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Address by Minister Fast to the Canada-Australia Chamber of Commerce

May 1, 2012 – Sydney, Australia

Check Against Delivery

It’s a great pleasure to be here with you today, overlooking Sydney Harbour—one of the most spectacular views in the world. 

Now I know why Air Canada’s flights are always so full!

You know, when they speak about the most beautiful cities on earth, Sydney is always on everyone’s lips. But I can say that without a hint of envy, because, as some of you know, my own home town of Vancouver, Canada, is also ranked right up there with the most beautiful cities in the world.

And that is, perhaps, where my brief remarks tonight should begin: a tale of the two most drop-dead gorgeous cities on earth, and, more importantly, a story of two of the most amazing and prosperous countries in the world—the partnership that is Canada and Australia.

For the last seven years, your chamber has been at the forefront of the Canada-Australia partnership.

Yours is a relatively young organization, but a very popular one, with over 1,000 members.

That’s a clear sign of the growing interest in moving our trade and investment partnership forward in the years to come.

Our partnership has deep roots.

I’d like to take you way back to 1893, back to the City of Vancouver, where a young man, John Larke, became Canada’s first ever trade commissioner to be posted abroad. And you know where that posting was? You guessed it—right here in Sydney, Australia.

Now, fast-forward to Toronto in July of this year, to the second Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum being organized by this chamber.

A common thread runs through these examples, which are almost 120 years apart. That thread is a commitment between our people to do more business together.

We share much common ground—our Commonwealth heritage, our parliamentary systems of government, our position as proud Pacific nations and our long history as military allies in conflicts from the Boer War to Afghanistan.

But if history has made us partners, it’s our people who have made us trusted friends.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of tourists visit each other’s country. Indeed, Australians are widely known as intrepid travellers.

In my home province of British Columbia, it’s not uncommon to hear “g’day mate” on the ski slopes of Whistler Blackcomb, or to see Australians “catching a wave” in Tofino, off Vancouver Island.

You’ll find just as many Canadian business people lining up for a “long black” in Australia as you’ll find Australians asking for a “double double” in Canada.

That familiarity and friendship extends to the economic sphere.

Last year, our bilateral merchandise trade reached $3.7 billion. And by the end of 2011, our stock of two-way investment had reached almost $40 billion—making Australia Canada’s top destination for investment in the Asia-Pacific region.

It’s clear that jobs and prosperity in both countries depend on the business we do with each other.

It’s also clear that trade partnerships like ours are essential in moving our two countries further down the path to lasting economic recovery.

Let me explain.

We were two of only a handful of countries that did not have to bail out our respective banking systems.

This was thanks to our sound, well-capitalized, well-regulated financial institutions—and our commitment to timely, targeted action to bolster our economies.

But as I shared with my trade minister counterparts, including my friend Craig Emerson [Australia’s minister for trade], at the recent G-20 trade ministers’ meeting in Canada, the time for targeted fiscal stimulus is over.

It’s time for what I call the “new stimulus.”

And that new stimulus is trade, robust trade.

We need more trade, more investment and more strategic partnerships to get businesses moving again—and to create new jobs and long-term prosperity for Australians and Canadians.

Freer and more open trade is the single best way for our countries to recharge their economic batteries.

And when it comes to trade, Canada has much to offer Australia—and the same is true in reverse.

So why is Canada here today in Australia?

First, we appreciate Australia as a key investment partner and as a strategic destination for Canadian goods.

Canadian companies like doing business here.

The business climate is familiar, and Australia’s position in the Asia-Pacific is ideal.

But, second, we also believe that Australia should be looking to Canada for trade and investment opportunities. Because, friends, unlike some anti-trade activists, we believe that trade and investment is not a zero-sum game. It’s not about exports being good and imports being bad.

Today’s modern and sophisticated global supply chains mean that bilateral and multilateral trade, when done well, grows the so-called prosperity pie of all of the partners.

Why should Australia look to Canada? You may want to take notice of our low business tax rates, our welcoming business environment, our generous research and development incentives, and our highly educated and innovative workforce. And did I mention that for four years running Canada’s banking system has been named the safest in the world?

Just as I strongly encourage Canadian businesses to look down under for investment and trade opportunities, I want to personally invite you to explore the benefits of trading with and investing in Canada.

Ask our trade commissioners, an incredibly hard-working group of professionals whom I have taken to calling Canada’s best kept trade secret.

They’re working across Australia to promote Canadian capabilities to our Australian partners and to help our businesses succeed and grow in this market. They can do the same for your business interests in the Canadian marketplace.

Resources and agriculture will always be at the core of our commercial relations.

Export Development Canada has been working very closely with major players in this country to support Australia’s rapidly developing unconventional gas industry.

