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

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, I personally have spent a lot of time in Panama. Panama has been moving forward very fast since Noriega has been gone. It is a great opportunity for Canada to be doing trade, especially when the Panama Canal is there. We could be bringing stuff in, transshipment. That country looks for our products and there are a lot of products we could buy from it, especially exotic fruits and vegetables.

We do have concerns about what is happening in Panama. The National had a story on last night about what Panama is doing with the mining sites. However, if we are doing a proper job on the mining sites and in our resource extracting industries, would my hon. colleague not agree that we should have a good trade deal with Panama if we are doing things in the right way?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster introduced a series of amendments that would in fact have made it possible, if a free trade agreement were signed, to protect a country that has these problems from having foreign investors, including Canadian investors, exert too much control over the country’s mining resources.

Unfortunately, all of the amendments were voted down. Because of that, the bill is really unacceptable. It will not mean that the people of Panama come out ahead and it will not restore the Canadian economy to its former glory. On the contrary, it will damage us at the international level, at the...

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order. The hon. member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou for a very brief final question.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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5:05 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to congratulate my colleague. I am pleased that he raised the issue of indigenous rights in Panama.

We know that Panama has signed more than 27 international human rights documents, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Recently, the UN Human Rights Committee underscored the absence of a process for consulting with indigenous people in Panama.

I wonder whether the hon. member has anything to add to that. Indeed, it is a matter of concern now that the United Nations declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples has come into force internationally.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Pierre Dionne Labelle Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question.

There is cause for concern over the fate of indigenous peoples there and over their claims, which are being trampled.

Inmet Mining Corporation is in the process of developing a project in an area of biodiversity without any consultation or oversight. It is left free to do what it wants on that land. The only opposition comes from the people who have ancestral rights to the land.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I will spend a few minutes talking about how this agreement fits into our government's broader economic plan.

The one thing we always need to keep in context is that free trade agreements, while they are important, fit into a much larger plan of what our government is trying to accomplish. We have been working on a number of free trade deals, which I will touch on in a bit, but I also want to comment on the fact that we continue to lower corporate taxes to one of the lowest levels in any of the G7 or G8 countries. That is important as we look at trying to attract other investments and corporations for jobs.

There are other things we are doing. We are continuing to work on deals with the U.S. to try to get goods and services flowing quicker at the borders. A historic deal was announced just this week. The Prime Minister was able to make a deal in Windsor, which is hugely important in trying to get our goods and services across to the U.S., our largest trading partner. We continue to invest in research and development. We realize that new jobs will come as we are able to commercialize technology. That is why we continue to spend money on research and development and ensure we are getting the best bang for the buck.

We have been trying to reduce red tape. The Red Tape Reduction Commission talked to business owners and business people across the country to try to figure out how to reduce irritants so that Canada could become a friendly place to do business. It already does a great job. I think one of the differences between us and some of the other parties in the House is that we realize that we need to continue to find ways to sell our goods and services around the world. Sixty per cent of our GDP depends strictly on trade. With a population between 30 million and 35 million people, there is no way that we can consume all of our goods. Therefore, we need to continue to expand those markets. Tat is why I appreciate the opportunity to talk a bit more about this Panama free trade deal.

We understand the importance of benefits of trade. As I mentioned before, we are an export-driven economy and we need open borders. With one in five Canadian jobs dependent on international trade, bilateral and regional trade agreements are essential to bringing continued prosperity to Canadians. That is why deepening Canada's trading relationships is rapidly growing, and markets around the world, such as Panama, are important parts of this government's pro-trade plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

With a GDP of over $30 billion and a GDP per capita of over $10,000, Panama is among the fastest growing and best managed countries in Latin America. In fact, the Latin Business Chronicle has predicted that Panama will be the fastest growing economy in Latin America in the five year period from 2010 to 2014, matching Brazil's rate of growth of 10%.

Like most countries in the region, however, Panama is feeling the impact of the global financial crisis, which threatens to undermine the social gains made in the past few years. That said, the expansion project of the Panama Canal, combined with the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the United States, is expected to boost and extend economic expansion for some time.

