Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. It's a real pleasure for me to be back. I've been in China for five weeks. I think it's a great position, but this place gets in one's blood a bit, so I'm always pleased to return. I guess my theory is that part of my job is persuading China, but part of my job is persuading Canada. It's good to be in both places. I appreciate the opportunity to speak to all of you today.
To get to the core of things, it's a fantastic time for Canada to strengthen its ties with China. As I'll explain, we have much to gain through building stronger ties with China, and the Prime Minister, the cabinet, and stakeholders across the country are keen to do just that. It takes two to tango, and I have a strong sense that the Chinese are also keen to work with us. Since the stars will not always be aligned so positively, now is the time to seize the moment and be ambitious. Now is the time to act. That, with the support of the government, is exactly what I am planning to do.
Let me start at the beginning. Within 24 hours of arriving in China I was invited to present my credentials to President Xi Jinping. I conveyed to him a message from our Prime Minister that can be summarized in three words, “More, more, more”, or in Mandarin, “Gèng duo, gèng duo, gèng duo”. I'm having six hours a week of Mandarin lessons to improve my skills in that area. We want, in both directions, more trade, more investment, more tourists, more students, more co-operation in every conceivable area. The president seemed to like that sentiment.
I would point out to you that “More, more, more” also translates into more jobs for Canadians, because every time we have more tourists from China, more exports to China, more investment in Canada from China, that has a strong tendency to create jobs in Canada.
I also explained to the president, in my very poor Mandarin, something that some of you may have heard, that my affinity to China can be explained by three numbers: 100, 50, 40. My wife is 100% Chinese, my three boys are 50% Chinese, and the good people of Markham, who elected me for 16 years, are 40% Chinese. The president smiled and he said, “No need for translation”, I subsequently learned, so I like to think he understood what I said.
Look, China's a two-way street. Before elaborating on why I think there's so much to gain, I also want to comment on the fact that there are many issues on which Canada and China disagree. We disagree on the death penalty. We disagree on some aspects of the rule of law, and privately and publicly on how the Chinese government treats human rights advocates. We have a continuing keen interest in the integrity of Hong Kong's autonomous institutions under the “one country, two systems” formula. That's why the consular side of my job is critical, and also why, in my first six weeks on the job, I spent time meeting and supporting an LGBTQ group in Shanghai, female entrepreneurs in a group working to counter domestic violence in Beijing, and a woman called Ching Tien, whose organization, Educating Girls of Rural China, has done fantastic work in educating low-income girls over many years.
That side of the job is very important, but in particular I'd like to take this opportunity to address head-on an issue that has generated some controversy among Canadians, namely, Canada's decision to discuss extradition issues with China. While we are a long way from negotiating an extradition treaty with China, we've agreed to talk about the issues that need to be addressed for China or any other country to meet our high standards. This includes things like the death penalty and the importance of high standards of evidence in court proceedings. We lose nothing by explaining our system and talking about the values we hold dear.
Let me now come to the other side of the coin, the more positive side as to why China is important to Canada. China is the world's largest emitter of CO2, but it's also the world's biggest investor in renewable energy, investing $103 billion U.S. in 2015, which is more than two and a half times what the United States invested.
If Canada is serious about climate change, which we are, and if we're serious about selling our clean-tech innovations to the world, which we are, then we have no choice but to engage China. China also has 20% of the world's women and girls, and China is increasingly a key player in places like Africa, which face real challenges to women's health and education. If we want to improve the plight of women and girls around the world, then China is a key partner. The same can be said on working with China in the area of peacekeeping.
Also, if we want to engage positively on North Korea and other regional and security issues, we need to work with China.
Fentanyl is the cause of a major public health crisis in Canada with over 1,000 deaths. Many of those drugs come from China. If we want to address this crisis, we must work with China. I might say, the Chinese government has co-operated well in working with us on this crisis.
Last but not least, if we want jobs and prosperity for Canadians, then once again China is an essential partner.
Whether we're talking about climate change, the plight of women and girls, the Fentanyl issue, peace and security issues, or the prosperity of Canadians, in all of these cases China is a key partner.
Let me turn quickly, because I think I'm running out of time, to some of the key economic issues.
In my opinion, tourism may be the priority. It's a matter of numbers. I visited Guangzhou, it is one of China's second or third major cities. It has a population of 10 million people.
President Xi has said that over the next five years, there will be 700 million Chinese tourists. Consequently, the opportunities for Canada are enormous, and it is absolutely clear that an increase in the number of Chinese tourists will create a lot of jobs in Canada.
I mention briefly other economic sectors that are of great importance. Wood products, Minister Champagne had a very successful and well-timed visit to China last week, where we spoke to a number of government and private sector wood people and I think we made good progress in terms of increasing Canada's exports of forest products to China.
On agri-food, we are number five now in China. We could become number three, if we work hard. There's a huge demand for healthy, nutritious food, such as comes from Canada.
Clean-tech and environment is another major opportunity. China and Canada are both signatories to the Paris agreement. China has important environmental and energy-efficiency objectives, so there are good opportunities in that area.
Education has always been a pillar of our relationship, and that is scoped to blossom even further.
Ministers Joly, Qualtrough, Philpott, and Sajjan are working to enhance our ties in their own areas of culture, sports, health, and defence.
Finally, e-commerce is critical. We all know that small and medium-sized companies don't often export very much, even to the United States, let alone to China. China is a leader in e-commerce. The Prime Minister has spoken to Jack Ma, head of Alibaba. I have spoken to him. We are working together to get more Canadian small companies to get onto the Chinese e-commerce system, which will be a very important way to increase exports to China.
Mr. Chair, I will leave it at that.
Thank you. I look forward to your questions.