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 trade.

Topics

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we look at some of these bilateral agreements, we should be taking into account environmental, labour and health issues. I will use India as an example. We do want to trade more with an emerging economy like India, but we have to watch out, because we ship asbestos to India. We have pictures, documents and other information showing children working with Canadian asbestos with no protection. We know India has child labour issues. We believe that some of these considerations should be written into the agreements, to advance and benchmark them, so there is actually progress.

We are never going to compete if child labour is going to be used in manufacturing, assembling and exporting of the same product. That is just never going to happen. First, it is not ethical. Second, the conditions, wages and treatment of the workers give them such a competitive advantage. This is why they do it. They treat people inhumanely in order to lower the cost of the product. That is just wrong. We believe those things should be addressed, benchmarked and worked on.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Robert Chisholm Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to direct a question to my colleague, the critic for international trade.

The parliamentary secretary went to some length talking about all of the trade deals that the NDP does not support. Of course, the issue here is that these are trade deals that are developed by the government. That is the concern. Not all trade deals are of concern, and the critic has been clear on that.

One of the problems, and I would ask him to comment on this, is the fact that the government never does an adequate assessment of what the wins and losses are going to be, and the expected impact in terms of the jobs in Canada as a result of a particular deal. Would the member comment on that aspect?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

December 12th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour most ably handled this file prior to his leadership campaign, which required him to take another route. He took a very balanced approach to the trade file.

I think it is important to recognize that we want to see some balance with regard to these trade agreements. He is rightly talking about the examination of the winners and losers in trade agreements. When businesses emerge out of our Canadian economy, and then all of a sudden the government changes where they can operate, how they can operate, who is going to be the competition and how, then there needs to be an examination of these changes. This will help improve the environment, or at least provide an opportunity to adjust to the new environment.

The government is changing the whole field for these companies, whether it be the auto sector or the supply management for dairy and agricultural sectors. A range of problems can emerge.

We are asking for the examination and identification of vulnerabilities. We are also asking for a business plan so that those organizations know what they are getting into, know what the new world environment is going to be so that they can succeed or at least have some time to adjust.

A good example was our chance to buttress the time for trade on textiles with China. I think it bypassed us, while even our own North American competitors took it up and protected their industries. The United States took advantage of it. We did not. As a result, it killed our textile industry, quite significantly and a lot more quickly than necessary.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, a particular concern of the Green Party in relation to the proposed trade agreement with Panama is the investor-state provisions, which essentially parallel the investor-state provisions for NAFTA. I would have hoped that, as we go forward with trade agreements, we would learn from our mistakes. Chapter 11 was clearly a mistake and it disadvantaged Canadian democratic institutions. It caused us to repeal legislation that protected us from toxic gasoline additives, and put us in jeopardy in such matters as the Abitibi-Bowater contract with Newfoundland and Labrador.

Does the member have any comments on the mistakes made under chapter 11 of NAFTA and why we might want to fix them before going into this agreement with Panama?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an important question because chapter 11 has made corporate power over public policy power a very significant issue.

It can involve everything: milk, chemicals on property, water quality and a whole series of issues that we should not have to give up.

One of the interesting things about NAFTA is that Canada is the only country in the world that gave up its natural resources control. We gave that up with NAFTA. It is incredible. Not even Mexico gave that up. Mexico kept that protection element on public policy.

We are the only country in the world that has given up that crucial element. That is why we have to go on bended knee to the United States all the time. We have given up our number one tactical advantage to be able to trade with the rest of the world.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

I mentioned the full title because I do believe that very important parts of this agreement, and ones we have been pushing for a long time, are the side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. Whether they are strong enough at the end of the day, that is certainly something at which the committee will have to have a more in-depth look.

For years, various trade agreements have left out the important points of labour and the environment. It is unconscionable that in a trade agreement we would ask our businesses to compete on so-called fair free trade with other countries, where there are abuses of labour, low paid labour, and regulations on the environment, others do not. It is important to use these trade agreements to bring up labour and environmental standards around the world.

The trade agreement with Panama, though, is yet another example of the government pursuing new arrangements at the expense of established agreements. The most recent indication that the government is better at talking about the significance of trade while ignoring the practical matter of securing our trade with countries we have been trading with for a long time is demonstrated by the most recent trade statistics.

This past Friday, Stats Canada indicated that our merchandise exports declined by 3% and imports increased by 1.9%. Our trade balance, again, slipped into deficit.

