House of Commons Hansard #19 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

(The House resumed at 12:04 p.m.)

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

Noon

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to debate Bill C-8 at second reading. The quicker we can get this free trade agreement through the House, the quicker we can get it to committee and back to the House for third reading. This is excellent legislation that would benefit all Canadians and certainly all Jordanians.

These agreements are the latest examples of our government's strategy to open doors for Canadian businesses and investors in these challenging economic times. This agreement will be the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and related agreements on labour cooperation and the environment.

An aggressive free trade agenda will foster economic growth, encourage competition and provide more choice for Canadians, and it was highlighted in both the Speech from the Throne and budget 2010. As the global economy continues to recover, the one thing that is clear is that free trade, not protectionism, is the key to long-term prosperity for Canadian workers.

Expanding our market access and engaging in free trade partnerships rather than protectionism is part of the government's strategy to help create jobs, growth and opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In particular, this free trade agreement would benefit a number of sectors across Canada's economy.

Today I would like to outline a few of these sectors and talk about why our trade relationship with Jordan is so critical at this time in our history.

The fact is that sectors across Canada's economy need the kind of competitive access provided by this free trade agreement. Our companies need to be able to compete and succeed in a global marketplace. The agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan. To be more precise, the agreement would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.

Farmers would benefit because the agreement would eliminate tariffs on pulse crops, including lentils, chickpeas and beans, frozen french fries, animal feed and various prepared foods. It would also expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, including forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts.

As I am sure the House is aware, our manufacturers and Canadians employed in all of these sectors need every competitive advantage they can get in these challenging times. Through tariff elimination, our free trade agreement with Jordan would open new doors for these sectors, create new opportunities for Canadians employed in them and help our businesses succeed in global markets. The free trade agreement would help to ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access to Jordan's markets.

I want to take a moment to also touch on the Canada-Jordan foreign investment promotion and protection agreement that came into force on December 14 of last year. Signed at the same time as the free trade agreement, it will help encourage two-way investment by providing investors in both countries with the clarity and the certainty they need when investing in each other's markets.

Canadian investors are discovering a wealth of opportunities in the Jordanian market. Sectors, like resource extraction, nuclear energy, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure, all hold much promise for Canadian investors. One need only look at the great success the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has found in Jordan. It is now the largest foreign investor in Jordan. We can all also look at the long list of other Canadian companies, like Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin for instance, that have made significant inroads in the Jordanian market.

That is why the free trade agreement and the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement are such important accomplishments. We are standing up for Canadian business and we are standing strong for Canadian workers. In the broader sense, it is only the beginning.

The Canada-Jordan FTA is Canada's first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country. The Middle East and the north Africa region are becoming more important to Canadian business.

This agreement with Jordan would give us access to a critical market in the region. We have opened a number of significant doorways into the region and set the stage for Canadian businesses to create even more commercial links throughout the Middle East and north Africa in the years ahead.

However, Canada also believes that deeper commercial engagement need not come at the expense of labour standards or the environment. We think trade and investment can be a positive force for communities worldwide. We are very pleased to include parallel labour and environment agreements as part of the larger package of agreements we have signed with Jordan.

I will start with the labour co-operation agreement. It commits both countries to respect the core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization, standards that help eliminate child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination, and that respect freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. The agreement also commits both countries in providing acceptable minimum employment standards and compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses. I should also add that under this agreement migrant workers would enjoy the same legal protections as nationals, when it comes to working conditions.

In a similar vein, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and the development and improvement of policies that protect the natural environment. Domestic environmental laws must be respected and enforced. This agreement commits both countries to this goal.

It also commits both countries to ensure that the strong environmental assessment processes are in place, as well as remedies for violating environmental laws. Through the agreement on the environment, our governments are also encouraging businesses to adopt best practices of corporate social responsibility and promote public awareness and engagement. As with the labour agreement, these measures would help ensure that increased trade and investment does not come at the expense of the environment and that businesses can play a positive role in the life of each country.

