In a press conference after a week of meetings in Europe that included stops with automakers in Germany, federal industry minister François-Philippe Champagne says Canada’s proximity to critical minerals, large markets and clean energy is drawing lots of new interest
François-Philippe Champagne, federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, said his meetings this week in Germany with leading auto manufacturers “have made a difference” in opening their eyes to the opportunities Canada offers to “green their supply chains” as they ramp up their investments in developing batteries and electric vehicles for the North American market.
“Everything starts with a conversation,” Champagne said, in response to a question from Electric Autonomy Canada, during a press conference hosted in Brussels on Friday, as he wrapped up a visit to Belgium, France and Germany.
“Many of them want to go carbon neutral at a certain point. All of them have sustainability as a core value. Therefore, the strong ESG that we offer here in Canada is making a difference.”
Canada’s EV supply chain getting noticed
Champagne also stressed that the recent deals the federal government has helped secure for the national EV supply chain — BASF and GM-POSCO in Quebec (cathodes), LG Energy Solutions and Stellantis in Ontario (batteries), as well as new vehicle mandates (EV, PHEV or hybrid) with every domestic manufacturer — have helped put Canada on these companies’ radar.
“They’ve noticed what we’ve been able to do in the last few months,” said Champagne. “Time will tell, but certainly those were very, very encouraging discussions that I had with the automakers in Germany.”
The primary focus of Champagne’s trip was to attend a G7 Digital Ministers meeting in Dusseldorf, but he also used the occasion to continue the sales pitch he’s been giving global automakers (including Volkswagen), battery manufacturers and critical mineral producers since he assumed his current portfolio in January 2021.
His EV-related discussions also included meetings with political leaders, such as Germany’s Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Climate Action, Robert Habeck.
Champagne’s efforts to promote Canada’s EV supply chain potential abroad are also being noticed at home. Speaking off the record, one Ontario industry insider recently told Electric Autonomy that “with the new minister coming on board, things have sped up. All these announcements aren’t accidental. Minister Champagne should be given credit for really wanting the wins, he is extremely hungry.”
Proximity a strength
When asked during the press conference what Canada offers on critical minerals that other producing regions such as Australia don’t provide, Champagne stressed proximity.
“Proximity to the resources,” he began. “And I think our European partners understand that we have unparalleled proximity to resources. Proximity to the market, because as much as I love our Australian friends, obviously you’re talking about serving the North American market. And the third is proximity to the assembly line.”
Champagne said this country’s nearness to essential elements to serve the U.S. market, coupled with Canada’s relatively clean grid, resonates with companies looking to reduce their overall carbon footprint.
“When I talked to them, I said, ‘I know the imperative, you have to green your supply chain, I know the challenges you have around critical minerals, I know you want to expand in North America.’ There’s no better place to invest than Canada.”
Collaboration on autonomous vehicles
Champagne also said he discussed potential collaborations on autonomous vehicles in his meeting with European Commission executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager.
“The European Union has been looking at a number of initiatives,” said Champagne. “What I suggested to her is, ‘Why don’t we work closer together on that?’
“It would be very interesting to do a similar exercise on the other side of the Atlantic, because what’s going to define the type of technology you find in these cars is standards and norms.
“What I was saying to my European colleagues … is that we need to lead in the world in setting standards and norms when it comes to these autonomous vehicles. A closer collaboration between Canada and the European Union, I think, will ensure that the auto sector in Canada will be at the forefront of the electric revolution, but also at the forefront of the technical revolution that you’re seeing in the cars of the 21st Century.”