Hon. Monique Landry (Minister for External Relations):
Mr. Speaker, I am eager to share with the House what I have seen and experienced during the past couple of weeks as I travelled in China and Thailand. I say "eager" because I believe our relationship with the new Asia, which is emerging with astonishing speed, is crucial to our mutual interests.
After visiting several parts of Asia and a series of development co-operation projects in which Canada is involved, I am very pleased to say I was given tangible proof of the effectiveness of our development aid. The projects in which Canada is involved are having a definite impact.
Last week during my visit to Thailand, I signed several agreements aimed at promoting co-operation in major sectors between our two countries. For instance, Canada will provide a grant of $5 million to help the women of Thailand participate to a greater extent in the development of their country. These funds will enable them to initiate income-generating activities, open small businesses, have access to credit and receive leadership training.
Other agreements concern the funding of Canadian goods and services; scholarships for Thai students who want to pursue post-secondary studies in Canada in crucial areas such as energy and food production; and opening up new areas for co-operation such as food processing, air traffic control and environmental protection.
I visited the Champthai factory, an example of a joint venture involving a Canadian company, Champion Road Machinery of Goderich, Ontario and a Thai company. I visited a centre for remote sensing which is receiving technical assistance from Canadian companies in Montreal and Vancouver.
I was profoundly affected by my visit to a school for the blind, where fantastic work is being done.
I also went to Northeast Thailand, the country's poorest region, where I visited rural development projects funded by Canada. However, what struck me most was the way the relationship between our two countries has changed. There is so much vitality and growth everywhere in Thailand, and there are so many positive aspects for Canada that we can no longer properly speak of a donor-beneficiary relationship. These terms reflect a dependence that is no longer significant.
I can report that the same is true, but on a larger scale, in our relationship with China. It was a great privilege to spend 10 days in the world's most populous nation as a representative of the Canadian Government. It was a very productive 10 days, indeed. There were meetings with Deng Xiaoing, China's elder statesman, with the President, the Prime Minister and other officials at the highest level.
In following up on the Prime Minister's commitment of last year, I was able to announce, as Minister responsible for CIDA, 11 new projects of development co-operation to a value of over $90 million in such fields as management education, municipal planning and linkages at the college and university level. I was happy with the focus of our existing program, which The Globe and Mail has described as aimed at people and knowledge. I am particularly pleased to report that we have also taken some early initiatives in the important and promising fields of transportation and telecommunications.
There were many highlights. On one occasion I met with representatives of one of our development partners, the AllChina Women's Federation, doubtless the world's largest such organization with 93 million members. On another occasion I travelled by boat on the Yangtze to the site of the proposed Three Gorges Complex where the river, the hills and the mists truly speak to the soul. However, this spot is also where China is contemplating building a power complex with a capacity greater than the entire James Bay Development. The proposed project would also control floods and extend river navigation. We can be proud that China has entrusted a Canadian consortium with the carrying out of the feasibility study. We can only assist China, in its great wisdom, to make this crucial decision about its future.
There are two further observations I would like to offer. The first concerns Asia in general. Asia is changing fast-much faster, 1 fear, than our Canadian ideas and attitudes about
April 2, 1987
Statements by Ministers
Asian reality. The fact is that Asia with immense needs, pent up demand, a large and growing middle class and huge human and material resources, will become the mainstream, the centre of gravity of the global economy in the very near future-likely by the turn of the century, less than 5,000 days from now. It will have the world's largest, most diverse and, perhaps, most modern industrial capacity. This means that our relationship with Asia will be utterly transformed.
In reality, of course, transformations do not happen overnight-they are already well advanced. Some of us gained that insight when we recently saw Canadian communities vying for investment by Japanese and Korean car makers. But I am very concerned that Canadian perceptions are lagging dangerously far behind the fast pace of change. How many of us have looked recently at GNP per capita figures and noticed how Asian countries have begun to surpass those in Europe? At current growth rates for per capita income Taiwan and Korea will be richer than the United States four decades from now.
The point I want to make is that if Canadians want a strategy for success, whether we are talking about government, business or Canadians in general, they had better realize that, especially in Asia, the old game is over and a quite different one is under way with new roles and new rules. It is important for Canada as a whole to understand the new reality so that our country can make major adjustments, economically, politically and psychologically.
One of the aspects of this new reality is the fact that we need China more than it needs us. A look at the total volume of our exports in 1985 reveals that China accounted for 3.4 per cent, whereas Canada was the origin of only 1.6 per cent of Chinese imports. At that time, we turned a new page of Canadian economic history when, for the first time, a larger volume of our exports went to the Pacific region instead of crossing the Atlantic.
If we expect Canada to prosper as a major trading nation we must gain a very clear insight into worldwide economic events and do everything we can to cultivate our ties with Asia. We must establish a long-term economic and institutional relationship.
More subjective, my second remark has to do with the state of our relations with Asia and the way the Government approachesThis significant aspect of our external relations. In this respect I can say that our relations are excellent and that the Government is taking decisive action to strengthen these ties with Asia well into the XXIth century. Everywhere I went I was struck by the people's warm and friendly reception.
Although Canada does not rank high in terms of population, our impact in China is much more important than most of us would imagine. Our reputation over there is practically second to none. The name of Dr. Bethune was on everyone's lips.
I also believe that their attitude towards us is due in part to the deep respect which Canada has always shown for China and its priorities. Indeed, the same things goes for Thailand.
By any means the Government does not neglect any opportunity to expand these ties. I have just returned from my visit over there with the Governor General. The Minister of Communications (Miss MacDonald) as well travelled to that country a few days ago, and recently there were other ministerial visits.
While in Asia I had the opportunity to sign a number of agreements for specific projects, thus moving our co-operation forward in keeping with, for instance, the commitments made last year by the Prime Minister (Mr. Mulroney). To further the process, Cabinet has now approved a strategy for China which reflects the importance Canada attaches to its relations with the Asia-Pacific region in general and with China in particular.
The strategy builds upon the major achievements since Canada's recognition of the People's Republic of China in 1970, especially the measures taken by the Government in the past two years, such as the opening of a consulate in Shanghai and the announcement by the Prime Minister when he visited Beijing last May that Canada is doubling its CIDA bilateral program and setting up a concessional financing facility. The strategy is designed to set an institutional framework for the building of a focused, orchestrated and dynamic approach to our relationship with China, a key political actor in Asia and Canada's fifth largest market in the world.
To conclude, Mr. Speaker, I wish to share with you a Thai tradition. When one gives alms to a monk it is then customary to thank the monk for accepting the gift. The truth is that Canada's participation in Asia's development is indeed enriching and benefiting Canada. Day by day the relationship between our country, and those of Asia, grows more balanced and becomes more mutually beneficial.
Subtopic: EXTERNAL RELATIONS
Sub-subtopic: MINISTER'S STATEMENT ON VISIT TO ASIA