Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Just as a brief overview, the Canada Europe Roundtable for Business was founded about ten years ago. The reason we were created, with the blessing of the President of the European Commission and the Prime Minister of Canada at the time, was mainly because Canadian companies weren't allowed to participate in the U.S.-EU dialogue.
The purpose was to provide recommendations to government to eliminate impediments to trade and investment. We quickly recognized that you couldn't do those types of things in a silo and that we needed something more comprehensive to reflect where the economic relationship was going. Trade and investment were increasing--and in the case of investment, increasing dramatically--and we felt that the rules that were structuring the relationship between Canada and Europe were not sufficient to meet the challenges of the time, nor would they meet the challenges and the opportunities that would be presented in the future.
In 2006 we turned our attention toward a comprehensive free trade agreement and were supported by about 110 chief executive officers. As I said, we are Canadian and European; we represent the interests of both sides. We have Canadian-headquartered companies and European-headquartered companies in our membership, so we try to take as objective a viewpoint on these negotiations as possible, recognizing that we're of course very supportive of the negotiations.
We see the negotiations being of particular importance, considering the need for a degree of trade and investment diversification away from the United States and NAFTA. I think there is a sense that we've become fairly cozy within the NAFTA relationship, and as the world globalizes and becomes multipolar, if you will, Canada needs to move beyond its traditional trade and investment relationships in the continental realm and internationalize them. And Europe presents an excellent partner in that regard. We overlap our institutions, our approach to business, to trade, to investment, and our approach to the rule of law is roughly equivalent.
It's not to say that in the context of these negotiations there won't be difficulties, but if we are unable to conclude a negotiation with the Europeans--speaking as a Canadian citizen, which I am--we're going to have a hard time convincing any subsequent partners that we're serious about negotiating with them. We feel this is an excellent opportunity to attract further investment and trade into the Canadian marketplace, but also to provide opportunities for our exporters, our service providers, and for the pools of capital that have accumulated in Canada and seek returns. Sometimes it's domestic, but sometimes it's not, and trade agreements are vital for a country such as Canada that relies for over two-thirds of its GDP wealth on export markets and international affairs.
That's where we're coming from. And as I said, we look forward to seeing this agreement concluded in 2011.