Larysa Zariczniak, Kyiv.
On 26 January, 2015, the Canadian Minister of International Trade Ed Fast was in Kyiv and announced that Canada is contributing $1 million to, in particular, provide support to the Ukrainian World Congress’ initiative Patriot Defence’s tactical medical training and provision of Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs).
Speaking at the Patriot Defence office in Kyiv, Minister Fast stated that Canada is strongly opposed to the “illegal occupation of Ukraine” and also insisted that Canadian support in Ukraine’s future is unquestionable.
Medical research, as well as numerous videos captured in eastern Ukraine, have proved that IFAK is an invaluable tool in saving lives in the conflict zone. For instance, a Patriot Defence trained combat medic was stationed at the Volnovakha checkpoint and utilized his IFAK when the civilian bus was struck by a GRAD missile that killed 12 civilians on 13 January 2015.
It has become increasingly clear that Patriot Defence, a humanitarian initiative of the Ukrainian World Congress, created in May 2014, is essential in ensuring that more Ukrainians are saved from attacks launched by Russian-backed terrorists. To date, the initiative has trained over 12,000 soldiers in tactical medical first aid and over 9,500 IFAKs, which cost $100, have been distributed.
In response to the attack on Mariupol, Minister Fast stated that the Canadian government is “outraged at the atrocities committed in Mariupol and…will continue to stand with Ukraine.” He also added that Canada will continue to provide non-lethal aid to Ukraine and will also consider further sanctions on Russia but will do so in collaboration with their allies. He also indicated that Canada will also support Ukraine in its security and provide the economy a means to recover. He finished his speech by thanking the entire Ukrainian Canadian community because they have “stepped-up in support of Ukraine” and he is very proud of this support.
Canada’s Ambassador to Ukraine, Roman Waschuk also thanked the volunteers in Canada and Ukraine for their enthusiasm and dedication and insisted that because of these volunteers, international cooperation between the two countries will continue into the future.
Dr. Ulana Suprun, Director of Humanitarian Initiatives for the Ukrainian World Congress, stated that out of the total number of soldiers who died in Ukraine’s fight against Russian-backed separatists and terrorists, 200 could have been saved by an IFAK.
During Minister Fast and Ambassador Waschuk’s visit to the Patriot Defence office, 100 IFAKs were on display. These 100 IFAKs will be handed out this week when Patriot Defence trains a new group of Ukrainian soldiers in life-saving tactical medicine prior to their deployment to eastern Ukraine.
Each week, Patriot Defence conducts training sessions throughout Ukraine and teaches soldiers how to address the three main preventable causes of death on the battlefield: severe bleeding, collapsed lungs and blockage of the airway in several locations that are made to simulate the realistic battlefield. Dr. Suprun expects that Canada will do much more in their support of Ukraine in the future as this training is essential to winning Ukraine’s war.
The New Pathway.
Along with the $1 million in medical aid in the form of the IFAKs, the Canadian government last week announced provision of the second $200 million low-interest loan and of an additional $52 million in technical assistance to Ukraine’s economy. The total value of Canada’s loan agreements with Ukraine in the past five months has now reached $400 million. The New Pathway interviewed the Minister of International Trade Ed Fast on January 29, after his return from Ukraine. The questions were related to the Minister’s negotiations in Ukraine about the planned Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine, as well as Canada’s assistance to Ukraine.
NP: Is this a new official stage of the Free Trade Agreement negotiations?
EF: Actually, we have officially engaged, we have negotiating sessions lined up. Our negotiators have already been having discussions scoping out what’s left to do and they have settled upon the schedule of meetings that will be held over the next several months.
NP: How many stages of negotiations do you foresee until the Agreement is signed?
EF: It will be difficult to say exactly. What I can say is that a significant part of negotiatoins is already complete. The negotiations were suspended because of Yanukovych regime’s unwillingness to live by its commitments at the World Trade Organization. It was pretty clear that if he wasn’t going to honor his commitments at the WTO, why would anyone expect him to honor his Free Trade Agreement commitments. More recently, we engaged with the new Ukrainian government which has a very forward-looking approach to the future of Ukraine. We are absolutely confident that they are serious about engaging in a constructive and productive partnership with Canada on trade. That’s why we are now progressing towards concluding these negotiations.
NP: Do you think that the Agreement could be signed this year?
EF: I am not someone who likes to predict what is going to happen in the future but I have been very impressed with the new leadership in place in Kyiv. I had the opportuinity when I was there to meet with the Minister of Finance Nataly Jaresko, I also met of course with my direct counterpart, Minister of Economy and Trade Aivaras Abromavicius, and I also met with the Minister of Agrarian Policy Olexiy Pavlenko. We had very, very good discussions about not only challeges facing Ukraine, but about tremendous opportunities that Canadian companies have to invest strategically in Ukraine’s future.
NP: What does this newly announced $52 million worth assistance program for Ukraine include?
