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The Canadian Foundation for the Americas (FOCAL) is no longer in operation. This website documents FOCAL's activities and accomplishments throughout its existence. Thank you for your interest in the work of FOCAL.

Building on our strengths: Looking ahead to the next 20 years

Rick Waugh

It is timely to celebrate FOCAL’s 20th anniversary and to reflect on the progress Canada has made in the Americas as well the opportunities that lie ahead. Thanks to the commitment of the Canadian government to our relationships with our hemispheric neighbours, we have made significant gains economically and politically. As Canada’s role becomes clearer, more and more opportunities surface to broaden and deepen our partnerships. FOCAL has greatly contributed to this outcome and we see its role becoming more important as we look out over the next 20 years.

At Scotiabank, we also celebrate these last 20 years as they have been pivotal for the expansion of our operations in Central and South America and in the Caribbean —a region in which we have a long history, a long-term commitment and outlook.

We have seen tremendous changes in these dynamic markets, many of which have been transformed by reforms that have fostered macroeconomic and financial sector stability, strengthened institutions and opened trade. At the heart of the transformation has been the development of the formal banking sector, and Scotiabank has actively supported this goal throughout the ups and downs.

Twenty years ago, we had small investments in Mexico, Chile and Peru. Today we are the seventh, sixth and third largest bank in these markets respectively. This year, we entered the Colombian market, increased our operations in Brazil, Central America and the Caribbean and actively supported free trade agreements with Colombia, Panama and Peru. Our operations in the region are part of our DNA and are a competitive advantage for us. Nearly half of our employees speak Spanish as their first language and are a huge source of expertise and leadership across the Scotiabank Group.

For instance, Nicole Reich, who leads Scotiabank’s Mexico operations with almost 9,000 employees across more than 600 branches, is the first woman to lead a bank in Mexico. She is part of Scotiabank Group’s executive management team and is able to apply her expertise and perspective for the benefit of the Bank and Canada-Mexico relations. Under her leadership, Scotiabank supports the Canada-Mexico Initiative led by FOCAL in Canada and the Mexican Council on Foreign Relations (COMEXI) in Mexico to bring together public, private and academic sectors in both countries to make the bilateral relationship more relevant and strategic.

Scotiabank is not alone in recognizing the value and potential of the Americas. The investment and presence of Canadian companies in the region is significant and expanding. Given these economic ties and the potential of the region, there is every reason for Canada to continue to make a sustained, long-term investment across all elements of our relations including politics, academic exchanges, culture and business.

As we look ahead to the next 20 years, it is important to recognize the benefits of a co-ordinated approach such as the public and private sectors working together through FOCAL’s Canada-Mexico Initiative. It is also important to recognize the value of making a long-term commitment and investment in the region. There is much to do on this front.

A great example of where a long-term investment is needed is the reconstruction effort in Haiti. Canada is well placed to continue helping international reconstruction efforts in Haiti. Scotiabank is committed to Haiti’s reconstruction as we have had operations in this country since 1972 and Maxime Charles, our country head, has been actively involved in post-earthquake actions through his role as president of the Haitian Bankers Association. Soon after the tragedy, Scotiabank’s four branches were operational, providing much needed access to funds, including a relief program that waived fees for fund transfers and remittances.

We continue to facilitate government and institutional payments and are well placed to actively support reconstruction efforts. Other Canadian companies are also in good position to contribute to Haiti’s reconstruction. This is not a short-term project. This is a massive, long-term effort, but it makes sense for Canada to commit itself and to work collectively across sectors, leveraging aid and on-the-ground expertise. In so doing, it can make a meaningful impact in Haiti and a significant contribution to the Americas. 

We look forward to the next 20 years and Canada’s increased engagement in the Americas. And we look forward to FOCAL’s role in identifying opportunities and guiding Canada’s public and private sectors in our collective efforts.

Rick Waugh is President and CEO of Scotiabank.

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