House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

All those opposed will please say nay.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, September 29, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

Suspension of Sitting
Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
Private Members' Business

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

We will now suspend the House until government orders at noon.

(The sitting of the House was suspended at 11:51 a.m.)

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

Noon

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska has 14 minutes.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I began my first speech on this bill on March 29. It feels strange to spend the next 14 minutes talking about an issue that I discussed so long ago. However, I have done my homework, so I remember clearly what was going on with Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement.

I will not repeat what I said when I began talking about this on March 29, but I will summarize. I started by saying that the Bloc Québécois supported this bill in principle. I raised a number of important points, including the fact that Jordan is currently modernizing its government and is relying heavily on international trade to support its economic growth. An agreement with Canada could really help this emerging economy.

Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. By signing an international trade agreement with Jordan, Canada would demonstrate a degree of balance in our interests in that part of the world, given the strained political relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, of which all hon. members are aware.

Just today, I was reading that the resumption of talks was very tentative. Let us be positive and optimistic about what is happening there. Our thoughts are with the people who are suffering because of the problems arising from the conflicts in the Middle East.

Such an agreement between Canada and Jordan could send a signal to other Middle Eastern countries that would like to expand their economic relations with the west.

On a more technical note, potential trade would be mainly in the agricultural sector. I also mentioned this in the first part of my speech. As the Bloc Québécois agriculture critic, I carefully examined this aspect. As we know, agriculture is not very well developed in Jordan. It does not represent a threat to our agricultural producers. We checked with the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec. Water is scarce in Jordan, and the climate is arid. That is not where most crops are grown. The same goes for livestock. However, we do import some products from Jordan.

It would probably be more beneficial for us, especially in Quebec, to trade with this country. I joked that we will not sell much pork to Jordan. However, we might have some success with sales of other meats, cash crops and fruits and vegetables.

There are also interesting opportunities for Quebec's pulp and paper industry, which has the largest share of exports to Jordan. According to 2008 statistics, Canada's trade with Jordan totalled $92 million, of which Quebec's share was $35 million, with $25 million in pulp and paper exports. This could be good for my riding, which is home to such companies as Domtar and Cascades. In Quebec especially, this industry needs to find new markets. I hope that will be possible.

In Canada, Quebec is Jordan's largest trade partner. According to the most recent statistics, Quebec's share of Canadian exports to Jordan in 2008 was 45% or $35 million. Canada's total trade with Jordan reached $92 million. This is not a free trade agreement on the scale of the one being negotiated with the European Union or NAFTA. Jordan is a small country; however, a free trade agreement could open the door to some Middle Eastern markets.

I spoke about another point that I want to bring up again. Since we will vote to send this bill to committee, there is a chance that it will make it there. So I would like to talk about natural surface water and ground water, whether in a liquid, gaseous or solid state, which are excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute but not mentioned in the text of the agreement itself. That could be dangerous.

I could compare this to the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, which is currently under negotiation. For the first time ever, Canada decided to leave the supply management system on the table. With other bilateral agreements, research was done, and Canada always excluded the supply management system from negotiations. That is worrisome, because even if the Conservative government gives us verbal assurances that it will protect the supply management system, the very fact that the system is among the issues on the negotiating table leaves us at the mercy of the European Union's negotiators, who could demand some compromises. I referred to surface and ground water because we would hate to see this resource traded with any country. We have to wonder why it was only included in the implementation bill, when it was not stated in the text of the agreement. That would be something to look into during the study in committee.

Even though we are supposed to study each free trade agreement on its own merits, it is clear that the government has a tendency to drop the multilateral approach, just as it is tempted to do with foreign affairs. The government is negotiating free trade agreements with nearly 30 countries. The WTO agreements and the Doha agreement are not working very well. Multilateral agreements are on hold and there has been no effort on that front whatsoever. Now they are focusing on bilateral agreements.

The Bloc Québécois does not feel that this is the way to go about improving the lot of those countries, particularly the developing ones. Officials in the Department of International Trade, like those in the industry department, have admitted to the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology that no studies have been conducted to evaluate whether these agreements will be beneficial to our economy. Not that it matters; ever since these bilateral agreements have been introduced, the Liberal and Conservative members feel that the government must move ahead with them, whether an agreement is beneficial or not.

