Main Container


Prime Minister’s Remarks to the Canada China Business Council during Official Visit to China

Main Content

Prime Minister’s Remarks to the Canada China Business Council during Official Visit to China


Thank you Chrystia, for that kind introduction, and thank you also for achieving important progress for Canadian canola farmers, including your father on his farm in Peace River, Alberta.  The work that you've done over these past few days, indeed, over these past many months, has been extraordinary on so many files in helping Canadians, in helping build relationships around the world.

Thank you, Chrystia, for all you’ve done.

It's wonderful to be here tonight.  It's wonderful to see so many friends in the room tonight.  People I didn't expect to see here who’ve come from Canada; people I've met, Chinese investors present in Canada who've gathered here tonight.  This is a wonderful celebration of a tremendous friendship that stretches back through the decades, but mostly will stretch forward decades and decades into the future.

I want to start by thanking the Canada China Business Council, its directors, benefactors, staff, and volunteers, for putting on this tremendous event.  I'd also like to acknowledge three of my many friends who are here with us tonight.

The first is my old friend Raymond Chan, who in 2004 became Canada's first Chinese Canadian cabinet minister.  Thank you for being here tonight, Raymond.

The next is Geng Tan, who's also here with us tonight and a current Member of Parliament.  Geng was born in Hunan and just last fall was elected as Canada's very first Member of Parliament from mainland China.

We also have Shaun Chen here, a strong, young member of our Chinese Canadian caucus.  And although Arnold Chan couldn't be with us here tonight, I know he wishes he could.  Indeed, our Parliament is lucky to have Chinese-Canadians in all political parties, representing communities across Canada in the House of Commons.

Now, Sophie, my wife, my daughter Ella-Grace and I have been in China for a little more than two days, but already we've been deeply touched by the incredible hospitality shown to us, and indeed, to our entire Canadian delegation.  So thank you, once again, for your warm and generous welcome.  It means a tremendous amount to us, and we're honoured to be your guests today, including the guests of His Excellency Yang Xiong, the Mayor of Shanghai.  Thank you all for your welcome.

This visit is taking place at a special time, a special time in the history of Canada as well as in the history of China. In fact, a crucial time in the history of our planet. And with that in mind, I want to share with you the reasons for this visit and what I hope to accomplish while we are here.

First and foremost, this visit is about renewing and deepening the relationship between the people of Canada and the people of China.  As you know, it's a relationship that historically has been close and warm, but more recently has perhaps been a little more distant or unfocused.  So I want to be as clear as I possibly can be on this point: China matters to Canada.

China's growth, its environmental progress, its economic success, the role it plays in the world, and the progress it makes on governance and the rule of law, all of these matter to Canadians and they matter to me.

I see three reasons why a stronger relationship between Canada and China benefits both countries.  The first has to do with strengthening and growing the middle class.  In Canada, we know that the heart of our economy rests with our middle class and all those working hard to join it.

These are the people who get up early every day, take their children to school, use public transit to get to work, and work hard to make ends meet for their family. They don’t ask for much. In fact, when you talk to them – and I have spent a lot of time with thousands of Canadians in communities across the country – you’ll see that all they want in return for their hard work is a real chance to succeed. In return, they simply ask for an opportunity to give their children a better world than the one they inherited from their own parents.

That same spirit, that same drive to do a little better and to be a little better exists everywhere in China as well.  And that's why it's so important to be very clear with people about what a stronger relationship means for our respective economies.

For Canadians it means that our businesses will have greater access to the large and rapidly growing Chinese and Asian economies.  That means a bigger market for quality Canadian food, like beef and pork, of course, but also for lobster and cherries.  It means more customers for Canadian financial services companies and more clients for design and engineering firms.

