House of Commons Hansard #65 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was panama.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, as it seems that the debate has just begun at second reading, I ask the hon. minister, what is the reason for any haste at this point to invoke closure on debate yet again? Frankly, I am quite shocked by this and I would like to hear some attempt at an explanation for why the House of Commons cannot continue to debate this important legislation.

Is the House of Commons and parliamentary practice now merely a nuisance for the government of the day?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, it has been very clear that we view trade as important to this country. In fact, we are the most trade-dependent nation there is in the G8. We have seen great results from trade. Time is of the essence. It is very important that we move on with the economic recovery and with our trade agenda.

I am very pleased to outline all of the benefits for Panama with respect to labour agreements, funding and helping capacity. Quite frankly, the sooner we get on with this the better

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am again disappointed at the way the government is so quick to move closure on any debate that comes up in this Parliament. It is not happy enough to have a majority, it wants to bring the hammer down on any debate and make sure that nobody has the opportunity to raise important issues.

The Minister of Labour has a mandate to be responsible for labour and for rules and regulations that affect working people in the country. I would think that she too would be concerned and vigilant about similar regulations and laws as they relate to working people in other countries. If we are to be respectful and treat workers properly in this country, why would we not want to do the same in other countries?

I would like the minister to give me some assurance that she has been vigilant. I would ask her to tell us that in fact labour rights would be protected under the terms of the Panama agreement.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member that we do take it very seriously.

The other free trade agreements that have labour cooperation agreements attached I think would be the best examples. For example, I was able to travel down to Colombia last year to speak not only with the government but with the United Nations representatives who were doing incredible work there on social dialogue. I also spoke with members of the union to ascertain their point of view as to what help the Canadian government could give to improve capacity and occupational health and safety. I have done the same in terms of travelling to Brazil and speaking to counterparts there. There is always that tripartite relationship of speaking with the government, the workers and business to ascertain what Canada can do to bring a stellar labour law legislation system to other countries. They can learn from us and we can learn from them too.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, as a point of information for myself, regarding Panama, where is it right now with this deal? Does Panama feel as compelled as we do to pass this agreement very quickly?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can only speak for the current Government of Canada and that we do feel an urgency for it to pass.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Well, what if they don't?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Halton, ON

We have worked long on it. There have been several rounds of negotiations. My officials in labour have been talking to officials in Panama. As I mentioned in my remarks, we have had the ability to do some co-operative and funding programs with Panama. I look forward to having a bilateral discussion with my counterpart in Panama in order to ratify this.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for sharing her time with me.

It is a pleasure and honour to rise in the House to talk about the benefits of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and what it would bring to Canadian workers and their families from coast to coast to coast.

With one in five Canadian jobs generated by trade, we recognize how important our success depends on our ability to access foreign markets and global value chains. Our government received a strong mandate on May 2 to implement an ambitious job-creating free trade plan that will benefit Canadian workers and their families. Our plan is creating jobs and economic growth for Canadian workers and their families. For example, on August 15 of this year, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement came into force. Through that agreement, Canada's producers and exporters will benefit from reduced or eliminated tariffs on nearly all of Canada's current exports to Colombia. This agreement demonstrates our government's commitment to creating good new jobs and economic growth for Canadian families, workers and businesses.

We continue to work to provide Canadian workers and companies with opportunities for growth in key economies. The access to foreign markets and the rules for secure and stable trade and investment across our borders is of key importance. Passing the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act is an important part of this plan. This agreement represents an opportunity for Canadian workers and businesses to expand their operations in the growing and dynamic Panamanian economy.

Although small in size, Panama is a significant player in the region. It is a platform for commercial activity through Latin America and is a nexus for world trade. Canadian workers and businesses want to deepen their ties with Panama, access new commercial opportunities, and further develop their operations in this exciting market. Passing the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act would help our export-oriented industries, investors and service providers do just that.

Many Canadian sectors have already demonstrated their interest in Panama. These include the machinery, motor vehicles and parts, pharmaceutical equipment, pulse crops, and other sectors. Our agreement with Panama would give these and other exporters enhanced access to the Panamanian market, addressing both tariff and non-tariff barriers. The agreement would offer tangible benefits to Canadians and companies across all regions of this country.

