Tagged: ImportsExports

Minister Fast Holds 'Go Global' Workshop in Uxbridge, Ontario, to Boost Canadian Exports and Jobs

Supporting and partnering with small and medium-sized businesses to seize opportunities abroad is a key part of our pro-export, pro-jobs plan, says Minister Fast

March 30, 2015 – Uxbridge, Ontario – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, alongside Jayson Myers, President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Peter Hall, Vice-President and Chief Economist of Export Development Canada, today hosted an export workshop designed to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the tools and practical information they need to take advantage of international business opportunities to export.

Today’s export workshop in Uxbridge, part of a cross-country series launched by Minister Fast in November 2014, was attended by more than 50 participants. To date, 13 workshops have been hosted across Canada, attracting a total of more than 1,150 SME representatives.

By bringing together the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, Business Development Bank of Canada and Canadian Commercial Corporation, these export workshops, delivered in partnership with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, provide a one-stop shop offering information and tools to SMEs to help them succeed abroad.

As part of Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, Prime Minister Harper recently announced a total of $50 million over five years in direct financial assistance to Canadian SMEs for market research and participation in trade missions. It is expected that this funding will help between 500 and 1,000 Canadian entrepreneurs per year reach their full export potential.

The Prime Minister also announced additional funding of $42 million over five years to expand the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, with $9.2 million a year ongoing. This builds on the government’s recent expansion of our trade services in China by opening four new trade offices, bringing the total number of offices there to 15, with more than 100 trade commissioners, and strengthening our support network in India with eight offices and nearly 50 trade commissioners on the ground.

Following Minister Fast’s announcement just under a year ago, there are now more than 25 trade commissioners embedded in business associations across Canada in order to gain better insight into the needs of export-oriented industries.

With GMAP, through economic diplomacy and under a whole-of-government approach to export, the Harper Government has revolutionized Canada’s trade-promotion efforts by ensuring Canadian businesses receive the full range of support and services they need to find real export success in global markets, which creates jobs and opportunities for workers and their families here at home.

Minister Fast invited participants to join him on his upcoming trade mission to the Philippines, which will take place in May 2015.

The next export workshop will be held in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on April 8, 2015.

Quick Facts

  • One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on exports, representing 60 percent of the country’s economy.
  • Since 2006, the Harper government has concluded trade agreements with 38 countries, bringing the total to 43 countries.
  • As a result of the new trade agreement with the European Union and the entry into force of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement on January 1, 2015, Canadian businesses will soon benefit from preferential access to more than half of the entire global marketplace.
  • There are more than one million SMEs across Canada, with only 41,000 currently exporting. Under GMAP, the Harper Government set the goal of nearly doubling—from 11,000 to 21,000—the number of Canadian SMEs exporting to emerging markets.
  • Since 2006 the government has taken significant steps to improve support for small and medium-sized businesses, including:
    • reducing the small business tax rate to 11 percent;
    • increasing the income limit for the small business tax rate from $300,000 to $500,000;
  • implementing the one-for-one rule to cut unnecessary red tape, saving Canadian businesses more than $22 million in administrative burden as of June 2014, as well as 290,000 hours in time spent dealing with red tape; and
  • improving access to capital for innovative entrepreneurs by launching the Venture Capital Action Plan.

Quotes

“Our government is committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder with Canadian small and medium-sized businesses in Uxbridge and across the country to seize export opportunities and create jobs. Our efforts to support exporters are yielding significant results. I look forward to engaging with many more Canadian businesses across the country in the upcoming months.

“We are breaking down the silos between our export agencies, taking a whole-of-government approach to exporting and providing the tools, services and information that you and your businesses need to succeed.”

– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade

Related Products

Associated Links

Contacts

Max Moncaster
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
343-203-7332

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
343-203-7700
media@international.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade
Like us on Facebook: Canada’s International Trade Plan-DFATD

Frequently Asked Questions: End of milk quotas

Why and when were quotas established?

Milk quotas were introduced to address the structural oversupply on the EU market of the late 1970s and early 1980s that had led to the infamous milk lakes and “butter mountains”. EU dairy farmers were guaranteed a price for their milk (considerably higher than on world markets) regardless of market demand. Despite different efforts in the 1970s to slow down EU production, it continued to rise much faster than domestic demand. The system was also having a negative impact on world market prices, as the EU frequently subsidised exports on to the world market.

In July 1983, the European Commission proposed to introduce milk quotas, and this was agreed by the Council on March 31, 1984. The regime required a quota being fixed for each individual producer or purchaser, with a levy (“superlevy”) payable for those who exceed their quota. Subsequent changes have meant producers only have to pay the levy when the Member State also exceeds its national quota.

Do quotas cover all milk, such as sheep and goat’s milk?

No, only cow’s milk. Other milks represent only a tiny share of the EU milk market.

Have quotas achieved their purpose?

The system of quotas – and the threat of levy – helped to cap the expansion of EU production. The butter and skimmed milk powder “mountains”, which had exceeded 1 million tonnes, fell steadily. However, there have been other important changes to the Common Agricultural Policy which have led to a much more market-oriented sector. Successive reforms of the CAP have seen a reduction in guaranteed prices, with a range of policy tools aimed at stabilising farm revenues, notably the system of direct payments, primarily decoupled from production.

Why remove them now?

Milk quotas were originally introduced for 5 years, but the expiry date has been put back several times. The final date was decided in the 2003 CAP reform, and reconfirmed in 2008 with concrete steps to provide a “soft landing” by the end of March 2015. The primary reasons for deciding to end milk quotas was that there has been a considerable increase in consumption of dairy products in recent years, especially on the world market – projected to continue in future – while the quota regime is preventing EU producers from responding to this growing demand. For example, EU exports of dairy products to Korea have more than doubled between 2010 and 2014 from €99mn to €235mn. This corresponds to an increase in the EU’s share of Korean dairy imports from 28% to 37% over the same period. With close to €55bn, the dairy sector represents 15% of the total EU agricultural output. Milk is produced in every single EU Member State without exception in around 650 000 dairy farms. On top of that, there are about 5 400 dairy processing companies in the EU employing 300 000 people. They should be given the possibility to fully benefit from the growing global consumer demand, particularly in Asian markets.

Because the end of milk quotas represent opportunities but also concerns, successive reforms have found other, more targeted ways of helping to support more vulnerable areas, where there are strong social and economic reasons for trying to maintain dairy farming.

I am a milk producer, what does it mean for my daily work?

The end of quotas means that there is an administrative simplification in terms of monitoring daily production. However, there is also an additional requirement and responsibility to monitor market signals more closely (producer organisations and cooperatives may play a decisive role in this respect). In this sense, the Commission has set up the Milk Market Observatory in order to increase market transparency and make the sector aware of the market situation. The slowdown in EU production since the end of last year in the face of less positive market signals is a clear example of where the sector is already responding to the market.    

Does this leave dairy farmers without any protection or support?

Extreme price volatility is limited by the “safety net” instruments still available under the Common Market Organisation (public buying in of butter and skimmed milk powder and private storage aid schemes). The Commission has also the possibility to intervene in exceptional circumstances, as it was the case last year with the Russian import ban in the Baltics countries and in Finland.

As well as the system of “decoupled” CAP Direct Payments, Member States have a range of options open to them which they decide at national on regional level. Options include an additional payment for areas with natural constraints and the possibility for voluntary coupled support for certain regions or certain sectors in fragile situation. In implementing the 2013 CAP reform, 18 Member States have introduced a coupled payment for the dairy sector – worth just over €800 million in 2015.

Also, under Rural Development Programmes, Member States or regions have the flexibility to target support at specific challenges such as dairy farms in fragile areas. Possible measures available here include support for investments in physical assets, payments to areas facing natural constraints, income stabilisation tools, advisory services, incentives for innovation, but there are more. Another option includes support for establishing Producer Organisations.

As well as this financial support, the CAP provides practical and organisational support under the 2012 Milk Package*, such as clearer rules on written contracts but more importantly increased bargaining power for producer organisations.

There is also a role for Interbranch Organisations in the dairy sector. These may carry out a series of activities, including improving knowledge and transparency on production and the market; helping coordinate better the way products are placed on the market, in particular by means of research and market studies; promoting consumption; carrying out the necessary research to adjust production in favour of products more suited to market requirements, in particular with regard to product quality; and promoting innovation, etc.

Before the expiry of the Milk Package provisions in 2020, the Commission is committed to present a Report to the European Parliament and the Council before the end of 2018 on the development of the dairy market situation.

 

Aren’t we running the risk of over-producing again?

No, there is not a risk of the same sort of structural surpluses as in the past. The guaranteed price for butter and skimmed milk powder now merely serves as a safety net – such as during the 2009 dairy crisis, where it put a floor in the market. This means that producers are looking at the market when they decide how much to produce. Increased focus on added-value products (such as cheese and yoghurts) as well as on ingredients for nutritional, sports and dietary products have a strong potential in terms of growth and jobs for the EU.

What are the forecasts in terms of production at Member States and EU level?

While some Member States perceive the end of milk quotas as a source of concern, others welcome the opportunities provided by it.

The Commission’s medium-term market outlook last December forecast continued growth in exports, especially for cheese, skimmed milk powder and whey. See page 35 for more detailed prospects per Member State.

 

How has the sector evolved over the years in terms of producers and production?

As in most agricultural sectors – and most sectors of the economy – there has been a gradual decline in the number of dairy farmers around the EU in the past 30 years (-6% a year on average). Average herd sizes have tended to increase, and improvements in genetics and feed efficiency have helped increase the average yield per cow. However, the situation widely varies from Member State to Member State: milk specialised farms in the EU-15* have a milk yield of some 7 300 kg/cow for an average herd of 54 cows, while in the EU-10** the average yield is 5 700 kg/cow for an average herd of 19 cows and in the EU-2*** the average yield is 3 400 kg/cow for an average herd of 5 cows. (This compares with average herd sizes of 115 cows in the USA, 258 cows in Australia and 413 cows in New Zealand.) In addition to this consolidation, we have seen dairy farmers working more closely together through cooperatives. The overall level of production has remained relatively stable, limited by the quota regime. However, the greater market orientation has seen a greater shift towards more added-value products, especially for exports. For example, EU cheese production from 2003 to 2013 increased by 26%, while the volume of exports rose by 69%. The share of ingredients is also significantly increasing notably targeting new nutritional needs linked to modern living habits and evolving demography.

One of the other crucial elements has been the additional investments provided by EU Rural Development funding, in particular for individual farm modernisation projects, but also on other investments. Figures for the 2007-2013, show that EU funding for farm modernisation amounted to 1.8 billion EUR, which was matched by 1.4bn EUR of national/regional public funds, and nearly 7.4 bn EUR of private investment – such that a total of more than 10.6bn EUR was spent on dairy modernisation over the period.

* Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

** Czech Republic, Estonia, Cyprus, Latvia,Lithuania, Hungary, Malta, Poland, Slovenia and Slovakia

*** Bulgaria, Romania

Will it create greater price volatility for milk?

Volatility is a normal characteristic of agricultural markets. The European dairy sector is now following a market-orientated policy, which means that, following the ending of milk quotas, production should be based on market needs and opportunities. Where possible, supply and demand should be adjusted to meet those needs and opportunities.

The EU is the most important milk producer in the world and a major player which, with or without quotas, is connected with the dynamics world market. So while experience show quotas cannot prevent crisis, they certainly do impede our farmers to follow market signals and take advantage of market opportunities.

The role for the public authorities is limited to safety net measures. Public intervention remains available if prices drop below a reference level.

Underlying demand growth has not been affected by the latest market downturn – population growth, rising incomes and changing dietary preferences are all positive demand drivers. So, there is good reason to be optimistic about the future

Will this mean that consumer prices get cheaper?

Past experience shows that there is not always a correlation between what the farmer gets paid and what the consumer pays. For example, the significant increase in the farm gate price during the first half of 2014 (+13% for the EU) was generally transmitted to consumer prices for both milk and cheese, but with significant differences between Member States – Germany +8.4%, France +0.8%. By contrast, the generalised decrease in producer prices in the second half of 2014 did not prevent a further increase in consumer prices in most Member States, although to a small extent.

Changes in producer & consumer prices, 2014 relative to the same period of 2013 (in %)

Producer Prices

 

Consumer Prices

Jan-Jun 2014

Jul-Dec 2014

Jan-Jun 2014

Jul-Dec 2014

EU

+12.6%

-7.7%

+3.2%

+1.5%

Germany

+15.3%

-11.7%

+8.4%

+4.0%

France

+12.1%

-0.6%

+0.8%

+0.6%

Poland

+14.9%

-9.6%

+3.4%

+1.1%

UK

+13.2%

-2.4%

+1.6%

-0.5%

Source: DG AGRI Short-term market outlook

Cornerstones of the new EU Energy Union

Vice-President Šefčovič speech at EUFORES 15th Inter-Parliamentary Meeting on Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency

Vienna

Ladies and gentlemen,

Two weeks ago, the European Commission adopted the Energy Union Strategy. I then called it the most ambitious energy project since the European Coal and Steel Community of the 1950s, because what we want to achieve, is nothing less than a fundamental transition of our energy system. We want to set our economy on a new, sustainable trajectory. As one Member of the European Parliament summarized it in a single image: we want to move from a Community of Coal and Steel to a Union of Sun and Wind.

Such an overarching strategy can only succeed if we work together across institutions and stakeholders at all levels: European, regional, national and local. Just like we worked together within the Commission, across portfolios, bringing together 14 Commissioners and 16 DGs. I am therefore very grateful for the opportunity to discuss the Energy Union directly with you – parliamentarians from across Europe, civil society, and businesses. Your contribution will be crucial to achieve the goals of this forward-looking energy and climate change policy.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Energy Union is a big step towards an energy market that is economically sustainable, environmentally friendly, and socially inclusive. An energy market that is integrated, interconnected, resilient and secure. It is a ‘triple win’ strategy, because it will benefit citizens, businesses, and the environment.

For that, we set out a series of concrete actions – both legislative and non-legislative – in the five dimensions that I presented to the European Parliament in my hearing and that, next week, the European Council will hopefully confirm:

  • First, securing our supply. Member States, and citizens, should know that they can rely on neighbouring countries when faced with possible energy supply disruptions. That is what the word ‘solidarity’ means in the energy field; that is how we can build more trust between Member States. We are therefore working on a series of measures to diversify our energy resources and supply routes. Next week, for instance, I will attend the groundbreaking ceremony of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), in Kars, Turkey; a project that will bring gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz II field through Turkey, into Europe. It is this kind of projects we need. But security of supply means much more than only gas, however important gas will remain for years to come. Security of supply means – and I would even say: it means first and foremost – becoming more energy efficient, knowing that for every 1% improvement in energy efficiency, EU gas imports fall by 2.6%.
  • Energy security also means: building a single energy market will allow energy to flow freely across EU countries as a fifth European freedom. This internal market is the second dimension of the Energy Union Strategy.By removing technical and regulatory barriers of cross-border energy flows, consumers will enjoy the fruits of a increased competition – lower prices and better service!
  • The third, fourth and fifth dimensions go hand in hand with the first two and go to the core of today’s conference and the work you do at EUFORES, namely: increasing energy efficiency, decarbonising our economy and investing in innovative renewable sources of energy.

This covers a very broad range of issues, which will require the full involvement of many commissioners. Let me just mention three issues, amongst many other issues, that I intend to give a serious push in the weeks and months ahead.

First, to tap the full potential of energy efficiency of buildings. The figures clearly show why more action is needed in this field: currently, 75% of Europe’s building stock is not energy efficient; buildings are responsible for 40% of energy consumption and 36% of CO2 emissions in the EU. About 35% of our buildings are over 50 years old. They eat energy! While older buildings consume about 25 litres of heating oil per square meter per year on average (some even up to 60 litres!), new buildings only need three to five litres on average. So we can – and should – do better.

Second, as the importance of the local level increases, we should pay more attention to initiatives at the local level, of course in full respect of the principle of subsidiarity. Smart Cities are an excellent example of how the municipal level can play a major role in the transformation of the energy market that we’re looking for. Last week I met an impressive delegation of mayors who shared several good examples of successful initiatives from all over Europe:

  • the German city of Heidelberg created an entire neighbourhood with only passive buildings, (in the city quarter of Bahnstadt. The neighbourhood is powered by district heating, primarily sourced from renewables with smart energy consumption meters, creating local jobs and a passive housing knowledge cluster for future projects.
  • Helsinki is a leader in heating and efficiency standards. 90% of the city is serviced by the district heating system with over 90% efficiency.
  • in the north of France, the city of Loos-en-Gohelle transformed its coal mine into a regional research centre of sustainable development. Visitors now face the surreal image of solar panels in front of the mine’s spoil tips.
  • and I could go on…

These examples showcase the various local initiatives which should be replicated across Europe, and I would add: with a particular emphasis on Central and Eastern Europe.

And third, we have to develop an energy and climate-related technology and innovation strategy to maintain Europe’s global leadership and competitiveness in low carbon technologies. Europe has all the necessary elements to become a global hub and a world leader in renewable technologies. It is in this field – in the field of low-carbon renewable energy sources, in the field of energy efficiency, in the field of smart appliances and smart grids – that Europe can regain its competitive edge! Smart grids are the European shale.

We must better focus our research and innovation policies, we must create synergies between energy and ICT (very appealing to young people), and between research and industry. New industries will emerge that will strengthen our economy and further support job creation across Europe.

It is in this context that I would also like to underline the importance of ecodesign and energy labelling. Not only because this framework will deliver by 2020 energy savings that are roughly the equivalent of annual primary energy consumption of Italy, not only because consumers can save several hundreds of euros per household per year, but also because there is a clear business case. If countries such as Brazil, China, Korea, South Africa and others adopt equipment energy labelling schemes similar to ours, it creates a market for our companies. Let us be the first mover and set the standards!

