November 7, 2012
New Delhi, India
Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivered the following remarks at the World Economic Forum:
“Thank you very much.
“Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, before I begin, I should just like to extend a few greetings, first of all to the Canadian business delegation, I want to thank all of you for making time in your busy schedules to support our Government’s trade and investment mission to India.
“It is much appreciated.
“Also to members of our Government caucus, Ministers Ed Fast, Tim Uppal and Bal Gosal, Senators Asha Seth and Tobias Enverga, Members of Parliament, Deepak Obhrai, Nina Grewal, Devinder Shory, Parm Gill and Kyle Seeback.
“Thank you for coming, and also good to see my old friend and colleague Stockwell Day, here as well, great to see Stock again.
“Finally, I’m sorry to learn that Professor Schwab cannot be with us today.
“However, I’m pleased to once more meet with the World Economic Forum’s Managing Director Borge Brende.
“And Borge, I look forward to our discussion in a few minutes.
“Laureen and I visited India in 2009, and I have to tell you ladies and gentlemen, it left quite an impression.
“The first thing you realize is that one trip cannot possibly be enough to even scrape the surface of this large and fascinating civilization.
“So, it really is a pleasure to be back.
“It is also a pleasure to be back at the World Economic Forum, a place where a great many people who want to make a difference regularly come to meet.
“And I am delighted to see that you have also chosen to be in India, a place where globally important decisions are increasingly being made.
“Almost a year ago, during your last Davos gathering, I highlighted some of Canada’s economic strengths and challenges.
“On the former, on the strongest, Canadian banks remain the soundest in the world.
“The World Economic Forum is one of several organizations that says so.
“Canada’s net debt-to-GDP ratio remains the lowest in the G-7, and the lowest by far.
“Thus Canada’s top credit rating has been reaffirmed by all of the major rating agencies.
“Among G-7 countries, Canada now has the lowest overall tax rate on new business investment.
“Canada also possesses a diverse yet harmonious society, with public institutions and a public service noted for professionalism and integrity.
“All of these assets, as Borge mentioned, and others have helped Canada better weather and better recover from the global recession.
“Indeed, despite the uncertainty of the times, the Canadian economy has now added more than eight hundred thousand net new jobs since July 2009.
“Still, we remain acutely aware of the difficult global trends, especially for many developed countries.
“As I said to the World Economic Forum in January, many countries with which Canada is traditionally aligned continue to be weighed down by debts they cannot seem to control, by entitlements they can no longer afford and by growth which threatens to remain sluggish for the foreseeable future.
“As I said in January, it is high time we realize that:
“The wealth of western economies is no more inevitable than the poverty of emerging ones.”
“As these last four years have revealed, the wealth we enjoy today in the West is not inevitable.
“Our standard of living will be based on – and will be based only on – strong, growth-orientated policies and on getting the hard choices right.
“That is why, over the past year, the Government of Canada has committed itself to a series of determined actions, we want to help ensure that growth, job creation and economic prosperity will be there for Canadians over the long term.
“Now, broadly, for the sake of a shorthand, we categorize our various set of actions, which I’ll review quickly, into what I call the five ‘T’s’.
“The first of these is taxes; what I mean by that is keeping them down while ensuring strong government finances at the same time.
“We have continued to restrain and reform government expenditures to ensure that our budget will be balanced over the medium term and, perhaps more importantly, we have taken actions to ensure that the federal fiscal position will be clearly sustainable over the next generation and beyond.
“The second ‘T’ is training and by that I mean that we are reforming broadly our labour markets.
“We are investing in training and higher education at home.
“We are also making Canada’s open and generous immigration system faster and more flexible in order to attract and integrate those with the skills we need as quickly as possible.
“As well, we have improved incentives in our Employment Insurance program to better connect Canadians with available work.
“The third ‘T’ refers to technology.
“We are just beginning to comprehensively modernize our approach to research and innovation policy in order to get better commercial results for the significant government investments we make in scientific and technological development.
“The fourth ‘T’ refers to the transformation, and specifically to the transformation of bureaucratic processes.
“We are doing a number of things, for example, we have launched the Red Tape Reduction Initiative and the Responsible Resource Development Initiative.
“The goal of the latter is to ensure that environmental reviews are comprehensive and that they are also completed in a reasonable timeframe according to the principle of ‘one project, one review’.
“The final ‘T’ and the one that brings me again to this part of the world is, of course, trade, and more broadly, our Global Commerce Strategy for trade and investment.
“Now since our Government came to office in 2006, we have successfully concluded foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with fourteen countries, that, of course, includes China.
“We are negotiating with twelve more.
“Since 2006, Canada has also concluded new trade agreements with nine countries and we’ve launched negotiations with over sixty others.
“These include the Trans-Pacific Partnership which we officially joined just one month ago.
“They also include our current talks with the European Union, this is Canada’s most significant trade initiative since the signing of NAFTA and it is progressing very rapidly.
“All of this leads me to talk about India.
“During my 2009 visit and while Prime Minister Singh was with us in Canada the following year, I spoke about the need for Canada and India to become closer partners.
