Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to speak to the throne speech. I will be sharing my time this morning with the member for Simcoe—Grey.
When I was a younger man, as a public servant in British Columbia, the premier of the day had an expression which I find has been very useful to me over time and is useful again today. He used to say, “If you don't know where you're going, any road will get you there”.
The throne speech is a good example of a document with leadership provided by the Prime Minister and the government. It shows Canadians and parliamentarians where we want to go.
Concerning the reference to the North Star, as members know, the North Star is a navigational beacon that helps navigators, who are faced with turbulent waters or confusing routes, with a variety of choices. They always come back to that North Star, that navigational beacon, to ensure they are always ultimately headed in the right direction.
If we think about the North Star in the context of the throne speech context, there are five points to a star. These correspond to the five priorities articulated in the throne speech.
I will focus on the economic prosperity priority, economic management, in my comments.
When we look at the Canadian economy and address the issue of Canada's prosperity, and we have had a lot of it over the last 10 or 15 years, indeed over the last many decades, we have to recognize that Canada is a small trading economy. By that I mean Canada's population is about 34 million people spread over a varied and huge land mass, close to 10 million square kilometres of land, the second largest land mass, nationally speaking, in the world. We can compare that with the state of California which has 37 million in one state.
Therefore, we are a country where our prosperity has been fundamentally driven by international trade. Without liberalized and open trade, Canadians would be much poorer. In fact, we would be a marginal economic society today without trade and commerce.
When we look at the global economy and what is going on in the world, the whole issue of trade, the way we trade and what drives trade and competitiveness has changed fundamentally with changes in the global economy. People talk about globalization.
In his book Thomas Friedman refers to the world as being flat. It is a world where it is no longer good enough to sit back in Canada, produce here and sell abroad. We have to face the fact that in the world economy today we are dealing in an economy of global value and global supply chains. We are in an economy where anyone in any part of the world is a potential customer, supplier and competitor.
We are in a world today where if one wants to be competitive, one has to be prepared to import technology. Over 95% of the technologies developed in the world are not Canadian. We have to reach out to the world economy to get them.
We are in a world where if one wants to be a competitive supplier in the global economy, one has to recognize that production, distribution, marketing, manufacturing, research may all have to be situated in different places around the world. That is not to say that Canada cannot have a very powerful economic base here. We absolutely can, but we have to recognize that we are competing in a global economy. There is nowhere to hide.
China is here to stay as is India, Brazil and Russia. There are many emerging economic dynamos in the world economy and we will have step up and compete with those economies as we go forward.
That is why the throne speech refers to a global commerce strategy. The government is developing a global commerce strategy. It is a strategy that changes the way we think about international trade and investment. It is a strategy that basically looks at trade in the world as dominated by global supply chains, global value chains and networks, whatever one chooses to call them.
In that kind of world, the objective of a global commerce strategy has to be to ensure that Canadians and Canadian companies get as high up in those value chains as they can possibly be. Ideally, we want to be driving those supply chains on a global basis, but at a minimum, we want Canadians and Canadian companies to be high up in those chains.
That takes a different approach to trade. It is no longer good enough to go on trade missions to try to sign contracts for sales here and there. Global competitiveness in this economy requires that Canadian companies invest abroad, that we bring foreign investment into Canada and that we import, because a lot of imports are in fact critical inputs into Canadian production and ultimately into Canadian exports and wealth creation.
We have to take a very different approach to global commerce today, but the goal is to get high up in the global value chains. The question is what are the tools that we have to do this and how do we array those tools in a cohesive way, in a way that knits them together in a self-reinforcing, comprehensive and effective trade strategy? That is what we are doing with global commerce.
First, we are looking at the negotiated legal framework agreements that facilitate global trade for Canadian companies, such as free trade agreements and foreign investment promotion and protection agreements. We are looking at bilateral trade agreements. We are looking at multilateral trade agreements. We are looking at air bilaterals. We are looking at all of the framework policies that we have to negotiate with other countries to create a level and attractive playing field for Canadian companies.
Second, the frameworks do nothing by themselves. There has to be a globally competitive transportation and logistics system. The throne speech focuses on gateways and corridors for trade. The Asia-Pacific gateway initiative is a good example of a transportation and logistics system that is going to transform Canada's and indeed North America's ability to compete in the global economy of today.
There is nothing that will do more for northern Canada, whether we are talking about the northern Prairies, the territories or the Arctic, for the creation of wealth and prosperity than the Asia-Pacific gateway initiative, particularly the port of Prince Rupert and the whole transportation and logistics corridor through Prince Rupert, across Canada and up into Canada's north.
The third piece of our strategy is to provide direct services and resources. Whether it is Export Development Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation or our trade and consular service, we are increasing the tools that we have to directly support Canadian companies that are engaged in international commerce. We are expanding our presence.
When we look at the regional focus of our global commerce strategy, we begin with the North American platform, as we call it. The North American platform basically refers to NAFTA. The North American economy is an economy of 400 million people. That is a huge market. It is one of the most dynamic, technologically rich economies in the world. It has enormous sources of capital. It is an opportunity for Canadian companies to participate in a major economy which is broader and deeper than Canada's and to build our competitive strength on the basis of the North American platform.
We have given top priority to ensuring that the North American platform is strengthened. Whether it is a security prosperity initiative, improvements under NAFTA, or a variety of other initiatives relating to improving the flow of goods and services and people within North America, the platform is critical.
Going from the North American platform, we are giving top priority to the Americas. The Prime Minister has given top priority to the Americas. We are negotiating free trade agreements with a number of countries in the Americas. Then when we look across the Pacific, we are doing an enormous amount of work to develop trade agreements, investment agreements, technology cooperation agreements with countries in the Asia Pacific region. We are doing the same on the Atlantic side. We have just signed an agreement with the EFTA countries and we are intensifying our work with the European Union.