Ladies and gentlemen, the Strategy is written, the principles have been established, the real work starts now. We will start up a series of specific actions, such as:

  • developing a ‘Smart Financing for Smart Buildings’ initiative to facilitate access to existing funding instruments;
  • we will propose a strategy for heating and cooling; it’s an important hook, because as many of you told me: the energy crisis is first and foremost a heating crisis;
  • we will dedicate a significant share of the European Fund for Strategic Investments to energy efficiency and renewable energy;
  • we will review the Energy Efficiency Directive, as well as the Directive on Energy Performance of Buildings;
  • we should bring together potential investors and solid projects. There are investors willing to invest, and there is a need for smart investments, so let us connect the dots and remove obstacles
  • and we will develop, without delay, the robust governance framework that the Energy Union needs in order to deliver on its promises, including to make sure that we reach the targets set by the October European Council.

Through these and other measures, we will make sure that the principles we endorsed – such as the ‘energy efficiency first-principle – are transformed into reality and become operational.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The first reactions to the Energy Union Strategy have been positive and supportive, in the European Parliament, the Environment and Energy Council, amongst mayors, consumers, business associations, think tanks, and academia. Do not underestimate the importance of such reactions: they really help to create the positive dynamics needed to seize the current momentum and to implement what is on the table.

I therefore hope that throughout this process, I can continue to count on your support, whether you are a parliamentarian, entrepreneur, researcher, civil society activist or a citizen, and I am looking forward to your comments and ideas in today’s discussion and over the five years to come.

Thank you.

Minister Fast Holds Record-Breaking 'Go Global' Workshop in Laval to Boost Canadian Exports and Jobs

Supporting and partnering with small and medium-sized businesses to seize opportunities abroad is a key part of our pro-export, pro-jobs plan, says Minister Fast

February 27, 2015 – Laval, Quebec – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, alongside Éric Tétrault, President of the Quebec chapter of Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and Peter Hall, Vice-President and Chief Economist of Export Development Canada, today hosted an export workshop designed to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the tools and practical information they need to take advantage of international business opportunities to export.

Today’s export workshop in Laval, part of a cross-country series launched by Minister Fast in November 2014, was attended by more than 160 participants, making it the largest event so far. To date, 10 workshops have been hosted across Canada, attracting a total of more than 920 SME representatives. This “Go Global” workshop is the second held in Quebec, as the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism, and Agriculture), held one in Montréal in November 2014 on the margins of the Stratégies PME 2015 conference.

In November 2013, Minister Fast released Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan with the goal of doubling to 21,000 the number of Canadian SMEs exporting to emerging markets. In support of this goal, Minister Fast instructed Canada’s export agencies to enhance their coordination, closely align their activities and facilitate referrals in order to better serve and be responsive to the needs of SMEs.

By bringing together the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, these export workshops, delivered in partnership with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, provide a one-stop shop offering information and tools to SMEs to help them succeed abroad.

As a result of the new trade agreement with the European Union and the entry into force of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement on January 1, 2015, Canadian businesses will soon benefit from preferential access to more than half of the entire global marketplace.

The next export workshop will be held in Oakville, Ontario, on March 4, 2015.

Quick Facts

  • One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on exports, representing 60 percent of the country’s economy.
  • There are more than one million SMEs across Canada, with 41,000 currently exporting.
  • Since 2006, the Harper government has concluded trade agreements with 38 countries, bringing the total to 43 countries.

Quotes

“Our government is committed to working shoulder to shoulder with Canadian small and medium-sized businesses in Laval and across the country to seize export opportunities and create jobs. Our efforts to support exporters are yielding significant results. I look forward to engaging with many more Canadian businesses across the country in the upcoming months.

“We are breaking down the silos between our export agencies, taking a whole-of-government approach to exporting and providing the tools, services and information that you and your businesses need to succeed.”

– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade

Related Products

Associated Links       

Contacts

Max Moncaster
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
343-203-7332

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
343-203-7700
media@international.gc.ca
Follow us on Twitter: @Canada_Trade
Like us on Facebook: Canada’s International Trade Plan-DFATD

Speeches: U.S. Economic Policy in East Asia and the Pacific

(As delivered)

Thank you very much. Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Chairman Hasegawa, thank you so much for your generous introduction and for inviting me here today. It’s an honor to be with all of the membership of the Keizai Doyukai. I understand you’ve been early and strong supporters of the TPP – something I look forward to talking about in a little while.

I also want to recognize my colleagues from the United States administration, especially from the Embassy – our deputy chief of mission and also Ambassador Caroline Kennedy. Ambassador Kennedy, as I think all of you know, is a public servant cut from the same cloth as her father. His legacy of friendship with Japan lives on through her.

I have to tell you also it’s a pleasure to be back in Tokyo. I first came here – I believe it was in 1980 with my family, and I wanted to come here on my first trip as Deputy Secretary of State – and not just to have a drink at the Okura’s Orchid Bar before it’s too late. I wanted to come here to Japan because our alliance is the cornerstone of President Obama’s Asia-Pacific policy.

In fact, when I was moving from the White House to the State Department just a few weeks ago, and I was sitting with President Obama to ask him what he wanted me to focus on, he said Asia. And Secretary Kerry, when I got over to the State Department, I asked him the same question, and he gave me the same answer, and it’s simply a reflection of the importance that both the President and the Secretary attach to the region and to the Alliance with Japan.

There is a reason that President Obama made the strategic decision to rebalance America’s engagement and resources toward the region, and it’s very simple: Nowhere in the world are economic and strategic opportunities clearer or more compelling than in the Asia-Pacific. As Prime Minister Abe said last year, “Asia is a synonym for growth and another name for achievement.”

And that’s because of what the Asia-Pacific has done over the past 70 years, and what it has done is nothing short of a miracle, a miracle that stretches from the base of Mount Fuji to the emerald waters of the Coral Sea – millions out of poverty, some of the fastest growing economies on the planet, home to more than one-third of the world’s population, a growing percentage of whom are middle-class, and of course many dictatorships having given way to democracies.

That’s why the President has made seven visits to the Asia-Pacific including three separate visits to Japan. It’s why Secretary Kerry has traveled to the region nine times in just two years. It’s why Vice President Biden and almost every member of the President’s cabinet have traveled here as well – most of them more than once.

So what exactly is the United States doing to support and share in the growth, in the achievement, and the stability, prosperity, and peace that we see spreading throughout the Asia-Pacific?

We have this policy that we call the rebalance, and it has several pillars, each of which contributes in substantial ways to facilitating and supporting this region’s growth and economic dynamism. To start with, we’re redoubling our commitment to the region’s security, which is essential to its economic future. Because the plain fact is that conflict and trade do not mix. So we’ve enhanced and we’re modernizing our alliances, especially with Japan. Over the past few years, our two nations began revising our bilateral Defense Guidelines for the first time in more than two decades. This is part of a larger, transparent discussion about our collective self-defense. This review – along with Japan’s decision to relax some restrictions on defense equipment exports – will help make sure that the Alliance evolves to reflect both the shifting security environment and the growing capabilities of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces.

Elsewhere in the region, we strengthened our security alliances with South Korea, with the Philippines, with Australia, and we’ve reinforced partnerships with India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, and others. We’ve begun to conduct more joint training exercises – like the Keen Edge exercises we hold with Japan biannually. And we’ve sent more assets to the region, both diplomatic and military. And we’ve bolstered our trilateral cooperation with Japan and Australia, and with Japan and South Korea.

Strengthening our relationship with China is also part and parcel of the rebalance. We seek a relationship with China defined by practical and tangible cooperation on challenges that face both of our nations. The more we can work together, and be seen as working together, the more we can avoid the trap of inevitable rivalry.

I just came from Beijing where I met with a range of senior Chinese officials. And just in the last year – it’s been quite extraordinary – our cooperation has grown deeper and wider, from combating climate change, to facilitating travel between our people; from confidence-building measures between our militaries to working together to bring peace to South Sudan and to pursue a comprehensive agreement with Iran to ensure that its nuclear program is for exclusively peaceful purposes.

This year, we intend to build on this momentum of last year through ongoing, day-to-day bilateral discussions, our Strategic and Economic Dialogue, and the state visit of President Xi that he will make to Washington coming up in September.

But even as we deepen cooperation, we also deal forthrightly with our differences – and we will continue to do so. For example, we are firm in our stance on maritime security. Free commerce requires free waterways for ships to pass. It requires that the needs of business take precedence over squabbles over rocks and shoals.

We have made clear that the U.S. military would not abide by China’s unilateral declaration of an Air Defense Identification Zone in the East China Sea, including over the Senkaku Islands. And President Obama has clearly stated that the Senkaku Islands fall under Japan’s administration and under the mutual defense treaty with Japan and the United States. We don’t take a position on the various territorial claims of others, but we do take a strong position on how those claims are pursued. Any disagreement must be dealt with in accordance with international law, peacefully, with restraint, and avoid actions that unilaterally change the status quo. We have urged China and ASEAN to reach a code of conduct that will reduce the potential for conflict in the years to come.

The true question at the heart of these conflicts is who controls access to Asia’s abundant energy resources. The region depends, as you know, on sustainable, affordable, and reliable access to diverse energy supplies – which in turn rely upon the safe and reliable transport of oil and gas in maritime channels. Almost a third of global crude oil and over half of global LNG passes through the South China Sea, making it one of the most important trade routes in the world.

Uncertainty fueled by competing South China Sea claims affects energy security; it affects trade and commerce; it creates a more unpredictable investment environment. If we can peacefully end ongoing conflicts over rocks and reefs, then the Asia-Pacific region will be better able to attract investment. Cooperation is needed to fully prove and develop the billions of barrels of oil and hundreds of trillions of cubic feet of LNG that are estimated to reside under the sea. Developing these resources will bring jobs; it will bring growth and a more secure energy future to the region.

So enhancing security is one pillar of the President’s rebalance. Supporting regional institutions is another.

We know that strong regional institutions are essential to helping to lower tariffs, encourage cooperation, maintain stability, and resolve disputes. So that’s why we’ve remained a very strong supporter of ASEAN and its mission to promote smart energy, trade, and investment. It’s why we’ve taken an active role in APEC, an organization working to promote trade and investment liberalization, cut global carbon emissions, and expand economic opportunities for women. And it’s why we’ve worked hard to elevate the East Asia Summit to the premier forum for dealing with political and security issues throughout region.

Today, though, it is my honor to have the attention of so many of Japan’s business leaders, and so I’d like to focus the balance of my time on the third pillar of our rebalance strategy, and that of course is the economic pillar.

U.S. businesses, workers, farmers, and consumers have been a dependable foundation for growth in the Asia-Pacific for decades. I see it everywhere I travel. Trade with the United States fills bank accounts, store shelves, and ocean freighters – from the Port of Yokohama, to the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong, to the markets of Kuala Lumpur. We remain the single largest source of foreign direct investment in the region – U.S. investment stock here reached $622 billion a couple of years ago in 2012. We are also the most important market for Asian goods, exchanging well over $1 trillion dollars in trade with the continent each year.

But we’re not the only driver of growth in the Asia – far from it. Japan is fueling billions of dollars in trade with Thailand, South Korea and Hong Kong. Australia, which signed free-trade agreements with China, South Korea and Japan last year, is importing from Singapore and Japan. And of course China is exporting to Malaysia and Vietnam. Overall, trade among APEC nations reached $1.4 trillion this year and is outpacing world trade growth by a 40 percent margin.

As we look forward and deeper into 2015, the single most important step we can take together for our economic relationships is completing the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

The state-of-the-art Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement – or as we call it, TPP – establishes high standards on labor, intellectual property, the environment, and it levels the playing field for businesses in all of our nations. It will unlock vast new markets. It will curb the role of state-owned enterprises as they compete with private companies. It will expand trade in a region that already represents one-third of all global exchange. And it will bring economic growth and jobs to all our shores. For example, economists predict it will add $100 billion to Japan’s GDP over the next decade.

Working together to create a rules-based regional trade architecture built on transparency and competition – this is an ambitious undertaking. But it is an achievable one. And it will change how we trade for decades to come.

This agreement is about more than the economic opportunities it unleashes, because the fact is, TPP is not just a technical trade agreement, it’s a strategic opportunity for the entire region.

The TPP serves both the United States and Japan’s strategic interests for three principal reasons:

First, it will cement the strong alliance framework and partnerships that ensure the Asia-Pacific’s security and prosperity. We’ve long had a security presence in the region, as I just discussed. The TPP is the vital next step. It will assure our allies and partners that our long-term commitment to the region reaches beyond security and into the economic realm. It will add another dimension to our strong and enduring presence in the Asia-Pacific.

Second, concluding the TPP, with over 40 percent of global GDP, will build a magnetic effect attracting non-members across the region to the benefits that it offers. It will spur them to make the necessary reforms like lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade and investment. And in the end, it will lead them to enter the fold as liberal and open economies. Indeed, what we’re seeing is that a number of non-TPP countries like South Korea are expressing strong interest in joining. Even China is showing interest. We welcome new members – so long as they can meet the high standards that will be front-and-center in this agreement.

And there is a very important point there that I want to emphasize, and I want to be very clear with all of you about it. The TPP is not an attempt to isolate or contain China. Any nation that is willing to rise to the occasion and meet the high standards we have set for ourselves is welcome – China included. In fact, the world would be a better place if China made the changes and embraced the reforms that would make it an eligible candidate for TPP.

Finally, concluding the TPP is about defining the values that we want to see prevail in the Asia-Pacific – values like fair labor standards, environmental protection, and laws updating intellectual property rights. The standards enshrined within this agreement reflect our values and interests as nations committed to dynamic, just, and rules-based economic practices. The TPP offers economic stability in a turbulent world.

Ultimately, this agreement establishes a framework that enables countries throughout the region to grow together – in a way that will benefit us for generations to come. It will ensure that we focus not just on whether our economies grow, but how they grow.

So where does TPP stand today? We made lots of progress during the most recent negotiations in New York, and I was just discussing that with the chairman before we came out here. The contours of a final agreement are coming into focus. But the closer you get to the end of something as complicated and meaningful as TPP, you get to the toughest issues and the hardest choices. So we need all stakeholders in all sectors – including those of you in this room – to help make those choices and push TPP over the finish line. We need you to make the calls, convene the meetings, and remind officials of the economic and strategic benefits that this agreement will bring. With your help, we can complete this agreement and continue to bend the arc of the region in the direction of progress and prosperity.

There are enormous opportunities in the years ahead – that you know better than most anyone – to make headway on trade. And we have to seize them. But TPP alone is not a cure all. It’s not the only answer. Broad-based economic growth requires a thriving society. It requires that people have access to training and education. It requires the free flow of ideas and information. It requires the rule of law, the protection of intellectual property. And it requires that governments protect the universal human rights of their citizens.

This too is a pillar of our policy in the region, and it helps to uphold all the others. Promoting these values serves some very practical goals. When all people in society are unshackled – when they are free to think and act creatively and for themselves to question and criticize, to challenge conventional wisdom – that’s how you get innovation. That’s how you get entrepreneurship and the building blocks of a growing, self-sustaining economy.

These values empower citizens to demand a cleaner environment and safer products, to ask for high labor standards, to make their governments more accountable and less corrupt – all of which makes trade more free and fair and helps our companies compete.

That’s why in Burma we’ve been working to keep the government accountable to its people as Burma opens to the world. It’s why in Vietnam – 20 years after normalizing relations – we continue to work encourage reforms that will strengthen the rule of law and freedom of expression. And it’s why in Cambodia, we are supporting civil society and pluralistic politics while strengthening our relationship at the same time.

In the United States, entrepreneurship is almost written into our DNA. But we believe that businesses and governments alike can’t just invest in profits; we have to invest in all the tools that create prosperity, especially our human resources.

Think about this: If you asked people 50 or 100 years ago to define the wealth of a nation, they might talk about the size of its population, the expanse of its land mass, the strength of its military, the abundance of its natural resources. And all of those things still matter. And in the United States, we’re blessed with all of them. But in the 21st century, the true wealth of a nation lies in its human resources and in the ability of countries to maximize their potential, to let them be free and creative and innovative. That is the true wealth of a nation.

On top of the list, then, are the investments we have to make in our young people – the men and women who will be making our economic decisions in 10, 15 or 20 years down the road. And that’s something I know that all of you are well aware of. We are grateful for your efforts to expand student exchange programs between Japan and the United States.

And programs like the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative, or YSEALI, are also leading the way in these efforts. As we encourage students to come to the U.S. to learn about open markets and entrepreneurship, we send Americans to Asia as students, as Fulbright Scholars, as Peace Corps volunteers.

These programs empower young people to be the business leaders of the future. In Manila, I heard one YSAELI alumnus launched a program to help modernize the Philippines’ agricultural economy. In Cambodia, another graduate wrote a handbook to help students choose the right career path. And in Singapore, we brought graduates of our program together with American firms to help open markets, but also open minds.

I was in South Korea just a few days ago at the beginning of this trip. I met with college students and alumni from our International Visitor Leadership Program, and a few of them told me a little bit about their careers. Some of them were journalists. Some of them spoke passionately about their studies to become businesspeople, to become lawyers, to become engineers.

And then yesterday I sat with three remarkable young entrepreneurs on a train from Tientsin to Beijing, and they told me about the challenges and opportunities of launching start-up ventures in China.

Across the board, these young people are thinking big. They don’t just want an education; they want to be able to vote for their leaders. They don’t just want a big paycheck; they want to make sure everyone has the right to speak freely and that that right is respected at the same time.