EF: It has four different components. One component is focussed on small- and medium-sized enterprises in the dairy sector and the funding will support small- and medium-sized farmers to develop cooperatives to improve the marketing of their dairy products, and also technical advise and assistance in terms of production, maximising their ability to use dairy as a means of improving their prosperity. This will include assisting cooperative members to connect with local institutions like agricultural colleges, suppliers of input such as seeds and fertilisers, advisory service companies, lending organizations, that they would actually be able to access on their own. The project also aims to set up 270 new family-owned dairy farms and create or support 50 related businesses. The funding for that is about $20 million.
We are doing the same thing with respect to the grain sector. Ukraine is an increadibly rich country when it comes to growing grains, and, of course, Canada is also a world leader in that. We are applying about $15.5 million over six years to help these grain farmers organize into service cooperatives based on Canadian best practices. This will help them gain financing to build grain storage and processing facilities. Grain storage facilities will be owned by the cooperatives and hopefully reduce spoilage and raise value of their grains. There will also be training courses which will provide the industry with the additional capacity to pick up some of the technical assistance that Canadians are known for.
The third project is about $19 million and it’s going to help the national Ukrainian government as well as some of the sub-national administrations to develop and implement governance improvements. In other words, we want to help Ukraine establish itself as a government that respects transparency and inclusivity, and has the skills to be able to consult effectively about all the key policies that it wants to deliver on and is transparent in how it does so. Canada is known around the world as having a very solid governance and we believe we have best practices we believe we can share with the Ukrainian people and government.
The last one is about continuing financial support for Ukraine’s Economic Advisory Council which is lead by a Canadian professor, Dr. Basil Kalymon. The Council is providing a good advice to the Ukrainian government. In my meetings with the three ministers in Kyiv, I have been very impressed not only with their understanding of the enormous challenges facing Ukraine but their willingness to make the tough choices that will allow Ukraine to embrace a much more prosperous future.
NP: One of Ukraine’s major problems is that private capital is considering the country as a conflict zone. Is Canada planning to help Ukraine with some insurance for private investment?
EF: We have not received any requests that I know of to provide any advice or financial support to do that. I do know that Ukraine is seen as being a challenging environment in which to do business. But I had the opportunity in Kyiv to meet with a number of Canadian business people who are doing business in Ukraine as well as with Ukrainian business people who have partnered with Canadians. And I was encouraged by their vision for Ukraine. They acknowledge that Ukraine has enormous security and economic challenges, but I share their confidence that Ukraine and the Ukrainian people actually have the ability and capacity to overcome these challenges. Which is exactly why Canada will remain a steadfast and trusted partner to Ukraine. I think you’ve seen that in the investments we’ve made so far, in the large number of high level political visits that have been made to Ukraine. And I think you see that in a high level of confidence that our Canadian Ukrainian Diaspora has in Ukraine’s future. Yes, these challenges are enormous but with countries like Canada walking shoulder-to-shoulder, I am confident, there is going to be a much brighter future for Ukrainians.
NP: What kind of benefits will Canada have from free trade with Ukraine?
EF: When we eliminate tariffs, Ukraine and Canada will be able to do business on a more competitive basis. Because tarriffs essentially add barriers to trade and undermine the competitiveness of the companies that have to do business in that environment. But it won’t be only about tarriff elimination. While in Ukraine I also met with one of Ukraine’s IT companies which has 12,000 employees around the world, 4,000 of which are located in Ukraine. Ukraine has well-known and highly repsected IT industry. It was brought to my attention that companies like Canadian Tire are using services of a Ukrainian companyto provide e-commerce services and support an e-commerce platform. Canadian Tire alone has created 400 jobs in the IT sector in Ukraine. Banks like CIBC are also using Ukrainian IT-services. There is tremendous potential in Ukraine. Ukrainians are well-educated, forward-looking, they need partners like Canada to support them through this very difficult time.
On January 30, Minister Ed Fast had a media call, in which the New Pathway participated.
In particular, responding to the question from Marco Levytsky from the Ukrainian News, whether Canada is considering providing Ukraine with lethal military aid, Ed Fast said that Canada has not received any requests for such aid from Ukraine but will consider them should they come from Ukraine.
Myron Petriw from the Ukrainian Vancouver asked Minister Fast about the fate of oil and gas projects in Ukraine in the light of royalties on oil and gas extraction which were heightened by the recent legistation. It has become known recently that the global oil and gas company Chevron is pulling off Ukraine due in particular to the raised royalties. Ed Fast responded that this matter was indeed discussed during his talks with the Ukrainian government and with Canadian oil and gas companies which operate in Ukraine. The issues of royalties, capital repatriation and domestic oil and gas auctions were in particular discussed. Ed Fast said that his impression from the talks is that the government understands that Ukraine needs to carve out a reputation as a good place to invest. The Minister noted that Ukraine has a mid-year review process of its royalty regime and he encouraged his Ukrainian counterparts to take a close look at the royalty regulations.
The New Pathway asked Minister Fast whether the fact that Canada is now providing the second $200 million loan to Ukraine means it has done a satisfactory audit of the use of the first $200 million loan provided in September 2014. The answer from Ed Fast was rather positive. He called the audit process “ongoing” and said that Ukraine is fully commited to the highest level of transparency and accountability which “greatly encouraged” him during the last visit to Ukraine. Ed Fast reminded that the $52 million assistance package includes about $19 million to help with governance reform.