House of Commons Hansard #74 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, if the corporate sector and the wealthy are not paying their fair share of taxation in any country, in Canada or in Panama, then there is a huge gap in what is available to the government and to the people of that country to improve their situation and deal with the developmental issues that they face.

We face that here in Canada. We make difficult choices about how we use our resources, where those resources go and the kind of revenue the government has available to do that important work, but when wealthy individuals and big corporations are allowed to avoid paying taxes and to ship their money offshore into a tax haven, it gets even worse and it exacerbates all of those problems.

It is not an appropriate way for us to behave and it is not an appropriate way for Panama to behave. Panama has not responded to the international pressure that it has received to clean up its act on this part. There is no way that we should be entering into an agreement with a country that has been reticent to do that and has outright refused to do that. It has made absolutely no progress toward those goals.

It would not serve our people and it would not serve the people of Panama to enter into that kind of agreement and reward a government that has refused to work on those important issues.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, again today we have listened to members of the New Democratic Party stand in this House and debate against more open trade, more free trade and, indeed, more trade. I have been here 10 years now and I have never once heard the New Democrats stand and endorse any trade agreements that we have made. Their talking points remain the same. They always stand and say that they are not opposed to trade, just not this agreement, that they are not opposed to trade, that they just want fair trade.

This agreement has moved Panama into a position where now it has to look at environmental practices. It has to better the environmental practices that it has at the present time. It has taken the labour agreements that we have and put in place such things as the abolition of child labour and bans against those sweat shops.

Those are some of the issues that, in the past, that party has stood and debated against. That is what these side agreements deal with. They deal with the right of the freedoms of association.

Another speaker, not the last one, wanted to know why we would even bother moving toward a free trade agreement with such a small country. It is obvious. We are committed to enhancing trade agreements. We are committed to more free and fair trade agreements. We are committed to the Americas, to South America and Central America. We have trade agreements with Colombia, with Chile and with many other countries, and Panama is there.

Why are they opposed to Canada being able to--

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, Panama has shown itself to be very resistant to influence from anybody with respect to cleaning up its act in some of these areas. It has resisted the International Labour Organization. It has resisted the OECD. It has resisted the United States in terms of cleaning up its act on tax havens.

Why does the member think that this agreement with Canada and the side agreement on labour, weak as it is, will somehow have any influence over the Panamanian government whatsoever, when it has resisted big international agencies and has resisted the United States, with which it probably has a far more significant trading relationship than it has with Canada? It is just not in the cards.

It is patently silly to suggest that what we have before us would in any way influence the government of Panama to clean up its act. The government of Panama has committed to reducing child labour and to ensuring that children have education. However, in the last year alone, 20,000 more children between the ages of five and 17 have joined the labour force in Panama. Panama is not meeting its obligations.

What does the member think is in this agreement that will magically force Panama to meet those arrangements, when all of these other agencies and countries have failed to do that? There is nothing here that is going to move Panama forward on that.

This agreement is weak from the beginning. It is not going to lead to any improvement in those serious areas.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the Conservative position. The government's position is that it will sign a trade agreement, that it will be able to extract resources from Panama, and that somehow, the world will be better, but it will not ask for any firm commitments.

I want to go back to the issue of the tax havens and Panama's very dodgy and secretive banking record, especially given how much narco-money is moving around and being laundered in that part of the world.

The Public Citizen, out of the United States, in its trade campaign said that it is critical that any free trade agreement with Panama “must be conditional on the country's government eliminating excessive banking secrecy, re-regulating its financial sector, forcing banks and multinational subsidiaries to pay taxes, and signing international tax transparency treaties,” such as exist in the United States, “which Panama has thus far refused to do”.

We hear the Conservatives talking out of both sides of their mouth.

The government was in the process of deregulating our banking sector and was caught by a massive recession. Fortunately, because of New Democrats' efforts through the years to stop them from deregulating the banking sector, we still actually have banking rules. Now we hear the laissez-faire minister of the economy go on and on about how we have a regulated banking sector.

Why does the member think the government is saying that it is perfectly okay to sign onto deals with a country that has absolutely dodgy banking practices?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think I am any expert on understanding the mind of a Conservative or a Conservative government or someone who is negotiating these deals on behalf of the Conservative government. There is a real problem with the whole approach.

New Democrats have been very clear. We have put forward a five-point plan on how we believe fair trade deals can be negotiated. It is a very detailed and clear plan.

We have also put forward a plan on how we can test and understand the effectiveness of trade deals and how those trade deals are working out. Our plan includes performance indicators that would tell us how those deals are working out. There is a long list of them.

The government should be examining standards that are already in place that deal with the quality of employment; the impact on wage levels; prices and market concentration, including the effect of currency manipulation; public health; environmental standards; human rights standards; the level and types of investment by industry; economic diversification; food self-sufficiency; consumer safety; the effect on farms and the number of farms; access to essential services; the fiscal system; and intellectual property and copyright.

We should be examining all of those things in light of the deals we have already signed to make sure that we are doing the right thing and that these deals are fair, both to the people of the countries we signed the deals with and to Canadians.

