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

1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to have this opportunity to talk about the benefits for Canadian investors. My speech today will be about the investment aspects of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Foreign investment is a crucial component of today's modern economy. Foreign investment not only brings with it jobs, but increases the transfer of know-how, efficiencies and economies of scale to a host of economic opportunities. These markers of success, in addition to the people ties fostered, help strengthen Canada's global competitiveness at home and pave the way for new opportunities for Canadian companies overseas. These opportunities help Canadian companies remain globally competitive by ensuring their integration into the world economy.

At the end of 2011, Canadian direct investment abroad reached an all-time high of $684 billion. The value of the stock of foreign direct investment within Canada is also impressive. By the end of 2011, Canada had attracted more than $607 billion in foreign direct investment.

I will pause for a moment to remind my colleagues and to emphasize that the actual numbers from the end of 2011 show there is more investment from Canadian companies abroad than direct investment we get from foreign companies. This is important. We often hear in the House, on the street and in our ridings, that Canada is hollowing out, that Canadian companies are being sold and we are losing our control. In actual fact, that is not the case. Canadian companies are more aggressive and progressive in investing in foreign lands than the money that comes into our country.

As the past few years have demonstrated, the Canadian economy has proven to be a safe harbour as the global economy faces severe challenges. Canada is home to 27 of the Financial Times “Global 500” companies. More top global companies have headquarters in Canada than in Germany, India, Brazil, Russia or Italy.

Canada has also outpaced its G7 partners with its economic growth, the fastest it has been in the last 10 years, as a result of having lower corporate taxes, prudent fiscal management and financial regulation, a business climate that rewards innovation and entrepreneurship and an open economy that welcomes foreign direct investment.

Canada must remain diligent to ensure that our economic credentials remain strong at home and that Canadian businesses continue to have access to an increasing number of investment opportunities abroad. This is why it is important for us to leverage our investment relationships that we have around the world and with countries like Panama.

While data is unavailable for the end of 2011, the stock of Canadian direct investment in Panama was estimated by Statistics Canada to have reached $121 million at the end of 2010. Canadian investment in Panama, primarily found in the financial services and the mining sector, also has strong potential for growth.

There are many Canadian investment success stories around the world and Panama is no different. Scotia Bank has been in Panama since 1973 and has expanded to become the country's fifth largest commercial bank. SNC-Lavalin moved its Central American regional office to Panama in 2006. Inmet Mining Corporation continues to develop its copper mine in Panama, which is now over 13,000 hectares.

Opportunities for Canadian investors in Panama are also poised to grow in the future. We have heard about the tremendous opportunities that exist in Panama with respect to large numbers of infrastructure projects.

In addition to the ongoing $5.3 billion U.S. Panama Canal expansion project, the government of Panama has numerous projects either under construction or already in progress. These projects include the building or improvement of ports, roads, hospitals, social housing projects, bridges and airports, which are part of the U.S. $13.6 billion Panamanian government strategic investment plan for 2010 to 2014.

Under this plan, a large number of infrastructure projects would create new opportunities for Canadian businesses. A country like Canada, with so much expertise to take advantage of these significant opportunities in Panama, must act now. The current and future opportunities for Canadian investors show how important it is to enhance our investment relationship with countries like Panama.

This agreement would do just that by building upon a Canada-Panama Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement signed in 1998. By enhancing the investment provisions under this agreement, a free trade agreement with Panama would provide investors from both countries with the benefits that come with enhanced investment obligations. These provisions, which would promote the two-way flow of investments between Panama and Canada, would provide a range of obligations that would benefit investors from both countries.

They are designed to protect investment abroad, through legally binding rights and obligations. The investment obligations of this agreement incorporate several key principles. They include: treatment that is non-discriminatory and meets a minimum standard; protection against expropriation without compensation, meaning we cannot take land or property without compensation; and the free transfer of funds without penalty.

In short, Canadian investors would be treated in a non-discriminatory manner. This dynamic would help foster an investment relationship between our two countries and pave the way for an increased flow of investment for the years ahead.

Through this agreement, investors would also have access to transparent, impartial and binding dispute settlement systems.

While this agreement would ensure that investors and their investments are protected, it would not prevent either Canada or Panama from regulating in their public interest, with respect to health, to safety and to the environment.

