Address by Minister Van Loan to Vancouver Board of Trade

No. 2010/54 - Vancouver, British Columbia - August 17, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Canada: A Free Trade Leader

As always, I am pleased to be here on the West Coast.

It’s a bit quieter here than when I was last here—during the Olympic Games. What a proud moment the Games were for this city and our entire country.

I know that your board members took full advantage of the global attention that was focused on Vancouver this past winter to do what they do best—promote British Columbia as a key investment destination.

That is exactly what the Government of Canada has been doing.

From the Olympic Games to the G-8 and G-20 summits, Canada has been showing the world the best it has to offer.

During the global economic recession, world leaders are witnessing Canada’s economic leadership.

In fact, Canada’s approach to economic recovery closely matches the goals set out by world leaders during the G-20 Summit.

During the G-20 Summit, world leaders established firm debt-reduction targets in the coming years—something to which Canada has long been committed.

They agreed that targeted and timely stimulus is needed—but also deficit-reduction measures such as those we’re seeing in the United Kingdom, France and elsewhere.

Here again, Canada is a leader.

Our economic action plan included measures to maintain and create jobs, reduce taxes, build infrastructure and invest in skills and training for long-term prosperity.

In Budget 2010 the government set out a three-point plan to bring the budget back into balance, a plan that includes following through on the exit strategy that is built into the action plan, limiting the growth of program spending and reviewing our administrative costs. On the basis of this plan, our deficit is projected to decline by about one half between 2009-10 and 2011-12, and to be virtually eliminated by 2014–15. The IMF expects that Canada will be the only G-7 country to return to balanced budgets within the next five years.

And we’re taking steps to ensure that Canada emerges from the downturn stronger and in better fiscal shape than nearly every other industrialized country.

Canada’s economic strengths are being recognized by global organizations, including the World Economic Forum and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The G-20 world leaders are also looking to Canada for its leadership in creating solid, dependable financial institutions.

And at the summit, they agreed on something else, too—in another area where Canada is showing the world how it’s done. They agreed that strong, sustainable and balanced growth requires fighting protectionism and promoting free and open trade and investment around the world.

Real, lasting economic success depends on expanding trade relationships.

It depends on reaching beyond borders for opportunities. This has been our government’s approach all along.

Canadians understand the benefits of free trade. Look at our great success here in North America, for instance. The North American Free Trade Agreement has made all three North American countries more competitive and more attractive to foreign investment.

And trade is important for improving Canada’s productivity performance and wages for Canadian workers.

Since the North American Free Trade Agreement came into force, our merchandise trade with the United States has nearly doubled, and our trade with Mexico has more than quadrupled.

Thousands of Canadian companies seized the agreement’s opportunities and reached out to their U.S. and Mexican partners. Deal by deal, sale by sale, the success of these companies became Canada’s success.

They proved that open and free trade works to Canada’s advantage.

They also proved that free trade results in direct benefits to communities and people, creating jobs, opportunity and prosperity.

The global recession was a stark reminder of how interconnected and interdependent our economies are.

Look at how the quick and decisive action by key Asian countries during the recession stimulated not only their domestic economies, but global markets as well.

Decisions by countries to keep their doors open to trade and investment can have the same effect.

In a trade-oriented economy like Canada’s, people, jobs, communities and families rely on free and open systems of trade.

No one country can fully recover from the economic downturn in isolation from its trading partners. Strong economies depend on partnerships, not protectionism.

We actually saw a good example of this right here in North America.

As you know, the trade partnership shared by Canada and the United States is the largest bilateral trade relationship in the world.

You can point to jobs, prosperity and opportunities in both countries, and particularly here in Vancouver, that are directly supported by this relationship.

So when “Buy American” provisions cropped up in the U.S. Recovery Act [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009], our government took action.

With a chorus of support from businesses and organizations on both sides of the border, we fought hard against these provisions, arguing that the doors of opportunity must be kept open for both countries during this time of fragile economic recovery.

And together, driven by the same spirit of cooperation that has been the hallmark of our partnership for so many years, we were able to negotiate an exemption.

We’re now working with these same businesses and organizations to set the stage for discussions toward a more comprehensive bilateral procurement agreement for the longer term.

This stands as an important global lesson of the link between free and open trade, and economic recovery.

This is not the time to erect new barriers to trade. It’s the time to take barriers down. And I’m proud to say that Canada is leading by example.

