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Address by Minister Van Loan at a Vancouver Press Conference

No. 2011/6 - Vancouver, British Columbia - February 23, 2011

Check Against Delivery

It’s a pleasure to be here in British Columbia to talk about the future of Canada’s trade with Asia.

The economy remains our government’s number one priority. With the economic recovery still fragile, we are focused on creating jobs and economic growth. 

For the past five years, the Harper government has pursued an ambitious free trade agenda focused on opening markets for Canadian businesses and creating jobs for Canadian workers.

Since 2006, our government has signed new free trade agreements with eight countries: Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

We are also continuing negotiations with close to 50 other countries.

Our agenda stands in contrast to the track record of the previous government, which only signed three trade agreements on behalf of Canadians in 13 years—one with Chile, one with Costa Rica and one with Israel. This modest performance followed that government’s 1988 campaign against free trade with the United States and its promise in 1993 to end NAFTA. 

So it’s no surprise that the former government did not want to remind Canadians of these foolish positions once the success of free trade became obvious. Instead, it put all of its eggs in one basket, so to speak—that basket being the World Trade Organization. Clearly, that was a mistake.

We would not repeat that mistake—not as the government of a country as dependent on trade as Canada. Instead, we are embarking on an ambitious free trade agenda.

Our efforts have paid off.

While our government remains committed to the successful outcome of the Doha Round, we can’t take the risk of betting the fortunes of Canadians on that alone.

We know that Canadian jobs depend on our government unlocking the opportunities that free trade agreements between Canada and the world’s key markets can offer.

That is why our government has also launched discussions on economic partnership with two of the world’s largest economies, the European Union and India.

Today, I am pleased to add to our growing list of trade initiatives.

I’m pleased to announce that the Government of Canada and the Government of Japan will be moving forward on a Joint Study to examine the benefits of an Economic Partnership Agreement.

A comprehensive and ambitious agreement between Canada and Japan would include more than just free trade—it would open one of the world’s largest and wealthiest markets to Canadian exporters, encourage economic growth and create jobs in both of our countries.

When I visited Japan last spring, and again in the fall, I met with my counterpart, the Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, as well as with business leaders to discuss the opportunities for stronger commercial ties between Canada and Japan.

In these meetings I highlighted the potential for success that could result from a free trade agreement between our countries.

And I am pleased that, with today’s announcement, the Japanese government is recognizing that opening markets and increasing trade with Canada will result in significant economic benefits for Japan.

Japan’s government has proposed a new Basic Policy on Comprehensive Economic Partnerships—a significant opening to the world.

That important signal by Japan has made today’s announcement possible.

We warmly welcome this major development. As I’ve said in the past, we’ve always thought that Canada should be at the top of a Japanese free trade agenda.

Canada is proud of its partnership and friendship with the people and government of Japan.

As a result of more than a century of Japanese immigration to Canada, our countries enjoy strong people-to-people ties. Canada is immensely enriched because of the contributions of over 98,000 Japanese-Canadians.

We’re both committed to a secure, prosperous and peaceful Asia-Pacific region.

We also have a long track record of cooperation in global organizations like the G-8, the World Trade Organization and the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum.

Japan is Canada’s second-largest merchandise trade partner in Asia and our top investment partner in the region.

And our economic success story shows why Canada makes such a good partner:

  • a tax system that features the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment among the major developed economies of the G-7;
  • the lowest debt and deficit outlook of these major economies;
  • the fastest economic growth in the G-7, projected to continue into the future, according to the International Monetary Fund;
  • the world’s soundest banking system, according to the World Economic Forum;
  • a tariff-free zone for manufacturing inputs;
  • the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • an outstanding quality of life; and
  • the most generous research and development tax incentives in the industrialized world.

The Harper government’s low-tax plan for the economy is helping to attract job-creating businesses to Canada and helping Canadian workers compete.

We already know that Canadian companies can compete—and win—with the best in the world.

But if we hike taxes on Canadian workers and businesses—as the opposition party demands—we will be asking them to compete at a disadvantage.

Our government will not do this.

We won’t hike taxes on job-creating businesses as we implement our plan to support Canada’s economic recovery.

And our plan is working: Statistics Canada recently released data that showed Canada with a $3.0-billion trade surplus and a 10-percent increase in merchandise exports in December 2010.

Free trade creates jobs for workers and opportunities for businesses. It also helps create more competitive and global Canadian businesses, and an improved standard of living for Canadian families and workers.

And I am pleased to launch the Canada-Japan Joint Study to move the Harper government’s broad and ambitious free trade agenda forward for the benefit of Canada’s businesses, workers and economy.

And now I’d like to invite Minister [Stockwell] Day—President of the Treasury Board and the Minister responsible for the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative—to say a few words.

Thank you.