I’ve had inspiring conversations with young people throughout the region, and every time I walk away with confidence that – if we can make the right choices today and take advantage of the economic opportunities that are staring us literally in the face – then the region’s future will be bright, and it will be in very good hands.

America’s engagement with the Asia-Pacific – economic and otherwise – is a testament to a simple fact: America too is a Pacific nation. Our commitment to this region has stood the test of time, the test of conflict, the test of Mother Nature. And one of the clearest indicators of this commitment is our long history of partnership and alliance with Japan, a partnership based not on a temporary alignment of interests, but on a permanent foundation of shared values, a partnership and alliance we look forward to reaffirming when Prime Minister Abe makes a state visit to the United States in April, a partnership that sets a powerful example for the rest of the world.

Seventy years after the end of a bloody war, our countries have never been closer. Your cities host the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet and 50,000 American troops – including the U.S. Marines on Okinawa. And across the Pacific, more than 1.3 million Japanese-Americans populate and energize cities from San Francisco to New York.

But these statistics tell only part of the story. Behind the numbers are businesses creating new technology, volunteers distributing emergency food aid in the Philippines after the typhoon, government agencies working hand-in-glove to combat climate change, battle violent extremism, and the scourge of Ebola.

The next chapter in this historic friendship will be about how we shape the Asia-Pacific economy for the 21st century and beyond. We have weathered the storms of war and conflict. We’ve transcended the differences that divided us. Now it’s up to us to take the next step and unite behind a shared economic vision.

I believe Japan, the United States, and the other economies in the Asia-Pacific region will continue to grow and prosper together. But it depends on wise leadership. And it depends on all of you, the business community, continuing to make and strengthen your connections with businesses and people across the Pacific. And it depends on our governments, seeing past short-term concerns to long-term opportunities.

Change is never easy, but we know what our shared future should look like. The task before us is to turn that vision into reality, to the benefit of this time and the benefit of generations to come. Thank you so very much.

QUESTION: Thank you for your inspiring speech. We have been very much encouraged by your confidence in TPP, especially I’ve been chairman of promoting TPP for the last four years, so I am really glad that this is going to be the time that we can probably celebrate by summertime. The next action, though, for us after TPP is the Japan-China-Korea trilateral, then going to the Rsep, so we really hope that the TPP will set the stage for the fundamental agreement going forward with China and East Asian countries. Having said all this, we, who just came back from Davos, a lot of discussion being talked about geo-political risk in East Asia, and the first thing you mentioned out of the three is also the regional security. So if you could mention a little bit about the geo-political risk in East Asia after you have visited Korea, China, and Japan – what will be the take-away after you visit, and also on a long-term basis, what we can do to keep peace over here.

QUESTION: I’d like to take the privilege of master of ceremonies and add one question related to the TPP. You said that TPP is nothing about isolating or excluding China, but on the other hand, how much do you think China is serious or ready to join TPP discussions?

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you both and I want to thank you personally for your extraordinary leadership in working to advance TPP. It doesn’t happen without the kind of leadership that you, and indeed the members of this organization have made.

Let me start actually with the second question very quickly, because I just came from China. My sense is that there has been a real shift in China with regard to TPP from looking to reject and hoping in fact that it didn’t happen, to being quite curious and interested in it. And as I said a few minutes ago, we would welcome that. But like with any member, China would have to meet the high standards across the board that the TPP establishes. If that were to happen, it would be a very good thing for all of us, because those standards would continue to help China move in a positive and progressive direction. So ultimately, as with anything it’s going to be up to China more than anyone else. So we’ll see if it evolves in that direction, but once TPP gets done and you have 40 percent of the world’s GDP represented, I think that’s going to cause countries who are not in it to want to be in it. And then we have another agenda beyond TPP, and that of course is the so-called TTIP in Europe, and if you were to realize that and bring TPP and TTIP together, you would have about 75 percent of the world’s GDP represented, and again I think that will create a very powerful magnet for those countries not in either agreement to want to get in.

So geo-political risk: I’d actually start from the other way around. I see TPP as a fundamental way to lower geo-political risk, to create incentives for countries to trade together, to do business together, to work together, and to avoid conflict. That’s the power of it as a strategic proposition, not simply an economic one. But I also think that the work we’ve been doing in the region is designed precisely to lessen risk. Our presence in the region, our military presence in the region, has been a force for stability for decades. It’s allowed, I believe, some of the remarkable progress we’ve seen over the last 70 years. Similarly, the work we’re doing to try to build the institutions in the region – that too is a way to lower geo-political risk because it creates mechanisms and forums where countries can work through their differences and try and come to common solutions. That’s why we spend so much time on it.

And then the other element in this, of course, it the relationships between and among the different countries in the region, apart from the institutions, and there we’ve seen some positive developments in recent months. I think the progress that has been made in the relationship between Japan and China, including the meeting between Prime Minister Abe and President Xi at the end of last year, the commitment to work together on a number of issues – that’s encouraging. We’ve seen similarly a more positive relationship develop between South Korea and China. That’s also promising and important in terms of lowering risk. And as I said, our own relationship with China – we’re determined to build on the cooperation we’ve already established even as we address the differences. That too, I think, will lower geo-political risk.

So all of these things taken together, I think, can make a big difference. Now, there are clearly sources of significant instability. I believe the most significant source of instability in the region is North Korea and its reckless pursuit of a larger and larger nuclear program and the missiles to deliver those weapons around the world. And that’s why we’ve been trying to make common cause with Japan, with South Korea, with China, with Russia to convince North Korea that it needs to denuclearize. But I actually feel that the entire rebalance is starting to shift and lower geo-political risk, and that in turn is going to create an even more attractive place for investment and for trade.

QUESTION: My name is Hirano, MetLife Japan vice chairman. Can I ask one more TPP question? Or if it’s too much, I withdraw. OK. I heard lots of positive voices when I visited Washington last month, and I’m quite encouraged by your tone of speech – that’s quite encouraging. But we also know that there are many big impediments going forward. So my question is quite straightforward: What are the biggest remaining impediments for TPP to move forward? And to what extent can we be optimistic about the closing of negotiations? Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. Well, since negotiations are ongoing at this very moment, the last thing I want to do is get in the middle of them. I trust our negotiators very much. In fact, when I first began in government 22 years ago in the Clinton administration, for about six months I shared an office with Ambassador Froman, our trade negotiator, so I’ve known him for a long time, and I know his dedication and commitment to getting this done. Let me just say this: In anything this complicated and this meaningful, the last mile or the last kilometer is the toughest. The hardest things remain at the end. But what I’m confident of is that with regard to the United States and Japan, both countries, both teams, are working through the remaining issues with determination, and I think in a very pragmatic way, and I’m convinced that there is a determination in particular from Prime Minister Abe and from President Obama to see this to conclusion in the coming weeks and months. So I never want to minimize the challenges of that last mile or last kilometer, but given the determination and good will on both sides, I’m feeling confident that we’ll get there.

QUESTION: (via interpreter) … About the Senkaku Islands and also about visiting Yasukuni Shrine where war criminals are enshrined.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Again, with regard to the Senkakus, I think President Obama has been very clear. They are under Japanese administration and part of and covered by the U.S.-Japan security treaty. It’s as clear and simple as that. The only thing I would say with regard to the second part of the question is, I think that in many areas in many countries it’s important to be sensitive to history and to the sensitivities created by history, but what strikes me when I think about the countries in this region, and for example Japan and South Korea, to cite just one example, whatever the sensitivities of history, so much more unites countries than divides them. And those common interests and those shared values today, in the year 2015, are what we should focus on, what our leaders should focus on, and they are the foundation for the future that we are trying to build together. Thank you.

QUESTION: At the Keizai Doyukai, I am the chairman of the project team for empowerment of “Japan Hands.” Japan Hands means friends of Japan and experts on Japan. In your speech you mentioned about youth exchange and investment in the youth, which means the next generation is quite important, and I totally agree. And you referred to the high school exchange, but I would like to know if, under the implementation of TPP, how we can encourage the next generation of professional level or high-level exchange between Japan and the United States. Thank you.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you very much. To me, actually, nothing is more important than exchange – at every level. High school students, college students, professionals, science, technology, business – this is what knits our countries together more than anything else. This is the foundation that we are building the next generation of the relationship on. And I see this every day. As I mentioned, when I was in South Korea and then in China, I met with some of the people who had been involved in our exchange programs. And as an American, I have to tell you it’s profoundly powerful because young people will go to the United States on these programs and come back with a totally different picture of the United States, a totally different understanding than they had before. And usually it’s positive. And they share it with their families, with their friends. And this is how you build a relationship. And similarly, we have Americans coming to Japan, and they come home, and they’re able to explain Japan, to share it with their friends and with their families, and that builds the relationship. So I believe deeply in these programs, and even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have a choice because my wife is responsible for these programs at the State Department. She’s the Assistant Secretary of State for Educational and Cultural Affairs. She runs the Fulbright program. She runs all of the exchange programs. So even if I didn’t believe it, she’d make me. But as it happens, I think nothing is more important. Ambassador Kennedy is very focused on strengthening, expanding, building these programs, and I have to tell you, maybe the No. 1 supporter and cheerleader for these programs is President Obama. He himself benefitted from exchange programs in his youth. He knows the power that they bring. I applaud you for all that you are doing and your support for these programs. Thank you.

QUESTION: I am Tabata, former board member of the International Monetary Fund representing the Japanese government. My question is the relation between the military rebalancing that you mentioned a couple of times and the security of East Asia. A couple of day ago, President Obama asked the U.S. Congress to approve the use of ground forces for the war against terrorism and so on, which means that the former original part of the rebalancing of military forces left from the Middle East and to be concentrated on Asia and so forth. But actually, if military force will be used for the war against terrorism in the Middle East or the Islamic State, then some emptiness will happen in East Asia. But as you know, last year China’s military expenditures exceeded $100 billion U.S. dollars, which is 8 percent of the world’s military expenditures. So taking account of this situation, you mentioned about practical and precise situations are important for the security of East Asia. So my question is for instance to restore Subic Base in the Philippines – you were thinking about that – at the same time, how do you think about restoring and utilizing Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam? These are very practical strategies and so forth. I would like to ask your comment about this.

DEPUTY SECRETARY BLINKEN: Thank you. Let me be very clear, because I don’t want there to be any misunderstanding, and the President has been extremely clear about this – we will not be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq or to Syria or anyplace else in the region for that matter. The President, as you know – and if you look at the National Security Strategy that we just published last week – we’re focused on moving away from having tens of thousands of American troops in one place locked in for years or even more. What we’re trying to do is to build the capacity of others to deal with the challenges that they face, and so in Iraq, the small number of forces that we have there are trying to help the Iraqis, to train them, to advise them so that they can deal in the first instance with the problems posed and the challenges posed by ISIL. So we are not going to be sending tens of thousands of troops back to Iraq. What the President asked for the other day was really a matter that’s very important – to demonstrate that the executive branch, the White House, and Congress are united in the way we’re going to deal with the threat posed by ISIL. And so he wanted to have Congress on record in this authorization supporting what we’re doing together to deal with this threat. And that’s what that’s about. It is not to authorize tens of thousands of ground forces in Iraq – that is not going to happen. What we’re looking at is a small number of trainers, some advisers, and indeed that’s what we have on the ground in Iraq now. So I just want to be very clear about that.

And then again, with regard to this region, I think what you’re seeing across the board is countries working together to develop their capacity. For example, the United States, Japan, South Korea, and others are working with countries from the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia for example to develop their maritime capacity. This is very beneficial in doing exactly what we discussed in response to the first question, which is lowering strategic risk, lowering tensions, creating an environment of stability. So we have a very active program working with countries throughout the region in those areas, and I think we’re already seeing the benefits of that. But the rebalance itself is balanced, with a security component, with an economic component, with an institutional component, with a bilateral component, and increasingly as well with people-to-people exchanges that are another foundation of what we’re doing. So you have to look at the balance within the rebalance to see its strength.

Thank you.

Canada Ends 2014 with Double-Digit Export Growth and Trade Surplus

For the first time, Canada’s two-way trade surpassed $1 trillion, at nearly $1.1 trillion

February 5, 2015 – Ottawa, Ontario – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

International Trade Minister Ed Fast today issued the following statement on Statistics Canada’s release of preliminary 2014 merchandise trade data:

“The significant export growth seen in today’s report, reaching double digits, at 10.3 percent, is good news for all Canadians.

“Following the worst global economic recession since the Great Depression, our low tax, balanced budget and pro-export plan is delivering positive results. While the global economy remains fragile and uncertain, Canada recorded a trade surplus of $5.2 billion for 2014.

“Economic and financial security, creating and protecting jobs—including in the export sector, and lower taxes for hard-working Canadians and their families, these are the priorities of the Harper government.

“2014 was the most successful year for trade in Canadian history, with the conclusion of the historic Canada-European Union trade agreement and the landmark Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement. These accomplishments provide world-class Canadian products with preferential access to more than half of the world’s economy, laying the foundation for future export growth, while protecting and creating jobs.

“In 2015, under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan [GMAP], our government will continue to deliver the support and tools to help our Canadian businesses, especially our small and medium-sized enterprises [SMEs], reach their full export potential. Since their launch last November, I have held seven Go Global export workshops, which were attended by more than 500 SME representatives, and I will host more than 20 in the upcoming months to continue to boost exports and ensure that businesses seize the opportunities created by Canada’s trade agreements.

Quick Facts

  • Canadian exports to the world jumped more than 10 percent compared to 2013, reaching almost $529 billion in 2014.
  • Canada has recorded a trade surplus of $5.2 billion, compared to a deficit of $7.2 billion last year.
  • Canada’s exports to the United States reached more than $400 billion in 2014, an 11.6-percent growth.
  • In 2014, exports to the European Union grew by 14.6 percent.

Associated Links

Contacts

Max Moncaster
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
343-203-7332

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
343-203-7700
media@international.gc.ca
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Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 1/6/2015

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

January 06, 2015

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:07 P.M. EST
 
MR. EARNEST:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Glad at least some of you were able to navigate the snowfall this morning and make it to work.  One quick announcement before we get started with questions.  Some of you asked about the President meeting with members of Congress.  I can tell you that the White House has invited the top four leaders from each party and from each chamber of Commerce — each chamber of Congress —
 
Q    Commerce, too?  (Laughter.) 
 
MR. EARNEST:  — Congress — to participate in a meeting early next week at the White House.  I believe it’s slated for Tuesday.  So this is the same group of members of Congress the President had lunch with here a couple days after the midterm elections.  So this will be an opportunity for them to talk about a range of issues, most importantly, the legislative agenda for 2015 as well as a couple of foreign policy issues as well. 
 
So I’m confident we’ll have an opportunity to talk about how that discussion goes after it has taken place. 
 
With that, Julie, let’s get started with questions.
 
Q    Thanks, Josh.  To start, can you be any more specific about the President’s priorities for that meeting both in terms of the legislative agenda and what he’s going to be talking about on foreign policy?
 
MR. EARNEST:  As a general matter, I can tell you that what the President is looking forward to talking about is some of the ideas that he’ll be talking about this week, frankly, as it relates to policies we can put in place that will benefit middle-class families.  The President believes that the best way to grow our economy is by growing the middle class, so some of those policies will be on the agenda for some discussion. 
 
We’ve already talked previously about some of the areas of common ground that we think are certainly possible to be found in the context of this Congress.  That would include tax reform, opening up overseas markets for American businesses, and even the need to modernize our infrastructure — that these are areas where the President has long talked about the benefits it would have in the American economy to make progress in these areas, and Republicans have indicated an interest in pursuing them as well. So that would be part of it as well.
 
On the foreign policy front, it’s just an opportunity for the President to update members of Congress based on their own areas of interest.  So there won’t be anything specific that he’ll be bringing to the agenda, but it’s an opportunity for him to update them on a number of foreign policy issues since they last met about a month ago.
 
Q    Okay.  Obviously you know that Republicans have expressed frustration over the last couple of years about their level of contact with the President.  I’m wondering if the White House has given any thought or come up with any strategy for what the President’s outreach to Mitch McConnell and John Boehner is going to be like now that Republicans control Congress.  Are there going to be monthly meetings, weekly phone calls?  Is there anything that’s going to be sort of structurally in place to keep the President and Republican leaders in contact?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t anticipate that there will be anything structured like that, but I would anticipate that the President will be in regular touch with members of Congress.  And of course, if there are members of Congress that want to — particularly leaders in Congress who want to have a conversation with the President, then they’re welcome to call here as well.
 
Q    Does he feel like he needs to be in more contact, particularly with McConnell, than he has been in the past?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Mitch McConnell obviously has a different job now than he used to have and I think that that probably would necessitate more frequent conversations with the President of the United States.  But, look, the President does recognize that there’s an opportunity for Democrats and Republicans to work together, and the key to doing that is not the frequency of conversations but more the willingness from people on both sides to try to find common ground and not allow disagreements over one issue to become an obstacle to making any sort of agreement on any issue.
 
So that’s the spirit that the President will bring to that meeting.  I think there are some indications that at least some of the Republicans who attend that meeting will bring that spirit as well, and we look forward to doing what we can to try and foster more of that spirit in the New Year. 
 
Q    I’d like to ask about some comments that the French President made about the situation between Russia and Ukraine.  He said in an interview that Western nations should stop threatening Russia with new sanctions and that Russia’s position vis-à-vis Ukraine is misunderstood.  Given that the President has put such a premium on coordinating with Europe as it relates to Russia, does he agree with what President Hollande said?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Julie, I have not seen the interview that President Hollande gave, but let me just say as a general matter, I don’t think that there’s a lot of daylight between the position that President Hollande articulated and what the President here has said.  What the President has said is that as soon as Russia starts living up to the commitments that they made in Minsk to deescalate the situation in Ukraine the President stood ready to work with the international community to roll back some of the sanctions regime that has been put in place so far. 
 
