Britain and Canada share embassy offices in bid to cut costs
Pooling of overseas resources seen as good way to trim budgets for 'first cousins'
Britain and Canada are to establish joint diplomatic missions and share embassy offices overseas in a bid to save money, the countries' foreign ministers announced jointly in Ottawa.
The arrangement would see the sharing of consular services in places where one of the countries did not have an embassy, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird and British Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Monday.
For now, it affects only Haiti, where a British diplomat will soon work out of Canada's embassy, and Myanmar, where a Canadian official has already set up an office in the British high commission.
But more locations would be announced later as Canada and Britain look to trim their foreign office budgets by more than US$160 million each, they said.
"Although we don't agree on absolutely everything, we certainly find common ground on most important issues and we bring the same sets of values and principles to the table," Baird told reporters.
This agreement would allow the two countries to reduce costs and delays associated with setting up new embassies.
"The alternative is to waste months or years and many taxpayer dollars setting up embassies from scratch, while keeping our diplomats from delivering services...abroad when and where they are needed the most," said Baird.
Critics, however, said the two brands - Canada and Britain - were incompatible, and that this plan could weaken their respective global standing, an argument that Baird rebuffed.
"Each country will have complete independence on policies," he said.
Hague added: "It's not in any respect about any diplomat trying to work for two countries at the same time.
"It's the kind of practical cooperation which sensible foreign ministries take together in a world where there are more centres of decision-making than ever before and where we need to be present in more places than ever before."
Canada already has a similar arrangement with Australia.
Hague and Baird signed the agreement in Ottawa after Monday's press conference.
"As the prime minister said when addressing the Canadian parliament last year: 'We are two nations, but under one Queen and united by one set of values'," Hague said ahead of the meeting.
"We have stood shoulder to shoulder from the great wars of the last century to fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and supporting Arab Spring nations like Libya and Syria. We are first cousins."