Speech: Annual General Meeting of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce – The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade
September 24, 2017 – Fredericton, New Brunswick
Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the Government of Canada’s official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with its communications policy.
Thank you for that very warm welcome.
It’s a great pleasure to be here.
I want to thank Perrin, the Board, and his team for the invitation to speak with you this morning.
I am here to talk to you about the task Prime Minister Trudeau gave me at the outset. He said, ‘make trade real for people’.
- Create well-paying jobs for the middle class by opening up new markets
- Create more choice and lower prices for consumers by tackling tariffs through FTAs
- Create more opportunities for our SMEs to grow and to thrive
But first, let me say that the Chamber has been an important partner to governments for many years. To ‘make trade real for people’, we need you.
In my former life in business, I came to know full well the importance of Business Chambers, and particularly the role of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in acting as a convener and advocate for business.
I especially want to thank you for playing those roles so well with respect to our NAFTA relationship, including organizing several trips to the United States to talk with business leaders and politicians about the vital economic ties between our two countries.
I’m delighted to be here with people who understand the vital link between being globally competitive and our quality of life at home.
I have often said that we are a trading nation: trade is in our DNA. Canadians may be just 0.5 percent of the world’s population but we represent 2.5 percent of global merchandise trade.
It is no exaggeration to say our country’s current economic prosperity depends on trade. But to ensure our future prosperity, we must reorient ourselves and our approach.
As Prime Minister Trudeau said just this week, we can’t do trade exactly the same way as it was done a quarter century ago.
Too many groups, particularly women, indigenous peoples, youth and newcomers have not shared in the benefits that have come from free trade.
What good are statistics about the positive impacts trade has brought to bear on our economy, if too many do not share in it and do not feel like it benefits them?
Trade as it has long been done, though broadly positive for the majority, has not been perfect.
If it were, there’d be no political current against globalization, especially in places where traditional manufacturing has been disrupted by automation, mechanization, and offshoring.
That is why we must work harder to ensure the benefits of trade extend to the middle class, not just the wealthiest few and why we must protect and enhance the rules-based system we helped build and on which we have relied for our prosperity.
Because those rules are being challenged in sometimes unexpected ways:
- China is on the rise.
- Europe is dealing with creeping economic nationalism at home.
- The Asia-Pacific region more broadly is booming.
Canadians are well-equipped to handle this challenge.
Looking over your membership before I arrived today, I was struck by the fact that you are more diverse, international, and innovative than just about any corporate landscape on earth.
That is a strategic asset that we can draw on to meet this challenge head-on.
Not since WWII has there been a more opportune time – a more critical time – for Canada to show leadership.
We are beacons of stability and predictability at a time when businesses are clamouring to invest and locate where those attributes exist in abundance.
So while some have said that this is the Asian Century – and we have all seen China’s unabashed drive to assume that mantle – I say this is Canada’s Century.
Now is our time.
With CETA now in force – just last Thursday – and with the modernization of NAFTA underway, our country today has preferential access to 1.2 billion consumers in the most lucrative markets in the world.
Speaking of NAFTA, as we sit here today, my colleague, Chrystia Freeland and our counterparts in Mexico and the United States are in Ottawa for the third round of negotiations.
While we discuss the imperative of diversification, we all know that most of our exports go to the United States.
The reverse is also true. In fact, our commercial relations are so strong that we not only sell things to each other, we also build things together.
And why not? We have a lot of things in common. Geography has made us neighbours. Our shared values and democratic traditions have made us the best of friends and allies.
More trade and investment with the U.S. just makes good sense – even as we diversify around the world.
The North American Free Trade area is now the biggest economic zone on the planet.
Canada, the U.S. and Mexico together account for over a quarter of the world’s GDP, with less than seven percent of the world’s population.
Millions of people in Canada, the United States and Mexico earn a living as a direct result of trade within North America.
People are putting food on their table; parents are putting their kids through school, because of a job that exists due to trade and investment links.
That is why we’re working very hard with our friends and with partners like you to modernize NAFTA.
And remember, we are the ones who helped write the rules and we are the ones who can ensure they are updated and rewritten to ensure our future prosperity.
The Trudeau government will defend what has been hard-won and boldly seize new economic opportunities so that we position Canada, indeed all of North America, as the global economic powerhouse we know it can be.
But we also have a unique opportunity to capitalize on Canada’s diversity, its openness, its trading history and our commitment to the rules-based system for managing global trade today.
There has never been a better time to diversify.
And let’s just say there is a lot of interest right now in what Canada has to offer.
And that’s in part because of Canada’s progressive approach to trade.
That is because there is one thing that differs in our approach to doing business across borders, and it’s a fundamental difference: I am out there promoting Canada’s progressive approach to trade.
At its most basic level, progressive trade is about making trade work for more people, making sure that its benefits reach those trying to provide for their families and build their future prosperity.
In practical terms, that means focusing more of our attention on the interests and ambitions of smaller companies, including those owned by women, youth, and Indigenous entrepreneurs – putting them front and centre to help them reach their full potential.
We can improve the chances of success on the part of our entrepreneurs and small business owners – the lifeblood of the Canadian economy – by including appropriate progressive elements in trade agreements.
This approach is at the core of how Canada engages with the world in every aspect of our foreign relations.
It is why we created the first gender chapter in a trade agreement of any G20 country, with Chile, and why we have stated clearly and unequivocally that progressive trade is the only way forward.
We cannot and will not dismiss entire parts of our economy.
Tackling established orthodoxy is no small challenge but our diversity is what gives our economy its might.
In CETA, we have created a new, gold-standard agreement that should serve as a model for reinvigorated and renewed trading relationships the world over.
The shift in the global economic centre of gravity is certainly moving from west to east.
