Canada country brief
The Australia-Canada relationship is mature, highly productive and broadly based. People to people contact between our parliaments, government officials, private sectors and academia is extensive and wide-ranging. We are both federal, geographically dispersed, continent-size countries, with Westminster systems of government and a similar standard of living. Trade relations date from 1895, when the Government of Canada sent John Larke to Sydney to establish a trade commission. Diplomatic relations began formally in 1939 when, on the eve of the Second World War, Australia and Canada first agreed to exchange High Commissioners.
The Canadian Prime Minister, Mr Stephen Harper, visited Australia for the APEC Leaders' meeting in September 2007 and addressed a joint sitting of Parliament. Prime Minister Howard addressed a joint sitting of the Canadian Parliament the year before. Prime Minister Harper and Foreign Minister Baird also visited Australian in October 2011 for the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth. The Australian Trade Minister Dr Emerson visited Saskatchewan in September 2011 for the Cairns Group Ministerial Meeting. The Canadian Defence Minister, Peter Mckay, visited Canberra in October 2011. The Treasurer, Mr Wayne Swan visited Canada in June 2010 for the G20 Leaders' Summit in Toronto. The Canadian and Australian Foreign and Trade Ministers meet regularly in the margins of international meetings.
Australian and Canadian military forces fought side-by-side in the Boer Ward, both World Wars, the Korean War, the 1990-91 Gulf War and Afghanistan. They were among the first countries to join the global coalition against terrorism, and both countries committed military and development resources to stabilise and help rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. Australia and Canada work closely to counter potential global terrorist threats through technical cooperation, information-sharing, exchanges of personnel and joint training.
Today, both countries face comparable public policy challenges in areas such as health, transport, indigenous issues, regional development, and the global economic crisis. The Canada-Australia Public Policy Initiative (CAPPI), launched by Prime Ministers Howard and Harper, brings together Australian and Canadian departmental secretaries every alternate year for extended public policy discussions. The Head of the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet, Dr Ian Watt, and other departmental secretaries attended the CAPPI Public Sector Leaders Retreat in Ottawa from 7-9 July 2012. At any time there are a number of public servants placed in Australian and Canadian ministries on exchange.
A comprehensive range of bilateral agreements cover trade, social security, air services, consular services abroad, mutual assistance in criminal matters and avoidance of double taxation. Consular cooperation is important, with Canada and Australia providing consular services to each other's nationals in over 40 countries where the other is not represented. A working holiday program allows young people to travel and work for set periods in each other's country.
Educational links are also strong with more than 180 formal agreements between Australian and Canadian universities, almost 300 members of the Association for Canadian Studies in Australia and New Zealand and more than 2000 Australian and Canadian students enrolled in universities in each country.
There are three branches of Government in Canada at the national level: legislative, executive and judiciary. The executive branch comprises the Prime Minister and the Cabinet. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons.
The legislative branch consists of the House of Commons and the Senate. The House of Commons has 308 members. General elections must be held at least every five years, but have traditionally been held every four years. The Senate has 105 senators appointed on a regional basis. Its basic functions are to review proposed legislation and to operate as a forum for debating public issues. Senators are appointed by the Governor-General, on the advice of the Prime Minister. Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservative Party, which formed minority government in January 2006 and October 2008, secured a parliamentary majority in elections on 2 May 2011.
One of Canada's highest priorities is its bilateral relationship (political, cultural and commercial) with the United States. As a NATO member, Canada deployed combat forces to Afghanistan from 2006 to 2011 and continues to contribute to reconstruction and development through the deployment of military trainers and a A$300 million aid program. Canada was also the third largest contributor to the maintenance of the NATO no-fly zone in Libya in 2011.
Canada, Australia and New Zealand work closely in the UN on issues ranging from security issues, human rights to cooperation on the environment. Often the three countries work together informally (known as the CANZ grouping) and sometimes with other likeminded nations. This close cooperation in the UN is an important part of Australia's relationship with Canada.
