Address by Minister Van Loan at India Speakers Series Event

No. 2010/86 - Toronto, Ontario - October 29, 2010

Check Against Delivery

I’d like to thank Blake, Cassels & Graydon for organizing this event.

A special thanks goes out to Sunny Handa, head of the firm’s India Practice and Information Technologies groups, who is also here with us today.

It’s great to be here with so many people who are committed to moving Canada’s partnership with India into the future.

The Canada-India partnership is on an exciting path—one that holds great promise for workers and job-creating businesses in both countries as we continue toward lasting economic recovery.

Path to recovery

Here in Canada, we’ve emerged from the global recession in excellent shape.

Year two of 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.

We’re on the right track.

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

Moving forward, the International Monetary Fund expects that Canada’s growth will be among the strongest of G-7 countries in 2010 and 2011.

The average forecast of private-sector economists predicts that real gross domestic product growth is expected to be 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, we’re keeping our focus on jobs and growth.

But you can’t talk about jobs and growth without talking about free trade.

Over the last four years, we’ve negotiated new trade agreements with eight countries, and we are holding negotiations with close to 50 others.

These include negotiations with the European Union toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement.

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

But as you know, we’re also on the threshold of a new partnership with India.

India’s importance

Canada has watched India’s rise with great admiration.

India’s innovative, rapidly expanding economy; growing middle class and commitment to market-based economic reforms are drawing the world’s attention.

That includes Canada’s.

Thanks to the efforts of businesses in both Canada and India, our trade relationship has grown significantly over the last few years, with bilateral merchandise trade reaching close to $4.2 billion last year.

We also enjoy a very well-developed partnership in the area of science and technology, with Canadian and Indian innovators working together on new technologies that can help drive economic growth.

Over the years, we’ve seen a number of cooperative efforts in areas like energy, agriculture and high technology.

We’ve signed a cooperation agreement in peaceful uses of nuclear energy—a great opportunity for Canada’s nuclear industry. We look forward to completing the approval process for this agreement in the near future.

We have already expanded our network of trade commissioners to help Canadian businesses, innovators and investors succeed in India.

Last year, we opened three new trade offices in India—in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad.

This makes India home to Canada’s third-largest trade network abroad, with a total of eight offices there—a strong signal of Canada’s commitment to this important market.

And we’re taking steps to strengthen our investment ties, by negotiating a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with India that will benefit investors in both countries.

These efforts are all part of our government’s commitment to deepening our economic engagement with India in the years to come.

We’ve set an ambitious goal, an increase in our bilateral trade to $15 billion annually in the next five years.

At the same time, we recognize that reaching this goal will require a broader, more fundamental approach to expanding our commercial ties than we’ve seen so far.

And here again, Canada and India are on the threshold of an exciting new development.

Toward free trade

During this summer’s G-20 Summit, Prime Minister [Stephen] Harper joined India’s Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, to welcome the conclusion of a joint study on the possibility of free trade between our two countries.

And last month, when India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry Anand Sharma visited Ottawa, we publicly released the joint study, and announced the results.

This study showed that Canada’s economy would grow by $6.15 billion as a result of a free trade agreement with India and that trade between our countries would grow by 50 percent.

Just think of the jobs and prosperity such an increase would support, at a time when our manufacturers, our agricultural sector and our economies need them most.

The study clearly shows that an agreement would be win-win.

But unlocking the benefits requires a broad base of support.

And that’s where the people in this room come in.

Conclusion

Too often, discussions about free trade get clouded by misperceptions and rhetoric.

We saw it in the debates about the North American Free Trade Agreement—an agreement that has since proven to be enormously beneficial to Canada, creating jobs and prosperity for millions of Canadians.

With India, our government sees another historic opportunity to open new doors through free trade.

And we have some powerful allies.

At the G-20 Summit, world leaders unanimously agreed that economic recovery depends on promoting free trade and investment and fighting protectionism.

Canada is a leader in opening new markets for our businesses and Canadian workers.

Our government sees free trade as critical to economic recovery and to building a strong and resilient Canadian economy in the years ahead.

Let’s work together to take the next steps in our partnership with India and create more successes for both countries in the years ahead.

Thank you.