Remarks by the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of International Trade, at the Canada-ASEAN Business Council


March 22, 2018 - Singapore

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 the invitation to join you here in Singapore.

The Canada-ASEAN Business Council [CABC] is a key partner of the Government of Canada, mobilizer and advocate for stronger commercial ties with ASEAN member states.

That role could not come at a more crucial time for Canada.

Last year marked a very special moment in Canada’s relationship with ASEAN as we celebrated the 40th anniversary as a dialogue partner and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau co-chaired our first-ever summit.

We’re off to another great start in 2018, with the CABC Forum here in Singapore during their ASEAN chairmanship year.

First, let me take this opportunity to commend Wayne Farmer, CABC president and Greg Ross, CABC executive director, as well as their team, for their great work in organizing this year’s forum.

You’ve had a full agenda—including a comprehensive session on women’s leadership and how empowering women can help to transform businesses.

That is a topic very close to my heart—and, of course, it is a priority for our government.

More than 61 million women entrepreneurs across the 10 ASEAN member countries own and operate businesses; these women account for nearly 10 percent of the total ASEAN population.

Women entrepreneurs represent a vital component of the economies of ASEAN member states.

But we know that the vast majority of women entrepreneurs here and around the world, including in Canada, still face significant barriers to achieving their full potential, and we need to change that.

In Canada alone, if we removed the barriers to more women engaging in international trade, we’d boost our economy by $150 billion.

Trade must be a march to the top, not a race to the bottom.

We must unleash all of our talents, reap every measure of productivity and get more people engaged in trade. That is how Canada can compete and win on the world stage.

We are no longer going to play with half of the team on the bench!

I’m looking forward to hearing your ideas and your views on how we can move forward together to make meaningful change in this area.

But first, I want to talk to you about our ambitious trade agenda, particularly with respect to this region.

Canada is a trading nation: trade is in our DNA.

Our geography has necessitated an open approach to trade, and our history and relative population has called us to ensure the rules that govern it are similarly open and preserved.

We understand the value of a rules-based, multilateral trade regime to maintain open and predictable access to markets for Canadian goods.

We understand the value of opening markets for Canadian trade and investment to help build resilient economies and create good middle-class jobs at home and abroad.

And these are exciting times in global trade.

There are the obvious headlines but what I want to talk about is how we are seizing this moment in time, creating new opportunities and reaching a new level of ambition, particularly right here, a region successive Canadian governments have too often neglected.

We have signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership and are working on our domestic process of ratification.

We have been invited to become an associate member of the Pacific Alliance, which paves the way for a new free trade agreement (FTA) with the Alliance as a bloc.

And Canada is taking forward discussions toward an FTA with ASEAN, as well.

Canada is taking our Pacific partnerships to the next level through sustained, strategic and stronger engagement across the entire board.

We believe a smarter approach is long overdue both with ASEAN and across the entire Asia-Pacific region.

We are investing more resources, more Canadian representation in terms of boots on the ground to chase investment, open doors for more Canadians and fly our flag.

Trade develops over decades, and we need to be thinking in those terms right now. We know the competition does!

That is why we must be ambitious and strategic: we must set down markers that state “Canada is here to play and to stay.”

We must also be tough and forthright in championing our interests so a deal signed today improves with age rather than depreciates over time.

And to match our ambition on this side of the Pacific, we just launched the new Invest in Canada agency, our premier investment promotion and attraction agency with globally recognized talent at its helm.

When foreign investors, such as many of you here, look across the globe in search of their next home, they see an open, diverse, highly skilled and well-educated workforce that is inherently global.

When the talent pool of tomorrow’s economy seeks a place to build their business, they will gravitate to a setting that is diverse, open and inspires creativity.

This is Canada today, and we are making sure that you know it!

With more partners in prosperity like the CABC, we can command a new era in open, predictable, ambitious and rules-based trade in the world.

Looking over your membership and the people in this room, I was struck by the fact that you are very diverse, international and innovative.

That is a strategic asset that we can draw on to meet this challenge head-on.

Given Canada’s increased engagement with ASEAN, ASEAN member states have agreed to hold a special ASEAN-Canada Senior Economic Officials meeting in Indonesia later this week to discuss the feasibility study toward an FTA.

This will be followed by additional meetings this summer to advance the exploratory discussions between ASEAN and Canada.

Canada counts the countries of ASEAN among our most important partners as we work to expand our trade and investment networks around the world. In fact, we were one of the first countries to establish ties with ASEAN.

Today, ASEAN is the fourth-largest exporting region in the world, trailing only the European Union, North America and China/Hong Kong.

It accounts for 7 percent of global exports—and as its member states modernize their manufacturing capabilities, their exports have diversified.

Already some 67 million households in ASEAN member states are part of the “consuming class,” with incomes exceeding the level at which they can begin to make significant discretionary purchases.

Experts predict that this number could almost double to 125 million households by 2025, making ASEAN a pivotal consumer market of the future.

Canada must be a part of the tremendous growth we are seeing in the ASEAN region.

I’m counting on many of you here in this room to help ensure that we are.

We are asserting ourselves as both a Pacific and an Atlantic nation.

Canada can and will become a global trading powerhouse, but we will only do so if we keep Asia-Pacific firmly on our horizon.

I see us as the most connected country on the planet with preferential access to the world’s most lucrative markets.

We are already well-positioned in our own hemisphere with NAFTA well under way, Mercosur launched just last week, and the Pacific Alliance is moving ahead.

We have CETA, the European trade deal in place now, which means Canada today is not just 36 million people, but a market with preferential access to 1.2 billion today, 1.7 billion with CETA and more than 2 billion—and growing fast—with the other deals I mentioned.

Canada is a beacon of stability, predictability and the rule of law 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.

So let’s seize every opportunity. Let’s be ambitious.

Thank you / Merci.

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