The investment provisions also include an article on corporate social responsibility. This provision recognizes that Canada expects and encourages Canadian companies operating abroad to observe internationally recognized standards of responsible business conduct. This provision would also help level the playing field for Canadian investors when they invest abroad by encouraging CSR principles among all investors.

Overall, this agreement would send a positive signal to our partners around the world about the openness of Canada to foreign investment. This agreement would enhance investment opportunities abroad for all Canadians.

Foreign investment links Canadian companies to global value chains and to new economic opportunities. This enhances our competitiveness and increases the flow of goods and services between Canada and our trading partners.

To date, Canadian companies have shown a significant interest in investing in the Panamanian economy. However, as time passes, opportunities for Canadian investors are at risk. That is why it is critical that Canadian companies have the ability to strike while the iron is hot. I encourage members not to delay the approval of this agreement.

Our government has been very clear that trade and investment are vital to the economic growth and long-term prosperity of Canadians. That is why our government continues to move forward with an ambitious free trade agreement agenda that focuses on creating partnerships with key nations around the world. To take advantage of commercial opportunities around the world, we must do everything we can to open doors for Canadian businesses.

That is why I ask all hon. members to show their support for the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find the member opposite to be a kind, caring and sensible man. However, this agreement and others have side agreements for the environment and human rights. One of the problems with side agreements is that they do not have any teeth. They are not enforceable.

A very simple way to get MPs in this House on board with trade deals is to move those two things, the environment and human rights agreements, into the body of the agreement so that there are some teeth, so that there is an opportunity for people to voice their concerns and to have them heard.

Does my normally very sensible friend across the way not think that is a good idea?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the kinds words of the member opposite.

It is a bit of a red herring. It is in the agreement. We have side agreements on particular issues. Negotiation on free trade agreements is a two-way street. The member and his colleagues in the NDP believe that it is the Canada way or no way. We do not believe that. We believe this is an opportunity. When we sign these free trade agreements, there are issues that we need to deal with, whether they are with labour or the environment. We have discussions and put it in writing in, as he defines it, as a side agreement. It is progress. It is the way to move forward on creating jobs for Canadians.

The NDP way is to take the ball and go home. Nothing gets accomplished, no jobs for Canadians and no future for Canadian businesses abroad. That is not the way to go.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his very fine speech. But I cannot totally agree with what he said in his remarks.

Once more, I will ask the question I have already asked several of his colleagues today. But this time, I would appreciate a semblance of an answer.

We have signed a double taxation agreement with Panama. That can give us access to all legal and fiscal tools. I do not know why there has been no agreement to exchange tax information between Canada and Panama. That would have given us access to all types of income, whether earned by legal or illegal means.

Why was that not put in place? Canada has signed tax information exchange agreements with several countries and Panama also has signed them with several countries. In the light of what went on in Panama a few years ago, and of what is still going on, why do we not have this tax security measure in this bill?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member has heard the answer before. What we were dealing with on the free trade agreement had to do with tariffs and investment. There is an issue with the tax treatment of companies that are doing business in Panama. We have many tax exchange agreements, as the member said, with other countries. The United States has a tax agreement with Panama, which is relatively new. I can say that we are working on the tax issue. It was not ready in time to be included in this, but it is an issue we know we need to deal with as a government.

Denying Canadian companies an opportunity to do business in Panama and reducing the barriers to trade with Panama is not the right approach, in our view, in terms of moving the yardstick further along to accomplish those goals, including a tax agreement.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I noted my colleague's comments about not taking Canadian standards to other countries. After the budget implementation bill that was just passed and the environmental standards in it, we have brought different environmental standards to this country, which are really not appropriate.

When the hon. member talks about the need to be magnanimous toward other countries in terms of their ability to move forward on the environment, and social and economic issues surrounding tax issues, he is really missing the boat. What is happening in this country with this budget implementation bill is driving down our standards, whereas we should be putting standards forward for other countries which are more appropriate.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the member opposite misunderstood the statement. The statement was that through free trade agreements, we are promoting Canadian values and standards. If we told countries that they have to be like Canada or we would not speak to them, as the NDP wants us to do, we would talk to no one and Canadian companies would suffer, Canadian jobs would not be created and innovation would not happen.

