Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the matter of a question I asked the Minister for International Trade on October 23 about Canadian exports. In the minister's response to my question, he made two points that I thought were very important.
The first point was that our merchandise exports are sufficiently high in terms of the surplus over our imports to counteract what has previously been an unfavourable balance for us in invisible trade. That means our current accounts are now in a surplus position in Canada for the first time in something like 22 years. That is largely due to a lot of aggressive moves by the government which I would like to refer to later. However it is important that the Canadian public focus on the fact that it is not just our exports that are in surplus now, but it is our total current accounts which are in surplus. This is an extremely important development for the Canadian economy.
The second point the minister made was that much of the success in the export market that has been made recently has been due to efforts of small and medium size businesses. The committee on foreign affairs and international trade recently prepared a report on small and medium size businesses and the export trade.
In that report we found that small and medium size businesses are being much more aggressive in areas of export than they had been before. They are becoming familiar with the tools which government provides them with, such as the Export Development Corporation which in turn is working with the banks to enable better financing mechanisms for exports. They are better using our trade commissioner services. They are using team Canada and going on team Canada missions when team Canada goes abroad. They are participating also through their provinces and municipalities in a way to ensure that they have access to exports.
We found something else about small and medium size businesses and their access to exports that is very important for this country. We have a tremendously talented pool of people in the multicultural communities of our country who speak languages other than English and French and who have knowledge of other cultures, business cultures.
In my own riding of Rosedale in downtown Toronto, there are areas where over 50 languages are spoken. I speak to many of these people. Some of them are now forming small and medium size businesses. They are able to export their products to the communities where they came from because they have access to those communities. They know those markets. This is an enormously rich pool for us to develop. This government is to be congratulated on reaching out to that community and seeking to enable it to be effective in these markets.
Finally, the other thing we have to draw attention to in this area is the fact that many of our exports are now directed toward the service industry. Services now represent about 60 per cent of the GDP of modern economies. I am informed that in Toronto over55 per cent of all services are traded services.
A report prepared by the Boston consulting group, sponsored by the Bank of Nova Scotia, shows the importance of the financial services to the Toronto economy.
This is key to the future because these are traded services and therefore require a marketplace within the domestic economy which will enable them to reach out into the international economy. We must be conscious of the fact that we have to make sure that in this country we have an appropriate domestic marketplace that will enable these companies to grow and develop in the service field, particularly in the financial field in modern cities like Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and other important financial centres.
This means we must focus on ensuring that we have a free market within Canada. We have to perfect our national markets. We have to insure that we are not impeding but helping our financial services providers to be part of the international community as well as the domestic community.
The people from small and medium size businesses who came before us in the committee told us that they are now competing in the domestic economy as well as internationally. We must make sure we have both. In so doing, we must ensure that we have the multilateral as well as the bilateral mechanisms in place.
Finally, in that respect we should congratulate the government on signing the Canada-Chile free trade agreement, which is one more way to ensure that we will have access to those important developing Latin markets which will complement our exports outside of Canada.