While we are getting all kinds of talk from the government and the member for London West earlier in his remarks when asking a question of the parliamentary secretary talked about how aggressive the government is in securing trade agreements. Yes, it is aggressive. There is no question about that. However, it is aggressive in flitting all around the world trying to establish agreements with any number of countries, not big players in terms of actual trade, but while it is doing that, it is ignoring the countries with which we already have established trading relationships, especially the United States.

The government's mismanagement of Canada's trading relationships has resulted in trade deficits for the first time in 30 years, and that is worrisome.

Yes, while we support this particular trade agreement, we believe the government is failing over all in terms of a trade agenda around the world, basically by ignoring the key market that we trade with, which is the United States. In that market, in terms of the value of trade on a daily basis, more than $1.4 billion is traded between Canada and the United States. According to the international trade publication of Canada's State of Trade 2011, in 2010 the United States market accounted for 74.9% of our merchandise exports, and by 2040, according to the trade department itself, the U.S. share of Canada's exports will be 75.5%.

That regardless of the diversification of trade, even this government acknowledges, in its own documentation, that the United States is and will remain the dominant trading party of this country.

I express that because of all the propaganda and rhetoric we are getting from the government. It talks about a new trade deal here a new trade deal there. It is negotiating Panama today, but it is ignoring our established markets, and that point has to be made.

So yes, while the Conservatives sign the agreements, and they can add up the numbers, the fact of the matter is that they are failing Canadians on the trade agenda, especially with the United States of America.

In terms of merchandise trade, in 2010 Canada exported $339.4 billion internationally. The vast majority of our merchandise trade was with 10 countries, which, in descending order, were: the United States, accounting for 74.9%; the United Kingdom, 4.1%; China, 3.3%; and then Japan, Mexico, Germany, Korea, Netherlands and Brazil.

It is sad to say that we are now starting to lose ground in the Korean market, which is one of those top 10. The United States has just signed a free trade agreement with Korea and the tariffs to the United States will come down.

Korea is a huge market for Canadian pork and beef. However, the discussions between Canada and South Korea just seemed to have dried up. I do not know whether it is a dispute or whether the Minister of International Trade is trading off Canadian pork producers because the Minister of Finance is so concerned about the auto industry that is in his backyard.

The government has to come together and balance, in an auto-pact kind of way, in order to protect the Canadian car industry, which the Minister of Finance clearly wants to do as it is in his own backyard. However, the Minister of International Trade has to stand up to the Minister of Finance and say that Canadian pork and beef exports to Korea, where we trade over $1 billion in that market now, are important too.

Every day from here on, with the United States tariffs coming down, we are going to start to lose our Korean market share. It will go up for the United States and down for Canada. It is time that the Minister of International Trade stood up for Canadian pork producers in that particular market.

This is not Panama, but is an important market and we have to pull the whole trade agenda into context. Panama is important, but it is extremely important that we not lose markets wherein we have already established a market share.

Canada is a trade dependent nation with 80% of our economy depending on access to foreign markets for Canadian exports. The Liberal Party supports the principle of free trade. We support initiatives that improve market access for Canadian business.

To look back at how we got into some of these established markets, we see a failing with the current government. Prime Minister Chrétien led trade missions, sometimes with premiers and businesses, to China and other countries around the world to establish and expand the trading relationship. That is not happening with the present Prime Minister. The trade minister seems to be flying around the world, but as I said, we are losing established markets. We cannot continue to allow that to happen.

The international trade committee studied Bill C-46 in the previous Parliament and consulted with stakeholders to ensure that the agreement was generally good for Canada. The committee travelled to Panama and I believe to Jordan as well. I congratulate the committee on its work.

However, I agree with the parliamentary secretary that we do not need to go through that broad hearing process again. It is on the record and we can look at it. I think there are other issues that we need to look at as a committee in order to do our work, but we do not need to repeat what was already done. I would hope that we can give this piece of legislation relatively quick passage in the House.

Panama has a relatively small economy. In 2009 we exported $90 million in goods to the country. It is, however, a stable country which has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy, which Canada is well placed to encourage.

Some of the exports that have great potential in Panama, such as fish, shellfish, french fry potatoes and agriculture products, do come from my region of the country, so the agreement should be good for some businesses and farmers in my own particular region.

