Abbotsford MP and International Trade Minister Ed Fast speaks at the Fraser Valley Economic Summit.

Abbotsford MP and International Trade Minister Ed Fast speaks at the Fraser Valley Economic Summit.

Trade crucial to prosperity, minister tells summit

International Trade Minister Ed Fast speaks at Fraser Valley Economic Summit Tuesday.

International Trade Minister and Abbotsford MP Ed Fast focused on his government’s record on international trade in a keynote speech to hundreds of delegates at Tuesday’s Fraser Valley Economic Summit at Abbotsford Centre.

Fast said his government had undertaken “the most ambitious trade agenda we’ve ever seen in Canada,” and cited the many international trade deals signed with other countries in recent years.

He was appearing as one of the featured speakers at the summit, which is focused on the economic opportunities and challenges unique to small- and medium-sized businesses in the Fraser Valley.

Fast spoke of several programs offered by the government that aims to help such enterprises do business overseas. He said removing barriers for trade with other countries has been of particular importance.

“One in every five Canadian jobs is directly dependent on foreign trade,” he said. “Our long-term prosperity ultimately rests with our ability to sell our goods and services to the world.”

Fast also announced an upcoming trade mission to India, where a trade-friendly centre-right government was recently elected. The previous government had held up an investor-protection treaty signed several years ago.

“We are very pleased to see the change of government in India,” Fast told the crowd. He suggested trade with India had much room to grow.

“We’re committed to tapping that potential.”

Earlier, Alvin Law, a motivational speaker born with no arms, inspired the crowd with a mix of humour and touching anecdotes.

Law spoke of growing up in a small Saskatchewan town and how his adopted parents helped him learn to use his feet like his hands. After telling a story about a music teacher who deemed his toes too short to play the piano, Law demonstrated the importance of perseverence by playing an intricate piece on a keyboard he said he calls “The ode to the old bag who said my toes were too short.”

Law closed by telling the crowd: “We’ve come a long way. There’s no reason you can’t go further. Just believe.”

Building on the 2012 Abbotsford Economic Symposium, the summit was restructured as a regional event drawing various levels of participation from the Township of Langley, City of Langley, District of Mission and the City of Chilliwack.

Other speakers at the summit include president and CEO of Kinder Morgan Ian Anderson and broadcast legend Bill Good.

Watch abbynews.com for more details.