Thank you, Mr. Chair. Good morning, everyone. Bonjour, chers amis. Thank you for the invitation to appear before you today. I am joined by Susan Bincoletto, who is our chief trade commissioner for Canada. l'm delighted that the committee has chosen to undertake a review of our government's global markets action plan. This morning I would like to provide you with some background on this landmark plan and also fill in a few details.
It's no secret to anyone here that Canada has been and remains a nation built on trade. We are one of the great free-trading nations of the world. Trade is equivalent in size to some 60% of Canada's gross domestic product, and one out of every five Canadian jobs is related to exports.
One of the first initiatives our government undertook to expand international trade for Canadian businesses was the global commerce strategy. It was a comprehensive plan for expanding Canada's trade network, strengthening our competitive position in our traditional markets, and extending our reach to new, emerging markets. The strategy generated significant success, helping to pave the way for our government to sign numerous trade agreements.
But in a fiercely competitive global economy, Canada must remain nimble and agile. We must keep challenging ourselves. To do just that, our government's economic action plan 2012 committed to building on the success of the global commerce strategy by consulting extensively with Canada's business community to identify new markets, new strengths, and new opportunities.
The result of our consultations is the global markets action plan, or GMAP as we call it. This plan, which I released at the end of last year, is Canada's new blueprint for creating jobs, economic growth, and opportunities for Canadians through international trade and investment.
Under the GMAP, the Government of Canada will concentrate its efforts on the markets that hold the greatest promise for Canadian business, and focus on the sectors of our economy that hold the greatest promise for export growth. We will do this through vigorous trade promotion and effective trade policy.
As we concentrate on priority markets and sectors, the global markets action plan will also entrench the concept of economic diplomacy as a driving force behind the Government of Canada's trade promotion activities throughout its international diplomatic network.
Let me be clear. Placing economic diplomacy at the heart of our broader foreign policy plan is not in any way intended to undermine or compromise Canada's robust development and humanitarian programs, or our peace and global security initiatives.
We do expect our government representatives abroad to promote all of Canada's values and interests, including our economic interests. At the forefront of these efforts is Canada's trade commissioner service. These are Canada's trade professionals, posted across Canada and all around the world, executing the trade and investment promotion activities of the GMAP as a core component of our broader foreign policy plan. Our trade commissioners provide market intelligence, on-the-ground support, and act as troubleshooters in markets that Canadian companies are interested in exporting to.
I recently announced that more than 25 trade commissioners will be embedded in industry associations across our country. Their role is to inform Canadian companies about the tools that our Canadian government has made available to them as they explore export interests around the world. Our embedded trade commissioners will also act as a bridge between businesses and government programs, policies, and agencies such as Export Development Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation, and the Business Development Bank of Canada.
Our embedded trade commissioners will also gain better insight into the evolving export needs of Canadian industries and ensure these needs are reflected in the services they provide to our businesses.
Another trade promotion tool I want to touch on is the wide array of trade missions that our government leads to our priority markets.
Sector-focused trade missions are one of the many ways our government supports Canadian companies, particularly SMEs, to explore and succeed in foreign markets. Trade missions are about opening doors, about finding partners, engaging with key decision-makers, fostering long-term relationships, and identifying new trade and investment opportunities.
In fact, I just completed a trade mission to China this last week.
The mission was focused on the sustainable technologies industry, one of the priority sectors under the global markets action plan. During that mission, I announced that we will open another four Canadian trade offices in China, bringing to 15 the total number of points of service Canada offers to Canadian exporters and investors in our second-largest trading partner, China. Over 100 of Canada's trade commissioners will be deployed throughout China. In short, we are committed to aligning Canada's resources with our priority markets. Next month, I'll be leading a trade mission to South Africa and Tanzania with a special focus on the extractive sector, infrastructure, and renewable energy and power.
Equally important to our trade strategy are incoming trade missions. This Sunday I will be welcoming in Vancouver a delegation of my ASEAN ministerial counterparts and senior officials. We're very much looking forward to deepening our trade ties with our ASEAN friends—those will be countries in Southeast Asia such as Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Malaysia—and we're looking forward to showcasing the very best of what Canada has to offer. I'm also pleased that business delegates from Turkey will be here in Canada next week. As you know, Turkey is also a priority market under the global markets action plan.
Now, those incoming trade missions to Canada are among the tools we use to connect our SMEs to global markets. I would just note, with regard to small and medium-sized enterprises or SMEs, that the GMAP recognizes that SMEs are the backbone of Canada's economy. We currently have somewhere in the order of one million SMEs in Canada. Many of them have the capacity to export, but only about 40,000 of that one million do so. The number that export beyond North America is even smaller, much smaller. So, our goal under GMAP is to increase the number of SMEs that export into emerging markets from 11,000 to 21,000 companies. I know that's a tall order, but these are the markets that today offer the greatest growth opportunities, and it is critical to our long-term prosperity that our SMEs step up to the plate and now begin to explore export opportunities beyond North America.
The last pillar of the GMAP that I wanted to mention is our commitment to negotiating trade agreements and investment agreements with other countries, which will free up trade between us and our key trading partners and provide more security and assurance for those in Canada who want to invest abroad.
When our government first took office in 2006, Canada had concluded free trade agreements with only five countries. That was a short eight years ago. Today we're approaching concluded trade agreements with 43 different countries, and there are many more to come. Last October we signed the agreement in principle for our free trade agreement with the European Union. When that agreement comes into force, it will mean that Canadian exporters have preferential access to more than half of the entire global marketplace. As the world's largest trading bloc, the EU represents over $17 trillion in economic activity every year. The value of the EU's annual imports—imports alone—exceeds Canada's total annual economic output.
In March we also announced the successful conclusion of a free trade agreement with South Korea, Canada's first free trade agreement in Asia. This agreement will boost Canada's economy by $1.7 billion a year, and just as importantly, Canadian businesses will now be able to use Korea as a gateway to the larger, rapidly growing markets of Asia, where we're also pursuing free trade agreements with India and Japan and within the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Investment protection agreements are also important as they provide Canadian businesses with greater confidence and assurance when they invest abroad. Two days ago I announced the coming into force of the Canada-Benin Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, which is Canada's third in Africa. That brings to 27 the number of bilateral investment treaties Canada has in force around the world.
In closing, I want to state that our government's ultimate goal is a world in which all can share in the prosperity, opportunity, and choice that international trade and investment deliver. The GMAP is Canada's contribution as we all work toward that goal.
Thank you. I welcome your questions, Mr. Chair.