Canada-Panama Free Trade Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama

This bill was last introduced in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session, which ended in March 2011.

Sponsor

Peter Van Loan  Conservative

Status

Third reading (House), as of Feb. 7, 2011
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation entered into between Canada and the Republic of Panama and done at Ottawa on May 13 and 14, 2010.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the related agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General of Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the agreements and the power of the Governor in Council to make orders for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the related agreement on labour cooperation.

Part 3 of the enactment contains coordinating amendments and the coming into force provision.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

Feb. 7, 2011 Passed That Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be concurred in at report stage.
Feb. 7, 2011 Failed That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 63.
Feb. 7, 2011 Failed That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 12.
Feb. 7, 2011 Failed That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 10.
Feb. 7, 2011 Failed That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 7.
Oct. 26, 2010 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.
Oct. 26, 2010 Passed That this question be now put.
Oct. 20, 2010 Failed That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word "That" and substituting the following: “Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.”.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / noon
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will continue what I started the other day. The free trade agreement between Canada and Panama is in line with the Canada-U.S. strategy of signing a series of bilateral agreements.

I will continue to talk about the testimony we heard at the Standing Committee on International Trade, in particular the testimony of Todd Tucker, who appeared before the committee on November 17, 2010. He said this:

I have two central points. First, Panama is one of the world's worst tax havens. It is home to an estimated 400,000 corporations, including offshore corporations and multinational subsidiaries. This is almost four times the number of corporations registered in Canada.

Second, the Canada-Panama trade agreement should not be thought of primarily in the traditional terms, or solely in the traditional terms, of cutting tariffs. Instead, it should be seen for what it is, which is hundreds of pages of text that commit Canada and Panama to follow certain domestic policies. The pact would give new rights to the Government of Panama, and to the hundreds of thousands of offshore corporations located there, to challenge Canadian anti-tax-haven initiatives outside of the Canadian judicial system.

...What makes Panama a particularly attractive location for tax dodgers and offshore corporations? Well, for decades, the Panamanian government has pursued an intentional tax haven strategy. It offers foreign banks and firms a special offshore licence to conduct business there. Not only are these businesses not taxed, but they're subject to little to no reporting requirements or regulations.

According to the OECD, the Panamanian government has little to no legal authority to ascertain key information about these offshore corporations, such as their ownership. Panama's financial secrecy practices also make it a major site for money laundering from places throughout the world. According to the U.S. State Department, major Colombian and Mexican drug cartels, as well as Colombian illegal armed groups, use Panama for drug trafficking and money laundering purposes. The funds generated from illegal activity are susceptible to being laundered through Panamanian banks, real estate developments, and more.

Panama's domestic legal regime is supplemented by a steadfast refusal, thus far, to engage in far-reaching tax information exchange agreements with its key trading partners. Up until last year, Panama had no international tax treaties of any kind. Now it is on track to have up to a dozen or more double-taxation treaties signed this year.

...The Canada-Panama trade deal would worsen the tax haven problem. As the OECD has noted, having a trade agreement without first tackling Panama's financial secrecy practices could incentivize even more offshore tax dodging. But there's a reason to believe that the trade deal will not only increase tax haven abuses but will also make fighting them that much harder.

I would like to take a few minutes, as we talk about this free trade agreement, to talk a little bit about free trade agreements in general.

What we hear on this side, and what I have been saying, is that we need to have fair trade as opposed to corporate free trade. Many of these agreements that our country or other countries have signed tend to emphasize giving more rights to the corporations, as evidenced by the agreement we signed with some European countries that has affected our shipbuilding industry by allowing more Norwegian ships to come in tariff-free.

Canada has always been a trading nation. Free trade has not been, in many instances, that positive, although there have been beneficial effects. There is some evidence, and I have been reading through some information on this, that when the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was signed in the 1980s under the Mulroney government, there were some facts that were presented to provinces that were not quite the same documents circulated at the federal level. In other words, there is some question as to whether or not the provinces received enough information about the agreement. I will be studying that document further, just to see how it relates to what we are experiencing today.

We know that since our free trade agreements were signed, we have lost something like 300,000 manufacturing jobs in Canada. Just as an aside, it is shame that I cannot go into a store and buy a pair of shoes made in Canada. It is with difficulty that I found a jacket and winter boots made in Canada. Thank goodness we have a couple of companies in Montreal, Quebec that still manufacture winter boots.

