Address by Minister Van Loan to APEC Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Summit

No. 2010/92 - Yokohama, Japan - November 11, 2010

Check Against Delivery

I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words about Canada’s commitment to helping our businesses—large, medium and small—succeed in global markets.

I’d like to recognize the efforts of the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry and congratulate the Chamber on this important event.

Small and medium-sized businesses are the backbone of the global economy.

They’re certainly critical to the Canadian economy.

Canada is home to nearly 2.4 million small and medium-sized businesses.

Their efforts are especially important considering that Canada is a trading nation, highly dependent on reaching beyond its borders for opportunities.

With these businesses representing close to 36 percent of the value of our exports, it’s easy to see why our government is committed to helping them succeed in global markets.

When our businesses succeed, Canadians succeed.

That’s why we’re setting the right economic foundations that can help our businesses thrive.

Laying the right economic foundations

Canada has emerged from the global recession in excellent shape.

We’ve put in place measures to maintain and create jobs, reduce taxes, build infrastructure and invest in skills and training for long-term prosperity.

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

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

The International Monetary Fund expects that Canada will have one of the strongest averages of growth among G-7 countries over 2010 and 2011.

In other words, we’ve put in place the right economic fundamentals—ones that will keep our economy moving forward and help our businesses thrive.

They include an ambitious free trade agenda.

Canada as a free trade leader 

Canadians have long understood the vital link between our economic success at home and the ability of our businesses to succeed around the world.

Our great success as a partner in the North American Free Trade Agreement is a clear example.

The agreement has created jobs and prosperity for millions of Canadians.

Since the start of the global downturn, Canada’s approach has been to promote free trade, keep markets open and fight protectionism.

We have led by example.

In just four years, we’ve completed new trade agreements with eight countries, and we’re in negotiations with close to 50 others.

That includes our most ambitious free trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement—our trade negotiations with the European Union.

We are also focused on the Asia-Pacific region.

For example, we’re exploring the possibility of an economic partnership agreement with Japan.

A joint Canada-Japan study in 2007 found that eliminating trade tariffs would bring economic benefits to Japan worth almost US$6.2 billion, and boost Japanese exports by US$2.4 billion.

It’s a great example of how we can take a mature, sophisticated trade relationship and open new doors of opportunity for Canadian and Japanese businesses, innovators and investors.

We also strongly support regional economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region and work toward creating an Asia-Pacific free trade area as a long-term objective.

Canada is also pursuing other initiatives in the region, including our free trade negotiations with the Republic of Korea and our trade and investment framework arrangement with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

We’re also pursuing negotiations toward foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with partners in the region, including China, India, Indonesia and Vietnam.

All of these initiatives complement our commitment to bringing the Doha Round negotiations to an ambitious and balanced conclusion.

Through all these efforts, our government is taking steps to help Canadian businesses succeed in a range of global markets—across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

Supporting our businesses

We’re also supporting them through the Trade Commissioner Service.

It’s essential to have qualified people, strategically positioned around the world, to help our businesses and investors expand their markets.

Across Canada, in the Asia-Pacific region and in more than 150 countries around the world, our trade commissioners are supporting thousands of Canadian companies.

Since 2006, our government has opened six new trade offices in China and three in India.

Canada’s trade commissioners are helping to match Canadian expertise and products with the growing demand across the Asia-Pacific region for Canadian food, metals, energy, engineering and construction services, transportation, financial services, and the list goes on and on.

They’re also telling our global partners about Canada’s success story and our competitive advantages as a business destination. These include:

  • 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 strongest fiscal position in the G-7, and being the first G-7 country to project a balanced budget over the medium term;
  • the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment within the G-7;
  • one of the fastest economic growth rates 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 gross domestic product;
  • our 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;
  • a high 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.

Canada also enjoys the “gift of geography.”

Positioned on the Pacific Rim, we’ve developed an increasingly integrated system of ports, airports, road and rail connections that link both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to the North American heartland.

Through Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative, we’re working with all levels of government and the private sector to dramatically expand our transportation infrastructure on Canada’s west coast.

We want to see more trans-Pacific business with economies like China, South Korea, Southeast Asia, Japan and Australia coming to North America through Canada’s gateway.

Conclusion

These are just some of our government’s efforts to help Canada’s businesses and investors build more links to the global economy.

We’re very proud of our leadership in this area, and we look forward to working with our friends and partners across the Asia-Pacific region—and indeed, around the world—to create the jobs and opportunities that will help us all further along the road to lasting recovery.

Thank you.