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Stephen Harper's remarks in Davos Add to ...

Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave this address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday:

It's great to be here in Davos and to have this opportunity to contribute to your discussions on some of the vital issues confronting the world today. Some of them are complex and they may, at times, seem abstract. But for ordinary men and women everywhere, the substance of what we talk about here translates into simple realities like a home, food on the table, or a better life for their children. So, it's an important debate that we're delighted to be part of.

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I should like to welcome some other members of the Canadian delegation, my friends and colleagues, Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Minister of International Trade Peter Van Loan, also Governor of the Bank of Canada Mark Carney. Welcome all of you, thanks for being here.

I'd also like to take a moment to offer my personal congratulations to Professor Schwab on this, the 40th annual gathering of your creation, the World Economic Forum. You chose as its motto, 'Committed to improving the state of the world.' Few who have set off with such a lofty goal have more reason to be pleased with their accomplishments.

To have conceived of the need for such an institution as this required insight. To have established it took commitment. But to have then nurtured it as a podium from which business and political leaders could nudge public policy by addressing their peers from around the world - that is a formidable achievement. Professor, this gathering salutes you.

Professor, while it has been a long time since the first meeting of this Forum four decades ago, our circumstances today have something in common with the world of 1971. Economies then were in turmoil. The institutions governing international finance were failing the test of crisis. And wherever one looked around the world, there was trouble.

So it is today. This latest crisis hit as the world was already grappling with enormous challenges: large current account imbalances, ageing populations in advanced economies, violence, terrorism and, of course, the eternal problems of poverty and underdevelopment. There's always something. But, we must never stop trying to 'improve the state of the world.'

Therefore in June, when Canada hosts the leaders of the G-20 and G-8, in Toronto and Muskoka respectively, our goal is to work with our partners towards practical, durable solutions. In the next few minutes, I want to share some principles that will guide the Government of Canada - and hopefully the discussions at these summits - under our theme: Recovery and New Beginnings.

Let me first talk about the G-20, which, at Pittsburgh, we officially designated as the world's premier forum for economic cooperation.

In that role it will stand or fall on its ability to demonstrate in the months to come the same cooperative spirit it has shown over the past year. I am hopeful.

Beginning in Washington in November 2008, G-20 leaders have responded to the systemic financial collapse and the global recession with quick, decisive and coordinated action. At the London Summit in April 2009, these measures were expanded, with a particular emphasis on the most vulnerable states, so that in Pittsburgh, the seeds of a new era of balanced, sustainable growth were planted.

If I may be indulged in a personal recollection, what I saw at the Washington Summit made a huge impression upon me. Nations whose interests have been often at odds, nations with different traditions of governance - rivals, even former enemies - found themselves addressing common problems with a common will. In this globalized economy, they recognized that a flood engulfing one would soon swamp them all. So, even though these twenty-some leaders all represented sovereign states, they agreed to common, synchronized actions to chart the same course toward calmer waters.

Ideological differences were set aside. Old enmities were not raised. Indeed, if you had arrived from another planet you never could have guessed which nations had spent decades mired in hostility. You might call it the fellowship of the lifeboat.

But ladies and gentlemen, in that brief parting of the veil, I saw world leadership at its best, a glimpse of a hopeful future - one where we act together for the good of all. The world we have been trying to build since 1945. The world we want for our children and grandchildren. It can be done if we act together. This is 'enlightened sovereignty.'

I believe our understanding in Washington allowed us to avoid the cataclysm that otherwise really would have come to pass. But an agreement to act is just a start. It is acting on the agreement that matters.

So, when the G-20 resumes in Toronto, the discussion should be less about new agreements than accountability for existing ones. Less about lofty promises than real results. Less about narrow self-interest in sovereignty's name, than an expanded view of mutual-interest in which there is room for all to grow and prosper. Enlightened sovereignty, then, the natural extension of enlightened self-interest.

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