House of Commons Hansard #143 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

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her question and the points she has made.

Our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster moved amendments that would give workers the right to collective bargaining and would require the Minister of International Trade, Canada's main representative, to regularly consult with workers' representatives and unions. He also moved an amendment to define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

I do not understand why there would not be support for such amendments. We are talking about social justice, the environment and long-term investments in people, our environment and our earth. Development must be sustainable in the long term for future generations.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

June 19th, 2012 / 11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I need to understand why the hon. member and the NDP believe in protectionism as an effective economic strategy for Canada. Why does she not see the value in Canada engaging with countries like Panama to negotiate free trade agreements, separate agreements on the environment and important labour standards and principles? Why would that not help bring countries like Panama into the community of nations and advance the important principles that we are so fortunate to adhere to here in Canada?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, one important point is that Panama is not a major trading partner of Canada. The two-way merchandise trade between the two countries only reached $149 million in 2008, which is less than 1%.

According to the U.S. department of justice, Panama is a major financial conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers' money laundering activities.

The NDP believes that NAFTA agreements were initially designed for trade between highly industrialized developed countries. However, Panama is a developing nation, as I mentioned in my speech. This trade deal will not help Panama grow sustainably or increase the standard of living for its citizens.

The amendments proposed by my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster would have helped this agreement but, unfortunately, the other parties voted them down. Instead, this trade deal will increase the role and incentive for exploitation by multinational corporations and inequality will grow at a far greater pace and scale than was the case before because this is a developing nation.

That is why we are opposing this trade agreement. However, that does not mean that we oppose all trade. We want a fair trade agreement that is environmentally sustainable and fair for workers. That is what we want to see in these trade agreements and I do not think it is too much to ask.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South
Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I would like to spend a few minutes explaining how this agreement fits into Canada's larger economic plan.

The government understands the importance of trade and the benefits it brings. As an export-driven economy, Canada must open its borders. One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on international trade. Thus, bilateral and regional trade agreements are key to ensuring Canadians' continued prosperity. That is why expanding Canada's trade relations to rapidly growing foreign markets, such as Panama, is an important part of our government's pro-trade plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

With the challenges in concluding the World Trade Organization Doha round, regional and bilateral trade agreements have taken on increased significance. The government also recognizes that there are a growing number of countries where Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors have preferential market access under some form of preferential trade agreement.

Canada cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other countries vigorously pursue trade deals to secure better market access for their products and services for their country. That is why our government is in the midst of the most ambitious pursuit of new and expanded trade and investment agreements in Canadian history.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is yet another step this government is taking to help Canadians compete and succeed in the global market. It supports the global commerce strategy which will ensure that Canada maintains its current economic strength and prosperity in an increasingly complex and competitive global economy.

With 60% of our GDP dependent on trade, it is completely clear that jobs and communities across Canada depend on the business we do with other countries. Our Conservative government's pro-trade plan is an essential contributor to Canada's prosperity, productivity and growth.

By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we are supporting domestic economic growth and creating new opportunities for Canadian workers. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for these opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets.

This government is committed to expanding the various opportunities created by free trade agreements. Our track record speaks for itself.

Since 2006, Canada has established new free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia; Jordan; Peru; the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; and more recently Honduras and Panama.

We are also negotiating with many other countries, including the European Union. A free trade agreement with the European Union would be the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement and could increase trade with this important partner by 20%. Such an agreement would also give a $12 billion boost to the Canadian economy, which is equivalent to a $1,000 increase in the average national family income or the creation of 80,000 new jobs in Canada.

Canadian businesses recognize the many benefits a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union would have for workers and businesses.

We are also intensifying our focus on Asia. During the Prime Minister's visit to China in February 2012, leaders announced that Canada and China will proceed to exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations on the completion of a bilateral economic study.

Also, this past March, the Prime Minister announced the launch of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Japan and the start of exploratory discussions with Thailand.

Canada also continues to explore the possibility of participating in the trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP negotiations.

The potential benefits of these initiatives are enormous. However, that is not all. Canada is also committed to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners, including India, Ukraine, Morocco, the Caribbean community and Korea. In addition, Canada is working to modernize its existing bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Israel, as encouraged in the exploratory discussions with Mercosur, the largest trading bloc in Latin America, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

All of these initiatives are critical for the economic future of our country. With the global economic recovery remaining fragile, it is important that Canada continue to deepen its trade and investment ties with strategic partners. Expanding Canada's trade and investment ties around the world will help protect and create new jobs and prosperity for our hard-working neighbours and for all Canadians.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is be yet another step in the right direction. This agreement represents an opportunity for Canadian businesses to grow and expand their operations in the growing and dynamic Panamanian economy.

