Recap: Journey to Prosperity: Strengthening Canada’s economy through trade ties with Asia

Wed Aug 22, 2012 11:30 AM - Wed Aug 22, 2012 02:00 PM
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 John Baird at The Vancouver Board of Trade
Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Honourable John Baird, speaking to members of The Vancouver Board of Trade. See the full photo gallery. Photos by Peter Taylor (

On Aug. 22 Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Honourable John Baird, spoke to The Vancouver Board of Trade about Canada’s renewed focus on trade with Asia, including how those partnerships could bolster Canada’s economic future.

Baird also reflected on his recent mission to China and Southeast Asia, where he met with government officials in numerous countries and attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Regional Forum.

With approximately one million immigrants from the ASEAN region, Canada has a strong people-link to the area. And with Canada-ASEAN merchandise trade valued at $15.5 billion in 2011, commercial ties are equally as strong.

See below for the full text of Baird's speech, which outlines the federal government’s plan to further strengthen relations with countries across Asia, in order to advance Canada’s prosperity agenda.

Thank you for that kind introduction.

I’m pleased to be back in Vancouver, one of the truly great cities in the world and one of my favourite places.

All kidding aside, I am honoured to be here and honoured to be joined by James and our colleague Dan Albas, the Member of Parliament for Okanagan-Coquihalla.

But I’m most honoured to be serving as your Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Without a doubt, it’s an exciting time to be a foreign minister.

It’s an exciting time because we’re witnessing deep change in some of the darkest corners of the world.

It’s also a challenging time because so often, the smallest, seemingly inconsequential events can bring about profound change.

And often, we cannot predict which events will bring about that change.

It reminds me of the days and weeks leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the eventual collapse of Soviet rule.

It’s a little-known piece of history, but before the Berlin Wall came down, East Germans vocalized their demands for dignity in a public square better known as the home of the third tallest structure in Europe – the Fernsehturm TV Tower.

It was at Alexanderplatz where East Germans gathered, chanting “wir wollen raus!” – “we want out.”

Before long, those protesters migrated from Alexanderplatz to the Berlin Wall.

And still, twenty-three years ago, no one could have predicted that within days of young people taking to the Wall, they would have successfully used sledgehammers and chisels to tear the wall down and fully chipped away at forty-five years of Soviet rule.

Just as we could not have predicted then the rapid end to the Cold War and the many transformative implications that would bring, we also cannot predict the lasting impacts one street vendor in Tunisia will have in shaping the future of the Middle East and North Africa in months and years to come.

It’s almost easy to forget that the Arab Spring ignited when that Tunisian fruit vendor, Mohamed Bouazizi set himself on fire to protest corruption and cronyism.  A movement has since captured the world’s attention.

The events that took place in Alexanderplatz and those that took place on the streets of Tunisia are not too dissimilar. East Berliners and others behind the Iron Curtain fought their revolution with chisels.
Tunisians brought about theirs with fire. Each had a different method.
But each was, fundamentally, a struggle for dignity.

The dignity to live in freedom.

The dignity to contribute to society.

The dignity to provide for one’s family.

But as we continue to try to understand the scope and scale of today’s current event s in the Middle East, another much quieter, but equally fundamental revolution is occurring in the Far East.

And that economic revolution underway in most of Asia is directly tied to Canada’s future prosperity.

That revolution across the Pacific shores of this great province can bring waves of opportunity across our entire country.

You know, when a bamboo seedling is watered and fertilized during the first year, nothing happens.

It is watered and fertilized for another whole year.

And another.

And another.

And still, nothing happens.

Then in the fifth year, something amazing happens: the bamboo shoots up to the sky.

It grows 90 feet in six weeks

In those first five years, an enormous network of roots develops to support the bamboo’s sudden growth.

When the plant breaks ground, it may look like an overnight success, but it represents the fruit of years and years of hard labour.

And it represents Canada’s relations with Asia today.

For years, countries like China, Singapore, India, and Indonesia have methodically and patiently sown and nurtured the seeds of success. And they are seeing their economies shoot sky-high.