You’ll recall that there was a piece of legislation that was passed by the United States Congress at the end of last year related to sanctions, and the President made pretty clear even as he signed that legislation that he did not believe that there currently was a need to add additional sanctions.  But it certainly is true that —
 
Q    He didn’t say that — he said he didn’t feel like he should add them through congressional legislation, but he would want to coordinate with Europe.  So does he feel like right now there is not a need to threaten any additional sanctions against Russia?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think what he feels the need to do — and something that I have done on a number of occasions — is make clear to the Russians and to everybody else that the longer that the Russians refuse to abide by the commitments that they’ve already made, the more risk they face from additional sanctions. I don’t know of any impending plan to add to that sanctions regime right now, but certainly the risk only increases as long as Russia continues to essentially ignore the important commitments that they’ve made to try to deescalate the situation in eastern Ukraine; that there are basic things that Russia can do to live up to those commitments, including ending the support, particularly the military support that the Russian military has offered to the separatists in eastern Ukraine, and to acknowledge and abide by generally accepted norms about the territorial integrity of independent countries on their border.
 
Steve.
 
Q    Two years ago, Josh, the President was reelected and took over and launched a bit of a charm offensive aimed at wooing members of Congress, and I don’t sense that you’re going to do anything like that this time —
 
MR. EARNEST:  It worked great, didn’t it?  Is that what you’re suggesting?
 
Q    Well, no.  Should we see this as the beginning of a charm offensive next Tuesday?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No.  I think what you should see this as is a clear piece of evidence from this President that he wants to try to find common ground with Republicans to make progress for the American people.  Now that there is Republican leadership of both houses of Congress and a Democrat in charge at the White House we’re going to have to try to compromise and try to find common ground in order to move this country forward.  And the President is determined to do that.  And we’re going to have disagreements over a wide range of issues, but we can’t allow those other disagreements to become an obstacle to trying to find some common ground.
 
Q    Now, you and the President have been fairly downbeat on the Keystone pipeline.  Republicans are moving ahead with their legislation.  Have you taken a fresh look at this?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, not really.  I mean, the fact is this piece of legislation is not altogether different than legislation that was introduced in the last Congress, and you’ll recall that we put out a statement of administration position indicating that the President would have vetoed had that bill passed the previous Congress.  And I can confirm for you that if this bill passes this Congress the President wouldn’t sign it either.
 
And that’s because there’s already a well-established process in place to consider whether or not infrastructure projects like this are in the best interest of the country; that in previous administrations when pipeline projects like this were considered they were evaluated by the State Department and other experts in the administration to reach a determination about whether or not that project was in the national interest. 
 
Now, the thing that is impeding a final conclusion about this pipeline is the fact that the pipeline route has not even been finalized yet, that there continues to be an outstanding question about the route of the pipeline through one part of Nebraska, and that’s related to an ongoing legal matter in Nebraska.  Once that is resolved, that should speed the completion of the evaluation of that project.
 
Q    Would you consider putting Keystone in some sort of overall legislative package where you give some things, you get some things in return?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I mean, that’s — I haven’t heard any Republicans float that as a possible measure so I think I’d withhold judgment on that.  But I think the President has been pretty clear that he does not think that circumventing a well-established process for evaluating these projects is the right thing for Congress to do.
 
Q    Last thing — the President just now said he’d like to bring up human rights in Cuba in the Summit of the Americas that is coming up.  How would he do this?  Would he meet directly with President Castro?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t have any meetings like that to discuss at this point, but there certainly would be an opportunity for the President to speak publicly at that summit, and with so many world leaders from the Western Hemisphere gathered in one place it obviously would be a pretty high-profile venue for the President to step forward and raise his concerns about human rights in Cuba.
 
I think one of the important things about this policy announcement that we made here at the White House three weeks or so ago is that for so long when we have attended previous Summits of the Americas the focus has been on the U.S. policy toward Cuba, that many other countries in the Western Hemisphere thought that this was counterproductive and would spend a lot of time urging the United States to change our policy toward Cuba.
 
Now that that policy change has been enacted, we anticipate that there will be greater focus on encouraging the Cuban government to change their policy toward their own people and start respecting basic human rights and releasing political prisoners and doing the kinds of things that reflect the will and ambition of the Cuban people.  And that I think is an important consequence of the kind of policy change that the President made, and I do think that that will be on display at the Summit of the Americas later this year.
 
Michelle.
 
Q    On that same subject, it’s been suggested that — by some Republicans now that maybe the President should not have these high-level talks with Cuba until all those political prisoners, the 53, are released.  And you took a question yesterday as to the status of those.  So do you have a clearer answer on how many exactly have been released, what the status is?  And is that something you would consider, not having high-level talks until they’re released?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, we have not made any sort of commitment to have high-level talks at this point.  But I can tell you, as it relates to — with the Cuban political leadership, what I can tell you is that the government of Cuba did make a decision to release a number of political prisoners, and that was announced in a speech that Raul Castro delivered on December 17th. 
 
It’s always important to get political prisoners released, and so we welcome the step that he announced and want to see the Cuban government actually follow through on that commitment.  They’ve already released some of the prisoners, and we’d like to see this commitment completed in the near future.  I’ll remind you that this is a commitment that the Cuban government made to release political prisoners not just to the United States but also to the Vatican.
 
The other thing that I will say is we’re not in a position to talk about specific numbers, and the reason for that is simply that we’ve been careful about talking about the number of prisoners and who they are because we don’t want to put an even bigger target on their back as political dissidents.  So we want to make sure that they’re released, and this was a decision that was made by the sovereign Cuban government to do so.  They’re not doing us a favor, but they did make a commitment, like I said, to the United States and to the Vatican to do so.  And we anticipate and would hope that they will follow through on that commitment and do so in the very near future.
 
Q    Is it something that the administration would consider doing, though, kind of a quid pro quo?  I mean, not doing this unless they release the — or unless they live up to any of their commitments that they’ve made?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the expectation right now is that they’ve already made this commitment and we expect them to live up to it.  I don’t think we’re going to be looking to do them any additional favors to live up to commitments they’ve already made. That’s something that they should do.
 
Now, of course, in other settings when we’re dealing with other countries where we have concerns, the idea — the prospect of the leader of a country getting a one-on-one meeting with the President of the United States can in some situations be used as a carrot.  They appreciate the opportunity to sit down with the President in a high-profile setting and have a direct exchange of views with the leader of the free world.  I wouldn’t speculate about whether or not that’s the way that the Castro regime would consider an invitation like this, but it certainly has been viewed that way by other world leaders.
 
But as it relates to the commitment that the Castro regime has already made to release political prisoners, we anticipate that they — and hope that they will follow through on that commitment.  After all, that is a commitment that they made not just to the United States but to the Vatican.
 
Q    Are you looking forward to any compromises or working together with this Congress on the issue of Cuba?  I mean, already it looks like there might be great difficulty in getting an ambassador confirmed.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, we would welcome the opportunity to cooperate with Democrats and Republicans on our Cuba policy.  But I guess that will sort of be up to Democrats and Republicans in Congress to decide whether or not they want to cooperate with us.
 
Q    And then really quickly on Keystone.  You just said that the President would veto this bill, yes?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I would not anticipate that the President will sign this piece of legislation.  We promised — we indicated that the President would veto similar legislation that was being considered by the previous Congress, and our position on this hasn’t changed.  Again, there’s a well-established process that should not be undermined by legislation.
 
Q    For a long time, though, you said — as recently as yesterday — that you’re not ready to issue a veto threat.  So what has changed from yesterday to today?  I mean, why are you saying this now?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the text of this legislation was made public since the last time I discussed this.
 
Richard.
 
Q    Thank you, Josh.  I just want to go back to Julie’s question on Russia, France and Ukraine.  It feels that there is more daylight than you seem to see or not see between the positions.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, you’ve seen the interview; I haven’t seen the entire thing.  But go ahead.
 
Q    Yes, I understand.  But he talks about his willingness to lift the sanctions as soon as there is some progress in the discussions, in the January 15 discussions.  I just want to see if — it sounds to me that the unity has been shaken within the group of countries that have imposed sanctions.  Do we have the wrong perception that more and more countries, especially in Europe, considering the impact on their economy — Italy and Hungary — that they are less enthusiastic with the idea of maintaining the sanctions than the U.S.?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I mean, again, you’ve read the interview more closely than I have.  I wasn’t even aware that it had been conducted.  But let me just say as a general matter, I think that the success of the sanctions regime that has been put in place has depended on the unity — or unanimity of opinion among the coalition to put in place the sanctions regime; that the United States putting in place unilateral sanctions against Russia would not have the same kind of impact on the Russian economy that this more integrated set of sanctions would have, simply because the economy of Europe and Russia is more deeply integrated than the economy between the United States — the economies of the United States and Russia.  So the success of this strategy depends on maintaining some unity. 
 
And we have spent a lot of time over the last few months talking about what impact this sanctions regime has had on the Russian economy and the bite of those sanctions will only worsen as time goes on.  That’s why there’s such a clear incentive for President Putin to change his behavior.  And we hope that he’ll avail himself of that opportunity to live up to the commitments that he has made previously to deescalate the situation in Ukraine.  I haven’t seen any indication — again, I haven’t seen the interview, but I do believe that that continues to be the prevailing view of those who are working closely with the United States in this endeavor.
 
That doesn’t downplay that there are some sacrifices that are being made by countries in Europe, including France and Hungary and others, who do have an important economic relationship with Russia.  There’s no doubt that they’re making some sacrifices.  In some ways, I think that illustrates how committed those countries are to the strategy that the President has laid out, the fact that they are willing to make a substantial sacrifice to stand up for this critically important international norm of respecting the basic territorial integrity of other countries.
 
Q    But it sounds like they’re not ready to continue making the sacrifice.  Has the President been making some phone calls or trying to tighten this unity or unanimity?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I’m not aware of any presidential-level phone calls that have been made in the last few days at least that have been specifically focused on this topic.
 
Q    I just want — because I’ve read about that, is the White House fine-tuning a new working relationship with Russia?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I’ve seen those — I saw those reports over the holidays, too.  Obviously, the relationship that we have with Russia is something that we’ve talked a lot about in here, particularly over the last year.  It’s a complicated one because we do have this significant disagreement about the way that Russia has conducted themselves, if you will, in Ukraine.  They have violated a basic international norm.  They’ve violated the territorial integrity of an independent nation that’s on their border.  And that’s something that the United States has strong concerns about.  We obviously see the situation very differently than they as it relates to Ukraine. 
 
There are, however, other important national security issues where the United States and Russia have found some more common ground.  For example, Russia has been an important participant in the P5-plus-1 talks with Iran.  That has been beneficial to that broader process.
 
We talked last year about the role that Russia had to play in destroying the declared chemical weapons stockpile of the Assad regime.  That was an important step because it reduced or essentially eliminated the proliferation risk from that declared chemical weapons stockpile, that we could essentially destroy those chemical weapons and ensure that terrorists would not be able to get their hands on them and use them in other places.  So that’s where the United States and Russia worked closely together for the benefit of not just the Russian people and the American people, but people all around the world.
 
There has also been close and ongoing Russian-America cooperation as it relates to the space program.  Right now there are Americans and Russians that are orbiting inside the International Space Station together.  So that reflects I think, again, an ability to cooperate on very complicated issues in a way that benefits both countries substantially. 
 
And we’re going to continue to make sure that we are making clear the concerns that we have with some aspects of Russia’s behavior while also trying to work with them constructively to advance our national security interests and to make the world a little safer, like we did when we destroyed the declared chemical weapons stockpile of the Assad regime.
 
Q    Would you call it a new relationship?
 
MR. EARNEST:  No, I wouldn’t.  I would say that it’s — I guess as I’ve said a couple times now, I would describe it as complicated.
 
Mara.
 
Q    Could you just clarify the veto threat about Keystone? You will veto the House version of this legislation that — as you understand it, correct?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s my understanding that the House and Senate bill are identical.
 
Q    Okay.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Is that not right?
 
Q    Well, that’s what I wanted to —
 
MR. EARNEST:  I was — I’m under the impression that it is, that they are the same.
 
Q    So you’re issuing a veto threat to Keystone legislation coming out of Congress?  Is that — okay.  And then I have a question about the President’s travels this week, just if you could describe kind of what he’s doing in these states, what he wants to accomplish.  But also specifically about the visit to Tennessee, is he going to make a proposal that would make community college virtually tuition-free?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me just speak more generally about this week.  The President is looking forward to the opportunity to traveling over the course of the next three days to talk about the American economy.  We have seen the American economy build up some more momentum, particularly in the second half of last year, and that’s due to a wide range of forces.
 
Some of that is due to very difficult policy decisions that this President made early in 2009 in the earliest days of his presidency.  He had to make some pretty politically unpopular decisions to rescue the American economy.  And the result has been not just that we staved off a second Great Depression but we’ve actually laid the groundwork for a stronger recovery that’s actually the envy of the entire world. 
 
And one of the things that the President will talk about tomorrow is to highlight one of those politically unpopular decisions at the time that has really paid off in spades for the American people and for American workers, and that was the decision that the President made to rescue the American auto industry.  The American auto industry is as strong as ever.  That’s thanks mostly to the very hard work and skill of the more than one million Americans that work in the American auto industry, but it would not have been possible without this administration stepping in and making the kinds of important decisions that have saved that industry, laid the groundwork for them to come back stronger than ever, but also revitalize the manufacturing industry inside the United States.
 
So the President is very pleased with the way that that came out, and that will certainly be something the President will be highlighting tomorrow.  He’ll also spend a little time talking about how important continued investments in the manufacturing sector, particularly when it comes to advanced manufacturing, are for our economy and for our workforce.
 
When the President travels to Phoenix, he will spend a little time talking about how the policies that this administration has put in place have benefitted American homeowners, middle-class homeowners.  This has been a sector of the economy that has not recovered as quickly as the manufacturing sector, but we’ve seen important gains in the second half of last year and the President wants to build on those gains and see if there is more that we can do to try to help responsible middle-class homeowners who, again, are trying to do the right thing.  So we’ll have more to say there on Thursday. 
 
Then on Friday, the President does look forward to the opportunity to visit a community college in Knoxville, Tennessee, where he’ll talk about a range of ideas that he has for making sure that we have the kind of workforce that we need in this country to continue to remain the strongest, most vibrant economy in the world, but also do it in a way that’s good for middle-class families and making sure that American workers have the skills they need to find the middle-class jobs of the future.
 
So I don’t have a lot of details I’m prepared to reveal at this point about some of the ideas the President will discuss.
 
Q    So nothing about — because Tennessee is about to do that, is about to have a project that would make community college virtually tuition-free.  He’s not going to talk about that?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Tennessee is a place where they have been focused on making sure that they have a workforce that’s very well equipped to compete for good-paying jobs.  And I guess I would point out that Tennessee has a Republican governor, they’re represented in the United States Senate by two Republican senators, so investing in the American workforce and making sure that we have a skilled workforce and making sure that middle-class families get the training and education that they need to compete for middle-class jobs, that shouldn’t be a partisan issue.  And the President will have a lot more to say, and I anticipate that he’ll speak more eloquently about this than I was just able to.
 
Major.
 
Q    Just on the auto bailout, you would concede that President Bush set it in motion and the President expanded it?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I would concede that what President Bush did was he made what was also a very politically difficult decision to forestall their death.  He gave them some key infusions of cash that prevented them from going under before President Obama took office.  Yes, that is certainly true.
 
However, there were very important and difficult policy decisions that this administration made to essentially send a couple of those companies into bankruptcy and to help them make the kinds of tough decisions that are required and are paying off in spades.
 
Q    — entry-level wages, et cetera.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  So certainly, President Bush, if you will, prevented them from suffering a terrible death, but it’s under President Obama that these companies have experienced a new and vibrant life.
 
Q    Talking about other legislative matters — not Keystone but that do have some bipartisan support and may come to the President’s desk.  There’s an effort in the House and Senate to, under the Affordable Care Act, replace a 40-hour work week as opposed to a 30-hour work week to avoid the mandate for businesses with fewer than 50 employees.  What is the administration’s position on that fine-tuning of that aspect of the Affordable Care Act?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, my understanding — I actually think this is something that Republicans have talked about before and something that we’ve been pretty critical of in the past. 
 
It is the view of this administration that this would actually — that this proposed change would actually do a lot of harm not just to the Affordable Care Act but also to a substantial number of workers across the country.  Ironically, at least a couple of conservative thinkers happen to agree that we’re right — that Mr. Levin, who writes for the National Review, has said that this seems likely to be worse than doing nothing — this Republican proposal.  Now, the irony here is that this is somebody who I assume is not exactly an enthusiastic advocate of the Affordable Care Act, but yet he is suggesting that the proposed Republican change is even worse than the Affordable Care Act.  I assume there’s no worse criticism that could be leveled by one Republican toward another than to say that something is worse than the Affordable Care Act, but yet that is the criticism that has been lodged at this Republican proposal.
 
Q    What does the administration believe is the policy error of this approach?  What would it make worse?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the issue is essentially that we would be putting even more workers in a situation where we could see some employers cutting back on their hours to try to avoid the requirement of providing them quality health insurance.  That’s what many responsible business owners and the majority of responsible business owners across the country already do, but there are some who are looking for loopholes where they can try to avoid taking that responsibility, and we certainly don’t believe that we should make that easier.  That’s not good for the Affordable Care Act; it’s not good for these workers.  That’s a position that’s long been articulated by this White House and it’s also a position that’s articulated by a number of leading conservative thinkers.
 