We should consider the prospective benefits to Western Canadian families. This agreement would specifically help my home province of British Columbia, as wood exporters would no longer have to pay Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their wood products. It would remove a significant barrier. It would be a great opportunity for British Columbia and the western forestry industry. Exporters of fats and oils would see tariffs as high as 30% eliminated from their products.

Alberta's power generating machinery sector and information and communications technology sector would no longer have to contend with tariffs of up to 15% on their exports to Panama. Agriculture producers in Saskatchewan would see the elimination of tariffs on pulses and cereals, which currently amount to 15% and 40% respectively. In Manitoba, producers of precious stones and metals, as well as iron and steel, would benefit from the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their exports. In addition, Western Canada's investors that are active in the mining sector in Panama would benefit from this agreement's investor protection and legal framework.

Shifting to the other side of the country, the Atlantic region would also stand to significantly benefit from the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. My hon. colleague, the member for Malpeque, will be especially interested to know that Prince Edward Island potato producers would see the elimination of Panamanian tariffs as high as 81% on their exports. I think that would make our folk legend, Stompin' Tom Connors, sing about Bud the Spud from the bright red mud rolling down the highway smiling, because the spuds are big in the back of Bud's rig and they are from Prince Edward Island. There would be more spuds rolling down to Panama if we get this agreement through the House.

In New Brunswick, producers of frozen french fries would no longer face Panamanian tariffs of up to 20%. Paperboard producers would see the elimination of tariffs reaching up to 15%.

Nova Scotian exporters of trees and plants will see the elimination of tariffs of up to 15% and tariffs of up to 20% will be eliminated for vehicles and parts exporters.

In Newfoundland, the information and communications technology sector will see the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up 15% on Canadian products.

That is not all. The benefits of this free trade agreement will also be felt in Ontario, where key exports to Panama include pharmaceuticals, industrial and electrical machinery, vehicles and scientific and precision instruments. For pharmaceutical products, tariffs as high as 11% will be eliminated. Exporters of industrial and construction machinery, information and communications technology, electronic equipment and precision instruments will see the elimination of tariffs as high as 15% for their respective sectors.

In addition, Ontario service providers active in this market, including those providing mining, banking and engineering services, will benefit from a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading environment, something we have heard about over and over from Canadian businesses. They want secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading. They will have the advantage of being able to plan for the future.

For Quebec exporters, investors and service providers interested in expanding into the Panamanian market will receive real, tangible benefits from the implementation of the free trade agreement. With $25.7 million in merchandise exports to Panama last year, Quebec accounts for the largest share of Canada's two-way trade with Panama. These exports are primarily in the areas of meat, mainly pork, paper and paperboard, pharmaceuticals, fish and seafood and electrical machinery and equipment.

Quebec's automotive sector will enjoy improved access for vehicles and auto parts, with tariffs of up to 20% eliminated. Quebec's pork producers will see the elimination of tariffs as high as 70%.

For Quebec's highly competitive aerospace sector, current Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% will be eliminated. Tariffs as high as 15% on pulp and paperboard will be eliminated.

As the Forest Products Association of Canada has testified in the Standing Committee on International Trade, the Panamanian market for forestry products such as pulp and paperboard is currently worth $120 million, but this figure grows by 10% a year, a great opportunity for the forest products industry.

Canada currently only exports $6.5 million in these goods, so there is significant room for growth and this tariff elimination will help considerably. In particular, it will help Quebec plants that supply a large quantity of the Canadian paper to Panama.

Quebec's service providers will benefit as well. For instance, SNC Lavalin, a company with substantial interests in Panama, has indicated that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will “provide a good framework for further business”.

In 2010, Panama announced a $13.6 billion strategic investment plan that would focus on economically sustainable infrastructure projects, including a $1.5 billion metro system and an airport project that will triple its current capacity.

As we can see, the passage of the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act will provide economic benefits to Canadian workers across the country from coast to coast to coast and across a wide number of industries and sector. It will provide new business opportunities for exporters countrywide, from forestry workers in British Columbia to farmers in Ontario, from information and communications technology providers in Newfoundland to manufacturers in Quebec.