I would like to put this into perspective. While this is a very worthwhile venture, the Conservative government has been lagging behind our competitors in important emerging markets like China and India, and this has been mentioned by previous speakers, and has only recently attempted to engage in those markets. Canada should be focusing its trade agenda on larger growing markets where there are more opportunities for Canadian businesses and Canadian employers.

The Conservative government has been failing, and I underline that, to protect Canadian interests vis-à-vis our largest trading partner, the United States. The United States is engaging in increasing protectionism, which has already hurt Canadian businesses, yet the Conservative government seems to be doing virtually nothing.

Time and again we have asked the Minister of International Trade about the buy American issue, and he has surprised and disappointed us. We asked him about the additional fees on products going by sea and air into the United States, and he surprised and disappointed us.

Against the rule of law and undermining democracy, the Canadian government is trying to do away with the Canadian Wheat Board, and the bill may pass through the Senate tonight against the ruling of the Federal Court and against the rule of law.

To the disadvantage of producers in this country, the government is giving to the Americans, undermining democracy in the process. The Americans have challenged Canada 14 times with respect to that particular agency. Canada won every time and now the government is going to give it away. One has to wonder who the minister is really working for. Is he working for American or Canadian producers?

It is one thing to kill the Canadian Wheat Board, but are the Americans going to reduce their subsidies? No, they will not. They never negotiated anything like that. It is a win for the Americans, and that is the problem that we are seeing with the Conservative government.

At the WTO we won the issue with respect to COOL, country of origin labelling. Is the government demanding that the Americans pay compensation to our producers? No. Our industry lost over $5 billion as a result of that illegal, improper action by the United States, and the minister just sits on his hands. It just gives them something else in return. That is the key point in terms of the trade perspective.

Panama is important. Bill C-24 is a reasonably decent bill, but the government has been avoiding the bigger and broader trade issue. At the end of the day, even with a new trade agreement, Canadian exporters and Canadian businesses seem to be consistently losing ground, and they are feeling it in their pocketbooks.

We support Bill C-24, but our focus in terms of trade is on the larger issues and larger trading partners, both existing and potential, that the government is neglecting to the detriment of the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs.

The agreement with Panama is helpful and in the opinion of the Liberal Party the legislation should move to committee for further examination. As I said a moment ago, we do not need to take months to examine it. We should be able to give the bill reasonably quick passage if we examine it critically.

I have a couple of points on Panama. In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew at 10.7% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas. In 2010, Panama's GDP growth stood at 7.5%. Panama is Canada's largest export market in Central America. The bilateral trading relationship has grown 61% since 2009, reaching $213 million in bilateral trade in 2010.

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, information and communication technology services. Merchandise imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, mainly gold; fruits; nuts; fish; and seafood products.

The existing Panama Canal, vital, as we know, for the international trading system, is being expanded, with completion slated for 2014. The $5.3 billion expansion is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in construction, environmental engineering and consulting services, capital projects and more. That is an opportunity for Canadian companies to work on the ground and to gain economy back home in terms of increasing the size of Panama Canal so it can handle super Panamax vessels.

Elements covered by the FTA include market access for goods, cross-border trade and services, telecommunications, investment, financial services and government procurement. Panama maintains an average most-favoured nation, applied tariffs on agriculture products of 13.4%, reaching as high as 260% on some products. The FTA would eliminate these immediately, and that is a good thing, in the case of 90% of the products and gradually on the rest over the next 5 to 15 years. This would likely enhance the competitive position of Canadian agriculture products, such as frozen potato products; pulses; beans and lentils; pork, which was previously taxed at 47%; malt; processed foods; and beef. As I said earlier, several of those products are important to the Atlantic region.

On non-agriculture goods, Panama maintains an average MFN applied tariff of 6.2%, reaching as high as 81% on certain key Canadian exports. The FTA would completely eliminate these tariffs, which could help Canadian exporters of fish and seafood, construction materials and equipment, industrial and electronic machinery, paper products, vehicles and parts. Canada would immediately eliminate over 99% of our tariffs on current imports from Panama.

The free trade agreement also addresses non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods, promoting good regulatory practices, transparency and use of international standards. Ratifying this free trade agreement appears to have little economic risk for Canadian industries. The concerns that have yet to be resolved and relate to the issue of Panama is Panama as a tax haven and the issue of money laundering. I do not want to get into the technicalities in those particular areas. That is an issue that we need to talk about at committee. I asked the parliamentary secretary a question earlier. We see that as an important issue that really does need to be addressed.

