Speech by the Honourable Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification, at the Toronto Region Board of Trade


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.

Two words: CPTPP. Ratified.

With a speed reflecting the importance of the CPTPP [Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership] to farmers, ranchers, entrepreneurs and workers across Canada.

On December 30, Canadians can get down to the business of tapping these new markets, including Japan, and bringing Brand Canada to more corners of the world.

And that is not all I have to report today.

CETA [Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement]: one year in and $1.1 billion in new exports.

In that year alone, container traffic at the Port of Montréal went up 20%.

That is 20% more made-in-Canada goods crossing the Atlantic and onward each and every day.

USMCA [United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement] (the new NAFTA): secured.

The Pacific Alliance and Mercosur are both moving in earnest in South America.

Exploratory talks have been accelerated with ASEAN [Association of Southeast Asian Nations] in the Asia-Pacific region.

We have modernized agreements with Israel, where I visited in late August, and with Chile and Ukraine.

Taken together, we have 14 FTAs [free trade agreements], covering 51 countries, connecting us to 1.5 billion of the world’s consumers.

Canada is now the only G7 nation with trade agreements with all of the other G7 nations.

We have built an unparalleled platform putting Canada at the centre of trading relationships with Europe, Asia and our entire hemisphere.

This is an important statement to the world about Canada’s openness and a unique value proposition to investors that none of our competitors can match.

Today I will talk to you about some of these agreements but also what we must do together to make them more accessible to more Canadians.

FTAs are the bridges, but it is people who cross them.

When I say that, I do not just mean the wealth creators in this room or those within a stone’s throw of this building.

The access to new markets created by trade leads to wealth creation, and that in turn leads to job creation.

But trade diversification is not just about accessing new markets; it also means diversifying and increasing the access Canadians have to those markets.

We need entrepreneurs, farmers, marketers and small-business owners taking those first tentative steps.

The more Canadians we have taking advantage of trade, the more wealth we can create here at home.

Diversification is a national imperative.

Trade diversification is a critical plank to our competitiveness. 

Thanks in large part to trade and to the platform we are building for it, more than 700,000 jobs have been added to our economy.

We must mobilize non-traditional or first-time exporters too.

When only 11% of women-owned businesses export, we are leaving hundreds of billions of dollars on the table.

As a trading nation, we need to add not just to our list of customers but also to the roster of our innovative, hard-working, entrepreneurial and ambitious sellers.

Allow me to go back to where I began: the CPTPP.

Two Novembers ago, we recognized quickly that the U.S. president-elect’s commitment to pulling the United States out of the TPP represented not just a challenge to global trade, which we all know continues, but also an important opportunity for Canada.

So we worked closely with Japan in the months that followed to resurrect the deal.

This meant maintaining the unity of the remaining 11 members and seeking better terms for Canada, while preserving the huge potential for market gains. We achieved this.       

We changed the terms of trade, protecting our intellectual property and our unique culture.

And we expanded access to a market of 500 million consumers, covering 13% of global GDP.

The CPTPP is not just a new trade agreement for Canada.

It is a signal to the world that trade matters, that rules matter and that we will not be drawn into the world of protectionism. 

The deal is also a signal to our workers that their quality work going out the front door will not be undermined by weaker standards coming through the back door.

Swift ratification is a statement that we will seek out at every opportunity, and we will negotiate terms that benefit the middle class and the people working hard to join it. 

Asia is home to the world’s fastest-growing middle class. By 2030 nearly two thirds of the world’s middle class—estimated to be 3.5 billion strong—will call Asia home.

There are 10 new markets in the deal, including Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

Many of these represent a first for an FTA with Canada, and that includes Japan.

Last year our bilateral trade with Japan, our fifth-largest trading partner, reached $29 billion. Just imagine next year.

The CPTPP includes many significant achievements.

We fought hard for suspensions to certain intellectual property articles, and we agreed to side letters with the full force of international law in areas such as investor-state dispute settlement, culture and autos.

Through the government procurement chapter, Canadian businesses will be able to access open and fair procurement in all 10 markets.

This agreement is a cornerstone for Canada’s greater engagement with the Asia-Pacific countries.

It solidly anchors Canada’s place in the Asian market.

