I’m very pleased to be here in historic Guangzhou, one of China’s largest cities, a place with a rich history of thousands of years of civilization, today blessed by a dynamic and energetic population, whose industry reaches literally around the world. Actually, this whole province of Guangdong is a special place for Canada. In fact, no part of China has provided more of its sons and daughters as immigrants to Canada, than Guangdong province.
Canada has been enormously blessed by the energy and entrepreneurial spirit of people who came from this area, and on their behalf, I am proud to bring you greetings. Let me just introduce my friends and Cabinet colleagues who are with me, Ministers John Baird, Ed Fast, Gerry Ritz, Joe Oliver and Alice Wong. Perhaps I should say ‘re-introduce them,’ because all of them have visited your country before, some more than once. Indeed, Minister Wong, like Lieutenant-Governor Lee, hails from Hong Kong, another great Chinese city, from which many people come to Canada, and achieve great things.
And I would be remiss not to give a special greeting to our master of ceremonies, Canada’s very own Mark Rowswell, or as you know him, Dashan. Dashan is a remarkable goodwill ambassador between Canada and China, and I’m grateful to him for shortening his vacation to spend a few days with us. I assure you we’ll feed you more than bamboo over the next decade. Also on a return trip is my wife, Laureen, who I really shouldn’t forget to mention. Laureen and I visited Beijing and Shanghai slightly more than two years ago.
On both of our trips to China you have indeed been gracious hosts. Earlier today, we spent some time with Party Secretary Wang. It was a cordial and constructive conversation and it will be helpful in our objective of broadening the strategic economic partnership that Canada and China share.
Since our last visit, there has been considerable progress, for, despite our enormous differences, we share some important similarities. We are both countries looking forward, with the conviction that the new century will be our century. We are both ambitious, outwardly focused, trade-oriented, eager to strengthen our partnership, in fact, to take that partnership to the next level, for Canada has been built on trade. And now, more than ever before, Canadians are looking to profoundly diversify our trade relationships and to deepen our cooperation here, and right across this region. I shall return to this theme later.
First, however, I’d like to talk about the results of work we have done in recent years. During my visit, my 2009 visit, Canada and China signed agreements dealing with several areas, including tourism, cultural exchanges, climate change, energy conservation, green technologies, and of particular importance, was education. Following our 2009 agreements, there has been a remarkable increase in the number of Chinese students studying in Canada. There is no better place in the world to study than Canada. That’s why more than 60,000 Chinese students now attend Canada’s world-class colleges and universities, that’s a 35 per cent increase in just four years, and the number is growing.
Another area where we’ve moved forward quickly since 2009 is tourism. This was given a special impetus during my last visit, when China gave Canada Approved Destination Status. There has since been tremendous growth in travel. From January to October of 2011, Canada received more than 200,000 visits from China, an increase of almost 25 percent in one year alone, and we look forward to welcoming even more Chinese visitors in the years to come. But we haven’t stopped there. On Wednesday, we witnessed the signing of several government-to-government agreements. They dealt with air transportation, with agriculture, with double taxation. We renewed an earlier memorandum of understanding on energy cooperation, and we have agreed to jointly fund science and technology research into human vaccines and clean transportation. And on Thursday, we witnessed the signing of a large number of business contracts, worth nearly $3 billion.
Many very large Canadian companies are keenly interested in China, and especially in Guangzhou. For example, Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, has had a growing presence in Asia for years. Now, Scotiabank has just entered into a partnership in the Bank of Guangzhou. Another Canadian household name is Bombardier. Bombardier has been supplying light rail transit cars and systems to the Guangzhou and Shenzhen Metros. I could go on, for there are other major Canadian companies active in southern China: grain handler Viterra in Guangxi province, and Calgary’s Husky Oil partnering with the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, using its world-class expertise to explore and exploit deep-water oil and gas deposits in the South China Sea. In other words, the potential of partnerships in China, and especially here in Guangdong Province, is very much on our radar.
So, ladies and gentlemen, what does it mean when we say we want to take the Canada-China strategic economic partnership to the next level? It means we recognize the great potential synergies of our economies and we seek to work together to secure the advantages they offer, and, friends, let me remind you of what foundational strengths Canada brings to the table. Canada’s strengths as a partner are considerable. As a developed economy, Canada is technologically sophisticated, and in this era of global economic crisis, Canada has demonstrated far stronger fundamentals than most of its peers. For example, for the fourth year in a row, the World Economic Forum says Canada’s banks are the soundest in the world. Among the G-7 countries, Canada maintains the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment and the lowest net debt-to-GDP ratio by far. No wonder Forbes magazine ranks Canada as the best place on the planet for businesses to grow and create jobs. No surprise that the OECD and the IMF predict our economy will again be among the leaders of the industrialized world over the next two years, and, Canada has abundant natural resources. Those natural resources are critical things that China needs and will continue to need, to power the kind of industrial growth that you are witnessing, minerals, food, lumber, advanced expertise in a wide spectrum of activities, and, of course, Canada has energy.