One example of this is the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. Only the Bloc Québécois and the NDP spoke out against this free trade agreement, simply on the grounds that Colombia does not respect human rights, environmental rights or labour rights.

In a paternalistic manner, we offer to trade with Colombia and help it make money through the free trade agreement and then say that maybe the country should start considering human rights. I do not think this is the right way to go about it. I think such a country needs to know right away that it is unacceptable to treat its population the way it does, and that, as a penalty, we will not be doing business with them until they rectify the situation.

As I said, both the Liberals and Conservatives believe that the government should pursue these bilateral agreements. At least, that is what has come out of the meetings of the Standing Committee on International Trade. Obviously, the Bloc Québécois voted against the report that was passed by the majority of the House committee.

Even worse, the committee also recommended beginning all kinds of other bilateral negotiations, even though no studies have been done to determine whether these agreements will be beneficial for either Canada or Quebec. The committee even contemplated a free trade agreement with China. I would remind the House that in 2005, Canadian imports of Chinese goods totalled $32 billion and generated a $26 billion trade deficit in Canada, or $1,000 per capita. We definitely do not have the upper hand in our trade with China at this time. When trade with any given country generates five times more imports than exports, the top priority should be to make the terms more balanced, rather than more liberal.

The Bloc Québécois will only support future bilateral free trade agreements if it believes they will benefit Quebec's economy.

Furthermore, the Bloc Québécois insists that new free trade agreements must contain clauses requiring that minimum standards on human rights—as I mentioned earlier—labour rights and respect for the environment be met.

As I was saying, in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. Earlier we were talking about pulp and paper and agriculture. Those are part of that reality. It is very difficult for them to compete with products that are made with no regard for basic social rights.

We have been talking about this for quite some time. Before I was even elected to this House, when I was working for my colleague from Joliette who was the international trade critic, the Bloc Québécois had made many presentations and organized many meetings with citizens in civil society regarding this globalization and how we wanted it to have a human face. That is the terminology used at the time. Here we are in 2010, still referring to something we were talking about in the early 2000s.

The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, as I was saying, our traditional industries in particular. The Bloc Québécois believes that child labour, forced labour and the denial of the fundamental rights of workers is a form of unfair competition, just like export subsidies and dumping.

These examples are often cited in committee, in the Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food for example, in relation to strong economic powers such as the European Union and the United States, which heavily subsidize their farm productions. An example that springs to mind is the cotton market in certain African countries that has been completely destroyed because the U.S. subsidizes its own cotton so much that African countries no longer produce any cotton, although they can grow it easily, because the market has simply been killed off. We see these examples.

Here in Canada we were victims of dumping in the corn market when the United States simply decided to lower the price of corn and subsidize it heavily. It is this type of example that strikes us. And, obviously, there are other examples where civil rights are not respected in certain emerging countries.

Trade agreements and trade laws do not protect our businesses and our workers from this social dumping. If a country wants to benefit from free trade, in return it has to accept a certain number of basic rules, with regard to civil and social rights in particular. Colombia is a good example.

I am being signalled that my time is running out. I will wrap up by saying that the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment. In their current form, side agreements on minimum labour standards and environmental protection lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective.

Let us move toward multilateral agreements, which is not to say that we would not be in favour of some bilateral agreements in certain cases, as with Jordan of course. We are in favour of sending this bill to committee.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to my colleague's speech on the bill before us, which is obviously connected to the free trade agreement negotiated between Canada and Jordan.

A number of times, he mentioned that the Bloc Québécois was in favour of this bill because it would implement an agreement that was negotiated. It is still a bilateral agreement, though. It was clear from his speech, and we have seen on other occasions, that the government lacks an overall strategy when it comes to free trade agreements. In a way, the lack of an overall strategy when negotiating each agreement sometimes makes it difficult to have a vision that ensures that everyone comes out a winner.

I would like him to comment on whether I understood what he was saying.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is very familiar with this issue, since he is the Bloc's international trade critic. He has examined this agreement, and he will no doubt do the same for any other agreement.

Indeed, there is a way to civilize international trade. It is simply a matter of drawing upon past experiences. In general, multilateral agreements have always been better at ensuring that human rights are better respected, whether we are talking about labour rights, environmental rights, workers' right to unionize or other rights, because with these multilateral agreements, poor and emerging countries also have a voice; they also have the right to speak up. We as sovereignists are always concerned when agreements are signed and Quebec does not have a place at the negotiating table. That is one of our arguments, because Quebec would be much better off if it were able to sit at the negotiating table.