This is a critical time for Canada's economy. The global economic downturn has hit all nations hard. Our bilateral trade with Jordan, for example, fell from $92 million in 2008 to $82 million in 2009, primarily due to a decline in Canadian exports to Jordan.

We must do the right things to get there. We must continue to take steps to sharpen Canada's competitive edge. The global economy is not going away and one in five Canadian jobs depend upon Canada trading with the rest of the world. We need to continue opening doors to opportunity for our businesses and investors to thrive and prosper today and beyond the current economic downturn. Our free trade agreement with Jordan is an important part of these efforts. So is the foreign investment protection agreement and the two agreements on labour and the environment. Canada needs these tools to be competitive in Jordan.

This free trade agreement resonates with many Canadians. It would eliminate tariffs on Canadian products into this expanding market. In doing so, it would create opportunities for Canadian industries still on the rebound from recent economic turbulence and complement the government's successful strategy to stimulate economic growth for Canadians on all fronts. It would benefit Canadian consumers by eliminating tariffs on virtually all imports from Jordan. In doing all of that, and this is the key, it would also protect the environment and workers' rights.

I cannot mention this fact enough. This is not just a free trade agreement. It has a side agreement on labour co-operation and the environment. They were negotiated in parallel with the free trade agreement and link directly to environmental and labour provisions. Both the environment and the labour agreements contain what the negotiators call a non-derogation clause, meaning that neither Canada nor Jordan may waive or lessen existing environmental and labour laws to encourage trade or investment.

In effect, the parallel labour and environment agreements would help to ensure progress on labour rights and environment protection.

I will begin by elaborating on the agreement on the environment that is included in this agreement.

This agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to strive to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.

Canada and Jordan are committed to complying with and effectively enforcing their domestic environmental laws, ensure that proceedings are available to remedy violations of environmental laws, promote public awareness of environmental laws and policies, put in place environmental impact assessment processes, and encourage the use of voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises.

The agreement on the environment also creates potential avenues for cooperation. Areas of activities would include cooperation on enforcement and compliance, corporate social responsibility and environmental technologies.

The agreement's dispute settlement provisions are forward-looking and progressive.

Members of the public would be able to submit questions to either party on any obligations or cooperative activities under the agreement. Canada and Jordan can undertake consultations to resolve any disagreements and, if need be, the matter can be referred to ministers for resolution.

As a final step, both Jordan and Canada would be able to ask for an independent review panel to investigate situations where they think the other party has failed to effectively enforce its environmental laws. In these circumstances, Canada and Jordan will work to develop an action plan to implement panel recommendations.

Environmental and labour protections are integral to the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement. We all know that the environmental and labour standards can go together and even benefit from free trade. Our free trade agreement with Jordan, along with the parallel agreements on the environment and labour cooperation, ensures that they do.

Finally, in summarizing this agreement, I just want to go over a couple more points.

We know that Canada and Jordan would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and most agricultural tariffs and have both committed to reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. Canadian exporters wold benefit from enhanced access to the Jordanian market. A Canada-Jordan free trade agreement would also help to level the playing field, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access against our companies here in Canada.

Under tariff elimination, there would be an elimination of all Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs that currently average 11%. These include tariffs of 10% to 30% on many non-agricultural products of Canadian export interests, including industrial and electrical machinery, auto parts, construction equipment and forest products such as wood building materials and paper. The elimination of the vast majority of Jordan's agricultural tariffs, including key Canadian export interests, such as pulse crops, frozen french fries, various prepared foods and animal feeds, which face high tariffs of as much as 30%.

The vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan would benefit from the immediate duty-free access to the Jordanian market upon implementation of this free trade agreement. Upon implementation, Canada will immediately eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs on imports originating in Jordan, as well as most agricultural tariffs. As in all of our past free trade agreements, Canada has excluded over-quota supply managed dairy, poultry and ag products from any tariff reductions.

There are also reductions to non-tariff barriers to trade in this agreement, commitments to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods, provisions to affirm and build on obligations under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and an agreement to apply the provisions of the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures in bilateral trade.