We are looking for partners to do business with. Part of that process is that we promote our values in terms of the environment, the workplace and human rights. It is through those agreements that we are able to express what Canada stands for in the world. We are number one. I take exception to the member saying that Canada does not have a high level of standards. We are promoting those standards through free trade agreements.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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June 19th, 2012 / 1:25 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-24, which has to do with a Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

It is very important that we take a stand and take the time to read this free trade agreement, because Panama is an extremely important international partner. Panama is the largest economic power in Central America, partly because of the Panama Canal, which sees a large number of goods pass through. Right now, it is being expanded, which will allow for greater flow and traffic.

Maritime traffic is rather important to Panama. Panama also is specializes in financial services, commerce and tourism. So it is important for us to examine this agreement and decide what this agreement with Panama will contain. We need to do things the right way.

I have listened to my colleagues' comments today and will get back to them shortly. I think that the government is botching this job and is not taking the time to create a worthwhile agreement. The NDP is in favour of free trade agreements if they are responsible and sustainable. Right now, we have the momentum to show that Canada is a leader. Right now, Panama is an emerging country. Canada, as a proud economic partner and world leader, could show Panama the way in terms of proper environmental norms and a system of rights for workers and unions in Panama, and we could make this free trade agreement into an agreement that supports sustainable and viable long-term development.

This could be the time for Canada to move things forward internationally. Canada could be an excellent partner. Unfortunately, the Conservative government is completely ignoring this extremely interesting opportunity that is right in front of it.

The sad thing about this bill is that there has been a time allocation motion, which means that we will not be able to discuss it in greater detail. However, there are a number of interesting points I would like to make. When I read Bill C-24, I noticed a number of shortcomings. My NDP colleagues tried to make amendments to correct those defects, but unfortunately, all of the proposed amendments were rejected.

In my view, the most significant flaw is probably the fact that there is no tax information exchange agreement in this bill. I will say more about that later. There is also a glaring lack of vision with respect to sustainable development. The agreement lacks meaningful protection for the rights of Panamanian workers. We know what happens when jobs and workers are not protected. When that happens in Canada, factories close their doors and move jobs elsewhere. It is important to ensure that Panamanian workers are protected. Another problem is the fact that this is a bilateral agreement, not a multilateral one.

As for the tax information exchange agreement, it may sound very confusing to some, but actually, it is quite simple. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development gives a very good description of tax information exchange agreements on its website. Basically, any country can refer to that description in order to create its own tax information exchange agreement. All of the information is on the website. It was created in 2002, and since that time, many countries, including Canada and Panama, have used this model to clarify their tax information exchange agreements.

So what is a tax information exchange agreement? The following description is from the OECD document:

The purpose of this agreement is to promote international co-operation in tax matters through exchange of information...The agreement grew out of the work undertaken by the OECD to address harmful tax practices...The agreement represents the standard of effective exchange of information for the purposes of the OECD's initiative on harmful tax practices.

As I just mentioned, many countries have followed this model to create their tax information exchange agreements. Canada has entered into several such agreements, for instance with the Cayman Islands, the Bahamas and Saint Lucia. In 2010, Panama signed a tax information exchange agreement with the United States, one of its biggest financial partners.

I just asked the hon. member for Burlington a question. I asked him why Bill C-24 does not contain this kind of tax information exchange agreement with Panama based on the same model as the one presented by the United States.

I was told that it was not ready in time. That is not a reason. In fact, it is proof that this bill was completely botched. We need to take the time to do things. This is important; it is a free trade agreement. I was honestly shocked when I heard this. If it was not ready in time, why not take the time to do things the way they should be done before presenting them to the House? Why did they not accept the amendments presented by the opposition to resolve the problems with this bill? I wonder.

It was not ready in time, and I find that very sad. This is clear evidence that we should go back, call a halt to this bill and secure an agreement. It is not as if things are pressing and we absolutely must have a free trade agreement with Panama by tomorrow. And it is not as if they are our most important partner. Panama is not Canada's largest trade partner. Bilateral trade in terms of goods between our two countries was worth only $149 million in 2008. We are not even talking about 1%. We have the time to do things right. I do not see why we are not, and it saddens me a little to hear this.

I know that Panama was recently removed from the OECD grey list because it has implemented information exchange standards, but we do not even have these information exchanges with Panama. If that were the case, this bill would already be much better. We do not have a tax information exchange agreement, but the Conservatives, on the other side of the House, are trumpeting the double taxation convention that Panama has agreed to sign. They think that will do.

