Address by Minister Van Loan on the Occasion of the 100th Anniversary of Canada-Germany Trade Relations

No. 2010/16 - Toronto, Ontario - March 29, 2010

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Honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the friendly introduction.

It is a great honour for me to be participating in the celebrations for the hundredth anniversary of the Canadian German Chamber of Industry and Commerce.

The friendship between Canada and Germany is very important to us. To support and deepen our economic relationship is of great importance to me.

But a meaningful economic relationship can only happen through strong “people-to-people” links, built over generations.

In fact, the story of Canada’s settlement over the years simply cannot be told without talking about Germany.

You don’t have to travel far in Canada to come across a town or city that bears traces of proud German ancestry.

From Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, to Steinbach, Manitoba, our country is dotted with towns that bear the marks of German migration to Canada over the years.

In fact, nearly 10 percent of Canadians claim some German heritage, according to the 2006 census.

Over the years, these people-to-people links have blossomed into close relations on many levels.

Canada and Germany share important values and are working together to make the world a more secure and prosperous place.

Since 1955, we’ve been partners in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with close cooperation in the area of defence over the years.

Today, our two countries are making big contributions to the reconstruction of a safe and secure Afghanistan led by Afghans. 

Last year marked 20 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, one of the great turning points of the 20th century.

It marked the culmination of 40 years of foreign policy objectives pursued with our NATO allies—in the face of atrocities committed in the name of vitriolic communist ideology.

Together, our countries work to ensure that the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law always prevail. 

The fall of the Berlin Wall also reminded us that, over the years, Canada has welcomed tens of thousands of newcomers fleeing the brutality of totalitarian communist regimes.

And today, our countries continue to work together in our uncompromising opposition to terrorism, for a safe, secure and prosperous environment worldwide. We are partners rooted in our shared values with Germany, an economic powerhouse on the global stage.

With a gross domestic product of almost $4 trillion, Germany has become, by far, the largest economy in Europe.

Its strength as the top exporter and industrial locomotive of Europe gives it a reputation that the people of Germany should continue to look upon with enormous pride.

Which brings me to our own trade relationship—one with a long history.

One hundred years ago, Canada opened its first trade office in Berlin. A century has gone by and our bilateral merchandise trade has grown to $14 billion, as of last year. 

That makes Germany our sixth-largest export market—and our fifth-largest supplier of imports.

But in my view, the mark of a truly sophisticated commercial relationship isn’t measured by imports and exports alone. It’s also measured by the depth of our cooperation in other areas.

For example, our two countries are close partners on the science and technology front. It’s impossible not to be deeply impressed by Germany’s performance in science, technology and innovation.

Canada, too, has much to offer, from our own history of innovation and scientific excellence, to our population, which has the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, to our growing reputation for green-energy technology and expertise.

For nearly 40 years, scientists and researchers from our two countries have worked together on more than 500 joint projects through our bilateral Science and Technology Agreement.

From cutting-edge research into infectious diseases, to breakthroughs in aerospace and medicine—we’ve demonstrated, time and time again, a true commitment to working together to push the boundaries of science and technology.

Look also at our investment relations.

Germany is the eighth-largest foreign investor in Canada, while Canadian firms hold about $10.5 billion in direct investment in Germany.

It’s great to see so many Canadian and German companies doing business in each other’s market.

To build on this success, Canada’s trade commissioners posted across Germany are taking every opportunity to remind our partners about Canada’s considerable investment advantages:

  • the soundest banking system in the world;
  • our low corporate taxes—on track to being the lowest in the G7; and
  • our unparalleled access to the North American market.

So from trade and investment to cooperation in science and technology, our partnership is firing on all cylinders—with great prospects for the future.

We’re on the threshold of a new relationship with Germany—with all of the European Union, in fact.

As you may know, we’re working closely with the European Union to negotiate a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

It’s an initiative with roots in Germany—it was conceived at the Canada-European Union Summit in Berlin in 2007, when Germany held the Presidency of the European Union.

For our government, this is—without a doubt—the most ambitious trade initiative we’ve undertaken since the North American Free Trade Agreement. We look forward to advancing these discussions and ensuring that together, we will expand market access in the face of economic uncertainty and unite against the forces of protectionism.

As Canada and our European partners such as Germany continue on the road to lasting economic recovery, we need the kind of benefits that closer trade ties would bring.

A successful agreement will help us get there.

So as we celebrate 100 years of commercial relations, let’s also look to the future—a future that includes closer Canadian economic relations with Germany, and indeed, with all of our European partners.

Thank you.