We have seen the softwood lumber sellout. We have seen the hardship that has caused in our communities. We have seen cheap energy continuing to flow to the United States, knowing that we cannot cut back on that without cutting back on our own domestic consumption, thanks to NAFTA. We see in this time of instability in the world that east of Ottawa we have to import 90% of our oil. In fact, we are exporting our oil south from the west.

Chapter 11 of NAFTA allows corporations to sue Canadian governments, and millions of dollars of our taxpayers' money have gone to defending our provincial and federal governments as a result of these ludicrous lawsuits.

I would just like to conclude by saying that we really need to take a good look at these agreements so that they are in the best interests of the people of both countries.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is one of the New Democrat members most interested in agricultural issues. I was very interested to note that he did not address agricultural issues, at least in the portion of his speech that I heard. Maybe he did in the earlier portion.

I was wondering if the member would respond to that, because one of the things we heard in committee as we discussed the Canada-Panama trade agreement, as with most of them, is that the agreement would have marked benefits for our agricultural producers. We produce very different crops from what they do in Panama. Canada is not known for growing a lot of bananas. So we will not be competing with Panama in that way. However, be they our wheats, pulses, or processed foods, there are very good openings in Panama.

I am wondering why the hon. member has not talked about the advantages that the Canada-Panama trade agreement will have for our agriculture industry.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member asks a logical question.

My understanding is that we do trade with Panama at the current time. We trade with many other countries. In any trade agreement we have to look at the positive and the negative aspects.

The fact this country is or harbours a paradis fiscal , a tax haven that is sucking millions of dollars, and also that it should not be supporting the drug trade, I think overrules the fact that we may gain a few small markets in this country.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, first I must inform you that I will be splitting my time with my hon. colleague from Don Valley East.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-46, the free trade bill between Canada and Panama. This bill seeks to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, the Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation and the Canada-Panama agreement on the environment. It is a bit of a mouthful.

I will also be—

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for that clarification.

I want to say a few words about the bill in the context of the reality of the government's trade policy and foreign policy generally.

Panama is a relatively small economy, but it is an important player in the Americas and an important market for Canada. In fact, it is a stable country which has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy, which Canada can play an important role in encouraging.

I had the experience four years ago of being part of a delegation led by the Speaker to three francophone countries in Africa, Benin, Burkina Faso and Mali, with the purpose of encouraging democratic development by holding conferences and discussing how our system works as opposed to theirs. That was an important process.

We talked, for example, about the role of an official opposition and how important it was to have one. Even if my colleagues opposite may not always enjoy that experience, they know it is important to have one. That was actually a novel concept for some of the parliamentarians we were talking to. We could see how the discussion was getting them thinking about ways they might want to see change in their own country. There are things that we as a country can do to encourage democratic development.

Of course, Canada is a trade-dependent nation. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to foreign markets for Canadian exports. Imagine that. That is incredible. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to foreign markets.

It used to be, 20 years ago, that 90% of our exports went to one country, the U.S., and these days it is about 80%. That has been a change, but is still a huge proportion of our exports and economy that is dependent upon one trading partner, the United States, a very important partner and good friend. It is a good sign that there has been some progress in increasing our trade elsewhere and we should keep trying to do so.

That is one of the reasons the Liberal Party supports the principle of free trade, because Canada is an exporting country. If we cannot get access to other markets, we have real problems. That is why the negotiations that led to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement were started under the Trudeau government. I have some knowledge of that because my dad was the minister of international trade at the time. Interestingly, the secretary of trade for the U.S. had the same last name. His name was Donald Regan as opposed to Gerald Regan, who was my dad.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Ronald Reagan was the president, but that is Reagan not Regan. Let us make that clear. He had an extra “a” in his name.

There are many benefits of trade and we have seen over the past 50 or 60 years, with increasing trade liberalization, an improvement in the standard of living for millions and billions of people. Clearly, there is a long way to go for lots of folks around the planet and we still want to see better lives for people in many countries, but trade can play a positive role in improving people's lives by giving them access to markets.

I mentioned Africa. One of the problems it has is getting access to markets in the U.S. and Europe for its cotton and textiles. It has beautiful cotton fabrics that were made into dresses and shirts. It had trouble getting access to those markets because of subsidies and tariffs, and so forth. These issues are real from both points of view.