The bottom line is that we are supportive of this particular trade agreement but we are critical of the government in terms of its overall trade agenda where it continues to lose out on already established markets as it vies to find new ones.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated listening to the member for Malpeque talk today. I can remember being down in Washington with him a couple of years ago when we were fighting together for our farmers, fighting against the country of origin labelling on which the WTO backed us. I know the member has great passion and great understanding for the agriculture industry.

I have a question for the member for Malpeque. It seems like the Liberal Party will stand behind this bill, and I commend them for that, but could he explain to the government why the NDP is opposed?

If we listen to the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, he said, “The problem with this bill is it is about the Conservative Party”. There is no issue with who develops the bill. If the bill is good for Canada, it is good for Canada and it should not matter who develops it.

Could the member explain to us and maybe give us some insight on why the NDP is so against any type of trade deal?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, it would not be up to me to speak for members of the NDP. They are quite capable of speaking for themselves.

I did listen to the trade critic's remarks earlier when he talked about some of the concerns with this bill. I do recognize and agree with him on some of those concerns.

However, from the Liberal Party's point of view, the overall initiative here is a good one. I outlined in my remarks that we think it is very important that the FTA does have the side agreements on labour and on the environment. It is a good enough bill that we believe it should be given relatively quick passage at committee, move ahead and get on with some of the other trade issues that are irritants to Canadians.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Brian Masse Windsor West, ON

Mr. Speaker, although we might have some differences with the bill, the one thing we seem to have in common is with regard to the tax haven, even though Panama has been moved on the list to the white list.

Would the member be open to an amendment to this bill that would analyze the changes in Panama and then one year later having some consequences if it has not abided by those changes or it continues to be a tax haven and continues to be an area for money laundering, drug laundering and where corporations can use tax haven loopholes to their benefit against Canadian corporations and others?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party is open to any kind of discussions. We would look at those amendments very seriously.

The member is correct to mention that Panama is moving on the list through a grey area to a white area, and that is a good step forward. However, I do think it is our responsibility as members at committee to not just take the OECD or somebody else's word for it, but to look seriously at a couple of concerns. One of them is certainly money laundering of mainly drug money and two is the tax haven issue.

We will be aggressively pursuing witnesses who can talk about that issue and outline what is really happening within Panama on those two points. We are well open to looking at amendments that could clarify the matter and put the pressure on to see that some of these issues are indeed resolved.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the hon. member is surprised and disappointed by the number and frequency of occasions on which the Minister of International Trade has been surprised and disappointed?

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, one of the historical statements by the Minister of International Trade will be “surprised and disappointed”. I mentioned it in my remarks. He was surprised and disappointed when the Americans came in with buy American even though President Obama was telescoping that they were going that way, that they were looking at implementing some policy of buy American, which would be against everything, our protectionist stance since June 28. Come October sometime and the minister was surprised and disappointed that it happened. Where was the proactive activity on the part of the government?

The second area where he was surprised and disappointed was on the $5.50 fee from sea and air going into the United States. That was in legislation in the House for four weeks and yet the minister was surprised and disappointed.

The point being is that the minister needs to be proactive in relations with the United States, our most important trading partner. It does no good to flit and fly all around the world when we are losing ground in our most important economic trading relationship. The minister, instead of being surprised and disappointed, needs to finally stand up for Canadians in this trade arena.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I had the opportunity to travel with the member for Malpeque this past week, as we travelled to Europe on some issues relating to international trade. The reason I mention this is that in his earlier statement the member said that this government was ignoring major countries around the world. I cannot think of a larger trading block, frankly, than the EU. The member would also know that we are on the verge of doing some great work with India as well. Those are two major markets around the world.

The member expresses surprise and disappointment. I think if he were to sincerely express surprise and disappointment it would be over the lack of free trade deals that in the 13 years he was part of the Liberal government the Liberals, frankly, did not put together. What he should be pleased about is the fact that we have had so many free trade deals established around the world. Frankly, that is a harbinger of great things to come.

I wonder if he would comment on those great opportunities.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member for London West missed it during my remarks but the reason we are doing so well in the export arena to this day, including in China, is because of some of the trade trips Prime Minister Chrétien took premiers and business folks on with him. That is where we started expanding trade. Maybe he missed it.

