Saturday, November 16, 2013

HM PM Harper in Montreal

I attended a speech given by HM PM Stephen Harper at the Montreal Board of Trade last Friday. The subject was the newly signed Canada EU free trade agreement. It was great to see HM PM Brian Mulroney also at the head table.  The speech was well received and lavished praise on Brian Mulroney. HM PM Harper was playful and funny.
 I had a chance to speak to HM Pm Harper , HM Pm Brian Mulroney and HM Minister of Trade Ed Fast. It was a great event!!! There were a few protesters, but no one seemed to notice.
The speech was mostly in French, but here is the translation:

Thank you very much. “Thank you for your introduction, Michel. “I must tell you that my book is not just a history of hockey in Toronto. “Indeed, it also looks at the very early decades of hockey in Montréal as well. “And I’d just like to remind you that all the profits from this book are being donated to the Fund for military families. “I urge everyone to support these families. “Former Prime Minister of Canada Brian Mulroney; federal colleagues; Ministers Denis Lebel and Ed Fast; former Quebec Premier Pierre-Marc Johnson; representing the Government of Quebec, Minister Alexandre Cloutier; and the newly sworn-in Mayor of Montréal who is applauding me for the first time today, Denis Coderre. “Distinguished guests. “Members of the business community. “Ladies and gentlemen. “It’s always a pleasure for me to be back in Montréal. “And before I go on, I’d like to thank the Chamber of Commerce and your members for your kind invitation today. “I am here to answer questions about the Canadian economy, but first I’d like to say a few words about our Government’s latest masterstroke, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union. “As many of you know, for decades now – since the seventies, in fact – successive Canadian governments have wanted to negotiate a Free Trade Agreement with Europe. “So, obviously, the Canada-Europe Free Trade Agreement is a big deal. “It is a very big deal. “Now, I have said that it is the biggest deal in our country’s history. “A claim which I understand has been disputed in some circles. “So, allow me to frame my remarks by addressing this question directly. “My friends, for several weeks now a number of journalists have been comparing the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the negotiations that we have just concluded with the European Union. “Which is the bigger deal? “It’s a good question. “The original Canada-U.S. Free Trade Deal, Agreement, which of course, led to the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA, or the negotiations that we have just concluded with the European Union? “Now first, let me just make the case for the original Canada-U.S. deal. “Needless to say, the United States is our largest trading partner. “Right now, we do a lot more trade with the United States than we do with all of the countries of the European Union combined. “And the Canada-U.S. agreement could be described as a historic achievement for everyone. “NAFTA marked the first big step toward economic globalization in the post-Cold War period. “Of course and most important for the history of our own country, that trade agreement with the United States was not only first, it was revolutionary in a way that only a trade agreement between ourselves and our colossus of a neighbour really could be. “I’m sure you recall that the agreement with the United States came under serious fire. “It led to some incredible rhetoric. “There were claims that the automotive industry in Canada would sink into oblivion, that our culture would be destroyed, that our water would be stolen, that it would even end Canada’s independence. “These forecasts of course turned out to be wrong, not just somewhat off the mark, but completely wrong, even embarrassing to this day. “And today, this type of naysaying continues to be heard only in the most extreme fringes of the Canadian political landscape. “But at the time, it was rampant, and that is why free trade with the United States was an incredible victory for Canada. “In fact, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement not only proved the naysayers wrong. “It has become one of the sturdiest foundations upon which the unprecedented strength of the Canadian economy today is based. “And, without that achievement, the truth is ladies and gentlemen, we could not have concluded and I could not be here with you today to celebrate our latest historic achievement, free trade with the European Union. “So as far as free trade with the United States and all of North America goes, we are all really indebted to the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney. “Now, the case for why the free trade deal with Europe is the biggest. “The European population pool is even bigger, at 500 million. “Europe is also a bigger trading market; in fact, it is the largest market in the world. “And the agreement covers a much broader range of fields. “The topics on which one would have thought that an agreement would be completely out of reach. “Beyond the elimination of tariffs, the treaty also covers investment, public procurement, services and labour mobility. “That is why The Economist wrote that this Canada-Europe agreement is a new global model for future trade deals. “And, of course, perhaps even more importantly this accord with Europe expands our free trade relations in the world, and does so in a really substantial way. “And that is something that is essential in these times of global supply chains. “The agreement with the European Union gives us as Canadians an opportunity, a unique opportunity we have long sought. “The ability to lessen our dependence on the American market and to diversify our trade beyond the United States. “A trend, I should mention that has become evident during the life of the government I lead. “But, friends, if we are to truly compare the Canada-U.S. deal with the European Union agreement, we should also talk about what they have in common. “And, first and foremost, it is this: “In the case of both the original U.S. and North American Free Trade Agreements, and the recent European negotiations, Quebec and Quebecers, and, in particular, Montréal and this business community, have played a crucial role. “Of course, Brian Mulroney fought for free trade with the United States. “But the idea was also supported by political parties of all stripes in Quebec. “Similarly, former Quebec Premier Jean Charest was eloquent in his vigorous support of free trade with Europe right from the start. “He appointed a former Premier of a different political bend, Pierre-Marc Johnson, as Quebec’s negotiator. “And I have to say that Pierre-Marc was one of the most effective negotiators throughout the process and should be heartily applauded for his role! “And of course the new Marois government has also been a constructive partner. “So, once again, we had a broad Quebec consensus behind these historic negotiations, a consensus that, this time, has also been strong across the country. “But, again, a consensus that was likely stronger and broader in Quebec. “And such broad political consensus is a sure sign of work by other actors, especially actors in the business community, and in particular the Montréal business community, as may be seen by everyone here today. “And in this regard, I would like to pay special tribute to a captain of industry, one of the first Canadians to look to Europe was also one of the leading French-Canadian financiers of our history. “Unfortunately, he passed away recently, but his vision will remain a source of inspiration for business people across the country. “I am referring of course to the great Paul Desmarais. “In summary, I would like to thank the businesses and the men and women of Quebec who encouraged us to embark on these adventures, these adventures, as Michel mentioned earlier, that will forever change the economic landscape of our great country. “Now, ladies and gentlemen, the rest is up to you. “Over the next couple of years, legal and technical work will be completed. “The deal will be translated into the 24 languages of the European Union, and the ratification process will begin. “But, it will be for you, as business people, to see the opportunities and to take advantage of them. “And those opportunities are enormous. “We are talking about virtually duty-free access, mostly without transportation barriers, to a well-established market with a GDP of $17 trillion. “Free trade with the United States has already proven that Canadian companies can go up against the best and emerge victorious. “And now, more than ever before, we, Canadians, are in a position of strength thanks to our competitive tax rates, relatively strong balance sheet, political stability and the number one, most secure financial system in the world. “As I said in the Throne Speech, with all of these things lining up, it is Canada’s moment, and it is the time to seize that moment. “We hope to see you, business people such as yourselves in the next two years take off to Europe, engage in new business partnerships and open new markets. “And our Government will be working with you. “We can become the backbone for trade between Europe and the United States in the short and medium terms. “So let’s take advantage of that. “In the meantime, I can assure you that the economy is and will remain priority number one for our Government. “A priority that I believe is reflected in our country’s outstanding performance, performance that will only get better when Montréal and all of Quebec are fully represented at the very heart of our Government. “But that is a question for another day. “Today, dear friends, I draw your attention to these landmark trade agreements as a perfect example of the extraordinary things that we can accomplish when we work together. “And it is by continuing along this path that we will ensure job creation, economic growth and long term prosperity for Montréal, Quebec, and all of Canada. “Thank you very much.” - See more at:

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