Canada and Israel – Ample reasons to be optimistic

Israel and Canada are on the right track, generating more business and breaking the status quo along the way.

I have visited Israel many times but this is my first trip as Canada’s minister of international trade diversification. As a descendant of Jewish immigrants to Canada, I feel a tremendous sense of pride in what has been accomplished in building a modern, secure and thriving Israel. As Canada’s first Jewish minister with an international focus, I am equally proud of the partnership between our two countries, one that continues to deepen with each passing year.

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When Economy Minister Eli Cohen traveled to Canada this year to sign our modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement (CIFTA), we built on that partnership. We committed to a new and forward-looking framework for trade that expanded meaningful access to each other’s markets and introduced chapters on gender, labor, environmental protections, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises. 

As my counterpart, Minister Cohen said at the time, “We are witnessing a historic step in the trade relations between the two countries with the signing of the upgraded agreement.” In some respects, Minister Cohen was a little understated. Together, we expanded market access for more Canadians and Israelis, but we also pushed the envelope by writing new international law, putting an end to inequality of access to job-creating trade and investment.

The chapters we have written demonstrate that trade need not come at the expense of our shared commitment to grow and protect our respective workforces or our environments. On the contrary, these chapters are explicitly about growing trade and expanding the pie. 

There is enormous untapped economic potential, but for too long we have focused on the few and not the many. We must encourage more of these would-be exporters to get in the game, and these chapters show workers and their families that trade can work for them.

Israel is clearly thinking longer term to future-proof its own economy, taking full advantage of its entrepreneurial spirit to develop a hi-tech industry and to promote clean technologies. Israelis have every right to be proud of the initiatives launched by the Israel Innovation Authority to drive public-sector innovation. And we see room to expand Canadian-Israeli business partnerships in this arena.

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We have done something similar in Canada. The Canadian government is investing $950 million in five innovation super-clusters in artificial intelligence, digital technology, manufacturing, ocean-based industries and agriculture. This investment will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the private sector. Hundreds of private sector firms are involved, and I am pleased that Israel has already expressed an interest in engaging with us on this initiative. 

WE HAVE also created a single-window investment engine, “Invest in Canada,” designed to leverage our core economic strengths through a nimble and streamlined approach to investment attraction. The inaugural chair is a name well-known to many Canadians and Israelis.  Mitch Garber is revered for his significant experience leading international corporations like Cirque de Soleil, an iconic Canadian brand.

Together we are creating more economic linkages between our democracies to strengthen the people to people ties that have always served as the bedrock of our fundamental friendship and partnership. 

Industry leaders in Canada and Israel have developed a surgical training tool that recreates the sense of touch for surgeons operating remotely. Canadian and Israeli firms have joined forces to develop an ultraviolet water-monitoring system that ensures the safety of drinking water. And there are even more possibilities on the horizon that will change countless lives in communities across the globe. 

Now we need to give life to our agreement by taking advantage of the two-way trade between our knowledge-based, innovation-driven economies. With our expanded air transportation agreement, we need more travel between our two countries and the flights to support it. 

There are ample reasons to be optimistic about our future, and to continue to knit our economies ever more closely together. Not only does working together support economic prosperity and job creation in both countries, it raises the international bar for the rules-based, inclusive and forward-leaning trading order on which economies like ours depend.  

We need more partnerships in the world that reflect the approach we have taken together. We need to create the conditions for small and medium-sized businesses to compete and succeed because they are the lifeblood of both of our economies.

Going about the business of trade differently is not just about exporting values, it is about adding value to our respective bottom lines. Our modernized trade agreement is an example of what happens when two governments decide to put the middle class at the heart of their trade agendas. 

The Honorable Jim Carr is Canada’s minister of international trade diversification and a dedicated business and community leader in Winnipeg for more than 30 years. He was a musician and a journalist before entering public life in 1988. In 2015, he was elected as a Member of Parliament, and in the same year was appointed Minister of Natural Resources. In 2018 he became minister for international trade diversification. He will be in the region from September 2-6.

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