As a former member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, I had the pleasure of visiting Panama in 2008 with my committee colleagues. I want to mention, since Lee Richardson, who was the chair of the committee at the time, is no longer in the House, that it was a pleasure travelling with Lee to Panama and he did a great job leading the delegation. He is certainly a colleague that we will miss in the House. I want to wish him all the best as he starts his work in Alberta.

While in Panama, we had a chance to visit the Panama Canal. One really cannot appreciate the sheer scale of this 97-year-old architectural marvel until one gets to witness it in person. The Panama Canal is an 82 kilometre ship canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific via the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken. The Panama Canal is a shortcut that allows for shorter, faster and safer access to the North American west coast, allowing those places, including Canada, to become more integrated with the world economy.

The Panama Canal has an annual traffic of over 14,000 trips, carrying about 300 million tonnes of goods annually, raising close to $2 billion in revenue for the Panamanian government. The Panama Canal expansion project, which is currently under way, will double the capacity of the Panama Canal, allowing more and larger ships to transit.

New components include the construction of the two lock complexes, the excavation of new access channels to the new locks and the widening and deepening of the navigation channels. The project is expected to be completed in 2014. Interestingly, this expansion was approved in 2007 by Panama's cabinet and national assembly with a national referendum in which 77% of Panamanians voted to support this project.

The Panama Canal Authority estimated the cost to construct the third set of locks at approximately $5.25 billion. This estimate includes design, administrative, construction and testing. As with most projects of this scale, there are opponents who contend that the project is based on uncertain projections about maritime trade and the world economy and that the project will cost more than the $5.25 billion price tag.

Again, according to the Panama Canal Authority, the third set of locks is financially profitable and will produce a 12% internal rate of return, which will help to continue to finance the project and will be a cash flow for the country as it moves forward.

Recent challenges in concluding the World Trade Organization Doha round regional and bilateral trade agreements have taken on increased significance. Our government 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. That is why our government is in the midst of the most ambitious pursuit of new and expanded trade and investments 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 a global economy. 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 clear that jobs in communities across Canada depend on the business we do with other countries. This 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 concluded new free trade deals with nine countries: Colombia, Jordan and Peru; the European Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; and, most recently, with Honduras and, of course, Panama We are negotiating many more, including with the European Union.

A deal with the European Union would represent the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement and could potentially boost our bilateral trade with this important partner by 20%. It could also provide $12 billion annually to boost the Canadian economy, which is equivalent to a $1,000 increase to the average Canadian family income or almost 80,000 new jobs.

Canadian companies recognize the many benefits to workers and businesses that a Canada–E.U. trade deal would bring.

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 would proceed to exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations on the completion of the bilateral economic study. Also, just this past March, the Prime Minister announced and launched the negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Japan and the start of exploratory discussions with Thailand. This week, the possible participation in the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations was also announced.

This free trade agreement would also better enable Canadian companies to participate in large projects.

For all those reasons, the proposed Canada–Panama agreement is a good deal. The agreement will support more Canadian jobs by enhancing our ability to export more goods and services to this market. This is why the implementation of a free trade agreement is a priority for this government.

I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-24, the legislation to implement the Canada–Panama free trade agreement and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

NDP

Romeo Saganash Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou, QC

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the presentation made by my friend, who also chairs the foreign affairs committee. I always appreciate his interventions.

Over and above the concerns that we have on this side regarding labour rights, environmental issues and indigenous issues and rights in Panama, Panama has refused to sign the tax information exchange agreement. This is always very troubling for us because of the money laundering that happens in Panama. That has been confirmed by the U.S. justice department and others.

What does my hon. friend have to say about that?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague is a new member on the foreign affairs committee, and we appreciate his contributions.

As we continue to look at deals, one thing we need to consider is trying to find other markets for our goods and services. Therefore, we will continue to work on foreign investment protection agreements, tax treaties, all those things as we move forward. We believe we need to find more areas for our country to serve and sell our goods. This is what we will continue to do.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Madam Speaker, as I mentioned before in the House, I have had a lot of experience in Panama. I really think it is great that we are doing business with it. There is so much opportunity. However, there is still a concern, and we saw it last night on TV, about the environmental degradation that can happen. It is such an important area, and not only for trade; Panama is a flight path for many of our birds, and the rain forest is protected.

