January 22, 2009
Notes for an Address by the Honourable Stockwell Day, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, to Business Representatives in Mumbai
Well, thank you so much for the wonderful introduction. It’s tremendous to be here. We’re enjoying ourselves immensely. We arrived midnight Saturday night in New Delhi and we’ve been in Hyderabad, New Delhi and now in the beautiful city here. On Sunday we actually took a bit of a side trip, though it was a major trip from my point of view. We took the train from New Delhi down to Agra and had the joy and the awe of spending some time at the Taj Mahal. And then we drove back and that was—what’s the word?— that was enlightening.
I want to say that I believe that you’ve discovered something in India about traffic patterns, but I don’t exactly know what it is. Except for the fact that you can move a lot of people and a lot of vehicles, and it seems to be mayhem at the start but the more I’m driving on the roads here I recognize this is all highly planned, very sophisticated. And everybody seems to understand what you’re doing. In my constituency or throughout Canada we have only two lanes on most roads but they’re stopped most of the time, and you have found a way to keep moving.
You’ve also found a way; it was quite magical, one of the nights—I like to get out after the work has been done and do some shopping in the local stores—and our security officer or your security officer said, “Well, we have to cross the road.” It was 10 lanes, as you can imagine. It wasn’t in this city, so you don’t have to feel bad. And he said, “We’ll just—we’ll just do it. We’ll show you how.” And so I took a deep breath, said a prayer and it was like magic. We went across and, you know, people moved this way and that and there was an odd honking of horns from time to time but it was an incredible process. Unlike some cities in Montreal, not mentioning any names—did I let it slip? —where a pedestrian can be an incentive for a driver, there does seem to be some innate respect here and it all works. And I want to congratulate you for that. It’s been one of the joys of being here.
It’s especially meaningful for me to be here and to have been able to spend a few moments with the staff of the [Oberoi] hotel and others and some of our own [consular] staff who had to experience the most horrific moments; as a matter of fact, not just moments but hours and days. I don’t have to tell this audience that the Indo-Canadian community in Canada is spread right across our country. There are no Canadians anywhere who don’t have friends and contacts in the Indo-Canadian community, and I can tell you we were shocked. Our hearts went out to you as those images began to hit our television screens. We couldn’t believe what was unfolding and you had the one hundred percent sympathy and support and prayers of Canadians as those terrible hours unfolded.
I shared with your prime minister, when I had the honour of meeting with him a couple of days ago, that our prime minister has made it clear from the start and very publicly that India should not and will not have to stand alone in terms of the concern about where these attacks come from, and we will be with you on that and we will stand shoulder to shoulder with you.
I was pleased to see in the papers this morning the new president, [Barack] Obama, has followed Canada’s lead and picked up that theme and I was very pleased to see him making similar remarks.
And so here we are in this incredible city and I’d like to take a few minutes to tell you some things about what we are doing in Canada, which—if you’re not aware of these things—I think you’ll find them helpful. I’m also acutely aware that it is 1:15 and nobody has yet eaten and I know what it’s like. As a former member of Parliament and cabinet minister who’s here, Barbara McDougall—it’s wonderful to see you, Barbara—you well know what it’s like speaking to an audience when the food hasn’t arrived yet. And you’re thinking, “Are they even listening to me or are they saying to themselves, ‘When is he going to finish?’” And I guarantee you I will be finished by four o’clock so that we can eat and move into the meal.
I want to let you know that I am very encouraged by so much of what I have heard in the last few days that we’ve been here. I believe that India is going to be one of the factors in the global downturn being reversed, because the innovation, the investment, the optimism, the sophistication with which you do business and the tremendous growth that goes on here, I believe, is going to be one of the key factors in helping things move along, and I want to congratulate you in advance for that. We’re doing a number of things to assist with that and to assist and to help ourselves to be pulled along in some of the vortex that you’ve created with your own energy in terms of how you’ve moved ahead optimistically.
