Address by Minister Baird to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

January 16, 2014 - Washington, D.C.

Check Against Delivery

Thank you, David Chavern, for your kind words of introduction, and thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for inviting me here to speak today.

I always enjoy coming to Washington, D.C. Only the deepest cynics could fail to be inspired by the physical presence of your institutions and the intellectual energy that underpins them.

We’re also lucky that our two capitals are so close to each other. And we have all been reminded of our nations’ shared challenges recently.

Canadians and Americans have stood together in the face of a malicious force. A force that cuts across borders. A force that seeks to change our way of life.

The polar vortex has united us in our snowy woes.

I heard some Americans were blaming Canada for letting our cool air cross the national border. Well, I know you expect Canadians to be naturally apologetic, but what can I say—sharing is caring. And I’d be delighted to extend an invitation to you all to come on a trade visit to Saskatchewan, where the wind chill was only -63F just last week.

While the main purpose of my visit to Washington is to meet with my North American counterparts, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Mexican Foreign Secretary José Antonio Meade, it has also provided me with a useful opportunity to engage with a number of lawmakers, government officials and friends of Canada.

So I would like to take this opportunity to share with you a distillation of my thoughts on Canada’s relationship with the U.S. and how North American integration can help us meet our economic and strategic challenges.

Shared History

Our nations’ physical proximity is obvious, as I’ve already alluded to. But they are not just two pieces of a jigsaw that happen to fit together. Our bonds are deep, emotional and historical.

Last night, I attended a reception hosted by our embassy here for 300 of our partners in the defence industry. This event was a powerful reminder of the close defence relationship our two countries enjoy.

That relationship was built through the sweat and toil of having stood shoulder to shoulder in the defence of freedom, liberty and democracy.

When the liberty of Europe was threatened in the early part of last century, Canada and the U.S. responded to the challenge, fighting in the trenches, bloody inch by bloody inch.

Thirty years later, when the spectre of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan cast a cloud over the entire world, Canada and the U.S. responded to the challenge on the beaches of Normandy and elsewhere.

When the Soviet Empire sought to spread the scourge of communism, we created the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in NATO—our commitment to open societies and human rights and the promise to defend our allies as we would defend ourselves. A common bond.

And after 9/11, when terrorism threatened to accomplish what fascism and communism had failed to do—to deprive us of our freedom and our belief that evil shall never triumph over good—Canada and the U.S. again responded together, in the dusty streets of Kabul and Kandahar.

This cooperation, rooted in our common values and tempered by the passage of time, binds our two countries together like brothers.

In the extended family of the global community, we will always have relatives who demand attention: the screaming nephew, the difficult mother-in-law, the rebellious cousin starting fires in the backyard. But all family relationships—even, or especially, the closest ones—need to be nurtured.

Despite how one may characterize our relationship in this family, Canada and the United States of America have been, and always will be, brothers.

In times of change, you need a strong, stable home environment. As I’m sure everyone in this room is conscious of in your day-to-day work—these are times of change in the world, be it demographics, geopolitics or economics.

I’m told I’ve travelled one million kilometres since becoming foreign minister two and a half, going on three, years ago. In that time, I’ve been to every region of the world, but I have put in the most time in places such as the Arabian Gulf, China and Southeast Asia.

Those are the kinds of places with which we need to be forging stronger relationships—but I don’t see these efforts as a zero-sum game with our closest relationship.

The more we can bring to the table, the better. We can walk and chew gum at the same time—and we should.

So before I let you get back to your lunch, I just want to expand on how we are doing just that in trade and industry, especially in the critical energy sector.

Trade

America is Canada’s biggest trading partner, and Canada is America’s biggest trading partner.

Twenty-six years ago we signed the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. Six years later we were joined by Mexico. And this year, this month in fact, we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Over these 20 years, the North American economy has more than doubled, and trilateral trade has tripled—topping $1 trillion annually. This means jobs—some 14 million of them in the U.S. alone.

Today, the North American marketplace is worth more than $19 trillion—that’s bigger than the European Union’s, and more than double the size of China’s.

Since the end of the last recession, U.S. exports to Canada and Mexico have grown by $154 billion, representing some 37 percent of all U.S. export growth. That’s larger than the combined $140 billion of export growth to all of Asia and the EU.

But while this is a strong trend, all around us we see the emergence of regional trading blocs poised to challenge our integrated North American platform for international market share.

Ensuring that we are ready for both the challenges and opportunities this presents is one of the key things I will be discussing with Secretary Kerry and Foreign Secretary Meade tomorrow.

It is my hope that we can build on the momentum of the past 20 years and start mapping a common understanding of where North America fits within the fast-evolving global landscape.

Energy

An absolutely central part of this understanding is the importance of the energy industry.

As I am sure many of you know, Canada and the U.S. have the largest and most integrated energy relationship in the world. Canada is, by a country mile, the single largest supplier of oil, natural gas and electricity to the U.S.

The U.S. could become net North American self-sufficient in its oil requirements in about a decade. But to achieve this, new infrastructure will have to be built.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would transport Canadian and U.S. Bakken oil to the U.S. Gulf Coast. There are three huge advantages to this project. And I take these conclusions from the U.S. State Department’s draft findings.

