ENVIREFORM logo


Opening Address by Pierre Pettigrew Minister of International Trade, Canada
to the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium, April 17, 2001,
Musée de la Civilisation, Quebec, Canada


(Prepared by Madeline Koch)


Sponsored by the International Institute for Sustainable Development, The World Conservation Union and the United Nations Environmental Programme http://www.iisd.org/trade/qc2001

Note: The following is a partial summary of the remarks given at the Hemispheric Trade and Sustainability Symposium. It is neither an official document nor a complete transcript, nor has it been checked against the speaker's text.

Pierre Pettigrew
Minister of International Trade, Canada

I am very happy to be here, finally - it is always those who are closest who arrive last. David comes from Victoria, but this is my home town. In fact, I feel quite at home here in the Musée de la Civilisation, which has a device invented by my great grandfather.

David and I have often had vigorous exchanges but we share an "esprit d'équipe" and we speak the same language. I appreciate very much his collaboration and hard work.

Trade has an impact on the environment and the economy and depending on how it is managed can promote or weaken sustainable development. We need to ensure that trade bolsters sustainable development for the greater good for the people of the Americas and indeed for the people of the greater world. This is far more than personal rhetoric for me; it is a personal conviction. While governments continue to ensure greater equity and respect for human rights, I do not agree that trade and capitalization are the problem. Greater openness to trade increases wealth, encourages values that promote democracy and enhances respect for human rights. But it is hard to deny that capitalists have an effect on the environment. In my 1999 book, The New Politics of Confidence, I express my conviction in today's environmental movement. I still submit that trade is a valuable tool for social advancement, but we are obliged to consider the interaction between trade and the environment.

First, let us consider the importance of trade, which is impossible to overstate: 45% of our gross domestic product, up dramatically from 25% in 1990. We moved up in exports, too: every day Canada does $2.5 billion dollars' worth in two-way trade with the rest of the world. In this hemisphere, things are equally impressive. Since NAFTA was implemented seven years ago, trade among Canada, Mexico and the U.S. has grown too.

Canada exports nearly $6 billion annually in goods and services to the rest of the Americas. Canada stands to benefit from the FTAA, which will be the largest free trade zone in the world. Its potential defies the imagination, as do the opportunities it offers. If we were to content ourselves solely with the commercial rewards, we would ignore the biggest benefit: the general improvement of society for the good of all citizens.

Trade growth is a legitimate and desirable objective, but it should not be the sole objective. Increased trade helps us to achieve other objectives: a clean environment, improved health services, improved education. In other words, it creates a better way of life for us and for those living elsewhere. One of the key roles Canada plays in the FTAA negotiations is to promote the values we hold dear. After all, the most important things that Canada can share and export are its values. Ever since Lester Pearson created the UN peacekeepers, Canadian values have been recognized and admired around the world. My former colleague Lloyd Axworthy's impressive work in pursuit of a treaty on landmines is another more recent example of the influence of Canadian values on global governance. ...

In the case of this strategy, we must reinforce the ties between trade and the protection of the environment.

Thanks to the negotiations, the environmental impacts will be considered from the very beginning of the negotiations. This new style of globalization will apply to future accords both bilateral and regional.

Another element of our department's commitment is our effort to promote corporate environmental responsibility. The third corporate responsibility is for corporations to ensure the safety of their workers while protecting the environment, eliminating corruption and respecting human rights. Last June I endorsed the OECD's guidelines, a framework of voluntary standards and principles that we developed with a wide range of civil society organizations. Canada also supports on the global compact to call on business leaders to accept nine broadly accepted rules and principles. We are hopeful that leaders will agree on a hemispheric dialogue on corporate social responsibility.

Our efforts are reflected in the Export Development Corporation, and we are establishing a mechanism to provide information and guidance to the EDC on human rights and development. I have asked the EDC to provide more support to the corporate sector in providing goods and expertise to other countries.

Canada is working on many levels to support sustainable development, e.g., at the WTO as well as through UNEP in support of strengthening international environment organizations. We are providing financial support to WTO and UNEP for capacity building seminars in Latin America and the Caribbean. We established a round table under Canada-Chile cooperation agreement, and it meets every two months to discuss issues such as environmental aspects of trade negotiations.

The decision to release the text of the FTAA was not the only encouraging development out of Buenos Aires. Let me quote from the official communiqué so you get a sense of the strong commitment, just from the trade ministers:

We reiterate that the negotiation of the FTAA will continue to take into account the broad social and economic agenda contained in the Miami and Santiago Declarations and Plans of Action with a view to contributing to raising living standards, improving the working conditions of all people in the Americas and better protecting the environment. We reiterate that one of our general objectives is to strive to make our trade liberalization and environmental policies mutually supportive, taking into account work undertaken by the World Trade Organization and other international organizations, and to further secure, in accordance with our respective laws and regulations, the observance and promotion of worker rights, renewing our commitment to the observance of internationally recognized core labor standards, and acknowledging that the International Labour Organization is the competent body to set and deal those core labor standards.

When we talk about supporting environment policies, we have come a long way from the trade discussions of the past. I am also happy that the process goes a long way toward including civil society. Our government has remained in contact with civil society organizations. The trade ministers of the Americas renewed their commitment and asked their officials to establish a dialogue with civil society organizations, so clearly they are seen to contribute actively. As we are engaged in developing the ties between trade and the environment, I am confident in that coherent environmental and social policies are complementary. We are dedicated to creating prosperity, enforcing democracy and increasing participation. Canada is the best proof: we have a strong economy and a stable society.

I would like to leave you with these thoughts: you are the experts in your fields and have come here days before a landmark summit. You are in an ideal position to help shape the agenda of the Americas on how trade can advance sustainable development. As the government leaders prepare to take part, they would benefit greatly if this symposium produced concrete, practical recommendations that would lead to win-win-win solutions. I also ask that you reflect on what civil society and the private sector can do to ensure sustainable development and trade. Think about how to build on existing building sustainable mining initiatives, for example, and how we can encourage effective forest management. Your work here can make a difference. You can help the Americas become a better place. As I wrote in my book, today's decisions involve the relationships among states, individuals and societies as well as our relationships with the rest of the world and with future generations.

All Contents Copyright © 2000-2001 University of Toronto unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.