The agreement would also reduce tariffs for Canadian producers who want to export to Panama. Upon implementation of the free trade agreement, Panama will immediately lift tariffs on 89% of all non-agricultural imports from Canada, with the remaining tariffs to be phased out in five to fifteen years. Tariffs will also be lifted on 89% of Canada's agricultural exports to Panama. This reduction in trade barriers will benefit a wide range of sectors across the Canadian economy, including fish and seafood products, paper products, vehicles and parts in the greater Toronto area, construction materials and equipment, industrial and electrical machinery and many more. This agreement will provide Canadian service providers with a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based environment, which will facilitate access to Panama's $20 billion services market.

Panama is an established destination for Canadian direct investment abroad, particularly in the banking and financial services and construction and mining sectors. This proposed agreement will provide greater stability, transparency and protection for Canadian investments in Panama.

The free trade agreement will also better enable Canadian companies to participate in large projects, such as the $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, by providing non-discriminatory access to a broad range of government procurement opportunities in Panama to Canadian suppliers. This is an enormous opportunity for Canadian companies to compete.

For all these reasons, the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama is a good thing. It will support more Canadian jobs by improving our ability to export more products and services to this market. That is why implementing free trade agreements is a priority for our government.

I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-24, which aims to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama, as well as the side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite for her speech, and especially for how well she addressed the House in French. It was most pleasant to listen to.

I have a fairly simple question for my colleague about Bill C-24. We know that a tax information exchange agreement has not been signed with Panama. The only thing that has been signed is a double taxation treaty. However, that is not necessarily enough because it concerns only legitimate revenues. So any revenues or means that are considered illegal are not included. Illegal revenues could be included in a tax information exchange agreement.

I would like to know why we have not signed this tax information exchange agreement, since Panama has already signed them with major partners, including the United States.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the other side for her very kind words. In fact, as we enter into free trade negotiations with a number of countries, we are looking at providing greater stability and transparency for our companies. The ability to go out and trade freely and to compete on the global stage is something for which all Canadians are clamouring.

We will continue to negotiate with countries to ensure they have the most reliable regulatory framework possible. It is our intention to ensure that the rule of law prevails. That is exactly why countries engage in free trade negotiations, so their companies can compete and have some confidence that if they need to avail themselves of legal recourse, the laws will apply to them as foreign nationals.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, the Canada-Panama agreement is a bilateral agreement between two countries. When we look at the resources and trading power that Canada has compared to Panama at this stage, does she not feel that is an unbalanced relationship, that it actually opens the door for transnational corporations to exploit the people of Panama and does not lead to sustainable development, which is what Panama needs?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

In fact, Madam Speaker, what we have found historically is that when countries engage in free trade and residents prosper, people do better. They want opportunities and would like to compete. As I mentioned during my comments, a massive $5 billion construction project is about to get under way in Panama. We would like to provide our Canadian companies the opportunity to go there to compete and ensure that they are not at some sort of disadvantage because other countries have negotiated preferential agreements.

Panama is also a very critical hub to Central America and will allow an important foothold for our companies to go there, establish their beachheads and compete and create wealth for Canadians and foreign nationals.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, my question for the hon. member is this. Is she aware that the United States has resisted, based on advice in a 2009 report from its state department, signing any free trade agreements with Panama because of the serious problems in money laundering, banking, civil rights abuses, et cetera? If she is aware of that, why would Canada go where the U.S. fears to tread?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to reassure the House that in fact Canada wants to send a very strong signal to ensure that the rule of law will always prevail. Panama has committed to implementing the OECD's regulations on the exchange of tax information. I would like to reassure the hon. member that we are actively considering this matter.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey many of the local businesses are very pleased with new free trade agreement. What type of impact is that having on the local businesses in my colleague's area.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, whether it is folks involved in the manufacturing of electronics, or auto parts or in the services industry, many of my neighbours and residents are chomping at the bit to compete on the world stage. They have great products and expertise and they do awfully well when they compete on the world stage. It means additional wealth for my neighbours.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

Noon

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

I think all hon. members will agree that this agreement opens up a wide range of exciting new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses as well as investors.

