Luncheon with Canadian and Local Business Community and Key Ministers
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Wednesday, May 2, 2012
Thank you for your warm welcome. I am delighted to be here and to have an opportunity to learn from your experiences today.
At first glance, Trinidad and Tobago and Canada may appear a study in contrasts. But as you know, we share important things in common, including our Commonwealth traditions and our roles as influential nations in our respective regions.
We also share the ability and the inclination to work in partnership with others. Not surprisingly, our two nations have enjoyed positive relations since Trinidad and Tobago’s independence almost 50 years ago—though of course we have been trading partners since the 1800s, when we exchanged Canadian salt cod for Trinidadian sugar, molasses and rum.
An image of our partnership can be seen in the new commemorative coin that has been struck to mark 50 years of diplomatic relations between our two countries. The coin blends the Canadian maple leaf and this country’s flag in a symbol of friendship and co-operation.
This coin can also be viewed as symbolic of our long-standing—and growing—business and economic ties. Canadians are living and working in Trinidad and Tobago, engaging in business activities such as finance, resource development and security co-operation, and you are contributing to the economy and well-being of this country and to that of the entire region.
And you are making a contribution not just here in Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean, but in Canada as well.
As Jennifer Welsh, expatriate Canadian and professor of international relations at Oxford, has pointed out: “Modern diasporas call on us to imagine our national communities in innovative ways.”
The presence of Canadians in Trinidad and Tobago—working, studying and living here—helps Canadians to imagine themselves at home in the world. This is a tremendous advantage in an era of profound globalization. Expatriate Canadians extend our range and broaden our understanding of the Caribbean, which despite common ground is also very different from North America.
The same is true for people from Trinidad and Tobago who work and live in Canada. Together, we are enriched by exchanges and partnerships in business, in education and in government.
As business and community leaders in this country, you are well aware of the imperative to work together in today’s world. And you are equally aware of the value of looking outward as you develop markets and acquire and share knowledge and expertise in your respective fields.
Today, Trinidad and Tobago is the largest, most diversified and industrialized economy in the Caribbean. You have the second highest GDP in CARICOM and have always been the Caricom country with the most open trade policies.
Trinidad and Tobago is also the largest producer of oil and gas in the Caribbean region, one of the leading exporters of Liquid Natural Gas in the world and the biggest exporter of ammonia and methanol in the world. And Canadians are playing a role in your success.
Canada’s robust and growing involvement in security co-operation is a great example. In policing, in judicial matters and in corrections, we are working together to improve security on many fronts. A safe and secure society is the foundation for prosperity.
Today, I also want to highlight the contribution of Canadians to corporate social responsibility initiatives in Trinidad and Tobago. The smarter, more caring world we aspire to build demands that development go hand-in-hand with socially and environmentally responsible practices.
Not only is it our responsibility, it is also good business. Through corporate social responsibility initiatives, Canada has strengthened its bilateral relationships around the world.
Our relationship is dynamic and multi-faceted, and our bilateral trade keeps growing—notwithstanding the global economic downturn. We are active in engineering and construction, information and communications technology, government services, and energy and banking.
Looking ahead, as modern, open societies, it is clear that Canada and Trinidad and Tobago share a bright future, in which the contributions of the business community will play a key role. I look forward to learning more about the challenges and opportunities you face, and to witnessing the continuing partnership between our peoples in the years to come.