Prime Minister Trudeau holds a joint media availability with Prime Minister Kučinskis of Latvia
Hello everyone. I’d like to start by thanking Prime Minister Kučinskis for welcoming me to Latvia. It’s a pleasure to be here and I’m looking forward to meeting with President Vējonis later today. Thank you also for welcoming my team, Minister Freeland, Minister Sajjan, and General Jonathan Vance, Chief of Defence Staff.
Today marks an important occasion. It’s the first time a Canadian prime minister has made a bilateral visit to Latvia. We are taking advantage of this opportunity to further increase our collaboration at a time when Latvians this year are celebrating their country’s centenary. Our two countries have always had a special bond. Canada was the first G7 country to recognize Latvia’s independence in 1991 and was one of the first to ratify Latvia’s membership in NATO.
Today, Prime Minister Kučinskis and I spoke about our cooperation on joint priorities, in particular, our shared commitment to creating a more peaceful and more stable world. These are uncertain times, and I assured the Prime Minister that Canada will continue to step up, just as we always have. We remain unwavering in our support for security in the Baltic region. That’s why Canada is leading the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Latvia. We’ve contributed 450 Canadian Armed Forces troops, and I’m especially looking forward to spending time with them later today and seeing firsthand the important work that they are doing.
I know all of our Canadians in uniform are proud to be serving in Latvia alongside our NATO allies. The Prime Minister and I discussed Canada’s continued support for this mission, and I’m happy to announce today that Canada is extending our contribution as NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence framework nation, here in Latvia.
I want to be clear. We are absolutely committed to the protection of our allies and to global peace and security. Canadians always have and always will stand up for a better and more just world. That’s why Canada will continue to be a late leader within NATO. Our mission’s current mandate ends in 2019 and this announcement today extends our commitment for four more years on top of that. We’re increasing the Land Task Force, and adding greater flexibility for Canada’s contribution to NATO Maritime Forces. The mission will also have a CF-18 Fighter presence including bilateral training and air policing.
As NATO members, we must stay responsive to changing threats around the world. This mission renewal will look at how to employ cyber capabilities in line with the new defence policy that Minister Sajjan released last year. Canada’s new defence policy, created through the most open and comprehensive defence policy review ever, ensures that we will remain a dependable NATO ally. This policy will see annual funding for defence increase by more than 70% in ten years. Most importantly, the investments we are making in our military are highly strategic and focused on equipping our Forces with the tools and resources they need. We’re buying 88 advanced fighter jets, we’re fully funding the Royal Canadian Navy’s full complement of Canadian Surface Combatant ships. We’re also recapitalizing much of the Canadian Army’s land combat capabilities.
Canada’s role as leader of the battlegroup in Latvia demonstrates its commitment to the NATO alliance, as well as Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Libya. Canadians are proud of being at the forefront of efforts to defend shared democratic values and a rules-based international order.
Prime Minister Kučinskis and I also talked today about our commitment to protecting democracy, rule of law and freedom of speech. We can’t ignore the reality that in many places these values are threatened. Our extended commitment to the NATO mission in Latvia sends the clear message that Canada will always do its part.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed trade. Canada and Latvia are solid economic partners. In fact, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Strategic Partnership Agreement between Canada and the European Union confirm our common objectives. Progressive trade creates new opportunities for people and businesses in both countries. It’s a strategy that will ensure job creation and boost our economies for the good of both Latvians and Canadians. I am proud that AirBaltic chose to buy 80 planes from Bombardier, a Canadian company. It’s a significant investment and an example of our solid trade relationship.
And it’s not just shared values and trade that bind Canadians and Latvians together, but people too. It is individuals who build and defend our countries, just like the soldiers honoured at the Freedom Memorial I visited earlier today. It’s the hard work and dreams of our fellow citizens that help us thrive. The 28,000 strong Latvian-Canadian community enriches Canada’s national fabric. They’re celebrating with pride during Latvia’s 100th birthday this year, and I’m confident that the next 100 years will continue the close relationship between our two countries. It’s a relationship built on friendship, cooperation and shared economic prosperity.