Now let’s just talk about that for a moment. Canada is not just a great trading nation; we are an emerging energy superpower. We have abundant supplies of virtually every form of energy, and you know, we want to sell our energy to people who want to buy our energy, it’s that simple. Currently, 99 per cent of Canada’s energy exports go to one country – the United States. And it is increasingly clear that Canada’s commercial interests are best served through diversification of our energy markets. To this end, our government is committed to ensuring that Canada has the infrastructure necessary to move our energy resources to those diversified markets. Yes, we will continue to develop these resources in an environmentally responsible manner, but so too will we uphold our responsibility to put the interests of Canadians ahead of foreign money and influence that seek to obstruct development in Canada in favour of energy imported from other, less stable parts of the world.
So friends, when it comes to energy resources, taking things to the next level means recognizing we are natural trading partners, and that we should engage more deeply. We’ve also announced an agreement building on our long-standing nuclear cooperation, to increase the export of Canadian uranium to China. But taking things ‘to the next level’ means more than just increasing energy sales. This week, I was truly pleased to announce with Premier Wen the conclusion of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between our two countries. This Agreement will provide greater predictability and protection for Chinese and Canadian investors, across a wide range of enterprise. It will allow them to do business with confidence; it will lead to more investment. Ultimately, that will lead to more growth and jobs for Canadians. That’s why Canadian governments have sought such an agreement for almost 20 years. It is therefore an historic step forward in our economic partnership, and we will immediately begin to build further on this achievement. We have committed also, to move to the next step, by soon concluding our Joint Economic Complementarities Study, and from this, engaging in discussions on further deepening our trade and economic relationships. In other words, on this visit, we have seen not just great progress, but also the beginning of much more progress to come - all that is at the high and lofty level of our hard-working and dedicated officials. What does it mean to people on the street, in China and in Canada? It means, simply, opportunity; opportunity that leads to growth and to jobs. That’s why Canada, under our government, has built a network of eleven trade offices in the People’s Republic of China. That’s why you have observed the accelerating pace of high-level exchanges, that’s why, consistent with our strategic partnership, we are here today.
Are there obstacles? Of course there are. Canada does not, and cannot, disconnect our trading relationship from fundamental national values. Canadians understand that our wealth and prosperity have come about, and are broadly shared, not just because of our abundant resources and hard work, but because of our commitment to freedom, democracy, the rule of law and human rights for everyone. Canadians believe, and have always believed, that the kind of mutually beneficial economic relationship that we seek is also compatible with a good and frank dialogue on fundamental principles, such as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and freedom of belief and worship, and they demand that their government, Canadians demand that their government and their businesses, uphold these national characteristics in all of our dealings. Canadians also demand that their government be a responsible global citizen in dealing with peace and security challenges that confront the world, and, wherever we can, we urge other governments, including global actors like China, to do the same.
Now friends, in saying these things, let me be clear that I do not claim to fully understand the unique kinds of challenges that a huge, emerging, spectacularly expanding economy such as this one faces. Today, the drive in from the airport is a powerful picture of how millions of people are bettering their lives through industry and investment. Without a doubt, this is its own kind of liberation. Nor do I ignore the undeniable differences of Chinese culture and history. However, as Canadians, our history has taught us that economic, social and political development are, over time, inseparable, and it is our national creed that people of all cultures can be Canadian, enjoying and participating in all aspects of our democratic society as, indeed, Canadians of Chinese origin do today. Therefore, in relations between Canada and China, you should expect us to continue to raise issues of fundamental freedoms and human rights and to be a vocal advocate for these, just as we will be an effective partner in our growing and mutually beneficial economic relationship.
Ladies and gentlemen, in 2010, we had the pleasure of welcoming President Hu on his official visit to Canada. In the past two days in Beijing, we had the opportunity to renew our acquaintance, as well as to talk with Premier Wen, Chairman Wu and Vice Premier Li. I am encouraged by our discussions, encouraged that in this time of both great opportunity and risk in the global economy, our two great countries can cooperate for the mutual benefit of our peoples. Now some will observe that, despite all that has been accomplished, much work remains to be done if we are to truly maximize the real potential of this relationship. That is true, and it is why we are here, but I will also say this: the future of our relationship is laden with promise.
China has shown the world how to make a poor people rich, through frugality and diligence, and of course, the application of market economics. This message is validated by performance, by a 30-year average of 10 per cent per annum growth, by lifting a half a billion people out of poverty and by becoming an economic power of the first rank likely to soon return to what it has been for most of recorded history, the world’s largest economy. The world is a better place for a China that favours free trade over protectionism, for a China that plays the constructive role it did at last year’s G-20, and for a China whose people will value social and political progress as much as its economic growth. To these things, we look forward with hope and optimism and in growing friendship.
Ladies and gentlemen, you have been extremely generous with your time and attention. Laureen and I are also, of course, grateful for your warm hospitality.