Transcript of Address by Minister Van Loan to Negotiators of Canada-EU Economic and Trade Agreement

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement Negotiations

Ottawa, Canada - October 18, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Since I became trade minister almost a year ago, I’ve gained a new appreciation of the important work our negotiators do on behalf of our citizens.

Your job is an enormously complex one, and I wanted to begin today by expressing my appreciation for your efforts. 

As it is for you, the link between free trade and jobs is very clear in my mind.

Free trade is by no means an abstraction. It creates tangible, real-life benefits for people.

Canadians understand this. With a small population and a huge geography, we’ve always relied on reaching beyond our borders for global opportunities and greater prosperity.

For example, the North American Free Trade Agreement has been an enormous success for our country—unlocking new opportunities, new sources of prosperity and new jobs for people in Canada, the United States and Mexico.

The evolution of the European Union has sparked similar benefits. It gave your economies an opportunity to transform close historical ties into a powerful competitive edge—becoming a magnet for global business, investment and innovation that would drive economic expansion across the region.

In these days of fierce global competition from economies like China and India, having a competitive, cooperative platform has never been so important. It’s also an essential ingredient in moving our economies further along the path to lasting recovery.

That’s why Canadians are so excited about these particular negotiations. The potential benefits are great for both Canada and the European Union.

One study predicted that an agreement could boost our bilateral trade by $38 billion, or €25.7 billion, within seven years of implementation.

Our businesses and investors have long called for closer ties to Europe—and this agreement would deliver them.

But the benefits run both ways. As the ambassadors here today can tell you, Canada has a lot to offer as a business partner:

  • an open and attractive free enterprise environment, ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the best place to do business in the G-7 this year and over the next four years;
  • the strongest fiscal position in the G-7;
  • low corporate taxes, with the lowest overall tax rate on new business in the G-7; 
  • among the fastest rates of economic growth in the G-7 in 2010 and 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund;
  • a skilled workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development] countries;
  • a high quality of life;
  • a vibrant environment for innovation, with one of the most advantageous research and development tax incentive programs in the industrialized world; and
  • a strong commitment to good governance and the rule of law.

Canada also enjoys the “gift of geography,” being a natural crossroads between Europe, Asia and the North American heartland. 

These are just some of the benefits an ambitious outcome would offer our European partners.

But getting from here to there requires continued dedication on both sides.

As you surely know, trade talks follow a certain trajectory: tackling the more obvious barriers first before moving on to some of the more difficult, sensitive questions.

This week’s session marks one year since the first round of negotiations took place—also here in Ottawa. And so far, both sides have shown extraordinary creativity and flexibility in moving them forward.

This spirit of cooperation is more important than ever.

As this round begins, we’re coming face to face with some of the tougher questions. I thought that as we entered this crucial phase, it was important to be here personally, to underscore Canada’s commitment to these negotiations.

This is the last formal round of negotiations before European Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht and I take stock of progress and plan next steps. I look forward to learning about the outcomes of this round, and to discussing these outcomes with Commissioner De Gucht.

Canada and the European Union already share a long-standing economic relationship—one that has great potential for further growth and opportunity.

That’s why we’re committed to an outcome that matches our ambition—one that creates jobs and prosperity for us all. As evident at our G-8 and G-20 summits, Canadians can count on our government to oppose protectionism and promote free trade on the world stage—essential drivers of jobs and growth.

Let’s work together to reach an outcome that unlocks new opportunities for people on both sides of the Atlantic in the years to come.

Thank you.