Based on a Transcript
Thank you. I had the honour of attending the APEC Ministerial Meeting and Economic Leaders’ Meeting, which is on right now in Singapore. The trade ministers’ portion is completed, so I was able to get here last night and to meet with your president [Maria Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo] this morning. She was most generous with her time, and we discussed a number of topics. She will be also in Singapore along with the other APEC country leaders beginning tomorrow.
I would like to begin my remarks by noting that the Philippines is a place of influence, not just in this part of the world but also around the world, and certainly in our world—in Canada. There are between 400,000 and half a million people of Filipino descent in Canada, and among those are seven of my grandchildren—my daughter-in-law was born in Canada, but both of her parents are from the Philippines.
I have also found this to be one of the most hospitable and most friendly countries. I was out early this morning for a run along the streets. People didn’t know me, but they were waving to me and smiling. So right from people on the streets all the way up to your president, I’ve been received most graciously. And I want to thank you for that.
There are exciting things going on. This year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of Canada’s diplomatic relations with the Philippines, and I understand it’s also the 20th anniversary of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. So two exciting events are tying in together.
When you consider the large number of people in Canada who are directly linked to the Philippines, you can understand the great wave of sympathy and concern across our country when this region, and your country, was so devastatingly hit by those storms—we call them storms, but they were far, far worse than that. The hearts of Canadians went out to you as we watched, glued to our television sets. Although many of us may not be related to people from this beautiful country, very many of us know people who are. Canada was pleased and quick to send funds to help. We’ll be visiting one of the affected areas later on this afternoon to see some of the reconstruction that’s going on. So please know that Canadians are with you at a very, very difficult time and that we’re very supportive of your efforts to rebuild.
My wife was able to travel with me on this trip, and she’ll be joining us later. She’s very concerned about what is going on in the reconstruction area and wants somehow to be a part of that.
This is a very challenging time globally, as you know. I don’t have to go into great detail on that. And as Canadians, we have a certain level of prosperity that is related to the fact that we are a trading nation. We have had to be to survive. We can produce more than we can consume, and therefore we need to trade and we need to trade freely. Our prime minister [Stephen Harper] has been a leader on the global front in speaking against protectionist tendencies, which can often arise among governments at times like these. We are very aggressive on that front.
Many of you here would know better than I the tremendous two-way relationships that have led to mutual benefits between the Philippines and Canada.
Certainly on the energy front, and as an energy-producing country, we know what it is to deal with both conventional oils and alternative forms of energy. And we have engaged in ventures with the Philippines in that particular area. In the mining sector, Canadian operations account for about 43 percent of all the mining that takes place around the world.
I want to tell you that we recently established a corporate and social responsibility office for the extractive sector, which takes the best practices of the sector and sets them out as goals for our mining companies. And I’m pleased to say that our companies have shown themselves to be socially responsible corporate citizens in the places where they operate around the world.
As you all know, this is Canadian Food Week in the Philippines, an initiative that showcases high-quality Canadian food products recently introduced to the Philippines market, as well as long-standing imports. Canada enjoys a strong reputation in the Philippines for safe and high-quality agri-food products, but benefits also flow from relationships in so many other areas—in the aerospace industry, investment, infrastructure and transportation, to name just a few. These are areas where opportunities are almost unlimited when countries decide that they are going to be as easy as possible on their working people with respect to taxation and as practical as possible when it comes to regulatory regimes.
In Canada we believe it is incumbent upon a government to make sure the tax load is as reasonable and as light as possible on the players—the innovators, entrepreneurs, business people and workers—and that the playing fields are as level as possible between countries. In this way, people who want to invest, who want to become more skilled or educated, or who want to market their services or products can do so with the least possible weight of government.
We know that some level of taxation is necessary, as is some level of regulation: our citizens need to be protected. The challenge of government is not to become excessive in those areas. And that’s why I encourage chambers of commerce wherever I go to be diligent in making that point to government representatives. There is a place for taxation and regulation, but it must be done in a way that makes sense and does not become a disincentive to action.
For those of you who are looking toward Canada as a place to invest or expand your business, we believe Canada offers some attractive features that make investment well worth thinking about. Just recently the World Economic Forum, in evaluating world banking systems, said that Canada has the most stable financial system in the world. That’s because our banking rules are quite conservative. We avoided the whole problem of derivatives and some of the things that have plagued other major financial nations. People used to look at the Canadian banking community and say our banking system was boring. But we’re happy to report that boring has become the new exciting. And it’s made Canada a very desirable destination for investment.
The International Monetary Fund also had positive comments when it looked at the stimulus package we put in place to help offset the economic downturn. It concluded that Canada was the best positioned economy going into the downturn and will be the best positioned among the G8 countries coming out of it. So there’s another reason for people to be thinking about Canada. Along with that, Canada enjoys a very competitive taxation system. These things work together, we believe, to offer some very attractive possibilities for those looking to invest or to pursue educational opportunities or other endeavours. Canada is really a place to think about.
One of the things that we also are marketing quite aggressively is our Asia-Pacific Gateway. During the last three years, we have invested just over $2 billion in infrastructure for our ports in Vancouver and Prince Rupert. We can confidently say that sailing times to Vancouver, depending where you’re coming from in Asia, have a two- to three-day advantage over those to other west coast ports. Our ports are very busy but they’re not overly congested, so the dwell time of containers is usually less than 24 hours. And because we integrate our road and rail lines, products can be sent to and arrive in Chicago and Memphis within 100 hours of landing at our Vancouver and Prince Rupert ports.
So all of these factors together, we believe, give some solid reasons for thinking about Canada, not only as a place invest but also as a place to pursue joint ventures through innovation, research and development, and science and technology agreements. All of these form a buffet of items for you to look at when you’re considering your investment possibilities.
I’ll wrap my comments by saying that if you are thinking of increasing your business in or with Canada, you want to be moving on that. In just a little while, about five billion people will have their eyes on Canada as we host the Olympic and Paralympic Games in Vancouver.
The fact is, people increasingly see Canada as a place to do business. That interest will be amplified 10-fold after the Olympic Games. And so our doors are open to you. The doors of friendship, the doors of family, the doors of our embassy here—where there is an incredible group of people to serve you and help meet the variety of needs you face. I encourage you to use those services.