We have a strategy related to expanding our trade. When we’re in a time of global downturn, we do recognize that we have to keep repeating constantly and using the word “temporary.” Any student of history, even at the high-school level, will understand and know that economic cycles are just that: they are cycles. And it is an unfortunate demand, I suppose, or inherent characteristic of media—and I’m not trying to be pejorative about media in general, though this may sound like it; but I recognize the importance of that industry to report that which is negative: that has to be done—but there are also some things that are positive that have to be reported. And it’s only fair to the citizens, really, of the world who get up every day and watch the television and look at the headlines, and it sounds as if and reads as if this is the end of the world. It’s my humble opinion—I could be wrong—that it is not the end of the world. I think there’s a good chance that most of us will still be alive by the end of my speech, unless I’ve bored you to death. I think that’s possible. And we’re living in a time right now where, really, hundreds of millions of people across the world are paralysed with fear and without hope because they think this is it; it’s all over.
Having said all that, I should just ask, “Are there any of our friends from the media in the room today?” Wonderful; it’s so good to see you. I’m so excited. Let me change the direction of my remarks.
I should just say that I was pleased to see in one of your newspapers—the city newspaper this morning—there was a picture of me in one of the auto rickshaws in the previous city in which I was. I have to correct something, though—and this is not a shot at the media. It made it sound like—great picture because the other guy was in it—but it made it sound like I was trying to, you know, drive a hard bargain on the price. The gentleman who drove us was so gracious he wouldn’t take money. First I was reaching in my pocket, and I shoved a thirty at him and he said no. And then I took out more money, and finally he had another hundred, and finally, I think, he realized I indeed did want to pay for that. So I want to clear the record on that.
By the way, my officials were terrified the whole time. But it seemed to be a very expedient way to travel, and I talked to the manufacturer of those vehicles and they said they think there’s a market in Canada. So they’re exploring that pretty much as we speak.
But I just want to reemphasize the importance: yes, we have to reflect what is going on in the world that is negative, but there are many positive things that are happening. Watching the business news this morning—so my friends at the table here have nothing to do with this; they don’t have to feel bad; and I believe it was an American broadcaster—but even on the business news: there were two business reports; they were waiting for the figures to come out, and—I don’t know if any of you saw this, this morning on the business news—in the middle of the interview with the gentleman who was being interviewed, the commentator said, “Stop, stop, we have the results. They’re out. The reports that we’ve been expecting on these two huge companies in terms of their results of the last quarter.”
And they reported them, and she said, “Okay, that one’s up, it’s higher than we thought. Okay, let’s look at the other one. Okay, those results are higher than we thought.” And then she said, “We’ve got to move on to something else.” And I thought, “Wait a minute, wait a minute: those two major global companies just exceeded what they themselves had thought.” These are the types of things we have to keep in mind as we work ourselves through this time.
In Canada we’ve identified, as have many other nations, that the last thing we want to see happen in a time of global contraction is to move into an era of protectionism when it comes to trade. We know from history that that will only exacerbate the problems and make them more intense.
We have difficulty with protectionism, and here’s where I need your help—in India and in Canada and around the world. As elected people, we clearly, as democracy works, have to respond to the concerns of our constituents, and sometimes our constituents are—in their moment of fear, understandably—asking for things which in the long run may be harmful; and in the long run protectionism is harmful. A protectionist attitude is harmful. If we want to increase opportunities, if we want to see jobs protected in our own countries and industries protected, then we have to expand the opportunities they have to sell their products and sell their services. And that’s what we are doing when it comes to trade.
And that’s why I was so pleased, in meeting with your prime minister and with Minister [of Commerce and Industry Kamal] Nath, with Minister [of Science and Technology Kapil] Sibal and with others, such as your national security adviser, that we have agreement on a number of things. We are now going to have an agreement to instruct our officials to sit down and begin the tough process of discussions on what a more comprehensive trade agreement between Canada and India could look like. Some people are calling it free trade. It may result in freer trade. But we need to broaden the relationship and those discussions are going to begin in earnest.
