The world is going through a period of momentous change. Financial crises, political upheaval, an ageing population and the rise of volatile economies will have an impact on us all and no country is immune from their effect. However, Canada is particularly well placed to cope with that change.
Canada weathered the economic storm better than most. Not a single Canadian bank had to be bailed out. The quality of our system was recognised by the World Economic Forum, which named our banks as the soundest in the world. Forbes Magazine recently ranked Canada as the best country in which to do business thanks to our tax regime, our technology and innovation, the way we protect investors, and very little red tape. We entered the global downturn in an enviable position. Why? Because we’ve lived through tough times before and learned some harsh lessons along the way. In the mid-1990s Canada was mired in debt so the government introduced the biggest spending cuts since the Second World War. Within four years Canada had a budget surplus and paid down the debt.
Canada is not being complacent. In fact no country can be. There are tough times ahead for all of us. What happens in London, Washington, Brussels, Beijing or Athens has an impact that reverberates everywhere.
Canada is a global energy superpower. We are the United States’ largest foreign supplier of energy. But Canada isn’t just focusing on conventional energy. We’re a world leader in the production and use of green energy from renewable resources. Seventy per cent of our country’s electricity is generated emission-free. It is our natural resources and our focus on renewables that will ensure Canada’s future prosperity.
Our prosperity and quality of life depend on our trading relationships with other nations. It’s our relationship with the UK that gives us a gateway to Europe. The ties between Canada and the UK are deep, and the UK is by far Canada’s most important commercial partner in Europe. Canada is currently negotiating a trade agreement with the European Union which we hope to have signed this year. It will give Canada access to the world’s largest single market with a population of more than 500 million. And it will give Europeans access to one of the richest and most competitive economies in the world.
Canada’s Pacific coast is two days closer to Asian markets – Japan, Korea and China – than anywhere else in North America. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently signed a wide-ranging set of agreements on energy and trade with China that will have a real impact on our economy. But our relationship with Asia is not only of benefit to us – in this interconnected world, the UK and Europe are looking to Canada to act as a trade bridge between them and the Pacific Rim. And as a result, Canada now stands at an historic crossroads as an economic powerhouse.
Canada is a great partner with strong trade, social and economic links with Asia Pacific and Europe. We are in a position to provide real partnership power.