Israel and B.C.”
One of those ties was with the Centre for Health Evaluation and Outcome Sciences (CHÉOS), a centre of the Providence Health Care Research Institute and the University of British Columbia faculty of medicine.
“Israel is viewed as a world exemplar in science, technology and commercialization – a place where we can learn, but also can share best practices from B.C.,” said Prof. Robert Sindelar, who, among other things, serves as an advisor to CHÉOS. He added, “Having participated in valuable and hugely beneficial B.C. trade missions previously to China and India, I said yes immediately when I had received the invitation to consider participating in a B.C. trade mission to Israel from the B.C. Ministry of International Trade.”
About the November trip, he said, “From our very first meeting in Israel to the very last meeting, I was continually impressed by our Israel hosts’ efforts to: 1) openly and candidly share valuable insight and details of their successes and endeavors with our delegation, and 2) the immediate connection in person or via email within 24 hours of an event to further explore potential opportunities and collaborations. Thus, we are already working together on several possible collaborations between Israel and B.C.”
Being a multidisciplinary health research centre, CHÉOS looks “to partner and collaborate with synergistic and like organizations researching at the cutting-edge of health and wellness,” said Sindelar. “Thus, true partnerships and collaborations with the best health-outcomes organizations in the world – sharing knowledge, skills and new methodologies – is a continuing goal for us. Each and every life-science event planned for the B.C. trade mission to Israel provided an opportunity and unique ideas for possible collaborations for CHÉOS health scientists and clinicians at a world-class level.”
Of course, the relationship with Israel extends beyond British Columbia to all of Canada.
“There is this very strong political and cultural tie,” said de Jong. “I think we still underachieve with respect to trade. I think there is genuine room for growth on the trade front. There are some emerging opportunities, as Israel begins to explore offshore energy potential.”
As well, “we have room to learn from the ‘start-up nation,’” said de Jong. “You go down to Beersheva, for example, and see how they have managed to create a technology hub in concert with the university there and the community there, and you see elements of that beginning to develop in British Columbia, in the Lower Mainland, in Victoria, but there are some real lessons to be learned.
“Frequently, the conversations began with the Israeli representatives reminding us of the unique challenges that they face and how innovation is borne out of necessity – smaller population base, smaller country, neighbors that aren’t always particularly friendly and, in some cases, are downright hostile, and, out of that, out of necessity, innovation has emerged. At one point, I replied to a group, acknowledged that and said I want you to think about another form of necessity. Imagine four-and-a-half million people in an area the size of Europe … well, that’s our circumstance. That breeds a different kind of innovation … 35 million people in a country that’s the second-largest country in the world. And so, we have to innovate in order to achieve a standard of living that is amongst the highest in the world, with vast distances and a very small population base, and we may have something to teach you about that. Different circumstances, both have required a degree of unique innovation, and two countries that have performed remarkably well economically.”
The cost of the trip, which included travel to Israel and England for the minister and his chief of staff, came in slightly below the ministry’s $25,000 estimate, said de Jong.
“It costs money,” he said. “You go to these hotels and, if you can find one that’s below $300 a night, you’re lucky. It’s not cheap.”
But, he explained, “It’s well spent if it facilitates business and trade. If it doesn’t, then it is not a sound investment. We try to track the trade stats and the partners that came with us and do the follow-up.”
Regarding that follow-up, he said, “Well, the trade ministry, who were also represented on the trip, will be following up with the members of the delegation; in some cases, providing additional information to folks we met in Israel. In a couple of cases, there are groups there who have indicated a desire to come here to follow-up. The ultimate test of success is the degree to which investment flows out of Israel into British Columbia and out of B.C. into Israel, and we see increased levels of commerce and trade in goods and services. We can dress it up any way we want, but that’s the measure of success. If, a year or two from now, our trade levels remain the same, then it hasn’t been a success.”
To those who support the boycott, divestment and sanction movement, de Jong said, “I disagree with the approach. I see benefits for British Columbia in developing and enhancing the trade relationship, benefits for Canada; I see benefits for Israel, I see benefits for the region. I met with the finance minister for the Palestinian Authority, went into Ramallah, had a conversation, obviously got a perspective on some of the economic challenges that they are facing. I had met earlier that day or the day previous with the Israeli health minister. There is a vexing challenge there, and I’m not going to pretend to have the recipe for resolution, but I do know that Canada and Canadians are well-regarded within Israel and, my impression was, amongst the Palestinian officials. To the extent that we can encourage or influence the prospect of negotiations and resolution, so much the better.”
After the mission to Israel, de Jong stopped in London, where British Columbia was honored by the London Stock Exchange for innovation in financial capital markets.
“As finance minister over the last five years, there’s a bit of a pattern,” said de Jong of his international travel in general. “After the budget, I’ll usually do a tour involving the North American markets, so Toronto, Montreal, New York, Boston, Chicago, that sort of triangle, if you will. We also have a lot of investors in Europe, so every second year, there will be a European show.
