Address by Minister Fast to Opening Session of Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission Meeting

No. 2011/19 - Ottawa, Ontario - June 2, 2011

Check Against Delivery

I’d like to start by welcoming Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov to Canada, and to our nation’s capital of Ottawa.

Much like Moscow, Ottawa winters can be harsh. So it’s a pleasure to welcome you here during a more temperate time of year.

I’d like to start by recognizing the efforts of the various [Canada-Russia Intergovernmental Economic Commission (IEC)] working groups.

Representatives of these groups—from both countries—are here with us today.

I’d also like to recognize our friends from our respective business, agricultural and innovation sectors.

This commission is all about helping these sectors succeed. Its input and advice are essential.

I’d also like to acknowledge the many representatives of the Canada-Russia Business Council and the Canada-Eurasia-Russia Business Association who are present with us.

I understand yesterday’s meetings were very productive, and I look forward to hearing about the results in more detail today.

And I’d like to thank First Deputy Prime Minister Zubkov for his active role in strengthening our ties, and for being a steadfast advocate of Canada in Russia.

The large number of people joining us today—from business and government alike—stands as a clear sign of our broad commitment to deepening our partnership.

Our partnership includes—but goes far beyond—our common northern identity, our wealth of natural resources and, of course, our great love of hockey. Many of you will have noted the thrilling finish to yesterday’s game one of the Stanley Cup finals.

Our partnership with Russia includes undeniable signs that our trade and investment are on the rise.

Canada has long appreciated what Russia can offer as a business partner.

Over the last decade, Russia has built on its position as a hub of Eurasian trade.

It has emerged as the world’s 11th-largest economy—a great achievement.

Russia is now home to a growing number of globally active companies—some of whose representatives are here with us today.

And we’re very happy that Russia is discovering what Canadian companies can offer.

We’re seeing companies like Bombardier, Magna, RIM and many others becoming more involved in the Russian market.

They’re being joined by many small and medium-sized firms that are also seeking out opportunities there.

I also note the Canadian and Russian architects and engineers working side by side on projects related to the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014.

With so much to offer each other, it should come as no surprise that we’ve built a solid trade relationship.

Canadian exports have increased by more than 300 percent over the last decade.

Even though our trade partnership weakened following the 2009 global financial crisis, that crisis is now over, and we’re seeing a rebound, with nearly $3 billion in two-way merchandise trade last year.

My message to you today is simple—we cannot take this progress for granted.

Our job is to build on our success, and create new opportunities in a range of areas that will spark new jobs and prosperity for hard-working Canadians and Russians alike.

The IEC’s work is an essential part of this effort.

As Canada’s new trade minister, I was very interested to learn about this commission’s progress over the years.

It’s amazing what’s been accomplished since last year.

We’ve seen Canadian companies like Kinross and MDA make new inroads into the Russian market.

And we’ve seen Toronto’s nanoCAP join forces with Rusnano to create a $100-million fund to support commercially viable nanotechnology projects in both countries.

Beyond these individual successes, the IEC plays a key role in strengthening two-way communications between our governments, and providing networking opportunities among businesses.

The working groups within the IEC are deepening our cooperation in a number of areas, and I look forward to hearing about your progress on various fronts.

Agriculture, for example: the group’s work to date has brought our agriculture industries closer together.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the livestock sector.

I understand that yesterday’s livestock forum generated significant interest from Canadian and Russian industry representatives.

The construction working group is helping to identify challenges faced by Canadian companies wanting to do business in Russia.

The working group on the Arctic and the North is focusing on initiatives like transportation and projects important to our indigenous peoples.

I’m also glad to see that new business opportunities in areas like the environment and tourism are being considered.

It’s good to see that our shared interest and expertise in the energy and mining sectors are also being explored through the working groups.

Both countries have developed a lot of expertise in these areas. It simply makes sense that we work together on these issues.

And a newcomer this year is the working group on space. Russia has a long, proud history of space exploration—culminating in this year’s 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin’s historic voyage into space in 1961.

Canada, too, has its share of pride in this area—from the Canadarm used on the space shuttles, to our many astronauts who have contributed to space-exploration efforts.

That includes our close cooperation with Russia and other countries on the International Space Station.

I look forward to future discussions and cooperation in this important area.

We’ve also identified areas where we can expand our cooperation.

The science and technology round table is a good example.

While we’ve made a good start, we need more scientists, researchers and academics from our countries working together on joint projects.

In fact, later today, our countries will sign a joint statement on cooperation in science, technology and innovation that will help us do exactly this.

Another example of cooperation between our two countries is the investment round table.

Canada is committed to boosting two-way investment between our countries.

Canadian companies are certainly interested in investing in Russia—especially as Russia continues taking steps to create a more predictable and secure investment environment.

And we’re very focused on getting the message out there that Canada is a great place for Russian investment.

From our low taxes, to our excellent growth prospects, to our strong, stable economy, there are a number of excellent reasons why global investors—including those from Russia—should look here to Canada.

In summary, we’re proud of our successful partnership.

And as this commission proves, we’re serious about creating more successes in the years to come.

All of you here today are part of this effort.

As Canada’s Minister of International Trade, I look forward to doing my part to carry our partnership forward, turn the great potential into reality, and create new jobs and prosperity for people in both our countries.

Thank you.