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Remarks: Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon at the 40th Washington Conference

May 12, 2010

Remarks by Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lawrence Cannon
at the 40th Washington Conferece on May 12, 2010.

Dear friends,

Ambassador Negroponte,

I want to thank Susan Segal, President and CEO, for inviting me here today to speak to such an impressive group.

It is always a pleasure to be back in Washington, the least foreign of foreign capitals for a Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs.

2010 is Canada's "international year," as we are playing host to major international events, including the recent Olympic and Paralympic Games, the G8 and G20 summit meetings.

Canada is actively preparing for the two upcoming G8 and G20 summits. In this current context, we are able to demonstrate the strong performance of our economy, the soundness of our monetary and fiscal measures, and the demonstrated strength of our financial institutions, as the world has dealt with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

Since coming to power, in 2006, our government has been clear about its international priorities and firm in its determination to advance Canada's interests in world affairs.

Our foremost responsibility to Canadians, quite naturally, is the promotion of their prosperity and security, and the defence of Canada's sovereignty.

In our foreign policy, we advance these interests by:

  • Pursuing economic opportunities, with a focus on emerging markets
  • Strengthening our partnership with the United States
  • Contributing to international security, notably through our mission in Afghanistan
  • Exercising our sovereignty in the Arctic and
  • Strategically engaging with our hemisphere
In our pursuit of these priorities, we are guided by the values which are cherished by Canadians: freedom and democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

In the Americas, we share the goals of David Rockefeller and his associates enunciated in 1965 for this Council: "to promote regional economic integration, democratic governance and the rule of law throughout the Western Hemisphere."

Today, hemispheric realities inform our action in most international fora.

In late March of this year, for example, when I hosted my G8 colleagues in Gatineau, our deliberations provided me and my G8 colleagues with an opportunity to examine developments on key situations affecting global security and stability.

Canada's engagement in the Americas is centred on three principal objectives:

  • Democratic governance to advance the concerns and interests of the people of the region and to safeguard the political health of our neighbourhood
  • Greater freedom of trade and investment to promote regional and global prosperity, and
  • Enhanced stability and security in the hemisphere through regional collaboration to address threats posed by drugs, organized crime, health pandemics and natural disasters

To achieve these goals we have reinforced key bilateral relationships and played an active part in strengthening regional organizations.

On democratic governance, the Canadian government has made it a priority to support the development of democratic institutions, free and fair electoral process, justice, and promote security in the Americas and in sometimes complex regional context.

We have done so by placing more officers in the field to understand local contexts and engage with partners in the region.

We believe that responsible investment and open markets will build dynamic and growing economies, with the creation of new opportunities and jobs.

Our economic partnerships in the hemisphere have been strengthened and diversified through a wide range of instruments and actions.

We have built on the benefits of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and the North American Free Trade Agreement with the US and Mexico, to implement FTAs with Chile, Costa Rica and Peru.

Without a doubt, the North American Free Trade Agreement has benefits for all three countries in the hemisphere.

In Canada, for example, nearly 4.1 million new jobs have been created since the Agreement was signed.

Over that period, Canada-U.S. trade has nearly tripled, while trade between Mexico and U.S. has more than quadrupled.

Today, the NAFTA partners exchange about US$2.6 billion in merchandise on a daily basis with each other.

Protectionism is the single biggest threat to a thriving­­­ global economy, and free trade is the only viable alternative to protectionism.

We are also currently working to implement a free trade agreement with Colombia.

Negotiations have concluded with Panama and are ongoing with the Dominican Republic, the Caribbean Community and the Central America Four, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador.

We also know that the gains that have been made on democracy and prosperity will not be sustainable if citizens do not feel safe and secure.

Consequently, we are making security the key issue of our engagement with the Americas and we are investing significantly in that regard.

We are contributing to stabilisation, reconstruction and peace-building initiatives in Haiti, Colombia and Guatemala.


Our commitment to our friends and neighbours, as well as the extraordinary goodwill and generosity of the Canadian people, were demonstrated in Canada's response to the terrible impact of the earthquake in Haiti.

Le Canada fait partie du groupe informel Les Amis d'Haïti depuis longtemps.

Pour nous Canadiens, cependant, Haïti est plus qu'un ami.

Les Canadiens francophones, en particulier, considèrent Haïti, seul autre pays francophone des Amériques, comme un membre de leur famille culturelle.

Montréal is home to the third-largest Haitian diaspora, after Miami and New York.

In January, not long after the earthquake, I chaired an exceptional meeting in Montreal that included the Friends of Haiti, along with key regional and multilateral players, including the United Nations. I want to thank Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for her contribution to this meeting.

There we began the vital planning for reconstruction, to guide our joint approach to Haiti's reconstruction and development.

The participants adopted the following principles: ownership, coordination, sustainability, effectiveness, inclusiveness and accountability.

On the longer term, we agreed on three strategic objectives: strengthened democratic governance, sustained social and economic development and enduring stability and respect for the rule of law.

