Strengthening Ontario and Japan's Economic Ties
Remarks to the CCCJ, June 28, 2006
Reading about Japan doesn't do justice to really being here. The numbers tell you that Japan has a larger GDP than any other country in Asia, and it's the world's second largest economy. But you have to come here to really appreciate Japan's dynamic business culture.
The whole world comes here to do business. People embrace technology and strive to stay at the cutting edge. Japan is an innovative powerhouse, one that seizes every opportunity. That's what I would like to speak about today's opportunity.
I'd like to tell you about how we're building opportunity for our people in Ontario. I'd like to talk about how Japanese companies are finding opportunities in Ontario. And I want to discuss how we can explore new opportunities, together.
One of the things I will be stressing here in Japan is that our government is working to create opportunity in Ontario so that people can find success. That's good for Ontario, and it's good for our trading and investment partners because when we increase opportunity in Ontario, we create more opportunities for trade and investment.
We've already built a province that's the economic engine of Canada. Ontario produces about 40 percent of Canada's GDP. Our economy is over one-tenth the size of Japan's, but we know we have to keep investing in our future to continue building prosperity.
Ontario understands, as Japan understands, that a well-educated, highly skilled workforce is the competitive edge of the 21st century. So, we're investing heavily in our people. We're creating smaller class sizes in our schools so students can get individual attention. And we've introduced new legislation that will require students to keep learning, at least until age 18, in a classroom, apprenticeship or workplace training program. This legislation would replace the existing law, which allows young people to drop out of school at age 16.
And we're investing $6.2 billion in our universities, colleges, student financial assistance and training programs. We're making sure more people have access to a post-secondary education, and we're improving the quality of the education they receive when they get there.
Ontario, like Japan, is not shying away from the world economy. We're embracing it. We're pursuing investment and trade throughout the world. And that's the second topic I would like to discuss, how Japanese companies are finding opportunity in Ontario.
As many of you know, Ontario's auto industry is our largest manufacturing sector.
Japan has a strong presence'and we have worked to make it even stronger. When our government was elected, we launched an automotive investment strategy. We knew that modernizing this key industry was essential to Ontario's future prosperity.
Just two years later, we have used that strategy to generate almost $7 billion in new investment. In 2004, Ontario took the lead in North American auto production. I was there in October when Toyota broke ground on Ontario's first new greenfield site in almost 20 years. That will create 2,000 jobs. Honda Canada will begin building an integrated facility in Alliston.
In total, there are hundreds of Japanese companies finding opportunity in Ontario, and helping our people find success. Thousands of Ontarians have found jobs thanks to Japanese investment. It's a strong vote of confidence in our people and our province. Ontario is investing in the skills of our people. Ontario is innovating. And our universal health care system gives us a leg up on many of our regional competitors.
We're also emerging as a leader in advanced manufacturing. We recently launched a $500-million Advanced Manufacturing Investment Strategy to help manufacturers develop cutting-edge technologies. It provides repayable loans that are interest free for up to five years. We want to use strategic investments like these to partner with others who are just as forward thinking. Just as innovative.
This leads me to my third topic, how we can build opportunity, together. Ontario and Japan already have a great trading and investment relationship. Two-way trade in goods between Ontario and Japan totalled $9.6 billion in 2005, up from $8.3 billion in 2004.
Last year, Ontario exports to Japan grew by over 12 percent and Ontario's share of Canadian exports to Japan have increased from six percent to 12 percent in the last decade. But we can do better.
Even though there's a lot of attention being paid today to emerging economies like Brazil, India and China, Japan is an important partner. It has a massive market, hard-working people, well-developed infrastructure and lots of business expertise.
That's why we're going to officially open Ontario's new international office at the Canadian Embassy here in Tokyo. We want a presence in this vital market and financial centre. Our success in building opportunity together comes down to our people. And that's where we have so much potential to explore.
Japanese businesses invest all over the world. It makes me proud that they choose Ontario. Ontario is a place with a strong work ethic, a talented workforce and great communities.
One of the messages I'm delivering in meetings here is that Ontario recognizes just how much our Japanese partners mean to us. Japanese companies are contributing generously to the overall quality of life in our province. These investments have helped revitalize smaller communities that were losing young people to larger centres. Japanese companies don't just choose factory locations, they choose communities and they add to the quality of life.
In Ontario, Japanese people also contribute to the diversity that makes our province strong. Ontario is home to about 30,000 people of Japanese descent. I understand there are a number of Japanese community language schools operating in Ontario today. That means more Japanese families living in Ontario are finding a warm welcome and a great new home.
Ontario celebrates its diversity. That makes Ontario the place to be, for people from all over the world. Our people speak every language, embrace every culture and understand every market. Our cultural and business ties with Japan have strengthened our partnership. But there's more work to do.
We have to keep building opportunity. We have to create opportunity together so both our peoples can find success. We need to show commitment, because we're building a long-term partnership. We need a presence, and our international marketing office here in Japan will deliver the message that Ontario is open for business.
And we need to work together. People like you work every day to build business between Japan and Ontario. We want to hear your ideas and your goals so our government can look for ways to help.
And I have a special request for those of you who work today in Japan, but call Ontario your home: our government will keep working to strengthen Ontario's economic advantage, but we need you to tell your peers in Japan and the world over why Ontario is a great place to live, work and invest. You can create the partnerships we need to create real benefits for people in Ontario and Japan.
I know that, working with you, we can do all of that, together. Together, we can compete and win in the world economy so that people in Japan and Ontario can reach their dreams and find success.