We also have part of our strategy to work through this time. We have advanced the infrastructure planning that we have in place in Canada over the next seven years; we are compressing that. There’s $33 billion of infrastructure work that may be of interest to some of you here; and we have companies working here on infrastructure. We are injecting that into the economy virtually immediately—or as much as we practically can. We’re calling it “shovels in the ground now,” because we need to keep things moving on that basis.
We recognize that if we’re going to have investment coming back and forth between Canada and India and other countries, we have to give assurance to the investors that there are certain rules in place to protect their investment. And so we are at the final stages now of concluding our foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with India. We’re very excited about that.
We also recognize the wisdom of this government in your country to look at the energy needs that lie ahead for the next 10, 15 and 20 years, with the incredible growth that is going on in India. The government has rightly recognized that the energy needs can be met with clean, efficient nuclear energy in a way that is not harmful to the atmosphere, staying away from coal—or a full reliance on coal—and on oil and gas. And the projections of 25 to 30 of those reactors to produce that clean energy are incredible and offer great opportunity.
Canada has one of the foremost nuclear industries in the world. It’s recognized not just for the technology we’ve developed but also for the actual raw product and so, again, it was very much—with meeting with nuclear representatives from Canada, in the meetings that I talked about—it was very much an open door invitation to be involved, and they’re working on that now. And as a matter of fact, I understand that just yesterday an MOU [memorandum of understanding] was signed between our companies and between Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. and Larsen and Toubro [Ltd.] So already there is increased movement. This is going to mean a great thing in both countries.
We also are focused significantly on keeping our tax regime down both on the personal side and on the corporate side. That will be of interest to you. We are expanding existing science and technology agreements that we have between Canada and India in various locations, and we notice with great anticipation your government’s determination to increase the amount of R & D funding up to $8.2 billion over the next few years. These are such positive signs that will only bring good things as we continue to move ahead.
When I consider the companies that are involved here now from Canada, whether we’re talking about Sun Life [Assurance Company of Canada]—been here a hundred years—SNC-Lavalin [Group Inc.], of course, is very active; the nuclear industry that I’ve mentioned. We have one of our most exciting new—relatively new—products that the world is gobbling up and that is the famous BlackBerry, and the representatives from RIM [Research in Motion Ltd.] are here today. They accomplished a major coup, unheard-of in modern business history, in being able to solicit the assistance of the President of the United States in marketing their product. And how you did that, I don’t know. And I know there are no kickbacks in that nor are there in my remarks today. But it’s phenomenal.
When I was speaking in Los Angeles to the Chamber of Commerce there about two weeks ago, most of the people there did not realize that was a Canadian product. They all knew what the BlackBerry was but they thought they’d invented it. And, of course, not only has the BlackBerry revolutionized how we do business, but it has altered—literally altered—social discourse in a very positive way. I can now stand in an elevator and not feel uncomfortable about thinking what to say because I can just look at my BlackBerry and it’s acceptable. If I’m talking to somebody and I’m tired of hearing what they have to say—I’m not referring to any of my family members here—but I’m tired of that, I can just go, “excuse me,” and I can consult my BlackBerry. So I thank you not only for revolutionizing industry but for sparing us some of the difficult moments in social discourse.
My friends, we have these great opportunities ahead. And I said at the beginning of my remarks India is setting the tone for growth. I realize your growth may not be as robust over the next several months as it has been, but you really do hold the key. The spirit that you have, your focus on education, the sophistication with which you go about business and the level of optimism, the level of vibrancy—you can feel it in the air. And I want to thank you for that.
In recognition of that and also in recognition of the fact that you know what it is to face adversity and go through adversity and we know that adversity actually brings positive change, if I can just ask the executive vice-president of this great property in which we are, Mr. [Devendra] Barma, if you would come forward; we have some flowers for you in recognition, not just of the great work that you do in your great business, but of what you and your staff went through and how you sent a signal to the world. And the signal was: “Yes, this can be devastating. Yes, these moments can be heartbreaking and horrendous, but it is important to show not just the world but those enemies of our hopes and our dreams. They need to see the message that we will continue and we will carry on and we are a people of hope.” And you have been a prime example of that and we would like to acknowledge that today.
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