Address by Minister Van Loan to American Chamber of Commerce in Canada

No. 2010/46 - Ottawa, Ontario - June 22, 2010

Check Against Delivery

It’s great to be here this morning to talk about Canada’s commercial ties with the United States.

I’d like to begin by speaking about what Canada brings to our relationship with the United States, and indeed, to our relationships with all current and potential trading partners.

Canada is a trading nation. And we are world leaders in promoting free trade and fighting protectionism.

Canada is proud to be hosting the G-20 Summit at such a critical period in the global economy.

The Summit will focus on global recovery from the economic and financial crisis.

Canada will underscore the importance of following through with our stimulus measures, and continuing to make the transition to sustainable fiscal and monetary policies in the years ahead.

We’ll be supporting efforts to build a new approach to international economic cooperation, including reforms to such international financial institutions as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

But the Government of Canada also believes that you cannot talk about economic recovery and lasting prosperity without talking about free trade.

This is true not just in North America, but around the world. The path to prosperity is built with trade partnerships, not protectionism. History shows us as much.

From the signing of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade 63 years ago, to the establishment of the World Trade Organization in 1995, to the rise of economic powerhouses like China and India, we’ve seen example after example of how free and open trade acts as a catalyst to economic growth and plays a positive role in people’s lives.

We’ve learned that commercial cooperation—along with the rules and enforcement mechanisms that go along with it—can benefit us all.

Along the way, some have worried about the impact of trade on our domestic industries. But trade isn’t about turning our backs on these industries.

Rather, it’s about recognizing that reaching out to our neighbours and partners around the world, and creating opportunities to prosper together, brings incredible benefits to our industries—and to our citizens.

The Canada-U.S. relationship is, without a doubt, the number-one trade partnership for Canada, supporting jobs and prosperity across the country, not to mention the millions of jobs in the United States that depend on trade with Canada.

But this great success wouldn’t be possible without people and groups on both sides of the border taking time to advocate for closer ties, groups like the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada.

Over the years, your organization has played a key role in keeping the doors of opportunity open on both sides of the border. You’ve been a dependable voice in the debates of the past—bilateral free trade, North American free trade, border issues, softwood lumber and, most recently, the Buy American provisions.

Keeping Canada’s trade relationship with the United States strong is a top priority for the Canadian government.

And it’s good to know that our business communities, on both sides of the border, are working in the same direction.

Canada-U.S. trade: a partnership that works

The Canada-U.S. trade relationship undeniably has produced great economic benefits for our countries.

Last year, more than $1.6 billion in trade crossed the border every day. About 8 million American jobs depend on trade with Canada. Canada bought nearly five times as much merchandise from the United States as it did from China last year. And Canada is the top export destination for 34 U.S. states.

And we’re doing a lot more than trading goods back and forth. We’re becoming part of each other’s supply chains. We’re “making things” together for the global marketplace.

We’ve seen Canadian and U.S. businesses organizing themselves seamlessly across the border, trading inputs for products back and forth, investing and innovating, very often within the same company. That’s something we can all be proud of.

In fact, Canada’s successful trade partnership with the United States is inspiring a number of other efforts to expand markets, attract investment and help Canadians compete around the world.

For example, we’re moving forward with legislation in Parliament to implement free trade agreements with Colombia and Jordan. We’ve introduced legislation for a similar agreement with Panama.

And Canada is now engaged in its biggest trade negotiations since those of the North American Free Trade Agreement—negotiations with the European Union toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

These agreements hold much promise for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers. But I think that they also hold much promise for our relationship with the United States.

Any effort that brings more business to Canada will no doubt have a positive impact on trade flows throughout North America. It will increase business activity.

And it will make our continental commercial platform more competitive and attractive to global businesses and investment. That holds great potential for us all.

Facing challenges together

But a strong partnership is also about working through challenges.

Last year, in particular, we faced a big challenge: the “Buy American” provisions in the U.S. Recovery Act, which threatened the integrated supply chains we’ve created together over the decades.

