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Fast Underscores Canadian Trade Priorities

by Mike Godfrey,, Washington

02 November 2011

The Canadian government is committed to deepening the country's trading relationships in priority markets around the world, engaging in ongoing negotiations with key jurisdictions including China, India and the European Union, and reaping the rewards of existing arrangements.

Speaking to the Vancouver Board of Trade, Ed Fast, the Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, made clear the government's trading priorities. He stressed that the rewards of trade are clear, allowing Canadians to acquire good jobs, enjoy deepened prosperity and consumer benefits.

Canada is seeking to strengthen its economic ties with the US and the Americas, and is also participating in talks with the EU toward a free trade agreement, with the ninth round of negotiations recently held. In addition to these initiatives, the government intends to deepen Canada’s trade and investment ties in high-growth Asian markets with:

  • Ongoing negotiations with China, Canada’s second-largest trading partner, toward a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement;
  • Continued negotiations toward a comprehensive economic trade agreement with India, a market with 1.2 billion consumers;
  • A trade and investment framework with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, Canada’s seventh-largest trading partner; and
  • An ongoing joint study toward a possible economic partnership agreement with Japan.

In his keynote speech, Fast said: “With one in five Canadian jobs dependent on trade, expanding Canada’s trade and investment ties around the world, particularly in high-growth Asian markets, will help protect and create new jobs and prosperity for hard-working Canadians. Whether it’s in China, Japan or Southeast Asia, Canada’s financial security depends on Canadian businesses continuing to expand and succeed within this regional engine of global growth.”

Fast also highlighted Canada’s competitive advantages in reaching rapidly expanding Asian markets, thanks to the government’s strategic investments and partnerships in the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor Initiative. The Gateway is a transportation network that provides an efficient, reliable and cost-effective connection between Asian and North American markets. Fast argued that it has brought not only increased trade, but improved prosperity, strengthened financial security and a higher standard of living in both developed and developing countries.

Between 2006 and 2010, Canada’s market share of North American west coast container traffic increased by almost 30%. Using Asia-Pacific Gateway infrastructure, Canadian exports to China increased by almost 19% in 2009-10, reaching CAD13.2bn (USD13bn). Canadian lumber exports to China are expected to reach a record USD1.2bn in 2011. British Columbia’s annual exports of wood products to China have also increased in value: sales more than tripled from about CAD179m in 2008 to CAD669m in 2010. A number of sawmills in the province have reopened to help meet the growing demand from China, which Fast said protects and creates jobs for Canadians in the process.

He noted: “These investments are already paying off, positioning Canada as the gateway of choice between Asia and North America. Canada’s ports here on the west coast are more than two days closer to Asian markets than are any other ports in North America. Easing the movement of goods, services and people is helping Canadian businesses expand and succeed abroad, which is creating jobs and prosperity here at home.”

Fast concluded his speech by stressing that only a commitment to free and open trade will improve the prosperity and standard of living of both Canadians and residents of the country’s trading partners. “Anti-trade forces represent a real and present danger—not only to our own prosperity as a nation in a global economy increasingly interconnected by global supply chains and trading blocs—but also to the future prosperity of the people in the world’s emerging economies. In order to protect and strengthen the financial security of hard-working Canadians, we must pursue policies based on practical, pro-trade realism over those based on outdated and long-discredited anti-trade ideology.”

TAGS: investment | business | free trade agreement (FTA) | India | trade treaty | investment treaty | China | agreements | Canada | trade

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