Based on a Transcript
It is a delight to be here. I said when I was here in January that Prague is a captivating place. The Czech Republic is a country that we have such a warmth for in Canada, as many of you know—and not just because of the great Czech additions to our professional hockey league!
The positive relationship goes back so many decades, sometimes through tough times—I’m thinking of 1948, and what followed the Prague Spring of 1968—and then again with the wonderful Velvet Revolution and onward to everything that has been accomplished by you, a great people who believe in independence and freedom and trade and all of the things that make for vibrant societies.
We continue to value the relationship that we have with you, and we look forward to it continuing in a number of different ways. Certainly we will see that tomorrow [at the Canada-EU Summit]. I can’t give you a scoop about what our Prime Minister will be announcing tomorrow other than to say that it will acknowledge the formal discussions with the European Union on a broader economic relationship.
These are very exciting times, as you know. There is substantial two-way trade right now between the Czech Republic and Canada—something close to $607.3 million worth in 2008—with many products going back and forth. This is a positive thing. And those of you who are thinking of investing in Canada, as we all go through this difficult global downturn, will be aware that Canada has many positive attributes.
Our banking system has been declared the most stable in the world, something that has been recognized by the World Economic Forum, the International Monetary Fund and other international agencies. So that is a positive in terms of those who are thinking about investment.
We are addressing this downturn with a fiscal stimulus, where we have taken the plans that were in place for infrastructure projects and growth over the next seven years and we’ve compressed that into two years and pushed it out to have an immediate impact.
We continue on a track of being the lowest-taxed country of the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development], and that applies to both personal and business taxes. This also has been recognized externally.
Even though we have a stable banking system, we do find ourselves in a credit crunch. But we work with our banks. We have our own credit agency, Export Development Canada, which is arm’s length from the government but nevertheless backed by the Treasury of Canada. I know some of you have had dealings with EDC. And in our last economic statement, we greatly increased the amount of credit ability for EDC to enhance the type of financing that has to go on to keep business moving.
The relationship Canada and the Czech Republic share is strong and it’s encouraging, and it involves not just business relationships but also personal relationships. We have a good history together, and we look forward to this great relationship that we have continuing in the future.
Thank you so much for being here. We look forward to the ongoing relationship. I believe that now is a time when countries can work together to show that, in a downturn especially, it’s all about opening doors of opportunity. And that’s what expanded trade opportunities are about.
It sends a great signal—not just to our own business community but to workers and to other countries—that rather than withdrawing in isolation, out of fear of the economic situation, we move forward with hope. Because we know that when people have opportunity, when governments move back or move off in terms of heavy taxation and heavy regulation, great things can happen.
We expect those to continue happening.