Is it really enough? I do not think so. Double taxation tax treaties—the definition is on the Canada Revenue Agency website—are designed to avoid double taxation for people who would otherwise pay tax on the same income in two countries. That applies to legitimate income only. A tax information exchange agreement helps track down all income, legitimate or otherwise. It is a much sounder and more interesting way to protect ourselves in terms of taxation standards.

Again, I am extremely disappointed not to find this exchange agreement in the bill, especially since we have already signed such agreements and so has Panama. So why not sign one together? It is a mystery. My colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster proposed some extremely interesting amendments, including some on sustainable development and responsible investment. That is what we want to see. That is the direction we should be taking. We are all responsible. We all live on the same planet and everyone has the right to fairness.

We were also very disappointed that the benefits of sustainable development were not considered. I understand that it is a system of rules, but it has to be applied fairly and it is not included in this bill.

This bill touched on several issues all at once. I will not have time to talk about protection for workers or the environment, which has been clearly bungled in this bill, as it was in Bill C-38. I would like to talk about what we want to see in a Canada-Panama agreement.

We simply want a fair trade policy, one that gives a rightful place to social justice, and fair, sustainable, equitable trade. These are very simple things that should be the basis for a free trade agreement with another country. We should instead be negotiating multilateral agreements. However, if the decision is made to enter into a bilateral agreement such as this one, we have to do more and make a more responsible commitment with this kind of agreement.

We are reaffirming our vision of a fair trade policy that puts the pursuit of social justice, strong public-sector social programs and the elimination of poverty at the heart of an effective trade strategy.

Let us protect the environment, protect workers and, at the same time, ensure that the tax measures included in this type of bill are appropriate.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:35 p.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages

Mr. Speaker, no doubt it is difficult to pretend to be in favour of or open to a policy that one completely opposes.

The reality is that this NDP member, just like her NDP colleague who spoke before her and other NDP members, plays this game of saying that she believes in multilateral trade agreements. The problem is that when the previous Liberal government was in office, it put forward for negotiation the multilateral agreement on investment, a multilateral approach that brought in all countries, and the NDP was opposed to that. NAFTA is a multilateral approach to trade that brings three countries together for the best interests of the continental economic regime. The NDP is opposed to that.

It is the NDP and its members who are in the streets waving placards and chanting whenever there are meetings of the WTO or NAFTA or the G20 or the G8 in Canada or around the world.

Now the member and the NDP say in the House, “We are against Panama. We might be in favour of Jordan, but we are not quite so sure; maybe Brazil, but we are not quite so sure.” They cannot name any country in the world they actually want to trade with. Then they put out this red herring and say, “We are in favour of multilateral agreements when it comes to foreign investment and international trade and commerce”, except that every single time that has come forward, they have been against it as well and were in the streets chanting and waving placards like a completely non-serious political party would.

One has to wonder whether the NDP is in favour of bilateral trade agreements or of multilateral trade agreements. Could the hon. member please make up her mind?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:35 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question.

I find it sad because I think that, unfortunately, he did not bother to listen carefully to what I took the time to explain in the 10 minutes that I had. We spoke about multilateral agreements, but it is not just that. This type of bill has plenty of shortcomings.

We are talking about environmental standards, labour standards and fiscal arrangements. I am surprised that the hon. member does not want to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama, since the members opposite are trying to make out that they are squeaky clean. There are many things that do not make any sense.

This goes much further than a bilateral or multilateral agreement. We are talking about the very essence of a bill. In this case, there has been a blatant lack of study. Earlier, his colleague, the hon. member for Burlington, said that they were caught off guard and that they did not have time to establish an agreement.

Therefore, I am not in favour of it.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has been fairly clear in terms of expressing concerns regarding labour, environmental conditions and coming up with freer trade agreements, but that does not prevent us from being able to acknowledge the benefits, both to Canada and to other countries with which we would enter into these agreements, and we would always like to see agreements improved upon.

The issue I have with the NDP members is that they do not seem necessarily to be consistent with their thoughts when it comes to international trade. For example, they will not sign any sort of free trade agreement with any country we know with which they might have some concerns with regard to human rights issues, for example.

