Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during the CEO Summit as part of the Americas Summit in Cartagena, April 14, 2012. The summit takes place April 14-15.
Credits: REUTERS/JOHN VIZCAINO
CARTAGENA, Colombia - Prime Minster Stephen Harper pitched Canadian business at a meeting Saturday attended by CEOs from across the Americas.
"Our reliable, low-tax regime encourages the long-term investment that produces high-paying, highly-skilled jobs in the mining sector," the PM said. "Our government understands that low, predictable taxes encourage business to do business. It is as simple as that.
"We see increased Canadian mining investment throughout the Americas, something that will be good for our mutual prosperity." he told the group of movers and shakers.
Harper's bid to diversify Canada's trade relationships was centre stage during his address to business elites gathered for meetings running parallel to the Summit of the Americas. He also highlighted Canada's move to tighten timelines for environmental reviews.
"We cannot allow valid concerns about environmental protection to be used as an excuse to trap worthwhile projects in reviews-without-end," he said. "What matters is that the relevant facts are fully considered. That need not take years."
More than 30 heads of state are in this oceanside city for the sixth annual meeting whose theme this year is Connecting the Americas: Partners for Prosperity. They will be talking trade, territorial security and economic growth on the weekend.
Latin America and the Caribbean are considered key investment areas for Harper, who is pining to diversify Canada's trade relationships beyond the turbulent economies of United States and Europe.
In an effort to promote prosperity in the Americas, the government plans to spend $200 million this year and $50 million in 2012-2013 on a plan to push renewable energy. The fund will be managed by the Inter-American Development Bank.
The government also announced money for several initiatives including $9.55 million over six years for the Latin American Energy Organization, a project promoting sustainable energy, economic growth and corporate social responsibility.
Cuba's absence here and the push by some Latin American countries to legalize or decriminalize drugs are also high on the agenda.
Canada and the U.S. are opposed to measures to decriminalize some drugs and to Cuba joining the next Summit of the Americas even though other countries have been calling for its inclusion.
"I, personally, and my administration's position is that legalization is not the answer," said U.S. President Barack Obama. "Nevertheless, I'm a big believer in looking at the evidence, having a debate."
On Saturday, the US received negative press here after a dozen Secret Service agents were sent home following claims of heavy drinking and use of prostitutes.
"There have been allegations of misconduct made against Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the president's trip," an agency spokesman, Edwin Donovan, said in a statement. "Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel."