16 November 2009
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"Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen.
"Thank you Stockwell for your very kind introduction. As the Minister of International Trade, Stockwell is one of the leading figures in our government’s unprecedented effort to reinvigorate Canada-India relations.
"I would also like to thank the Canada-India Business Council, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Indian Merchants’ Chamber, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, and the Canadian Tourism Commission for helping to organize today’s event.
"This is a tremendous turnout, so thank you.
"Let me begin by saying it is a great honour and a privilege to be here with you today, ladies and gentlemen.
"This really is a country whose natural beauty and rich cultural legacy is matched only by the generosity of its people.
"Laureen and I have been overwhelmed by the warmth of the reception we have received.
"Indeed, I am reminded of the words that welcomed another Canadian Prime Minister fifty-one years ago. Greeting his counterpart at the airport in Delhi, Prime Minister Nehru told John Diefenbaker that Canada may be ‘halfway around the world,’ but he would ‘find here that the world is not so different. When friends meet, the world is the same.’ That saying holds a profound truth.
"Canada and India, despite our occasional differences, have always been friends. Our country was quick to recognize the significant role a soon-to-be-independent India would play in the post-war world. And that is why in spite of our country’s limited reach at the time, we chose India as the site of one of our first diplomatic posts in Asia.
"Yet, while our friendship has remained constant in the years since Prime Minister Nehru spoke those words, much else has changed.
"And so too, must the friendship between our two countries.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I am here to suggest to you that now is the time to nourish and deepen our relationship, to take new steps together, to look to the future not just as friends, but as partners determined to act together as a force for good in the world.
"Because, indeed, the world today is not the same. And nowhere is that more evident than here in India.
"Your country’s growing economic and political clout is undeniable; you have one of the world’s largest and fastest expanding economies; you are now home to one of the world’s largest middle classes; you are a world leader in science and technology boasting such global giants as Infosys, Tata and Reliance.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this South Asian tiger has awoken, and the world is standing in awe.
"Your success is a testament to good policy, perseverance and ingenuity.
"The economic reforms Prime Minister Singh implemented as Finance Minister in the early 1990s are bearing fruit. But rapid transformational change of this type is never easy. It cannot take place overnight.
"Sometimes, some sectors advance at a greater pace than others. I am thinking especially of that famous photo from the 1970s of an ultra-modern, Indian-built satellite being transported on an ox-cart. Yes, it looked incongruous, that is exactly why the image became so famous. It symbolized India’s unbridled ambition and its dogged determination to succeed.
"Now that India is a genuine space-faring nation, I do not suppose there are too many ox-carts at the Bangalore space facility these days. But, at the time it got the job done. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what matters in the end.
"Whether it is building satellites, cutting poverty and illiteracy by half or posting staggering levels of economic growth, even in the midst of the worst global recession in half a century, today’s India is getting it done.
"As India takes its rightful place in the world, Canada stands beside you as a steadfast and faithful friend.
"Our two countries share so many historical, cultural and social bonds. And these bonds are a solid foundation upon which we can build an even stronger, more productive friendship.
"We are both countries that have forged cohesive, pluralistic societies out of ethnically, spiritually and linguistically diverse populations. We are both democracies in which the government is chosen by the people, and thus places the individual, not the state, at the core of society.
"We are both inheritors of the centuries-old and proven traditions of the parliamentary system which we have adapted to the ingenuity of federalism to accommodate our vast regional differences.
"We are both free societies in which every opinion imaginable can be and is expressed through a vibrant press.
"And we are, sadly, both countries that have been bloodied and have the scars of terrorism.
"Twenty-four years ago, we were united in grief over the senseless slayings of the 329, mostly Canadians, aboard Air India Flight 182, the worst terrorist attack in our history.
"And we grieved with you following those harrowing days of November last year when the innocent citizens of this very city were subjected to outrageous acts of terror that shocked the world.
"Such vile, barbaric acts is the motivation behind our contributions to the international effort in Afghanistan, and these are acts that all civilized peoples utterly condemn.
"And let us not forget our strong human connections.
"Over one million Canadians have their roots in this country. Right across Canada, the sons and daughters of India have entered the mainstream of our society.
"They are working hard, raising families, and giving back to their communities and their new country.
"They are leading businessmen like Prem Watsa, the founder and Chairman of Fairfax Financial. They are popular entertainers like Russell Peters. And they are influential politicians like Deepak Obhrai, Tim Uppal, Devinder Shory and Nina Grewal, who with her husband, the retired Parliamentarian Gurmant Grewal, served as the first married couple ever in our House of Commons.
"In every field of endeavour imaginable, and in every way possible, Canada has been and continues to be immeasurably enriched by the contributions of Indo-Canadians.
"Canada and India also share tremendous economic strengths.
"We are both weathering the global recession better than most. And, in both cases, this is not by accident. It is the result of sound fiscal policy, prudent regulation and goal-oriented economic management.
Like India, Canada is committed to strong financial institutions.
"Thanks to their good management, as well as to our prudent financial regulatory system, Canadian banks are well-capitalized, stable and secure. None have needed bailouts. And none, I would like to stress, are owned by the government.