The Conservative government's mismanagement of our trading relations has resulted in trade deficits for the first time in 30 years. That is alarming for Canada and should be alarming for Canadians. For the first time in 30 years, under this regime, we are falling behind our competitors in emerging markets like China and India.

We suffered the embarrassment of not gaining a seat on the UN Security Council. Speaking of China, the government's clumsy approach in its attitude toward China was very much an element of that, one of the factors involved, as well as its decision to cut aid to many African nations. It certainly offended those nations and many Middle Eastern countries were unhappy with the government's approach on a variety of things.

It surprised me that the government actually decided to campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council when it ought to have been fairly obvious that with all the things it had done in recent years, it was unlikely to gain that seat and how badly it misjudged the number of votes it would have. For a Prime Minister who is often talked of as a political strategist, it is surprising that he would not see the dangers of that move.

However, the current government is also falling down on protecting Canadian interests vis-à-vis our largest trading partner, the U.S, not only on things like softwood lumber and other agricultural products, et cetera, but in relation to the current talks on the common perimeter where the government does not want to share with Canadians what it is planning to do and what it has in mind. It has not set out to the House or to Canadians what its approach is, what its attitude is, what its vision is for border issues and therefore, for issues such as immigration. We ought to have control over what happens with our immigration and refugee policies. Canadians are concerned that the government wants to surrender our sovereignty. We do not agree with surrendering any of that.

Recently we saw its approach to the situation in Egypt. The government has been slow to respond and very hesitant. We have been less forthcoming, in terms of supporting the protest, in terms of supporting principles like human rights and political freedoms, than the U.S. has been. That is disappointing. We need to have a long-term view and recognize that if we support regimes which do not allow those kinds of freedoms, in the long term, the effects would be negative for us. If we look at the history of many countries, we can see that.

Meanwhile, the U.S. is engaging in increasing protectionism which already has hurt Canadian business, yet the Conservative government is doing virtually nothing about it.

I could go on about other countries and the policies of the government in respect to them, but let us focus on Bill C-46 and Panama.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP actually grew at 10.7% in 2008. That is one of the highest in the Americas. It is forecast at 5.6% for 2010, which would put it well ahead of most other countries, including Canada, in terms of our growth last year.

In 2009, bilateral trade between the countries totalled $132.1 million, with Canadian exports making up $91.4 million and imports of $40.7 million.

Primary Canadian merchandise exports to Panama include, and these are some of the major things that we sell to Panama: machinery; vehicles; electronic equipment; pharmaceutical equipment; frozen potato products; pulses, which are beans and lentils, important sources of protein; financial services; engineering; information and communications technology services. These are all important areas where we currently export and there is room for us to increase our exports to Panama, particularly in relation to agricultural products and things like fish, as we referred to earlier in the debate.

The existing Panama Canal is vital for the international trading system. It is being expanded with completion slated for 2014. That expansion, worth $5.3 billion, is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian businesses in construction, environmental engineering and consulting services, capital projects, and more. There are many opportunities that we can see. There are no guarantees at all, but opening trade with Panama, in spite of some concerns we have, is a positive move.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened attentively to the speech of the hon. member for Halifax West. I appreciate his support for Panama. I cannot say that I agree with everything he said in his speech, but it is nice to see the Liberals on board with our free trade agenda, especially in the Americas and on Panama.

Will we continue to see the Liberal Party support free trade agreements which are good for Canadian business and opportunities for Canadian workers, rather than as we saw in the 1993 election when the hon. member ran on a ballot against free trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I favour free trade. I have indicated that many times in the past. I do not recall personally having debated that issue in 1993. We had many other issues to talk about then and since. However, it was certainly an interesting election campaign, as my hon. colleague recalls. I believe he was involved in the campaign but not as a candidate at that stage. That came later.

We as a party do support the principle of free trade, but it is important to examine each agreement by itself and bargain from the point of view of strength.

My main concern regarding the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement is that Canada entered into its negotiations under the notion that this would be the economic policy as a government. The government of the day, under Mr. Mulroney, basically based its whole economic platform on establishing an agreement.

In that type of a situation the U.S. would expect to have good concessions or basically get whatever it wants. It would recognize it was in a strong position if Canada needed to have an agreement. I did not feel that was helpful, but in other respects there were many benefits which came from that agreement.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I believe the free trade agreement that was negotiated in 1993 offered too many concessions, wide concessions, and was not thought through properly. I am wondering whether the member believes the Panama deal has been thought through and if there are certain aspects of the deal that concern him.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from Don Valley East, with whom apparently I am not sharing my time because we are giving 10 minute speeches, as has been explained.

