Address by Minister Van Loan at Official Opening of New Chancery and Arctic Photo Exhibit

No. 2010/24 - Stockholm, Sweden - May 3, 2010

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Thank you, everyone, for joining us here tonight to celebrate the official opening of this new chancery.

Canada and Sweden share a number of ties and values—values like freedom, democracy and the rule of law. We’re working together, at the United Nations and elsewhere, to promote these values throughout the world. We enjoy close people-to-people ties, represented by the more than 335,000 Canadians of Swedish descent and by the many Swedish citizens with a Canadian connection through marriage, friendship, work and study.

And, of course, we both love the great game of hockey. Our friendly rivalry on the hockey rink—well, mostly friendly—is often a highlight of international series.

Our countries also share a commitment to innovation, with Canadian and Swedish scientists and researchers working together in a number of important fields.

In fact, I had the distinct pleasure of joining Minister Tobias Krantz [Swedish minister for Higher Education and Research] earlier today to sign a joint memorandum of understanding concerning science and technology cooperation between our countries. This initiative is already translating into cooperative efforts between Canadian and Swedish institutes, providing great examples of the growing sophistication of our relations.

Canada and Sweden are also both proud Arctic nations, collaborating through the Arctic Council, for example, to develop and protect our northern spaces.

In this context, I’m pleased to officially open today a new photo exhibit called “The Accessible Arctic.”

When we talk about the many ties that bind Canada and Sweden, we cannot forget our shared Arctic heritage and the vibrant Arctic communities in both of our countries.

These photographs represent not only Canada’s own interests in the Arctic, but also the interests of all Arctic nations in this unique and special place.

And, of course, Canada and Sweden are also strong supporters of free trade. Sweden recognizes, as Canada does, that economic recovery and future growth depend on trade, investment and the building of partnerships across borders.

Our own commercial relations reflect this commitment. Canada’s trade with Sweden touches a wide number of sectors, from health sciences to high technology, agriculture and green technologies.

Our trade commissioners in Sweden are focused on creating more connections between our countries. We’re also taking every opportunity to tell our Swedish partners about Canada’s many investment advantages, such as:

  • our open and attractive business environment;
  • the strongest fiscal position in the G7;
  • the soundest banking system in the world;
  • our low corporate taxes—on track to being the lowest in the G7;
  • our skilled workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • our strong commitment to the rule of law; and
  • our high quality of life.

KPMG [LLP, the accounting and consulting firm] also confirmed last month that, among industrialized countries, Canada is ahead of the pack in terms of cost-competitiveness.

In fact, we enjoy a 5-percent advantage in the cost of doing business over our American partners.

We’re very pleased that Swedish companies, like Ericsson, have discovered these benefits for themselves by locating in Canada.

Locating in Canada also brings the added benefit of doing business within the North American family, through continental free trade with the United States and Mexico.

And now, Canada and Sweden are working on an initiative that will create more opportunities than ever before to do business with one another. As you may know, we’re in the midst of negotiations with the European Union toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

For Canada, this represents the most significant and most ambitious trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

I’d like to thank our Swedish friends, in particular, for their active support of these efforts from the very start, especially during Sweden’s tenure as president of the European Union in 2009.

Our businesses have long called for closer ties to Europe.

The many advantages we see here in Sweden, for example your active business sector and commitment to innovation, reinforce our belief that more Canadian companies should be doing business here, and across Europe.

Canadian sectors like aerospace, agriculture, engineering, high technology and many others can all offer a lot to the European marketplace.

A recent joint study shows that an agreement could lead to a potential $38-billion boost to our bilateral trade and significant gross domestic product gains for both sides.

Driven by this kind of potential, our negotiations are moving forward at a good pace. Even the clouds of volcanic ash couldn’t keep our negotiating teams from meeting in Ottawa last month.

I’ve indicated that I’d like to see negotiations completed in two years, so we can start unlocking the full potential of Canada-European trade for the benefit of people on both sides of the Atlantic.

An agreement would be “win-win” for both Canada and our European partners, like Sweden.

As we move forward on these and other initiatives, I’m sure that this new chancery will play an important role in bringing together the many ties we share. Canada is proud of our partnership with Sweden.

And we look forward to working with our Swedish partners to create new jobs, prosperity and opportunity for people in both our countries in the years ahead.

Thank you.