Address by Minister Cannon to China Foreign Affairs University

No. 2009/59 - Beijing, China - May 12, 2009

Check Against Delivery

China and Canada: Partnership for the 21st Century

It is my great pleasure to be in Beijing and especially to be here today at the China Foreign Affairs University.

For those of you who are about to embark on a diplomatic career, this is a particularly exciting time. The world faces a number of important challenges, and there is no doubt that China will have a critical role to play in meeting them.

Facing these global challenges of common concern is also an opportunity for Canada and China to work together.

As I told Vice-President Xi [Jinping] and Foreign Minister Yang [Jiechi] yesterday, we want our relationship with China to be frank, friendly and forward-looking. There are many issues upon which we can build a constructive and forward-looking partnership.

The global financial crisis and economic downturn have hit both of our countries hard. While neither of us experienced the financial-sector meltdown that other countries did, the sharp drop in global trade has had a profound impact on our economies. This highlights the importance of effective, yet market-friendly, financial regulation.

It is, therefore, important that we work together to address the immediate global economic problems, and turn our attention to the rules and institutions that underpin the global financial system.

I would note that there has been a great deal of interest worldwide in the strength of Canada’s financial institutions and our robust regulatory regime in the face of the global economic crisis.

Canada’s exceptionally resilient system has been widely recognized as an international model by organizations including the World Economic Forum.

Canada has maintained comparatively healthy credit conditions since the onset of this global recession, and our banks and other financial institutions are well capitalized and less leveraged than those of other countries.

Canada and China can increase their cooperation and share their experiences in this crucial sector.

A key area of interest between Canada and China is, of course, trade and investment.

There is no question that the good health of Canada’s trade relationship with China is vital for our prosperity.

Moreover, Canada and China both realize that now is not the time for protectionism, a short-term temptation that we know from past experience leads to long-term damage.

We must work together to ensure that markets remain open and that the gains from globalization are not reversed.

Canada is investing $50 million a year to advance our Global Commerce Strategy, a central feature of our international trade policy.

Asia is a major driving force in the global economy and is central to this strategy.

My colleague Stockwell Day, the Minister of International Trade, was in China a few weeks ago and announced the opening of six new trade offices to facilitate two-way trade and investment.

I hope that the success of his visit is just an early step toward greater bilateral economic cooperation.

Canada and China also have a strong common need to address global environmental issues.

Canada recognizes that all countries and regions will be affected by climate changes and will have to adapt.

We believe that a post-2012 climate change agreement should include binding greenhouse gas emissions reduction obligations for all major emitter countries and should provide flexibility in achieving this goal through the use of a variety of policies and measures.

Canada and China may propose different solutions to deal with climate change, but we share a common concern for the environment.

Another important common priority should be to strengthen our bilateral engagement on environmental issues to find solutions that benefit us all.

There is great potential for increased bilateral cooperation in the realm of policy-making, technical cooperation, and science and technology partnerships, particularly in the areas of energy efficiency and clean energy.

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. The Arctic holds many challenges and opportunities. It is an emerging region on the cusp of major change. Our government has announced an integrated Northern strategy resting on four pillars: protecting our environmental heritage, promoting economic and social development, exercising our sovereignty, and improving and devolving governance.

Through a robust Arctic foreign policy, the Government of Canada is delivering on the international dimension of each element of this strategy.

I am committed to ensuring that the international spotlight stays focused on the challenges and opportunities facing the Arctic.

One way to do this will be through a renewed focus on the role and importance of the Arctic Council, the premier international forum for Arctic cooperation.

In addition, enhancing our Northern conversation with our bilateral partners, including China, will be key.

Recent events have highlighted the importance, in this globalized world, of proper management of diseases, epidemics and pandemics.

Canada and China share a common agenda for improving public health, and there is no more appropriate time to move this forward.

The Canada-China ministerial policy dialogue scheduled to take place in Canada in June this year presents an excellent opportunity for both countries to advance their interests in international health and to coordinate the departments and agencies within our respective governments that address health.

