Greg Rickford, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources, on developing ties between Malaysia and Canada

Greg Rickford, Canadian Minister of Natural Resources

Canada and Malaysia share more than half a century of friendship. It is a friendship that started in 1957 – the year Malaysia became independent and the year Canada became one of the first countries in the world to recognise Malaysian independence. In that same year, John Diefenbaker was the first Canadian Prime Minister to visit Malaysia. That spirit of friendship laid out by Diefenbaker continues to this day, with Governor General David Johnston’s trip in 2011 and Prime Minister Harper’s visit to Malaysia in 2013.

It is obvious why this relationship is so important for Canada. Canada-Malaysia trade today totals about $3bn annually. Malaysian companies are major investors in Canadian oil, gas and agriculture, while Canadian companies employ thousands of Malaysians. Last year, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak affirmed that Malaysia’s state-owned oil and gas company, Petronas, would invest up to $36bn in Canadian natural gas, creating jobs, growth and prosperity in both countries.

It is no wonder Malaysian investors are keenly interested in Canada. Our country is on the cusp of becoming a 21st century energy superpower. Canada has the third-largest proven oil reserves in the world, 173bn barrels right under our feet. With advances in technology, our oil sands could yield 315bn barrels. That would give us the biggest reserves in the world – more than Saudi Arabia, Venezuela or any other supplier. We also have 37trn cubic metres of marketable natural gas, enough to meet Canadians’ needs for 400 years.

There are once-in-a-lifetime investment opportunities available in Canada. But resource wealth, by itself, is not enough to secure prosperity. We need the power of the private sector to unlock our full potential. We need the right infrastructure to carry our energy products to international markets. The government has worked hard to foster a friendly investment climate here at home. KPMG recently ranked Canada one of the most business-friendly countries in the world, second only to Hong Kong. Taxes are at their lowest level in 50 years. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development and the International Monetary Fund have both confirmed that Canada will continue to be a leader in economic growth in the industrialised world.

As for infrastructure, Canada’s energy regulator has already approved Petronas’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export licence. Another 10 long-term natural gas export licences are at various stages of review or have been approved, which together could lead to the annual export of 165m tonnes of Canadian LNG. These projects could position Canada as the leading North American platform for LNG exports. Meanwhile, four proposed pipeline projects are in development to ship Canadian crude oil to world markets and refineries.

If we can get our resources to the coast, we can supply much-needed energy to rapidly rising Asian economies. A fully laden tanker leaving our Pacific Coast can reach Asia in as little as 11 days – about a month faster than a tanker leaving from the Gulf of Mexico. That’s a huge economic opportunity for Canada, which needs the jobs created by international trade. That’s why our government is pursuing an unprecedented global trade agenda. We have signed eight free trade agreements with 38 countries, including agreements with the EU, the world’s largest economy, and South Korea, our first free trade deal in Asia. Along with Malaysia, Canada has joined the negotiations to create the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Countries under the TPP represent a combined GDP of more than $28trn – almost 40% of the entire world economy.

It’s an exciting time for Canada, and it’s an exciting time for the Canada-Malaysia relationship. We each have the resources and know-how the other needs. Malaysia would greatly benefit from Canadian resources, while Malaysia and Petronas offer Canada over 30 years of experience in exporting LNG. Our two economies complement each other immensely. Consequently, the future relationship between our two countries – economically, culturally and politically – is destined to be strong. This is a bright reflection of the foundations laid by Prime Minister Diefenbaker over half a century ago.

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Greg Rickford

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