Keynote speech at the Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum
Thank you, Julie and Bob, for welcoming me here today and helping organize this Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum.
I know this is the first meeting since February of 2020 and the world looks quite different now than it did back then. We've lived through a pandemic that resulted in millions of lives lost and the greatest global economic contraction since the Great Depression. Supply chains were disrupted, and as demand rebounded, they struggled to get back up to speed, driving up the price of goods around the world. War has returned to Europe and Putin is weaponizing food and energy, further increasing global inflation. Authoritarianism is on the rise, seeking to destabilize the peace and prosperity that generations have benefited from.
So the world is facing incredible uncertainty, but something that hasn't changed are the connections between Canada and Australia. We share a history as Commonwealth countries and as Westminster parliamentary systems, as democracies and as Pacific nations. And as two resource rich countries, we share a common future. Canada and Australia have the resources and energy that a net-zero world will need, and we cannot understate the urgency of building that clean economy.
The impacts of climate change are having devastating consequences on people and on our economies. Canada is currently facing its worst wildfire season on record. As I was speaking with the two ministers earlier, Mark and Kristy, they pointed… they reminded me that Australia has had a devastating brush fire season just a few years ago. And right now, fires are particularly bad in British Columbia, which is also facing a historic drought.
Firefighters have been going full speed since spring, and I want to once again thank Australia for sending specialist firefighters to provide so much help and support. Sadly, we lost two of our own last week, people who put themselves in harm's way to keep others safe, and we need to remember and honour their service and their sacrifice.
And as the impacts of climate change become more and more apparent, we have to take action. We need to make investments that build a cleaner economy and cut pollution. And that's what Canada's been doing since 2015. Economically speaking, and as us ice hockey players say, Canada saw where the puck was going with climate change, and the trillions of dollars of global investment that we’re lining up to build the clean economy.
To help drive market-based solutions, we put a predictable price on pollution which is spurring innovation and giving certainty to businesses and investors, all while putting money back in families’ pockets. We're also working with industry to decarbonize and making investments in clean tech, and we have powerful tax incentives that position Canada to be a clean energy powerhouse.
All these policies build on the Canadian advantage that is our natural resources, our diverse supportive communities and our strong middle class. But we know that reducing pollution is a global problem that requires global solutions, and that in order to build a robust, clean economy with great jobs, we need to work with like-minded partners who see the same opportunities in this future as we do. Partners who not only understand the economic potential but who are committed to creating this future in a way that is sustainable and equitable; partners like Australia.
This is more important than ever, the pandemic, the invasion of Ukraine and evolving geopolitical tensions have exposed strategic vulnerabilities in our economies. Russia is using energy and grain exports as leverage in its illegal war. China is restricting access to markets. More than ever, we need resilient supply chains, stable trading relationships and strong ties with partners who align with us on values.
A few months ago, Canada unveiled our Indo-Pacific strategy. One of its key objectives is to deepen our friendships and promote stability in the region. This is the fastest growing economic region in the world, with a growing middle class and increasing demand for goods that Canada can supply.
With our Indo-Pacific strategy, we are positioning ourselves to seize opportunities in the region, while also promoting our values. And no matter who we partner with, we have to ensure that our own standards for the environment, labour and human rights are respected. As a democracy in the region, Australia shares this view.
As a close democratic ally. Australia is one of the most important partners in the region and in the world, and I know we're both working to establish and promote responsible business standards. The work we're doing in partnership with Indigenous peoples and our commitment to economic reconciliation is an important part of this, and it's not something that every country does. Because certainly, there are countries that are producing these resources and inputs in ways that are cheaper in terms of dollars and cents, but the real cost is too often environmental degradation, low labour standards and even human rights violations.
We all have to stop ignoring the lessons of the past. You don't arrive at real responsible long-term solutions if you accept shortcuts. At COP15 in Montreal last December, Australia helped us co-found the Sustainable Critical Minerals Alliance. For the first time, major economies – namely Canada, Australia, the United States, Germany, France, the UK and Japan – came together to commit to mining and developing critical minerals in a way that protects nature, respects Indigenous rights and is low emissions.
We've bound ourselves together in a common interest, moving beyond competition to cooperation, because we know the demand is more than there for the coming years and we want to work together to meet that need responsibly in a way that respects and upholds our values. See, in the global race to build a net-zero economy, the world is rushing for access to the critical minerals that Australia and Canada have, but we need to act fast to meet the demand for major projects. When I talk about this, I mean everything from a critical minerals mining project to a wind farm that produces hydrogen. Investors want to come to Canada, but we know they need regulatory certainty. They need a transparent and predictable system.
And the work we've done to bring Indigenous partners in from the start when assessing projects is therefore not just the right thing to do, but the smart thing to do. And frankly, previous governments that overlooked the importance of consulting not only made the wrong choice because they turned their back on working in partnership, but it led to many costly and needless delays as projects got bogged down in the courts.
Over the past year, we have made investments to increase the capacity of our agencies to evaluate projects and ensure they meet our rigorous standards: whether in terms of environmental protection, our commitment to Indigenous peoples, or economic development. And on top of our generous investment tax credits, we’re adding incentives to adhere to high labour standards. Because it’s essential that unions and workers be part of the equation.
Because at the end of the day, we have to remember that everything is all about people. Fighting climate change is about protecting people, it's about creating a strong economy that has great jobs for workers, now and for the decades to come. It's about building an economy that is sustainable, that is profitable, and that creates opportunities for everyone, no matter where they live. Workers are at the center and at the heart of our economy. We cannot forget that real wealth is created in mines, in factories, in research facilities. It's created by people working hard and bringing their best to the job every day.