Let us use the country of China, where there is a great deal of concern regarding human rights issues. Would that mean that the NDP would take some sort of trade sanctions or anything of that nature in order to take a stand on that particular issue, or would they be open to an agreement between Canada and China?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:40 p.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member from the Liberal Party for his question.

What I find interesting in the preamble to his question is that the Liberal Party apparently also agrees that the bill has to be improved in terms of the environment, human rights and even sustainable development.

I would like to remind the hon. member that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster introduced amendments to improve this bill in terms of the environment, sustainable development and human rights. But both the Conservatives and the Liberals voted against those amendments. So he is in no position to lecture us about what should be improved because they did not support our proposals.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand and speak to this important piece of legislation.

I just came from chairing the international trade committee. It is a pleasure for me to serve in that capacity. When it comes to trade, it is absolutely imperative that I explain to Canadians just how important trade is to Canada.

One out of every five jobs is created because of trade. Sixty-three per cent of our GDP is represented by trade, and we have accomplished that because of trade agreements.

The trade file started with NAFTA. NAFTA has been in existence for almost 17 years. What has happened in that time period? Jobs have gone up by 23%, meaning there are 40 million net new jobs in North America because of NAFTA. Trade has tripled, and has quadrupled with one of our partners.

Opposition members argue against free trade agreements. It really puzzles me that they let the Jordan free trade agreement go through on a voice vote; it was as if their union people were not watching. It is absolutely amazing to me that they could agree with the Jordan free trade agreement and then stand in the House and give some of the arguments that I have heard recently against the Panama free trade agreement. I will talk about that in a few minutes.

I want to give one quick example about NAFTA. We heard arguments that when NAFTA came in, the wine industry in Canada would be absolutely destroyed. It would cease to exist. All those arguments were presented on the floor of the House, and they were argued vigorously.

Can members guess what happened? Canada's wine exports amounted to $1.8 billion. From all the various countries—Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Spain—we imported $800 million in wine, so our exports doubled our imports. What a great success story, and all because of international trade. That is something my hon. colleagues should keep in mind.

What have we been doing as a country? We have signed nine different free trade agreements: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Peru, the European Free Trade Association members, and Panama, the one we are dealing with today.

What are we pursuing? We are pursuing an economic free trade agreement with Europe. We just heard testimony less than an hour ago in committee from our chief negotiator, who indicated how well that is going. We expect to have the final draft by the end of the year.

Why is that important? It is important because it is the most comprehensive free trade agreement between any two nations anywhere in the world. It will supposedly be at end of text by the end of the year. It is exciting to see how well that is going, and I compliment the negotiators on that free trade agreement.

What does that agreement mean to Canada? It means $1,000 per family per year. That is a fair amount. That is $12 billion coming into Canada every year because of the economic free trade agreement with Europe.

We are also working aggressively on another free trade agreement, in this case with Japan. The benefits to Canada would be $9 billion. As well, there is India, Brazil, Thailand.

Just a few minutes ago we heard that we are in the TPP, which, as of yesterday, is a group of 10 countries on the Pacific rim that will work on a comprehensive free trade agreement in that group.

What about China? Last year we imported $44.5 billion from China. It imported $13.2 billion from us. To equalize the trade benefit from China and to balance the trade would be a $30 billion benefit. It could be just an act of goodwill by China.

We are very excited about accelerating trade and about our opportunities with these growing countries that are in need of the products we produce and the resources, industries and intelligence we have here in Canada to offer them.

What are the elements of the Canada-Panama agreement? We trade cross-border services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, government procurement and so on.

It is important to sign this agreement and get on with it. The bill reached third reading in the last Parliament. It is important because the United States, Chile, Taiwan and Singapore already have an agreement with Panama.

What would bilateral trade with Panama mean? In 2011, trade was $235 million. We imported about $144 million in products such as metals, gold, fruit, machinery, fish and seafood products. We exported about $111 million in products such as machinery, meat, aerospace products, vegetables and so. Signing this kind of agreement would provide a great opportunity for our corporations and our country.

It is very important to understand the opportunities that lay themselves before us under this agreement on the procurement side. In Panama it is projected there will be $28.9 billion U.S. worth of infrastructure projects over the coming years. One of the largest is the Panama Canal, which is a $5.3 billion expansion and a great opportunity for Canadian corporations with regard to not only that but also ports, roads, bridges and airports, with respect to procurement.

