1 September 2009
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Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
Thank you, Minister Kent, for your kind introduction and for your outstanding work on the international stage as Minister of State for the Americas. Thank you also, Minister Prentice, for getting us started this morning and for the tremendous international leadership you are showing on behalf of Canada as Minister of the Environment, particularly through our Clean Energy Dialogue with the United States. And thank you also for the work you do as Minister responsible for Southern Alberta. Greetings to the distinguished representatives of the Inter-American Development Bank who are with us today. And greetings as well to my fellow Members of Parliament for Calgary, Rob Anders and Devinder Shory. Thank you all for joining us for today’s important announcement.
It’s unfortunate my schedule didn’t allow for this announcement to be made last weekend, during Calgary’s Expo Latino. This increasingly popular cultural event showcasing Hispanic music, food and dance demonstrates the growing size and influence of the Latino community in Canada
As the population grows, so do the commercial, cultural and personal connections between Canada and the 21 countries of Latin America, representing nearly 600 million people. Our Government recognizes that we have important economic, political and security interests throughout the region. That’s why we have made re-engagement in the Americas a major international priority for our country.
Our Americas strategy is based on three primary objectives. First, we seek to strengthen freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, the cornerstones of our global foreign policy. Second, we want to expand investment and trade with our hemispheric neighbours, to create jobs and opportunities for people from Tuktoyaktuk to Tierra del Fuego. Third, we aim to enhance regional stability and security by working with our neighbours to address mutual threats such as illegal drugs, organized crime, pandemics and natural disasters.
I have visited ten of our neighbours in the western hemisphere since becoming Prime Minister. And we have welcomed six national leaders from the Americas on official visits to Canada over the last three and a half years. At the ministerial and consular level, meanwhile, I doubt there has ever been as much interaction between Canada and the countries of our hemisphere.
The result of these efforts has been an unprecedented growth of Canadian-led partnerships and programs throughout the region. I’ll just mention, for example, the leading role of Canadian Forces and RCMP personnel in improving the security situation in the long-suffering nation of Haiti. And in Cuba we’re assisting with tax reforms that will support more private enterprise, in anticipation of the day when that country finally joins the global market. We’re also supporting judicial reform and police training in Jamaica, and CIDA is helping the government of Peru strengthen its public legal defence and human rights programs. And we’re providing more than 500 Canadian scholarships a year for post-secondary students, the future leaders of the Americas.
On the economic side, we have signed new free trade agreements with Colombia and Peru, we also recently concluded negotiations with Panama, and we are pursuing trade deals with the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean Community and some of the countries of Central America. Our Government has also stepped up Canada’s involvement in multilateral organizations such as the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Development Bank. In fact, we recently and dramatically made additional funds temporarily available to the Bank, in order to help those of our southern neighbours facing acute credit shortages because of the international financial crisis.
Which brings us to our purpose here today:
For fifty years the Inter-American Development Bank has been arranging multilateral financing that has that fostered economic, social and institutional development throughout Latin America and the Caribbean. And today I am very pleased to announce that the Inter-American Development Bank will hold its 2011 annual meeting right here in Calgary.
It will be the first time in over 20 years that the Bank has held its annual meeting in Canada. The return of the IDB to our country will open doors for all Canadians to do more business in the Americas. And the thousands of international bankers, businesspeople and national leaders who are expected to attend the meeting will provide a significant boost for Calgary’s hospitality industry.
I know my fellow Calgarians will show the IDB delegates the western hospitality for which we are justly renowned. And I predict that once they get a taste of it, and see how serious Canada is about playing a bigger role in the Americas, it won’t be another 20 years before they come back.