A committee on trade in goods and rules of origin would l be created as a forum for Canada and Jordan to discuss any goods-related trade issues that arise, including technical barriers to trade.

There would be a bilateral goods trade overview. Canadian exports to Jordan totalled $65.8 million in 2009, up from $31 million in 2003. Our top exports to Jordan in 2009 included vehicles, forest products, machinery, pulse crops, such as lentils and chick peas, ships and boats and plastics. The top exports for the previous year included paper and paperboard, copper wire, pulse crops, machinery and wood pulp. Canadian merchandise imports from Jordan totalled $16.6 million in 2009, up from $6 million in 2003. Top imports included knit and woven apparel, precious stones and metals, mainly jewellery, vegetables and inorganic chemicals.

All our consultations and reviews of this very important agreement show us that trade will not just be expanded, but will be drastically expanded. It comes at a time when we need jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers. A couple of parties seem to totally reject the free trade agreement. They would take us back to the Great Depression again and work us through all kinds of technical trade barriers that Canadians simply cannot afford.

Finally, in the spirit of co-operation, I think there are a number of free traders in the House, certainly in the Liberal Party. They have been favourable to free trade agreements in the past. I would ask them to look at this agreement and to support it. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian traders. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian exporters.

A very good example is my own riding, a very rural riding on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. Ninety-seven per cent of all the jobs created in my very small, very rural riding are trade related and manufacturing jobs, whether they are fish processing jobs or manufacturing, it is all value-added. There is an aeronautical sector and an aerospace sector. In the forest products everything is dimensional lumber. It is all manufactured again. Agriculture is all value-added.

If those people cannot sell their products, if they cannot move on to the world market that we have traditionally enjoyed in Atlantic Canada, especially in Nova Scotia, through the days of the schooner trade and before that, then we are taking not only a step backward, we would be taking a step backward to ancient history, where people lived in walled city states and fought one another instead of trading with one another. That would be a tremendous mistake.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade admit his new friendships with the Liberal Party, and particularly with the hon. member for Kings—Hants.

After receiving the assurance that the Liberal Party would support the free trade agreement with Colombia, he mentioned that two parties were not supporting the agreement with Jordan. The Bloc agrees in principle with this free trade agreement. However, there is a specific issue that I find very disturbing, and I would like to get an answer from the parliamentary secretary in this regard.

My concern has to do with water. 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.

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

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may have misspoke. I do not believe I said anything about two parties not supporting this trade agreement in my comments. I would hope all parties would support the trade agreement. It is a good agreement, a progressive agreement and it will benefit constituents right across the country from coast to coast to coast.

In respect to the surface water, Canada does not trade in surface water. We never have. It has never been on the bargaining table, and it is not on the bargaining table now.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we will get beyond the rhetoric of the parliamentary secretary because we have time during the debate today to talk about what the real impacts have been of the government's misguided trade policy.

Certainly the 2,000 people in my riding who have lost their jobs as a result of the softwood sellout can attest to the fact that government members, at the very best, are trade dilettantes and, at the very worst, are very destructive to our manufacturing capacity and our value-added industries.

This bill was brought forward in September. The NDP at that time clearly signalled that it wanted it to go to committee so labour activists could be brought in to talk about the labour rights component and have human rights activists brought in to talk about some of the concerns that had been raised.

Thank goodness Jordan is not Colombia. Colombia is an appalling state that has abuses and murders occur routinely. The NDP has been signalling that we wanted to send the bill to committee for eight months and the government, in its incompetence, has not brought it forward. Why has the government not brought it forward so we could send it to committee and hear from witnesses?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, a very quick answer to his question is that is exactly what we are doing. The bill is before the House and it will go through second reading. There is a process and we all respect the rules of the House. I am sure even the hon. member respects the rules of the House. It will go through second reading, it will go to committee and the committee will look at it very closely.

There are not many questions on this legislation but the issue about it is quite simple. If we compare Canada's business with Jordan, we do somewhere between mid-$60 million, low $70 million worth of trade with Jordan this year, which is down from an all-time high in 2008.

