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Imagining today's talks between Germany's Angela Merkel, Canada's Stephen Harper

These are stories Report on Business is following Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012.

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Imagining the conversation
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is meeting with Stephen Harper, first at the Canadian prime minister's Harrington Lake cottage this evening, then tomorrow in Ottawa.

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It's the perfect opportunity for Mr. Harper to push Germany in his bid for a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Given the state of the global economy, notably in the 17-member euro zone, one can only imagine how that discussion might go.

MERKEL: As you know, trade and protectionism have become a crucial issue since the financial crisis. If Canada wants a free-trade deal, every sector must be wide open.

HARPER: I understand, and every sector is open. With the exception of potash … and the possible exception of hardware stores.

MERKEL: A deal could serve both our purposes. Things are about as bad as they can be in Europe. You can't understand that, of course. Have you seen Greece first-hand?

HARPER: Have you seen Ontario first-hand?

MERKEL: And some of our banks! Particularly in Spain. Do you have trouble with your banks?

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HARPER: We've only got five. How much trouble can there be?

MERKEL: And you haven't had to bail anyone out yet.

HARPER: True, but time will tell. By the way, are you using an iPhone or a BlackBerry?

MERKEL: And politics keep getting in the way of everything. I had a very strong partnership going with Sarkozy in France until Hollande came along. Damn socialists!

HARPER: Actually, I know just what you mean.

MERKEL: It's been great seeing you again. I'll see you at the next summit … What is it you Canadians say? Eh?

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HARPER: I prefer to say Triple-eh these days.

Agrium sets meeting
The CEO of Canada's Agrium Inc. is reportedly set to meet today with Jana Partners LLC as the New York hedge fund ramps up the pressure on the company.

It will, no doubt, be an interesting meeting, given that Jana doesn't appear to have widespread support for its battle with the agri-business giant, as The Globe and Mail's Boyd Erman and Tara Perkins report today.

Jana, which holds about 4 per cent of Agrium, wants the company to split in two, separating its fertilizer business from its retail operations.

Agrium has brought Morgan Stanley on board to advise the company, and, according  to Bloomberg, CEO Mike Wilson will meet with Jana today.

Target gets ready
Target Corp. is gearing up for its Canadian debut, taking something of a hit in its second-quarter results as it prepares to open up shop next year.

The U.S. retail giant said today that its expenses related to its Canadian start-up cut quarterly earnings per share by about 9 cents (U.S.).

Over all, Target earned $704-million or $1.06 a share in the quarter, compared to $704-million or $1.03 a year earlier, while adjusted earnings per share came in at $1.12.

The retailer also projected adjusted earnings per share of 83 cents to 93 cents in the third quarter, and boosted its outlook for the year to between $4.65 and $4.85.

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About the Author
Report on Business News Editor

Michael Babad is a Report on Business editor and co-author of three business books. He has been with Report on Business for several years, and has also been a reporter and editor at The Toronto Star, The Financial Post and United Press International. His articles have appeared in major newspapers around the world. More


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