The Conservatives are not doing any of that kind of work. They stand up and say, “It is a free trade deal, it is great, hurray.” They say that all the time. We do not have proof. We do not have the proof that they are increasing trade, and we do not have proof that they are meeting any of these indicators. We need that. The government needs to do its homework. Otherwise, it is just a lot of hot air.

Premature Disclosure of Private Member's Bill
Privilege
Government Orders

September 30th, 2010 / 3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In relation to the issue raised by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons, I have looked at the document, and I believe that inadvertently, I placed it on my website in advance of it being received in the House.

I would never do anything purposely to go against the rules of this place, and I apologize to the House for this inadvertent action on my part.

Premature Disclosure of Private Member's Bill
Privilege
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Thank you. Resuming debate, the hon. member for Davenport.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, as a member of the international trade committee, I am pleased to speak on behalf of Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. As we will be studying the bill in committee, I think it is very important to listen to the debate and the concerns of members in the House. However, it is also important to get the bill to the committee so that we can hear from our constituents, from the communities that are concerned, and from different stakeholders. I think the appropriate way to deal with issues of concern in the House is to have the committee study, consult, meet with our stakeholders, and have a full discussion. That is why I am supportive of the bill, but there are also many things I believe very strongly we should be pursuing as we move forward with this particular agreement, which Canada entered on May 14, 2010.

As we are all aware, Canada is a trade dependent nation. Although 70% of our trade is with the U.S., there is a growing need for us to diversify our trade with our partners throughout the world. The Americas are a growing market. They are our neighbours, and it is an area we have to focus on. We have, over the last few years, been focusing on the Americas.

Mr. Speaker, 80% of our economy depends on access to foreign markets for Canada's exports. I support this initiative, because I think it will improve Canadian businesses' access to these different markets.

In 2009, we exported about $90 million in goods to Panama, and we imported about $40.7 million. Bilateral trade in total was about $132 million. It is small. Panama is a country of a little over 3.3 million people, and it has a relatively small GDP of about $38 billion. However, it is an important country in that region, and not just because of the strategic importance of the Panama Canal and the investment that has been made in the Panama Canal. It is also a hub for business in commerce. It is a stable country and is a partner with Canada.

We have to recognize the fact that Panama, given its long, turbulent history, has become, over the years, a very stable and progressive economy, and it is looking for partners throughout the world. Certainly other countries have made inroads into Panama. It is only fitting that Canada, as well, would want to be a partner in that economic growth.

I would say that the growth in Panama has been nothing but phenomenal. The GDP grew by about 10.7% in 2008. That was one of the highest in the Americas. The projected rate of increase for the GDP this year is about 5.6%. These are impressive numbers given what has happened globally during the incredible economic crisis facing the world. We see a country that has really withstood the recession and the economic crisis and has moved beyond and exceeded most developed countries. We are very pleased to see that a country like Panama, in which we have taken an interest, is doing extremely well. It bodes well for the future of Panama and for our trade agreement, which can grow and provide our businesses in Canada with access to Panama.

I just want to focus on some of the issues that will be of concern and that need to be raised, particularly in terms of the issues that will be affected by this particular trade. The primary Canadian merchandise exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses, and frozen potato products. Canadian service exports include financial services, engineering, and information and communication technology services. Merchandise imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, mainly gold; fruits and nuts; and fish and seafood products.

There are a variety of different products we would engage with. As I said, it is a relatively small economy, but it is one that is growing. We need to ensure that we are part of that growth and that Canadian businesses share in the profit from that growth.

The Panama Canal is at the moment going through a major investment. It is a passageway for thousands of vehicles each year and plays a tremendous role in international commerce and the world economy. It is a vital, strategic canal that is expanding. It is slated to be completed in 2014. That project alone is an $5.3 billion expansion.

It is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in construction, environmental engineering, and consulting services for capital projects. We have a great opportunity to play a major role in the expansion of the canal. Canadian companies can have a stake and would profit from this particular expansion.

Some of the issues that will be covered by this free trade agreement with the Republic of Panama include market access to goods and cross-border trade in services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, and government procurement. These are some of the basic issues we will be dealing with.

The deal will have the added benefit of eliminating about 99% of tariffs on current imports from Panama. It will also address non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods and the promotion of good regulatory practices, transparency, and international standards.

As several members in the House have stated, there are also side agreements on both labour and the environment. These agreements would be signed with the Republic of Panama. They will cover issues such as 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. These provisions in the side agreements that would be signed by the two countries would in many ways ensure that both Canada and Panama have a stake in the development of human rights and labour rights in that country. We would be a partner to make sure that they were in compliance with those international obligations. Canada would not just be signing a free trade agreement with Panama. As a country, we would also have a duty and an obligation to make sure that the particular provisions that specifically deal with labour and environmental issues are, in fact, enforced. This is not just a moral obligation; it is a legal obligation on the part of Canada to ensure that if this agreement is enacted, those provisions will be looked at.

Although I support where this is going, I think we need to move forward with more robust and comprehensive free trade agreements with some of our larger partners, and not just the European Union, with which we are presently negotiating. The European Union is a very important market, and there is probably very broad support in the House to move forward with that agreement.

