The opening of Canada’s first embassy in Myanmar showed its commitment to closer bilateral relations, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird said in Yangon on August 8.

Mr Baird said Canada also aimed to strengthen trade ties with Myanmar and provide development assistance.

Mr Baird, Canada’s ambassador to Myanmar, Mr Mark McDowall, and Myanmar’s Deputy Foreign Minister U Thant Kyaw attended aribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the embassy’s opening in downtown Yangon’s Centerpoint Tower.

U Thant Kyaw told a news conference at the ceremony that Myanmar could benefit from stronger trade ties with Canada, particularly in agriculture and food security.

“The opening of this new embassy shows Canada’s commitment to our relationship with [Myanmar] and the high priority we place on relations with our ASEAN partners,” Mr Baird said in a statement.

It said the opening of the embassy marked Canada’s heightened interest in the region, with Myanmar being selected as a country of focus for development assistance.

The statement said Canada’s relations with Myanmar had been strained during the past two decades, but it stood ready to assist in the reform process.

Mr Baird said the embassy would promote Canadian businesses that could bring technology, skills and expertise in corporate social responsibility.

Asked about Canada’s reputation in the mining industry, Mr Baird said he was confident that Canadian companies would act responsibly in Myanmar.

“Obviously, we expect the mining industry – the Canadian mining sector – to continue to act responsibly, according to local laws and engage with local communities,” Mr Baird said.

He added that while mining companies were not perfect, they were a clear source of wealth generation.

“They’ve had problems just like about every other sector,” Mr Baird said.

“Mining has been a source of a lot of wealth generation in Canada which has enabled us to provide good quality healthcare, quality education,” he said.

“It’s been a big part of our development and obviously there are tremendous opportunities here.”

Mr Baird said the granting to Myanmar last month of candidate status for admission to the International Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative could benefit communities and the nation.

“Obviously … paying royalties, paying taxes, are tremendously important,” he said.

Mr Baird, who was making his second visit as foreign minister, will participate in the ASEAN-Canada post ministerial conference in Nay Pyi Taw on August 11.