moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, our government has indicated the priority that we place on implementing free trade agreements to help Canadian businesses compete in international markets. Today's debate on approval of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement reflects this objective of creating jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers through trade.
It is more important than ever to ensure economic cooperation with key partners. The government is therefore determined to establish and strengthen bilateral and multilateral trade relations to ensure the continuing prosperity of Canadians.
The global economic crisis emphasized the importance and urgency of expanding trade and investment relationships through improved market access.
Our government is committed to pursuing bilateral and multilateral trade relationships that bring continued prosperity to Canadians right here at home. The global economic crisis emphasizes the importance and urgency of expanding trade and investment relations to improve market access.
The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is one of many efforts by our government to expand opportunities for Canadian business. As members know, we have entered an age of fierce global competition.
Emerging economies continue climbing the value chain and establishing themselves in an ever-widening range of sectors.
Canadian businesses and Canadian workers are up to the challenge of competing internationally.
We must seek out more trade and investment opportunities for our businesses. Our government recognizes these challenges.
We are standing up for Canadian business to ensure that they can compete and succeed worldwide, and n particular, Canadian workers.
The government launched negotiations with Colombia and other Andean partners in June 2007. I am proud to say that we continue working hard to create new opportunities abroad to benefit Canadian workers at home.
The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement, along with the related agreements on the environment and labour are an important part of this broader trade agenda.
Canada currently has long-standing free trade agreements in force with the United States and Mexico under the North America Free Trade Agreement, and agreements with Israel, Chile and Costa Rica.
Under this government, we recently implemented new free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association and Peru.
In 2009, we also signed a free trade agreement with Jordan, which I had the pleasure of tabling in the House today.
On August 11, 2009, the government successfully concluded free trade negotiations with Panama. At the announcement of the conclusion of the Panama negotiations, the Prime Minister himself emphasized that Canada's commitment was to stronger trade partnerships.
We are on the right track and are also looking ahead to other important partners in the world. At the Canada-European Union Summit last May, the government launched negotiations toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union. We also remain dedicated to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners, including Central American countries, the Caribbean community and the Dominican Republic.
Those are all examples of how hard the government is working to pursue, develop and expand trade opportunities and relationships that work for Canadians. Our trade agenda is ambitious and Canadians deserve the opportunities our government is continuing to deliver.
We are currently working to launch negotiations with new partners, such as Morocco and the Ukraine, and exploring deeper trade ties with India and Japan.
The government is also working to send a clear message to the world: Canada is open for business. And we are getting the job done.
Our recent economic action plan is making significant investments in our national innovation strategy. We have also cut corporate taxes to make Canada more attractive to business. We have the lowest taxes on new business entrants who are creating jobs, lower taxes on new business than anywhere in the G7. In 2012 we will have the lowest business taxes across the board in the G7.
We have made Canada the first country in the G20 to have a tariff-free zone for a broad range of machinery and equipment for Canadian manufacturers. Eliminating tariffs on new equipment, parts and machinery will help make our manufacturers more innovative, more productive and more cost-competitive. We are helping Canadian companies at home and we will continue to ensure they can compete abroad.
By bringing down barriers to trade and investment, this government is helping Canada's businesses compete in an ever-more competitive world and stimulate the Canadian economy.
By passing this free trade agreement with Colombia we are listening to Canadian businesses and providing what they need to stay competitive.
A closer economic partnership with Colombia will reduce tariffs for Canadian exporters.
The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will also expand opportunities for Canadian investors and service providers.
Colombia is already a significant trade partner for Canada.
In 2009, our two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.335 billion and Colombia is an established and growing market for Canadian exports. Over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%.
Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment. The stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reached approximately $1.1 billion in 2008.
However, that is not all. The Colombian market is an exciting one. With 48 million people. Colombia's macroeconomic policy and improved security under its current leadership have generated favourable economic conditions. Colombia's government is committed to reversing years of underinvestment and public infrastructure. Investment in infrastructure has grown from 4% of the country's gross domestic product in 2005 to more than 8% in 2009.
A country like ours, with so much expertise in this area, can offer a lot. These are areas where Canadian companies can compete. In fact, the potential goes far beyond infrastructure and includes other key sectors like agriculture and industrial goods, and services like engineering, mining, energy and financial services. These are all areas where Canada and Canadians excel.
Moreover, those sectors are linchpins of our economy in communities large and small across this great nation, but this agreement is not just about creating opportunities for Canadian business. It is also about strengthening our partnership with Colombia.
This will help solidify ongoing efforts by the Government of Colombia to create a more prosperous, equitable and secure democracy. The Government of Colombia has taken positive steps toward this goal.
Colombia has demonstrated its continued efforts to curb violence, fight impugnity and promote peace and security. This government recognizes that challenges remain in Colombia and is committed to working with Colombia to address those issues.
This government believes that economic growth through free trade, rules-based trade and investment can contribute to alleviating poverty and create new wealth and opportunities for Colombians. We want the business of both nations to grow and expand together. Colombians are looking for and need these kinds of opportunities and they are seeking new partnerships abroad.
