Address by Minister Baird at University of Calgary School of Public Policy Dinner

May 22, 2012 - Vancouver, British Columbia

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Minister Baird delivers an address at the University of Calgary School of Public Policy Dinner 

I am really pleased to be back in Vancouver—it’s one of my favourite cities in the world.

And, as our gateway to Asia, it’s vitally important to Canada’s success in the global economy.

This past week marked the one-year anniversary of my appointment as foreign affairs minister.

And it brought me back to my first day on the job, when I received phone calls from various counterparts around the world.

They told me that I was joining the world of diplomacy at the most interesting time in recent history.

How right they were!

In the last year or so, waves of change and conflict have crested over large parts of the world.

These have dominated day-to-day news coverage.

Less reported, though, is the fact that, fundamentally, the tides of global affairs are also changing, and changing fast.

And strong trade winds swirl across the Pacific, tilting the balance of power from West to East, and from North to South, with profound implications.

Some are calling this the Pacific Century.

Canada, as a Pacific nation, can—and will—be a major player in these exciting times.

How we plan to do that will be the focus of my remarks tonight.

My friend and British counterpart, William Hague, said recently: “A strong economy is the bedrock of international influence.”

Foreign policy is, of course, an extension of the national interest. Canadian interests and Canadian values must come first in all we do.

For today’s Canada, this means enhancing economic opportunity to ensure jobs, growth and long-term prosperity for all Canadians.

It means working with our international partners to increase global safety and security.

And it means promoting and protecting Canadian values—and projecting them as a source of strength:

  • freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; and
  • dignity for all people.

How we protect these important Canadian values while also creating economic opportunity will determine Canada’s success in a time of great uncertainty and fundamental transformation globally.

The International Monetary Fund believes that China’s economy could very well be bigger than the United States’ by 2016.

In recent years, 400 million Chinese people have been pulled out of poverty and now form part of that country’s ballooning middle class.

That’s a middle class that is much larger than the population of the United States.

The use of online social networking systems is growing by leaps and bounds, and the Chinese government is moving to make the yuan an international currency.

Just a few short months ago, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we were pleased to conclude both a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement and a nuclear cooperation agreement with China.

Last summer, I told business audiences in both Toronto and Shanghai that Canada-China relations had hit a high-water mark.

I’m pleased to say that mark is even higher today.

Relations are better, our friendship even stronger.

And we have the pandas to prove it.

But the Asia-Pacific transformation is not just about China.

It’s also about Japan, the Republic of Korea, India and the ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] member states—especially Indonesia and Vietnam.

Explosive growth is happening throughout these countries.

Our government gets it.

Singapore’s economy, for example, is expected to double within six years.

A recent report by HSBC predicted that by the year 2050, 19 of the 30 largest economies will be in countries we now call “emerging.”

The numbers are simply staggering.

The economic potential is immense.

The demographic shift is monumental.

And Canada must be a part of it. This is not a choice. It is an imperative.

That’s why before visiting London or Paris, I went to cities in China and Indonesia.

Together, those two countries are home to more than 1.5 billion people.

And the good news is this: Canada is ideally positioned to promote our interests on the global stage—both in terms of raw, natural resources and human capital, and in terms of values and freedom.

Canada has what others want.

Global energy needs will increase by 50 percent by 2030, largely in Asia.

So when I meet with my counterparts around the world, I consistently build up Canada’s reputation as a resource superpower.

Jaws drop when I tell people we have the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world; many don’t know this.

Many don’t fully appreciate that we’re among the top producers of copper, nickel, zinc and uranium.

And for many, the statistics surrounding B.C.’s forestry sector, for instance, are simply unfathomable.

There is huge demand for these resources. And it’s time for Canada to take full advantage of our blessings.

That is why we believe the Northern Gateway pipeline is so fundamentally important to our future prosperity.

We must remind the world that Canada can be a source of stability in an unstable world.

That Canada can be a trusted partner to develop its resources responsibly.

Western Canada, in particular, is poised for amazing things.

Our government gets that.

This is not a problem, as some in Ottawa have suggested recently.

This is an exciting reality of the Canadian economy.

As a senior minister from Ottawa, I know this is a huge part of our nation’s prosperity.

Just as the auto sector was galvanized by the Auto Pact in the 1960s, the whole country should be galvanized by the opportunities created by the West’s rise.

What is good for the West is good for Canada.

What is good for the East is good for Canada.

I don’t espouse the values of Western Canada in my travels. I espouse the values of Canadians from every part of this country.

Great opportunities are within our grasp, and if we are prepared to seize those opportunities, we will ensure the prosperity and the security of the next generation of Canadians.

But success does not just happen.

We must prepare for success, create the conditions for success, and make it easier to do business with our partners—both new and traditional.

