Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks at the Element AI Office Launch Reception
Thank you, Jean-François, for your introduction, your vision and for being here this evening to celebrate, all together, this wonderful success.
Thank you very much, Minister, for your kind words, your thoughtful vision on AI, which is one, unsurprisingly, shared by Canada. There have been many wonderful things that we’ve been discussing over these past three days of this busy visit to Singapore. But two themes, for me, really came forward. One is the theme of trade. The second is the theme of transformation. On trade, there are probably not two countries in the world who share as much of a similar, positive vision on trade as Singapore and Canada. There’s no question they came from different perspectives. Canada needs trade because we’ve always had an over-abundance of natural resources. Singapore needs trade because it’s always had an under-abundance of natural resources. But the geographic position of Singapore has always made it a natural hub for connecting people and regions around the world and understanding deeply the benefits that come from trading more, from trading freer, from connecting broadly diverse people and products, bringing them together in a way that creates wealth and support for everyone.
Canada, with an over-abundance of natural resources, has always relied on trade because we’ve never had the domestic market large enough to be able to benefit fully from our natural resources; so whether it’s been fish and furs, back in history, or now, minerals and timber and energy resources, trade is something that we don’t have to work overly hard to convince people in Canada of the value of.
But, at the same time, we are at a time when there is anxiety about trade around the world. We’re seeing protectionist tendencies, and that’s why it’s so important for countries like Canada and Singapore to step up and lead the way in demonstrating two things: first of all, that trade is a key component in creating growth for our communities, for our citizens, for our countries, for our world, but that trade can also be of benefit not just to big multi-national country… companies’ or countries’ bottom line, but also good for innovators, start-ups, small businesses, and indeed, workers, families and consumers. And that’s the challenge that we’ve been facing over these past few years, and that’s where countries like Canada and Singapore have stepped up to sign progressive trade deals like the recently-ratified CPTPP, which is an extraordinary opportunity to bind together some of the fastest-growing economies of the world in a large pan-pacific alliance that is showcasing what trade can actually do to bring people together.
Canada’s particularly pleased because, despite the concerns and the rising protectionism we see in some parts of the world, we’ve managed to move forward not just with the CPTPP, not just with reasserting free trade with our closest neighbour and most important trading partner, the United States, but also moving forward with a historic trade deal with the European Union which actually puts Canada in the unique and enviable position of being the only G7 country with a free trade deal with every other G7 country and privileged access to almost two-thirds of the global economy. This is something we can all be very proud of, and continue to make a case for trade as being extremely important.
But if trade has been one of the sources of the anxiety that citizens are feeling around their future; their jobs, their kids’ jobs, the transformation of that economy, through technology, through innovation, is also a source of anxiety for people, and just as we have with trade, we’ve had to focus on allaying those fears and anxiety, and one of the things that has become almost a representative of the challenges to disruptive…disrupted work-forces is the advances in AI. And one might imagine that, seeing these transformations, these potential threats to jobs and careers that have been well-established, a country’s leadership might be tempted to say: “You know what? We’re going to protect what we have as long as possible. We’re going to defend the status quo and build barriers against this transformation that is so worrisome to so many people around the world. We’re going to protect you from the future.”
Well, that is a choice that some places around the world may be taking, but I can tell you, and it will be a reassurance for all of you here tonight to celebrate the opening of an AI office in Singapore, that that is not the position that Canada is taking, not the position that Singapore is taking, and indeed, not the position that anyone should be taking. As we see the transformation of the global economy, the transformation of the nature of work, the fourth industrial revolution, changes in the way we do things; and the way we operate as workplaces, but also as communities, we should instead challenge ourselves and our communities to be part of that transformation, indeed, to lead that transformation, and that’s exactly what Canada is doing on AI.
Over the past decades, we continued to invest in AI research even as other countries in the world went in different directions. And through visionary leadership of a number of Canadians who kept plugging away at deep learning, Canada has emerged from the AI winter as a global leader in AI, demonstrating an understanding and a level of solutions that the world is rapidly trying to get their hands on.
Fortunately, Canada has some extraordinary supports for AI. We’ve invested in an AI supercluster. We are drawing together extraordinary researchers from around the world in innovating and creating AI, but it’s not simply enough to recognize and support researchers. We know that for AI to succeed, like most scientific innovations, it takes multiple partnerships: researchers, government, and entrepreneurs, visionary business leaders who can look for the commercialization, look for the real tangible impacts and the ways AI is going to transform our supply chains, our operations and our logistics, and improve not just the outcomes of our work, but the very ways we work.
Canada knows that different approaches and, indeed, resilience and diversity come from having a broad range of perspectives. Creative solutions come when you bring people together from every corner of the world, from different backgrounds, from different stories, different experiences, and you toss them together to solve a really big intractable problem.
Indeed, that’s one of the things that has defined Canada’s success over the past decades, over the past generations. So we have stepped up in pulling people together and building partnerships around the world. That’s why we are so excited to be here today in Singapore to celebrate the opening of Element AI’s Singapore headquarters, which will be more than just a sales office, very much folding in research and connections, and drawing on the incredible business and trade know-how right here in Singapore to shape the impacts we can have in businesses here in the region and indeed, around the world.
This is the new perspective we are bringing on Canada, where trade is not just about selling primary resources, but it’s about recognizing that our greatest resource in Canada, and anywhere around the world, is our human resources, our people themselves. And our capacity to invest in education, in training, in research, in science and bring out the very best in people is what we are going to continue to do.
So, right now, in celebrating this moment, where we have a Canadian company that isn’t celebrating that it got bought out by a big multi-national, isn’t celebrating that it’s moving its headquarters to a larger, more important country, but instead, building a partnership in an important country around the world, reaching out and sharing Canadian knowledge, Canadian know-how, and drawing on the expertise around the world; and I can’t think of a better place to start than right here in Singapore.
It’s an incredible pleasure to be here tonight with you, Jean-Francois, and the entire Element AI team, to highlight the great things that Canada is doing, the great things that Singapore has been doing and mostly, the great things that happen when we all collaborate together!
Thanks very much, my friends, for being here this evening.
Thank you so much for being here tonight.
It’s a great celebration to be part of. Thank you.