Groups on both sides of the border fought hard against these provisions. They rightly argued for the need to keep the doors of opportunity open for both countries during this time of fragile economic recovery.

Together, we negotiated an exemption from many of these provisions, and ensured that free trade and cooperation would continue to be an engine of opportunity for people in both countries.

We’re now starting to work with businesses and organizations on both sides of the border to set the stage for discussions toward a more comprehensive bilateral procurement agreement for the longer term.

“Buy American” is a good example of the kind of issue that requires close, constant cooperation.

We think that our partnership is too important, to both countries, to allow challenges to grow.

That’s why U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk and I recently agreed to hold twice-yearly trade summits to resolve challenges faster and strengthen our trade partnership in other areas quickly and effectively.

I look forward to welcoming Ambassador Kirk to Ottawa in July, where we’ll have an opportunity to discuss our progress on a range of issues, including our shared border.

Future directions

Of Canada’s 20 largest cities, 17 are within an hour and a half of the border.

Many Canadian production hubs are actually closer than U.S. production sites to major U.S. markets.

This proximity is also important from an international perspective.

As Asian giants like China and India continue looking eastward toward the North American marketplace, we must step up our efforts to keep transportation links smooth, efficient and cost-effective for shippers.

Thanks to steady advocacy on the part of groups like the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada, we’ve made some excellent progress in this area.

We’ve seen an increase in the use of enhanced driver’s licences, for example. Also, more than 390,000 NEXUS cards and 80,000 FAST [Free and Secure Trade] cards have been issued. And we’ve established four dedicated FAST lanes at key crossings in Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia.

These are good examples of our shared commitment to a border that works, one that will make both countries more competitive in the years to come.

Science and technology collaboration is also fast becoming a hallmark of our partnership.

For decades, we’ve seen Canadian and American scientists and researchers working side by side to jointly develop innovative products and foster breakthroughs in technology.

The Canada-California Strategic Innovation Partnership is a good example, with people from the public and private sectors joining forces to move projects forward in areas like sustainable energy and cancer research.

Just last month, here in Ottawa, I hosted the launch of the C100 group of Canadian high-tech entrepreneurs and senior corporate executives who have been very successful in Silicon Valley.

Now they’re giving back by mentoring Canadian entrepreneurs and helping them make connections with other entrepreneurs and venture-capital pools in California.

It’s a great example of how deep Canada’s presence is in the U.S. innovation sector.

Energy cooperation is also becoming a key focus of our partnership.

Canada is already a cornerstone of North America’s energy grid. We’re the largest foreign source of U.S. energy—and that includes oil, natural gas and electricity.

We’re also a key source of the United States’ crude oil and petroleum imports. In fact, Canada supplies more crude oil to the United States than either Saudi Arabia or Mexico, and more petroleum than Saudi Arabia and Mexico combined.

In other words, Canada has a huge role to play as the United States seeks out trusted and secure energy sources for the future.

We’re also collaborating on tomorrow’s energy sources.

Last year, U.S. President [Barack] Obama and Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper announced a joint Clean Energy Dialogue to work together on issues like clean-energy research and development and the creation of a more efficient electricity grid based on clean, renewable energy sources.

This is yet another area where cooperation between our countries will be essential in the years ahead.

Conclusion: Canada-U.S. trade partnership as a model

On many fronts, Canada’s relationship with the United States is growing and expanding. Over the years, it’s become a model of a relationship that works.

But trade partnerships like ours don’t happen on their own. And they don’t end with the signing of a free trade agreement.

They depend on the constant energies and efforts of governments, and, certainly, of groups like the American Chamber of Commerce in Canada.

So let’s continue working together to strengthen Canada’s partnership with the United States. Let’s create more opportunities for Canadians and Americans alike in the years ahead.

And let’s prove to the world, through our success, that opening doors to trade and investment with global partners is the right thing to do.

Thank you.