If we look at the free trade agreement the United States signed with Jordan, it did about $200 million worth of trade with Jordan. Now it does $2 billion. We should expect the same type of exponential gain from Canada's business with Jordan as the Americans had.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary has not answered the question. Eight months ago all four parties signalled they wanted to send it to committee. Instead, the government has been pushing forward with the extremely controversial Colombia trade deal, where very clearly there is no consensus in the House, and systematically refusing to bring forward the Jordan bill, even though it was signalled.

The Bloc member for Sherbrooke signalled that he wanted it to go to committee. He wants to hear from labour activists and human rights advocates. We certainly want to hear from labour activists, human rights advocates and women's rights groups. We want the trade committee to delve deeply into the Jordan trade and see whether the components actually match the government's rhetoric. Yet the government has refused to bring it forward. It simply begs this question. Why has the government waited eight months?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I will try to speak more slowly and distinctly because my first answer was obviously missed by the hon. member. It will be the same answer.

It is in the House and we are debating it. There is a side agreement on labour and a side agreement on the environment. They are good side agreements. We are anxious to get this to committee and we would appreciate the support of the hon. member to get it to committee and back to the House so we get the agreement passed.

At the same time, we intend to continue, with the co-operation of the House, to work on a very important free trade agreement with Colombia. It really has nothing to do with the debate today, but is one that is an extremely important agreement to Canadian businesses, exporters and, therefore, workers.

I would again ask the hon. member to look through his rhetoric and support that agreement as well. All free trade agreements are good for Canadian workers.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand what the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster is saying. When we were dealing with the free trade agreement with Colombia, we spent several months looking at this agreement, at its ins and outs, and at the impact that it could have.

However, the members of the Standing Committee on International Trade did not have the opportunity to examine the agreement with Jordan. The free trade agreement with Colombia was signed before the committee had even issued its recommendations. When these recommendations became public, it was clear that Canada should not enter into that agreement.

In the case of Jordan, the work was not done either before the signing of the agreement. Committee members found out about it after the fact. They did not have the opportunity to examine this agreement. We are now at second reading, which is an important stage, but the committee has not done any real work.The parliamentary secretary is asking us to sign a blank cheque and to refer the bill back to the committee for review. The committee could well make recommendations against this agreement.

Here is the process that should be followed: the legislation goes through second reading and is then referred to committee. In some cases, particularly when we are dealing with free trade agreements, it would be preferable to know the impacts of such agreements before signing them.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, again, I appreciate the question from the hon. member. The answer is very clear. When we get through second reading debate, the bill will go to committee. I look forward to his comments and interventions at committee. I look forward to any assistance the hon. member and his party are willing to give to move the bill through the chamber, through committee and back to the House so we can actually put it into law.

Again, we have over-debated the Colombia agreement and we are still debating it, but I think there is a different spirit of co-operation on the Colombian bill. I certainly hope we will be able to move forward in a positive way on Colombia as well.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great interest in and certainly initial support for this legislation, the free trade agreement that Canada has signed with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to go to committee where we can hear from witnesses and scrutinize the legislation as we ought to with any legislation.

This FTA ought to provide Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs greater access to the Jordanian market by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products, and in certain cases Canadian agriculture and agri-food. Once again, our supply managed sectors have been protected in this agreement.

In terms of the numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of merchandise. Almost $66 million of that, or 80% of the trade, was in the form of Canadian exports to Jordan. It is a fairly small number. Certainly, the precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased ten-fold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that could occur here.

While I spoke in general support of sending this to committee, I have to question more broadly the Conservative government's trade focus. With China and India growing between 6% to 9% per year, massive markets, incredible investments in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, public transit, and green investments, all the kinds of products and manufacturing that Canada has some level of expertise in, I believe that the government ought to be focusing more on some of those larger opportunities.