Q    And is it the administration’s point of view that this really isn’t a problem, that there is that sort of anecdotal sense that it’s a problem that employers are officially keeping hours down but, in fact, that’s not what’s happening?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I think it’s something that I think is hard to quantify and hard to generalize about.  I certainly wouldn’t quibble with the individual experience that somebody cites, but I think it’s sometimes hard to make — see inside the mind of an employer and to determine why they’re making different staffing decisions.  What’s clear is that the temptation that some employers might have would only be sweetened significantly if this Republican change were to be put into place.
 
Q    Let me ask about the protests that are going on in Lafayette Square.  I don’t know if you can hear them, but there’s a decent-size crowd wanting to bring attention to the deaths of 43 students in Mexico, and the perception that many have — and there’s an investigative trail that suggests either government complicity or government indifference to the investigation itself.  Richard Trumka, the President of the AFL-CIO, sent the President a letter today describing this crime as part of the systematic violence, corruption, and dissolution of the rule of law in all of Mexico, indicating that the AFL-CIO believes there is a human rights crisis in Mexico in addition to a labor rights crisis.  This is a friend to the administration.  It’s pretty stinging criticism.  What is the President and the administration’s take on the state of criminal justice and human rights and labor rights in Mexico, and to what degree is that factoring into the conversations today?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Major, I can tell you that as a — we have previously expressed our concern about this horrific crime that was committed in terms of the disappearance and apparent killing of 43 students in Mexico.  That is something that we have expressed some concern about.  I know that this is something — that this matter generally is something that the President discussed with President Peña Nieto during their meeting today.  They’re still meeting so I assume it could come up again.
 
The thing that’s important, though, is that we want to see the President of Mexico, President Peña Nieto, live up to our view — and a view that I think that both countries share — about the importance of the rule of law, and that peace and justice are ultimately necessary to fully achieve inclusive economic growth.  So there’s a clear incentive for both sides to live up to those kinds of values.
 
Q    This is a very live topic in Mexico as to whether or not this investigation itself is even credible, has met any basic standards of credibility or transparency.  What does the administration think about that?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, the investigation is still ongoing and there have been some — there have been concerns that have been raised; we’ve noted them.  There also have been some arrests that have been made, and President Peña Nieto has previously expressed what he believes is the priority that should be placed on human rights and on the rule of law.  And the President stands with him as he tries to put in place the important reforms that are necessary to try to address the situation.  But it’s clear that the work on this continues.
 
Q    Would you agree that the human rights situation is deteriorating, as Richard Trumka says and many human rights activists allege?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I don’t know that I would be willing to make that judgment from here.  I think what I would say is that President Obama and President Peña Nieto share a point of view about the importance of the rule of law, and they share a point of view that peace and justice are ultimately necessary for inclusive economic growth.  And so there is a clear incentive for governments around the world, including in Mexico, to pursue policies in that vein, and it is clear that there is more that needs to be done in Mexico to ensure that those values are being upheld.
 
Ed.
 
Q    Josh, I wanted to go back to the Phoenix agenda.  You didn’t mention the President going to the VA hospital there.  Is he not going to visit the VA hospital in Phoenix that was the source of so much controversy and possible death?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t seen the President’s full schedule yet but I don’t believe at this point that that’s something he’s planning to do.
 
Q    Why not?  I mean, this is the first time he’s had a chance to be in Phoenix.  He talked from that podium and many other podiums about how important it is to send a signal to America’s veterans that he is taking care of them.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, Ed, the thing that I can tell you is that when the President appointed an Acting Secretary of the VA, Sloan Gibson, to that responsibility in the aftermath of some of these revelations, Mr. Gibson’s first visit as the Acting Secretary of the VA was to that Phoenix facility.  I can tell you that once the President put in place — nominated a permanent Secretary of the VA, Mr. McDonald, to that job, that his first trip as VA Secretary was down to Phoenix.  And there have been some important personnel changes that have been made at that facility there.  There have been substantial operational reforms in place that are ensuring that the needs of the veterans in Phoenix are being better met by the medical facility there.
 
So we’re pleased with the pace of reforms that have been put in place.  It is clear that there is more that needs to be done not just in Phoenix but at medical facilities all across the country.  We’ve made a covenant with our veterans, and this President is determined to make sure that we uphold it.
 
Q    On Keystone, I guess I want to drill down a little bit on what Mara was saying before.  When you answered Mara I think you were saying — specifically referred to the House bill.  I just want to make sure — this veto threat, is the door open to supporting — I mean, I know you can’t comment on every possibility, every variation, but is it only a veto threat on the House version, or pretty much the President is saying, you put something on my desk on Keystone I’m vetoing it?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me say a couple things about that.  The first thing is I am under the impression that both the House version and the Senate version are the same.  So essentially the veto threat would apply to both. 
 
The second thing is there’s an important principle at stake here, and I think that’s what I would try to articulate in answering your question, which is there is a well-established process for evaluating projects — transportation infrastructure projects like this that go across international borders, and that these kinds of projects in the past and even in previous administrations have been evaluated by the State Department and other relevant government agencies to determine whether or not the completion of these infrastructure projects is in the clear best interest of the United States.  We believe that is the right way for determining the future of the Keystone pipeline.
 
Now, the thing that has inhibited the evaluation of that project is the fact that the root of that pipeline hasn’t been completed, that there still is a disagreement in Nebraska about what the proper route through that state should be.  So it would be premature to try to evaluate the project before something as basic as the route of the pipeline has been established.
 
Q    I understand the state aspect.  But on the State Department piece of this and cross-border — as you know, the State Department has been studying this two, three years.  I understand it’s a serious issue, it needs careful study.  How many years are you going to study the project before you say yay or nay?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, we’re going to make sure that we know what the route of the pipeline is before we render judgment about whether or not it should be completed.
 
Q    You have an idea of the pipeline.  I understand the exact — maps have been drawn.  I mean, this has been, again, studied two, three, four years. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, and that’s because the route of the pipeline has changed a number of times because of legal proceedings in Nebraska. 
 
So, look, Ed, this has been something that has been simmering for a little while here, and the administration has done a lot of work on this.  I think that is how you can tell that whatever decision is eventually reached by the administration will be one that reflects the kind of careful reflection and investigation that’s been conducted already. 
 
But again, we’re not going to render judgment on the pipeline project until the pipeline project has been — until a final project has been put forward.
 
Q    More big picture.  You were talking yesterday at the podium about cooperation and trying to work with Republicans and this meeting next Tuesday.  Not concerned at all about — day one of the new Congress, you’ve been sitting on this veto threat — well, we don’t know yet.  Day one, we’ll veto this bill.  Doesn’t that send an odd signal for cooperation?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I guess, Ed, to pick up on your metaphor about pipelines, I guess that spirit of good feelings flows both ways, between Congress and Capitol Hill.  Congressional Republicans are well aware of the position of this administration, which is that we believe clearly that this administrative process is the one that should determine this — the viability of this project.  And that is a long-held view.  It is a view that we clearly expressed in the previous Congress.  And so I guess, based on the construction of your question, maybe it raises questions about the willingness of Republicans to actually cooperate with this administration when you consider that the very first bill that’s introduced in the United States Senate is one that Republicans know the President opposes.
 
Q    He can sign it or veto it, and he’s saying veto, though.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, that’s true.
 
Q    Okay.  On health care, just the last thing you were talking to Major about — on another aspect of health care.  Long story in The New York Times saying that large segments of the faculty at Harvard University, where the President went to Harvard Law School, of course — is sort of up in arms about the fact that the professors are going to have to bear a larger share of their own health care costs under the President’s new law.  These are some of the same professors who were advisors to the President’s first campaign in 2008, advocated the Affordable Care Act, and they basically said this is a great deal for America.  But now when they have to pay more, they’re up in arms about it. Isn’t that a little bit hypocritical that some of the President’s supporters at Harvard are saying, this is a great deal for America, but when I’ve got to pay more it’s terrible, it’s awful.
 
MR. EARNEST:  I can only imagine the question you’d be asking me if The New York Times reported that the faculty at Harvard was getting a great deal.
 
Q    Well, this is the fact, though — and Harvard also put out a statement, by the way, saying, the trend — they’re doing this because the trend of rising health care costs, including some driven by health care reform itself — yesterday when we talked about this you said — and there are stats backing up that health care costs are coming down in some respects, but Harvard is citing that the law itself is raising health care costs.  Isn’t that the opposite of what the White House says?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I haven’t seen exactly what Harvard has said, but I do think as a general matter, the results that we’ve seen so far — they’re early, but the early results speak to the enormous benefits that the Affordable Care Act has paid to middle-class families across the country, to small business owners, to the government’s bottom line, and to the success that we’ve had in lowering health care cost, or at least slowing the growth of health care costs for people all across the country. 
 
Q    Is the President disappointed that professors at his alma mater just don’t see those benefits?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let’s be clear.  There are some important benefits that they do see under the Affordable Care Act, that there are a number of patient protections that will apply to everybody.  So everybody who is on the Harvard faculty can get a free annual checkup from their doctor.  And again, that’s thanks to the Affordable Care Act.  Nobody at Harvard who has a preexisting condition can ever be discriminated against again because of that preexisting condition.  And every Harvard professor that has an old child can keep that child on their quality Harvard insurance up to age 26.  And those are the kinds of patient protections that don’t just benefit those at the bottom of the income scale, they actually benefit everybody, including the esteemed academics at Harvard University.
 
Jon.
 
Q    Steve asked you earlier about whether the President was going to engage in a new charm offensive with Republicans in Congress, and you said no.  Why not?  It’s a new world now.  They’re now in charge.  A little charm may be called for.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, there’s been talk about a bourbon summit.  I don’t know if you can charm people over bourbon, but maybe we’ll try.  (Laughter.)  I think the point —
 
Q    What is the status on that bourbon summit?  That was November 5th I think we talked about that.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, I don’t know if that’s been scheduled, but I’m confident that the President and the new Majority Leader will follow through on that promise.
 
What I’ll say about it is this:  We’re focused a little less on sort of the charm and more on the substance.  There should be an opportunity for us to try to find common ground.  And it’s not the frequency of telephone calls or the pleasantries that are exchanged at the beginning, but actually the willingness from people in both parties to try to come together around common ground.
 
And look, we’re going to disagree — whether it’s the Keystone pipeline or the Affordable Care Act, many of those differences have been well chronicled and those aren’t going to change.  I’m not trying to paper over them, but there should be an opportunity for us to try to find some common ground.
 
And we’ve had this discussion a little bit before — in some cases, it will involve — Cheryl and I talked about this a little bit yesterday — in some cases, that will involve compromise; we’ll have to give a little, people on the other side will have to give a little.  But there may be just some places where we can say, hey, we both agree that we can invest in infrastructure.  Let’s pursue that idea.  That’s something that we — we don’t have to compromise around that.  That’s something we both agree on.
 
Now, we may have to compromise on things like the pay-fors or the priorities.  But that is something where Republicans can advance their priorities and Democrats can advance their priorities because these are priorities that they believe should exist for the whole country.  So that doesn’t require any charm. That just requires a willingness on both sides to try to meet in the middle, to try to find some common ground and compromise and move the country forward.
 
Q    So why — right out of the gate here, the new Congress coming in, the President’s leaving town, going and talking about his plan when it comes to mortgages, touting the auto bailout, doing some education.  None of those are on the top issues that you’ve talked about where there is common ground with Republicans.  Why aren’t you out there talking tax reform, trade, infrastructure right out of the box?  Seems like you’re starting from a point of confrontation, not necessarily cooperation?  You mentioned the veto threat, obviously.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes, well, I think there will be an opportunity for us to talk about some of those issues, as well.  I don’t know if it will be in the context of this trip, but certainly we may have an opportunity to do that.
 
The last time the President — I guess it wasn’t the last time the President traveled to Detroit, but on one of his previous visits, the President traveled to Detroit to talk about the Korea free-trade agreement that was completed under this President.  And we took the then South Korean President along, and I remember that he donned a Detroit Tigers baseball cap.  So I think that’s a pretty good illustration of the President’s commitment to those issues.
 
But, look, there will be an opportunity for us to talk about a bunch of things that Republicans agree — that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.  And I’m confident that that will come up in the President’s remarks that he delivers over the course of this week.  And I’m confident — I’m even more confident it will come up in the meeting the President intends to have with Democratic and Republican leaders here at the White House next week. 
 
There will be ample opportunity for us to talk about those things.  And again, we’ll do that because the President senses an opportunity to make some progress in priorities that the President has identified.  And there is some overlap between the priorities that the President has identified and the priorities that Republicans say that they believe in.  So we look forward to trying to stake out that common ground and move forward.
 
Q    And can I just get you to react to something that happened while you were standing up there but you probably knew it was going on?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Okay.
 
Q    The House was in the process of electing a Speaker of the House.
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s what I hear.
 
Q    It looks like over two dozen Republicans failed to support John Boehner for Speaker, many of those not supporting him because they think that he has not been confrontational enough in dealing with the President.  I wonder if you have any reaction.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  Well, it’s my understanding that it would require substantially more than two dozen defections to prevent —
 
Q    Not substantially more.  It’s pretty close.  (Laughter.)
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not an expert on these things.  But it sounds to me that you may have buried the lead here.  I’m not a journalist the way that you are, but it sounds like he’s been reelected as Speaker of the House.  And if that’s the case, then he certainly deserves and has the congratulations of everybody here at the White House.  That’s a substantial achievement.
 
The President’s differences with Speaker Boehner on a wide range of issues that we’ve been talking about today are not new. I know that the Speaker does not share the President’s view when it comes to the Affordable Care Act, that they disagree over the Keystone pipeline.  I know that that’s something that Speaker Boehner — that legislation is something that Speaker Boehner supports.  But there is no doubt that there are going to be strong differences of opinion between the President and the Speaker, as there have been over the course of the last four years.  What the President is determined to do, however, is to move past those disagreements and try to find some areas of common ground.  And we’re hopeful that Speaker Boehner will be willing to do the same.
 
Mike.
 
Q    Somewhat related to the meeting today with the President of Mexico — would the U.S. be open to allowing exports of crude oil to Mexico as the U.S. now does with Canada?  And did this come up in the meeting between President Nieto and President Obama?
 
MR. EARNEST:  My understanding, Mike, is that there has actually been no change in our policy on crude oil exports.  There was this decision that was announced by the administration during the holidays to provide additional clarity about how it will implement longstanding rules related to crude exports.  But our policy as it relates to crude oil exports have not changed.
 
Q    — be open to giving Mexico the same permission you give to Canada on that?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I was just going to say that as it relates to the specific policy that we have with Mexico, I’d have to take the question to see whether or not there is any sort of policy change being contemplated there.
 
Q    And did this come up in the meetings, do you know?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Not that I’m aware of.  But if we can get you a more detailed readout, we’ll let you know.
 
Q    And one other thing.  People familiar say that the President will, later today, announce that Allan Landon, the former CEO of the Bank of Hawaii, is going to be nominated to the Federal Reserve Board.  One, is this correct?  And two, since the only thing I know about Mr. Landon is that he is the former CEO of Bank of Hawaii, where Obama was born —
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.  (Laughter.) 
 
Q    — and is a law lecturer at the University of Hawaii, does the President know him personally or is he acquainted with him?  Just since he’s from his native state, obvious question.
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, it’s a clever question, too.  I’ll say that I don’t have any personal announcements to make from here.  But —
 
Q    Is he personally acquainted with Mr. Landon regardless of what might be —
 
MR. EARNEST:  I don’t know whether or not the President has a relationship with the gentleman that you’ve mentioned, but we’ll see if we can get you some more information about that.
 
Peter.
 
Q    Josh, free-trade agreements with places like Colombia have been held up over issues of human rights.  Is it time for the U.S. to reconsider aid to Mexico conditioned to or based on human rights?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I have not heard anybody discuss that from our side principally because many of those concerns that were registered with those governments had to do with the view of the administration that the leaders of those countries were insufficiently committed to the rule of law and to respect for basic human rights.
 
And while we certainly believe that there is more work that needs to be done in Mexico — and this terrible crime that was committed against these 43 Mexican students I think is indicative of that — we do, however, believe that there is some — that there is a view that’s shared between President Obama and President Peña Nieto about the importance of the rule of law and respect for basic human rights.  So I have not heard anybody discuss using that as an option.
 
Q    What assistance, or what more assistance perhaps, is the U.S. specifically providing right now in the effort to try to track down the perpetrators behind these 43 —
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I can tell you that this is something that the President — that they did discuss in the meeting, that they discussed this issue.  And the United States has supported the efforts of the federal government in Mexico to conduct this investigation and to learn more about what exactly happened.  I’m not aware if any new offers were made or any specific requests were made in the context of the meeting.  But if so, we’ll try to get you that information.
 
Q    Gay marriage is beginning in Florida at midnight, effective today.  Thirty-six states in the country and the District of Colombia now allow for same-sex marriage.  Is it time that we get rid of this sort of patchwork situation right now and move forward with a law of the land on gay marriage?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, let me start by saying that the President certainly — the President’s views on this are well known and the President is certainly pleased to see that Florida is taking a step in the direction of freedom and liberty and allowing these marriages to take place.
 
But the President has also said that he does not at this point enthusiastically support a national law.  But at this point, as you said, Florida is, what, the 36th or 37th state to take this step, and that’s — the 36th state.  And that’s an indication that we’re moving in the right direction.  And the President is certainly pleased about that.
 
Q    The Department of Homeland Security — obviously, the next funding battle of sorts will be whether or not — the funding they receive effective February 27th right now.  Are there contingency plans or anything being done by this administration protectively in case that funding does not go through?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Not that I’m aware of, but you should check with the Department of Homeland Security and they can provide you with — they may be able to provide you at least some more information about what sort of contingencies they’re working on.
I know that we have seen expressions from Republican leaders in both the House and the Senate indicating that they don’t want to get to a place where we’re shutting down the Department of Homeland Security.
 