In any event, today, Brazil and India, for example, as well as all emerging countries, can be much more demanding with multilateral agreements than with bilateral agreements.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member from the Bloc mentioned a concern he has around this bilateral trend we see, with our government going off and negotiating these bilateral agreements seemingly everywhere, with any size of country. In this case, clauses 16 and 17 talk about how the Government of Canada will look at the effects of trade with Jordan on our economy.

My question is very simple. Is he not concerned, as many are, that we are just layering so many different kinds of processes when we get into these agreements that it actually can cause the opposite of free trade of goods? We would get into these disputes and then we would have tribunals study them in a bilateral nature, not in a multilateral nature, and instead of having a free flow of goods and services, we could end up actually having a blocked-up process, because under clauses such as clause 17 we would actually inhibit the free flow of goods because we would be locked into these tribunals.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear, and I mentioned this in my speech, that we would have liked to see studies that very clearly demonstrate and prove that this type of bilateral agreement is profitable for our industries. I was talking about agriculture, the pulp and paper industry and so on, where we already know there are possibilities of opening the market. However, generally, there is no clear study on this.

The same goes for the various clauses that will determine whether there are disputes between the two countries. In any event, these provisions are always included in every bilateral agreement. I do not necessarily think we are anticipating or that we should anticipate any specific problems with Jordan. However, we see the infamous chapter 11 of NAFTA also being used in other countries. I do not understand why the government keeps making this mistake that causes so much harm.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today in support of Bill C-8, 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, and having it reviewed at committee.

I am pleased also to participate in a debate that, unusual for this House in recent times, should be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric.

The official opposition supports the passing of this bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government side of the House support it. We should take advantage of these opportunities when they come along, as they do so rather rarely. However, before my government friends get too excited, I will be raising some real concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and on the missing trade opportunities with China, South Korea and others.

Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed it set a record this July, not a record to be proud of, at a deficit of $2.7 billion. Something is going wrong. We must challenge the government hard on why that is and what we can do about it.

Although we in the Liberal Party want to see continued work on the larger multilateral trade negotiations, and I note that two of my colleagues just now have spoken about the desire for greater multilateral negotiations, we would like to see Canada work even harder in promoting a multilateral approach. We recognize the practicalities and challenges we see happening in that regard. In the absence of progress on the multilateral level, we in the Liberal Party encourage Canada to work at the bilateral level to enhance our trade with as many other countries as possible.

Canada is a nation that supports free trade. Our origins are those of a trading nation, starting with fur and wood and other natural resources. Trade accounts for a significantly greater proportion of our overall economic activity than many other nations. Indeed, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on trade and our ability to access foreign markets.

Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border of the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from the lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on those goods are reduced and eliminated.

Although there will always be debate about protectionism and what steps are best to foster and promote Canadian business success and therefore jobs, most Canadian businesses that look to domestic markets benefit from free trade, not only for all the reasons I have just given but also in being forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules of trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative and competitive when not hiding behind protectionist walls.

I am proud to rise in the House today for this debate and to show my support, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, for Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and the Canada-Jordan agreement on the environment.

The Harper government's careless handling of Canada's trade relations has led to trade deficits—

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would ask members to refrain from referring to members by their names.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

The Conservative government has created trade deficits for the first time in more than 30 years. There needs to be more effort and a greater commitment to improve this situation by increasing international trade between Canada and other countries in the world.

Canada relies on trade. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to export markets.

The Liberal Party supports the principles of free trade as well as initiatives that improve access to foreign markets for Canada's businesses. Even though Jordan's economy is not that large and trade between Canada and Jordan is not extensive, we can make a comparison with what has happened in the United States.

Since 2001, when the United States and Jordan signed their free trade agreement, their trade volume has increased tenfold. We hope to see similar results here.

Like Canada's free trade agreements with Chile and Cost Rica as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires that each country's national laws, regulations and practices protect 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 co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan 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.

The free trade agreement with Jordan is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. It will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and a majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.

Canadian businesses that are particularly well placed to benefit from this greater access will be farmers of crops such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Frozen french fries are included, as are animal feed and various prepared foods. The agreement should expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, such as forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts, because the agreement will eliminate tariffs on such Canadian products as forest products, Canadian manufacturing products and certain agriculture and agri-food products.

