Address by Minister Van Loan to the Polish Community Reception

No. 2010/68 - Toronto, Ontario - September 15, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Good day.

Thank you very much for that kind introduction, and for the opportunity to speak to you today.

Toronto is a great place to discover Canada’s deep European heritage.

The strong and active presence of Polish Canadians here in Toronto is a good example.

In this city—and in communities across the country—about 985,000 Polish Canadians continue to make deep and lasting contributions to every facet of our nation’s life.

These contributions remind us of the generations of Europeans from across the continent who have long played a role in building the Canada we love today.

But Canada’s relationship with Europe is about more than the past.

Thanks to the presence of people like you, the bonds between Canada and Central European countries like Poland remain strong.

That includes on the commercial side.

Canada-Poland trade and investment

Poland is our largest merchandise trading partner in Central Europe, with the exception of Germany.

Canadian companies have a strong presence in Poland—companies including Pratt & Whitney, Talisman, McCain and Bombardier.

There’s a strong Toronto contingent, as well, with companies like Wentworth Technologies of Mississauga and Vac Aero of Burlington.

This presence helped to drive more than $989 million in bilateral merchandise trade last year.

We are very excited by what Poland can offer—as a dynamic marketplace of 38 million people, and certainly as a member of the European Union.

Poland has made great strides in the years since it threw off the shackles of Communist rule and embraced an open approach to economic development.

Traditional sectors like agriculture and industry are now being complemented by a thriving services sector.

Other promising sectors for Canada include energy, including nuclear energy.

We believe that Canada can play an important role in Poland’s energy future.

Poland has also become a magnet for foreign investment, with companies around the world taking advantage of its rapidly expanding economy.

That certainly includes Canadian firms such as Pratt & Whitney and Bombardier, both of which are very active in Poland, helping to drive the stock of Canadian direct investment to $440 million in 2009.

We also see evidence of growing Polish investment into Canada, including in our mining sector.

But as we look to the future of Canada-Poland relations, we’re very excited about one opportunity in particular: our negotiations with the European Union toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

Toward a Canada-EU agreement

These negotiations—Canada’s biggest since the North American Free Trade Agreement—hold great potential to help create jobs and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic in Canada and in countries like Poland.

In fact, Poland has been a constant supporter of these negotiations from the start.

Like Canada, Poland sees the enormous benefits.

One study predicted that an agreement could boost Canada’s trade with the European Union by $38 billion within seven years of implementation.

We just completed the fourth round of negotiations, and a fifth round is just around the corner.

We’re very encouraged by our progress so far.

In fact, we are on track to concluding these negotiations by the end of 2011, during the Polish presidency of the European Union.

Once in place, an agreement would make Canada the first developed country with a free trade deal with both the United States and the European Union, the world’s two largest economies—an enormous competitive advantage for Canada.

But the benefits run both ways.

An agreement would give our European partners access to Canada’s many business advantages:

  • our open and attractive business environment;
  • the strongest fiscal position in the G-7;
  • low corporate taxes—on track to being the lowest in the G-7 by 2012;
  • a unique position in the North American marketplace of 448 million consumers;
  • a skilled workforce, with the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • a position as a tariff-free zone for manufacturing imports;
  • a strong commitment to the rule of law; and
  • a high quality of life, with safe neighbourhoods, a strong health-care system and a pristine natural environment.

Our banking system is another attraction. It is consistently ranked as one of the soundest in the world—something that did not go unnoticed during the financial meltdowns we have seen elsewhere.

So the potential benefits run both ways. But unlocking this potential requires broad support from Canada and Europe alike.

That’s where groups like yours come in.

Conclusion: Building support for free trade

As any trade negotiations move forward, we start hearing from the fringe, which opposes trade agreements like this one. These are the same voices we heard opposing previous free trade agreements, each of which has helped to create jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

We certainly heard from them when we negotiated the first free trade agreement with the United States more than 20 years ago, and, again, with the North American Free Trade Agreement—an agreement that has been enormously successful for all three countries.

The European Union’s success—like Canada’s, and indeed, like Poland’s—prove that joining forces through free and open trade makes us stronger, more prosperous and more competitive than any of our nations could be on our own.

As the global economy continues to recover, this commitment to free and open trade is more important than ever.

It’s no surprise that G-20 leaders agreed that freer global trade must be an ingredient in the economic recovery.

Canada has been a steadfast leader in this regard.

In less than four years, our government has opened doors for our businesses by concluding new free trade agreements with Colombia, Peru, Jordan, Panama and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

These are significant victories for Canadian businesses, which can now expand into these markets more easily, with more competitive terms of access than ever before.

And we’re not stopping there.

We are now engaged in free trade negotiations with the Caribbean Community, the Dominican Republic, the Republic of Korea and Ukraine, as well as the Central American Four—El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.

At the same time, we are in exploratory discussions on a comprehensive economic partnership with India—one of the world’s largest economies.

As with our negotiations with the European Union, I’ll be working closely with my officials and our partners around the world to bring these negotiations to a conclusion and create new jobs and trade opportunities for Canadians in the years ahead.

So I am counting on people in Canada and Europe alike to get behind the Canada-EU trade negotiations—and to let governments at all levels, and on both sides of the Atlantic, know it, too.

I know I can count on the support of Canada’s Polish community as we move forward.

Let’s work together to get there.

Thank you.