The Government of Colombia, like ours, is working hard to acquire new markets for its citizens. In fact, Colombia is moving forward on an ambitious economic agenda that includes free trade agreements with a range of partners. Canada's main competitor in the Colombian market, the United States, has already completed a free trade agreement with Colombia.
Our firms and Canadian workers expect that their government will work for them and put in place trade agreements that address the situation and allow them to compete in international markets on a level playing field. Canadians deserve this. Our government is ensuring that they get the opportunity to compete and succeed in Colombia and around the world.
We cannot put our exporters at a relative disadvantage. The time for Canada to act is now. The time for members opposite to stand up for Canadian workers is now.
Not only will we be competitive with European nations, but Canadian business will also have an important opportunity to gain advantage over our main competitors in the United States.
With this FTA, Canadians will be able to expand into this important market. This is exactly the kind of opportunity Canadian businesses across the country have been asking for.
I believe it is important for the members of the House to clearly understand the importance of the Colombian market for the business in their regions, for their constituents and, in fact, for all Canadians.
Starting on the east coast, the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador exported about $52.8 million worth of products to Colombia directly benefiting core industries such as oil, paper, paper board and fertilizers. These industries will clearly benefit from freer trade with Colombia.
What about machinery and industrial goods?
It is no secret that Canadian manufacturers, especially in Canada's industrial heartland in Ontario and Quebec, are facing tough times these days.
Our economic recovery is fragile and they need all the opportunities they can get to grow stronger and more competitive.
This means opening doors in new markets like Colombia. With this agreement, Colombian tariffs on all machinery and industrial goods will be eliminated over time.
This is especially significant for Canadian manufacturers of mining equipment, centred in Ontario and Quebec, which all benefit from the immediate elimination of Colombia's 5-15%+ tariffs on products in this sector.
I must say this agreement is also very important for the province of Quebec. After all, 21.6% of Canada's exports to Colombia were from Quebec. That is over a fifth. Quebeckers employed in industries such as paper and paperboard, copper and machinery will clearly benefit from free trade with Colombia.
The Bloc members' opposition to this baffles me. They do not stand for Canadian business. They do not stand for Canadian workers. They do not even stand for Quebec workers. We will stand up for Quebec workers and give them the opportunities they need.
The Prairie provinces of Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will also benefit from the agreement. The immediate removal of Colombian tariffs from such cornerstone crops as wheat, barley and pulses will make these products from the Canadian Prairies even more competitive in the Colombian market. Prairie producers are a cornerstone of our economy. They will see clear benefits from free trade with Colombia.
I should also point out that Canada enjoys significant investment presence in the Colombian market thanks to oil and gas projects. We fully expect this presence to deepen as projects continue to develop.
Our free trade agreement with Colombia would help secure Canadian investments in the region by providing greater predictability and protection for investors. These investment provisions will directly benefit those Alberta firms that are investing in Colombia. British Columbia also stands to benefit, especially B.C.'s mechanical, machinery and paper industries. In fact, many British Columbia companies have told us that they are looking to expand trade with Colombia.
With those kinds of benefits across Canada, it is no wonder that Canadian businesses, investors and producers alike have been calling for closer commercial ties with Colombia for some time now. The time to act is now. Members opposite should listen to Canadians who have been loud and clear.
Colombia has an ambitious and aggressive free trade agenda that includes some key competitors for Canada, competitors like the U.S. and the EU. We need to take steps sooner rather than later to ensure that Canadian exporters, investors and producers in regions and provinces across the country are not put at a disadvantage relative to our competitors.
Our Canadian exporters, investors and producers welcome the opportunity to establish themselves in this market ahead of the competition. They can compete with the best in the world. Let us give them the opportunity to do so. We have negotiated a good deal for Canadians and Colombians alike.
This agreement would give Colombians greater access and opportunities in the North American market. Colombians would also benefit from a greater range of Canadian products. This agreement would also promote economic development in the region.
I cannot stress enough how important that is. Building and maintaining important trade partnerships is the only way to grow and create opportunities for people.
That is why we are here today. The government wants to create opportunities for our citizens and the citizens of Colombia. This agreement is the way to do exactly that.
We have heard the reasons why we should support this agreement before. We have debated it for over 30 hours and the standing committee has already studied it twice. It is now time to move ahead with the legislation. Unlike the NDP approach to trade, this government's priority is to aggressively pursue a free trade agenda. Now is the time to resist protectionism and open our markets. Our free trade agenda has proven to create jobs for all Canadians, in fact, trade is the key to our prosperity.
At a time of economic uncertainty, this should be the priority of all hon. members. For this reason, I ask for the support of all members for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and ask them to stand up for jobs for all Canadians. Now is not the time to play political games, move dilatory motions and tie up the House while we delay the economic opportunities for Canadian workers and businessmen. Let us get on with this legislation. We must move expeditiously forward for the benefit of all Canadians.