The Prime Minister and our government are doing just that.

We have been clear that the United States, as our closest neighbour, will also remain our closest ally and most important trading partner.

That’s why we support the Keystone XL pipeline, which will create tens of thousands of jobs throughout North America.

It’s why we are working hard to twin our busiest and most important border crossing at Windsor-Detroit.

It’s why Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper and U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to the elements of the wide-ranging Beyond the Border Action Plan to facilitate and increase legitimate trade and travel.

We are also seeking new trade agreements with Europe. International Trade Minister Ed Fast, who hails from nearby Abbotsford, is working tirelessly to get a deal done this year with the European Union.

That deal would mean billions of dollars in benefits for the Canadian economy.

Yes, traditional alliances are still important. They have helped Canada become the incredible place it is today. But Canada’s future success depends on our ability to embrace change, forge new relationships and network differently.

My focus has been to reinvigorate our diplomacy, re-engage with the world, and reallocate limited resources to places we need to be now and 10 and 20 years from now.

We’ve sought to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

We’ve opened six offices in China, three in India, one in Mongolia and one in Brazil.

Furthermore, we are working to complete free trade agreements with India, Japan, South Korea and Thailand.

We’ve reached out to new people and in new ways.

We’ve asked the private sector to do the same.

Earlier today, I met with members of various Asian diaspora communities: people with different backgrounds, different personal stories.

But all of the people I met can help link Canada to their native countries in a real way, and help create new opportunities.

Last year, The Economist magazine reported that diaspora business networks are, and I quote, “reshaping the world.”

The report said these diaspora communities can help speed information flow, foster trust and create connections that help people collaborate.

In other words, this model has the potential to transform business worldwide.

We must be part of this as a country.

A globalized economy compels us to forge new relationships, break new ground and blaze new trails.

Canada, as a Pacific nation, is uniquely positioned for a bright future, not least of all because of our values.

Our interests and our values are very much connected.

They are what make us uniquely Canadian.

They are the intangibles we bring to the table.

And they, like our resources, make us the envy of the world:

  • freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law; and
  • dignity for all people.

These are values Canadians hold true, and the values for which the world aches.

Canada and other liberal democracies have a vested interest in making sure these values are at the heart of our foreign policy and our dealings.

The Arab Spring was sprung from one street vendor in Tunisia.

He, like many in his country, wanted the dignity and the freedom that he saw much of the world enjoying.

He, and those he inspired, craved hope and opportunity—basic things of fundamental importance.

History is punctuated by revolutions of the marginalized, the disenfranchised and the young.

Across the Arab world, these cries for freedom were not just about human rights, but were about dignity.

The dignity to provide for one’s family.

The dignity to practise one’s faith.

The dignity to contribute to one’s society.

That notion of individual dignity is critical to any nation’s progress.

In the past year, it has become clear that the calls for freedom and openness around the world are becoming louder and more insistent.

In North Africa, in the Middle East, in Burma and elsewhere, people are engaged in a struggle to claim their individual rights.

They are struggling for the right to express their views, to voice their concerns, to have a say in how they are governed.

They want the chance to benefit from the rewards of this new century’s open societies.

In other words, they want what we all want: hope and opportunity.

Hope and opportunity are the building blocks of stability and prosperity in any society.

And it is in our interest to help those people who are seeking to create a free society, to give a voice to the voiceless and to enable every individual to live in peace and dignity.

We’re not selective in which human rights we defend, nor are we arbitrary in whose rights we protect.

Sadly, this is something lost on too many in positions of power in too many countries.

Progressive countries like Canada embrace pluralism and draw strength from our differences.

We don’t compromise on basic rights.

Nor are these rights the privilege of a select few.

We stand firm on the ideals and principles that have made our country diverse, prosperous and free.

Those who would attempt to spread hate and intolerance within our borders are subject to the rule of law—one that respects our common values and our people’s freedoms.

We stand with the marginalized, religious minorities, gays and lesbians, women and girls who are denied fundamental rights and the dignity they deserve.

In a true open society, there is room for all to grow and prosper.

For Canada, the bottom line is that economic opportunity, whether ours or that of those beyond our borders, rests on free, transparent and open societies.

Our foreign policy will continue to support the development of these societies in Asia and elsewhere.

We have a shared interest in ensuring that is the case.

A shared interest in ensuring, as my Dutch counterpart said in Ottawa the other day, “that all countries, including in Asia, are committed to the international institutions that safeguard our security and prosperity.”

This is the global landscape, the current state of play.

And in promoting Canadian values and Canadian interests together, by being honourable in our dealings, and by harnessing the same pioneer spirit that built this country to greatness, success can and will be Canada’s—in this Pacific Century, and always.

Thank you.