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Address by Minister Fast at the Plenary Session of the Canadian Trade Mission to Brazil

No. 2011/27 - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - June 27, 2011

Check Against Delivery

This is my first trip abroad since becoming Canada’s Minister of International Trade, and I want to share my excitement at being here in one of the world’s most dynamic economies—not to mention one of the world’s most beautiful cities.

Brazil’s time has come.

Canadians are very excited about Brazil’s rising position in—and its influence on—the global economy. Moreover, we think that Canada can be a good partner for Brazil as it continues on its extraordinary journey.

I am very fortunate to be joined on this visit by a top-notch delegation of Canadian businesses. They have a lot to offer in many sectors that are key to Brazil’s current and future infrastructure needs.

Across both government and industry, we are committed to broadening our partnership with this country. It is a partnership with deep roots. Canadian companies have been actively engaged in Brazil since the turn of the 20th century, with the start of the São Paulo Tramway, Light and Power Company.

We are also working side-by-side in various groups like the United Nations, the Organization of American States, the WTO and the OECD [Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development].

We are close partners in Haiti, as we work together to help that country rebuild and find the security Haitians so desperately need.

Canada is working closely with Brazil at the G-20 to develop a framework for strong, sustainable and balanced growth, so we can avoid the problems we faced during the global economic crisis.

We are close collaborators on the science and technology front—thanks to our bilateral agreement in this area, in force since April 2010. In fact, we just hosted the inaugural joint committee meeting in Ottawa last week.

Canadian and Brazilian scientists and innovators are working together on a number of projects related to life sciences, renewable energy and high technology.

We are also proud of our strong people-to-people ties—such as the exchange of tourists, students, business people and youth between our two our countries every year.

And our trade partnership—which is our primary focus today—is dynamic. Brazil is Canada’s top trading partner in South America.

Our bilateral trade weathered the recession well, reaching $5.9 billion last year—a 40-percent increase from 2009.

To build on this, officials in both countries are working together to continue developing business ties through the Canada-Brazil Joint Economic and Trade Council.

The Council is working on a number of issues—globally and bilaterally—including discussions about trade and investment barriers that can emerge in a large, diverse trade relationship like ours.

The Council has been a great sign of our joint commitment to growing this trade partnership. We look forward to building on its success in coming years.

Investment is another cornerstone of our relationship—with over $23 billion in two-way investment as of 2010. This is driven by over 400 Canadian companies operating in Brazil—companies like Brookfield Asset Management, Research in Motion, Telesat, SNC-Lavalin and Kinross. 

And Brazil is the eighth-highest source of foreign direct investment in Canada, thanks to firms like Vale, Votorantim, Gerdau and Ambev.

As these successes prove, there is an extraordinary match between what Brazil and Canada are looking for as we expand our economies and create jobs for people in both countries.

My visit this week is all about exploring new opportunities to bring our businesses together.

After all, trade and investment opportunities do not simply materialize out of thin air. They are the direct result of showcasing our capabilities directly to our partners. That’s what we’re doing here this week.

I am taking every opportunity to tell our Brazilian partners about key Canadian strengths like energy, mining, telecommunications, and oil and gas.

Infrastructure is a particular focus of this visit. As Brazil embarks on the second phase of its Growth Acceleration Program—and prepares to host the world at the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics—it should be taking advantage of what Canada can offer in this area. Canadian companies are eager to share their expertise.

Our companies—like many of the ones joining me here today—are world leaders in construction, transportation and infrastructure development.

And Canada has a lot of recent experience in infrastructure development and in preparing for major events.

The 2010 Olympic Games in Vancouver were a big success, proving that Canada can help manage and complete capital projects of great complexity.

We have a great track record in the design and implementation of sustainable and intelligent transportation systems.

We also specialize in “green” technology and engineering.

We can help Brazil implement the security systems it will no doubt need to handle the millions of international visitors expected for both events.

And Canadian companies are actively exploring other infrastructure opportunities, like the development of the Suape Port and Industrial Complex in Pernambuco.

Boosting two-way investment is another focus of this visit.

As I said earlier, we have a substantial investment partnership—a partnership that has strong growth potential. 

Canada is committed to increasing the number of companies active here in Brazil. We are also taking every opportunity to tell our Brazilian partners about Canada’s many economic strengths.

Like Brazil, Canada has emerged from the global economic crisis in good shape, compared to many of our G-8 and OECD peers.

We now enjoy the strongest fiscal position in the G-7. And we are on track to return to balanced budgets well before these same countries.

Our growth prospects are excellent.

The IMF reports that we have among the fastest rates of economic growth among G-7 nations.

We think that our Brazilian partners should be looking at our many economic advantages—as a market in our own right, and as a gateway to the lucrative North American market.

But Canada also understands that translating these many trade and investment opportunities into reality requires a strong commitment on the part of government to provide the services and tools that businesses need.

For example, Canada has a talented team of trade commissioners working from six offices in Brazil—in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Recife, Porto Alegre and Brasilia.

They are actively working with Canadian businesses to help them connect to opportunities here. And they provide a great point of contact for our Brazilian partners to tap into what Canada can offer.

Our governments are also exploring options to enhance trade between Canada and the Mercosur [Southern Cone Common Market] countries.

Our trade in the region is already significant—growing to $7.9 billion in 2010 from $3.1 billion in 1999. That is an increase of about 150 percent.

But there is still room to grow.

A strong, strategic partnership would help boost these figures, and open up countless new opportunities for Brazil to expand and deepen trade with Canada.

Like Brazil, Canada understands the importance of trade to our economy. In Canada, trade supports one out of every five jobs, and represents over 60 percent of our economy.

Brazil’s own economic strength has been powered by its bold commitment to reaching beyond its borders for opportunities.

That’s why Canada believes that increased Canada-Brazil trade would be a “win-win” situation.

To help get us there, Canada and the Mercosur countries—including Brazil— announced on Friday that we are now holding discussions on enhancing our trade relationships.

So clearly, it’s an exciting time. It is yet another sign of Canada’s commitment to Brazil, and to developing new partnerships that will create jobs and prosperity in both countries.

I look forward to working with the people in this room to reach this goal.

Thank you.