An Economic Partnership, Independent Foreign Policy

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Partnership with the United States has been key to Canada's economic success. It should be strengthened by an independent foreign policy in which Canada and the United States can complement each other by bringing sometimes different strengths to the same shared cause. Speech to the Canadian American Business Council, Washington, D.C., June 24, 2003

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The Secretary [U.S. Commerce Secretary Donald Evans] spoke eloquently about the relationship between our two great nations and I have been often told that, if our wonderful relationship is to continue to flourish, each of us personally has a responsibility to do our part to advance it. I want to give an account of myself today so that you will know what I have done for our common cause.

Twenty years ago today, June 24, 1983, I came to this beautiful city, Washington, D.C., and I married an American. She now holds joint citizenship and we have produced Canadians in Canada who hold joint citizenship. And just as the continental relationship has flourished, Mr. Secretary, I can tell you that all is well on the home front too. In fact, this afternoon Debbie will arrive in Washington and we will have the evening to celebrate our two happy decades together. I wanted you to know that.

You know, it is important to the partnership that each of us be strong. I wanted to begin as the Minister responsible for business and the economy in Canada just by giving you a brief sketch of the current economic circumstances in our nation. We have come a long way in 10 years. We have led the G-7 in economic growth for the last six years, with an average of 3.5% annual growth since 1996. We have been delighted to see our economy grow and diversify throughout Canada, with employment increasing, investment being attracted and sound prospects for the future.

We are proud of what we have achieved, but we are also keenly aware that the key to that economic success is the extraordinary partnership between our nations. So, while we derive great satisfaction from increased prosperity in Canada, we never forget that fundamental to our prosperity is the relationship that we enjoy with the United States.

Over the last 10 years, since the advent of free trade, there has been a revolution in Canada--a revolution that has involved a broadening of our sense of confidence. It is as though once the tariff roles were down, Canadians came to realize in vivid terms that we can indeed compete, take on the world and win; we take on the world together, Canada and the United States. We have so much in common. We seek markets together, we develop products together. Just this week in Washington at the BIO 2003 Conference, we have a contingent of some 4500 Canadians joining with partners in business here in the United States to advance our shared interests, to talk about discoveries we are working on together, to talk about financing ventures, and to discuss how we can open markets in one country or the other for our partners and for our friends.

So the message I bring to you from the Canadian side of the border, Mr. Secretary, is that we have a strong and growing economy, which appreciates so much the partnership we have developed and looks forward to years of increased prosperity.

That is not to say we don't face challenges, because we do, and I can speak candidly in saying that we have a number on our plate. Our dollar has appreciated in value in relation to the American dollar some 13 or 14% since January. That rapid rise has caused real challenges for some of our exporters. The positive side of the coin, of course, is that it makes the purchase of foreign equipment more readily achievable for those Canadian companies who seek to increase productivity by renewing their infrastructure.

We also are looking at increased competition from other places around the globe--from China and from other countries--and we are developing strategies to deal with competition that, in many ways, is difficult for us to meet in terms of the cost of labour. …