“And while I believe that this clearly is a mutual objective,
“I also believe we need to become closer partners more quickly.
“When so much mutual interest, obvious synergy and cultural compatibility draw us together, greater momentum for a much closer and deeper partnership between Canada and India should be attainable.
“Prime Minister Singh and I have agreed on a goal of expanding bilateral trade to fifteen billion dollars by 2015.
“Certainly, Canada has demonstrated our commitment to this goal.
“Canada now has seven Consulates throughout India.
“We have strengthened high-level contact.
“In addition to my trips, there have been no less than twenty-two visits from Canadian ministers since 2006.
“Our businesses are also increasingly engaged.
“Over 500 Canadian companies are here now, and hundreds more are making plans.
“The Canada-India CEO Forum has been established.
“And, I would be remiss not to mention the remarkable international partnership of Canada and India at the summits of the G-20 since their inception.
“In fact, Canada and India have co-chaired and led consensus on two of the most important G-20 working groups:
“On international financial sector reform, and on the framework for strong, sustainable and balanced global growth.
“Ladies and gentlemen, through actions such as these, our priority on, and our commitment to, building bridges with India should be unmistakable.
“And it all rests on a solid foundation.
“We are inheritors of similar traditions and values.
“We are pluralistic societies, seeking strength from our diversity.
“We practice and esteem both the democracy and solidarity of our society and the rights and dignity of the individual.
“Such bonds as these should allow not just for a profitable relationship, but for a profound friendship.
“Certainly they have made it easy for India’s sons and daughters to integrate into Canadian life just as Canada’s efficient and predictable business climate has made it possible for so many of them to build businesses and achieve success in Canada.
“In doing so, Indo-Canadians contribute tremendously to our country.
“More than a million Canadians of Indian origin now live in Canada, more than three per cent of our entire population.
“They work hard, give back to their communities and make us proud.
“And you send us your young people in growing numbers.
“Last year, more than twenty-three thousand Indian students studied or conducted research in Canada, that is a one-third increase in just one year, two-and-a-half times more in just the past three years.
“I personally place great importance on these people-to-people links.
“They are, and will be, a living bridge between our two great countries, a bridge of increasing span, and growing importance.
“In fact, I am delighted to point out that there are no less than eight members of the government caucus in Canada, including two ministers, who trace their roots to India.
“But besides these impressive human relationships, we are, as I said three years ago, also obvious partners.
“This potential partnership is particularly obvious in the areas we have identified as core Canadian economic opportunities in India: energy, agriculture, infrastructure and education.
“Canada, on the one hand, is a natural-resources powerhouse.
“On the other, India needs resources to serve its growing industrial and technological strength.
“Canada has strong, established public institutions.
“India’s needs in areas like education and infrastructure are outstripping its capacity.
“Canada is an outward-looking nation.
“India’s reforms are increasingly opening its economy.
“Canada understands that traditional economic linkages will not be sufficient to preserve our prosperity in this uncertain global economy.
“And I think India likewise understands that while its aspirations are achievable, without the right policies, and the right partners, a continuation of its high rates of economic growth is simply not assured.
“As I’ve said before, the untapped economic potential between us is massive and undeniable.
“But, massive and undeniable as that potential is, it will not develop itself.
“It will take concerted efforts by both of our countries to reap all of the benefits that this relationship can yield.
“I acknowledge, ladies and gentlemen, that there has been progress.
“The Social Security Agreement is finally done.
“So too, at last, is the Administrative Arrangement to complete our Nuclear Cooperation Agreement.
“Our Foreign Investment negotiations have come much of the way.
“We have to get serious about getting them over the finish line.
“And negotiators will meet next week in Ottawa for the next round of discussions on a comprehensive economic partnership and trade agreement.
“To complete that would ensure the realization of our ambitious trade goals and more, but we still do have a long way to go.
“Friends, here’s the bottom line.
“The world’s economy is moving quickly; Canada and India must also.
“On our side, we have been deepening trade and investment ties with the largest, most dynamic markets in the world, the United States of course, the European Union, Japan, China.
“We want India to be firmly in that list.
“But time and tide wait for no one.
“We must redouble our efforts.
“Let us not lose the chance for both of our countries that this moment offers.
“Now ladies and gentlemen, let me finish with this thought: you know, I believe there is a kind of parallel to Canada and India and the typical Bollywood plot.
“Two young people meet.
“They know they’re meant for each other, but they have obstacles to overcome.
“They do, in fact, overcome those obstacles and the happy ending ensures, and they do so before the viewer loses interest.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is a bit like how I see the relationship between Canada and India.
“We have had a very promising start.
“But, we have to work hard to overcome the obstacles, and we have to work quickly and in a determined matter if we are to get to the happy ending that we both want.
“It won’t be easy, but it can be done, so let’s get it done, let’s get it done quickly and it will be worth it.
“Thank you again to the World Economic Forum for this invitation, and ladies and gentlemen for your patience and your attention.”
Comments courtesy The Prime Minister's Office - Communications