Address by Minister Baird to Indo-Canadian Chamber of Commerce

June 8, 2013 - Toronto, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

I’m delighted to be here tonight.

I’m also delighted that our High Commissioner to India, Stewart Beck, could join us this evening. Stewart has done a spectacular job of promoting Canada’s interests in India. He is close to my office, and we appreciate his leadership in South Asia.

I’m also glad that my Parliamentary Secretary, Deepak Obhrai, could join me.

You know, Deepak was the Prime Minister’s first choice for Parliamentary Secretary. I’m the Prime Minister’s fifth foreign minister. So that tells you who really matters!

In all seriousness, Deepak has played a crucial role in expanding Canada’s friendship with India.

It’s a friendship built on shared values of democracy, pluralism, federalism and respect for human rights.

It’s a friendship that one million Canadians of Indian descent have strengthened.

And it’s a friendship that has grown, in no small measure, because of the ICCC’s efforts to connect businesses in our two countries.

But the Canada-India friendship is also one of unrealized potential. It has the ingredients to be one of the greatest partnerships for both our countries.

Today, I want to talk about what our government is doing to deepen this relationship... where we see opportunities for growth... and how the historic ties between our two countries shine a bright light on our collective future.

Let’s start by looking at what our government has done—and is doing—to grow trade between Canada and India.

As you know, our government’s number one priority is jobs, growth and economic prosperity.

Our ambitious pro-trade agenda is opening new markets and creating opportunities for Canadian businesses. But to truly open new markets, we need to forge closer ties with India.

Canada and India have so much to offer the world.

We have so much to offer each other.

And if the last year is a sign of things to come, we have such a bright future ahead of us.

Six months ago, Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper paid his second visit to India. As a sign of just how much India matters to Canada, the Prime Minister spent more time in India than anywhere else. Indeed, it was his longest official visit since assuming office. It was also his most productive.

Which makes perfect sense. We have what India needs to fuel its rapid growth: energy, agriculture, infrastructure and higher education.

Under the Prime Minister’s leadership, we’re starting to deliver in these areas.

Take a look at the Nuclear Cooperation Agreement. As the Prime Minister announced agreement on the Administrative Arrangements, he buried close to 40 years of troubled nuclear history. More importantly, this agreement expands nuclear commerce between our two countries. With Canada emerging as an energy superpower, we value Indian investment in natural resources and energy.

On this same visit, Prime Ministers Harper and [Manmohan] Singh tasked officials with developing an action plan to do three things: promote research, facilitate academic and industrial exchanges, and accelerate the commercialization of technology. I’ll come back to this a bit later.

This action plan also complements a memorandum of understanding that establishes business partnerships in the IT sector.

The two prime ministers also finalized the Canada-India Social Security Agreement. This agreement will ensure that those who have lived or worked in both our countries receive the benefits they have earned.

To top it all off, the Prime Minister announced the upgrade of our trade office in Bangalore to a consulate. With eight offices in the country, Canada’s trade network in India is our third largest globally. It’s the second-largest foreign network in India.

All of that—and I haven’t even begun to talk about the $2.5 billion worth of commercial deals that Canadian and Indian companies signed last year.

Deals that will open more doors for our exporters...

Deals that will encourage economic growth...

Deals that will create jobs in both our countries...

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a bright future ahead.

But as I said at the outset, there is room to grow. There is room to expand trade, to cooperate on security issues and to position Canada as the global leader in international education.

Prime Ministers Harper and Singh have tasked our officials with tripling bilateral trade to $15 billion by 2015. So far, we’re on track. The growth in the number of Canadian companies actively working in India has jumped from 250 to more than 600. While trade is now at $5.2 billion, we cannot—we will not—rest on our laurels.

We have two agreements in the works that will take our trade relationship to a whole new level.

We’re negotiating a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, or CEPA. We look forward to greater momentum in these talks and plan to conclude a high-quality agreement by the end of this year. A CEPA could boost Canada’s and India’s economies by at least $6 billion each.

Indeed, we need a completed trade agreement for two-way trade to blossom. We’re eager to finalize the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, which would make it easier and more predictable for Canadian companies to do business in India. It will unlock the full potential of our trade relationship. And it will benefit both countries’ businesses, workers and families.

As we negotiate these economic agreements, we’re keenly aware that without a more secure regional and global environment, we cannot fully realize our economic potential.

And while our defence relations with India have traditionally been modest, we’re now working to boost cooperation on this front.

That means we need to collaborate more robustly on regional security challenges. Challenges like governance and counterterrorism in Afghanistan... or emergency preparedness and the ending of civil wars in Burma... challenges that threaten the stability needed by our businesses and civil society to contribute fully.

We are not frozen in the 1980s. We grieve for victims of terrorism in India and know where it spawns from: those who cling to the paranoia of the past. India’s future is based on the shared prosperity we can achieve in peace and freedom.

And as Iran inches ever closer to nuclear weapons capability, Canada and India will work together on combatting the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In fact, Iran could learn a thing or two from the Canada-India experience. The Nuclear Cooperation Agreement assures civilian and peaceful use of nuclear material, equipment and technology from Canada. We’re always willing to work with peaceful, freedom-loving nations.

Along with potential opportunities for investment in energy, we see immense opportunities in education.

Last year, more than 30,000 Indian students studied in Canada. India is the second-largest source of international students in Canada. It’s a number that keeps growing because of Canada’s world-class education and our safe multicultural communities.

But consider this: to fully take advantage of its knowledge potential, India needs to educate 550 million citizens under the age of 25.

That’s a daunting task.

To get there, India will need an additional 800 universities and 45,000 colleges. India simply cannot do it alone. It will need the help of Canada’s universities and colleges, which are among the best in the world.

Canadian academic institutions and the Association of Canadian Community Colleges are actively working to skill the one million young Indians who enter the workforce every month.

This young generation—the demographic dividend that could easily become a demographic disaster—is the generation that will bring great change to India. And Canada has a vision to become the 21st-century leader in international education. We will play a part in helping India’s next generation prosper... to be part of India’s evolution into an economic powerhouse.

This is why we have signed a memorandum of understanding to promote student and faculty exchanges and build bridges between the future leadership communities of both countries.

Of course, this deepened engagement could not have happened without Canada’s Indo-Canadian community. You are leading doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, business owners and public servants. You have prospered as proud Canadians.

The sons and daughters of India contribute to all aspects of Canadian culture and society.

And I’m not even talking about Deepak! I’m talking about Russell Peters, Deepa Mehta, Manny Malhotra and others.

Many of you here tonight are shining examples of the achievements of Indo-Canadians, who are making Canada stronger and more innovative—leading the way in strengthening our bonds with India.

Our recent history has been one of determination. When faced with a global economic downturn that originated beyond our respective borders, Canada and India held their ground while other nations slid.

Our financial systems did not fail us.

Our fiscal prudence served us well.

Our commitment to global trade never wavered.

Now we are both determined to become stronger trade partners. This is a relationship that has clearly benefited both our nations in ways that were once unimaginable.

And we’re going to count on you to help us realize the full potential of this deepening friendship.

Thank you very much.