Mr. Chair, it is a great honour for me to stand in this committee in this House and give my first, albeit brief, speech on foreign affairs.
The government's policy on foreign affairs and international trade is about principle and it is about commitment. We seek a more peaceful and a more secure world. We seek political and economic freedom. We seek the spread of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. Greater prosperity for Canadians through open markets and investment is another critical aspect of our approach to foreign policy.
Principles, however, must be connected with interests. This means setting priorities. It means making choices. Above all, it means following through.
Let us talk about Afghanistan. In terms of Canadian interests and values, nowhere is our commitment more clear than in Afghanistan.
All members were part of the debate earlier this year on the future of Canada's mission in Afghanistan. The resolution passed by Parliament extended Canada's role there through June 2011.
Not only did the resolution express the support of Parliament for the mission, it also sent a strong message to our NATO allies. That message had a strong effect at the NATO summit in Bucharest, giving us the leverage we needed to secure more support from our allies for the work we are doing in Afghanistan.
That same strong message spoke clearly of Canada's commitment to the Afghan people. Our commitment can be seen in the 2,500 members of the Canadian Forces serving in Kandahar. It can be seen in the Canadian diplomats, development experts, corrections officers, civilian police and others contributing to the mission.
There will be no quick and easy fix or easy solutions in Afghanistan. And there is a long way to go. Nevertheless, we are making progress. Ministers and officials, the media, and individual Canadians have seen this in their own visits to Afghanistan.
Canada is serving the cause of international peace and security in Afghanistan. We are playing our part as a member of the international community. Canadians know this and they are proud of it.
What about the Americas and the United States? The government came to power with a commitment to improve Canada-U.S. relations. This we have done.
Our strategy of working constructively with the United States administration is paying off. For example, we see it on softwood lumber, border security and broader foreign policy issues.
We have re-established a positive dialogue and a willingness to listen closely to each other. On every issue and at all levels we have worked to ensure that the partnership between Canada and the United States remains respectful, close and productive.
Canada is also taking a larger role in the Americas. We are laying the foundations to be a long term player in the region. We will contribute where we can to help defuse longstanding conflicts, promote freer trade and strengthen democratic governance.
Haiti is an example of where we can contribute in the short term as well as in the long term. In the short term, Canadian Forces officers and civilian police are helping the country address its day to day security needs. At the same time, we are also strengthening Haitian security institutions, looking forward to the day when they can guarantee their own country's security.
Earlier this year, Canada announced a $19 million package to strengthen the capacity of the Haitian government and police forces to manage its borders. We are taking a similar approach to social and economic development. We have responded to Haiti's immediate needs, such as food, drinking water and medical aid.
At the same time, we are contributing to longer term social and economic development, for example, in the agricultural sector, to ensure a more secure food supply or an infrastructure where we are literally laying the foundations for a better future by funding a $75 million road construction project. Progress is being made, but it is a long term project and recent violence shows how fragile these gains can be.
Let us talk about emerging markets. Our third major priority is to strengthen Canada's presence in emerging markets, particularly India and China. The government is committed to helping Canadian business succeed in making Canada the destination of choice for foreign investment. We have set out our plans in the global commerce strategy and have backed up these plans to the tune of $100 million over the next two years.
What about the Arctic? Our foreign policy in the Arctic is based on the foundations of our integrated northern strategy. The goal of our approach is to support Canada's domestic policies, social and economic development, stronger local government institutions and environmental protection, including the critical issue of climate change.
The future of the north and of the Arctic is a matter of national and global importance. The region is integral to Canada's history and national identity. It is also critical to the future of the planet.
The Northwest Passage is part of Canada's internal waters. Canada's sovereignty over these waters is well established and based on historic title. The government has repeatedly made this clear. This will not change. Nor will the government's position on it.
What about Sudan? The hon. member referred to it earlier. Since January 2006, Canada has committed nearly $400 million for peace, humanitarian assistance and governance in Sudan. If we combine our UN peacekeeping assessments with our voluntary contributions, Canada will be providing up to $275 million in assistance to Sudan this year.
In March Canada announced that it would be increasing its assistance, but we will also set down some markers with Sudanese ministers, specifically that the future of our relations depends on Sudan's conduct within its own borders. We urged all parties in Sudan to end the violence in Darfur, to support the prompt and full deployment of the UN African Union mission in Darfur and to improve the human rights situation in all areas of the country.
In the area of international trade, the goals of Canadian foreign policy are inseparable from our trade and investment strategy. The government believes that a strong, aggressive and forward looking trade and investment strategy is good for Canada, especially in this day of hypercompetitive emerging economies like China, India and Brazil.
Initiatives like “Advantage Canada” are clearly positioning Canada as a more attractive destination for foreign investment and a partner of choice for global business. Take our Asia Pacific gateway initiative, an unprecedented effort to create more Asian trans-Pacific trade both to and through North America. Our global commerce strategy is another important part of our efforts to draw the world's attention to Canada.
A few weeks ago, I stood in the House to table legislation to enact Canada's first free trade agreement since 2001, with the EFTA countries of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Today, we are signing a free trade agreement with Peru, an economic leader in Latin America. With the EFTA and Peru agreements, our global commerce strategy is getting Canada back on track and we are moving forward with a list of other negotiations around the world, with Colombia, the Caribbean community, the Dominican Republic, Jordan and South Korea.
These agreements will give Canadian businesses and producers more competitive terms of access to key global markets. These efforts are part of a strategic suite of initiatives to get Canadians more involved in the global economy. These include foreign investment, promotion and protection agreements.
These agreements will help Canadians build linkages to the global value chains that are driving business around the world today, such as air services agreements to foster the human links so vital to strong business relations, not to mention carrying high value cargo along global supply and value chains, as well as the science and technology cooperation agreements we are pursuing to work with other innovative countries to develop and market tomorrow's technological breakthroughs.
Finally, there are the market plans being developed by our department and trade commissioners to zero in on the opportunities in global markets. These plans include new trade offices in key markets in China, India, Brazil and elsewhere.
The global commerce strategy is a comprehensive road map that will help Canadian businesses and investors succeed in the global economy and continue building on our country's long-standing heritage as a trading nation. We are proud of our success to date and there will be much more to come in the time ahead.
On the issue of democracy and human rights, the government has also been proud to maintain Canada's enduring commitment to freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. I will continue to make our views known bilaterally and in multilateral fora, such as the United Nations, in NATO, the G-8 and in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Among the multilateral fora of importance to Canada it is la Francophonie. The French language and culture remain an integral to Canada's identity. We look forward to Summit 2008 this October in Quebec City and to the city's 400th anniversary.
Let me close my remarks by saying a few words about my department. The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade is made up of people that match our ambitions on the world stage, with the required talent, the dedication and the energy. I would like to take this opportunity to thank them and recognize their professionalism and dedication.
Canada is back, but the work of Canadian foreign policy and international commerce is never done. Interest and values have to be advocated and defended at all times. This is unchanging. Equally unchanging is the commitment and determination with which I will continue to promote Canada's interests and values on the world stage. Of that, members have my highest assurance.