Liberals ease trade with Belarus, leaving N. Korea as last country on restricted list – Politics

The Liberal government is proceeding with a plan to ease trade restrictions imposed almost a dozen years ago on Belarus, despite scathing human rights reports about the eastern European country.

A recent cabinet decision, posted online this week, paves the way for the removal of the country from the Area Control List.

The removal of Belarus from the list means trade will be less restricted and it opens up business opportunities for Canadian companies.

It’s been a year since Global Affairs Canada signalled its intention to take action. The new measure takes effect on July 12.

The easing of the trade restriction on Belarus, a close strategic ally of Russia, leaves North Korea as the only country remaining on the list.

Restrictions were imposed in December 2006 by the former prime minister Stephen Harper’s government and came about because of human rights concerns following elections there.

President Alexander Lukashenko, who has been in power since 1994, was accused of ordering the arrest of activists and opposition candidates.

At the time, Harper issued a scathing statement saying he was “shocked that a dictatorial and abusive regime such as this one can continue to exist in today’s Europe.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government imposed the trade restrictions in 2006. (Fred Chartrand/Canadian Press)

In a statement Monday, Global Affairs Canada said the country was being removed from the list because the United States and European Union had done the same.

“This revised approach reflects Canada’s acknowledgment that the government of Belarus has made progress in key areas, including the release of political prisoners and conducting a peaceful presidential election in October 2015‎,” the statement said.

“Canada also recognizes the constructive role played by Belarus in facilitating negotiations toward a ceasefire and peace agreement in Ukraine under the Minsk agreement.”

Global Affairs spokesperson John Babcock said that as part of…

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