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Premier Jean Charest defended on Wednesday his decision to come to Paris during a time of government restraint to announce a relatively minor advance in negotiations toward a comprehensive Quebec-France labour mobility agreement.


Charest, facing criticism and weak polling numbers at home but treated like a head of state in his fourth visit to France in 18 months, said his meetings with top French leaders are crucial.


"The only way to get this done is that there be a constant pressure applied on the negotiators and on the different professions and trades to move this along," he told reporters after a half-hour meeting with President Nicolas Sarkozy.


Charest, who left for France with his entourage on Sunday and concluded talks Wednesday evening, also had meetings with Prime Minister Francois Fillon, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and La Francophonie Secretary General Abdou Diouf.


His only announcement on the trip involved the latest success by negotiators seeking to ink by November labour mobility agreements involving 100 professions and trades.


The new agreements will allow nurses, agronomists, and forestry engineers to move between jurisdictions with no worries about having their professional qualifications challenged.


But talks are still ongoing with associations representing more than 40 professionals and tradespeople, including psychologists, accountants and geologists.


Charest said there are current blockages involving some professional and trade associations in France that are reluctant to cut labour mobility deals.


But he said the French and Quebec governments, as regulators of professional and trade associations, have the ability to apply pressure.


He was asked why Sarkozy, a major global leader beset by internal political woes over controversial pension reforms and an ongoing conflict scandal, would be concerned about a relatively minor agreement.


He said Sarkozy, both before and after his 2007 election, made clear the importance of Quebec's "direct, privileged" relationship with France that is "unique in the world."


The evidence of that bond is the labour mobility deal, as well as the Canada-European free-trade negotiations that both France and Quebec were instrumental in advocating, he said.


"President Sarkozy is instrumental in all of this because it is his political will that he is applying to these negotiations," Charest said as France's Republican Guard stood at attention nearby as part of his formal welcome to the Elysee Palace.


A Quebec official wouldn't estimate the price of the trip, but said the premier's effort will bring numerous benefits to Quebecers.


Charest said the deal is important in allowing Quebec businesses to attract professionals and skilled workers.


The Charest government's spring budget included a $25-a-year health-care fee as well as increased sales and fuel taxes to help cover social program costs.



(Courtesy of The Vancouver Sun)

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I wonder if my profession will be part of this "mobility movement". It be interesting to work somewhere in France for a year or two, in the apparel industry.

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I wonder if my profession will be part of this "mobility movement". It be interesting to work somewhere in France for a year or two, in the apparel industry.


If you are sewing shirts this should be very mobile :)


I know the OIQ was gushing about mobility streamlining for engineers in an earlier "agreement" that was inked a couple of years ago. I wonder how it works with immigration issues though, and if you get into France, does that open the whole EU as it is for a Frenchman?

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