Such dialogues, along with continued communication, are particularly relevant in order to address outbreaks such as the current H1N1 virus and other global health concerns.

The Government of Canada also welcomes statements from health authorities in Beijing and Taipei confirming that Taiwan has been invited to participate in the World Health Assembly as an observer.

Canada’s health-care system has a lot to offer to China.

The Canadian model has proven planning and management techniques, and can help provide care in remote communities.

Furthermore, Canadian technology is at the leading edge in the health field, and enhanced research cooperation between Canada and China can be of great benefit to both countries.

Moving forward in our joint interests does not mean that we will not have disagreements on sensitive issues.

A cornerstone of a mature relationship is the ability to discuss differences in a frank and open manner.

We have raised our concerns on issues related to legislative and judicial reform, administrative detention and instances of arbitrary detention.

Canada looks forward to continuing our cooperation with China in the field of human rights.

Canada’s foreign-policy priorities are also about people and values.

The values that Canadians share have taken us to the far corners of the earth, where we have worked hard to promote freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, thereby contributing to international security.

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 do. Canada aims to ensure a measurable improvement in the lives of citizens living in Kandahar province. 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 to 2011.

Canadian and Chinese officials met this winter and will meet again soon to discuss how our two countries can best cooperate to achieve greater stability, not just in Afghanistan but also throughout the region.

China, as a close ally of Pakistan, is particularly well placed to work cooperatively to ensure a more secure environment in Afghanistan, to help build institutions, and to contribute to Afghan-led political reconciliation efforts aimed at weakening the insurgency and fostering a long-lasting, sustainable peace.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and the People’s Republic of China.

Canada’s early diplomatic recognition of China in 1970 broke the logjam among Western nations, and many of them followed in Canada’s footsteps in the ensuing years.

But our relationship goes back much further. Canada and China shared people-to-people ties long before our official relations began.

Early in our history, Chinese labourers helped build the railway—under very difficult working conditions—that unified Canada.

They stayed on to build our country, bringing their children and families to join them in a new land.

Some of Canada’s first contact with China was also by way of missionary work. In fact, children of these missionaries often end up as diplomats, playing key roles in advancing bilateral relations.

Dr. [Norman] Bethune, whose name is for many Chinese citizens synonymous with Canada, embodied a spirit of service and devotion. That same humanitarian spirit has repeatedly appeared in the years since Dr. Bethune worked in China.

For example, in the late 1950s, Canada made great efforts to supply China with wheat during a time of need.

More recently, after the Sichuan earthquake one year ago, Canadians were the second-largest contributor to the response effort, with over $72 million in humanitarian assistance to provide emergency shelter to thousands of Chinese who suffered in the earthquake’s aftermath.

For over a century, immigration from China to Canada has fostered a vibrant and dynamic Chinese community in Canada of more than 1.3 million people.

Over 35,000 Chinese students now study in Canada.

The successes of Canadian educational institutions active in China are evident in the numerous high-school curricula and post-secondary programs being offered in Chinese provinces. There are more than 40 separate Canadian Studies centres and programs in Chinese universities.

This demonstrates, beyond any doubt, that the large scholarly community spread between our two peoples represents a valuable asset within our relationship.

We will continue to work together on increasing academic exchanges between our two countries.

Canada and China have a long-standing relationship and, as is bound to happen with any long-term relationship, it has gone through ups and downs. With the breadth of our relations, there are bound to be areas of disagreement.

But we are able to discuss these issues frankly, in an atmosphere of mutual respect. Moreover, we are committed to a positive and constructive dialogue on these issues.

The ties of friendship between the Canadian and Chinese peoples grow with every visit, every business deal, and every joint effort to improve the world around us.

The strength of our ties is the foundation of a forward-looking partnership to address the needs of the 21st century.

Working together, we can meet these challenges for the benefit of China and Canada.

Thank you.