It’s a great example of how Canada’s long-standing expertise in conventional and unconventional gas can benefit Australia’s expansion of on-shore exploration.

Canada is also becoming a world leader in sectors like high tech, life sciences, “green” technology, renewable energy, infrastructure and transportation.

We’re seeing new, emerging partnerships between our countries in these areas.

I’m also taking every opportunity to tell our Australian partners about Canada’s Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative.

Working with all levels of government and the private sector, we’re dramatically expanding our transportation infrastructure on Canada’s west coast.

We want to boost trade with Asian economies like China, South Korea, Japan and—of course—Australia.

We’re committed to giving shippers the best possible transportation network linking Asia and North America.

But as we continue to strengthen our economic engagement in the Asia-Pacific region, we also recognize the importance of breaking down trade barriers.

Australia has shown real leadership in this area—with a free trade agreement with the Southeast Asian family of nations, and its ongoing negotiations with China, Japan, Korea and many others.

And here I want to give kudos to your eminently capable trade minister, and my good friend, Craig Emerson. Craig has been a champion par excellence in the fight against protectionism around the world. I have been privileged to join him in that effort. Protectionism is toxic to the global economic recovery. It is the removal of trade barriers, not the erection of new ones, that is the way forward for the world’s leading economies. And you can all take great pride in the leadership role that Dr. Emerson has taken on in that regard.

Canada, too, is leading by example.

We’ve unilaterally eliminated over 1,800 tariff lines to help Canadian firms link to supply chains and compete more effectively. We’ve removed all tariffs on manufacturing imports. We are opening up our telecommunications industry to more competition.

Some of you will also know that we are removing the monopoly power of Canada’s Wheat Board.

And we’ve embarked upon the most ambitious pro-trade plan in our country’s history.

Since 2006, we’ve concluded free trade agreements with nine trading partners—and we’re in negotiations with many more, including the European Union and India.

As I mentioned earlier, the Asia-Pacific region is an area of particular focus for Canada.

For example, last month we announced that Canada and Japan would begin negotiating a free trade agreement. Our commercial partnership with Japan is very well-developed and we’re committed to taking it to the next level.

We also adopted the Joint Declaration on Trade and Investment with ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] last year in Jakarta and announced that Canada and Thailand will enter into formal exploratory discussions toward a potential free trade agreement.

Southeast Asia is a market of enormous potential and Canada is excited about doing more business there.

That is why Canada has expressed such strong interest in joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership [TPP] negotiations—the largest regional negotiations of their kind and a great opportunity to spur more trade across the region and partner with our friends from Australia.

I have just returned from Chile and Peru and was very pleased to hear the support they expressed for Canada’s participation. Earlier, the same strong support was received from Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore and Vietnam.

They recognize—as you do—that Canada has a lot to bring to the table, including a very high level of ambition.

We’re ready to join TPP members as soon as possible to develop an ambitious trade agreement that benefits the entire Asia-Pacific community.

But we need Australia’s support to get there.

So why should Australia want to have Canada at the TPP table?

Having Canada at the negotiating table would add real value for Australian businesses and workers.

It would give Australia improved access to our $1.7-trillion economy and our 35 million consumers.

In fact, Canada’s market is larger than that of any current TPP partner—with the sole exception of the United States.

Having a TPP with Canada and a free trade agreement with the U.S. would give Australia more opportunities than ever before to link into North America’s supply chains.

As you know, Canada and the U.S. operate as a highly integrated market, with most of our industries spanning the border.

Many of those industries in Canada are less than one day’s drive from any major U.S. industrial centre.

With a TPP, Australia could tap into this enormous competitive advantage.

Together, we could spark countless new partnerships that would create jobs and prosperity for Canadians and Australians alike on both sides of the Pacific.

My friends, that’s the full power of trade—the “new stimulus.”

As we take in this incredible view of Sydney Harbour, I consider all of the things that our countries have accomplished together in the past—and look forward with great anticipation to the things we will accomplish in the years ahead.

I’m reminded of the many occasions when Canada and Australia have proudly stood together on the Olympic podium, with medals won in fierce but fair competition.

We look forward to joining Australia on the TPP podium, as well.

Let me conclude by saying this.

What the Australia-Canada partnership needs is champions of trade. In fact, what the world needs right now is more champions for trade. Champions like yourselves. Champions like the Australia-Canada Chamber of Commerce.

Trade is not for the weak-kneed or faint of heart. It’s not for the timid. It’s for visionaries who have the foresight and courage to seize the moment when opportunity comes knocking.

Friends, this is a grand adventure we’re on. And it’s going to be an incredible journey.

I look forward to joining all of you on that great adventure.

Thank you.