Address by Minister Cannon to Council for the Americas

No. 2010/34 - Washington, D.C., United States of America - May 12, 2010

Check Against Delivery

It is always a pleasure to be back in Washington, the least foreign of foreign capitals for a Canadian minister of foreign affairs.

This is Canada’s “international year,” as we are playing host to major international events, including the recent Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games and the upcoming G8 and G20 summits.

Canada is actively preparing for the G8 and G20 summits. In the current context, as the world has dealt with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, we are able to demonstrate the strong performance of our economy, the soundness of our monetary and fiscal measures, and the demonstrated strength of our financial institutions.

Since coming to power in 2006, our government has been clear about its international priorities and firm in its determination to advance Canada’s interests in world affairs.

Our foremost responsibility to Canadians, quite naturally, is the promotion of their prosperity and security and the defence of Canada’s sovereignty.

In our foreign policy, we advance these interests by:

  • pursuing economic opportunities, with a focus on emerging markets;
  • strengthening our partnership with the United States;
  • contributing to international security, notably through our mission in Afghanistan;
  • exercising our sovereignty in the Arctic; and
  • strategically engaging within our hemisphere.

In our pursuit of these priorities, we are guided by the values that are cherished by Canadians: freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In the Americas, we share the goals of David Rockefeller and his associates, enunciated in 1965 for this Council: “to promote regional economic integration, democratic governance and the rule of law throughout the Western Hemisphere.”

Today, hemispheric realities inform our actions in most international forums. In late March of this year, for example, when I hosted my G8 colleagues in Gatineau [Quebec], our deliberations provided my colleagues and me with an opportunity to examine developments on key situations affecting global security and stability.

Canada’s engagement in the Americas is centred on three principal objectives:

  • democratic governance to advance the concerns and interests of the people of the region and to safeguard the political health of our neighbourhood;
  • greater freedom of trade and investment to promote regional and global prosperity; and
  • enhanced stability and security in the hemisphere through regional collaboration to address threats posed by drugs, organized crime, health pandemics and natural disasters.

To achieve these goals, we have reinforced key bilateral relationships and played an active part in strengthening regional organizations.

On democratic governance, the Canadian government has made it a priority to support the development of democratic institutions, justice, and free and fair electoral processes, and to promote security in the Americas, in a sometimes complex regional context.

We have done so by placing more officers in the field to understand local contexts and engage with partners in the region.

We believe that responsible investment and open markets will build dynamic and growing economies, with the creation of new opportunities and jobs.

Our economic partnerships in the hemisphere have been strengthened and diversified through a wide range of instruments and actions.

We have built on the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and the North American Free Trade Agreement [NAFTA] with the United States and Mexico, to implement free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Peru.

Without a doubt, the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefits for all three countries in the hemisphere. In Canada, for example, nearly 4.1 million new jobs have been created since the agreement was signed. Over that period, Canada-U.S. trade has nearly tripled, while trade between Mexico and the United States has more than quadrupled.

Today, the NAFTA partners exchange about US$2.6 billion in merchandise on a daily basis with one another.

Protectionism is the single biggest threat to a thriving­­­ global economy, and free trade is the only viable alternative to protectionism.

We are also currently working to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia. Negotiations have concluded with Panama and are ongoing with the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean Community and the Central America Four: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

We also know that the gains that have been made with respect to democracy and prosperity will not be sustainable if citizens do not feel safe and secure.

Consequently, we are making security the key issue of our engagement with the Americas, and we are investing significantly in that regard. We are contributing to stabilization, reconstruction and peacebuilding initiatives in Haiti, Colombia and Guatemala.


Our commitment to our friends and neighbours, as well as the extraordinary goodwill and generosity of the Canadian people, were demonstrated in Canada’s response to the terrible impact of the earthquake in Haiti.

Canada has been a member of the informal Friends of Haiti group for a long time. For Canadians, however, Haiti is more than a friend. Haiti is the only other Francophone country in the Americas, and so Francophone Canadians, especially, consider Haiti a member of their cultural family. Montreal is home to the third-largest Haitian diaspora, after Miami and New York.

In January, not long after the earthquake, I chaired an exceptional meeting in Montreal attended by the Friends of Haiti, along with key regional and multilateral players, including the United Nations. I want to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her contribution to this meeting.

There we began the vital planning for reconstruction, to guide our joint approach to Haiti’s reconstruction and development.

The participants adopted the following principles: ownership, coordination, sustainability, effectiveness, inclusiveness and accountability.

For the longer term, we agreed on three strategic objectives: strengthened democratic governance, sustained social and economic development, and enduring stability and respect for the rule of law.

These principles and objectives laid the foundation for the donor conference that took place in New York last month and for the work that lies ahead.

Canada’s commitment to Haiti is our second most important aid target after Afghanistan.

