No. 2010/2 - Ottawa, Ontario - January 12, 2010
Check Against Delivery
First of all I would like to note the presence among us today of Roberto Kobeh, President of the Council of ICAO, and thank him for being here with us this afternoon. I would also like to welcome and congratulate the ICAO Secretary General, Raymond Benjamin, who is having a fruitful first year in his mandate.
I see some familiar faces in the room. Some of you were present in 2007 at the 36th session of the General Assembly in Montreal, where I participated in my then-capacity as minister of transport.
The year we are embarking upon is an important one. The eyes of the world will turn to Canada in 2010. We will be hosting the Olympic and Paralympic Games, as well as the G8, G20 and North American leaders summits. In March, I will also host the G8 foreign ministers meeting in Gatineau. We will continue to play a leadership role on issues that are important to Canadians. Canada is also campaigning for a seat on the UN Security Council, and I sincerely hope to be able to count on your support.
This is also an opportunity to look for solutions to some of the problems facing the world, such as the terrorist threat against air transportation, and ICAO will help us put solutions in place.
This year is also an important one for ICAO, as we prepare for this fall’s General Assembly, a meeting that is likely to keep the spotlight on high-profile safety and security issues, and also to advance a growing environmental agenda.
ICAO’s origins go back to a time of turbulence and war. [U.S.] President [Franklin] Roosevelt and [British] Prime Minister Winston Churchill met in the city of Québec in 1943, a time when the world saw aircraft as instruments of war. They envisioned an organization dedicated to the management of key aspects of international civil aviation. When the Chicago Convention [on International Civil Aviation] was signed the following year, the preamble noted, and I quote, “The future development of international civil aviation can greatly help to create and preserve friendship and understanding among nations and peoples of the world.”
That vision proved to be prophetic. The evolution of air transportation has contributed significantly to the economic growth of each of our countries and to the global economy. Specifically, over the past 20 years, we have seen globalization trigger changes in civil aviation to correspond with the rapid changes in trade and travel.
Over the years, ICAO has worked diligently to ensure civil aviation is safer and more secure. It has done this by setting standards and providing guidance to help member states improve civil aviation at a domestic level. Moreover, ICAO brings to the decision-making process the voices of a broad spectrum of interests, and has earned high praise for its ability to bring the concerns of developing states to the process.
ICAO’s history of engagement in developing states in seeking solutions to aviation issues is an example to the global community. Without ICAO, the world would be a different place, poorer in both economic and human terms.
Canada has always been pleased and proud to host ICAO in the great city of Montreal. I know my provincial and municipal colleagues share my view that you have brought prestige and distinction to Montreal, to Quebec and to all of Canada, and we hope to continue working with ICAO for many years to come.
Our government has introduced important measures related to air transportation. I am very pleased that my colleague, Minister [John] Baird, has also joined us here today. He has been minister of transport[, infrastructure and communities] for well over a year now, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to highlight some of the measures he has taken and the leadership that he has shown.
In the past four years, we have been committed to improving trade, business and tourism for Canada’s long-term growth and prosperity. We have taken action to fight against protectionism in the global economy by opening up more trade opportunities with other countries and by liberalizing bilateral air agreements. We have negotiated free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association and with Jordan, Colombia, Peru and Panama. New doors are being opened for Canadian businesses in emerging markets such as China and India. The Prime Minister led a successful trip to those two countries, and we are opening new trade offices in both these important markets.
Since 2006, we have taken unprecedented action to liberalize air transportation. In the past few years, our government has expanded or updated air service agreements with nearly 50 countries. This includes an open skies agreement with our close friend, largest market and security partner, the United States, an agreement that was ratified by Canada when I was minister of transport. It also includes eight open sky-type agreements, with the United Kingdom, Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica and South Korea, eight expanded agreements, which include Portugal, Mexico, Japan, Jordan, Singapore and the Philippines, and seven new first-time agreements, with Algeria, Kuwait, Serbia, Croatia, Panama, Turkey and South Africa.
Last month, we finalized the Comprehensive Air Transport Agreement between Canada and the European Union. For the first time, Canadian air companies will have access to the 27 member states of the European Union and will be able to serve a larger number of destinations, and European air carriers will be able to increase their presence in Canada. This agreement will open new possibilities for Canada’s tourism industry, and new air carriers will be able to offer travellers more choice with respect to destinations, flights and itineraries. They will be able to offer more direct service, and of course they will be able to lower fares, which will benefit all travellers.
The European Union is Canada’s second-largest aviation market and the second-largest world market in terms of trade and investment. In 2008, Canadian exports to the European Union reached $52.2 billion, an increase of 3.9 percent over 2007. The 30-some agreements that we have negotiated under the open skies policy framework that our government adopted in 2006 represent over 70 percent of the international air traffic in Canada.
We have negotiated liberalization agreements on a case-by-case basis on the premise that market access is a two-way street. We take into account factors such as geography and the situation in the air industry. A key consideration is the size of the bilateral market, and we look for direct air services that will benefit consumers and shippers in Canada. The agreements mean more jobs, and more choices for Canadians and shippers in terms of destinations, flights and routes.
As we look to the future, the environment and security are realities we need to deal with. I would like to acknowledge ICAO’s long-standing role in environmental issues, from technical measures related to noise management and improved efficiency to, more recently, a substantial policy dialogue on aviation and greenhouse gases. Canada has been an active participant in the ICAO processes. We have contributed resources and time to this important environmental agenda, and I hope that you will rise to this challenge as you prepare for this fall’s ICAO General Assembly. I want to assure you, both on my own behalf as well as on Minister Baird’s, that Canada remains ready to be part of this dialogue.
Our confidence in more open air travel as an instrument of free trade and economic development, however, is tempered by new, sobering realities. We now live in very strange times indeed, when civil aviation and other modes of civil transportation such as railways and subways are used by terrorists as weapons of war. The Air India bombing, the 9/11 attacks, and the bombings in Madrid and London are all fresh in the minds of Canadians. Canada is determined to ensure that the civil-aviation system in this country remains safe and secure.
As you know, Minister Baird recently announced the purchase of 44 full-body scanners, which will be deployed in major Canadian airports beginning this month. The Christmas Day bomb attempt highlights the importance of sharing information with our allies to ensure the travelling public is safe from the continued threat of terrorism. We regard security threats to the United States as security threats to Canada as well, and we remain fully engaged with the Obama administration to combat terrorism.
Canada also recognizes ICAO’s role and value in discussing how the international community addresses terrorism and these security threats in ensuring the protection of all our countries’ citizens. It is important to continue to support ICAO’s efforts to build aviation security capacity in countries where it is most needed.
That is why the Government of Canada, through its counterterrorism programs, will contribute $1.5 million over three years to further strengthen ICAO’s aviation security action plan. This will help further prevent and respond to terrorist activity. Improvements to international aviation safety and security, including in developing states, have a direct impact on the security of Canadians both at home and abroad.
Civil aviation has contributed to the prosperity and the quality of life of all of our countries. Aviation safety and security are of paramount importance; they require constant attention and continuous improvement, and over the years—over the decades—we’ve seen new technologies, new procedures and new governance models, which have all contributed to making the skies safer and more secure. At the same time, we constantly face new challenges and realities, but we should be inspired by how much has been achieved in the decades since ICAO was created, how much we have done in the years since the Air India bombing and 9/11.
So together we are working to ensure that civil aviation remains a force that fosters commerce, mutual understanding and peace for the peoples of the world. Our respective responsibilities are to create and sustain that delicate balance between free and safer travel. It is not an easy task.