Minister Baird’s Visit to Washington Highlights Canada’s Commitment to Jobs and Economic Growth with United States

(No. 221 - August 4, 2011 - 3:30 p.m. ET) John Baird, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister, today successfully concluded his first formal bilateral meeting with his American counterpart, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Minister Baird will also meet with other senior officials while in Washington as he reaffirms the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship. 

"Canada and the United States both benefit from having what is, quite possibly, the world’s most successful bilateral relationship ever and we are looking to further improve relations,” said Minister Baird. "Canadians recently gave our government a strong mandate to focus on Canada’s economic recovery. Strong relations with our largest trading partner and closest neighbour are vital to our success in that regard. Minister Baird and Secretary Clinton discussed, among other things, the global economic recovery and the Shared Border Vision initiative announced by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and President Barack Obama on February 4, 2011.

"Stronger cooperation between Canada and the United States simply makes sense. The vision initiative will speed up the legitimate movement of people and goods between our two countries, while protecting our borders and the privacy of our citizens," said Minister Baird.

Minister Baird and Secretary Clinton further discussed the situation in Libya and the current unrest in Syria. Canada and the United States both strongly condemn the ongoing violent crackdown by the Syrian regime against its own people and will continue to work with international partners to enhance sanctions against the Assad regime. 

While in Washington, Minister Baird also met with Suzan Johnson Cook, Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, to discuss the operation of her office at the State Department. In the June 2011 Speech from the Throne, Prime Minister Stephen Harper committed to creating a new Office of Religious Freedom.

"I used the opportunity to draw on the experience and expertise of the Ambassador and inform her of Canadian efforts to support religious freedom around the world," said Minister Baird. "The issue of international freedom of religion is a matter that the Government of Canada takes very seriously. While still in the planning stages, we envision this office as part of our efforts to promote human rights, encourage the protection of religious minorities around the world and promote Canadian values."

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A backgrounder follows.

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Backgrounder – A Snapshot of the Canada-United States Relationship

Close trading partners and good neighbours, Canada and the United States have one of the strongest bilateral relationships in the world. The countries work closely in many forums, including the UN, the G-8 and G-20, NATO, the Organization of American States and APEC.

This visit by Minister Baird adds to the more than 100 ministerial-level visits by Canadian political leaders to the United States since January 2009. Prime Minister Stephen Harper met with President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., in September 2009 and February 2011. President Obama’s first foreign visit was to meet with Prime Minister Harper in Ottawa.

On February 4, 2011, Prime Minister Harper and President Obama issued the declaration Beyond the Border: Shared Vision for Perimeter Security and Economic Competitiveness. The declaration establishes a new long-term partnership that will improve legitimate trade and travel between both countries while strengthening security and economic competitiveness. The two leaders also announced the creation of the United States-Canada Regulatory Cooperation Council.

Canada and the United States are close allies and strong partners in places such as Afghanistan, Libya and Haiti. Our two countries have also worked closely in recent years to secure and dismantle weapons of mass destruction.

Canadians and Americans share the closest energy relationship in the world. Canada is the United States’ largest and most secure supplier of oil, natural gas and electricity. Canada and the United States are working together on the Clean Energy Dialogue in support of the ongoing efforts toward building a low-carbon economy.

Canada and the United States have long shared the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world. In 2010, our bilateral trade reached $645.7 billion, representing some $1.7 billion worth of goods and services crossing the border every day. Of the 50 U.S. states, 34 count Canada as their number one export market, with Canada ranking in the top three export markets for a further 12 states. More than 8 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada.

Canada and the United States have one of the world’s largest investment relationships. The United States is the largest foreign investor in Canada, with U.S. investors holding 54.5 percent (valued at $306.1 billion) of Canada’s total inward investment stock in 2010. According to U.S. statistics, Canada is the fifth-largest investor in the United States, with investments totalling $206.1 billion in 2010.

The Canada-U.S. relationship is one of the world’s most successful and is a top priority for the Harper government, which recently received a strong mandate from Canadians to focus on the economy, create jobs and ensure Canada’s economic recovery continues.