Back To Top
National

‘Canada, Korea are partners in cutting-edge innovation’

As some nations race to the bottom of protectionism, Canada is rising to the top of economic integration and technological innovation by harnessing strategic partnerships worldwide, including the one with Korea, according to the country’s international trade minister.

Francois-Philippe Champagne, who has helmed the ministry of international trade since January, stressed that fostering comprehensive partnerships between Canada and Korea was essential to ensuring the sustainability of businesses and societies.

“As a Pacific nation, Canada is especially focused on increasing its trade and investment ties with countries in the Asia and Asia-Pacific region,” he said at a breakfast seminar organized by the Canadian Embassy in Seoul on Wednesday. 

Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

Highlighting the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement that came into force at the beginning of 2015 -- Canada’s first with an Asia-Pacific country -- the businessman-turned-bureaucrat argued the deal would “create thousands of jobs in both countries, boost our economies and increase exports.”

“The accord has also raised our economic partnership to a new level, generating new opportunities and fostering innovative partnerships,” he added.

Champagne came to Korea to promote Canada’s progressive trade agenda as part of his Asia tour, which included visits to Vietnam, Singapore and Japan. He promoted Canada’s wood and forestry sector in Seoul.

The minister has over 20 years of experience at major financial companies worldwide as a businessman and lawyer, and was named the Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

In his congratulatory message to newly elected President Moon Jae-in, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pledged to deepen the bilateral relations on the basis of a strategic partnership. “Canada and Korea are important commercial partners with a modern free trade agreement and work together towards common goals in multilateral fora,” Trudeau said.

By pursuing a liberal trade policy of boosting job creation, innovation and inclusive growth, the Canadian government is committed to trickling down benefits of trade to all segments of society, particularly the middle class, the minister argued.

Technology and innovation are important drivers of economic growth in today’s rapidly changing world, he explained, adding that Ottawa and Seoul were taking “decisive steps” to become leaders in science and engineering.

In this year’s national budget, the Canadian government has introduced the Innovation and Skills Plan, which aims to transform the country into a world-leading hub of innovation and entrepreneurialism creating high-paying, high-quality jobs.

Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (right) and Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh (left) pose at a signing ceremony marking a strategic investment plan between Phantom Intelligence and Sungwoo Hitech at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
Canadian Minister of International Trade Francois-Philippe Champagne (right) and Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh (left) pose at a signing ceremony marking a strategic investment plan between Phantom Intelligence and Sungwoo Hitech at the Canadian Embassy in Seoul. (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

The Canada-Korea Science, Technology and Innovation Agreement, signed by Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh and Korean Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se in December last year, entered into force in mid-May, with each government providing up to $1 million annually for joint industrial research and development projects in science and technology.

Many strategic areas of interest overlap between the two economies, Champagne expounded, citing automotive, energy and sustainable technology, advanced manufacturing, health and life sciences and information and computer technology sectors.

SK Planet -- a South Korean e-commerce company part of the SK Group -- will open an office in Toronto in the near future. Sumagen, a Korean life science firm, has developed an HIV vaccine in London, Ontario, while Montreal’s Pharmascience has a joint venture with Komar Korea, an enterprise developing and selling bio-equivalent medicines.

Phantom Intelligence -- a Quebec-based company specializing in lidar, a sensor technology used in self-driving cars -- has provided its lidar evaluation units to Korean automotive parts manufacturers over the last two years.

Ottawa is encouraging investment in green technology and artificial intelligence, the minister highlighted. 

Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne (center), Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh (left) and employees of companies Phantom Intelligence and Sungwoo Hitech pose following a signing ceremony marking a strategic investment plan at the Canadian Embassy (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)
Canadian International Trade Minister Francois-Philippe Champagne (center), Canadian Ambassador to Korea Eric Walsh (left) and employees of companies Phantom Intelligence and Sungwoo Hitech pose following a signing ceremony marking a strategic investment plan at the Canadian Embassy (Joel Lee/The Korea Herald)

“When it comes to clean technology, Canada is creating quality jobs for people while also helping meet our climate mitigation targets,” he said, adding the government will allocate over $1 billion over the next four years to support clean technology, encompassing the natural resources sectors.

The Canadian government budget has proposed a $125 million funding to launch a Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The initiative will pool in related centers of excellence in Toronto, Waterloo, Montreal and Edmonton.

“Canada’s access to key global markets makes us an excellent platform for plugging into global value chains,” Champagne asserted, mentioning the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union, currently under a provisional application.

Canada enjoys preferential access to North American and EU markets with a combined GDP of over $41 trillion and nearly 1 billion consumers, he added.

Turning to vibrant people-to-people links between the two nations -- with nearly 200,000 ethnic Koreans living in Canada and some 25,000 Canadians in Korea -- Champagne applauded them for solidifying the bilateral relationship.

By Joel Lee (joel@heraldcorp.com)
MOST POPULAR