Thank you, Chair.
I'm pleased to be with all of you today. It's a real pleasure to be in front of a committee that dedicates itself to an issue vital to Canada's long-term prosperity.
Canada is, and always will be, a proud trading nation. Our past, present, and future prosperity is directly linked to reaching beyond our borders for economic opportunities. Free and open trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. It is even more so in these globally challenging economic times.
In communities across our country, people's jobs and how they provide for their families depend on how our businesses succeed around the world. Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. It represents one out of every five jobs in Canada, and it accounts for somewhere on the order of 64.5% of our gross domestic product. I have a focus on connecting the dots for Canadians—the dots between trade and our long-term economic prosperity.
The world economy remains fragile and uncertain. To be sure, our country has fared better than most. About 610,000 more Canadians are working today than when the recession ended. This is the strongest employment performance in the G-7. Our real GDP is now significantly above pre-recession levels, which is also the best performance in the G-7.
These strengths are becoming part of Canada's good story in the markets of the world. I hear it all the time when I meet with my counterparts around the world, who are impressed with our country's ability to remain strong during tough times. But we cannot rest on our laurels. The world is a competitive place. We need to ensure that Canadian businesses and the federal government are working together to tip the balance in favour of Canada. Armed with the right access to the right markets and supported by the right tools and services, Canadians can compete and win against the best in the world, anywhere in the world. In fact, I often say to my counterparts that Canadians are fierce competitors, but we compete fairly. That's my focus as minister, and it's the focus of my department. For Canada there is no better job creator and economic growth generator than free and open trade.
Our government's free trade plan is the most ambitious of its kind in Canadian history. It recognizes one central fact. While the United States will always be Canada's largest and most important trading partner, we know that deepening and expanding our trade—especially with large, dynamic, high-growth economies—will protect and strengthen the financial security of families in every region of Canada.
Canada's economy depends on looking elsewhere for new opportunities. That's why, in the last six years, our government has concluded trade agreements with nine countries, including Panama and Jordan. These agreements are now being debated in the House.
That's just the beginning. We're negotiating with many more global partners, including the EU. Our talks towards a comprehensive economic and trade agreement are moving forward. We're on track to wrap up negotiations by the end of the year. The potential from this agreement is enormous for Canadian workers. The scoping study that preceded these negotiations indicated that our economy would grow by something on the order of $12 billion per year, or the equivalent of 80,000 new Canadian jobs. That works out to about $1,000 in the pocket of the average family.
We're also expecting sizable benefits from a successful agreement with India, one of the world's most promising economies. A joint study concluded that an agreement with India could boost Canada's economy by at least $6 billion per year.
We'll also be discussing Canada's possible participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. I just returned from Southeast Asia, where I visited the countries of Malaysia, Brunei, and Singapore. I was pleased to see that Canada's interest in joining the talks has been positively received. It's a great opportunity to increase Canada's trade in Asia.
I also had the honour of joining the Prime Minister on his recent trade mission to China, another good example of our commitment to increase our trans-Pacific trade. That visit to China set the stage for an even more strategic Canada-China partnership in the years ahead. While there, we announced that we'll enter into exploratory discussions on deepening our trade and economic relations following the completion of an economic complementarities study that is presently under way and which we expect to complete in May.
These are great opportunities to bring our partnership to the next level. As we move forward on these and other initiatives, we're also supporting businesses in other ways. That includes supporting it through our Trade Commissioner Service, which I often say is Canada's best-kept secret—and it's my job to make sure it's not a secret any longer.
I really would like to thank the committee for undertaking a study of the Trade Commissioner Service. I have very much come to appreciate the great importance this service has to Canadian exporters, investors, and innovators. Our trade commissioners have been a vital tool in the business plans of Canada's exporters, investors, and innovators for over a century.
In cities worldwide and also in offices across Canada, you can find our trade commissioners helping our businesses, large and small, break into new markets. Armed with market intelligence and expert advice they work closely with Canadian companies as they look to expand and succeed abroad.
The Trade Commissioner Service connects Canadian business people with the right decision-makers overseas so that they can grow their business and create jobs and prosperity in Canada. We want our businesses that are looking for new trade opportunities to be successful, and the Trade Commissioner Service facilitates that.
The Trade Commissioner Service also focuses specifically on small and medium-sized businesses. Last year we served over 13,000 Canadian firms, mostly SMEs, which was a 10% increase over the year before. As I mentioned earlier, the Trade Commissioner Service has a great record.
A recent study showed that exporters receiving assistance from the Trade Commissioner Service enjoy an average export value 18% higher than that of comparable exporters who don't use the service. Since April of last year, trade commissioners have been involved in facilitating $12.1 billion worth of investments, which will create more than 4,200 jobs. New science and technology partnerships have been created with India, China, Brazil, and of course Israel, leading to more than 80 cooperative projects and exchanges involving more than 1,000 highly qualified people.
The Trade Commissioner Service is also constantly adjusting to an ever-changing environment. Since 2006 we've opened 15 new trade offices in key markets, such as Brazil, India, and China, in recognition of the growing importance of emerging markets and also to ensure that Canadian companies can take advantage of these exciting business opportunities.
Simply put, we're making better use of Canada's diplomatic assets in advancing the interests of Canadian businesses around the world. We're ensuring that our resources are geared toward our top trade priorities. This is the best way to help Canadian businesses succeed in high-growth markets around the world.
Throughout our efforts, we'll continue to look to your committee for advice and ideas as we create jobs and prosperity for Canadians through deeper trade and investment ties with our global partners.
Thank you. I look forward to our discussions today.