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Address by Minister Fast to Mexico Day Event

No. 2011/22 - Ottawa, Ontario - June 13, 2011

Check Against Delivery

It’s a great honour to join Secretary [of the Economy, Bruno] Ferrari, to help kick off this event and talk about what is, without a doubt, one of Canada’s most vital trade relationships.

Coming from British Columbia, I understand the importance of trade to Canadian families.

Trade is equivalent to about 60 percent of our national economy, and it supports one out of every five Canadian jobs.

As the world becomes a more competitive place, we must continue competing hard for a greater share of global business.

I know that Mexico is grappling with similar concerns.

My message to you today is that the Canada-Mexico partnership can help both our countries create jobs and opportunities for Canadians and Mexicans alike. And it can help us compete effectively against rising economic powerhouses like China, India and others.

We can be very proud of what we’ve accomplished together over the years.

When NAFTA came into force in 1994, our bilateral trade was modest.

We were “neighbours to a common neighbour”—but our trade partnership was in its infancy.

Times have changed.

People in both countries took advantage of the new access to each other’s markets. Today, we’re among each other’s top trading partners.

Think about it.

Our merchandise trade has grown by nearly 500 percent since the “pre-NAFTA” days. And Canadian direct investment in Mexico has ballooned by roughly 760 percent.

Our commercial ties have weathered the global downturn and things are starting to rebound.

Canadian companies continue to look to Mexico for investment opportunities.

The sheer numbers of Canadian companies and subsidiaries operating there—an estimated 2,600—are driving our success forward.

Companies like Scotiabank, Bombardier, Magna, Goldcorp, TransCanada Corporation, Canadian Pacific, Air Canada and many, many others are doing business in Mexico.

And large Mexican companies like Kojo Worldwide and Nemak are building a presence here in Canada, too, taking advantage of Canada’s great business environment.

Today is an opportunity to talk about how we can build on this success.

Canada has a lot to offer Mexico in many key areas—from energy, the environment and forestry, to transportation, infrastructure and high technology.

Tourism is also an important dimension of our relationship.

As Mexico’s ambassador to Canada, Francisco Barrio Terrazas—who is here with us today—said recently: “You can’t understand the relationship between Mexico and Canada without speaking of tourism.”

He pointed out that in terms of length of stay in Mexico, you’d need three Americans for every Canadian.

So tourism will remain another crucial dimension of our relationship—for Mexico’s economy, and certainly for winter-weary Canadians.

Mining is also a good example of our strong relationship—especially given that Canadians are the most important investors in Mexico’s mining industry.

We also see a lot of scope to expand our partnership in the area of science and technology.

Both countries have a lot to offer in this regard—it makes sense that we should work together to develop and commercialize new innovations for the global marketplace.

We also have a good opportunity to work together when it comes to manufacturing.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce organized an automotive task force in Saltillo [Mexico] last fall to look at ways to more closely align our supply chains.

Canada’s experience with this kind of integrated manufacturing has been very positive—with the United States, for example. Products and inputs may criss-cross the Canada-U.S. border several times during manufacturing.

We think we can realize similar benefits with Mexico.

So the promise of closer commercial ties is indeed great. And we’re taking steps to translate that promise into reality.

Canada’s team of trade commissioners in Mexico, for instance, are out there each and every day helping Canadian companies succeed in Mexico.

They’re also great points of contact for our Mexican partners, to help them discover the many advantages of doing business in Canada.

If you haven’t done so already, I urge you to get in touch with our trade commissioners in regional offices across Canada and in our embassy and two consulates in Mexico.

Find out how they can help make more connections between our markets.

Our government is also a strong supporter of the Canada-Mexico Partnership—or CMP—initiative. Many of you here today are closely involved in this effort.

Together, we’re tackling challenging issues like trade and investment, labour mobility and the environment.

I understand that this very conference stems from discussions at the CMP.

We also share a commitment to continuing to improve the NAFTA platform.

North American free trade has been enormously positive for all three countries, not only in terms of trade and investment among ourselves, but also regarding trade and investment with the world.

After all, when the world looks to North America, they don’t just see Canada or Mexico.

They see an integrated continental marketplace of some 455 million people.

They see businesses working together, and roads, highways and marine and rail systems that bind the continent together.

It’s our job to continue to improve the flow of business across our borders.

That’s why we’re taking steps to remove any remaining barriers to trade, including non-tariff barriers, and to draw more business to North America.

When it comes to competing for a greater share of global business against China, India or Brazil, the message is clear: our three North American countries are stronger together than apart.

As Canada and Mexico contemplate the future of our economies, we must make room for more collaboration, both with each other and with the United States, on a continental basis.

While we’ve come a long way since the start of NAFTA, we can’t afford to be smug. Too many jobs, and too many future opportunities—in both countries—hang in the balance.

I’m confident that today’s session will strengthen the spirit of cooperation that has defined us so far.

Let’s work together to create more successes, more jobs and more prosperity for Canadians and Mexicans alike.

Thank you.