As export-oriented economies with strong interests in agriculture and mining, Australia and Canada have a common interest in a fair, open and non-discriminatory world trade system. Both countries were prominent players in the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) in 1947, and today both are active and influential members of its successor, the World Trade Organization (WTO), which was established in 1994. In 1986, Australia invited Canada to participate in the Cairns Group of agricultural fair trade nations, a diverse coalition bringing together developed and developing countries from Latin America, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. The Cairns Group comprises 19 countries and remains an influential voice in the agricultural reform debate.
Australia and Canada work closely together to promote a coherent and robust system of global trade and economic cooperation in key international organisations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and in many United Nations agencies. Canada joined APEC in its inaugural year (1989) and Vancouver hosted APEC in 1997. Canada continues to take an active role in economic and technical cooperation, health, security and trade/investment liberalisation across the Asia-Pacific region.
Canada has a low population density and a vast wealth of natural resources. The Canadian economy is the 10th largest in the world (in a 2010, IMF list). It is highly integrated with the US economy, with each being the other's major trading partner.
Bilateral economic and trade relationship
Canada is Australia's 21st-largest merchandise trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to A$3.2 billion in 2011 - A$1.7 billion in imports to Australia and A$1.5 billion in exports to Canada. Top performing exports in 2011 included nickel ores and concentrates, wine, medicaments (including veterinary) and meat (excluding beef). Companies exporting to Canada include food processors; major wine producers; consumer products retailers; packaging; software; financial services and processing; energy and mining services and equipment; and major universities. The top three merchandise imports from Canada in 2011 were sulphur and iron pyrites, civil engineering equipment and parts; and medicaments (including veterinary). Total services trade was valued at around A$1600 million in 2011, with Australia exporting A$797 million in services to Canada in that year. Though Canada's trade regime is generally liberal and transparent, tariff peaks and other distorting trade mechanisms apply to domestically sensitive agricultural sectors such as dairy and poultry. Tariff rates can be found on the APEC Tariff Database.
Investment ties between Australia and Canada are substantial and Canada offers a stable investment environment for Australian business. Australian investment in Canada was valued at A$43.4billion in 2011, with over 80 Australian companies operating in Canada. Canadian investment in Australia was valued at over A$25 billion in 2011, mostly in resources and manufacturing.
Canada hosted the second Australia-Canada Economic Leadership Forum in Toronto in July 2012. The Minister for Resources, Energy and Tourism, Mr Martin Ferguson, led the Australian delegation. The former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Mr Kevin Rudd, and the Opposition Spokesman for Communications and Broadband, Mr Malcolm Turnbull, also participated. The first forum was held in Sydney in November 2010. The forum is an exercise in 'private sector diplomacy' bringing together business, academia and other non-government players to contribute to the development of the bilateral relationship. It is modelled on similar gatherings Australia has with its closest political and economic partners, notably the Australian American Leadership Dialogue.
Australian Trade and Investment Strategies
Australia and Canada grant each other preferential tariff rates on a limited range of products agreed under the Canada-Australia Trade Agreement (CANATA), established in 1960 and amended in 1973. As CANATA pre-dates the multilateral trading system, most of its provisions have been superseded by tariff reductions achieved by negotiation in the WTO.
As a fellow member of the Cairns Group, Canada shares with Australia a commitment to achieving fundamental and substantial reform of world agricultural and agrifood markets. Canada also supports substantial trade liberalisation through the current Doha round of WTO trade negotiations.
Austrade has offices in Toronto and Vancouver to pursue Australia's trade and investment priorities.
Chamber of Commerce
The Canadian Australian Chamber of Commerce (CACC) was launched on 20 October 2005. The Chamber is an independent, non-profit organisation that aims to contribute to increasing the level of trade and investment between Australia and Canada. Membership is free of charge to interested parties.
Last updated September 2012