Today, the International Monetary Fund believes that China’s economy will grow to almost 12 trillion dollars in 2016.

$12 trillion.

At first, it may not seem like a large number.

But imagine this: with $12 trillion dollars, you could  buy out the Toronto Stock Exchange.


The London Stock Exchange,

And the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Combined.

Or you could cover the costs of every major US war since the American Revolution and have $4 trillion to spare. And that’s adjusted for today’s dollar.

Simply put, it’s a lot of purchasing power.

But the Asia-Pacific transformation is not just about China.

It’s also about Korea, India and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations —especially Indonesia and Vietnam.

Singapore’s economy, for example, is expected to double within six years. It should come as no surprise: we know that with population growth, GDP per capita grows.

A recent report by HSBC predicted that by the year 2050, 19 of the 30 largest economies will be in countries we now call “emerging.”

The numbers are simply staggering.

The economic potential is immense.

The demographic shift is monumental.

And Canada must be a part of it. It’s not a choice; it must be a national imperative.

As the gateway to Asia, Canada’s economic success hinges on Western Canada’s success.

Just as the auto sector was galvanized by the Auto Pact in the 1960s, the whole country should be galvanized by the opportunities created by the West’s rise.

What’s good for British Columbia is good for me as an Ontarian; it’s good for all of us as Canadians.

And our government gets it.

It’s why I have visited Asia four times – including my first trip – upon becoming Foreign Minister.

It’s why I have recently committed more funding  for projects within the Association of South East Asian Nations.

And it’s why I was the first Canadian Foreign Minister to visit Burma.

We’re looking for new opportunities to build jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity.

We’re doing so recognizing that pursuing an activist foreign policy in these exciting times is a delicate balancing act.

On one hand, it is an extension of our national interest. That means everything we do around the world, we do to create  long-term prosperity.

On the other hand, my job is to promote Canadian values – freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.  And as you can imagine, this can be a challenge in parts of Asia.

How we protect these important Canadian values, while creating economic opportunity will determine Canada’s success in a time of global transformation.

And we must get it right. Western Canada’s prosperity depends on it.
Canada’s future economic prosperity depends on it.

The good news is that our relations with Asia are better, and our friendships stronger.

In the last year, Canada’s Governor General has made state visits to Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia. Prime Minister Harper has visited Thailand, China, South Korea and Japan. Ed Fast, our Minister of International Trade has visited China, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, and Japan. And I recently returned from a trip that included stops in China, Cambodia, the Philippines and Brunei.  Our Ministers of National Defence and International Cooperation have paid multiple visits to the region.

These engagements are paying off.

Earlier this year, under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we were pleased to conclude substantial negotiations on a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China.

We also agreed to continue cooperation in the field of education.
Already there are 68,000 Chinese students studying in Canada every year. These students put an estimated $2 billion every year into the Canadian economy.

On my most recent trip, I signed a nuclear cooperation agreement that will secure jobs in Saskatchewan’s nuclear industry.

These emerging markets are keen to partner with Canada because we have what others want.

Global energy needs will increase by 50 percent by 2030, largely in Asia.

So when I meet with my counterparts around the world, I consistently build up Canada’s reputation as a resource superpower.

People’s jaws drop when I tell them we have the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world; many don’t know this.

Many don’t fully appreciate that we’re among the top producers of copper, nickel, zinc and uranium.

And for many, the statistics surrounding B.C.’s forestry sector, for instance, are simply unfathomable.

B.C shipped $668 million worth of lumber to China in 2010 alone.
That’s double the value shipped a year earlier.

In 2011, B.C exported almost $4.6 billion worth of goods to Japan; the top three commodities were coal, copper and lumber.

There is huge demand for these resources. And it’s time for Canada to take full advantage of our blessings.

We must remind the world that Canada can be a source of stability in an unstable world; that Canada can be a trusted partner to develop its resources responsibly.

But we know that success doesn’t happen on its own.

John Wooden, the great American basketball coach once said that “failure to prepare is preparing for failure.”