The rapid and wide-scale structural change now taking place in China's economy also means that trade and investment opportunities will continue to emerge and evolve.  Some of the clean technology now being developed in both countries was not on anyone's radar a generation ago, and we can't take advantage of tomorrow's opportunities if we don't work hard on building good relationships today because we know that when we do build strong and resilient relationships -- when we give Canadian businesses more opportunities to succeed -- they will succeed.  That means more better-paying jobs for Canadians, and when Canadian companies partner with Chinese companies, it means more and better-paying jobs here in China as well.

And so when I say that a stronger relationship between our two countries will benefit both countries, I'm thinking very much of the ways in which we can work together as partners to create jobs and strengthen the middle class in our communities and in yours.

Second, a stronger relationship between Ottawa and Beijing, one that strengthens and grows the middle class, will encourage economic growth as it opens doors and creates new opportunities for both Canadian and Chinese businesses to succeed.  A stronger relationship between Ottawa and Beijing leads to better opportunities between Montreal and Shanghai, Vancouver and Hong Kong, Waterloo and Hangzhou, and so forth.  And not just for the large multinational firms like Manulife and Huawei, but also for small and medium-size businesses like Nova Scotia's JusNova, which thanks to a local joint venture agreement, will be able to build a local manufacturing facility for wild blueberry products.

Or David Bromley Engineering, based in B.C., which will have a chance to deploy its innovative water treatment technology in Northern Alberta, thanks to private sector Chinese investors.

And on the research front we have deals like the one signed with the Sichuan Bohong Group to establish a joint auto engineering research lab at the University of Windsor.

Opportunities exist. They are real and important for jobs. Good, well-paying jobs in Canada and in China. And not just in traditional industries like natural resources or agri-food, but also in new sectors like clean tech.

The opportunities that exist are real and significant.  They don't just exist on paper, they are real jobs, as good, well-paying jobs in Canada and in China. And not just in traditional industries, such as natural resources or agriculture, but also in newer sectors like clean tech.

Now, I know that this room is filled with smart enterprising people who get things done.  But I also know that your work is easier when there is commitment at the highest level to building and nurturing strong, stable, long-term relationships between governments, and that's exactly what we're here to do.

China's leadership plays a central role in driving global economic growth.  Any economic strategy that ignores China or that treats the valuable relationship as anything less than critically important is not just short-sighted, it's irresponsible.

And as I have said, the benefits of a revitalized relationship go both ways.  Canada is an outstanding place to invest.  Canada is recognized as the best country in the G20 to do business.  We're home to the soundest banking system in the world and we have a workforce that is highly-educated and willing to work hard.

That's why smart investors, like the ones helping to create opportunities and jobs through JusNova, David Bromley Engineering, and dozens upon dozens of other examples, are turning to Canada.  Because they know a good deal when they see one.

And third, a stronger relationship will allow us to work together more effectively in a global context.  What we can accomplish by working together will always exceed what we can get by going it alone.  Think of the ways in which our cultural ties are deepened and strengthened by the experiences of young Chinese students who come to Canada to learn in our universities.  Or by the exchange of tourists.  Every year half a million Chinese tourists visit Canada, and it may surprise some of you to learn that similar numbers of Canadians come here every year.  And we're looking forward to seeing those numbers climb with our announcement that 2018 will be the year dedicated to Canada-China tourism.  Although, we're encouraging you all to get a head start, because next year is Canada's 150th birthday and in true Canadian fashion we're throwing open our doors and inviting the world to come celebrate with us.

But, of course, tourism is just one example.  Another example, one that truly has the potential to affect the lives of every person on the planet, is climate change.  Climate change is a global challenge; one that demands a global response.

As signatories to the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, Canada and China have committed to both address the challenges that come with climate change and embrace the opportunities that it presents.  We have before us a chance to build a clean growth economy that will help to fight climate change while creating good, well-paying jobs for our citizens.

Just as Canada will look to ways to lead the clean energy transition, we know that China will do the same.  And it is our hope that in doing so we will take advantage of this historic opportunity to work together, to invest in each other, to build in our shared knowledge, and to grow our economies in ways that are as clean as they are competitive.