First, the KXL pipeline project will have no significant environmental impact.

Second, Western Canadian heavy oil would displace offshore heavy oil imports from other markets.

Third, if no new pipelines were built between our countries, Western Canadian and U.S. Bakken oil would instead be shipped to the U.S. Gulf Coast by rail.

Compared to sending by pipelines, sending by rail results in elevated greenhouse gas emissions and a considerably higher per-mile incident rate.

When you combine our commitment to the highest environmental standards with the thousands of jobs and economic growth that would be created on both sides of the border, I’m sure you’ll agree with Prime Minister Stephen Harper when he said in New York that “the logic behind the Keystone project is simply overwhelming.”

With the construction season coming up, I don’t want a single worker sitting at home when they could get getting a knock on the door saying “you got a great job.”

So if there’s one message I’m going to be promoting on this trip, it’s this: the time for Keystone is now.

I’ll go further—the time for a decision on Keystone is now, even if it’s not the right one.

We can’t continue in this state of limbo.

U.S. energy independence is too important; the environment is too important; our economies are too important.

Infrastructure and Integration

Some 850 miles east of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, Canada is backing the construction of a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, one of the busiest trade corridors in the world.

We have also committed $127 million for infrastructure investments and facilities at four key border crossings and $50 million for two new marine contained examination facilities. Canada is serious about infrastructure.

But it isn’t just the “hardware” of pipelines, roads and bridges that allows the goods to flow between our two countries. We also need the “software” of coordinated information exchange, process harmonization and innovative approaches to border clearance and systems integration.

We are heading in the right direction. One example is the Beyond the Border Action Plan, released in December 2011, which is working to set up rules for the easy movement of professionals across the border.

In fact, Canada’s International Trade Minister Ed Fast will join Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker in Chicago tomorrow, where they will be promoting the new Beyond the Border Action Plan.

Another example is the Regulatory Cooperation Council that seeks to free up our companies from having to meet duplicative North American regulatory requirements and instead focus their energies on competing in the global marketplace.

Taken together, these two initiatives represent the most significant boost to North American competitiveness and cooperation since NAFTA.

A Trading Nation

From the discovery of bountiful fish stocks on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland, to the coureur de bois and fur traders of the Hudson’s Bay Company who mapped out and settled the vast wilderness before them, it is no exaggeration to say that Canada was founded on trade.

Canada is inherently a trading nation. It is in our genes, part of the genetic inheritance handed down by our forefathers, and has, to a great extent, defined us as a nation.

Today, international trade represents more than 60 percent of Canada’s GDP, with one in five Canadian jobs linked to exports.

Since 2006, we have achieved some truly historic milestones.

We have reached a historic agreement-in-principle with the European Union, a market of more than 500 million consumers and accounting for 19 percent of global imports and exports.

This agreement was heralded by The Economist as the model, and showed the world that Canada is ready to deal. Ready to make the tough decisions needed to build a more prosperous world.

That’s why we have also signed free trade agreements with nine other countries with a combined population of 100 million and a combined GDP of almost $2 trillion.

And we have eliminated almost 2,000 tariffs, including those on imported machinery, equipment and manufacturing inputs. This makes us the first tariff-free manufacturing zone in the G-20.

Six weeks ago, Canada launched its Global Markets Action Plan, which builds on these successes by entrenching economic diplomacy and making Canada’s long-term economic success a priority in all our international engagements.

Just yesterday I met with the United States Trade Representative Michael Froman to underscore and reiterate Canada’s commitment to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

As with a number of other key trade issues, the TPP is something that this chamber of commerce has been very supportive of, and I’m grateful for that.

It’s an integral part of our trade strategy that would create a trading bloc with a combined GDP of more than $27 trillion and provide an unparalleled opportunity for North American value chains.

I know that in many ways I stand before you preaching to the converted.

As I took you through the history of our two countries, from wars and blood spilled on foreign lands, to the shared infrastructure in pipelines, and bridges, to the importance of harmonized regulations—the physically innate objects are less important than the messages they stand for.

They stand for a connection. A connection between Canada and the United States. Between Canadians and Americans.

On that tragic day in September 2001, Canadians stood glued to the television sets across the country, much like the rest of the world.

In the hours after the attack, Canada instituted Operation Yellow Ribbon, which involved 239 planes—33,000 passengers—at 17 airports in Canada.

One of those towns represented the true pride of Canada in a unique way.

Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador, residence of just more than 11,000 people, took in 38 of those planes and close to 7,000 people.

When some may have lost faith in humanity, the attention and generosity of Canadians in America’s time of need was described by Tom Brokaw as “an example of what humanity can be.”

The people of Gander turned down any suggestion of money or other compensation that was broached with those leaving their community five days later.

The reason they gave: “you’d do the same for us.”

You can look around the world and you will not find two neighbouring nations so connected in their values, in their belief in humanity. No other nations in the world can claim what we do.

We are grateful for your continued support here at the Chamber of Commerce, for trade, and for your commitment to free market ideals. But we are even more grateful to all Americans, to have you as neighbours, as friends, as family.

Let us reflect on what has made this relationship the most successful in the world, and let’s look forward to ways we can continue to strengthen it.

Thank you.