The question of Africa is an important one and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade referred to North Africa and the Middle East, but for the Conservative government Africa has been largely off the map. I think there is a broad consensus emerging that the relationship between Canada and Africa has to go from being primarily one of aid provision to trade opportunity and the opportunity is significant.

I have spoken to people including David Rubenstein, head of The Carlyle Group, who believes that perhaps the best continent in the world to invest in over the next 10 years will be Africa. There is a great opportunity for us and there are tremendous historic ties that Canada has with Africa. We have some real advantages in terms of our relationship with Africa that I believe we ought to be focusing more on.

I would like to come back to this free trade agreement because notwithstanding my questioning of the government's overall macro trade policy focus, I believe that these kinds of agreements are helpful. I would like to see a lot more focus on some of the larger long-term opportunities for Canada.

The Jordanian economy is predicted to grow by 3% this year and 3.7% in 2011. It is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's FTAs, this FTA includes agreements on the environment and labour cooperation that will help promote sustainability, and protect and ensure labour rights. More specifically, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement recognized both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization, ILO, Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination.

Both the labour cooperation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

Canada already has one free trade agreement in place in the region generally. That is the FTA with Israel that has been in place since 1997. This agreement, however, is the first Canada has signed with an Arab country. It is fitting that this agreement would be, and this precedent would be set, with Jordan. Canada and Jordan share a friendly and constructive relationship as exemplified by our recent agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East and has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994. Jordan has also helped to foster deeper relations and a greater understanding between the west and the Arab world. On the trade front, Jordan already has free trade agreements with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The FTA with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's FTA with the European Union went into effect in May 2002 and its FTA with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

Canada and Jordan also signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, FIPA, at the same time as the free trade agreement on June 28, 2009. However, unlike the FTA, the FIPA is already in place. In fact, it went into effect on December 14, 2009. I am curious as to why the FIPA was kept as a separate agreement, even though the FTA and the FIPA were signed at the same time.

The FIPA is based on the principle of national treatment, from an investor's perspective that a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan and vice versa. We have to treat Jordanian investors in Canada as we would treat our own investors. The principle of national treatment in the FIPA agreement is quite core to free trade agreements.

When considering the Bloc Québécois' public position against some measures within free trade agreements, it is curious that this FIPA includes measures that guarantee national treatment, often called investor-state provisions. We do welcome the support from Bloc members for this free trade agreement, but I would remind them that, if they are opposed to investor-state provisions and national treatment, the FIPA agreement has not been tabled in the House.

If that is an area that is of interest to the Bloc, in terms of investor-state provisions and the whole area of national treatment, the government has curiously chosen first, to separate the FIPA from this free trade agreement and second, to table only the free trade agreement in the House. In some ways, this contravenes the government's own policy on tabling treaties in Parliament. If one reads from the Conservative policy on tabling treaties in Parliament that went into effect on January 25, 2008, it says:

The objective of this policy is to ensure that all instruments governed by public international law, between Canada and other states or international organisations, are tabled in the House of Commons following their signature or adoption by other procedure and prior to Canada formally notifying that it is bound by the Instrument.

The FIPA with Jordan was signed in June 2009 and went into effect in December 2009, but it has never been tabled in the House. I can quote the member for Beauce, who was the foreign affairs minister at that time. He said:

As of today, all treaties between Canada and other states or entities, and which are considered to be governed by public international law, will be tabled in the House of Commons

He continued describing the government's commitment when he said:

This reflects our government's commitment to democracy and accountability. By submitting our international treaties to public scrutiny, we are delivering on our promise for a more open and transparent government.

I think it is important to remind the House that that was a firm commitment by the government to table all international treaties in the House. While the government has tabled the FTA with Jordan, it has not tabled the FIPA, the agreement on investments. I believe it ought to have done that prior to final ratification. This is not the first time the Conservative government has contradicted its own policy or commitment to democracy and accountability.

We know what has happened with prorogation and the attack of the government on democratic values. The Conservative government failed to table the buy American deal. It could not table that agreement because it had prorogued the House, which seemed rather convenient because it held a press conference on the buy American deal and only a week later provided the actual agreement leaving opposition and Canadians asking questions as to where the beef is on this.