As I also said in my remarks, this is the first time in 30 years that we have had a deficit in merchandise trade and the current government is there. Just talking about trade is not enough. We have trade agreements in place with the United States, being one. We have a good export market in South Korea, being another. However, because we are not in the South Korean market, because I think the Minister of International Trade has caved in to the Minister of Finance, we are now seeing ourselves in the position of losing a billion dollars worth of pork and beef exports to Korea. As the member for London West and I found out when we were in Europe, and good work by the committee there I will admit, we probably will not regain the pork market, which we have lost in Korea, in Europe.

My point is that, while it is important to establish new agreements, it is even more important to not lose ground in the agreements that we have already established with the United States, Korea and elsewhere. That is where the government is going wrong. That is why we have a merchandise trade deficit for the first time in 30 years.

I would ask the member for London West and certainly the Minister of International Trade to wake up and smell the roses. They must start standing up for Canadians in the trade agreements we already have. Yes, do the expansion, but hold our ground on the trade agreements that we already have and see that we are not taken of advantage of by protectionism in the United States south of the border.

Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Halton
Ontario

Conservative

Lisa Raitt Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my friend, the member for Kelowna—Lake Country.

It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about the issue of labour in the context of the Canada free trade agreement.

It is my pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about the issue of labour, in the context of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

We live in an increasingly global community and it is integral that we work to broaden and deepen our trading relationships with countries around the world. Canada's pro-trade plan is creating economic opportunities and jobs for Canadians. As our focus remains on the economic recovery, trade agreements are opening up new markets and helping Canadian workers and businesses compete internationally. While improving trade opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses, we also recognize that ensuring strong labour principles, practices and standards is important. That is why Canada has negotiated a strong labour provision in parallel with this free trade agreement.

This labour agreement would ensure a level playing field for Canadian workers and businesses while creating good well-paying jobs for Canadian workers by making it clear that as we grow our economies, we will create jobs and economic growth in both our countries.

We know that the NDP does not want to support freer trade and we have a fundamentally different approach to engaging internationally than the NDP has. It prefers isolation, but we know that through engagement we can promote economic growth that would benefit workers in both countries. The NDP's record speaks for itself. It has opposed every single free trade agreement Canada has ever signed, including the North American free trade agreement and agreements with Chile, Costa Rica, Israel, Peru, Colombia, Panama, the European free trade association, Jordan and Honduras.

Through trade we are creating jobs and prosperity here in Canada. One in five Canadian jobs is generated by trade. We understand that through trade agreements such as this one, we create jobs and prosperity right here in our country. However, as part of the Canada–Panama agreement on labour co-operation, Canada and Panama have committed to ensuring that their labour laws as well respect and embody the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. It is through this declaration that we demonstrate our shared commitment to improving labour standards and protecting workers' rights. It also demonstrates this government's firm belief that through trade we create economic growth and prosperity for workers in both countries.

I can confidently say that despite the NDP's protestations, the provisions found in the Canada–Panama labour co-operation agreement are thorough, comprehensive and robust. Both countries have committed to provide protections for occupational health and safety, including compensation in cases of injury or illness. Both countries have committed to establishing and maintaining minimum employment standards, including with respect to wages and hours of work. The parties have also agreed to provide migrant workers the same legal protections as those afforded to nationals. This prevents discriminatory working conditions and protects some of the most vulnerable workers. Overall, this agreement would help create and maintain productive and healthy labour environments that would benefit both countries.

As members can appreciate, these commitments are only as strong as the dispute resolution mechanisms and penalties that back them up. That is why this agreement also includes a strong dispute resolution mechanism that is transparent and easy to use. Both countries would be obligated to respect the agreements and could face financial penalties should they fail to respect internationally recognized labour rights or fail to enforce domestic labour laws. The Canada–Panama free trade agreement also includes a non-binding chapter on labour that reaffirms both countries' obligations and objectives as found in the parallel agreement on labour co-operation. As part of the Canada–Panama agreement on labour co-operation, the Canadian government has agreed to work with Panama to actually improve labour standards and help protect workers.

Through the international program for professional labour administration, Canada is currently funding projects in Panama to build institutional capacity, to foster social dialogue and to promote rights-based labour migration administration strategies. The Government of Canada also recently provided funding for a project to promote occupational safety and health.

By voting in support of Bill C-24, the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act, our government will further strengthen the relationship that we are building with Panama. The bill seeks to implement the free trade agreement and the parallel labour cooperation and environment agreements with Panama.

This Conservative government will be voting to pass this legislation in order to support strong labour practices, strengthen Canada's economic position and build on our previous successes with our global partners.

I move:

That this question be now put.