Here are a few numbers: Canada's GDP was over $1.5 trillion in 2009. Jordan's was a little over $26 billion. Ten years ago, the value of trade from Canada to Jordan was approximately $22 million, and the value of trade from Jordan to Canada was about $3 million. Last year, the corresponding numbers were almost $66 million from Canada to Jordan and almost $17 million in the other direction.

As noted earlier, these are not very large numbers in the grand scheme of Canada's trade. However, we are very hopeful that the experience in the United States since entering free trade with Jordan, where trade expanded tenfold, will be repeated here in Canada. The Jordanian economy, good news, is predicted to grow by 3% this year and by 3.7% in 2011.

I will repeat that the experience of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has been very encouraging. That agreement was signed only in 2001. Since then, trade between those two countries has increased tenfold. We are very hopeful of having a similar experience as a result of the agreement between Canada and Jordan.

Jordan has also entered into free trade agreements with some of Canada's other important trading partners. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002, and a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

From a political perspective, we support increased trade and engagement with Jordan because it further facilitates engagement with the country and encourages stability in the region. Canada has had a free trade agreement with Israel since 1997. This would be the first signed with an Arab country. It is appropriate that this agreement be with Jordan, as Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994.

Countries like Canada should take the opportunity to encourage those efforts and should support constructive efforts toward forging better, more engaged, more prosperous and more peaceful relationships in the region.

This particular effort builds on the fact that Canada and Jordan already share a good and constructive relationship, as exemplified by our recent agreement on co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, signed in February 2009.

In addition, Canada and Jordan have a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. It was signed at the same time as this free trade agreement but is already in force. It is based on the principle of national treatment from an investor's perspective: a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan, and of course, vice versa in Canada. This principle of national treatment is a core component of free trade.

Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes agreements on the environment and on labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect labour rights. The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization 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 co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that will enable members of the public to request an investigation into a perceived failure of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.

I will say a few words on human rights. The question of human rights will always come up in the House when we debate free trade agreements, and rightly so. As I have said in the House a number of times, it is a good thing Canadian members of Parliament are concerned about international human rights. I have noted that we all, regardless of what party we sit for, want full human rights for everyone around the world. We do, however, from time to time, disagree on what Canada can do to further that goal and on how it can do it.

Some of my colleagues will say that putting up walls and preventing more open trade and engagement will somehow help, that somehow, Canada, by wagging its finger at other states instead of fully engaging them, will miraculously be listened to. I am afraid that that is not how the world works. I believe that rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light gets in and opens doors through which we Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate a country, our capacity to engage in human rights is reduced.

Economic engagement increases our ability to engage in other areas, such as education and culture. All of that engagement increases the capacity to engage in the area of human rights. It gives us, as Canadians, a greater opportunity, through business people, customers, clients and others, to show by example, not with a paternalistic, finger-wagging, we know best attitude, how things work so well for us here in Canada. We can show that we are willing to share, on a friendly basis, those examples.

As I have said many times, it is the citizens of a particular state, not Canada, who are responsible for improvements at home. Canadians have a wonderful opportunity to engage with those citizens to expose what works in other parts of the world and in particular here, where we are proud of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our successfully pluralistic society, and our peace, order and good government approach to governance.

In this regard, with respect to Jordan, we do not have the heightened level of concern we have had with Colombia, as witnessed by the significant debate in the House with regard to human rights in the free trade agreement with Colombia. That is not the issue in regard to the free trade agreement with Jordan.

I want to take the opportunity here to commend my Liberal colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, my predecessor in the role of critic for international trade, for the excellent work he did on the human rights amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Under that Liberal-negotiated deal, Canada and Colombia must publicly measure the impact of free trade on human rights in both countries. It is the first trade deal in the world that requires ongoing human rights impact assessments. Again, I commend my colleague for Kings--Hants for his excellent work in this regard and for hearing the concerns of every member of the House with respect to improving human rights for others in other countries.

All of this goes to my support and my party's support for Bill C-8 and for free trade with Jordan. Greater economic engagement helps us all economically, through more jobs and more prosperity, in both Canada and Jordan. Free trade is, in this case, a win-win opportunity. However, I wish at this point to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade generally.