Ultimately, we found out that the deal was not only late in coming, almost too late to benefit Canadians in terms of access to the American stimulus package, but it was also very weak in terms of the kinds of protection it provided to Canadian workers.

In terms of trade, the Conservative government has broadly failed to defend our interest with our largest trading partner, the U.S., and it has failed to diversify our trade relations by aggressively pursuing trade deals with the world's largest emerging markets.

We are a trade dependent nation, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on our ability to access foreign markets. History would tell us that from beaver pelts in the past to BlackBerries today, Canada's prosperity has been forged in the markets of the world. We prosper because we can and we must compete.

Canada is a world leader in efficient natural resource extraction, as an example. Our manufactured goods are known around the world for quality and innovation. It is because Canada has the ingenuity and expertise to benefit from free trade. Canada profited when we signed the Auto Pact with the U.S. We have prospered under NAFTA.

However, under this government, in 2009, Canada faced its first trade deficit in 30 years. Unless Canada takes real and meaningful action to diversify our trade relations, we run the risk of falling behind as other countries diversify theirs.

I would like to speak for a moment on the whole issue of climate change, not on the environment and climate change, not in terms of environmental responsibility but in terms of economic opportunities. The fact is, around the world, countries are putting a price on carbon. We have seen it in various countries in the EU, and we have seen the EU move broadly. We see today in the U.S. there are three pieces of legislation under debate, the Waxman-Markey bill, the Cantwell-Collins bill, and more recently the development of senator Lindsey Graham's initiative with senator Joe Lieberman and senator John Kerry.

We do not know what is going to happen in the U.S. Congress. We are familiar with the dysfunctionality of Congress from time to time. However, I believe at some point, and quite possibly in the next few months, we will see some form of carbon pricing come out of the U.S.

Whether it is in the next few months or the next few years, we know that the world is putting a price on carbon. We also know that even in China, according to Fan Gang, who is one of the pre-eminent economists in China and, in fact, one of the authors of the five year plan, it is actually considering a carbon pricing mechanism for its next five year plan.

As the world puts a price on carbon, particularly in the protectionist U.S., we expect carbon price border pricing mechanisms to be included in those carbon tariffs. What it means for Canada in the long-term, in our high carbon economy, is that we will become less competitive than we are right now.

The approach of the Conservative government is to wait and see what the U.S. is going to do in terms of carbon pricing. That is a high-risk approach because the fact is that when the U.S. comes to a legislative or an administrative conclusion in terms of what to do with pricing carbon and it imposes it on us through the form of a carbon tariff, that could potentially have a very deleterious effect on our economy.

Canada is the biggest energy provider to the U.S., which means that we have a vested interest in the decisions made now in the U.S. Congress and by the U.S. administration. We should not be sitting back waiting for them to conclude those discussions. We ought to be engaged as their biggest energy provider.

We ought to be working more closely with them to develop cleaner energy solutions, cleaner conventional energy and alternative energy. We ought to be working with them to modernize energy grids and strengthen transmission, and to go toward smart grid and smart meters.

We ought to be working more closely with them to build a Canada-U.S. energy strategy that could help insulate us against the potential risk of a carbon pricing mechanism that is reached in the U.S. without any consultation with Canada, but also more fundamentally, to render both our economies more competitive in the emerging green economy in a global carbon constrained world.

At the World Economic Forum this year in Davos, Canada's Conservative Prime Minister was alone among all foreign leaders when he insisted that measures to address climate change will hurt the economy with “real impacts on jobs and economic growth”. He went on further to say, “There are serious trade-offs with economic imperatives in the short term”. His view was completely out of step with global leaders, including in recent months, President Obama.

Around the world, the conversation about climate change has gone from one of environmental responsibility to one of economic opportunity. Canada, as a major energy producer, can build on our expertise within the traditional energy sector to become a green energy superpower. We can position Canada as a global leader. We can position Canada as a clean energy partner for China and India, but only if we have a federal strategy, a national strategy working with the provinces.

