Your morning five: Harper announces free trade with Korea

Harper announces free trade with Korea

Also: Kyiv offers enhanced autonomy to Crimea

Lee Jin-man/AP

Lee Jin-man/AP

We tell you five things you need to know this morning.

1. Canada and South Korea ink a free-trade deal. Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the agreement in Seoul. Ninety-eight per cent of tariffs levied by the two nations will disappear, including a phasing out of a 6.1 per cent import tariff on South Korean passenger cars. That has Canada’s own car makers concerned, anxiety that extends into the office of Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne. Not surprisingly, Canada maintained tariffs on dairy and poultry production. Free trade is rarely perfectly free.

2. A Malaysian airplane is still missing. A jetliner that was reported missing four days ago continues to elude a massive search effort. Authorities have expanded the search area and have shifted focus to the western side of Malaysia. Malaysian police dismissed allegations that two Iranians, travelling on stolen passports, were terrorists. At least one was seeking asylum in Germany. Hijacking and sabotage remain two possible causes of the plane’s disappearance.

3. Bloomberg talks about Canadian separatism. Pierre-Karl Peladeau may have surrendered most of his influence in the powerhouse Quebecor media conglomerate when he announced a run for the sovereigntist Parti Quebecois, but PKP will long be associated with the company he ruled with an iron fist. Harper’s government, which Bloomberg reminds readers celebrated Quebecor as a potential fourth national wireless carrier earlier this year, will now spin its way out of supporting a separatist.

4. Kyiv woos Crimea. Ukraine’s fledgling government hopes the promise of expanded autonomy convinces Crimea to abandon any move to join the Russian Federation. Crimea’s current status as an autonomous republic within Ukraine means it already governs many of its own affairs, and Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk wouldn’t elaborate on any prospective offer. He says he won’t have any conversation “under the muzzles of Russian machine guns.”  Crimea still plans to hold a referendum on its future on March 16.

5. New Zealand ponders a new flag. Prime Minister John Key said the country’s current banner “symbolizes a colonial and post-colonial era whose time has passed,” and he promised a referendum to decide its fate in the next few years. Key prefers the silver fern, himself, a logo known the world over as the symbol of the vaunted Kiwi rugby team. Sound familiar? Canada’s maple leaf may soon have competition for hokiest national symbol in the Commonwealth.

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