Address by Minister Van Loan to Canadian Italian Business and Professional Association

No. 2010/82 - Concord, Ontario - October 21, 2010

Check Against Delivery

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today about our government’s free trade agenda—including our efforts to create more jobs and prosperity through free trade with the European Union.

It’s a vast understatement to say that Europe is an important part of Canada’s cultural heritage.

Over the last century, Toronto and the Greater Toronto Area have literally brought the world to our door.

Over the decades, Italian Canadians—who now number 1.4 million—have made a wide range of contributions to Canada’s history, from coast to coast to coast.

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

Because of the presence of people like you, the bonds between Canada and European countries like Italy remain strong.

That includes those on the commercial side.

Over the years—thanks to businesses like the ones you represent—Canada and Europe have developed a history of commercial success.

We’re committed to expanding this success in the years ahead.

Our trade commissioners in Europe and across Canada, including in our regional office right here in Toronto, are actively working to match Canadian expertise with European demand.

We’re also very excited about one key opportunity: our negotiations with the European Union toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

This agreement, which would be Canada’s biggest trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement, holds great potential to help create jobs and prosperity on both sides of the Atlantic.

The potential benefits are great.

One study predicted that an agreement could boost Canada’s economy by at least $12 billion, and increase our trade with the European Union by 20 percent.

On Monday, I launched the fifth round of negotiations toward a trade agreement with the European Union in Ottawa.

We’re very encouraged by our progress so far.

In fact, we’re on track to concluding the negotiations by the end of 2011.

Once in place, a trade agreement would provide an enormous competitive advantage for Canada.

Canada will be the only developed economy with free trade agreements with the two largest and wealthiest economies in the world, the United States and the European Union.

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

  • 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;
  • an outstanding quality of life, with safe neighbourhoods, a strong health-care system and a pristine natural environment;
  • a position as a tariff-free zone for manufacturing imports; and
  • a strong commitment to the rule of law.

Our banking system is another attraction.

It’s consistently ranked as one of the soundest in the world—something that did not go unnoticed during the financial meltdowns we saw elsewhere.

So the potential benefits run both ways.

As G-20 leaders affirmed at their meeting here in Toronto in June, these challenging economic times call for more partnerships, not fewer.

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

Canada has been a steadfast leader in this regard.

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

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

And we’re not stopping there.

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

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

Our negotiations with the European Union are an important part of our efforts to open doors for Canadian businesses.

As we move forward on these initiatives, I’ll be working closely with departmental officials and our partners around the world to bring negotiations to a conclusion and create new jobs and trade opportunities for Canada in the years ahead.

And I’ll be counting on the support, advice and vision of people like you to get behind these efforts, and let governments at all levels, and partners on both sides of the Atlantic, know it, too.

Thank you.