Right now, the world is a scary place. And in this critical moment, we need to ask ourselves who is really best positioned to succeed? Those who exploit workers? Those who pollute? The authoritarians who power their economies by indebting emerging economies? No. See, when you buy Canadian or Australian, you can count on the high standards we maintain at home, and that's not a disadvantage; that's now our competitive edge.
Canada has secured several major trade deals since 2015 and we fought to include high standards in each of these cases. Look at CETA with Europe, at the new NAFTA and of course, at the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership – the CPTPP – which both Canada and Australia are a part of. Putting labour, environmental and other protections on trade deals not only stops the race to the bottom, it puts the pressure on a race to the top.
Through our work with like-minded partners, we're building a global market for resources and energy developed with the highest standards. By living up to our values at home and abroad, we're not just increasing prosperity; we're strengthening democracy. Because for democracy to be healthy, people need to see a future for themselves, a future they believe in, that they want to build and that they want to protect, and we can't take that for granted ever again. We saw what happened in 2008 and its aftermath.
See, for too long, people abided by the ideologies of deregulation, trade liberalization and unbridled globalization, believing that it would create a rising tide that would lift all boats. Corporations did well, but jobs for the middle class went overseas and weren't replaced. And after 2008, when GDP started to rise again, wages stayed stagnant. Inequality rose and a lot of hard-working people were getting left behind. The middle class was getting hollowed out and people were growing disillusioned.
There is real economic pain out there and unfortunately, there are those who want to exploit it without real solutions to ease people's economic anxieties. They want to rile people up. They want to amplify anger even further for their own advantage and drive voters towards populism and protectionism. They say everything is broken and they talk about burning it all down, but in a moment like this, in a moment as consequential and transformative as this, the world is calling for serious leadership.
I know those of you in this room understand that, because I've spoken about these challenges with your Prime Minister and my friend, Anthony Albanese, many times. He is tackling these problems in a thoughtful and responsible way. Just last week, I saw him at NATO, we had a few calls a few weeks before that. On everything from understanding how important this forum is and how he was really hoping that I'd be here to meet with two of his strong ministers who he was sending, about how the partnerships that we have on everything from defending democracy around the world and the values that underpin it allow for that stability and the opportunities, or how we work together on critical minerals to make sure that we are being consequential in our approach to the world.
For too long, we accepted that even though we lived in democracies with robust protections for workers and for the environment, we accepted that inputs, necessary inputs into those democracies came from places that relied on authoritarian governments that did not protect their workers or their resources or their environment. We have to be consequential through and through, that's the message we're hearing clearly all around the world from emerging economies. And that's where leaning forward with high standards on resources to match the high standards that consumers are increasingly demanding in what they choose to spend their money on is an advantage we face, not a disadvantage, when we look at low-cost production and resource economies.
That's where this partnership with Australia is so important. That's why I am so glad to see so much of Team Canada and Team Australia here today, no matter what partisan stripes we wear or what order of government we work in. Canada, Australia and the world need leadership in both government and business that understands the complexity of the challenges we face and comes to the table ready to build 21st century solutions.
A really good example is Sayona, which I visited this spring. Sayona’s parent company, which manages a lithium and graphite production project in Canada, is headquartered in Brisbane. It’s an Australian investor who sees Canada’s enormous potential to meet the global demand for electrification. From mining to refining to manufacturing, Canada has the expertise to do it all.
But it's not just Australian companies like Sayona – which is a great promising lithium project here – that see the potential in Canada, it's also what Volkswagen saw when they chose Canada as the location of their first-ever overseas battery manufacturing gigafactory. But a thing worth noting is that it's not just the raw materials and investment climate that are drawing in global investors, our government worked hard to get the Volkswagen deal, but the leaders of the company made clear that it was the reputation and strength of our workers that sealed the deal.
And we cannot forget that part of what makes our workers so reliable is the social infrastructure and education systems that we've put in place. Programs like health care, dental care and child care create stability, support our workers and create the conditions for strong, inclusive economic growth. And don’t just listen to me say it, let’s look at the facts. Since Canada started rolling out affordable child care across the country over the past couple of years, women's economic participation has reached an all-time high.
We had one of the strongest jobs recoveries in the world after the pandemic, and our unemployment rate remains near historic lows. Canada is now the fastest growing country in the G7, number one in terms of population, and number two only to the U.S. in terms of economic growth, with our inflation down to 2.8%, as this morning's numbers tell us.
Since 2015, we've worked hard to diversify our economy and are seeing Canada lead in high-growth sectors like quantum computing, robotics and AI. Our strong social safety net is drawing in global talent and crowding in global investment, and we're making strategic investments to drive clean innovation and provide clean energy so we can meet the demands of the growing Indo-Pacific and a European continent hurrying to unwind its dependence on Russian fossil fuels.
Canada is ready to be the reliable supplier of energy that the world needs, and we're ready to work with partners, public and private, who want to be a part of this. The world is looking for leadership. And when I look across this horizon and across this room, I can see Australia is ready, too. You are a like-minded partner and friend striving for higher standards, and together we can meet this moment.
And I know you have many more sessions today, but I want to leave you with a closing thought. In this highly uncertain time, we all need to recognize that economic policy is security policy, is climate policy, is social policy. In this highly interconnected world, we can no longer operate in silos, we must take in the full measure of everything we do.
It's not just about being a reliable ally, it's about knowing that what happens here – the extraction, the processing, the manufacturing and trade of essential ingredients in our economy of the future – is happening by workers who get paid well. Where environmental consequences are thought through. Where partnerships with Indigenous peoples are integrated into our way of doing things, and where we're building a robust trade network focused on like-minded partners.
Now is the time for leadership that sees these challenges and seizes the opportunities they present, and I know that's what we're all gathered here together to do.
Thank you, my friends.
Thank you very much.