Other countries have used their stimulus packages to become more competitive, to build more competitiveness in the global carbon constrained economy. The U.S. invested six times more per capita than Canada in clean energy through its stimulus package. Canada was among the lowest in the OECD in terms of green stimulus spending.

In December, China and the Obama administration in the U.S. signed an agreement on carbon capture and storage technology. Canada was not even at the table. This is an area where Canada has a comparative advantage. Forty per cent of the carbon stored in the world is sequestered in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Weyburn resulted from the federal government's investment, at that time the Martin Liberal government, and the private sector to make that happen. It is a world-class facility in Weyburn with world-class technology.

Yet we were not at the table when China signed a deal with our largest trading partner, the U.S., on CO2 sequestration. This year, according to energy secretary Chu in the U.S., the U.S. is investing $3 billion in CO2 sequestration technology, and that is being partnered with $7 billion of private sector investment.

We have a narrow window of opportunity to maintain our advancement in terms of CO2 sequestration, but we are going to lose that very quickly as China and the U.S. move forward more quickly than we are doing in terms of investment and in terms of innovation.

The competition for leadership in the new green economy is fierce. China in 2008 became the largest producer of solar panels in the world. In 2009 China became the largest producer of wind turbines in the world.

We cannot wait while other countries act. If there was a first talker advantage, Canada would probably get it, but there is only a first mover advantage and other countries are moving. Canada is just sitting back and waiting.

At Davos this year, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said:

Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China. Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy. China has made a long-term strategic decision and they are going gang-busters.

We need to deepen our energy relationship with the U.S. We must focus on coordinated carbon pricing mechanisms, integrated smart energy grid corridors and green technology research, development and partnerships. We must build on the Canada-U.S. relationship but at the same time, we need to become China's and India's clean energy partner.

We need a long-term strategic approach to ensuring that not only do we defend our interests in the U.S. against American protectionism, but also in the 21st century that Canada has diversified trading relationships around the world in the area where we have our strongest comparative advantage, and that is clean energy and clean energy solutions.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, in his comments the member for Kings—Hants mentioned that there has been some delay in tabling this legislation, but he would be well aware that the agreement was signed on June 28, 2009 and tabled on September 15, 2009. That included a copy of the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the explanatory memorandum, as well as a copy of the agreement on the environment, a copy of the agreement on trade, and a copy of the agreement on labour co-operation.

I very much appreciate his comments and his support for this agreement. Plain and simple, this is a minority Parliament and legislation cannot get through the House without a cooperative attitude. I look forward to that not just on this agreement, but on others as well.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, my point was actually on the FIPA agreement, the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. For some reason the government chose in this case to have a separate agreement, to separate the FIPA from the free trade agreement and to only table the free trade agreement in the House prior to ratification. In fact, the FIPA has already been signed and has gone into effect with Jordan.

I would appreciate hearing from the parliamentary secretary on behalf of the government why the government separated these two agreements and why it broke its commitment to table all foreign agreements of this nature in the House for debate and parliamentary ratification prior to their going into effect.

Again, the foreign investment protection and promotion agreement has already gone into effect without having come to this House.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the comments by the member for Kings—Hants. He always defends well his position.

I agree with some of his comments, particularly on the delay the government has put into effect on the agreement itself. An eight month delay is absolutely ridiculous when all four corners of the House were saying to move this forward.

I disagree on one comment he made around NAFTA. As we all know, since the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was implemented, most Canadians' family incomes have actually declined, not gone up. It is only the very wealthy in Canada who have seen their incomes go up.

His comments were interesting. I would like to ask him a specific question on the agreement with Jordan. Obviously there will be some concerns expressed around the agreement and some amendments will be brought forward.

Would the member support an independent assessment of the human rights and labour rights situation in Jordan as an amendment to the bill and the agreement? In other words, independent and impartial human rights organizations and labour rights organizations would evaluate how Jordan is actually implementing its responsibilities under the agreement.