That’s why our government takes nothing for granted. We’re preparing for the future by creating the conditions for success. We simply won’t put all our eggs in one basket.

We’re supporting the Keystone XL pipeline because it will create tens of thousands of jobs throughout North America.

We’re aggressively supporting new investment in energy projects over the next decade because here in British Columbia there’s enough shale gas to meet Canada’s needs for a hundred years.

We’re seeking a new trade agreement with Europe because it means billions of dollars in benefits for the Canadian economy.

We’re joining the Trans Pacific Partnership negotiations  as part of our ambitious pro-trade plan to deepen our trading relationships with Asia-Pacific markets.

We’re actively working to complete free trade agreements with India, Japan and South Korea because these emerging markets present tremendous economic potential.

We’re committed to an ambitious trade agenda because we know that by promoting Canadian values abroad, we position Canada for success at home.

Like our resources, Canadian values are the envy of the world.  We support freedom, democracy and respect for the rule of law, and we don’t apologize for it. These values are universal – people in every corner of the world, including in the Asia-Pacific region, cherish them. They form the bedrock of prosperous countries.

Our foreign policy includes the promotion of our values, but we recognize that it is up to people to pursue their own rights.

And we’re seeing it happen in countries like Burma, where people are engaged in a struggle to claim their individual rights, to express their views, to voice their concerns, and to have a say in how they are governed.

They want the chance to benefit from the rewards of this century’s open societies.

They want what we all want: hope and opportunity, the building blocks of stability and prosperity in any society.

Canada stands ready to help them.

Thankfully, if the last 12 months are any measure of what we should expect for the future, things are looking up for the people of Burma.

I can’t believe that it has only been a year since I first met my Burmese counterpart and demanded that his government demonstrate its commitment to reform through concrete actions.

When we met that day, Canada still had the toughest sanctions of any country against the Burmese regime.

But shortly after that meeting something remarkable happened. In October, Burmese authorities released a number of political prisoners.
We saw it as promising sign, but called on Burmese authorities to uphold and protect democracy, human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law for all Burmese people.

Then, the Burmese authorities allowed one of Burma’s great champions of change, Aung San Suu Kyi, to run in a by-election, releasing her from 21 years of arrest. This too, was a promising sign, but we remained cautiously optimistic, holding our breath until the April 1 election, waiting to see if voting would be conducted without violence or intimidation.

But rather than wait from afar, I paid a visit to Burma and urged Burmese authorities to guarantee free and fair elections. I also pledged Canada’s legal expertise in democratic reform and vowed to help build a better future for Burma.

When the elections came and went without violence or intimidation, when Aung San Suu Kyi and her party won seats, and when she was sworn into parliament as an opposition leader, we were excited to witness the road to democracy that Burma appears to be taking.

We’re fully aware that these are just baby steps. Burma has a long road ahead. It’s a long road we’re ready to help them navigate. Last month, I announced our plans to open an embassy in Burma.  Canada stands ready to assist the Burmese government in any capacity to build on the democratic fundamentals, and the freedom and rights of their people, including freedom of religion.

It is in our interest to help those people who are seeking to create a free society, to give a voice to the voiceless and to enable every individual to live in peace and security.

The bottom line is that economic opportunity, whether ours or that of those beyond our borders, rests on free, transparent and open societies. Canada’s foreign policy will continue to support the development of these societies in the Asia-Pacific region and elsewhere.  We have a shared interest in ensuring so.

In the last year, I’ve learned that relationships matter. They matter because economic prosperity is directly linked to our diplomatic relationships. Diplomatic relationships are increasingly linked to our economic ties, which means building economic prosperity for all Canadians requires us to build our trade ties with the Asia-Pacific region.

We have planted the seeds for our future prosperity. And just like the Chinese Bamboo takes years of nourishment before it ever sprouts from the ground, the seeds we have planted in the Asia-Pacific region will only sprout if we continue to nourish them.

Our economic prosperity depends on it.

Rest assured, our government will do its part.

Thank you for your time.

Supporting Sponsors:

Asia Pacific Foundation Port Metro Vancouver

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