Q    How big a deal would that be, though?  How significant is that sort of threshold?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Well, I’m not steeped in all of the budgetary details to give you a very precise estimate of the impact.  I know that during the last government shutdown that we experienced a little over a year ago that many Department of Homeland Security employees were considered essential government employees, which meant that they came to work anyway even though they weren’t getting paychecks right away.  So I don’t know what any tangible impact would be beyond basically withholding paychecks from a large number of individuals who show up at work every day trying to keep America safer.  So I don’t think that’s really an outcome that all that many people support.  So we continue to be optimistic that by working together, we’ll be able to head off that eventuality.
 
Byron.
 
Q    Thanks, Josh.  The language you used on the Keystone issue — you said that the President would not sign it.  If I remember civics correctly, that’s different from a veto.  Are we correct in reporting this as a veto threat?
 
MR. EARNEST:  Yes.
 
Q    And second, is the threat to veto an objection to the project itself?  Or is it an objection to Congress getting involved in the State Department process?
 
MR. EARNEST:  That’s a good question.  I tried to answer that, but let me see if I can clarify that.  I’ll just put a finer point on it.  The concern that we have right now is principally on the idea that this piece of legislation would undermine what has traditionally been and is a well-established administrative process to determine whether or not this project is in the national interest.  And that review process is underway.
 
You heard in the news conference that the President did at the end of the year, the President did make clear that he was a little skeptical of the claims that were made by some of the most enthusiastic advocates of the pipeline’s construction, about the impact it would have on energy prices or on job creation.  But the fact is a complete evaluation of that project can’t be completed until this legal dispute about the route of the pipeline has been settled and we know what the final route of the pipeline actually looks like.
 
So I guess what I would say is I’m going to withhold, and the administration would withhold, broader judgment on the project itself, although you could note our skepticism about some of the claims made by the most enthusiastic advocates of the pipeline and note that our principal objection right now to this legislation moving forward is that it undermines a well-established process that has succeeded so many times in the past, including in previous administrations, to ensure that we are carefully and properly evaluating whether or not a particular infrastructure project is actually in the interest of the United States of America.
 
Q    Wait, can you clarify that?  You say you’re skeptical of the claims of the advocates?  Are you skeptical of some of the claims of the opponents?  Because there have been some pretty extreme claims on both sides.
 
MR. EARNEST:  I think in the past, the President has expressed some skepticism about those, too.
 
Justin.
 
Q    The President — I just want to put a finer point on the 30-hour, 40-hour work week. 
 
MR. EARNEST:  Okay.
 
Q    I know that you’ve explained why you guys oppose it, but would you veto that legislation as well?
 
MR. EARNEST:  We would, yes.
 
Q    Okay.  I wanted to ask also, then, about the Regulatory Accountability Act, which is another piece of legislation you guys have previously said you’d recommend that the President veto.  It’s the one that requires cost-benefit analysis of all regulations.  That’s kind of the third of these Republican bills that they plan to bring up early at Congress.  Would you guys veto that legislation?
 
MR. EARNEST:  I haven’t actually been updated on that piece of legislation and how carefully it tracks with the previous offerings on this, so I’d withhold judgment on that for n

Benefits of Historic Trade Achievements for Ontario in 2014

Under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP), the government’s pro-export, pro-jobs plan, new markets around the world have been opened for Ontario exports. These historic trade achievements will benefit hard-working Canadians in Ontario and throughout Canada.

In just one year, the government has delivered on its GMAP commitment to eliminate tariffs and support Canadian companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), and to boost exports, including through:

  • the conclusion of negotiations and release of the complete text of the historic Canada-European Union trade agreement. The agreement will eliminate tariffs on virtually all of Ontario’s exports. Ontario is one of the hubs of Canada’s manufacturing activities and is set to benefit greatly from this agreement. On the first day of the agreement’s coming into force, 99 percent of tariffs on manufactured products entering the EU will be duty-free.
  • the conclusion of Canada’s first free trade agreement in Asia with the landmark Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA), which will come into force on January 1, 2015. Ontario will see tremendous opportunities for export growth, given the complete elimination of South Korean duties on many Canadian products. For example, as of January 1, over 95 percent of South Korean tariffs on industrial products will be eliminated. This will lead to increased market access for key sectors of interest to Ontario, include aerospace, medical devices, clean technology, food manufacturing, information and communications technologies, life sciences, and metals and minerals.

Historic trade agreements require historic trade promotion, and under GMAP, the Harper government is supporting workers and businesses in Ontario and ensuring that SMEs have all the necessary tools to seize new opportunities and realize their full export potential.

Key elements of the trade promotion efforts include:

Go Global Export Workshops

Over the next several months, the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, is holding workshops across Canada in collaboration with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters and all the Government of Canada’s export support agencies. Under GMAP, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation have been aligning their activities, facilitating referrals, sharing market intelligence and information, and providing a whole-of-government approach to boost SME exports. In 2014, over 300 SMEs participated in Go Global workshops, including one in Mississauga, Ontario, in November.

Minister Fast will be hosting Go Global workshops in Kitchener-Waterloo on January 20 and in Richmond Hill on January 29, 2015.

Regional Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) Activities

In 2014, the TCS’s Ontario Regional Office assisted 732 SMEs, providing them with on-the-ground international business support, including 1,083 targeted services, and connecting them to new business opportunities.

Trade commissioners have been embedded with public and private sector partners across Canada, including in Ontario—with the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters – Ontario, the Canadian Services Coalition – Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Information Technology Association of Canada, the MaRS Discovery District and the Ontario Chamber of Commerce—so they may work closely with businesses to ensure the Government of Canada is responsive to their needs.

Export Development Canada (EDC)

EDC helped 2,041 Ontario companies finance or insure $19.42-billion worth of international sales and investments. For example, General Electric (GE) Canada and EDC worked together to identify and introduce innovative and globally minded Canadian companies into the supply chain of two GE Canada divisions in Peterborough; EDC provided financing for Toronto-based Merus Labs for its acquisition of an established pharmaceutical product in several European countries; and EDC led a $20-million commercial project finance facility for BioAmber to develop a biochemical production facility in Sarnia.

Overall, EDC’s new outlook calls for Ontario exports to increase by 7 percent in 2014 and 5 percent in 2015.

Canadian Commercial Corporation (CCC)

In 2013-14, CCC worked with over 65 companies in Ontario on export opportunities abroad, including Allen Vanguard Corp. of Ottawa, General Dynamics Land Systems – Canada of London, and Manitex Liftking of Vaughan.

Attracting Job-Creating Investments in Ontario

Significant investments were made in Ontario in 2014 that created jobs and opportunities for Canadians.

Through the Invest Canada – Community Initiatives program, the Government of Canada provided a total of $1.6 million to 22 Ontario communities or community organizations: Burlington Economic Development Corporation, Canada‘s Technology Triangle Inc., Chapleau Economic Development Corporation, City of Guelph, City of Hamilton, City of Niagara Falls, City of Welland, Greater Peterborough Area Economic Development Corporation, Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance, Invest Ottawa, Invest Toronto, Kingston Economic Development Corporation, London Economic Development Corporation, Niagara Region, Quinte Economic Development Corporation, Regional Municipality of Durham, Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, Southwestern Ontario Marketing Alliance, Municipality of Chatham-Kent, Regional Municipality of Halton, United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry, and Town of Whitby.

As part of GMAP, the government attracts investment to Canada, benefiting hard-working Canadians and their families. In the 2013-14 fiscal year, the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS) worked with provincial, territorial and municipal investment partners to facilitate 146 successful investment projects worth $3.65 billion and create over 5,500 new jobs within Canada. 

Opening Markets and Supporting Ontario Businesses Abroad

In 2014, Minister Fast led 13 trade missions to 20 countries. Trade missions connect Canadian businesses, especially SMEs, with new opportunities to boost their exports, which creates jobs, growth and prosperity across all regions of Canada, including Ontario. Minister Fast was joined by representatives of 78 Ontario companies on several of these missions—including Germany in March, where he was joined by 12 representatives; the United Kingdom in September, where he was joined by 11 representatives; and China in November, where he was joined by 28 representatives.

During his trade mission to India in October, Minister Fast was joined by eight Ontario companies: Best Theratronics, DataWind, Deloitte LLP, Environmental Waste International, IT Measures Ltd., LM Technologies Canada, Nrich Canada and Prudential Consulting. While in India, the Minister witnessed the signing of an agreement between Novadaq Technologies of Mississauga, Ontario, and Kirloskar Technologies of New Delhi to market innovation technologies in India.

During his trade mission to China in May, Minister Fast witnessed the signing of a contract potentially worth $10 million between EHC Global of Oshawa, Ontario, and the Shanghai Mitsubishi Elevator Corporation to develop innovative solutions for the Chinese elevator and escalator market.

Also during his trade mission to China in November, Minister Fast witnessed numerous signing agreements between various Chinese and Ontario companies, including:

  • one between Anemoi Technologies Inc. of Ontario and CSR Sifang to design and supply a high-speed train crash-testing facility;
  • one between Candu Energy of Ontario and the China National Nuclear Corporation to develop the Advanced Fuel CANDU Reactor and deliver CANDU new build projects in China and international markets;
  • one between Ontario-based Firan Technology Group Corporation and Shanghai Avionics Corporation concerning the design, development, manufacturing and product support of display system control panels for the Chinese C919 aircraft;
  • one between Ontario-based KELK and Wuhan Iron and Steel Group to supply state-of-the-art electronic measurement equipment for new builds or revamping of steel rolling projects;
  • one between Ontario-based LeMine Investment Group and Guizhou Fengguan Group for exporting canola oil;
  • two for Ontario-based Michael H.K. Wong Architects Inc. for design services for the headquarters building of the Fujian International Business Association and for the new Yangjiang Guo-Fu-Yi-Jia Health Care & Resort Centre in Guangdong; and
  • one between Ontario-based Plasco Energy Group and Shougang Group to bring Plasco’s waste-to-energy facilities to Beijing.

Innovative companies from Ontario can also count on the support of the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA) program. Seventy-six companies from Ontario have recently participated in CTA programs, including 41 in 2013-14 and 35 in 2014-15. These include dynamic companies like iNTERFACEWARE Inc., which took part in a CTA program in Philadelphia, and Voices.com, which which took part in a CTA program in San Francisco.

Minister Fast encouraged Ontario-based businesses to take advantage of the Enterprise Canada Network, provided in partnership with EDC and Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, which provides online access to more than 30,000 business profiles and opportunities in the European market to help Canadian companies take full advantage of the historic Canada-EU trade agreement

Under GMAP, the Harper government committed to developing comprehensive strategies in key sectors. Strategies released this year that support Manitoba businesses include the International Education, the Extractive Sector and the Corporate Social Responsibility strategies, and an export-oriented Defence Procurement Strategy. 

Minister Fast invited businesses in Ontario to accompany him on his first trade mission of 2015. This trade mission to South Korea, which will take place from February 8 to 13, will enable businesses to take full advantage of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement and benefit from the on-the-ground support from the Government of Canada.

Quotes

“This year, 2014, has been the most successful year for international trade in Canadian history, benefiting hard-working Canadians in Ontario and in every region of the country. Under Canada’s Global Markets Action Plan, we will continue our vigorous trade promotion efforts to boost our exports.

“In 2015, we will continue to focus on the real priorities of hard-working Canadians: creating new jobs and prosperity.”

– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade

Associated Links

Quotes from Ontario Stakeholders

Trade Missions

“The trade mission to India was a fabulous experience overall. It was a great way to get the inside scoop on the feel and flavour of India by meeting the local entrepreneurs and elected officials who make the country work. The positive effects of this India mission for me included higher sales revenue opportunities, visibility and goodwill and a better perspective. An additional benefit was that the mission helped us develop close business relationships. This was a great way for the participants who were looking at doing business in India for the first time to initiate the process of breaking into a new market.”

– Dilip Ghose, Director/President, Global Business, LM Technologies Canada Inc.

“The trade mission provided a number of opportunities to connect with other Canadian companies operating within the region, as well as with key stakeholders and clients in Tanzania. We appreciate the support of the Canadian government to engage in this trade mission to Tanzania, as it highlights the current opportunities and ultimately benefits Canadian companies.”

– Peter James, Senior Consultant, CPCS Transcom Limited

“My company is very satisfied with the results of this trip, and all our strategic objectives have been met. We were impressed by all the work done by embassy personnel and commercial delegates and by ministers Bernier and Fast during this extremely well-organized event.”

– Marc Carrier, Account Director – Business Development, Rheinmetall Canada Inc.

“We are most appreciative of the opportunity to participate in this trade mission with Minister Fast. The whole-of-government support for defence export sales was an important factor in our recent contracts with Colombia and Peru. The ability to sign government-to-government contracts through the Canadian Commercial Corporation with a sovereign guarantee of performance provides a significant advantage to Canadian exporters.”

– Chris Brown, General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada

“We have found the support of Canadian Trade Commissioner Service officers to be extremely valuable. The experience with the other participants during the trade mission helps to verify our common interest in this market. With the support of the officials, we met with a client yesterday truly interested in a solution for their situation. We are very grateful.”

– John MacDonald, President, IT Measures Ltd.

Canadian Technology Accelerator

“The Canadian Technology Accelerator experience helped refine and accelerate segment plan and pipeline development refinements, and help received during CTA participation has create an accelerated sales process and a more successful market strategy. The CTA was a useful facility in accelerating business/market planning, saving a substantial amount of time and effort and compressing plan-to-execution cycle.”

– Toni Skokovic, Vice President, Sales, iNTERFACEWARE Inc.

“The Canadian Technology Accelerator located in San Francisco’s RocketSpace provided Voices.com with the launching pad necessary for connecting with key stakeholders, for drawing new customers and engaging existing customers already in the San Francisco area, and for securing new partnerships with heavy hitters like Adobe—many who were part of RocketSpaces’ corporate development arm. Thanks to the CTA, a number of invaluable relationships were created for Voices.com. The growth experienced in the CTA has supported the expansion of our London, Ontario office.”

– David Ciccarelli, ‎Founder and CEO, Voices.com

Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

“The industry congratulates the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade on the government’s ongoing commitment to opening international markets and successfully negotiating CETA. The health of the Canadian economy depends on the ability to competitively export to markets around the world. CETA will deliver significant dividends for the Canadian economy over the years ahead.”

– Andrew Casey, President and CEO, BIOTECanada

“Ford Motor Company of Canada congratulates the Government of Canada on reaching a transformational free trade agreement with the European Union. Ford is a company built on free trade. Throughout our history, Ford has supported deals that provide an opportunity to increase effective two-way trade among all partners. Expanding trade opportunities is fundamental to Ford’s business plan, and the EU market represents a significant global market for our vehicles.”

– Dianne Craig, President and CEO, Ford Motor Company of Canada

“We applaud Canada and the EU for completing a modern, high-standard comprehensive economic and trade agreement that will provide enhanced opportunities for growth in both regions. We appreciate the hard work to find creative solutions that improve market access for Canadian-produced automobiles, while ensuring Canada continues to benefit from the integrated manufacturing sector that has developed in North America over the past 50 years.”

– Kevin Williams, former president and managing director, General Motors of Canada

“The EU is the largest buyer of Canadian soybeans, with more than a million tonnes exported to the region annually. We look forward to even greater trade with Europe with the implementation of CETA.”

– Barry Senft, CEO, Grain Farmers of Ontario

“Canada has some tightly controlled pricing regimes as [they] relate to drug products, and subsequently as time moves forward there should be no reason as to why drug prices would increase from the levels that we currently are at. This is good for Canada. It enables us to become more competitive with other countries around the world that currently have better intellectual property regimes.”

– Chris Halyk, President, Janssen Inc.

“We anticipate that this agreement, when it comes into force, will open new markets to Canadian exporters like NOVO Plastics throughout Europe and will generate significant commercial opportunities for all Canadian small to medium-sized businesses. NOVO Plastics will benefit from the elimination of EU tariffs on auto parts, which are as high as 4.5 percent. This will provide us with a competitive advantage in the EU market that few other countries have.”

– Baljit Sierra, President and CEO, NOVO Plastics Inc.

“Gaining preferential access to the world’s largest economy—with a GDP of almost $17 trillion and a market of 500 million consumers—will be good news for a trading nation like Canada. The value of the [financial] industry’s exported services has doubled in the past decade, and the sector now accounts for roughly half of Canada’s total stock of outward foreign direct investment. What’s more, exports by financial companies are growing faster than [those in] other sectors, and CETA could open new opportunities for our financial services providers.”

– Janet L. Ecker, President and CEO, Toronto Financial Services Alliance

“The European Union has become a key export market for us, with customers in Poland, Hungary and Slovakia who appreciate the high-quality and low-cost products we are able to provide. This agreement will make our products even more cost-competitive, which will expand our business, create new sources of prosperity for current and future employees and benefit Canadian manufacturers as a whole.”

– Ben Whitney, President, Armo Tool Limited

“Our exports to the European market are an important and growing aspect of our business. Creating an improved access to the European market with reduced tariffs and barriers would help us to continue to diversify our customer base and stabilize employment at ODG.”

– Michael Eckardt, CEO, Ontario Drive and Gear Ltd. (ODG)

“We at Miovision are in full support of a Canada-EU trade agreement, and would consider freer trade with Europe to be a milestone achievement for the government procurement sector. At a minimum, the reduction of technical barriers to trade will allow companies like Miovision to reap far greater gains from existing deals with European customers. Ultimately, the faster Canada can gain preferential access to the European Union, the faster companies on both sides of the equation can grow and create jobs.”