“As forestry minister, those were the years we were opening up the China market and were very active there, happily. It’s paying dividends now. And, more recently, we were the first government anywhere in the world to issue what are called ‘dim sum and panda bonds,’ one is offshore, one is onshore, Chinese currency bonds.
“Earlier, I mean just before I was in Israel, I was in India. We were the first government anywhere in the world to issue what are called ‘masala bonds,’ rupee-denominated bonds. We’re able to do these things because we’re triple-A … so we can go where no one has gone before … and break new ground. On the way back from Israel, I stopped in London, and the reason the stock exchange wanted to honor British Columbia was for creating an entire new trade through this masala bond. We issue it out of London and now, of course, others are following.”
According to Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver chief executive officer Ezra Shanken, in his Nov. 18 e-newsletter, other local Jewish community members who joined the B.C.-Israel mission were Candace Kwinter, who is on Federation’s Israel and overseas affairs committee and CIJA-PR’s Local Partnership Council; Paul Goldman, who is CIJA’s immediate past chair; and Eli Mann, chief executive officer of Shield4UC, who also serves on Federation’s community security advisory committee.
Governor General of Canada David Johnston, left, with Chief Scientist of the State of Israel Avi Hasson. (photo by Sgt. Ronald Duchesne, Rideau Hall)
On March 1, Governor General of Canada David Johnston met Chief Scientist of the State of Israel Avi Hasson to discuss innovation and how Canada and Israel can enhance cooperation in this field. During Hasson’s visit, the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Foundation released its latest impact report.
Established in 1994 under a formal mandate from the Government of Canada and the State of Israel, CIIRDF-funded projects cross many scientific disciplines, technologies and industrial sectors. These include biotechnology, agriculture, information and communications technologies, automotive, natural resource management, public safety and aerospace.
With base funding of $1 million per year from each of the governments of Canada and Israel, CIIRDF stimulates collaborative research and development between companies in both countries, with a focus on the commercialization of new technologies; pools Canadian and Israeli know-how to provide both countries with improved market access, sustainable competitive advantage and long-term market opportunity in global economies; strengthens ties between Canada and Israel, and delivers economic benefits to both countries; and leverages additional regional and sector-based funding that is matched by the government of Israel.
CIIRDF has engaged more than 1,000 participants in partnership development activities, including more than 400 industry leaders who actively contributed to R&D collaboration discussions. It has processed more than 230 bilateral R&D applications and funded 110 projects engaging more than 200 companies from Canada and Israel.
These alliances have enabled the joint development, marketing and sales of more than 50 technologically improved new products for global markets; generated $60 million in initial sales, and $300 to $500 million in additional economic value to collaborating companies; and created hundreds of jobs in both countries.
Ambassador Rolf Pauls of Germany presents his credentials to Israeli president Zalman Shazar on Aug. 19, 1965. (photo from picture-alliance/dpa via CIJA)
On Aug. 19, 1965, Ambassador Rolf Pauls of Germany presented his credentials to Israel’s president Zalman Shazar. The tension and solemnity of the occasion were evident in everyone’s faces. Formal intergovernmental relations were being launched between Israel and Germany in the dreadful shadow of the Shoah.
Three milestones paved the way for this historic rapprochement.
The Luxembourg Agreement of 1952, which constituted the Federal Republic of Germany’s assumption of responsibility for the consequences of the Holocaust.
The meeting in March 1960 between David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, and Konrad Adenauer, West Germany’s first chancellor.
The 1961 trial of Adolf Eichmann.
The Luxembourg Agreement formed the foundation for opening dialogue, which after long years of deliberate, mutual and courageous effort culminated in the meeting between Ben-Gurion and Adenauer. The Eichmann trial helped change the two countries’ perception of each other, making it possible to look forward to a different future.
This spring, we marked the 50th anniversary of the establishment of formal diplomatic ties between Germany and Israel on May 12, 1965, a landmark day in the history of both countries. These 50 years have been marked by the rapid development of relationships and contacts in all fields and the burgeoning of a friendship that has become part of the bedrock of international affairs.
Initiated by the pioneering efforts of the scientific community in both countries, German-Israeli ties now cover every possible field of human endeavor and achievement, from scientific research and technological innovation, to youth exchange programs, civic partnerships, municipal exchanges, cultural collaborations, sport, tourism, and so much more.
Today, a quarter of all Israelis have visited Germany, while more than 700,000 young people have participated in bilateral exchange projects. Meanwhile, a trade relationship worth a mere $100 million in 1960 has grown to $7.4 billion in 2013, making Germany Israel’s third most important trading partner, after the United States and China. Israel, in turn, is Germany’s second most important trading partner in the Near and Middle East.
