Address by Minister Van Loan to Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce

No. 2010/88 - Montreal, Quebec - November 1, 2010

Check Against Delivery

I understand this represents the inaugural event of the Montreal chapter of the Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce, so it is indeed an honour to be here.

All of you appreciate the importance, as I do, of reaching beyond our borders for opportunities.

Trade creates prosperity, and it supports jobs—including jobs here in Quebec.

So as Canada’s—and Quebec’s—economy continues to recover, we need to help businesses like the ones you represent break into more markets around the world.

This is a key part of our government’s strategy for economic recovery.

Canada’s economy is on the right track

We’ve emerged from the global recession in excellent shape.

Year two of our government’s Economic Action Plan included measures to maintain and create jobs, reduce taxes, build infrastructure and invest in skills and training for long-term prosperity.

We’re on the right track.

In fact, Canada has recouped virtually all of the output lost during the recession.

The International Monetary Fund predicts that Canada will lead the G-7 countries in economic growth in 2010 and 2011.

The average forecast of private sector economists calls for real gross domestic product growth of 1.8 percent in the third quarter of 2010, and about 2.5 percent over the next three quarters.

While the recovery remains fragile, we’re proud of our achievements so far.

To maintain momentum, our government is committed to keeping the focus on jobs and growth.

Free trade is a critical part of our strategy.

Our government knows that economic recovery is not possible without an aggressive free trade agenda to open new markets and new opportunities for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers.

Like Australia, we’re committed to reaching an ambitious and balanced conclusion to the World Trade Organization’s Doha Round.

But we are also committed to an ambitious agenda of free trade negotiations.

That’s why, over the last four years, we’ve negotiated new free trade agreements with eight countries, and we are pursuing ongoing negotiations with close to 50 others.

That includes negotiations toward a broad trade agreement with the European Union.

The Canada-European Union trade negotiations have a strong level of interest and support from Quebec’s business community.

Canada’s provinces and territories are actively engaged in the negotiations on areas wholly or partially under their jurisdiction.

We appreciate their efforts and support.

We just wrapped up the fifth round of negotiations, in Ottawa, and we’re well on track to completing negotiations by the end of next year.

But as we move forward, we’re also maintaining a clear focus on opportunities with our Asia-Pacific partners.

That group includes Australia.

Canada-Australia trade

Our partnership takes many forms, from our ties to the Commonwealth, our shared values and our similar parliamentary systems to our joint efforts in Afghanistan and at the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation to the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit each other’s country every year.

Our trade ties are also a key part of our relationship.

They’ve come a long way since Canada sent its first trade commissioner—John Short Larke—to Sydney 116 years ago.

Our merchandise trade reached $3.4 billion last year, and our stock of two-way direct investment was worth almost $17.6 billion.

That’s a great performance, especially considering the global economic downturn.

It also makes Australia Canada’s fifth most important merchandise export market outside of North America and Western Europe, our top destination for Canadian direct investment in Asia Pacific, and our third-largest source of investment from that region.

Canadian businesses appreciate the Australian market for a number of reasons.

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—our countries moved through the crisis in good shape.

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

In the same way that Canada offers access to the North American marketplace, Australia is a geographic and economic gateway to Asia.

Australia has sharpened this competitive edge with a very successful free trade agenda—including an agreement with the Southeast Asian family of nations and ongoing negotiations with China, Japan, the Republic of Korea and many others.

So Canadians are very excited about doing more business in Australia.

Canada also offers key competitive advantages as a destination for investment:

  • 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 soundest banking system in the world, for the third year in a row, according to the World Economic Forum;
  • the G-7’s strongest fiscal position in the G-7, and its first projected balanced budget over the medium-term;
  • the lowest corporate taxes on new business investment in the G-7;
  • one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the G-7 in 2010 and 2011, according to the International Monetary Fund, and being the first G-7 country to return to pre-crisis levels of real GDP;
  • the position as the first “tariff-free zone” in the G-20 for manufacturing imports;
  • 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;
  • a vibrant environment for innovation, with one of the most advantageous research and development tax incentive programs in the industrialized world; and
  • a strong commitment to good governance and the rule of law.

We’re also 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 in an effort to boost trade with Asian economies like China, South Korea, Japan and—certainly—Australia.

Through Canada’s west coast, our country is becoming the premier transportation network linking Asia and North America.

So where do we go from here?

Taking the next step

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 services.

Over the years, Canada has demonstrated strong capabilities in all of these sectors—sectors that are all 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.

Our government’s aggressive free trade agenda in the Asia-Pacific region also includes free trade negotiations with South Korea, strengthening of our commercial and economic ties with Japan, and our trade and investment framework arrangement with the Southeast Asian group of nations.

We’re also pursuing negotiations toward foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Mongolia.

Our government believes that the current challenging economic times call for freer trade and investment, not protectionism.

That applies to the Asia-Pacific region.

And it applies to our partners in Australia.

Conclusion

But governments can’t create these opportunities on our own.

We also need the vision, efforts and energies of our business communities.

We’re counting on you to continue lending your support to our government’s efforts to open new markets for Canadian businesses and new opportunities for Canadian workers.

Together, we can move our economies further on the path to lasting recovery and create the opportunities our citizens are looking for.

Thank you.