Dear Minister Fast,

After almost a decade of discussions, the Government of Canada is at last within reach of a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with South Korea. As you enter the final stages of the negotiations, I want to underscore why, in the view of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, the Canada-Korea FTA is a pivotal agreement for Canada.

First, South Korea is one of the world’s fastest-growing advanced economies – a top 10 exporter and importer and a center for innovation. A comprehensive Canada-Korea FTA would strengthen the ability of Canadian companies to sell Canadian-made products and services to Korean consumers and to participate in Korean-based supply chains.

Second, a Canada-Korea FTA would represent a watershed in Canada’s efforts to build closer economic ties with the broader Asia-Pacific region. It would demonstrate to other Asian emerging and developed economies that Canada is a reliable and serious partner, and provide a base from which Canadian companies could improve their access to other fast-growing markets.

Third, an FTA with South Korea would help Canada close the gap with other major developed economies. The United States, the European Union and Australia have already concluded agreements with South Korea. These agreements have eroded Canada’s competitive position and reduced Canadian firms’ market presence. Without a high-quality agreement that is commensurate with the deals achieved by other nations, we will be left further behind.

The way forward for Canada’s economy lies in diversifying our trade and expanding exports to high-growth regions. Protectionism in any form undermines Canada’s long-term interests.

Though important, an FTA with Korea must be a means to an end, not an end in itself. Ensuring that such an agreement lives up to its job-creating potential will require aggressive promotion of Canadian firms in diverse sectors – including agri-food, energy, services and manufacturing – and increased resources for Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. Investigation and enforcement of trade rules must proceed in lock-step with measures to eliminate trade barriers.

To sustain a high quality of life for its citizens, Canada must strive to be the best place in the world in which to locate and grow a business. This in turn demands that we seize new sources of export growth and opportunities for expanded international trade and investment. As you work to conclude an ambitious and comprehensive economic agreement with South Korea, you have my full support.

Yours sincerely,

The Honourable John Manley