Canada's Foreign Minister John Baird (L) speaks during a news conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 24, 2012.
Credits: REUTERS/CHRIS WATTIE
OTTAWA - Canada and the UK are boosting ties between their missions abroad - but won't be merging embassies or sharing ambassadors.
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and UK counterpart William Hague announced the agreement Monday at a news conference on Parliament Hill, while attempting to put to rest speculation that co-operation between the two countries on foreign policy would become too close for comfort.
"Each country will have complete independence on (foreign) policy," Baird told reporters, maintaining the memorandum of understanding was "a small administrative agreement" that would deepen existing ties.
He gave the example of missions in Haiti and Myanmar - also known as Burma - where Canadian and British foreign staff already share real estate. Canada has similar agreements with Australia.
Hague said the deal would "maximize our reach and impact" and benefit the bottom line.
It would see more co-operation between the two Commonwealth nations in sharing space in overseas missions and collaborating on crisis response and security matters.
But the plan has its share of critics.
NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the announcement - short on details - raised more questions than answers.
"I don't think they thought this through well," he said.
Former Canadian ambassador Louis Delvoie, a diplomatic relations expert with Queen's University, said: "In many parts of the world, the British aren't partners but competitors."
When it came to trade, investment and recruiting foreign students, businesses from both countries are "fighting tooth-and-nail" over contracts.
Delvoie also raised concerns Canadian staff could face a greater security risk in parts of if both countries collaborate in countries where the UK is unpopular.
"It has to be done with a hell of a lot of care," he said.