It is important to understand that the tariffs on our agricultural products are rather intense. They go from 13.4% right up to 260% for some of our agricultural products. Imagine what the elimination of those could do with respect to exporting frozen potatoes, pulses, pork, malt barley and other products such as beef, hogs and so on. When it comes to the non-agricultural goods, the tariffs are anywhere from 6.2% right up to 81% on many of those, such as materials, equipment, industrial and electrical machinery, paper products, vehicles and so on. We can see that the potential for this is great.

The resistance I hear from the opposition members is rather interesting because they have talked about labour problems, human rights problems and environmental concerns. There is a corporate social responsibility that has been agreed to by Canadian corporations when we get into this piece of legislation. It very much encompasses environmental protection, human rights, labour relations, corporate governance, transparency, community relations, peace and security, and anti-corruption measures. Therefore, the opposition members are really blowing smoke when they say that the legislation does not include any of this. It is very important that it is there and that we sign this agreement so that Canadian companies would be able to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities.

The corporate social responsibility part of this agreement is very important. It is something that has not been talked about an awful lot here but is something that is very important. With respect to the side agreements on labour and the environment, I have heard opposition members ask why they are not encompassed within the body of the agreement. It is no different than with Jordan, for which they had no problem with standing in this House. Well, actually they did not stand; they just sat there on a voice vote and let it go unanimously at third reading. It is off to the Senate and will be passed very soon we hope. There is no difference here with respect to that, so I do not know how, in their own thinking, they can support one and not the other.

In testimony at committee we heard the most outrageous circumstances on human rights happening in some of the factories in Jordan. The members of the opposition who are on the committee heard the same testimony. There are two approaches that can be taken when we look at a free trade agreement. We can either say that unless that country comes up to Canadian standards we will disengage or just check out because there is no point, which will send a message that we would not do business with anyone who does not come up to our standards. The other approach is to engage that country as much as possible, improve its standard of living and give Canadian businesses as well as the corporations in those other countries opportunities that would help them along, so that we both win. That is the approach this government is using.

The most hypocritical position I have ever seen in this House on the trade file is the opposition members supporting Jordan but not supporting Panama, Colombia and others. It is really beyond anything I have seen. Clearly, it is something that has to be addressed when we challenge the opposition members to come on side and sign the agreement. If they say they are pro-trade then they should do it. The excuses I have heard are absolutely not excuses but rather blind ideology that hurts Canadian businesses and Canada as a country.

Canada is a wonderful country. It is the greatest country in the world, according to the IMF, the OECD and Forbes magazine. We have created 760,000 net new jobs since the bottom of the recession. We have done that by lowering taxes and giving Canadian corporations the opportunity to actually develop and move their goods and services into international trade opportunities around the world. As a government, we will continue to do that. Why? That is what Canadians expect us to do.

The NDP would like to raise taxes to get out of this recession. We believe we should grow our country. That is the way to win, and we will continue to do that.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACT
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1:50 p.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his comments. One concept came up twice in the hon. member's speech: that simply engaging with those people and those emerging countries will suddenly and magically improve workers' fundamental rights, environmental conditions and so on.

If the hon. member is so convinced that that has to happen, how is it that the agreement includes parallel agreements that bring up environmental concepts that are not in the body of the text? How is it that there is no vigorous mechanism to resolve environmental disputes? If he thinks that this really is part of the main thrust of trading with emerging countries, why is that not clearly indicated in the body of the agreement?

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1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I addressed that question in my deliberations, but nonetheless I would like to repeat it.

It is absolutely no different from the agreement with Jordan that the opposition sat in this House and agreed with 100%. The most horrendous testimony we have heard in our committee came from the factories in Jordan, of the misuse of human rights, yet the side agreements on human rights and on the environment are the very same.

I am saying to my hon. colleague that it is ridiculous to say that the side agreements on human rights and environment say we are going to go soft on it. We are going to go as hard as we possibly can and make sure we do what we can, in this agreement and other agreements, to be able to respect human rights wherever we can. We understand very well that in Jordan and in Panama there may be problems.

I would say the opportunity to have more intense problems, when it comes to human rights, is in Jordan rather than in Panama.