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Address by Minister Fast Following Meeting with Provincial and Territorial Ministers

February 28, 2012 – Ottawa, Ontario

Check Against Delivery

I’d like to start by thanking my colleagues from the provinces and territories for joining me here in Ottawa today.

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve had a number of excellent discussions about our collective efforts to diversify and deepen Canada’s trade and investment ties in high-growth markets around the world.

We have agreed that doing so is essential to the creation of jobs and long-term economic growth and prosperity. In short, robust trade with Canada’s key trading partners benefits hardworking Canadians in every region of this great country.

Doing trade well, as all of us are committed to, is even more important in what remain globally challenging economic times.

We all understand the importance of trade to our economy. 

It accounts for one out of every five jobs in Canada—and more than 60 percent of our economic activity.

That is why it is so important to seek out new markets and new opportunities for Canadian businesses and workers to succeed around the world.

Today, I updated my colleagues on our government’s free-trade plan—the most ambitious plan of its kind in Canadian history.

For Canada, there is no better job creator, and economic-growth generator, than free and open trade.

In the last six years, we’ve concluded trade agreements with nine countries, and that’s just the beginning, as negotiations continue with many more.

While the United States will always be Canada’s largest and most important trading partner, we also know that diversifying our trade, especially with large, dynamic economies, will protect and strengthen the financial security of families in every region of Canada.

Today we discussed how we can focus our collective efforts to support Canadian businesses which are looking to expand and succeed abroad.

And yes, they’re looking at markets like China and India.

The importance of taking our trade and investment relationship to the next level with China is clear.

China is expected to become the world’s largest economy by the year 2020, and is already our second-largest trading partner after the U.S. Indeed, in this past year alone, Canadian exports to China increased an astonishing 27 percent!

The Prime Minister’s recent trade mission to China has set the stage for an even more strategic Canada-China partnership.

Now that we’ve concluded negotiations for a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, we’ve created the conditions for greater two-way investment, by giving investors the transparent and predictable rules they need to invest with confidence.

We also announced that we’ll enter into exploratory discussions on deepening our trade and economic relations following completion of an economic complementarities study in May.

Today, I also updated my colleagues on negotiations toward a Canada-India trade agreement.

The fourth round of negotiations wrapped up two weeks ago in Delhi.

A joint study concluded that a trade agreement with India could boost Canada’s economy by at least $6 billion a year.

However, as we indicated in our joint communiqué today, there is no more important Canadian trade priority right now than the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.

This is because there is no larger market than the European Union, the world’s biggest economy with over 500 million consumers and a GDP of over $17 trillion.

I’m pleased that my colleagues and I agree that the potential of this agreement is enormous–for Canadian businesses across the country, and for workers and their families alike.

A scoping study which preceded these negotiations showed that an agreement would boost Canada’s trade with the EU by over 20 percent.

It would also grow our economy by $12 billion annually, or the equivalent of an additional $1,000 in the pocket of every family in the country.

Workers in every region of Canada in our aerospace, aluminum, wood, transportation, agriculture, fish and seafood, and renewable energy sectors—to name just a few—are counting on us to gain increased access to the European market.

The statement we released today demonstrates our shared commitment to an ambitious Canada-EU trade agreement.

As we pursue these opportunities, close co-operation and partnership among all levels of government is absolutely essential.

Simply put—no one government can do it alone.

All regions of Canada must pull together to help our country expand, compete and succeed in high-growth markets.

That’s why I’m heartened by the excellent spirit of co-operation and common cause we witnessed today.

My colleagues and I share the same goals—a prosperous and competitive Canada, and jobs and economic opportunities for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

Toward these shared goals, I look forward to working with them as we go forward.

Thank you.