Address by Minister Bernier to the International Economic Forum of the Americas’ Conference of Montréal

June 12, 2013 - Montréal, Quebec

Check Against Delivery

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen.

It is indeed an honour to have been invited to talk about what Canada is doing to maintain our comparative success in these still-turbulent economic times. As the minister responsible for promoting our world-leading small businesses, I will focus my comments on what we are doing for these firms, which form the backbone of our economy.

In Canada, we have long known the profound capacity of trade and investment to generate significant economic growth and widespread prosperity. The Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, which was superseded by NAFTA, is easily the most successful trading partnership the world has ever known.

Canada and the U.S. now share the largest bilateral flow of goods, services, people and capital between any two countries in the world. Last year, our two-way trade in goods and services exceeded $743 billion. That’s nearly $2 billion a day or almost $1.4 million traded every single minute.

Staggering.

And these numbers also represent jobs: 2.4 million in Canada and 8 million in the United States.

Truly, the power of trade is undeniable.

But success like this does not come about by accident; the best traders are methodical and strategic in their approach.

In order to maximize the advantages of trade and investment agreements, our government has been highly selective in its choice of partners. We know that without a thoughtful plan structuring our international expansion efforts, nothing like the kinds of economic gains we saw through NAFTA will be possible.

Some partners are important across the board, while others offer more specific opportunities, so we adapt our approaches respectively. For example, we recognize that emerging markets are often more challenging, especially for our small and medium-sized companies [SMEs], and therefore success in them requires more support from government.

Indeed, despite the desire to enter emerging markets, doing so can be quite daunting, especially for small businesses. What’s more, a 2012 survey by KPMG found that 60 percent of Canadian companies have no emerging-market strategy.

Here’s where it is the job of government to help our small and medium-sized firms gain access to opportunities, build relationships and deepen partnerships.

We are talking today about regionalized trading blocs, so I would like to highlight what we are doing to help our SMEs gain access on preferential terms to these lucrative markets.

For starters, as I speak, Canadian officials are in Brussels negotiating a 21st century, gold-standard trade and economic agreement with the European Union.

The EU market—with more than 500 million people and annual economic activity exceeding $17 trillion—holds significant opportunities for small businesses across our country.

The successful negotiation of the Canada-EU comprehensive economic and trade agreement—or CETA—would give our SMEs preferential access to the EU, which remains, despite current financial strife, the single wealthiest market in the world.

It is projected that an agreement would result in a 20-percent boost in bilateral trade and a $12-billion increase in Canada’s GDP. It would deliver new jobs and economic benefits across a broad range of industries located all across Canada.

We have also recently joined the 11-member Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] negotiations. The TPP negotiations are also exploring the unique needs of SMEs, to help them navigate and understand free trade agreements as they conduct international business.

Like CETA, the TPP is central to the international trade and investment ambitions we have for our small businesses, not least because of its sheer size. With Japan, the combined GDP of TPP members will be more than $27 trillion. That’s nearly 40 percent of the world’s total GDP!

Once concluded, the TPP agreement will not only strengthen Canada’s efforts to broaden and deepen its trading relationships with Asia-Pacific markets, it will also reaffirm and invigorate our traditional partnerships in the Americas.

Speaking of the Americas, I am also pleased that Canada has recently been granted observer status with the Pacific Alliance, which brings together some of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America.

And these are just a few examples of what we are doing to help Canadian SMEs gain access to the world’s fastest-growing and most dynamic markets. And we know we are on the right track: in fact, a recent report by the Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises Advisory Board endorsed Canada’s efforts to pursue free trade agreements with key trading partners.

Ladies and gentlemen, Canada believes that trade and investment represent the twin engines of growth for the global economy. I am proud to be able to say that ours is a nation on the forefront of global trade liberalization.

And as a nation of seasoned traders and brave entrepreneurs, Canada will continue to lead the way.

Thank you.