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Hollande in Canada to boost French trade

media François Hollande and Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Banff, Canada, … Reuters/Mike Sturk

President François Hollande is in Canada, the first visit by a French leader in 25 years, on a visit where the focus is on research and trade co operation as well as climate change policy.

Hollande is today to address Canada’s federal parliament in Ottawa, which was the scene of a police shootout with a gunman with jihadist sympathies less than two weeks ago.

Canada and France are both in the US-led coalition against jihadists in Iraq.

On Sunday, Hollande was welcomed at Calgary and headed to Banff in the foothills of the Rockies for talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

He then visited Alberta, whose vast oil reserves are behind an economic boom in western Canada. Officials said the president was keen to show that, alongside its traditionally strong relationship with the French-speaking Quebec province, France wants stronger ties with English-speaking Canada.

Hollande is accompanied by some 40 French business leaders who met the leaders of Alberta, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories, mainly English-speaking provinces in the west with growing economic potential.

“I would like France to keep showcasing the immense riches of Canada’s Northwest Territories, whether it is exploration, transformation or hydrocarbon transport techniques, or infrastructure building,” said the French President, adding that French firms were especially well-placed in these areas.

Major French companies like Total oil are already present but the region’s infrastructure and service needs are attractive to French executives.

Canada is also advancing in the exploration of oil sands and shale gas, which many environmentalists maintain is harmful.

The environment will be a sensitive issue for Hollande during the trip. One of his aims is to prepare the ground for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP21, which is to be hosted by France in November 2015.

Leaders from all over the world will try to agree new carbon emissions limits at the conference but Canada, one of the world’s top polluters; pulled out of the 2011 Kyoto Protocol which was designed to slow global warming by cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

In Quebec, which has strong cultural and economic ties with France, the French president will hope to persuade the regional government to drop a plan to end an arrangement under which French students can attend Quebec universities for the same fee as local students.

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