Canada and Poland are promoting closer trade ties and co-operation in the energy and resource sectors during the first visit to Canada by a Polish prime minister in more than two decades.
A joint statement issued Monday outlined agreement on a tax convention and a committment to two-trade as a "platform" for the two countries to "explore further collaboration in the areas of energy policies and regulations, renewable and nuclear energy, carbon capture and storage, energy efficiency, and shale gas development."
The statement came as Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk wrapped up a three-day tour of Canada Monday, with an official visit to Parliament Hill and a private meeting with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"As responsible governments we must care for energy security from the strategic perspective of both Canada and Poland," Tusk told reporters after their meeting. "The exploration and production of shale gas seems to be absolutely crucial."
"Canada is a leader in the production of virtually all forms of energy and we have considerable Canadian companies that are interested in working in Poland," Harper said.
In response to a question from a Polish reporter about shale gas development, Harper said the best way to address local concerns is "full, open and transparent environmental processes that examine people's concerns on a scientific basis."
"Not on the basis of politics, but on the basis of science," Harper added.
Double-taxation agreement signed
In addition to the expanded energy partnership, Canada and Poland have signed a new tax convention to replace a previous agreement dating back to 1987.
The double-taxation agreement will lower the maximum rate of withholding tax imposed on dividends paid between companies and on interest payments. It's intended to increase trade and bilateral investment for companies doing business between the two countries.
Harper and Tusk began working on the tax agreement during their 2008 meeting in Gdansk, Poland.
Following the signing of the tax convention, Harper began the two leaders' joint news conference by remembering that an earlier official visit to Canada planned for 2010 was cancelled following a plane crash that claimed the life of Poland's then-president Lech Kaczynski, his wife and several other senior officials.
"Today we again remember them and renew our expressions of sorrow," Harper said, lauding the "deep historic partnership between Canada and Poland" demonstrated more recently during the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
Harper called Poland "an important market for Canadian exports" and complimented Tusk's leadership in noting that Poland is the only EU country to have avoided a recession since the 2008-09 global economic crisis.
Tusk returned the favour, pledging to represent Canada's interests across Europe.
"It's not my place to tell the Europeans how to resolve problems within the European Union," Harper said in declining to reveal Canada's prefered course for solving the EU's economic woes, other than to insist the "serious" problems be addressed.
Tusk was a student leader in the Polish Solidarity movement, which took hold as communism crumbled in Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.
"There is much that draws us together," Harper said, noting the "vibrant" Polish-Canadian population of more than a million people, and pledging that the bilateral relationship will be "further strengthened" when Canada concludes negotiations on a free trade deal with Europe, expected later this year.
The Canadian government also announced a $400,000 grant for the Auschwitz-Birkenau Foundation, to assist with the preservation of its Holocaust memorial site.
On Sunday, Tusk visited the community of Wilno, Ont., the site of the first Polish settlement in Canada in the mid-1850s.
Tusk noted that the original settlers were Kashubian Poles from the region around his own hometown of Gdansk. "They are the best testimony to how great a place to live Canada is for people of different histories, different backgrounds, different languages [and] different nationalities."
The Polish prime minister also visited the Quadra copper mine in Sudbury, which was purchased by the Polish mining group KGHM in March. Tusk heralded it as an example of cooperation between the two countries in the resource sector. Harper noted that the $2.9-billion investment in Canada's mining sector is one of the largest Polish investments in the world.
Tusk's visit concludes Monday with additional meetings in the afternoon followed by an evening reception for the Polish community on Parliament Hill.