– Kurtis McBride, Co-founder and CEO, Miovision Technologies

“In the eyes of our industry, CETA means increased demand here in Canada for construction. It means expanding companies. It means housing for the new workers. And it means people have the confidence to invest in their future and in construction. Hand in hand with seeking increased trade in the Asia-Pacific [region] and our existing free trade with the United States, freer trade with Europe will benefit Canadians and construction for decades to come.”

– Terrance Oakey, President, Merit Canada

“There is no doubt that a Canada-EU comprehensive economic trade agreement will be a huge win for the Waterloo region. As a regional economic development partnership, we seek to attract investment by showcasing the region as a place of great opportunity with an exceptionally talented and innovative labour force. That is exactly what this agreement will help us do, and is why Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc. supports a successful CETA as a means to improving the Waterloo region’s competitive edge in the world.”

– John G. Jung, CEO, Canada’s Technology Triangle Inc.

“This is the classic way to create jobs, by lowering trade barriers. We are a trading nation. We are convinced that with better opportunities in Europe we can increase our production, therefore hire more people and, therefore, create jobs. That is how it is done.”

– Paul Van Meerbergen, Business Development Manager, Lamko Tool and Mold Inc.

“The Chemistry Industry Association of Canada strongly supports the government’s pro-trade agenda and successful completion of the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the EU. A trade agreement would help Canada’s chemistry manufacturing industry secure new markets; stimulate economic growth, job creation and investments; and provide more opportunities to develop Canada’s natural resources—including energy—into value-added products for the benefit of the broader manufacturing sector.”

– Richard Paton, President and CEO, Chemistry Industry Association of Canada

“As a world-class supplier of medical and industrial high purity alcohol, a comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union will allow GreenField Ethanol to expand our operations into the lucrative EU market and take our products global. This agreement is about moving Canada forward and positioning Canadian companies to compete and succeed in the 21st-century global economy. Access to the European market through the reduction of tariffs and other barriers to trade will open up new opportunities for my business and allow me to create well-paying jobs right here in Canada.”

– Kenneth Field, Chairman, GreenField

Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement

“This trade agreement is of tremendous importance to the food and beverage processing sector in Ontario and across Canada. For the agri-food sector the agreement commits to eliminating nearly 87 percent of tariffs on products from Canada to Korea. An open door to Korea will offer new opportunities for Ontario food and beverage processing companies not just in Korea, but all of Asia through a network of supply chains.”

– Steve Peters, Executive Director, Alliance of Ontario Food Processors

“The Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario is supportive of a Canada-Korea free trade agreement. South Korea is the second most important Asian market for Ontario wines, particularly our premium product, icewine. Such an agreement should increase the competitiveness of Ontario wines in Korea and ultimately lead to increased exports.”

– Patrick Gedge, President and CEO, Winery & Grower Alliance of Ontario

“The signing of a free trade agreement between Canada and Korea is great news. We anticipate this agreement, when it comes into force, will open new markets to Canadian exporters like NOVO throughout the dynamic and fast-growing Asian market and will generate significant commercial opportunities for all Canadian small to medium sized businesses.”

– Baljit Sierra, President and CEO, NOVO Plastics Inc.

“Free and open trade with priority markets in Asia, most notably Korea and Japan, is vital to Canada’s national interest to be globally competitive, create jobs and increase prosperity. The successful conclusion of a trade agreement with Korea would also allow Canada to direct its full resources towards the swift completion of the economic partnership agreement with Japan.”

– Jerry Chenkin, Chairman, Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association of Canada

“With the imminent completion of these negotiations with South Korea, we expect that the Government of Canada will move expeditiously to finalize a Canada/Japan economic partnership agreement to level the playing field for all vehicle distributors in the Canadian market, which will create benefits for Canadian consumers.”

– David Adams, President, Global Automakers of Canada

Remarks by the President in Year-End Press Conference

The White House

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release

December 19, 2014

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:53 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  We’ve really got a full house today, huh?  Well, all I want for Christmas is to take your questions.  (Laughter.)  But first let me say a little bit about this year. 

In last year’s final press conference, I said that 2014 would be a year of action and would be a breakthrough year for America.  And it has been.  Yes, there were crises that we had to tackle around the world, many that were unanticipated.  We have more work to do to make sure our economy, our justice system, and our government work not just for the few, but for the many.  But there is no doubt that we can enter into the New Year with renewed confidence that America is making significant strides where it counts.

The steps that we took early on to rescue our economy and rebuild it on a new foundation helped make 2014 the strongest year for job growth since the 1990s.  All told, over a 57-month streak, our businesses have created nearly 11 million new jobs.  Almost all the job growth that we’ve seen have been in full-time positions.  Much of the recent pickup in job growth has been in higher-paying industries.  And in a hopeful sign for middle-class families, wages are on the rise again.

Our investments in American manufacturing have helped fuel its best stretch of job growth also since the 1990s.  America is now the number-one producer of oil, the number-one producer of natural gas.  We’re saving drivers about 70 cents a gallon at the pump over last Christmas.  And effectively today, our rescue of the auto industry is officially over.  We’ve now repaid taxpayers every dime and more of what my administration committed, and the American auto industry is on track for its strongest year since 2005.  And we’ve created about half a million new jobs in the auto industry alone.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, about 10 million Americans have gained health insurance just this past year.  Enrollment is beginning to pick up again during the open enrollment period.  The uninsured rate is at a near record low.  Since the law passed, the price of health care has risen at its slowest rate in about 50 years.  And we’ve cut our deficits by about two-thirds since I took office, bringing them to below their 40-year average.

Meanwhile, around the world, America is leading.  We’re leading the coalition to degrade and ultimately destroy ISIL — a coalition that includes Arab partners.  We’re leading the international community to check Russian aggression in Ukraine. We are leading the global fight to combat Ebola in West Africa, and we are preventing an outbreak from taking place here at home. We’re leading efforts to address climate change, including last month’s joint announcement with China that’s already jumpstarting new progress in other countries.  We’re writing a new chapter in our leadership here in the Americas by turning a new page on our relationship with the Cuban people. 

And in less than two weeks, after more than 13 years, our combat mission in Afghanistan will be over.  Today, more of our troops are home for the holidays than any time in over a decade. Still, many of our men and women in uniform will spend Christmas in harm’s way.  And they should know that the country is united in support of you and grateful not only to you but also to your families.

The six years since the crisis have demanded hard work and sacrifice on everybody’s part.  But as a country, we have every right to be proud of what we’ve accomplished — more jobs; more people insured; a growing economy; shrinking deficits; bustling industry; booming energy.  Pick any metric that you want — America’s resurgence is real.  We are better off. 

I’ve always said that recovering from the crisis of 2008 was our first order of business, and on that business, America has outperformed all of our other competitors.  Over the past four years, we’ve put more people back to work than all other advanced economies combined.  We’ve now come to a point where we have the chance to reverse an even deeper problem, the decades-long erosion of middle-class jobs and incomes, and to make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers our prosperity for decades to come. 

To do that, we’re going to have to make some smart choices; we’ve got to make the right choices.  We’re going to have to invest in the things that secure even faster growth in higher-paying jobs for more Americans.  And I’m being absolutely sincere when I say I want to work with this new Congress to get things done, to make those investments, to make sure the government is working better and smarter.  We’re going to disagree on some things, but there are going to be areas of agreement and we’ve got to be able to make that happen.  And that’s going to involve compromise every once in a while, and we saw during this lame duck period that perhaps that spirit of compromise may be coming to the fore.   

In terms of my own job, I’m energized, I’m excited about the prospects for the next couple of years, and I’m certainly not going to be stopping for a minute in the effort to make life better for ordinary Americans.  Because, thanks to their efforts, we really do have a new foundation that’s been laid.  We are better positioned than we have been in a very long time.  A new future is ready to be written.  We’ve set the stage for this American moment.  And I’m going to spend every minute of my last two years making sure that we seize it.

My presidency is entering the fourth quarter; interesting stuff happens in the fourth quarter.  And I’m looking forward to it.  But going into the fourth quarter, you usually get a timeout.  I’m now looking forward to a quiet timeout — Christmas with my family.  So I want to wish everybody a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, a Happy New Year.  I hope that all of you get some time to spend with your families as well, because one thing that we share is that we’re away too much from them.

And now, Josh has given me the “who’s been naughty and who’s been nice” list — (laughter) — and I’m going to use it to take some questions.  And we’re going to start with Carrie Budoff Brown of Politico.  There you go, Carrie.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I’ll start on North Korea — that seems to be the biggest topic today.  What does a proportional response look like to the Sony hack?  And did Sony make the right decision in pulling the movie?  Or does that set a dangerous precedent when faced with this kind of situation?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, let me address the second question first.  Sony is a corporation.  It suffered significant damage.  There were threats against its employees.  I am sympathetic to the concerns that they faced.  Having said all that, yes, I think they made a mistake.
 
In this interconnected, digital world, there are going to be opportunities for hackers to engage in cyber assaults both in the private sector and the public sector.  Now, our first order of business is making sure that we do everything to harden sites and prevent those kinds of attacks from taking place.  When I came into office, I stood up a cybersecurity interagency team to look at everything that we could at the government level to prevent these kinds of attacks.  We’ve been coordinating with the private sector, but a lot more needs to be done.  We’re not even close to where we need to be.
 
And one of the things in the New Year that I hope Congress is prepared to work with us on is strong cybersecurity laws that allow for information-sharing across private sector platforms, as well as the public sector, so that we are incorporating best practices and preventing these attacks from happening in the first place.

But even as we get better, the hackers are going to get better, too.  Some of them are going to be state actors; some of them are going to be non-state actors.  All of them are going to be sophisticated and many of them can do some damage. 

We cannot have a society in which some dictator someplace can start imposing censorship here in the United States.  Because if somebody is able to intimidate folks out of releasing a satirical movie, imagine what they start doing when they see a documentary that they don’t like, or news reports that they don’t like.  Or even worse, imagine if producers and distributors and others start engaging in self-censorship because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of somebody whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.
 
So that’s not who we are.  That’s not what America is about.
Again, I’m sympathetic that Sony as a private company was worried about liabilities, and this and that and the other.  I wish they had spoken to me first.  I would have told them, do not get into a pattern in which you’re intimidated by these kinds of criminal attacks.  Imagine if, instead of it being a cyber-threat, somebody had broken into their offices and destroyed a bunch of computers and stolen disks.  Is that what it takes for suddenly you to pull the plug on something?

So we’ll engage with not just the film industry, but the news industry and the private sector around these issues.  We already have.  We will continue to do so.  But I think all of us have to anticipate occasionally there are going to be breaches like this.  They’re going to be costly.  They’re going to be serious.  We take them with the utmost seriousness.  But we can’t start changing our patterns of behavior any more than we stop going to a football game because there might be the possibility of a terrorist attack; any more than Boston didn’t run its marathon this year because of the possibility that somebody might try to cause harm.  So let’s not get into that way of doing business.

Q    Can you just say what the response would be to this attack?  Wwould you consider taking some sort of symbolic step like watching the movie yourself or doing some sort of screening here that —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ve got a long list of movies I’m going to be watching.  (Laughter.)

Q    Will this be one of them?

THE PRESIDENT:  I never release my full movie list. 

But let’s talk of the specifics of what we now know.  The FBI announced today and we can confirm that North Korea engaged in this attack.  I think it says something interesting about North Korea that they decided to have the state mount an all-out assault on a movie studio because of a satirical movie starring Seth Rogen and James Flacco [Franco].  (Laughter.)  I love Seth and I love James, but the notion that that was a threat to them I think gives you some sense of the kind of regime we’re talking about here.

They caused a lot of damage, and we will respond.  We will respond proportionally, and we’ll respond in a place and time and manner that we choose.  It’s not something that I will announce here today at a press conference.

More broadly, though, this points to the need for us to work with the international community to start setting up some very clear rules of the road in terms of how the Internet and cyber operates.  Right now, it’s sort of the Wild West.  And part of the problem is, is you’ve got weak states that can engage in these kinds of attacks, you’ve got non-state actors that can do enormous damage.  That’s part of what makes this issue of cybersecurity so urgent.

Again, this is part of the reason why it’s going to be so important for Congress to work with us and get a actual bill passed that allows for the kind of information-sharing we need.  Because if we don’t put in place the kind of architecture that can prevent these attacks from taking place, this is not just going to be affecting movies, this is going to be affecting our entire economy in ways that are extraordinarily significant.

And, by the way, I hear you’re moving to Europe.  Where you going to be?

Q    Brussels. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Brussels.

Q    Yes.  Helping Politico start a new publication. 

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, congratulations. 

Q    I’ve been covering you since the beginning.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think —

Q    It’s been a long road for the both of us.

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there’s no doubt that what Belgium needs is a version of Politico.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I’ll take that as an endorsement. 

THE PRESIDENT:  The waffles are delicious there, by the way. 
Cheryl Bolen.  You’ve been naughty.  (Laughter.)  Cheryl, go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Looking ahead to your work with Congress next year, you’ve mentioned as an area of possible compromise tax reform.  And so I am wondering, do you see a Republican Congress as presenting a better opportunity for actually getting tax reform next year?  Will you be putting out a new proposal?  Are you willing to consider both individual and corporate side of the tax ledger there?  And also, are you still concerned about corporate inversions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think an all-Democratic Congress would have provided an even better opportunity for tax reform.  But I think, talking to Speaker Boehner and Leader McConnell that they are serious about wanting to get some things done.  The tax area is one area where we can get things done.  And I think in the coming weeks leading up to the State of Union, there will be some conversations at the staff levels about what principles each side are looking at.

I can tell you broadly what I’d like to see.  I’d like to see more simplicity in the system.  I’d like to see more fairness in the system.  With respect to the corporate tax reform issue, we know that there are companies that are paying the full freight — 35 percent — higher than just about any other company on Earth, if you’re paying 35 percent, and then there are other companies that are paying zero because they’ve got better accountants or lawyers.  That’s not fair. 

There are companies that are parking money outside the country because of tax avoidance.  We think that it’s important that everybody pays something if, in fact, they are effectively headquartered in the United States.  In terms of corporate inversion, those are situations where companies really are headquartered here but, on paper, switch their headquarters to see if they can avoid paying their fair share of taxes.  I think that needs to be fixed. 

So, fairness, everybody paying their fair share, everybody taking responsibility I think is going to be very important. 

Some of those principles I’ve heard Republicans say they share.  How we do that — the devil is in the details.  And I’ll be interested in seeing what they want to move forward.  I’m going to make sure that we put forward some pretty specific proposals building on what we’ve already put forward.

One other element of this that I think is important is — and I’ve been on this hobby horse now for six years.  (Audience member sneezes.)  Bless you.  We’ve got a lot of infrastructure we’ve got to rebuild in this country if we’re going to be competitive — roads, bridges, ports, airports, electrical grids, water systems, sewage systems.  We are way behind. 

And early on we indicated that there is a way of us potentially doing corporate tax reform, lowering rates, eliminating loopholes so everybody is paying their fair share, and during that transition also providing a mechanism where we can get some infrastructure built.  I’d like to see us work on that issue as well.  Historically, obviously, infrastructure has not been a Democratic or a Republican issue, and I’d like to see if we can return to that tradition.

Julie Pace.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I wanted to ask about Cuba. What would you say to dissidents or democracy advocates inside Cuba who fear that the policy changes you announced this week could give the Castro regime economic benefits without having to address human rights or their political system?  When your administration was lifting sanctions on Myanmar you sought commitments of reform.  Why not do the same with Cuba?

And if I could just follow up on North Korea.  Do you have any indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country, perhaps China?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ve got no indication that North Korea was acting in conjunction with another country.

With respect to Cuba, we are glad that the Cuban government have released slightly over 50 dissidents; that they are going to be allowing the International Committee of the Red Cross and the United Nations human rights agencies to operate more freely inside of Cuba and monitor what is taking place.

I share the concerns of dissidents there and human rights activists that this is still a regime that represses its people. And as I said when I made the announcement, I don’t anticipate overnight changes, but what I know deep in my bones is that if you’ve done the same thing for 50 years and nothing has changed, you should try something different if you want a different outcome.
 
And this gives us an opportunity for a different outcome, because suddenly Cuba is open to the world in ways that it has not been before.  It’s open to Americans traveling there in ways that it hasn’t been before.  It’s open to church groups visiting their fellow believers inside of Cuba in ways they haven’t been before.  It offers the prospect of telecommunications and the Internet being more widely available in Cuba in ways that it hasn’t been before.

And over time, that chips away at this hermetically sealed society, and I believe offers the best prospect then of leading to greater freedom, greater self-determination on the part of the Cuban people. 

I think it will happen in fits and starts.  But through engagement, we have a better chance of bringing about change then we would have otherwise.

Q    Do you have a goal for where you see Cuba being at the end of your presidency?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it would be unrealistic for me to map out exactly where Cuba will be.  But change is going to come to Cuba.  It has to.  They’ve got an economy that doesn’t work.  They’ve been reliant for years first on subsidies from the Soviet Union, then on subsidies from Venezuela.  Those can’t be sustained.  And the more the Cuban people see what’s possible, the more interested they are going to be in change. 

But how societies change is country-specific, it’s culturally specific.  It could happen fast; it could happen slower than I’d like; but it’s going to happen.  And I think this change in policy is going to advance that.

Lesley Clark.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I had a number of questions on Cuba as well.  Appreciate that.  I wanted to —

THE PRESIDENT:  Do I have to write all these down?  How many are there?  (Laughter.)  “A number” sounded intimidating.

