PM announces that giant pandas will be coming to Canada

Chongqing, China
11 February 2012

Thank you very much. Good afternoon. Da jia hao.

I want to thank CS Leung for that kind introduction, and also for being part of the large Parliamentary delegation that has accompanied me on this trip here to China. Greetings also to the Vice Mayor of Chongqing, Mr. Wu Jianong, to vice president and secretary general of the China Association of Zoological Gardens, Miss Hu Zhongping, vice administrator of the State Forestry Administration of China, Miss Yin Hong, and of course, the director of the Chongqing zoo, Mr. Li Zhongfu. Finally, our thanks to Mark Rowswell – Dashan - for acting as master of ceremonies this afternoon, and indeed, for everything you have done for us during our visit here in China. We really appreciate it, and we will take you back, and we will let you eat more than bamboo. So thank you all for coming and joining us for this special occasion.

It’s a real pleasure to be in this city, Chongqing, and at this famous zoo. We can all learn from Chongqing’s success as one of the world’s fastest growing cities. Chongqing is the most stellar example of China’s “Open to West” campaign. The growth here demonstrates the value of working to ensure that all regions participate in the prosperity of a nation. In recognition of the growth here, our government is upgrading the Canadian consulate here in Chongqing. It will now have full consul general status. That will mean more staff and more resources working to identify trade and investment opportunities for Canadian companies here in Chongqing and region. In turn, that means more export jobs in Canada, and deeper trade ties with western China. Many Canadian products already reach interior China through the Chongqing port. In fact, the port here has a special relationship with the City of Winnipeg through a 2011 agreement to increase exports of high quality farm products from the middle of Canada to inland China. This makes Chongqing the destination for many Canadian exports that make the long journey from our country by rail and across the Pacific by ship before coming up the Yangtze.

Earlier today I witnessed a shipment of pork shipped from Winnipeg to China under the 2011 agreement. This is a proud day for western Canadian farmers. The quality of Canadian food has again been affirmed. We are thus celebrating together an important milestone in our growing trade relationship.

Friends, I’m proud to note that Chongqing has a surprising number of Canadian influences; five IMAX 3D screens (a great Canadian innovation), a subsidiary plant to Magna (a major Canadian auto parts supplier), Quebec Ecosystem technology (being used to help a motorcycle manufacturer to meet energy efficiency targets), an office of Wilfrid Laurier University (one of several Canadian post-secondary institutions with ties here), and even a Maple Leaf School. And soon, two very special visitors, one of them from this city, and this zoo, will be making their presence felt back home in Canada.

Today I’m here to help officially announce a ten-year agreement, between the Calgary zoo, the Toronto zoo, and Chinese authorities, for the loan of two giant pandas to Canada. They will arrive next year and be seen in both the east and west of our country, spending five years at each of the Toronto and Calgary zoos. Under the terms of this agreement, both zoos will invest in panda research and conservation. This will help ensure that future generations will know these magnificent animals. As many of you know, I have lived in both cities, and I can assure everyone that they will be wonderful hosts, not only for the pandas, but also for the many tourists who will come to see them. They will be the first pandas to visit Canada since the 1980s. Of course, this is a wonderful next step in our tourism relationship after the awarding of approved destination status to Canada in 2009.

Pandas have charmed people from all walks of life and from every corner of the world. Feline lovers like myself are especially drawn to what the Chinese have traditionally called “the catlike bear”. The playful shy lady, as the panda is also often called, is a gentle animal and a symbol of peace.

The pandas’ visit to Canada represents an important step forward in the blossoming relationship between our two peoples. Canada and China enjoy a strategic partnership based on mutual respect and collaboration. Our mutual love for pandas is one more example of the goodwill that underlies our relationship - a relationship that as the last four days have shown, continues to mature.

Thank you very much, everybody. Xie-xie.