Address by Minister Van Loan to the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce

No. 2010/72 - Toronto, Ontario - September 17, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Thank you for that kind introduction, and for the opportunity to join you here today, during an important year for Canada-Australia relations.

This year marks an important anniversary—70 years since the Australian High Commission opened in Ottawa.

For seven decades, dedicated diplomats like High Commissioner Justin Brown [Australia’s High Commissioner to Canada], here with us today, have kept the ties between our nations strong.

We should also pay tribute to Canada’s first trade commissioner—John Short Larke, who was sent to Sydney 115 years ago.

I understand that your Chamber is also celebrating an anniversary—its fifth.

While the time has been short, the achievements have been great—from zero to more than 1,000 members in both countries in five short years.

Whether through collaborative trade missions or other networking initiatives, your efforts are helping us create more successes within our commercial partnership.

The work that groups like your own do to bridge the distance between our countries is greatly valued by our government—and I know by the Government of Australia, too.

Moving forward—especially as we continue engaging the new administration in Canberra—we’ll continue to rely on your advice, vision and support as we create more connections between us in the years ahead.

Canada and Australia

Politically, historically, socially and economically, Canada and Australia have much in common.

We’re both members of the Commonwealth, with deep roots in the Parliamentary system of government.

Our people-to-people links are also strong, with hundreds of thousands of tourists travelling to each other’s country each year.

We’re often close partners on the global stage—whether in rebuilding Afghanistan, participating at the United Nations or the World Trade Organization, or cooperating through the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.

We’re also geographic and economic “gateways”—to Asia and North America, respectively.

We’re committed free traders—Australia’s great success with free trade agreements, especially in Asia, mirrors many of Canada’s successes in the Americas and around the world.

Canadian companies have long looked to Australia as a strategic partner in reaching markets like China, Japan and Southeast Asian nations.

And on a bilateral level, we’ve established a broad range of long-standing commercial ties—with last year’s merchandise trade reaching $3.4 billion, and our stock of two-way direct investment almost $17.6 billion.

That makes Australia Canada’s fifth-most important merchandise export market outside of North America and Western Europe.

It’s also our top destination for Canadian direct investment in the Asia-Pacific—and our third-largest source of investment from that region.

Successes like these will become even more important, especially as our two countries move further along the path to lasting economic recovery.

The path to recovery

Like Canada, Australia fared better than most during the recent economic downturn.

Thanks to sound, well-capitalized, well-regulated financial institutions—and a commitment to timely, targeted action to bolster our economies—both countries moved through the crisis in good shape.

In fact, our countries’ approaches to economic recovery closely match the goals set out by world leaders during the G-20 Summit held in Toronto in June.

At the summit, leaders established firm debt-reduction targets in the coming years—something to which Canada and Australia have both long been committed.

Leaders also underscored their commitment to reforming international monetary institutions. This is something we both know a lot about, as demonstrated by the strength of our banking and financial systems.

And our governments have both demonstrated a clear focus on timely, targeted stimulus.

Here in Canada, for example, 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 year two of Canada’s Economic Action Plan, the government set out a three-point plan to bring the budget back into balance. This plan includes a built-in exit strategy that limits the growth of program spending and reviews government administrative costs.

On the basis of the Economic Action Plan, our deficit is projected to decline by about one half between 2009-2010 and 2011-2012—and to be virtually eliminated by 2014-2015.

The International Monetary Fund expects that Canada will be the only G-7 country to return to a balanced budget 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 offers:

  • an open and attractive free-enterprise environment, ranked by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the best place in which 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, according to both the International Monetary Fund and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development [OECD];
  • the first tariff-free zone in the G-20 for manufacturing imports;
  • a skilled workforce, with one of the highest proportions of post-secondary graduates among OECD countries;
  • 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.

But like Australia, another key to Canada’s economic success is our commitment to free trade.

Canada and Australia: Leaders in free trade

We applaud Australia’s many successes in this area—including its free trade agreement with the Southeast Asian family of nations, and its ongoing negotiations with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and many others.

Like Australia, we’re committed to reaching an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round. But we’re also moving forward on our aggressive free trade agenda.

That’s why, in less than four years, we’ve concluded new free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, 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, on more competitive terms of access than ever before.

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

And we recently concluded the fourth round of negotiations with the European Union—part of the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement. The fifth round is just around the corner.

These negotiations hold great potential to help create jobs and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

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

We’re very encouraged by our progress so far.

In fact, we’re 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. This would be an enormous competitive advantage for Canada.

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

I’ll be working closely with our partners around the world to bring these negotiations to a conclusion and create new trade opportunities for Canada in the years ahead.

In the midst of these efforts, we continue to see our partnership with Australia as an engine of opportunity in the years ahead.

Moving the partnership forward

While our trade partnership is already well diversified, we see a lot of scope to expand our trade in areas like high technology, life sciences and environmental expertise.

Over the years, Canada has demonstrated strong capabilities in all of these sectors—sectors that are important parts of Australia’s economy.

Also, Canada’s defence industry can offer a lot to our Australian partners as they follow up on 2009’s Defence White Paper, which calls for a dramatic expansion of Australia’s national defence infrastructure and equipment.

To help us make these connections, we’re counting on the excellent support of our trade commissioners.

Our trade commissioners in Australia—and in regional offices across Canada, including right here in Toronto—specialize in every sector, and are excellent points of contact for Canadian companies looking to expand into markets like Australia.

They’re also good contacts for our Australian partners who are looking to tap into Canadian excellence in a number of areas.

We’re also watching the Trans-Pacific Partnership with interest.

We’re studying the initiative carefully to see if it will be a good fit for Canada’s trade interests.

We look forward to remaining actively engaged with Australia as the talks develop.

And we’re taking every opportunity to tell our Australian partners about Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.

Working with all levels of government and the private sector, we’re dramatically expanding our transportation infrastructure on Canada’s west coast, all in an effort to boost trade with Asian economies like China, South Korea, Japan and—certainly—Australia.

A great example of this continued growth was the announcement earlier this year of three new gantry cranes at Deltaport in Vancouver.

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

Through Canada’s west coast, our country is extremely well positioned to become the best transportation network connecting Asia and North America.

Conclusion

Ladies and gentlemen, these are just a few of the many areas in which Canada and Australia can deepen our partnership in the years to come.

Australia’s example to the world—like Canada’s—is one of economic freedom, and openness to trade and competition.

We’re leading by example—through our aggressive trade strategies, our comprehensive responses to economic recovery, and the continued willingness of our businesses and investors to build links to the world.

But we’re also leaders when it comes to our own well-developed commercial partnership.

Together, we’re building opportunities that will benefit Canadians and Australians alike.

Partnerships like ours stand as important examples to the world—examples of the power of cooperation, and of free trade.

Your chamber is an important part of this relationship, and I look forward to working with you to create even greater successes for Canada and Australia alike in the years to come.

Thank you.