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President Aquino meets with Justin Trudeau

By Kevin Lamoureux, MP Winnipeg North

Justin Trudeau with President Benigno Aquino III and Kevin Lamoureaux
President Aquino meets with Federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau, MP Kevin Lamoureux and guests. Toronto, May 8, 2015

Federal Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau invited me to participate in a formal meeting with Philippine President Benigno Aquino III during his recent visit to Canada. The meeting in downtown Toronto on May 8 provided me an opportunity to have a direct exchange with the President.

I talked about the importance of building a stronger relationship between Canada and the Philippines; one that would go far beyond immigration. I explained how over the last fifty years the Filipino community grew and that Canada’s population includes over an estimated 700,000 people of Filipino heritage including my own relatives of Filipino ancestry – first cousins, nephew and sister in-law. The Filipino community first experienced real growth in Winnipeg through the garment industry during the late 1960s and early 1970s and now makes up almost 10 per cent of Winnipeg’s population and plays a critical role in its economic and social fabric in every way.

President Aquino mentioned that he was aware of Winnipeg as a few people on his staff have friends and family in Winnipeg, one of whom was at the meeting.

When the issue of trade came up, the consensus was that it was in our mutual interests to pursue more commerce between both countries. Canada is a trading country and in recent years we have been promoting trade agreements with many countries. In 2013, Canadian exports to the Philippines were valued at over $603 million. Trade can be good for both countries and I am a bit surprised that we have not been pushing the issue of more trade with the Philippines. Trade can be a fantastic way to build relationships that go beyond just the exchange of materials. It also includes the sharing of best practices related to environmental and labour laws, and promoting the exchanging of expertise.

Justin Trudeau raised the issue of tourism, which lead to a positive exchange about an area of great potential growth as the President indicated how more tourism would create jobs and a better appreciation of both countries. I commented on the growing number of people who travel to the Philippines every year or two, in particular around December and January. Increased tourism benefits both countries and this is one of the priority areas that I would love to donate more time and effort to in the future. From improving the way visiting visas are issued to encouraging more direct flights, there is so much that can be done.

I was sympathetic to President Aquino’s explanation regarding the ongoing relationship between the Philippines and China, in particular over the waterways between the two countries. It is important that we better understand some of the local issues of other nations because it allows us to contribute to the bigger global picture. After all, this is an international issue that has an impact on hundreds of millions of people.

The meeting was meant for two leaders to meet face to face in order to build a personal relationship and from where I sat, it was a very fruitful meeting. Mr. Trudeau knows how much I care about Canada’s Filipino community and I am so grateful he invited me to the meeting. I travel to the Philippines every couple of years and I look forward to the day when I am in the Philippines with Justin Trudeau as I and many others are committed to building a healthier stronger relationship between two great nations.