These principles and objectives laid the foundation for the donor conference which took place in New York last month and for the work that lies ahead.

Canada's commitment to Haiti is our second most important aid target after Afghanistan.

Last week, I traveled to Haiti to highlight Canada's engagement in that country and demonstrate Canada's continued solidarity with the Haitian people, and to ensure that our aid was spent effectively and transparently.

The military component of MINUSTAH, the United Nations stabilization Mission in Haiti, is led by a Brazilian General and is almost entirely composed of Latin American forces, from Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador and Uruguay, and of course the United States. The work of the MINUSTAH is commendable.

During a meeting with the Haitian business community, I also stressed that international aid alone will not ensure Haiti's emergence as a stable, safe and more prosperous country in our hemisphere.

Conditions must also be created to allow for the success of private enterprise and the reward of individual initiative.

Canada and the United States

There is no country in the world with whom we share so much and with whom we have so much in common as we do with the United States.

In all that we do, we are mindful of our location, next to a power with global reach, which is also our vital and indispensable partner in continental, hemispheric and global affairs.

Canada and the United States have a mature relationship based upon history, geography, commerce and similar visions of international affairs.

Defence and security relations between Canada and the United States are integrated and comprehensive.

We have the largest two-way trade relationship in the world.

Indeed, two-way trade in goods cross the Canada-US border at the rate of $1.8 billion per day - over $1 million a minute.

The US exports more goods and services to Canada than to any individual country - more than to Japan and Mexico combined.

The US is the largest foreign investor in Canada and the most popular destination for Canadian investment abroad.

More than 8 million US jobs are directly supported by trade with Canada.

As some of you may know, Canada is the largest foreign supplier of energy to the United States. We have an energy trading relationship of over 130 billion dollars.

We also have a long history of joint stewardship of the environment, from air and water quality to wildlife management.

Our collaboration on the environment allowed us to successfully meet the challenge of acid rain, in the 1980's.

The constructive and productive dialogue on border questions continues because enhanced border security and improved Canada-US trade flows are directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of jobs in Canada and in the United States.

The highly integrated and interdependent economies of both countries depend on smart and efficient border management.

We cooperate exceptionally well with one another, along a remarkably long border.

We have stressed our commonalities rather than our differences.

We have found ways to settle disputes rather than to magnify them into serious clashes.

Simply put, we have been good neighbours to one another, to our mutual benefit.

We have worked hard to advance democracy, security and prosperity in North America, in the Americas generally and around the world.

The United States also shares with Canada a multi-faceted and important relationship with our neighbour, Mexico. Our countries cooperate on common priorities through the North American Leaders Summit and are partners in NAFTA.


Canadians never forget that the American continent stretches from the Arctic to Terra del Fuego.

Exercising Canada's Arctic Sovereignty has been a priority of this government since coming to office, and we are playing a leadership role on Arctic issues both at home and abroad.

Just last month I visited our ice camp on Borden Island in the High Arctic of Canada, where the scientific work needed for our submission to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf is being undertaken.

Canada and the US continue scientific cooperation on continental shelf delineation in the Arctic.

To that end, Canada would like to see the U.S ratify the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Its wide acceptance and full implementation is important to Canada.

I invited Foreign Ministers from the other Arctic Ocean coastal states Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States to discuss these issues March 29 in Chelsea, Québec.

The meeting provided an opportunity for a forward-looking discussion.

The Arctic-5 recognized the potential impact of a changing environment on public safety issues, such as drilling, a commercial activity of immense potential in the Arctic, but one that can be highly dangerous for the environment as current events in the Gulf of Mexico remind us brutally.

Arctic Ocean coastal states are also working toward a legally binding Arctic search and rescue agreement through the Arctic Council.

We are also pursuing a mandatory regime to make shipping in the Arctic waters safer through the International Maritime Organization.

At the Chelsea meeting, Arctic Ocean coastal states also reaffirmed their commitment to the orderly resolution of any possible overlapping claims and will continue to cooperate closely in the scientific and technical work needed to delineate the outer limits of their respective continental shelves.

Canada and the U.S, as you know, are disputing - respectfully - an area of the Beaufort Sea.

While the extent to which there may be overlaps with US extended continental shelf in Beaufort is not yet known, I believe that should not keep our two nations from resolving that dispute and moving forward with current issues.

As well, I must say that Canada does not share the view of U.S administration that the Northwest Passage is an international straight.

The waters of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, including the various waterways known as the "Northwest Passage", are internal waters of Canada by virtue of historic title.

And since title is not linked to the extent of the ice cover, it is consequently undiminished by any reduction of the ice.

I was struck, recently, by the fact that Russia and Norway resolved a long-standing dispute in the Arctic.

I believe there is no reason then why Canada and the United States cannot resolve ongoing disputes, as economic partners and best friends, sharing the longest border in the world.

I thank you for the opportunity to address this distinguished council.

In this international year for Canada, I want to assure you that we will continue to uphold the aims of the Council of the Americas, "to advance democracy, security and prosperity in North America, in the Americas generally, and around the world."

Thank you.