"When our banks were squeezed with the worldwide credit crunch, we worked with them to bolster liquidity and to help ensure access to credit for Canadian consumers and business. In fact, three of the top ten banks in North America are now Canadian.
"That’s why our share of the international financial services sector is growing, and with it our global reputation for prudent regulation of our financial system.
"That's also one of the reasons why our two countries have chaired the G-20 working group on Enhancing Sound Regulation and Strengthening Transparency in the financial sector. In that capacity, our two countries have been leading the world on dealing with these questions at the international level.
"And also like India, Canada's economy has held up well compared to the rest of the world through effective government stimulus.
"In our case, during the first year of the crisis in fact, way back in fall of 2007, we cut taxes aggressively while maintaining a balanced budget. This helped keep our domestic economy out of recession for some time.
"When the global situation became much more serious, we responded with large-scale public spending and slashed bureaucratic red tape to make sure the money went to work right away. As a result, our Economic Action Plan mobilizes more than four per cent of Canada's GDP, making it one of the largest stimulus packages in the developed world.
"Our countries also share tremendous commercial interests and have great potential for increased trade.
"India offers spectacular growth rates, an increasingly liberal investment regime and impressive capabilities in the area of science and technology. Canada is the best positioned economy in the G8, has falling tax rates, one of the most welcoming environments for investment in the world and has the resources necessary to meet India’s growing energy and infrastructure needs.
"Ladies and gentlemen, the bonds between us are indeed strong and plentiful. But the untapped potential in our relationship is also undeniable.
"Let us do the math. Between us, our combined GDP is well on its way to four trillion dollars. Yet, at the moment, we are only doing five billion dollars worth of business per year.
"Where we are today, is not where we ought to be. Yes, we are good friends and partners, but we could be better friends and partners. We should be better friends and partners.
"That is why our government has embarked on the most vigorous effort in half a century to revitalize our relations with India.
"Since taking office in 2006, we have carried out eleven ministerial-level visits. In the last year alone, we have opened three new trade offices in Hyderabad, Kolkata and Ahmedabad, and expanded our presence in Delhi and here in Mumbai, making India the site of our largest trade network outside of the United States.
"We've recently put over a billion dollars into Asian-oriented trade infrastructure on our Pacific coast.
"We are also building on the already strong relationship that exists between our two countries in the area of science and technology. This summer in partnership with the Government of India we announced funding for a series of ambitious medical research projects, including two initiatives to combat cancer.
"Looking to the future, our government is working hand-in-hand with yours to help meet India’s growing energy needs. We are working towards an agreement to cooperate in the areas of clean and renewable energy, as well as in research and development.
"Also, on the subject of energy, it is my sincere hope that our two governments will complete our bilateral nuclear cooperation agreement soon. When finalized, it will allow the development of nuclear power for civil use, while fully respecting our international commitments.
"Canada is also keen to see the completion of the Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement. Conclusion of this agreement would signal to investors of both countries that direct investment can be made in a predictable and secure business environment.
"Since taking office, my government has also aggressively pursued free trade negotiations, concluding agreements with eight countries and launching discussions with numerous others. The reason for this is simple. Notwithstanding our current difficulties, the prosperity generated around the world in the last part of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st has been unprecedented in history.
"Removing protectionist barriers and easing trade restrictions has been a key part of ushering in this extraordinary era. Pursuing freer trade, therefore, is the most effective antidote to the current crisis. A remedy that will, in time, lead to a renewed era of prosperity.
"Just as the freer flow of goods will help grow the global economy, so too will the freer flow of people. Tourism and travel are among the world’s fastest growing economic sectors, generating well over USD$900 billion in revenue last year alone.
"That is why, a few minutes ago, alongside international film sensation and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic torchbearer Akshay Kumar, I was pleased to kick off a new campaign to showcase Canada as a must-see destination to Indian tourists.
"If you would permit me a moment to immodestly promote the land I love, I would like to quote the novelist Khushwant Singh in his address at Expo 67 in Montreal, ‘I have wandered over many lands in many climes and lived among diverse races … [and] I remain convinced that there is no country as beautiful as Canada and no people nicer than Canadians.’
"Through the initiative we have announced today, our government hopes to inspire a new generation of Indian travellers to witness Canada’s majestic beauty and to experience the warmth and generosity of our people.
"Ladies and gentlemen, let me conclude by noting that it has been famously said, ‘There is a tide in the affairs of men that, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune.’
"Quoted less frequently, however, is what comes next, ‘Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallows....’
"This is the time, ladies and gentlemen, for countries of ambition like India and Canada to take the lead, lest they be left behind in the shallows.
"Canada and India have so much to offer each other and the world. We are both vibrant democratic states that are shining examples of pluralism. We are both renowned for the ingenuity and ambition of our people. And we are both countries whose rising fortunes and national aspirations hold the potential to shape the new century.
"So let us resolve to work together, to grow together and together seize the opportunities that will help us realize a brighter and even more prosperous future.