Address by Minister Champagne at the Inaugural Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting


Roundtable on “Leveraging Opportunities and Addressing Challenges to Intra-Commonwealth Trade and Investment”

March 10, 2017– London, United Kingdom

Check against delivery. This speech has been translated in accordance with the official languages policy and edited for posting and distribution in accordance with the Government of Canada’s communications policy.

It’s a great pleasure to represent Canada at the first ever meeting of Commonwealth ministers responsible for trade, industry and investment.

I’m also pleased to take part in our panel this morning on trade and investment within the Commonwealth.

I want to thank the Commonwealth Enterprise and Investment Council and the Commonwealth Secretariat for bringing us together in London this week.

Given what’s happening in the world around us, today’s topic is timely.

Canada strongly believes that trade and investment mean growth for our businesses and economies.

And growth, in turns, means well-paying jobs for the middle class, and those working hard to join it.

We know this is true because of the huge rise in living standards since the Second World War – both in developed and developing countries.

Openness and trade liberalization over the past several decades have played an important role in that outcome.

At the same time, we know that not everyone has enjoyed those benefits to the same extent. And today we see the results.

It’s unfortunate that the economic anxiety being felt by many people around the world is expressing itself in anger and hostility to trade agreements and globalization.

In this context, we need to take the legitimate concerns of our citizens seriously and address them concretely.

As Prime Minister Trudeau said in Hamburg last month, “It’s time to realize that this anger and anxiety we see washing over the world is coming from a very real place. And it’s not going away.”

We need to do everything we can to ensure that the benefits of trade are more widely and equitably shared.

Failure to do so will only strengthen the forces of protectionism and embolden those opposed to freer and more open trade.

That is why Canada is pursuing a progressive trade agenda with our partners at home and around the world.

Progressive trade means helping ensure that that all segments of society can take advantage of the opportunities that flow from trade and investment – with a particular focus on women, Indigenous peoples, youth, and small and medium-sized businesses.

This is not just the right thing to do. It’s also essential for economic growth and prosperity.

SMEs, including those owned by women, youth and Indigenous peoples are the dynamos of our economies and the lifeblood of our communities.

In Canada, for example, SMEs account for virtually all Canadian businesses and employ 90 percent of our private-sector workforce.

But only a small percentage of these businesses export. Under our progressive or middle class trade agenda, we are putting their needs and aspirations, and those of all non-traditional business owners and entrepreneurs, front and centre to help them reach their full export potential.

Progressive trade also means being open and transparent, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with civil society and a broad range of stakeholders. 

It also means ensuring that trade agreements include strong provisions in important areas such as workers’ rights, gender equality and environmental protection, and reinforce the continued right of governments to regulate in the public interest.

In short, it's about efforts that help ensure international trade works for businesses and citizens alike. That it works for people.

The Government of Canada stands for these progressive values, and is promoting them at the Commonwealth, G7, G20, WTO and elsewhere.

One way progressive trade is being put into action is the recent entry into force of the WTO’s Agreement on Trade Facilitation, or TFA.

The TFA’s benefits are expected to be most significant for developing countries and small and medium-sized enterprises, for whom trade costs are disproportionately high.

The WTO estimates that the full implementation of the TFA could reduce trade costs by an average of over 14 percent and boost global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion, with up to $730 billion accruing to developing countries.

Based on World Bank estimates, up to 10 million female business owners in the developing world could benefit from efforts that enable SMEs to become more competitive in terms of exports.

These are the stories we need to tell and the outcomes we should be driven to achieve.

Canada looks forward to working with developing countries to fully implement their commitments under the TFA, including through the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation.

Canada is a co-founder of the Alliance, which was launched in December 2015. As a platform for leveraging public and private sector expertise, leadership and resources, the Alliance helps developing-country members of the WTO implement commercially meaningful TFA-related reforms.

Canada also looks forward to the provisional application of our modern, progressive free trade agreement with the EU, CETA. It will boost trade with our second-largest trading partner while upholding high standards in areas like food safety, environmental protection and workers’ rights.

CETA and the TFA demonstrate that progressive trade agreements are possible both at the bilateral and multilateral levels.

Canada is proud to be a part of these two agreements that put the middle class, and those working hard to join it, at the heart of our trading agenda.

I was a business person before I entered politics. I spent many years working for global energy and engineering firms – including here in London.

So I understand very clearly the importance of trade. And it disappoints me to see the skepticism and hostility towards it today.

It’s easy to dismiss or ignore the skeptics and naysayers.

But as Canada’s Prime Minister also said in his speech in Hamburg, “We can no longer brush aside the concerns of our workers and our citizens. We have to address the root cause of their worries, and get real about how the changing economy is impacting peoples’ lives.”

That is one reason why the Government of Canada has cut taxes for the middle class, introduced the Canada Child Benefit and is investing $186 billion in job-creating infrastructure.

At the same time, we recognize that we must work with our partners to reshape globalization to ensure that the benefits of a more open global trading environment are more widely shared.

Our progressive trade agenda is a big part of our efforts on the policy side of things. But laws and policies are not enough. We must also work harder to make the case that trade works for people.

We all have a responsibility to show our citizens, in real and relatable ways, how trade improves their lives and is a positive force in the world.

That is how we will build and maintain support for trade at a time of growing protectionist and isolationist sentiments internationally.

Getting this right is important because the future prosperity of the people we represent is at stake.

I look forward to hearing your views and ideas on how we can work together to grow our trade with each other and with the rest of the world, and also to ensure that the benefits of that increased trade are shared by all our citizens.

We face a shared challenge and we must meet it, together, our Common-Wealth depends on it.

Thank you.

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