My question is for the chair of the foreign affairs committee. When we did the Colombian deal, there was a collateral agreement with environmental clauses in it. Are there any environmental clauses or collateral agreements that could protect the Panamanian lands from degradation from mining operations?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, as we have with all agreements, we have side agreements for labour co-operation and agreements for the environment. As we move forward with these agreements, we will continually look at these things and ensure they are included in our agreements.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, the member is from an area that has a tremendous amount of trade already, particularly through the Hamilton airport and its cargo activity. What would this trade deal potentially do for his riding and the Hamilton airport as a cargo hub?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Madam Speaker, one of the areas where we have opportunity is through our Hamilton airport, which is one of the busiest hubs in Canada right now for cargo and transport. These are all the things on which we need to continue to work. I cannot underline how important the deal this week was with Detroit for a new bridge. Any avenues where we can increase the flow of goods back and forth, whether through our airports or across our bridges, are all critical to help our businesses grow.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

Gord Brown Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, it is a real pleasure to rise today to support Bill C-24, the act to implement the Canada–Panama free trade agreement and in support of our government's pro-job, pro-trade agenda.

As an export-driven economy, Canada needs open borders. With one in five Canadian jobs generated by international trade, our government's ambitious pro-trade plan is essential to bring continued prosperity to Canadians. That is why deepening and strengthening Canada's trading relationships in dynamic markets, such as Panama, is an important part of our government's plan for jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

Canada and Panama have a history of strong bilateral relations. Canada established diplomatic relations with Panama in 1961 in recognition of the growing political and economic ties and to promote political trade and investment relations between Canada and Panama. Canada then opened its embassy in Panama in 1995.

Export Development Canada's regional office opened in the Canadian embassy in Panama in September 2010 and now covers all of Central America and the Caribbean. This decision endorses Panama's potential to become the Singapore of the Americas. It also echos other respects in which our embassy has adopted a regional mandate. In 2011 EDC supported more than 100 Canadian companies in Panama.

Apart from our physical presence, Canada and Panama also speak to each other in multilateral fora, such as the World Trade Organization. Panama acceded to the WTO in 1997. As a WTO member, Panama grants most favoured nation treatment to all of its trading partners and has bilateral investment treaties with 16 countries.

One of these investment protection agreements was with Canada and it came into force in 1998 as a means to deepen our commercial relationship by extending to Canadian investors legally binding rights, including provisions to protect them from expropriation without fair, adequate and prompt compensation and the freedom to transfer capital internationally.

Canada and Panama also have concluded an air transport agreement in order to facilitate greater travel between our two countries. Copa Airlines, Panama's national carrier and a prominent regional airline, has now launched four weekly direct scheduled flights to Toronto. This improved service will facilitate travel and people-to-people ties for nearly 100,000 Canadian visitors a year and an estimated 5,000 Canadian residents in Panama.

This year we are also negotiating a tax information exchange agreement with Panama. To combat international tax evasion, Panama committed in 2002 to implement the OECD standard for the exchange of tax information. Panama has now substantially implemented the OECD standard through the conclusion of more than 12 double taxation agreements or tax information exchange agreements that include the OECD standard. Like a double taxation agreement, a tax information exchange agreement will also have important benefit for investors.

The result of these initiatives for Canadians in recent years is bilateral trade between Canada and Panama has been steadily growing. From just under $50 million in total trade in 2002, we were up to a total of $235 million per year by 2011. We are now in 15th position as a supplier of goods to Panama. Much of this is very diversified and includes pork, vegetables and vegetable preparations, vegetable oils, industrial machinery, electrical and electronic—

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

5:30 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I regret to interrupt the hon. member. He will have about six minutes remaining when this bill returns to the order of the day.

It being 5:30 p.m., the House will proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from February 28 consideration of the motion that Bill S-206, An Act respecting World Autism Awareness Day, be read the second time and referred to a committee.