In these difficult economic times, Canadians depend on governments to work together to pursue new opportunities in markets around the world. Opening new markets and promoting trade is a key part of this government's plan to create new jobs and improve the well-being of Canadians over the long term.

This government is committed to broadening Canada's trade relationships with regional partners like Panama. We will continue to fight to open markets for Canadian businesses to ensure they are well placed to compete in these difficult economic times.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is about more than just trade and investment. This government is committed to protecting the environment. Indeed, the government believes that trade liberalization and environmental protection can be mutually supportive goals. That is why, as part of the comprehensive free trade agreement, Canada and Panama are committed to strive for good environmental governance in order to protect the environment, while reaping the benefits of increased economic activity flowing from liberalized trade.

In addition, when Canada and Panama signed this free trade agreement, we also signed a parallel environmental agreement. The parallel environmental agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.

Recognizing the importance of environmental conservation and protection, as well as the promotion of sustainable development, the environmental agreement will require Canada and Panama to enforce their domestic environmental laws effectively and to ensure that they do not relax or weaken those laws to encourage trade or investment.

The agreement also includes important commitments to encourage voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises and to ensure that appropriate environmental assessment procedures are maintained in each country. In addition, the agreement reaffirms both countries' commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the protection of biological diversity and respect, preserve and maintain traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.

Furthermore, the agreement contains commitments to promote public participation and transparency. It includes the mechanism for residents of Canada and Panama to ask questions of either party about the obligations or co-operation under the agreement.

In addition to these commitments and obligations I have mentioned, the agreement also establishes a framework between Canada and Panama for undertaking co-operative activities. Most specifically, Canada and Panama have agreed to work together to develop a co-operative work program to support the environmental objectives and obligations of the agreement, address environmental issues of mutual concern and enhance overall environmental management capacity.

Themes for co-operation would include topics ranging from conservation of biodiversity and migratory species to parks and protected areas management to cleaner production technologies and best practices for sustainable development.

In order to oversee the implementation of the agreement, it provides for a committee on the environment to be established. This committee would be made up of government representatives from Canada and Panama.

Finally, the agreement contains mechanisms to manage differences that may arise under the agreement. We recognize that in some cases non-compliance with the environmental agreement may be more a question of limited environmental capacity than a lack of commitment to the obligations. Therefore, our approach focuses on collaboration in order to seek constructive solutions and build an environmental management capacity rather than impose additional burdens.

Beyond the environmental agreement itself, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes a principles-based environmental chapter as well as environmental-related provisions in other parts of the FTA, highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation and the promotion of sustainable development.

For example, in the exceptions chapter of the agreement, Canada negotiated important environmental-related provisions stipulating that Canada and Panama could take environmental measures that were necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided that they were not applied in a discriminatory manner or represented a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.

In addition, Canada negotiated provisions that allow certain multilateral environmental agreements with trade-related provisions to prevail over the free trade agreement in the event of an inconsistency. As we can see, the parallel environmental agreement and the environmental-related provisions in the Canada-Panama free trade agreement are an important part of this initiative that would ensure increased trade does not come at the expense of the environment.

Through these agreements, Canada and Panama have demonstrated our commitment to protecting the environment. The agreement is yet another clear example of the government's approach to mutually supporting trade liberalization and environmental protection.

As the government continues to open doors for Canadian businesses abroad, we want to ensure that our presence is positive and that our activities are sustainable. We believe that free trade can play a positive role around the world. The environmental agreement with Panama is an example of just this. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement, complemented by its parallel environmental agreement, would create new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses while ensuring the protection of our planet for future generations.

For these reasons, I ask all members of the House to support the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the bulk of the member's speech focused on the environment. The agreement says that neither party will do any damage to their domestic environmental laws. Could the member comment on what she feels Bill C-38 would mean in terms of Canada's environmental laws in the context of this free trade agreement? Does she see that many of us feel that Bill C-38 actually reduces Canada's environmental protection and what does she think it means in this context?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite simply, Bill C-38 enhances environmental protection and creates an opportunity for sustainable environmental development.

I would just like to stay focused on what we are contemplating today. From the standpoint of provisions with respect to the environment and the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, as I mentioned in my speech, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue a very high level of environmental protection, to improve and enforce environmental laws effectively and maintain appropriate environmental assessments. We are making sure that we have sustainable development while still having protected environmental programs in place, whether through this trade agreement or others that we will do in the future.