Markets in the Asia-Pacific region are quickly emerging as new economic powerhouses for trade and investment.
Asia’s share of global GDP now exceeds that of the EU or the US, and it contributes more than 50 percent of global growth.
Asia is home to over half of the global population, increasingly affluent and mobile, and Canada recognises the opportunities this offers in terms of trade, education and tourism.
Today, China and the Asia-Pacific more broadly represent an important platform for Canadian companies.
Four of Canada’s top five trading partners, including China, are APEC members.
Increasing trade and investment with our partners in the region is essential if we are to create long-term growth and an economy that works for the middle class.
Our government wants to ensure that Canada is well-positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.
First, we are launching a single-window hub for investment in Canada that will bring to bear all of the tools, opportunities and regulatory processes for investment into one place, facilitating new business and investment, which is exactly what we need to do if we’re going to successfully compete.
We are also working hard to win first-mover advantage.
That is why we have just launched exploratory talks towards a possible future FTA with ASEAN.
Canada is also working very hard to expand our trade and investment relations with markets in India, Japan and China.
With regards to China, we are taking a comprehensive, strategic and longer term approach that will help our businesses not only diversify but build the relationships and footprint in Asia that we need to succeed and ensure our future prosperity.
In fact, I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with several senior business and political leaders in Shanghai, Chongqing, Zhengzhou, and Beijing about how we can further expand our growing commercial relations.
Many of you will know that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chinese Premier Li announced last year that our governments are launching exploratory discussions on a potential free trade agreement with China.
The purpose of these discussions is to determine if it’s worthwhile to begin formal negotiations on a possible free trade agreement.
At the same time, the Government of Canada continues to conduct consultations with Canadians on this topic.
This provided us with a unique opportunity – spearheaded by Canada – to better understand the “ins and outs” of doing business in China and the implications of a possible trade agreement.
There are tremendous benefits to increasing our trade and investment ties with China.
China is also a complex market – we know that.
But let us remember that Canada is also in a position of strength: we are a G7 country, we helped write the rules of global trade and we have market access to 1.2 billion consumers.
Any future relationship will be on our terms, on our timetable and with our eyes wide open to the challenges.
I am so grateful for your input to date and for the Chamber’s recent and comprehensive analysis of the Chinese market and the proposition of more trade.
In Japan, we are working actively to re-evaluate and reconsider options for moving forward following the end of TPP-12 talks.
We are looking at the implications of how best to proceed post-TPP-12 in a way that secures a long-term deal with Japan and, as I have said before, sets the terms of trade for the Asia-Pacific region.
That work is critical and it takes time. But Canada spearheaded this process by hosting talks in Toronto in May of this year and we will continue to push for access on our terms and in our interests.
I have also spoken regularly to my counterparts in India to press for action on both a FIPA and CEPA.
We must match the historical, cultural and people-to-people ties we have in abundance with more trade and investment.
Our bilateral trade today stands at $8 billion. I think we can do much better.
And don’t forget that you already have preferential market access to the South Korean market as a result of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement which has been in force since January 1st, 2015.
Make sure that your company is taking advantage of business opportunities in our 6th largest export market. I visited Seoul earlier this year and was able to promote Canada and some of our key industries including forestry and the information and computer technology sector.
Another area of the world that holds great potential for Canadians is the Southern Cone Common Market – MERCOSUR – a customs union established by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1991.
During his trip to Argentina in November 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau committed to ongoing dialogue on deepening the Canada-MERCOSUR trade and investment relationship.
In recent months, Canada and MERCOSUR have sought to reassess the potential for free trade agreement. In 2016, the four members of MERCOSUR had a combined GDP of $3.2 trillion and a population of 260 million.
We have also secured a pathway to enhanced membership status with the Pacific Alliance, a union of Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Chile.
We are focused on delivering results for Canadians by rapidly and responsibly pursuing every opportunity to expand the opportunity for our middle class to compete and win on the global stage.
We are relentlessly focused on marketing Canadian products, creating opportunities through trade promotion, our Trade Commissioners overseas, the EDC and BDC and, crucially, an unprecedented expansion of global trading partnerships.
But we need your help in seizing the opportunities that trade policy creates.
Trade has helped build our country into a top-10 global economy with the world’s 37th-largest population.
Canada continues to have the best fiscal position among G7 countries, in terms of net debt-to-GDP ratio. We’re seeing one of the strongest paces in 12-month growth in real GDP by industry in some 17 years.
Since we were elected the Canadian economy has created nearly 428,000 new jobs, Canada’s unemployment rate has dropped from 7.1% to 6.2%, the lowest point since September 2008.
I see tremendous potential for Canadian companies.
That is why we are seizing the opportunity and creating opportunities for companies to diversify with confidence.
I know it takes a special kind of courage to set up a company, to take your business global and to take that bold step to expand and diversify abroad.
As Canada’s “Chief Global Marketing Officer,” I’m committed to helping world-class Canadian companies take advantage of the enormous opportunities that exist right now.
We can and will attract the capital, investment and interest necessary to position each and every rising entrepreneur and economic star in our country for a long time to come.
The Prime Minister has given me a very clear mandate: to increase Canada’s trade and attract job-creating investment to Canada with a view to expanding economic opportunities for all Canadians.
More trade and more investments mean more jobs, and more economic growth, to help strengthen Canada’s middle class, as well as those working hard to join it.
In Budget 2017, the Government of Canada set out a very ambitious target of increasing goods and services exports 30 percent by 2025.
This is indeed ambitious. But we believe it is achievable, and we’re delivering the tools that Canadian entrepreneurs, businesses and workers will need to help us reach that goal.
Now is our time. In order to succeed, we must stand together in our pursuit of progressive trade. Let’s seize every opportunity. Let’s be ambitious. Let’s make trade real for people.