We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner, the one to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the U.S. government responded with protectionism by putting forth its buy American policy and tighter rules. The Conservative government stood by watching as if it did not know what hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing that the battle needed to be fought all across the States at the state level.

By the time a so-called exemption was worked out, which in and of itself required significant concessions by Canadian provinces, the protectionism in the United States had already hurt many Canadian businesses and had cost many Canadian jobs. Even the so-called exemption only covers 37 states, a great example of how it is not just Washington that must be engaged. Despite our vociferous efforts to get the Conservative government to engage much more forcefully at the state level, the government just did not seem to understand the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business nor the hows of fixing the problem. Now, here we are again.

The United States is threatening more protectionist legislation, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, which, although not technically aimed at Canada, would significantly hurt many Canadian businesses and would affect Canadian jobs.

What is the minister's response? There has been no action whatsoever. Instead, he said that it is too bad, that we are always collateral damage in the battle between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping that it does not reach the vote stage before the U.S. election. Then he said that if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.

With all respect, it is simply not enough to, one, dismiss Canada as collateral damage, or two, to merely hope that it will not pass, just like the last time. We are urging the government to get on the ground, not only in Washington but across all of the states, to ensure that Canada is exempted from this very damaging proposed legislation before it happens. Canadian businesses need something done to prevent this from happening, not some day, and not with hopes and prayers.

I also want to use this opportunity of debate on the merits of free trade to exhort this government to do much, much more in dealing with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and the production of the report this last week on Canada and India, and I encourage this as moving in the right direction. However, having just returned from China and Korea, I am overwhelmed by the growth, the size, the pace, and the scale of what is happening over there. I am in turn dismayed by how little the Canadian government is doing to capitalize on the extraordinary growth and scale that presents such fantastic opportunities for so many Canadians.

There are incredible investments being made in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, and public transit. We have been told repeatedly by the Chinese that they are looking for green technology, for forestry products, and for investments in the financial services industry. There are tremendous opportunities for trade and educational services and for cooperative engagement not just at the Canada-China level but at the provincial and municipal levels. My colleagues should understand that I do not suggest for a minute that the federal government impinge on those jurisdictions. Rather, I stress that we here in Canada could work much more cooperatively and productively by engaging all orders of government in a concerted effort to take much more advantage of the opportunities these extraordinary economies offer to Canadians.

We in the Liberal Party have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of Canada in the world. In this we have proposed a concept of global networks. The concept of trade and commerce, the older assumptions of trade and commerce, should be expanded to include all forms of engagement: educational, cultural, people exchanges of all kinds. Canada should be taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that this government, so far, simply does not seem to understand.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to the bill concerning a free trade agreement between Jordan and Canada.

Canada and Jordan have had a long and fruitful relationship over the years. Canada has welcomed a large number of Jordanian immigrants over the years. Canada and Jordan are consistent supporters of the UN's effort to promote peace and security. They were a founding member of the Human Security Network and, since 2000, has collaborated on the establishment of the Regional Human Security Centre in Amman, Jordan.

In 1997, Jordan was one of the first parties to the Ottawa convention banning anti-personnel mines. Canada has supported Jordan's efforts to meet its commitment to rid itself of land mines, including through the contribution of $1.5 million worth of equipment to the Corps of Royal Engineers. Jordan hosted the conference of state parties to the convention against land mines in November 2007 and participated in the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa convention.

Jordan and Canada signed a co-operation agreement In February 2009 covering the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Under the agreement, Canada will help Jordan construct a nuclear power plant to generate electricity and desalinate seawater. The understanding was signed between JAEC, SNC-Lavalin, and Atomic Energy of Canada.

On the trade front, Canadian firms have achieved some success in Jordan. The total value of Canadian investments there is dominated by the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's stake in the Arab Potash Company. The expanding Jordanian economy, which averaged approximately 6% growth per year over the past five years, and the country's growing importance as a regional, commercial and transportation hub, particularly for exports to Iraq, will provide opportunities for Canadian companies.

Jordan also has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994, and has been seen as an honest broker helping to keep lines of information and communication open between the Arab and western worlds.

Freer trade between countries is more than just dollars and cents. Freer trade usually has, as a byproduct, a freer flow of ideas and information which leads to a greater understanding of the economic, societal and political situations facing each nation. These greater understandings go a long way in preventing conflict and disagreement in the future.