Q    As quick as I can.  As quick as I can.  I wanted to see if you got an assurances from the Cuban government that it would not revert to the same sort of — sabotage the deal, as it has in the past when past Presidents had made similar overtures to the government.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Meaning?  Be specific.  What do you mean?

Q    When the Clinton administration made some overtures, they shot down planes.  They sort of had this pattern of doing provocative — provocative events.
 
THE PRESIDENT:  Okay, so just general provocative activity.

Q    Provocative activities any time the U.S. has sort of reached out a hand to them.  I wanted to see what is your knowledge of whether Fidel Castro — did he have any role in the talks?  When you talked to President Raul Castro, did Fidel Castro’s name come up?  Or did you ask about him?  How he’s doing?  People haven’t seen him in a while.  Given the deep opposition from some Republicans in Congress to lifting the embargo, to an embassy, to any of the changes that you’re doing, are you going to personally get involved in terms of talking to them about efforts that they want to do to block money on a new embassy?

THE PRESIDENT:  All right, Lesley, I think I’m going to cut you off here.  (Laughter.)  This is taking up a lot of time.

Q    Okay, all right.

THE PRESIDENT:  All right.  So, with respect to sabotage, I mean, my understanding of the history, for example, of the plane being shot down, it’s not clear that that was the Cuban government purposely trying to undermine overtures by the Clinton administration.  It was a tragic circumstance that ended up collapsing talks that had begun to take place.  I haven’t seen a historical record that suggests that they shot the plane down specifically in order to undermine overtures by the Clinton government.

I think it is not precedented for the President of the United States and the President of Cuba to make an announcement at the same time that they are moving towards normalizing relations.  So there hasn’t been anything like this in the past. That doesn’t meant that over the next two years we can anticipate them taking certain actions that we may end up finding deeply troubling either inside of Cuba or with respect to their foreign policy.  And that could put significant strains on the relationship.  But that’s true of a lot of countries out there where we have an embassy.  And the whole point of normalizing relations is that it gives us a greater opportunity to have influence with that government than not. 

So I would be surprised if the Cuban government purposely tries to undermine what is now effectively its own policy.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they take at any given time actions that we think are a problem.  And we will be in a position to respond to whatever actions they take the same way we do with a whole range of countries around the world when they do things we think are wrong.  But the point is, is that we will be in a better position I think to actually have some influence, and there may be carrots as well as sticks that we can then apply.

The only way that Fidel’s name came up — I think I may have mentioned this in the Davie Muir article — interview that I did — was I delivered a fairly lengthy statement at the front end about how we’re looking forward to a new future in the relationship between our two countries, but that we are going to continue to press on issues of democracy and human rights, which we think are important. 

My opening remarks probably took about 15 minutes, which on the phone is a pretty long time.  And at the end of that, he said, Mr. President, you’re still a young man.  Perhaps you have the — at the end of my remarks I apologized for taking such a long time, but I wanted to make sure that before we engaged in the conversation he was very clear about where I stood.  He said, oh, don’t worry about it, Mr. President, you’re still a young man and you have still the chance to break Fidel’s record — he once spoke seven hours straight.  (Laughter.) 

And then, President Castro proceeded to deliver his own preliminary remarks that last at least twice as long as mine.  (Laughter.)  And then I was able to say, obviously it runs in the family.  But that was the only discussion of Fidel Castro that we had. 

I sort of forgot all the other questions.  (Laughter.) 

Q    I have a few more if you’re — how personally involved are you going to get in —

THE PRESIDENT:  With respect to Congress?  We cannot unilaterally bring down the embargo.  That’s codified in the Libertad Act.  And what I do think is going to happen, though, is there’s going to be a process where Congress digests it.  There are bipartisan supporters of our new approach, there are bipartisan detractors of this new approach.  People will see how the actions we take unfold.  And I think there’s going to be a healthy debate inside of Congress. 

And I will certainly weigh in.  I think that ultimately we need to go ahead and pull down the embargo, which I think has been self-defeating in advancing the aims that we’re interested in.  But I don’t anticipate that that happens right away.  I think people are going to want to see how does this move forward before there’s any serious debate about whether or not we would make major shifts in the embargo.

Roberta Rampton.

Q    I want to follow on that by asking, under what conditions would you meet with President Castro in Havana?  Would you have certain preconditions that you would want to see met before doing that?  And on the hack, I know that you said that you’re not going to announce your response, but can you say whether you’re considering additional economic or financial sanctions on North Korea?  Can you rule out the use of military force or some kind of cyber hit of your own?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think I’m going to leave it where I left it, which is we just confirmed that it was North Korea; we have been working up a range of options.  They will be presented to me.  I will make a decision on those based on what I believe is proportional and appropriate to the nature of this crime.

With respect to Cuba, we’re not at a stage here where me visiting Cuba or President Castro coming to the United States is in the cards.  I don’t know how this relationship will develop over the next several years.  I’m a fairly young man so I imagine that at some point in my life I will have the opportunity to visit Cuba and enjoy interacting with the Cuban people.  But there’s nothing specific where we’re trying to target some sort of visit on my part.

Colleen McCain Nelson.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  There you are.

Q    You spoke earlier about 2014 being a breakthrough year, and you ended the year with executive actions on Cuba and immigration and climate change.  But you didn’t make much progress this year on your legislative agenda.  And some Republican lawmakers have said they’re less inclined to work with you if you pursue executive actions so aggressively.  Are you going to continue to pursue executive actions if that creates more roadblocks for your legislative agenda?  Or have you concluded that it’s not possible to break the fever in Washington and the partisan gridlock here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think there are real opportunities to get things done in Congress.  As I said before, I take Speaker Boehner and Mitch McConnell at their words that they want to get things done.  I think the American people would like to see us get some things done.  The question is going to be are we able to separate out those areas where we disagree and those areas where we agree.  I think there are going to be some tough fights on areas where we disagree. 

If Republicans seek to take health care away from people who just got it, they will meet stiff resistance from me.  If they try to water down consumer protections that we put in place in the aftermath of the financial crisis, I will say no.  And I’m confident that I’ll be able to uphold vetoes of those types of provisions.  But on increasing American exports, on simplifying our tax system, on rebuilding our infrastructure, my hope is that we can get some things done. 

I’ve never been persuaded by this argument that if it weren’t for the executive actions they would have been more productive.  There’s no evidence of that.  So I intend to continue to do what I’ve been doing, which is where I see a big problem and the opportunity to help the American people, and it is within my lawful authority to provide that help, I’m going to do it.  And I will then, side-by-side, reach out to members of Congress, reach out to Republicans, and say, let’s work together; I’d rather do it with you.

Immigration is the classic example.  I was really happy when the Senate passed a bipartisan, comprehensive immigration bill.  And I did everything I could for a year and a half to provide Republicans the space to act, and showed not only great patience, but flexibility, saying to them, look, if there are specific changes you’d like to see, we’re willing to compromise, we’re willing to be patient, we’re willing to work with you.  Ultimately it wasn’t forthcoming.

And so the question is going to be I think if executive actions on areas like minimum wage, or equal pay, or having a more sensible immigration system are important to Republicans, if they care about those issues, and the executive actions are bothering them, there is a very simple solution, and that is:  Pass bills.  And work with me to make sure I’m willing to sign those bills. 

Because both sides are going to have to compromise.  On most issues, in order for their initiatives to become law, I’m going to have sign off.  And that means they have to take into account the issues that I care about, just as I’m going to have to take into account the issues that they care about.
 
All right.  I think this is going to be our last question.  Juliet Eilperin.  There you go.
 
Q    Thanks so much.  So one of the first bills that Mitch McConnell said he will send to you is one that would authorize the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline.  When you talked about this in the past, you’ve minimized the benefits and you highlighted some of the risks associated with that project.  I’m wondering if you could tell us both what you would do when faced with that bill, given the Republican majority that we’ll have in both chambers.  And also, what do you see as the benefits?  And given the precipitous drop we’ve seen in oil prices recently, does that change the calculus in terms of how it will contribute to climate change, and whether you think it makes sense to go ahead with that project?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think I’ve minimized the benefits, I think I’ve described the benefits.  At issue in Keystone is not American oil.  It is Canadian oil that is drawn out of tar sands in Canada.  That oil currently is being shipped out through rail or trucks, and it would save Canadian oil companies and the Canadian oil industry an enormous amount of money if they could simply pipe it all the way through the United States down to the Gulf.  Once that oil gets to the Gulf, it is then entering into the world market, and it would be sold all around the world. 

So there’s no — I won’t say “no” — there is very little impact, nominal impact, on U.S. gas prices — what the average American consumer cares about — by having this pipeline come through.  And sometimes the way this gets sold is, let’s get this oil and it’s going to come here.  And the implication is, is that’s going to lower gas prices here in the United States.  It’s not.  There’s a global oil market.  It’s very good for Canadian oil companies and it’s good for the Canadian oil industry, but it’s not going to be a huge benefit to U.S. consumers.  It’s not even going to be a nominal benefit to U.S. consumers.
 
Now, the construction of the pipeline itself will create probably a couple thousand jobs.  Those are temporary jobs until the construction actually happens.  There’s probably some additional jobs that can be created in the refining process down in the Gulf.  Those aren’t completely insignificant — it’s just like any other project.  But when you consider what we could be doing if we were rebuilding our roads and bridges around the country — something that Congress could authorize — we could probably create hundreds of thousands of jobs, or a million jobs. So if that’s the argument, there are a lot more direct ways to create well-paying Americans construction jobs.
 
And then, with respect to the cost, all I’ve said is that I want to make sure that if, in fact, this project goes forward, that it’s not adding to the problem of climate change, which I think is very serious and does impose serious costs on the American people — some of them long term, but significant costs nonetheless.  If we’ve got more flooding, more wildfires, more drought, there are direct economic impacts on that. 

And as we’re now rebuilding after Sandy, for example, we’re having to consider how do we increase preparedness in how we structure infrastructure and housing, and so forth, along the Jersey Shore.  That’s an example of the kind of costs that are imposed, and you can put a dollar figure on it.

So, in terms of process, you’ve got a Nebraska judge that’s still determining whether or not the new path for this pipeline is appropriate.  Once that is resolved, then the State Department will have all the information it needs to make its decision. 

But I’ve just tried to give this perspective, because I think that there’s been this tendency to really hype this thing as some magic formula to what ails the U.S. economy, and it’s hard to see on paper where exactly they’re getting that information from.

In terms of oil prices and how it impacts the decision, I think that it won’t have a significant impact except perhaps in the minds of folks — when gas prices are lower, maybe they’re less susceptible to the argument that this is the answer to lowering gas prices.  But it was never going to be the answer to lowering gas prices, because the oil that would be piped through the Keystone pipeline would go into the world market.  And that’s what determines oil prices, ultimately.

Q    And in terms of Congress forcing your hand on this, is this something where you clearly say you’re not going to let Congress force your hand on whether to approve or disapprove of this?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll see what they do.  We’ll take that up in the New Year.

Q    Any New Year’s resolutions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’ll ask — April, go ahead. 

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Last question, I guess.  (Laughter.)  Six years ago this month, I asked you what was the state of black America in the Oval Office, and you said it was the “the best of times and the worst of times.”  You said it was the best of times in the sense that there was — has never been more opportunity for African Americans to receive a good education, and the worst of times for unemployment and the lack of opportunity.  We’re ending 2014.  What is the state of black America as we talk about those issues as well as racial issues in this country?

THE PRESIDENT:  Like the rest of America, black America in the aggregate is better off now than it was when I came into office.  The jobs that have been created, the people who’ve gotten health insurance, the housing equity that’s been recovered, the 401 pensions that have been recovered — a lot of those folks are African American.  They’re better off than they were.

The gap between income and wealth of white and black America persists.  And we’ve got more work to do on that front.  I’ve been consistent in saying that this is a legacy of a troubled racial past of Jim Crow and slavery.  That’s not an excuse for black folks.  And I think the overwhelming majority of black people understand it’s not an excuse.  They’re working hard. They’re out there hustling and trying to get an education, trying to send their kids to college.  But they’re starting behind, oftentimes, in the race.

And what’s true for all Americans is we should be willing to provide people a hand up — not a handout, but help folks get that good early childhood education, help them graduate from high school, help them afford college.  If they do, they’re going to be able to succeed, and that’s going to be good for all of us.

And we’ve seen some progress.  The education reforms that we’ve initiated are showing measurable results.  We have the highest high school graduation that we’ve seen in a very long time.  We are seeing record numbers of young people attending college.  In many states that have initiated reforms, you’re seeing progress in math scores and reading scores for African American and Latino students as well as the broader population.  But we’ve still got more work to go.

Now, obviously, how we’re thinking about race relations right now has been colored by Ferguson, the Garner case in New York, a growing awareness in the broader population of what I think many communities of color have understood for some time, and that is that there are specific instances at least where law enforcement doesn’t feel as if it’s being applied in a colorblind fashion. 

The task force that I formed is supposed to report back to me in 90 days — not with a bunch of abstract musings about race relations, but some really concrete, practical things that police departments and law enforcement agencies can begin implementing right now to rebuild trust between communities of color and the police department.

And my intention is to, as soon as I get those recommendations, to start implementing them.  Some of them we’ll be able to do through executive action.  Some of them will require congressional action.  Some of them will require action on the part of states and local jurisdictions. 

But I actually think it’s been a healthy conversation that we’ve had.  These are not new phenomenon.  The fact that they’re now surfacing, in part because people are able to film what have just been, in the past, stories passed on around a kitchen table, allows people to make their own assessments and evaluations.  And you’re not going to solve a problem if it’s not being talked about.

In the meantime, we’ve been moving forward on criminal justice reform issues more broadly.  One of the things I didn’t talk about in my opening statement is the fact that last year was the first time in 40 years where we had the federal prison population go down and the crime rate go down at the same time, which indicates the degree to which it’s possible for us to think smarter about who we’re incarcerating, how long we’re incarcerating, how are we dealing with nonviolent offenders, how are we dealing with drug offenses, diversion programs, drug courts.  We can do a better job of — and save money in the process by initiating some of these reforms.  And I’ve been really pleased to see that we’ve had Republicans and Democrats in Congress who are interested in these issues as well.

The one thing I will say — and this is going to be the last thing I say — is that one of the great things about this job is you get to know the American people.  I mean, you meet folks from every walk of life and every region of the country, and every race and every faith.  And what I don’t think is always captured in our political debates is the vast majority of people are just trying to do the right thing, and people are basically good and have good intentions.  Sometimes our institutions and our systems don’t work as well as they should.  Sometimes you’ve got a police department that has gotten into bad habits over a period of time and hasn’t maybe surfaced some hidden biases that we all carry around.  But if you offer practical solutions, I think people want to fix these problems.  It’s not — this isn’t a situation where people feel good seeing somebody choked and dying.  I think that troubles everybody.  So there’s an opportunity of all of us to come together and to take a practical approach to these problems.

And I guess that’s my general theme for the end of the year — which is we’ve gone through difficult times.  It is your job, press corps, to report on all the mistakes that are made and all the bad things that happen and the crises that look like they’re popping.  And I understand that.  But through persistent effort and faith in the American people, things get better.  The economy has gotten better.  Our ability to generate clean energy has gotten better.  We know more about how to educate our kids.  We solved problems.  Ebola is a real crisis; you get a mistake in the first case because it’s not something that’s been seen before — we fix it.  You have some unaccompanied children who spike at a border, and it may not get fixed in the time frame of the news cycle, but it gets fixed. 

And part of what I hope as we reflect on the New Year this should generate is some confidence.  America knows how to solve problems.  And when we work together, we can’t be stopped. 

And now I’m going to go on vacation.  Mele Kalikimaka, everybody.  (Laughter.)  Mahalo.  Thank you, everybody.

END
2:45 P.M. EST

Minister Fast Holds ‘Go Global’ Workshops for SMEs to Boost Canadian Exports and Jobs

Supporting and partnering with small and medium-sized businesses to seize opportunities abroad is a key part of our pro-export, pro-jobs plan, says Minister Fast

November 28, 2014 – Mississauga, Ontario – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, today hosted an export workshop designed to provide small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the tools and practical information they need to take advantage of international business opportunities to export. Today’s workshop in Mississauga, Ontario was attended by more than 90 participants and is part of a cross-country series launched in Richmond, British Columbia, last week by Minister Fast.

Last year, Minister Fast released the Global Markets Action Plan with the goal of doubling to 21,000 the number of Canadian SMEs exporting to emerging markets. In support of this goal, Minister Fast instructed Canada’s export agencies to enhance their coordination, closely align their activities and facilitate referrals in order to better serve and be responsive to the needs of SMEs.

By bringing together the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada and the Canadian Commercial Corporation, these export workshops, delivered in partnership with Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, provide a one-stop shop offering information and tools to SMEs that are exploring opportunities abroad.

Following new trade agreements with the European Union and South Korea, Canadian businesses will soon benefit from preferential access to more than half of the entire global marketplace. Minister Fast invited participants to join his upcoming trade mission to South Korea, which will take place from February 8 to 13, 2015.

The next export workshop will be held in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Friday, December 5, 2014.

Quick Facts

  • One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on exports, representing 60 percent of our economy.
  • There are more than one million SMEs across Canada, with 41,000 currently exporting.
  • Since 2006, the Harper government has concluded trade agreements with 38 countries, bringing the total to 43 countries.

Quotes

“Our government is committed to working shoulder-to-shoulder with Canadian SMEs in Mississauga and across the country to seize export opportunities and create jobs and opportunities.

“We are breaking down the silos between our export agencies, taking a whole-of-government approach to exporting and providing the tools, services and information that you and your businesses need to succeed.”

– Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade

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Contacts

Shannon Gutoskie
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Ed Fast
Minister of International Trade
613-992-7332

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
343-203-7700
media@international.gc.ca
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