My first trip as the minister of international trade diversification outside of North America was to Thailand and Singapore. 

I pushed for an acceleration of talks toward a possible free trade agreement with ASEAN, adding some of the largest and fastest-growing countries to our ever-expanding piece of the Pacific pie.

And no conversation about the Pacific region would be complete without talking about Canada’s second-largest trading partner, China.

Our bilateral trade numbers are close to $100 billion annually, and continue to grow, making China an essential component of our trade diversification strategy.

When I travel to Beijing at the end of this week, I will be co-chairing, with my colleague Bill Morneau, our Economic and Financial Strategic Dialogue.

These meetings will be on the heels of a trade mission my colleague Minister MacAulay is making to China and our full participation in the Shanghai Expo, where several hundred Canadian business people will also be in attendance, busy seeking ways to be successful and help deepen our commercial ties.

One sector that clearly illustrates the potential upside of focused and sustained commercial engagement with China is energy.

Just recently, global investors unveiled a $40-billion investment in British Columbia—the largest private-sector investment in Canadian history—that will make Canada a very prominent player in the international LNG [liquefied natural gas] market.

Significant portions of that total investment were made by countries in Asia, such as China, Japan and Malaysia: this underscores the attractiveness on this side of the Pacific that stable clean gas supplies from Canada represent.

China is interested in pursuing economic engagement with us and ready to invest the required resources.

We have an opportunity now to tackle some difficult issues and engage positively on those areas where we can expand trade while setting the stage for deeper engagement in the years ahead.

We are working to create a framework that will underpin existing and future trade with China with a view to reaping the full scope of opportunities presented by our second-largest trading partner.

Trade diversification strategy

The way forward for Canada on trade is clear, but I need your help:

  • Trade diversification must be championed as a national imperative. I need you to help lead this effort and inspire others.
  • We must integrate trade diversification with our broader economic agenda. Here I mean competitiveness, infrastructure, innovation and skills development.
  • I mean integrating our superclusters and economic strategy with our high-growth companies so they become global success stories.
  • SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] need our support.
  • We recently announced $50 million to support diversification efforts and opportunities for SMEs.
  • A total of $40 million of that new funding has been earmarked for CanExport, a program that has proven effective at providing direct financial assistance to Canadian SMEs that are seeking to diversify their exports.
  • We need to link our SMEs to global supply chains and to multinationals and global infrastructure projects the world over.
  • If I think of where we are now, from financial services to aerospace to advanced manufacturing up and down the [Highway] 401 corridor, there are a myriad of SMEs attached to our most well-known companies.
  • We all need to be thinking about how we give them lift in overseas markets.
  • As a government, we need to improve our export service offering.
  • The previous government scaled back the programs available through our Trade Commissioner Service, so it could only serve the companies already operating overseas.
  • We will reverse that trend and get our sales numbers way up.
  • We will provide a single window integration of our trade commissioner, Export Development Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada and regional development agency supports.
  • And Canada will not see the multilateral trading system eroded.
  • We will defend it, and we will reform it.
  • Just last month I hosted a WTO Reform Summit in Ottawa; progress is happening. It may be slow, but it is vital.

Put simply, our competitiveness depends in large part on making Canada a global trading hub. 

Our people must have the skills and capacity to compete globally and the confidence that comes from knowing we have their backs.


Let me wrap up with this: Canada is the home of Marconi’s Signal Hill and Bell Northern Research, precursors to our current successes in high tech.  

We were the birthplace of the SkiDoo and the regional jet. We are the home of canola, an agri-innovation that helps feed the world. And of Cirque du Soleil, which helps feed the soul. 

We are the home of international online games and creative studios and the burgeoning hub of artificial intelligence. 

We are the home of the Canadarm and CANDU, the Toronto International Film Festival and Canada Goose.

There is nothing like Brand Canada. We are naturally global.

But we haven’t always been actively global.

My very portfolio is a call to action.

We are putting more focus on diversifying our markets, generating more wealth and getting more Canadians into trade.

We cannot do it alone.

We need the people in this room taking advantage of the deals we are making and creating the coattails on which our SMEs can jump into the global market.

We will not stop until every Canadian with an ambition to sell their products or services abroad is able to realize those ambitions.

Now is our time.   

Thank you. Merci.

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