For instance, we’ve taken action to eliminate all tariffs on imported manufacturing inputs, equipment and machinery, positioning Canada as the first tariff-free zone for manufacturers in the G-20.

Our manufacturers can now source their capital equipment and goods for their manufacturing process from anywhere in the world, free from duties and costly customs procedures. This will lower costs and enhance competitiveness and innovation.

It’s also an example of how a free and open approach to trade can help spur export activity and create opportunities for everybody.

Canada is also moving forward on an ambitious free trade agenda.

Our new free trade agreements with Peru and the European Free Trade Association are now in force.

In May, I joined my Panamanian counterpart [Panama’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Roberto Henríquez] to sign the Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement.

In June, we received Royal Assent to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia. We have also introduced implementing legislation for a free trade agreement with Jordan.

These are all important victories that will help Canadians working in a number of sectors succeed. But we’re not stopping there.

We’re now engaged in free trade negotiations with the Caribbean Community, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Korea, Ukraine, and the Central American Four: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

We have been working closely with India to complete a joint study that will lead to a comprehensive economic partnership agreement. We are also working with other key trading partners on a range of possible free trade agreements.

We recently concluded the fourth round of negotiations with the European Union on the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Here in British Columbia, we are moving ahead with ways to create commercial success with our Asian partners.

The Asia-Pacific Gateway Corridor Initiative is a key driver of our efforts to boost trade with big Asian economies such as China and Japan.

A great example of this continued growth is the three new gantry cranes for Deltaport in Vancouver announced earlier this year.

This world-class facility will significantly improve the region’s rail, port and trucking operations.

Through Canada’s West Coast, our country is extremely well-positioned to become the best transportation network connecting Asia and North America. Our government’s Asia-Pacific Gateway initiatives are our link to greater prosperity.

And this fall, we will bring our investment message to the front door of our Asian partners at Expo 2010 Shanghai.

Our Invest in Canada program in Shanghai, planned for October, is an extension of our successful Global Business Leaders Initiative that took place here during the Olympic Games and at the G-20 this summer.

The goal is to target global corporations that are actively looking to expand their businesses abroad.

Together, these efforts to boost trade and investment hold the potential to help Canada’s business community deepen its presence around the world.

Our government is making a focused effort to create new opportunities for Canadian businesses in markets around the world and to draw more investment to Canada.

As part of that, I’m pleased to announce that the Government of Canada is providing $2.3 million in funding to Canadian companies, under the Global Opportunities for Associations program.

These funds will help support 30 business associations across the country and help Canada’s private sector compete in the global economy.

This year’s recipients represent a range of sectors, from aerospace to arts and culture to life sciences.

This program is part of the government’s overall trade and investment strategy.

The goal is to build Canada’s capacity in strategic markets and sectors, for the benefit of entire industries.

We believe that our efforts—negotiating trade deals and promoting investment opportunities—are a model for other nations to follow as they create new opportunities for their citizens to succeed and thrive in the global economy.

We also understand the importance of attracting investment to Canada.

This year, as the eyes of the world were turned toward Canada, our government has used every opportunity to focus attention on Canada’s many business advantages:

  • an open and attractive free-enterprise environment, ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the best place to do business in the G-7 this year and over the next four years;
  • the strongest fiscal position in the G-7;
  • low corporate taxes—on track to being the lowest corporate income tax rate in the G-7 by 2012;
  • the fastest economic growth in the G-7 over the next two years, according to both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • a skilled workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • a vibrant environment for innovation, with one of the most advantageous research and development tax incentive programs in the industrialized world;
  • a strong commitment to good governance and the rule of law; and
  • a high quality of life.

Canada’s banking system is another attraction. It’s been ranked the soundest in the world by the World Economic Forum for two years running.

Even though there was a global economic downturn, Canada did not experience any bank failures, and no bailouts were required.

So when it comes to creating a strong, world-leading economy, Canada is leading the way.

I look forward to working with organizations such as yours to further promote free trade, fight protectionism and help Canadian businesses succeed in the increasingly competitive global market.

Let’s continue talking up the benefits of free and open trade to chambers of commerce, to other levels of government, to businesses, to citizen groups and to non-governmental organizations.

Let’s create a strong, sustainable, lasting recovery that benefits us all.

Thank you.