At the governmental level, building upon the deep desire of both peoples, our countries have worked consistently to expand and deepen mutual trust and understanding, as well as the platforms for exchange and interaction that make it possible for these to flourish. Visits at the highest political levels – laden with meaning and symbolism – have developed into regular exchanges, including annual government-to-government consultations and close coordination between trusted partners.
At the core of Adenauer’s and Ben-Gurion’s efforts was the recognition on the German side of the need to demonstrate in the most concrete terms – to itself, to Israel and the Jewish world, and to the broader international community – that the country had detached from its Nazi past and was committed to the responsibility for that past. For Israel, close relations with Germany were a geopolitical imperative for the young state, a matter of securing its future in the family of nations, without forgetting the past.
The unique relationship built by our two nations in the five decades of our ties has helped both countries normalize our international standing, entrench our security and economic well-being and make meaningful contributions to global society. This success is founded upon three key principles: Germany’s ironclad commitment to the security of Israel, for which every Israeli is grateful; our mutual commitment to remembrance and education of the next generation; and our mutual understanding that the well-being of our people requires that we work together to build a safe and prosperous future for all.
German-Israeli relations are built on this dual commitment to the past and the future. A unique trust and a real friendship have been courageously fashioned out of the abyss created by the horrors of the Nazi era. We are proud of what our two countries have achieved together and full of optimism for what lies ahead.
D.J. Schneeweissis consul general of Israel to Toronto and Western Canada, and Josef Beck is consul general of the Federal Republic of Germany to Vancouver and Western Canada. This article was first published in the Canadian Jewish News and Das Journal. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Pacific Region, and the German Consulate General in Vancouver are hosting a concert on Oct. 29 in celebration of the 50th anniversary year.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, left, welcomes President Pranab Mukherjee to the Knesset. (photo from Israeli Prime Minister’s Office via jns.org)
In the first-ever official visit by an Indian head of state to Israel, President Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Jerusalem last week to discuss a wide range of issues including the negotiation of an extensive free-trade agreement, bilateral cooperation in agricultural and other technologies, and expanded counter-terrorism coordination.
“India attaches high importance to its relationship with Israel, a relationship which has taken great strides in the last few years,” said Mukherjee.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin described the visit as deepening “the friendship between our states in the fields of economy, science, medicine and agriculture.”
Relations between India and Israel have recently undergone a major shift. In 1947, India voted against Israel joining the United Nations and did not establish official relations with Israel until 1991. This was mainly out of concern over how this would affect India’s diplomatic relations with Muslim countries, as well as India itself hosting “the world’s second-largest Muslim population in raw numbers,” according to a 2013 report by the Pew Research Centre.
Nevertheless, this recent development demonstrates how ties between the two countries have expanded considerably since then. The most recent example of a warming of relations between the countries came when India decided to abstain from the UN Human Rights Council vote condemning Israel during the 2014 Gaza conflict. This was a significant policy change, since India for decades was a leading force for nations that automatically voted against Israel in all international forums.
At the same time, the Press Trust of India recently quoted Mukherjee as saying, “India’s traditional support to the Palestinian cause remains steadfast and unwavering while we pursue strong relations with Israel. Our bilateral relations [with Israel] are independent of our relations with Palestine.”
During Mukherjee’s visit, India and Israel signed a double taxation avoidance pact as well as a number of accords promoting cultural and technological exchange between the two nations. Mukherjee and his delegation reserved 70 rooms in Jerusalem’s King David Hotel and another 30 rooms in the nearby Dan Panorama. Celebrity chef Reena Pushkarna was hired by the King David Hotel to prepare Indian dishes for the delegation and some 300 members of Israel’s Indian community.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu shares a very warm relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and referred to him as his friend multiple times when hosting Mukherjee at the Knesset. The prime ministers earlier this year congratulated each other on their respective electoral victories, with Modi making a point of doing so in Hebrew and Netanyahu expressing his good wishes in Hindi. Mukherjee extended an invitation to Netanyahu to become the second Israeli prime minister to visit India, the first being former prime minister Ariel Sharon, who visited India in 2003.
Further illustrating the growing ties between the two countries, Israel is India’s second-largest arms supplier after Russia. But relations are not limited to military ties and a mutual commitment to fight terrorism. Vijeta Uniyal, founder of Indian Friends of Israel, described how Israel’s commitment to developing the desert “extends to the Thar Desert, Gangetic Plain and Wetlands of Bengal.”
Bilateral trade between Israel and India grew from $200 million in 1992 to $4.39 billion in 2013, with both countries importing and exporting precious stones, metals, machinery, minerals, plastics, chemical products, textiles, agricultural products, and transport equipment.
Ties between the two countries are expected to strengthen considerably as a result of Mukherjee’s visit, signifying the solidification of a strong alliance between India and Israel.
Bradley Martinis a fellow for the Salomon Centre for American Jewish Thought and research assistant for the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research.