As someone who has been propagating and promoting diversification in trade, I see this free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country as a step in the right direction. However, we need to look at emerging markets. As someone who was born in Africa, Africa also has a great potential. Africa a population of 360 million people who are a potential market for the Canadian economy. As Canadians, we must be mindful that our overreliance on our friends to the south will not help us if there are any problems in the south, such as of the financial crisis we saw recently.

The free trade agreement with Jordan would improve market access for both agricultural products and industrial goods and help ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters vis-à-vis competitors who already have preferential access to Jordanian markets. Key agricultural export interests include pulses, frozen french fries, prepared foods and animal feed.

In 2009, Canadian agricultural exports to Jordan, which were mainly pulses, totalled $10.8 million, and agricultural imports from Jordan totalled $1.4 million.

Upon implementation, the free trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian agriculture and agrifood products, which will directly benefit Canadian exporters. Our supply managed sectors will stay protected under this agreement.

This FTA would provide Canadian businesses greater access to not only the Jordanian markets but other markets by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products.

In terms of numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of goods. 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. The precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased tenfold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that the same could occur for Canada.

Jordan is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes an agreement on environment and labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect and ensure labour rights. The labour co-operation 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.

The agreement would be the first Canada has signed with an Arab country, but hopefully not the last. There is a huge market that Canadians can access if this Jordan-Canada agreement is successful. Canada and Jordan share a long-standing, friendly and constructive relationship which I hope this agreement will help solidify.

On the trade front, Jordan already has a free trade agreement with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The free trade agreement with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002. its free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

This is an important agreement and I do hope that the current government is serious in passing the legislation. The last week has shown a dramatic increase in the rhetoric thrown around by government ministers, which, in the past, has been a precursor to either a prorogation or threats of an election.

The government on the one hand tells Canadians that it wishes to govern but then, at the same time, does what it can to make the operations of Parliament dysfunctional, whether it be in the House or in committees. Therefore, Canadians need to be aware that those principles that block the passage of legislation should be avoided and that the government should be serious in ensuring that the free trade agreement is what it wants.

Canada is a trading nation and, without international trade, our factories would close and our farms and mines would have no markets in which to sell their resources. The economic crisis in the United States and its slow recovery has reinforced the argument that Canada must diversify its trading partners so that it is no longer so reliant on one market for the success of its domestic industries. We must also put some focus on markets that will take our finished products rather than exporting raw natural resources, which result in an export of jobs from Canada.

It is important that we look at the globe and the economic engines of the globe. It is also important to look at markets to see where we can export Canada's know-how, technology and value-added goods. The days of Canadians being hewers of wood and drawers of water are long gone. We are a sophisticated nation with an educated population and a good base for export and we should take maximum advantage of this.

As well, we have a multicultural population, which is our biggest advantage. It is through this population that we can enhance the trade ties, which is commerce through culture, or the phrase “multiculturalism means business” comes to mind.

As we reflect on our country, our hopes and aspirations for the future, we need to be global thinkers. This first free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country is, at first blush, an important first step. We would then have access a lot more surrounding countries that are secure and peaceful allies of Canada.

We have been told that if we put all our eggs in one basket we cannot mitigate risks. We are advised all the time to diversify our portfolios. Canadian businesses need to deal with the fallout from the market meltdown that affected our neighbours to the south. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration different FTAs.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Mark Carney, has been exhorting Canadian businesses to end their overreliance on the U.S. markets and adopt an aggressive approach to emerging markets. The governor has also joined a list of more than 350 groups, which represent hundreds of thousands of Canadians, opposing the scrapping of the long form census. Canadian businesses need accurate data; therefore, it is important that the government does the intelligent thing and not scrap the relevant data that businesses needs.

The Conservative government cannot ask businesses to embrace emerging markets if the businesses do not have accurate data. The figures we have been quoting so far are from our reliable Statistics Canada's long form census data, which has been providing us with credible information.

Therefore, while we talk FTAs, we must ensure that the way our government moves and the direction it takes should be in a logical and credible manner.

The free trade agreement that we talked about with Jordan is necessary and once it is in the hands of the committee and we have heard from stakeholders and carefully examined this agreement to ensure that it is in Canada's best interests, I am sure it will receive a speedy passage from the House.