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July 24, 2009 (4 p.m. EDT)
No. 206

Minister Day Expands Trade Opportunities for Canadian Business in Southeast Asia

The Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, tomorrow ends a five-day visit to Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, during which he has forcefully reiterated the importance of avoiding protectionism, promoted Canada as an ideal location to invest, and heralded the Asia-Pacific Gateway as a fast and efficient way to reach the North American market.

“We are leading by example by pursuing free and open trade and investment with markets all over the globe. This will help expand trade, encourage economic growth and create jobs for Canadians at home and abroad,” said Minister Day. “Our government is working with other trade partners to open doors for Canadian business in Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia. There are key areas where Canadian products and services are currently in high demand in Southeast Asia, and we must seize these opportunities.”

Those areas include:

  • agriculture, food and beverages;
  • information and communication technology;
  • service industries and capital projects;
  • infrastructure;
  • oil and gas; and
  • mining, metals and minerals.

The Government of Canada strongly supports regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region, and, as a long-term objective, a free trade area of the Asia-Pacific. Canada and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations have taken initial steps toward the development of a trade and investment framework arrangement.

“We expect to launch negotiations for a trade and investment framework in the coming months,” said Minister Day. “Such an arrangement will help expand trade opportunities in the region and will provide a platform for the resolution of trade and investment irritants.”

In Singapore, Minister Day participated in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Trade on July 21 and 22.

“This year’s APEC meeting was an excellent forum to discuss the economic downturn and the need to avoid protectionism,” said Minister Day. “All ministers agreed to persist with efforts to support growth and facilitate trade flows, keep markets open and give a new push to concluding the WTO’s Doha Development Agenda.”

APEC is the only trans-Pacific, intergovernmental economic-cooperation forum that meets at the leaders level. Together, its members account for over 50 percent of world GDP, over 40 percent of world population and over 40 percent of global merchandise trade. Canada has a large investment presence in other APEC member economies. At the end of 2008, the known stock of Canadian direct investment in APEC countries was nearly $354 billion, up 31 percent over last year.

At the APEC meeting, Minister Day met individually with several of his counterparts, including those from Australia, China, Chinese Taipei, Indonesia, New Zealand, Peru, the United States and Vietnam. He also participated in a trilateral meeting with the U.S. and Mexico.

While in the region, Minister Day vigorously promoted Canada’s many advantages for foreign investment, which include:

  • a sound banking system;
  • a stable business environment;
  • the lowest corporate taxes in the G7 by 2012;
  • a dynamic, talented, highly qualified workforce;
  • the fact that it is a modern, dynamic place to live and work.

In his meetings with Malaysian officials, Minister Day expressed appreciation for the removal of H1N1-related trade restrictions on Canadian pork, and underscored the importance Canada places on its trade relationship with Malaysia, its largest bilateral trade partner in Southeast Asia. Minister Day also highlighted the important role Canadian companies, such as Bombardier Inc. and CAE Inc., have played in the development of the transportation sector in Malaysia.

During his visit to Singapore, Minister Day held a round table on Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway with Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore officials and Canadian and Singaporean companies, and toured Singapore’s container port.

“British Columbia’s ports are closer to Singapore than our competitors’,” said Minister Day. “As Singapore’s port is the world’s busiest container port, companies here can certainly take advantage of the Asia-Pacific Gateway, which offers up to three days’ sailing-time advantage over other North American ports, short dwell times—averaging about 24 hours—and consistent, reliable transit times into the heartland of North America.”

During his meetings with Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore’s minister for trade and industry, Minister Day pressed Singapore to lift its ongoing ban on Canadian beef.

“Our government continues to stand up for Canadian producers whenever they face unfair barriers, as I did in my meeting with my ministerial counterpart,” said Minister Day.

Minister Day’s visit to Southeast Asia concludes tomorrow in Brunei, where he will address Canadian and Bruneian business leaders and meet with Brunei’s leader, Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah and Pehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Discussions will mostly focus on the aeronautics and finance sectors.

Southeast Asia had a combined gross domestic product of $1.6 trillion in 2008. It is one of the fastest-growing economic regions in the world. Merchandise trade between Canada and the region reached a new high of $14.5 billion in 2008. Known Canadian direct investment increased to nearly $8.2 billion by the end of 2008.

More details about this trip and Minister Day’s participation at the APEC meeting may be found at Minister Day visits Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei.

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For further information and high-resolution photographs, media representatives may contact:

Mélisa Leclerc
Director of Communications
Office of the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Trade Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada