Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

Status

Report stage (House), as of Nov. 2, 2010
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and signed at Amman on June 28, 2009.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the related agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the Free Trade Agreement and the power of the Governor in Council to make orders for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreement on labour cooperation.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-8, currently before us. Like one of my colleagues who spoke earlier, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which is identical to Bill C-57 that was introduced before the House was prorogued.

There is no doubt that in the case of a bill to implement a free trade agreement, it is important to assess both the scope and the quality of the trade that already exists between the two countries. Of course Jordan's market is small. Canada exports to Jordan and vice versa, but those exports are relatively minimal. It is important to bear in mind, however, that although people may also object given that this is, once again, a bilateral agreement—and I will come back to that in a moment—concluding an agreement like this one does send a message to other Middle Eastern countries that want to improve their trade relations with western countries. Canada and Quebec will benefit from this agreement. This sends a clear message that entering into agreements can improve trade. This also means that products subject to the free trade agreement can be introduced into and produced in each country.

Jordan is in the process of modernizing its government apparatus and must rely on international trade to support its economic growth, especially since it has few natural resources.

From Quebec's point of view, since we already export a lot of pulp and paper products, I think that this is an excellent opportunity because this free trade agreement will further facilitate trade by eliminating tariff barriers on most products.

A free trade agreement with Canada may help this emerging economy. It will certainly help Canadian and Quebec businesses. The international relations aspect is also important. Establishing this relationship with Jordan will be beneficial.

I heard yesterday on Tout le monde en parle that Denis Villeneuve's film Incendies, which will represent Canada at the Oscars, was filmed mostly in Jordan. While that does not necessarily prove anything, it is a sign that Jordan is a country worth setting up long-term, balanced trade relations with.

Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. Signing an agreement with Jordan after signing one with Israel signals our interest in balancing our trade relations with countries experiencing political tension, such as that between Israel and its neighbours. Signing an agreement with another one of those countries after signing one with Israel balances power to an extent, or at least shows that we want to sign trade agreements and engage in trade with all Middle Eastern countries.

In free trade agreements, it is important to protect Canada's and Quebec's supply-managed agricultural production. Jordan's agriculture is not very well developed and poses no threat to Quebec producers. Jordan's forestry resources are also very limited. Therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for our forestry industry, which is primarily located in Quebec. The pulp and paper industry is facing serious challenges because of the lack of support from the Conservative government, which did not want to provide the same support as it did to the automotive industry. Once again, had there been support for the forestry industry in Quebec, we could have avoided plant closures and maintained research and development in order to have the plants switch to new products. A free trade agreement with Jordan will make it possible, on a small scale initially, to increase our pulp and paper exports.

I was listening earlier to the question and speech by my NDP colleague, who stated that Canada is unfortunately focusing on bilateral agreements. I will repeat that overlooking multilateral agreements narrows the overall vision of Canada's foreign trade policy. We enter into agreements with different countries and try to get the most out of them while supporting the countries with which we have signed agreements. The failure to consider a multilateral agreement for a number of sectors makes it impossible to establish broader principles. In fact, it forces us to sign individual agreements with given countries, without any interrelationship. A multilateral agreement, however, would provide an overall vision and make it possible to establish broad principles that would apply to all agreements.

The free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan is a relatively small one. It could be divided into a few main parts, such as the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. What is interesting here is that the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan is not integrated into the free trade agreement; it is not a separate chapter. There is an agreement on the environment and a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and Jordan. The fact that these agreements are not included as chapters in the main agreement is somewhat irritating. The government is negotiating side agreements instead, and we know from experience that these are never as strong as ones that are integrated into the main free trade agreement. In a way, they show that the Canadian government is not as willing to truly protect the things addressed in these side agreements. These things are not completely neglected, but not including them in the full agreement diminishes their importance.

I would like to speak a little more about different side agreements. With respect to the agreement on labour co-operation, which is a side agreement, we know that the structure and design of this agreement between Canada and Jordan are rather similar to those of the agreements on labour co-operation between Canada and Colombia and Canada and Peru. I will not get into the agreement signed with Colombia that the Bloc Québécois was completely opposed to, for other reasons. But we can still see the similarities between the agreement we have in front of us today and the agreements that have been signed in the past.

These agreements commit both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Regarding the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan in particular, according to the assessment that was done, each party commits to respecting and enforcing internationally recognized labour principles and rights. The Bloc Québécois will be very vigilant in watching that Canada ensures that the principles of these agreements are respected.

As I said earlier, the fact that these agreements are side agreements undermines their power. It is therefore especially important that we look at them through a very critical lens and analyze such side agreements regularly in order to ensure that they are being respected. When we speak of rights and principles, we mean the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and minimum acceptable employment standards including workplace safety and compensation for workers who are sick or are injured in accidents.

Thus, as in the case of other labour co-operation agreements Canada has entered into, this agreement with Jordan contains a non-derogation clause whereby neither country may waive or lessen existing labour standards in the hope of attracting foreign investments. As I said earlier, we plan to be extremely vigilant in that regard, in order to ensure that these principles are respected from the very beginning, if this agreement is approved by Parliament.

In addition, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement also includes a dispute resolution process that includes monetary penalties similar to the process included in the Canada-Peru and Canada-Colombia labour cooperation agreements. If a special review panel established through the dispute settlement mechanism determines that either of the parties is not complying with the labour co-operation agreement and the parties cannot agree on the correct course of action, or if the non-compliant country fails to implement the agreed-upon course of action, a monetary penalty can be imposed.

According to our analysis, the text of the agreement provides that these financial penalties can be deposited in an interest-bearing fund, the profits of which will be earmarked for implementing the action plan or any appropriate compliance-related measure. The size of the financial penalty is one of the major differences between the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and Canada's agreements with Colombia and Peru. The latter two agreements provide for a fine of up to $15 million U.S. per violation, but there is no maximum in the Canada-Jordan agreement. We think that this is still a good measure because the fact that there is no maximum penalty will provide an even greater incentive to respect this agreement on labour cooperation to the letter. We will keep an eye on how this plays out.

There is also a Canada-Jordan environment agreement. Once again, this is a side agreement, just like the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation. Its scope of application and content with respect to the environment are largely similar to what was in the agreements signed with Peru and Colombia.

Under this agreement, both countries commit to ensuring a high level of environmental protection and to enforcing their environmental laws effectively. There are several provisions, but I will mention just a few of them.

The countries, Canada and Jordan, cannot violate their federal environmental laws to encourage investment. According to the agreement—and we hope that both countries will comply—Canada and Jordan may not lower their standards to encourage foreign investment. For example, a company that wants to invest in Jordan may say that environmental standards prevent it from doing so. This provides good protection. The same would apply to a Jordanian company wishing to do something similar in Canada or Quebec.

Information on environmental laws, rules and administrative decisions must be made available to the public. All information on the tools for monitoring environmental protection, in relation to the various investments, must be made public.

Appropriate environmental assessment procedures must be implemented and must allow public involvement. We will not go so far as to say that there needs to be public consultation or a public hearing. We are saying that there must be public involvement. In other words, the environment ministry in each country or whosever is going to manage these agreements, whether in Canada or in Jordan, will find an appropriate way to ensure that the public is consulted and can have a say.

Another important aspect of the agreement on the environment is that the parties have to ensure that procedures are in place to sanction or rectify environmental law violations. It is all well and good to say that we do not want to lower environmental standards to encourage new investment, but the appropriate measures need to be in place to oversee such regulations. Penalties also need to be in place. The parties are committing to implementing strict measures. The parties should also encourage the voluntary use of exemplary practices with regard to corporate social responsibility by the corporations in their respective countries.

Earlier, a comparison was made of the free trade agreement between Canada and Peru and the one between Canada and Colombia. The Bloc Québécois completely disagreed with the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia because of the lack of monitoring over corporate social responsibility, leaving the corporations to set strict standards to monitor and reduce the number of abuses of power that occur in Colombia. We expect the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan to respect the workers and the environment of both countries. There is no need to follow the bad example of the agreement with Colombia.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I will stop here.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, many of us are dismayed by what is now taking place in the Middle East. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank is, in my view, something that has to stop immediately, particularly now that peace talks are taking place. I beseech the Israeli government to stop all Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Water is a huge issue in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan. They have serious problems with the lack of potable water, which is a major infrastructural problem in that part of the world. I would ask my colleague whether he sees an enormous opportunity for Canada, through this free trade agreement, to work with Jordanians and other countries in the Middle East to help them access the potable water that their people need. Also, would this agreement give Canada an opportunity to develop an arrangement for transferring expertise between our universities and the post-secondary institutions in Jordan?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my speech, I said that Canada has already negotiated and signed a free trade agreement with Israel and that signing an agreement with another of its neighbours in the Middle East could somewhat balance the decision or desire of both Quebec and Canada not to simply line up with either Israel or other Middle Eastern countries. I think that we need to maintain a balance. This agreement will allow us to diversify our trade agreements as well as demonstrate our desire to help all countries in the Middle East.

Canada, and Quebec in particular, has significant expertise in terms of water. We have a lot of water and they have very little. We have expertise in terms of large quantities of water. Perhaps we could encourage trade that would allow these people, through various technologies and ideas submitted by universities in Quebec and Canada, to develop some concepts to improve their access to adequate quantities of water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments, particularly on the side agreements with respect to labour and the environment. I want to focus on the side-agreement on labour.

It strikes me that we know Jordan already has in place a free trade agreement with the United States. That free trade agreement has a side-agreement on labour that is a very similar, if not identical, to the one that is before us in this House. We know that the labour policies in Jordan do not protect the collective bargaining rights of workers and leave the rights of migrant workers out of account. I know the member is well read on this issue and knows of the abuse of migrant workers, which is troubling. It has been well documented by UN agencies.

I wonder if my colleague thinks that the Canadian side agreement that was just negotiated with Jordan will be effective in protecting labour laws. Is this not a key question in determining whether this free trade agreement should be allowed to proceed?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important that these types of questions be answered in committee. We agree, it must be ensured that the side agreement on labour will protect all workers in Jordan, not just permanent residents and Jordanians. It is important that this issue be addressed.

Earlier, I said that a side agreement is never as powerful as an integrated chapter within a trade agreement. We have some reservations and this only aggravates them.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a simple question.

Does he agree with our NDP colleague, who seems to be saying that international trade talks and efforts to enter into multilateral or bilateral agreements cause problems and that we should instead focus on diplomacy.

I believe that engaging in foreign trade provides more opportunities to engage in diplomacy. I was somewhat troubled by what our NDP colleague said. He seemed to be saying that they may not necessarily be mutually exclusive but that they may not lend themselves to being carried out at the same time.

I would like to know what my Bloc Québécois colleague has to say about that.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that I heard the point raised by the NDP member. He was contrasting the need for diplomacy in general and the fact that we enter into bilateral agreements. From what I understand, in terms of diplomatic efforts, Canada or any country that must come to an agreement with other countries must do so in a very general context.

Diplomacy means that we can talk to more than one country at the same time and come to an agreement with them all. What he was pointing out is that entering into bilateral agreements sometimes perhaps creates—and I did say perhaps—some difficulties with a third country. In fact, we may sign an agreement with a country that is in conflict with another country with which we would like to sign a separate diplomatic agreement. That perhaps undermines—again, I said perhaps—some diplomatic efforts when the government focuses on entering into bilateral agreements even though multilateral agreements are probably more suited to diplomatic efforts.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:45 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up quickly on the answer that the member gave to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. This was with respect to water.

If I heard the member correctly, he said that he would be open to thinking about things like exporting water and arriving at bilateral arrangements between Quebec and Jordan.

I want to quote a brief comment by his colleague from Sherbrooke, who is also a member for the Bloc Québécois. He said on March 29:

We are saying that, despite the fact that natural surface and ground water in liquid, gaseous, or solid state is excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute, this exclusion is not spelled out in the agreement itself.

He then asked:

What assurances can the parliamentary secretary give us that Quebec's water will not be exported under this new free trade agreement?

I would ask the member to clarify this. Is the BQ in favour of, or opposed to, exporting water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will refer to the answer that I gave earlier. From what I understand, it was a matter of technological support—in Jordan, or perhaps other Middle Eastern countries—by Quebec and Canadian experts. They would help these countries find water. It was not a matter of exporting water from Canada or Quebec. That was never what I was referring to earlier. I said that we had people who had been working on this for a long time. There is research being done at universities. The expertise is there, and we could help other countries find water and conserve it over a longer period. But I never talked about exporting water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 1:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-8. Let me first of all indicate that all countries are governed by their national interest, and certainly in Canada's interest, trade is absolutely paramount given the fact that 80% of our economy really needs access to foreign markets. Therefore, we are certainly concerned on this side of the House that for the first time in over 30 years we are now facing trade deficits, which obviously is something that needs to be addressed very quickly. Obviously this agreement is only one in a series of what we hope will be agreements, particularly on a multilateral basis, to push access not just for Canadian products, but obviously that helps business, cultural aspects and political aspects in terms of dealing with other countries.

There is no question that this agreement gives us an opportunity to begin further inroads. Since 1997, we had the free trade agreement with Israel, but we really need to look at not just Jordan but the greater Arab free trade agreement that Jordan is a member of. Over 18 countries are members of that. It would give us hopefully, down the road, access from the United Arab Emirates all the way to Algeria. It would give us the opportunity to really expand in areas on environmental protection. It would deal with areas of communication, areas dealing with forest products, et cetera.

The difficulty, of course, is that this is just one aspect. I had the privilege in July 1997, when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, to meet with the minister and with King Abdullah II of Jordan to talk about environmental protection issues in particular. The king was very clear that he wanted to see more opportunities with Canada, and obviously the development of this agreement would give us opportunities to discuss and promote both environmental protection, labour protection and other issues with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

We on this side of the House support sending the bill to committee. I assume it will address a number of the issues that some other colleagues have raised in the House today. In terms of access to trade, trade is really our lifeblood and we need to not only be only aggressive looking at what our neighbours are doing, for example, the United States which has an agreement with Jordan, but it is also very aggressive in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. We do not have one agreement in Asia-Pacific. We have exploratory discussions right now with India, but the reality is that while the Americans have been moving forward with even a discussion on an Asia-Pacific agreement, we still sit back and have not been aggressive. We are in the ninth round with Singapore. We are still dealing with the Korean situation, particularly the issue of automotive access. But in terms of where the real action is, it is dealing with multilateral agreements, and this is where the United States and the EU, which also has an agreement with Jordan in this case, are taking a very proactive role.

Although this is one step and we certainly welcome that, there are the larger issues that we need to deal with, particularly looking at the whole issue of an agreement with the Arab free trade zone. That would certainly be of benefit to us.

There is no question that Canadian exports, although they were only worth $77 million in 2008, still are important in terms of forest products and in terms of some of the agri-food areas and obviously machinery. But again, that is simply one aspect. We import only about $15 million, as of 2008, but it is building those bridges. That is why, for this country in particular, given that we have over 85% of our trade with the United States and given the economic downturn being faced around the world, the impact it has on the Canadian economy is significant. If we put all our eggs in one basket, there is difficulty, obviously, when doors close. So we need to have these other areas.

Canadian business has demonstrated very clearly that it can compete with the best in the world given the opportunities out there. This is obviously something that we on this side of the House will continue to push.

The elimination of all of the Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs, which currently average around 10%, is small, but again an example of the need to promote Canadian agricultural products, which we know are the best in the world.

The need to promote and reduce tariff barriers in general means that this country will become much more competitive internationally. It will give us, again, a bridge in the Middle East. Jordan and Israel have a peace agreement since 1994, so there is obviously trade going on. We can continue to promote many of these aspects, which I think are important.

Colleagues have mentioned environmental technology. One of the things about climate change, of course, is that Jordan is dealing with significant climate change issues, as are other countries, particularly in terms of desertification. Again, Canadian technology and expertise can be very helpful in terms of dealing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is an opportunity to promote and expand our environmental goods in that part of the world. I think it is important. Hopefully, it will be a bridge later on for other countries in the Middle East.

There is no question that, at this point, Canada is going to be able to take a leadership role, but we need to be able to evaluate some of the issues that have been raised. In terms of textiles, et cetera, there does not seem to be any concern raised in that area. Obviously, some members have asked about the nature of the labour agreement. It is similar to the one that the United States signed with Jordan. Again, we can certainly look into that at committee. If we look at where Jordan has come from, particularly since 2002, coming out of the IMF agreement it had in terms of its progress on banking, monetary reform, and in many sectors, Jordan certainly is a very good partner for Canada in this region.

When we are examining those kinds of issues, we again want to be able to say to Jordan and to the rest of the world that Canada is open for business. It is obviously going to be a two-way opportunity both for the Jordanians and for Canadians, but also we will be clear that this is simply one aspect and that Canada continues to diversify. As the lifeblood in dealing with that trade deficit for the first time in over 30 years, we have to diversify. We also have to get our businesses to line up to compete in that area.

Going back to the Asia-Pacific for a moment, the fact is that the Japanese concluded a free trade agreement with the Philippines, as well as with Mexico, a NAFTA partner. It is important because the Japanese were able to deal with agricultural issues, which traditionally they have always been very protectionist on. Yet they were able to get agreements with two countries that have large agricultural aspects.

The fact is that we are still toiling away with Korea and Singapore. We need to look at what others are doing. Of course, the Americans have clearly demonstrated that they see the future there. An ASEAN agreement, with the 10 countries in ASEAN, will mean that a market of over 590 million people will open up with Australia, with the United States. We have to be there.

Therefore, though we support the idea of a bilateral agreement in this case, the much larger picture is the trading blocs that are emerging, the ASEAN, the EU, and dealing with the Asia-Pacific. All those are really critical.

If one looks at an example such as Vietnam, Vietnam is a market that now has a very strong foreign investment provision. It is welcoming Canadian companies that are there, such as Manulife. Again, we are missing the boat when we are not developing these kinds of strong free trade agreements. Because Vietnam is part of the ASEAN group, we need to have that.

I know time is ticking down until after question period, but I want to point out that again these kinds of agreements will benefit Canadian manufacturers and Canadian labour. It will benefit many opportunities where we can in fact expand. I hope to add a little to that after question period.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:20 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated earlier, we are a nation of traders, and obviously, one of the issues that clearly comes to mind is the approach we take in terms of our trade relations with our neighbours, particularly when we have about 85% trade with the United States.

Clearly what we need to have is a vision. We need to clearly have a plan as to what we need to be doing. I talked about the fact that although the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is an interesting approach, there is a wider market in that area, in terms of the Arab free trade area, which, with 18 states, is very important. The fact is that a multilateral approach is absolutely critical. Given what has been happening in Doha, we need to really push multilateral agreements. We need to push multilateral agreements, in large part because our neighbours are clearly doing that: Australia, the United States, the EU and others. It is very important that we be a player.

Jordan is a very good example of a country in which modernization in terms of banking and monetary infrastructure has been progressing. It is a good place to invest. Obviously, we recognize that, and we want to encourage Canadian business to recognize it by bringing on organizations such as the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and organizations that will have an interest in participating in this type of agreement so that we can encourage the best and the brightest in this country to be on the leading edge.

Without some kind of overall strategy, these kinds of agreements are simply one-offs. We need to hear from the government in terms of what overall approach we should be taking in terms of providing leadership to deal with our competitors.

I go back to the Asian-Pacific again to say that in the Asia-Pacific, we are not a player, and we need to be, particularly in places such as Malaysia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Cambodia, and others. What do they all have in common? They are all part of ASEAN. While other countries are looking at doing free trade agreements with ASEAN and the 590 million people who live there, we are standing idly by. We cannot afford to do that.

We need to be aggressive in these areas. If we are aggressive in these areas, we can compete, particularly on the environment. In the environmental area, we are experts on clean water, contaminated soils, and clean air. Environmental companies are very interested in participating there.

When I referenced my meeting, with our Minister of the Environment, in July 2007, with King Abdullah of Jordan, I mentioned the fact that they were very interested in the environmental technology this country has. Agreements like this will hopefully give Canadians an opportunity to access those markets. These are things that we should have been doing. We need to do them in a broader context as well. Without that kind of push, we are going to be left behind. We continue to do these one-offs. They are not necessarily the most productive or the most useful.

Speaking of the environment, in the agreement there are side agreements on labour co-operation and on the environment. I would point out that on the environment, one of the things I am pleased to see is that we are going to comply with and effectively enforce the domestic environmental laws and not weaken the environmental laws to encourage trade or investment. That is important. We are not going to weaken them; we are going to strengthen them.

We are certainly going to ensure that provisions are available to remedy any violations of environmental laws and to promote public awareness, because the environment is extremely important not only for Canada and Jordan, but in general, in terms of what we can provide. Providing these kinds of safeguards is obviously going to be important. They are going to be important not only for those countries and the people in those countries, but again, because we can share that expertise and get our environmental companies involved, particularly on issues of desertification and irrigation, on which we can provide expertise. Particularly in an area of the world where water is in short supply, Canadian expertise and technology can be part of the solution.

We can be part of the solution only in Jordan in the Middle East. Yet we have a trading area of 18 nations. I again point out, whether it is with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, or the United Arab Emirates, that we need to be a player. I hope that the government will come back and look at the issue of expanding this in terms of a multilateral approach, which would give us more access and opportunities for Canadian business. Standing still is obviously not appropriate.

We also have the side arrangement, on the issue of labour, to guarantee freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of compulsory labour, et cetera. A colleague in the New Democratic Party raised this issue. I would suggest that this is where the Standing Committee on International Trade could bring witnesses forward to make sure that if there are areas of concern, they are addressed. Any agreement can be strengthened. It is absolutely important, for the protection of workers, to make sure that they have the ability to organize and carry out their activities free from fear, discrimination, and pressure. That is one of the aspects of this agreement. If there are opportunities to strengthen any of these, then we need to do so. They are basic human rights, and we want to make sure that they are enshrined.

Jordan has a high degree of internal security and stability. It is a free-market-oriented economy. That is something we encourage not only for Jordan but in other areas of the Middle East where we could continue to promote free-trade opportunities. In a free market, we can be a major player. Jordan has a well-developed banking and communication system. We can take advantage of that, given the expertise we have in those areas.

There is no question, in looking at tax rates for Jordanian and Canadian companies, that there are opportunities where Canada could play a role. However, we have to go back to the issue of developing a more regional approach, because other countries are doing that. Other countries are saying that in a very competitive global environment, given the economic situation around the world, we cannot sit at home; we have to be there. That is what we are hearing from the business community. I hear that from small- and medium-sized businesses all the time.

I appreciate that when we are looking at these issues and bringing those witnesses forth at committee, we will be approving simply one agreement. How do we strengthen our role internationally and competitively in a manner that really addresses Canada's strengths, whether that be the environment and dealing with climate change or telecommunications, two particular areas in which Canada is very strong.

We talked about agriculture. We have seen that it deals with subsidy issues. Agriculture is very important because we export so much. In looking at those opportunities, I mentioned the Japanese, who are able to sign agriculture agreements with countries we never would have thought of, such as Mexico or the Philippines. I think that if we really put our minds to it, we can do more. This particular agreement gives us an opportunity to say that if, in fact, we are not going to be successful at the Doha Round on the issue, we need to deal with it in a multilateral way. I know that there are colleagues here who clearly see that as an opportunity.

I hope that the Government of Canada will continue to show leadership, because our American friends, the EU, and others are not standing still. They are being very aggressive. As with the experience in Korea, we know the importance of accessing those kinds of markets, because those countries are clearly looking well beyond their shores.

We have talked about a free trade agreement with Japan. Again, the larger issue is an Asia-Pacific agreement. If we are not a player in that part of the world, if we are not a player in a larger sense in the Middle East, we are going to be left behind.

I know that my time is coming to an end. I urge colleagues to support sending it to the committee. It is important that we examine not only this bill, but again, the broader picture of where we want to be in the 21st century in terms of our trading relations. How will they strengthen our own domestic economy so that Canadians are at work and so that we can provide leadership on the world stage.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's comments. I know that he has been an active participant in all of the debates on free trade agreements. One of the things that has been a commonality among the trade agreements that have come before the House, at least since I have been elected, is that labour issues have always been part of a side agreement.

I welcome the member's comments. He said that we could take this to committee. It is imperative that we strengthen sections that are of real concern, not just to people in the labour movement here in Canada but indeed, in Jordan, and in the case of other free trade agreements, right around the world.

I wonder if the member could speak briefly to whether there has ever been any success at the international trade committee in actually amending these labour agreements and whether his support, ultimately, for this free trade agreement will be conditional on the strengthening of those labour provisions.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, there has not been, but that does not mean that there could not be. First of all, we need to make sure that the strongest teeth are in an agreement in terms of labour practices with respect to the issues I raised, such as the collective right to negotiate and unionize, et cetera.

At the same time, we need to be that beacon. We need to be able to continue to push. What we would expect at home we would also expect internationally when dealing with other countries. Obviously, even in the case of Colombia, provisions were put in the agreement, particularly in the area of human rights. Obviously it is not perfect, but we should not demand anything that we would not demand at home in terms of the issues the member has raised. Again, we need to collectively push that issue at committee and going forward.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:30 p.m.
See context

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, here we go again. It is another sitting of Parliament and we are debating yet another free trade agreement. As I understand it, we will be debating two this week, with the Canada-Panama free trade agreement scheduled to be considered in a few days.

It strikes me as a case of serial bilateralism, something for which I would encourage the government to hurry up and find a cure. So far, such agreements have neither enriched Canadians nor led to a coherent or wise industrial and trade policy framework for our country's future prosperity. On the contrary, since the first Canada-U.S. trade agreement was signed, the rich have been getting richer, while the rest of us are falling farther and farther behind. The middle-class, as has been well-documented over and over again, is shrinking and the poor are getting poorer.

However, perhaps that is okay for the Conservative government as long as its friends and the wealthiest corporations are doing all right, not much else seems to matter to it. How else do we explain that the government can find over $1 billion to spend on the G8/G20 without batting an eye, while it keeps saying it simply does not have the money to spend the $700 million necessary to lift all Canadian seniors out of poverty? It simply defies logic, unless the government really does not care.

Instead of debating yet another free trade agreement in the House, we should go back to basics. Let us talk about the kind of Canada we want to leave for our children and grandchildren. When it comes to trade, let us talk about creating a comprehensive, principled trade strategy for our country. That trade policy has to be an integral part of an overall national economic strategy that delivers on the promise of good jobs at home and shared prosperity abroad.

Instead of laying out such a trade policy, the Conservative government keeps pushing its patchwork approach, where our country's global competitiveness is determined based on the profitability of Canadian multinational corporations operating abroad rather than on the ability of Canadian-based producers to compete and thrive on Canadian soil in a dynamic global economy. Surely it is the latter that ought to be our goal.

However, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement does not meet that goal, just like the softwood sellout did not meet that goal, the shipbuilding sellout did not meet that goal and the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement did not meet that goal.

Let us take a quick look at the agreement. It is, as I said earlier, yet another one in a series of bilateral agreements that the government is busily signing around the world. However, bilateral agreements usually favour the dominant economy and ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to the less powerful domestic economies, which multilateral trade negotiations under the WTO would not necessarily allow.

That is why my NDP colleagues and I have consistently opposed NAFTA-style trade arrangements that put the interests of multinational corporations before workers and the environment and that have increased inequality and decreased the quality of life for the majority of working families.

It is precisely the shortsightedness of the so-called free trade model that results in the rejection of fair and sustainable trade and that generates the discontent, which ultimately leads to protectionism and increases the wealth gap between the rich and the poor. The NAFTA model has shown unparalleled efficiency in driving and entrenching the political and economic domination of large transnational corporations and it is currently at the heart of the ongoing drive for bilateral FTAs.

Let me focus the majority of my time today by talking about labour issues. As the NDP labour critic, I am sure most members in the House would expect me to do so.

Although Jordanian law recognizes some trade union rights, those remain limited. Union activity is tightly controlled and the right to collective bargaining is not recognized. There is a chapter on collective agreements in the labour code, but the right to strike is heavily curtailed as government permission must be obtained in order to call a lawful strike.

Many of the labour violations are laid out in a recent report by the UN Refugee Agency. I would commend members of the House to read the 2010 annual survey of violations of trade union rights in Jordan. What is without a doubt the most striking part of that report is the section that deals with the continuing abuse of migrant workers. Despite amendments to the labour law in 2008, which stated that domestic workers were to be treated on an equal footing with Jordanian workers in terms of medical care, timely payment of wages and subscription to the social security corporation, nothing much has changed in the day-to-day lives of migrant workers.

