Address by Minister Cannon to Japan National Press Club

No. 2009/56 - Tokyo, Japan - May 14, 2009

Check Against Delivery

Japan and Canada: A Strong and Growing Partnership

I am very pleased to be here in Tokyo and to speak to such a distinguished audience. Prime Minister Stephen Harper attaches great importance to furthering the relationship between our two countries.

My visit to Japan this week, and the meetings I am holding here, will help strengthen our mutually beneficial relationship.

My visit will focus on security, the economy and building on shared democratic values.

This is an important year in Japan-Canada relations, as it is the 80th anniversary of our diplomatic presence in Japan. As part of the celebration of our ties, Canada will have the privilege of hosting Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan in July. This visit will be a historic event celebrated by the Canadian and Japanese people alike.

This anniversary is a good opportunity to reflect not only on the success of our partnership, but also on how we can make this partnership stronger to address the common challenges we face in the 21st century.

As I have said, Canada and Japan already have strong relations. But the global challenges we face today are placing increasing demands on our countries, putting us face to face with new problems and greater strains. Under these circumstances, the Canada-Japan relationship takes on even greater importance.

This partnership will be crucial, for example, in addressing the global financial crisis and economic downturn that has hit both our countries hard. While neither of our countries experienced the financial-sector meltdown that other countries did, the sharp drop in global trade has had a profound impact on our economies. We share similar views on how to create an environment of effective, yet market-friendly, financial regulation. We support the ongoing importance of the G8.

We also work together closely within the G20 and have similar views on the importance of stimulating the global economy, while taking a judicious approach to any new international financial structures.

Our strong economic partnership is especially important as the global economy is suffering. Canada and Japan both realize that now is the time for free trade, and not the time for protectionism, a short-term temptation that we know from past experience leads to long-term damage.

It is therefore important that we work together to ensure that markets remain open and that the gains from globalization are not reversed.

An economic partnership agreement between Canada and Japan could greatly benefit both countries and send a strong message about the importance of open markets. Not only would it strengthen the flow of goods and technology, and strengthen innovation partnerships, but it would also enhance Japan’s energy, natural resource and food security. Currently, Japan is our third-largest trading partner, with $25.8 billion in two-way trade.

An economic partnership agreement would give a strong boost to our overall trading relationship and our economic partnership.

Canada is a reliable, secure economic partner. We enjoy a very stable financial system, with a banking system that the World Bank has called the most sound in the world. On Monday, in Beijing, Canada’s Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions [OSFI] was chosen by The Asian Banker magazine as the “most admired regulator” outside of the Asia-Pacific and [Persian] Gulf regions.

It is most gratifying to note that the international community of bankers, based on a poll conducted by The Asian Banker, selected the OSFI.

Canada is remarkably rich in resources, including approximately 60 different metals and minerals. We have the second-largest proven reserves of crude oil in the world and are the world’s largest producer of uranium and potash.

Canada is also an innovative and knowledge-based economy, and a clean-energy superpower.

We offer a security of supply in a politically stable and prudently managed economic environment that provides competitive access to skilled labour. Canada’s geographical advantage and our commitment to transportation also offer Japanese firms an efficient and reliable means of getting products to and from North America.

Canada works closely with Japan on climate change issues in the multilateral arena.

Given our similarity of views, there is more that we can do together to increase flows of knowledge and technology to address this global challenge.

A key priority of Canada’s foreign policy is, of course, the Arctic. Our northern frontier is an important part of our past, our present and our future. It is central to our national identity.

Through a robust Arctic foreign policy, the Government of Canada is delivering on the international dimension of each element of our Northern strategy. I am committed to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic.

Canada recognizes that one way to do this will be through a renewed focus on the role and importance of the Arctic Council, a Canadian initiative, which is the premier international forum for Arctic cooperation.

Another key foreign-policy priority is Afghanistan, perhaps our most visible foreign-policy commitment. It is also the focus of our largest foreign-aid program. Canadian men and women have made significant sacrifices in Afghanistan, but there remains a great deal more work to be done. Canada aims to ensure a measurable improvement in the lives of citizens living in Kandahar province. Afghanistan has come a long way since 2001. Canadian resources and expertise in matters of security, governance and development are determining factors in helping Afghanistan ensure a better future for its citizens. The ultimate goal of our commitment in Afghanistan remains the same: to leave Afghans an Afghanistan that is better governed, more peaceful and more secure.

Canada will stay the course and see its mission through.

Finally, as a powerful, democratic presence in Asia, Japan is key to the Asian security agenda. As a Pacific nation, Canada has a natural interest in the security of Northeast Asia, including any evolution in the regional security architecture. We are committed to working with Japan to address issues of regional security through such venues as the G8 and the ASEAN Regional Forum, to promote cooperation across the Pacific and around the world, and to promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which is essential to creating a stable and secure environment in the region.

As a matter of fact, we look forward to Japan playing a larger regional and international security role.

Japan has been a top contributor to humanitarian assistance and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and has played an important role in disarmament. We are grateful for Japan’s continued refuelling of our operations in the Indian Ocean and welcome enhanced cooperation with Japan, in order to promote stability, good governance and development in Afghanistan.

Canadians see Japan as a country that upholds the rule of law, has a profound respect for human rights and places a high value on open markets. Coupled with the strength of our people-to-people ties, these are the common elements that form the bedrock of our relations.

Our countries have been friends for a long time. As friends, we can be frank with each other. We must admit, for instance, that our relationship has sometimes been somewhat passive. We have taken our friendship for granted in many ways.

Now is the time to rededicate ourselves to an ambitious, assertive and accelerated relationship.

Thank you.