Finally, I think there are ways in which a stronger relationship makes it easier for our two countries to have regular, frank discussions on issues like good governance, human rights, and the rule of law.  Freedom of expression is a true Canadian value, one protected by our Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  You see, Canada has succeeded, culturally, politically, economically because of our diversity, not in spite of it.

That message was central to the platform that got us elected and has remained at the heart of how we have governed, and it was a message that I carried into my meetings this week, including those with President Xi and Premier Li.

I shared with them my strong conviction that acceptance of diverse perspectives will strengthen China, just as it has Canada.  In a world of rapid change, it is a diversity of ideas and the free ability to express them that drives positive change.  And I remind everyone that as a country that has seen first-hand the benefits of free expression and good governance, Canada encourages China to do more to promote and protect human rights.

In the global village we all have a stake in what happens here.  The success of the world is inexorably linked to China's success.  And I know that these are not easy conversations to have, but they are necessary ones.  And as important as it is to me that our government seeks greater economy cooperation with China, so too must we promote the values that make us good economic partners and good friends.  Friendship should be open, honest, and constructive.  In the end, what I'm after on behalf of 36 million Canadians, is a friendship built to last.

You see, we're Canadians.  We travel with our values and we don't hesitate to share them whenever and wherever we see opportunities.  And actually, there's an opportunity here tonight.  Gentlemen, it's 2016, we need more women at this head table.

So as you see, the future of the Canada-China relationship is one that I'm very passionate about.

It’s important to me because I sincerely believe that a renewed relationship between Canada and China is good for everyone. Because a stronger and more stable relationship can help build and grow the middle class; because a prosperous middle class can, in turn, encourage greater and more prosperous economic growth; and because a stronger relationship will enable both of our countries to work together to satisfy not just our own interests, but also the needs of the entire planet.

Now, before I finish, I want to take a moment to applaud the Canada China Business Council again for all the hard work it has done, in good times and in more challenging times, to foster this most important relationship.  It truly is a relationship that stretches back generations.  Back to my father, who visited this beautiful country many times, including during his time as Prime Minister with me in tow, because he recognized that a relationship with China was important.  Well, not for the first time, and not for the last, he was right about that.

But before that, to Dr. Norman Bethune, whose selflessness and generosity may have been rooted in his Canadian origins but found their highest expression right here in China.  And, of course, our business connections reach back further still, to the Bank of Montreal, Canada's first bank, which was the first to do business with China just three months after it was founded in 1818.

In other words, Canada and China have a long history together.  It's a history we should honour, even as we seek to forge new paths together.

I hope you will continue to work hard to help businesses in Canada and in China seize the opportunities for greater partnership that now lie before us because in the end, we are all served by taking the long view.  I've always believed that the purpose of leadership is to represent the future to the past and to the present.  History has a way of making the most controversial decisions obvious, but that does not diminish the courage of leaders of previous generations.

And now, 45 years down the road, the world is self-evidently better off because they worked so hard to bring China into the global system.

This morning I had the opportunity to hold my daughter's hand along the Great Wall of China.  Let me tell you, when you find yourself walking along a centuries old wall with your seven year-old daughter, the least you can do is think a few decades down the road. Then the answers to the biggest questions become clear.

Do we want a world built on diversity or division? One that prospers by expanding trade and creating growth, or one that makes us all poorer because we've thrown up walls and retreated behind them?  One where we work hard and work together to overcome our differences and build on common ground, or one where we keep our distance from people whose history and culture differ from our own?

Well, we're going through a period of enormous change, my friends, in China, in Canada, and everywhere in between.  No country, no business, indeed, no person will be unaffected.

The question before us is, therefore, whether we engage and actively work to choose and shape and seize our future, or fearfully and passively let it happen around us.  Well, I know that you all are here because you've already answered that question the right way.  It is the choice previous generations would expect of us, and for which our children will be thankful.

We have a lot of work ahead of us, my friends, and I, for one, couldn't be more looking forward to it.

Merci beaucoup, thank you, xiè xie.