The 2009 official figures showed that more than 322,000 migrants were working in Jordan, but that unofficial estimates put unregistered migrant workers at 100,000 to 150,000. Many are employed without the proper permits, have their passports taken and are forced to work extremely long hours.

Let me give an example. The Israeli owner of the DK Factory in Irbid QIZ abandoned 17 Jordanian and 151 Bengali workers without any pay or benefits. According to the textile union, the problem began when a supervisor had beaten a worker on January 22 in a dispute over a vacation and a financial request. Ninety-three Bangladeshi workers staged a work stoppage that day in protest.

The next day workers returned to work to find the factory gates closed and to learn that the owner had fled the country. The government took nearly one month to respond to the union's complaint, finally beginning to provide some food and shelter for the abandoned workers. An investigation revealed that the employer had been preparing to leave the country for several months and had deliberately provoked the workers to strike.

Here is another example. Some 130 Sri Lankan female workers from the Al.Masader/Mediterranean factory in the Al Dulayl QIZ (EPZ) went on strike on March 1 in protest against being forced to live without heat, hot water or electricity. As management had refused to solve the problem, a local union set up a team of 10 representatives to resolve the dispute. However, a group of organized men beat one of the union activists, threatening to throw him from the dormitory roof unless he agreed to not meet with the female workers again. A complaint was made against the gang, but police refused to intervene. The union has finally arranged a resolution and workers returned to work on March 8.

There have been similar reports of organized gangs that threaten workers and try to destabilize relations between the union and the workers.

I could go on. Reports of forced overtime, beatings, insufficient food, the illegal withholding of passports and other abuses amounting to conditions of forced labour are rampant in Jordan. All too frequently, when workers protested, they were beaten by police, arrested and then deported to their home countries. Some remain in prison still.

The United States already has a free trade agreement with Jordan, but clearly that has not helped. A trade agreement in and of itself does nothing to stop the abuse of labour laws. On the contrary, what this throws into clear relief is that the much touted labour side agreements that are part of every trade agreement are toothless and the one before the House today is no exception.

Yes, I want this trade agreement to be studied in committee. I am not suggesting that Jordan is like Colombia, where paramilitary thugs and drug pushers are connected to the government. In fact, Jordan continues to be a relatively stable country in the Middle East, with some democratic structures. The country has been hard hit by the economic crisis and faces rising unemployment and debt. In an act reminiscent of the Conservative government's prorogation of Parliament, King Abdullah of Jordan dissolved Parliament in mid-2009 in order to push through new economic reforms.

Clearly not all of the country's problems are solved. A U.S. state department report that was referenced earlier in this debate by my colleague, the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster, gives further proof of that.

Therefore, no, I do not think it is unreasonable to expect this trade agreement to be scrutinized further. In fact, I would argue that the international trade committee has an obligation to investigate further. We must hear from women's groups, human rights organizations, business and labour groups, all of which have an interest in addressing the impacts of this agreement.

To ask for such hearings is not being obstructionist. It is simply a matter of due diligence, which ought to be at the heart of how all of us in the House do our work. It is even more important on a file where so little evidence has been presented to verify its success.

Over the years, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, we have heard a lot of cheerleading about how wonderful the various bilateral trade agreements will be for our country, but there has been no hard evidence that their promise has been fulfilled.

I remember during the first free trade agreement that Canada signed with the U.S., Stelco, which is a steel manufacturer in my home town of Hamilton, sent a letter to all steel workers in the plant, telling them that in the upcoming federal election they should vote for parties that supported free trade because their jobs were at stake. That trade agreement has been in place for decades now and I would defy the government to find a single steel worker who would say that it has been good for his or her job. On the contrary, decent family sustaining jobs are disappearing and are being replaced by precarious and part-time work.

It is time to stop celebrating trade agreements when there is not a shred of evidence that they will benefit Canada or Canadians. It is time to develop a meaningful industrial and trade policy that will ensure jobs for Canadians. It is time to focus on policies that will lead to middle-class recovery.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.
See context

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's comments on the bill were insightful. She talked about migrant workers and the fact that the government would have to recognize a labour dispute as being a strike. She raised some serious concerns.

With regard to human rights, we understand that it is not worse than the Colombia issues we brought forth. However, there are some issues and perhaps she could elaborate a little more on what the impact would be with regard to migrant workers.