Mr. Speaker, as you know, Tuesday's Speech from the Throne addressed a number of issues, including the need for Canada to strengthen its presence on the world stage.
The speech emphasized the fact that “in our own neighbourhood...Canada is back playing an active role.” I would like to discuss this for a few minutes.
In July, while he was travelling around the regions, Prime Minister Harper provided an overview of our priorities. Our goals are to increase prosperity, enhance safety, and promote our fundamental values—Canadian values that are also universal values: freedom, democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law.
We must sustain the momentum achieved by the Prime Minister's trip. We have to develop and implement a results-oriented strategy that promotes Canadian interests. That means doing three things.
First, Canada is committed to building relationships with the rest of the Americas that will serve our common interests. We will strive to enhance security on this continent and to solidify safer, more secure relationships with our neighbours. We will also work to make our economies stronger and more sustainable by promoting free trade agreements.
Second, we will ensure that Canada plays a leadership role in North America. We will work with our partners to strengthen and promote the basic Canadian values I just mentioned.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague, the hon. member for Durham.
I will continue, and thank you for allowing me to share my time.
Third, what does a strategy for the Americas mean? It means that our government is determined to carry on with its long-term commitment in Haiti. As you know, Canada has had a long-standing commitment to Haitians. We have contributed unprecedented human, financial and political resources to help ensure the success of the efforts of the international community in Haiti. Lastly, we have ensured that the UN mandate will be renewed for another year, and that the UN intervention force will continue its development work in Haiti.
Let me focus on our trade agenda in the Americas for a moment. As members know, Canadians themselves are engaged in the region. Canada is now the third largest investor in the region. Last year Canadians took more than 2.5 million trips to the Americas and the Caribbean. Now when Canadians visit the regions, they can be confident that Canada is back and playing an active role.
Trade and investment translates into jobs, jobs both in the hemisphere and here at home. Our government wants to ensure that Canadian businesses have continued access to this growing market. This summer we launched free trade negotiations with Peru, Colombia and the Dominican Republic, as well as with CARICOM, made up of 15 Caribbean countries.
We also hope to complete ongoing negotiations with the Central American four, comprising El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Nicaragua. I hope these negotiations will be a success in the near future.
The NAFTA agreement helped Canada strengthen our already close ties with Mexico. This economic arrangement was an important catalyst and I am confident this success can be repeated. Yes, we can repeat the NAFTA success and that is why it is important to have good relationships with the countries in the Americas in order to have other free trade agreements.
Our goal is to promote enhanced market access and a level playing field for Canadian businesses in the Americas and increase opportunities for Canadian entrepreneurs.
Crime and drugs from the region find their way onto our streets. Security in neighbourhoods equals safety at home. We, therefore, need to help strengthen security and the rule of law in the hemisphere.
We are committed to working with our hemispheric partners to address pandemics and emergency preparedness. It is very important for our population and also for our neighbours in the hemisphere.
As the Prime Minister pointed out, Canada is a model of constitutional democracy and economic openness, which is combined with social safety nets, equitable wealth creation and sharing across regions.
Canada plays a dynamic role in strengthening and promoting our fundamental values. All Canadians win when our neighbours subscribe to our country's fundamental values: freedom, democracy, respect for the law, justice and the rule of law.
As the Minister of Foreign Affairs, I am determined to make this priority a success. I would also like to speak to the House about what I have done to date to ensure that our foreign policy in the hemispheres is effective and noble. I recently had intense discussions at the UN with the leaders of countries in the Americas.
One of my first acts as Minister of Foreign Affairs was to meet with the Mexican foreign minister. I also met with the leaders of the Central American Four countries, which I listed earlier, as well as the foreign ministers from the Rio Group countries. I also had the opportunity to meet with the President of Haiti, Mr. Aristide. During all those meetings, I promoted the values cherished by Canadians and I insisted that those countries must be able to have a democratic society like ours. I can assure this House that the discussions with my colleagues were very fruitful.
Achieving Canada's objectives in the region will require a government-wide commitment. I would like to give a few examples of how our cabinet is investing heavily in this approach. Our government and its various departments are taking a comprehensive approach.
The hon. Bev Oda, the Minister of International Cooperation, has just returned from a visit to Haiti and Jamaica. She told me recently that her visit to Haiti served to demonstrate our ongoing support for reconstruction efforts in that country. In Jamaica, Minister Oda met with the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Her travels served to reinforce Canada's determination to play a role in the region. Together, we are promoting prosperity, good democratic governance and regional security.
My colleague, the hon. Tony Clement, Minister of Health, just signed an important declaration with the pan-American security organization to promote the adoption of a joint action plan to address health issues in the Americas.
These are all important initiatives led by our government. I am very pleased with the initiatives undertaken by my colleagues and I remain fully available to speak with my colleagues in this House about—