Address by Minister Van Loan to Journalists Covering the G8 and G20 Summits

No. 2010/32 - Toronto, Ontario - May 19, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Toronto is one of the most multicultural cities in North America.

It’s no exaggeration to say that, no matter where you come from, you can find a cultural connection somewhere in the city.

It’s the perfect place to host the upcoming G20 summit.

And as the centre of our nation’s business life, Toronto is also the perfect place to talk about Canada’s many economic advantages.

Canada’s economic advantages

Canada has emerged as an economic leader.

We were the last G7 country to enter the global recession, and we enjoy a number of underlying economic strengths that have helped to see us through it.

I should point out that the world is fast awakening to these advantages, and we’re seeing increased interest in Canada as a first-class destination for investment.

We have a lot to offer:

  • an open and attractive free-enterprise environment;
  • the strongest fiscal position in the G7;
  • low corporate taxes—on track to being the lowest in the G7;
  • the fastest economic growth in the G7, according to the International Monetary Fund;
  • a skilled workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • a strong commitment to good governance and the rule of law; and
  • a high quality of life.

Our strong financial system is another core advantage—one you can see at work right here in Toronto, where Canada’s banking sector is headquartered.

Despite the global economic downturn, Canada did not experience any bank failures.

No major Canadian bank required a bailout.

Our banking sector is responsibly managed through balanced regulations.

At a time when banks in other countries were making high-risk investments, Canadian banks were adhering to higher standards for investment and risk, as set out by our regulations.

That put them in a stronger position to weather the storm than many other banks around the world.

The responsible management and balanced regulation of our financial sector has resulted in the excellent performance of our banking industry.

And this is why Canada does not support the introduction of a global financial levy or tax to pay for the bailouts used in other countries.

Levying such a tax would not only punish our financial sector for good performance, it would also put our banks at an additional, unfair competitive disadvantage.

We prefer to remain focused on the financial reforms agreed to by the G20 as a means of achieving high capital, liquidity and leverage standards for global institutions.

I can tell you that this will be a core part of our message to the world, as Canada prepares to host the G20 summit here in Toronto.

Canada as a free trade leader

However, the financial sector is not the only area in which Canada is now displaying leadership.

Our country is also a leader in free trade, showing a steadfast commitment to opening markets around the world for Canadian businesses, workers and investors.

Our government is committed to fighting protectionism and promoting free trade.

We recognize that, by doing so, we’re ensuring that Canada and the rest of the world will emerge from the global economic recession stronger than ever.

As a member of the North American free trade zone, Canada’s experience with free trade has been enormously positive.

In 2008, 14 years after the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed, Canada’s merchandise trade with the United States had tripled. With Mexico, it had quintupled.

That same period of time saw more than four million jobs created in Canada.

Without a doubt, free trade has helped Canadian businesses become more competitive and more productive.

The message is clear: you simply cannot talk about a strong economy without talking about free trade.

And Canada believes you can’t talk about global economic recovery without talking about it either.

From the outset of the crisis, Canada has been leading the way.

For example, unilaterally and without negotiations or reciprocity, Canada eliminated tariffs on imported equipment and machinery.

We created the first tariff-free zone for manufacturing imports in the G20.

Now our manufacturers can more easily buy the machinery and equipment they need from other countries to become more productive and competitive in the global market.

This is a good example of how a free, open approach to trade can help spur export activity.

And it’s an example of Canada’s belief that removing barriers to trade—rather than imposing protectionist restrictions—is the key to economic success.

The same could be said of our efforts to work with our U.S. partners to keep the doors of opportunity open in both countries.

After all, Canada and the United States are each other’s most important economic partners.

Businesses, jobs and communities in both countries depend on cross-border trade, investment and commercial cooperation.

That’s why Canada fought so hard against the “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. Recovery Act [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009] that threatened the integrated, successful supply chains we’ve created together over the decades.

And together, we negotiated an exemption from many of these provisions and ensured that free trade and cooperation would continue to be an engine of prosperity for Canadians and Americans alike.

We’re now discussing a more comprehensive bilateral procurement agreement for the longer term—one that will benefit both economies in the years to come.

It’s yet another good example of the need to be vigilant against protectionism and to work with partners to create jobs and opportunities in the global economy.

This commitment to partnerships is also guiding Canada’s ambitious free trade agenda.

While Canada is eager for World Trade Organization members to increase their engagement there, we also recognize that countries around the world can and should be looking for every opportunity to create new trade links that will spur economic growth and job creation.

We recently implemented free trade, labour and environment agreements with the European Free Trade Association and Peru.

We’ve introduced legislation to pass our free trade agreements with Jordan and Colombia.

We’re also engaged in discussions with the Caribbean community of nations and other key markets.

Just last week, we signed our free trade agreement with Panama.

And we also recently concluded the third round of negotiations with the European Union.

I’m pleased to report that these negotiations are currently ahead of schedule, as both parties recognize the pressing need to create new opportunities for businesses and workers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, when the world comes to Canada for the G8 and G20 summits, we’ll be taking every opportunity to remind our guests that partnerships, not protectionism, hold the key to lasting economic recovery.

The world economy is simply too integrated and too interconnected to close doors to trade.

We think that Canada’s positive experience with free trade—and our ambitious approach to trade—can stand as a model to the rest of the world, demonstrating the benefits of opening doors to increased business and investment activity.

We also think that Canada’s other economic advantages—our strong, stable banking system, our commitment to low taxes and balanced budgets, and our commitment to innovation—have made Canada a place that the world should come to for opportunities.

This message of partnership will be front and centre when the world comes to Canada in the coming weeks.

It’s an extraordinary year for Canada, with the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver in February, and now the G8 and G20 summits.

I can tell you that Canadians are, once again, very excited about showcasing our advantages to our partners and friends.

Our spirit of innovation and commitment to excellence will be on full display for the world to see during the G8 and G20 meetings.

And we hope that you leave our country with a greater understanding of everything Canada has to offer.

Thank you.