Address by Minister Van Loan to Surrey Board of Trade

No. 2011/7 - Surrey, British Columbia - February 24, 2011

Check Against Delivery

I’m happy to be here in British Columbia to discuss with you Canada’s economic success story—a story that you, of course, are a part of.

As you know, our government is focused on economic recovery and on helping businesses like the ones you represent succeed here at home and in the global economy.

Canada’s economy is strong

Through our Economic Action Plan, our government is making sure that Canada emerges from the economic downturn in better shape than nearly every other industrialized country.

In fact, our Economic Action Plan has helped create 460,000 jobs since July 2009—representing the strongest job growth in the G-7 between June 2009 and September 2010—and the economy has grown for five straight quarters.

We met the challenge of the global economic recession head on. But the global recovery is still fragile.

Since forming the government in 2006, we have taken action by paying down debt.

We strengthened our already strong banking system.

And we cut taxes—for Canadian working families and Canadian businesses.

So Canada has a great economic success story to tell, and the world is paying attention.

Over the past several weeks I’ve had the opportunity to share our economic success story with businesses and investors in Florida, Washington, New York and Morocco, and at the World Economic Forum in Switzerland.

In my meetings, I promoted Canada’s key competitive advantages as a business and investment 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 world’s soundest banking system, according to the World Economic Forum;
  • one of the fastest rates of economic growth in the G-7, and one that is projected to continue into the future, according to the International Monetary Fund;
  • the most skilled workforce and the highest proportion of post-secondary graduates among member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development;
  • among the most generous research and development tax incentives in the industrialized world; and
  • an outstanding quality of life, with safe streets, a high standard of living, universal health care, sound education system and a beautiful natural environment.

Another part of Canada’s economic success story is our well-deserved reputation as a free trade leader.

Ambitious free trade agenda

Our government is committed to continuing to build a stronger Canadian economy by pursuing a broad and ambitious free trade agenda.

Overall, Canada’s trade is on the upswing.

Our merchandise exports to Japan, for example, rose 10.5 percent over the previous year, and our exports to China rose 18.5 percent.

Last year saw a 10 percent increase in our merchandise trade with the United States—our top trading partner in the world—over the previous year.

We want to build on this success and open new markets for Canadians.

Since taking office, we’ve concluded free trade agreements with eight countries: Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

And we’re continuing free trade negotiations with close to 50 other countries.

This includes trade negotiations with the European Union, Canada’s second-largest trading partner.

A trade deal with the European Union could deliver a $12-billion boost to the Canadian economy and increase our trade with the European Union by over 20 percent.

I should also add that British Columbia—and your trade minister, Margaret MacDiarmid, in particular—has been a leader among the provinces in helping us deliver a broad and ambitious agreement to benefit all Canadians.

Our trade agenda also includes India, one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today.

Toward a Canada-India free trade agreement

Over the years, Canadians and Indians have worked together to create a prosperous trade relationship that benefits our countries.

Thanks to the efforts of businesses in both countries, Canada’s trade relationship with India is significant, and our bilateral merchandise trade totalled $4.2 billion last year.

Our trade in lumber is a good example of how important British Columbia is to this partnership.

Canada’s softwood lumber exports to India are increasing.

I recently announced an agreement with India that allows for increased exports of spruce, pine and fir products.

We also enjoy a 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.

Canada has completed all necessary legal steps to ratify our agreement with India on cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. This great opportunity for Canada’s nuclear industry will enter into force as soon as India confirms that it has ratified it as well.  

These are important successes, but we want to do more.

A Canada-India joint economic study concluded that a free trade agreement between our countries could boost Canada’s economy by $6 billion to $15 billion a year.

And with the strong people-to-people ties between our countries—maintained by the nearly one million Canadians of Indian descent—I have no doubt that we will meet or exceed these projections.

These numbers translate into jobs for Canadian workers.

Last fall, I joined India’s Minister of Commerce and Industry, Anand Sharma, in publicly releasing the joint study so that Canadians and Indians alike can see for themselves the great potential of a closer economic partnership between our countries.

Then, in November, Minister Sharma and I co-chaired the launch of our free trade negotiations.

The second round of talks is scheduled for this spring.

This is a great opportunity to move Canada-India trade and commercial relations forward.

Not only would an agreement give Canada better access to the growing Indian market, it would also help our Indian partners access Canada’s many economic advantages.

As Canada and India continue on the path to lasting economic recovery, we need the kinds of benefits that a free trade agreement would bring.

Conclusion

Our government is focused on economic recovery and on creating new sources of jobs and prosperity for Canadians.

Our job is to create opportunities for businesses like yours to compete and succeed in global markets. We are confident that you are up to the challenge.

That’s why key global markets like the European Union and India are at the top of our free trade agenda.

 I look forward to working with groups like your own to build on Canada’s reputation as a proud trading nation and to create the jobs and prosperity that Canadians need in the years ahead.

Thank you.