There are also countries that play a major role internationally. Two I would like to speak about are Brazil and India. They are important partners for Canada, and we need to move forward with some type of free trade agreements. Brazil, as we know, is a dynamic and growing economy in our hemisphere. It has a very young population and a large and growing middle class. It will also be hosting both the Olympics and the World Cup.

There is an incredible boom of investment in that country. Over the next 10 years, it will be over $100 billion. We would like to be there to ensure our construction contractors, engineering companies and different sectors of the Canadian economy play a major role with the growth in that economy. Not only stadiums and new facilities are being built, but a fast-rail link and a new metro system is as well. There is incredible opportunity for us to show Canadian know-how in a very dynamic country like Brazil.

India is the largest democracy and Canada has a very large Indian diaspora. India is growing, not just in south Asia, but across the world. It has a major influence in buying companies, certainly in the area of high technology and engineering. It is playing a major role internationally and we are very proud to see the success of that country.

India is a partner of which Canada is very proud. Yesterday the minister mentioned that he had an opportunity to meet with his Indian counterpart last Friday in Parliament. I believe he had an opportunity to discuss the possibility of some type of free trade agreement in the future. I would encourage Canada to move in that direction.

I mention those two countries because they are very large and substantial countries. We need to move forward beyond agreements with important countries but small ones. We are talking small in comparison to Brazil and India. We have signed other deals with Chile and we are now looking at Jordan. These are important countries, but nothing to the size and scale of those two superpowers of both Brazil and India.

This is where we as parliamentarians have to make a decision. I do not see what good would come out of a delay of six months to be honest. The appropriate thing to do is to move this forward to committee so that I, as a member, and other members of the committee have an opportunity to hear from stakeholders. That is the reason why I would like to support the bill and move it forward. I encourage other members to do so.

The time is now. I do not think by delaying it six months, I do not think much can be achieved. The appropriate place to raise these issues is at the committee level. There is a lot here that I have already raised and enunciated from this agreement, which merits it going forward to committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I think everyone in this place would recognize that the member's intervention was in stark contrast to much of what we have heard from the NDP and from the Bloc Québécois. I applaud him for the fact that he is willing to discuss this in a reasonable and intelligent manner. He contributes in a positive way at committee as well.

First, we have to get this to committee. We have to take a much more thorough and indepth look at it. I think we are all satisfied to do that.

However, what I do not understand is why the NDP members would put a hoist motion onto this trade agreement. They do not support any trade agreement, so it is no surprise they do not support this one. However, a hoist motion effectively kills the bill. It does not just set it aside for a period of time. As anti-trade as that group is, I do not understand why those members would want to kill the bill.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

3:55 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree and concur with my colleague. Delaying this for six months does not make any sense. Nor is it of any benefit to Canadians and Canadian businesses. As I mentioned, there is a major expansion taking place in the Panama Canal. We want to be good partners and ensure we are part of that development.

On the six month delay, I am not sure what would be accomplished. If at the end of the day I believed that the NDP would be supportive of this after six months, then maybe I could see it as a rationale, but in reality we all know that is not the case.

I ask my colleagues to move this to where it needs to be, and that is at the committee stage, so we can hear from stakeholders. Right now we are depriving Canadians, Canadian businesses and stakeholders from all communities to come before committee. As parliamentarians, we should give them the opportunity to speak on their issues and concerns.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's comments, giving us reason after reason why he thought there was a good economic case to be made for this trade agreement. I do not happen to agree with him, but I want to take my question in a bit of a different direction.

I am aware of the member's constituency. I have spent some time there and know for a fact that when the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement was before the House, there was a public meeting in his riding. It was co-hosted by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster and the NDP candidate in that riding, Andrew Cash. It was a packed hall of his constituents who were opposed to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.

One of the reasons they were opposed to it was the free trade agreements were not fair trade agreements. They do not respect environmental protection. They do not respect human rights. They do not respect social justice. In fact, even on economic grounds, as many of the speakers on this side of the House have made clear, they are not economically viable.

When the member says he wants to have consultations in committee, is he willing to have a public meeting in his constituency so he can consult his constituents who seem to share our concern that we should engage in fair trade rather than free trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure my hon. colleague that I consult my constituents on a regular basis. In fact, I did that over the summer and spent a great deal of time with my constituents on a whole host of different issues. I also attended different meetings and events with them.

I am proud of my record over the years. I like to take a bit of credit. I have been elected there six times over. I believe I probably know best what is in the best interests of the community of Davenport.

Canada-Panama Free Trade Act
Government Orders

4 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I was very interested in my colleague's point about the need for opening up trade negotiations with larger countries, such as Brazil.

I am interested in that as well because Brazil and many of the countries in South America are forming a common market through Mercosur and are working toward the goals of regional self-sufficiency, national ownership of resources and those types of things.

How would the hon. member see the Conservative government negotiating, with its principles of open markets in every respect, with countries that actually want to follow an industrial strategy, which will leave them in a better and stronger position, as those countries such as Brazil are doing today?