International Development Minister Christian Paradis is calling on Canadian businesses to take advantage of the "host of business opportunities and potential markets" available in developing countries.
Speaking before the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal Thursday morning, Mr. Paradis said the federal government is committed to promoting economic development and opening up markets in developing countries. His speech is part of a marked shift in the way Canada approaches foreign aid that focused increasingly on business opportunities in recent years.
"Eradicating extreme poverty and promoting global prosperity are two sides of the same coin," Mr. Paradis told the board, according to a written copy of his speech.
"By stimulating the economy in these countries and helping them create an environment conducive to investment, we are contributing to the well-being of people living in poverty. When a company opens up to the developing world, it is presented with a host of business opportunities and potential markets."
Ottawa has already made it clear that it expects diplomats to put trade and economic growth at the centre of their work. The federal government issued a landmark report last week instructing the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development to entrench the concept of "economic diplomacy" as the focus of Canada's diplomatic efforts.
And earlier this year, the government eliminated the Canadian International Development Agency and merged its functions with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, while promising to leave the agency's core mandate of poverty reduction intact.
Mr. Paradis said he wants Canada to be recognized as a world leader in poverty reduction and humanitarian assistance, adding that foreign aid would continue to focus on improving the lives of those most in need.
However, he said Canada would no longer speak about development without also addressing questions of security, governance and trade. Development can "unlock" the economic potential of low-income countries by building future markets for Canadian trade and investment, Mr. Paradis said.
His speech struck a similar tone to one given by Mr. Paradis's predecessor, Julian Fantino, at the Economic Club of Canada last year. In that address, Mr. Fantino announced that Canadian development would increasingly be aligned with Canada's foreign policy and commercial interests.
Both ministers' comments are signs of a significant shift in the federal government's approach to international development programming that has been underway for several years. The federal government is increasingly working to emphasize the commercial benefits that foreign aid can offer to Canada – in addition to the traditional focus on reducing poverty in the developing world.
Mr. Paradis said he is inviting the business community to "take full advantage" of opportunities arising from international development to "help increase the productivity and well-being of those living in poverty around the world."