We live in an era of global competition. Succeeding in the global economy means keeping pace with competitors and securing new access to foreign markets. There is no question that Canadian companies are world competitors, but the government has a role to play as well.

We need to strengthen Canada's trading relationships abroad, eliminate barriers to trade and provide opportunities for Canada's businesses to expand and grow in key markets. Our government is doing just that. We are fighting for Canadian workers and businesses to connect them with new opportunities in growing markets like Panama and to ensure they are not at a competitive disadvantage, vis-a-vis competitors benefiting from preferential market access.

With one in five jobs and over 60% of Canada's economy generated by trade, deepening Canada's trading relationships will create prosperity and opportunity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families.

While we are focused on protecting and growing Canada's economy with our job-creating, pro-trade plan, the anti-trade NDP wants to slap job-killing tax hikes on families and employers, which would kill jobs, hurt our economy and set families back. We cannot allow that to happen.

For this reason, this Conservative government and this party will be supporting the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

NDP

Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, Panama's labour record is not very good and it is only getting worse. Our Conservative colleagues often wonder why the NDP has problems with free trade agreements. It is simply because the emphasis is placed on the economic aspect and very rarely on the human or environmental aspects.

My question is simple: why does the Conservative government insist on trying to conclude free trade agreements that focus almost solely on economics and very little on human and environmental rights?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is new to the House. I had the opportunity to serve for five and a half years on the international trade committee and to travel to Panama with it in May of 2008.

I share her concerns that we all need to be responsible globally to look after the human, social and environmental components of any sustainable community. Within the trade agreement with Panama, we have what is called the labour cooperation agreement. Canada and Panama are committed to ensuring that their laws reflect internationally-recognized labour standards, including the right to freedom of association and effective recognition of the right to organize in collective bargaining.

As far as the environment, both countries will pursue high levels of environmental protection to improve and enforce the environment laws effectively. They will maintain appropriate environmental assessment procedures and ensure that they do not relax the environmental laws to encourage trader investment.

The fact is we are not silent on either one of those issues. We are working hand in glove. It is a balanced approach between the economy, the environment and the social aspects of the community to have a sustainable future for all.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, I have a point of clarification. He mentioned something in Newfoundland and Labrador that would be of benefit by quite a bit in telecommunications. I think there was a percentage on it. Precisely of which company was he speaking? My colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl and I would like to know.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not have the exact name, but I would be happy to find out the specific company.

The industry overall is looking at the information and communications technology sector. There are opportunities for growth by removing barrier tariffs for industries across the country. Representatives of many businesses from the Atlantic provinces have come to the committee. This issue has been debated for over 30 hours. Between the House and committee meetings, there have been many discussions. As I said, committee members went to Panama and met with the former Panamanian ambassador. There is a new Panamanian ambassador now who will come before the committee and we will be able to provide the specific information. This agreement is a great opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to move forward.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an interesting House in which we all work. As part of this whole debate, the member for Malpeque had the floor at one point and we went back and forth on some questions. Then he suggested that the member for London West, who happens to be me, stop and smell the roses, while in the same breath saying that he, along with his party, would be supporting this trade agreement. I find it a very curious thing that on the one hand we can work together on something, but Liberals can still find a way to say things that, frankly, demean this process.

However, I would like to ask my hon. colleague, who I have the privilege to sit with in the committee, this question. We know that 73% of tariffs with Panama would be eliminated immediately and that this is intended to be a good deal for all of Canada. Coming from Ontario and knowing that he comes from British Columbia, what are the major benefits for British Columbia as he promotes this free trade deal with Panama?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the city of London, the 10th largest city in Canada, as I have been reminded of at a few meetings along the way, for his great work on the trade committee.

As I mentioned, for the forest industry specifically, this agreement would be a significant investment potential for forest product associations across Canada. I do not believe my hon. colleague across the way would insinuate that he does not stop and smell the flowers. He is one of the most sensitive members in the committee and I appreciate his hard work.