Last week, I travelled to Haiti to highlight Canada’s engagement in that country and demonstrate Canada’s continued solidarity with the Haitian people, as well as to ensure that our aid was being spent effectively and transparently.

The military component of MINUSTAH, the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti, is led by a Brazilian general and is almost entirely composed of Latin American forces—from Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador and Uruguay—as well, of course, as forces from the United States. The work of MINUSTAH is commendable.

During a meeting with the Haitian business community, I stressed that international aid alone will not ensure Haiti’s emergence as a stable, safe and more prosperous country.

Conditions must also be created to allow for the success of private enterprise and the reward of individual initiative.

Canada and the United States

There is no country in the world with whom we share so much and with whom we have so much in common as we do with the United States.

In all that we do, we are mindful of our location, next to a power with global reach, which is also our vital and indispensable partner in continental, hemispheric and global affairs.

Canada and the United States have a mature relationship based upon history, geography, commerce and similar visions of international affairs.

Defence and security relations between Canada and the United States are integrated and comprehensive.

We have the largest two-way trade relationship in the world. Indeed, the trade in goods across the Canada-U.S. border is worth $1.8 billion per day, or over $1 million a minute.

The United States exports more goods and services to Canada than to any other individual country—more than to Japan and Mexico combined.

The United States is also the largest foreign investor in Canada and the most popular destination for Canadian investment abroad.

More than eight million U.S. jobs are directly supported by trade with Canada.

As some of you may know, Canada is the largest foreign supplier of energy to the United States. We have an energy trading relationship worth over $13 billion.

We also have a long history of joint stewardship of the environment, from issues of air and water quality to wildlife management.

Our collaboration on the environment enabled us to successfully meet the challenge of fighting acid rain in the 1980s.

The constructive and productive dialogue on border questions continues because enhanced border security and improved Canada-U.S. trade flows are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs in Canada and in the United States.

The highly integrated and interdependent economies of both countries depend on smart and efficient border management.

We cooperate exceptionally well with one another, along a remarkably long border.

We have stressed our commonalities rather than our differences.

We have found ways to settle disputes rather than to magnify them into serious clashes.

Simply put, we have been good neighbours to each other, to our mutual benefit.

We have worked hard to advance democracy, security and prosperity in North America, in the Americas generally and around the world.

The United States also shares with Canada a multi-faceted and important relationship with Mexico. Our countries cooperate on common priorities through the North American Leaders Summit and we are partners in NAFTA.

The Arctic

Canadians never forget that the American continent stretches from the Arctic to Tierra del Fuego.

Exercising Canada’s Arctic sovereignty has been a priority of this government since we came to office, and Canada is playing a leadership role on Arctic issues both at home and abroad.

Just last month I visited Canada’s ice camp on Borden Island in the High Arctic, where the scientific work needed for our submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is being undertaken.

Canada and the United States continue their scientific cooperation on the delineation of the continental shelf in the Arctic.

To that end, Canada would like to see the United States ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. Its wide acceptance and full implementation are important to Canada.

I invited the foreign ministers from the other Arctic Ocean coastal states—Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States—to discuss these issues at a meeting on March 29 in Chelsea, Quebec. The meeting provided an opportunity for a forward-looking discussion.

The “Arctic Five” recognized the potential impact of a changing environment on public safety issues such as drilling for oil, a commercial activity of immense potential in the Arctic, but one that can be highly dangerous for the environment, as current events in the Gulf of Mexico so brutally remind us.

The Arctic Ocean coastal states are also working toward a legally binding Arctic search-and-rescue agreement through the Arctic Council.

We are also pursuing a mandatory regime, through the International Maritime Organization, to make shipping in Arctic waters safer.

At the Chelsea meeting in March, Arctic Ocean coastal states also reaffirmed their commitment to the orderly resolution of any possible overlapping claims. We will continue to cooperate closely in the scientific and technical work needed to delineate the outer limits of our respective continental shelves.

Canada and the United States, as you know, are disputing—respectfully—an area of the Beaufort Sea.

While the extent to which there may be overlapping claims between Canada and the United States in the Beaufort Sea is not yet known, I believe that this should not keep our two nations from resolving that dispute and moving forward with current issues.

As well, I must say that Canada does not share the view of the U.S. administration that the Northwest Passage is an international strait.

The waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various waterways known as the Northwest Passage, are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title. And since title is not linked to the extent of the ice cover, it is consequently undiminished by any reduction of the ice.

I was struck, recently, by the fact that Russia and Norway resolved a long-standing dispute in the Arctic.

I believe there is no reason, then, that Canada and the United States cannot resolve ongoing disputes, as economic partners and best friends, sharing the longest border in the world.

I thank you for the opportunity to address this distinguished council.

In this “international year” for Canada, I want to assure you that we will continue to uphold the aims of the Council for the Americas: “to advance democracy, security and prosperity in North America, in the Americas generally, and around the world.”

Thank you.