That is an excellent question. We do have some concerns. There are concerns that have been raised regarding such things as whether or not Panama is a tax haven and what impact that may have.

We know that the two governments are in discussions regarding not only the sharing of tax information, which I believe is the primary thing Canada wants, but also the issue of double taxation, which both countries ought to want. In fact, it is important that we have that type of sharing if we are to avoid issues such as tax havens. It is vital that our tax authorities at Revenue Canada have access to the information that Panama has on our taxpayers if in fact they are trying to hide income illegally and improperly. We are not talking about what is being done properly. However, if something is done illegally that is a different matter and we ought to know that.

That is an important concern. We are happy to see that this discussion is going forward and are anxious to see that it concludes successfully. However, at the same time we feel the general principle of this agreement is a good one and we ought to support it.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague from Kings—Hants, the former trade critic, is suggesting I take my time, but I do not think I will be allowed to do that. I am sure he would love for me to go on at great length about this. I trust he would enjoy it.

The way the government has treated border issues and trade issues with a variety of countries, particularly with the U.S., is a concern. Until last August I was the Liberal critic for natural resources. When I look at the government's attitude toward the softwood lumber agreement I find it has been quite weak.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

As has been mentioned, Canada is a trading nation. In the global economy, it is important to get preferential agreements with countries, which is beneficial to both partners. We have seen the impact of relying too heavily on one trading partner. We have seen the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and its failure to seize trade opportunities in China, South Korea and other countries.

The Conservative government's mismanagement of Canada's trade relations has led to the first trade deficit we have seen in over 30 years. The trade deficit record last July was $2.7 billion. Therefore, it is important that as a country we need to increase our efforts and our engagement in order to improve the economic situation, increase international trade, and help the Canadian economy.

Canada has always supported free trade. Our origins are that of a trading nation, having started with fur, wood, and other natural resources. The portion of our economic activity attributed to trade is greater than that of most other nations. Indeed, approximately 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend upon trade and our ability to access foreign markets. We are, after all, a very small country. Our population is 32 million which, one day the U.S. ambassador told me, could fit into the State of California. Taking that perspective, we need to ensure that we make agreements that are based in the interests of Canada.

If a free trade agreement is negotiated properly, Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border on the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on these goods are reduced or eliminated.

I think it is important to note that people do look at the best return on their investment, and everyone is an economical shopper. In this global age, where we are exposed to just about any goods and services, it is important that when we make deals we are able to ensure a better deal for Canada.

We have heard the debate on protectionism and what steps could best promote Canadian business success and generate Canadian jobs. However, most Canadian businesses that serve domestic markets do benefit from free trade because they are forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules on trade, tariffs and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative, and competitive without hiding behind protectionist walls.

We know that when we are promoting trade in our green technology, as we have seen in examples such RIM et cetera, we need to be strategic and smart because we live in a global village. In that village, everyone knows what the prices are. We could go on eBay and get things from Australia that could be cheaper than what we could get in Canada. This makes businesses innovate, so they can compete in the global market.

The Liberal Party has always supported economic growth through proper free trade agreements. It also supports any initiatives that will improve access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses. It is important to note that we cannot rely heavily on one trading partner because, as was said, when the elephant rolls over, it is the poor mouse sitting next to it that might get hurt. It is important for us to be careful when we are negotiating but ensuring ensure there is freer trade with far more nations, rather than relying heavily on one partner.

Although Panama has a small economy and Canada's existing trade with that country is relatively limited, there are opportunities for Canadian businesses.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is currently underway and it is slated to be completed by 2014 at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. That is an interesting sum of money. The expansion is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in such areas as infrastructure and construction, as well as environmental, heavy engineering and consulting services. In the area of capital projects, opportunities will be generated in human capital development and construction materials.

Like the free trade agreements between Canada and Chile and Costa Rica, the North American free trade agreement, and the free trade agreement between Jordan, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment. These are important aspects of the agreement.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement recognizes the obligations of both countries under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Both countries are required to ensure that laws, regulations and national practises protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, and the elimination of discrimination.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment both include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into the perceived failures of Canada or Panama to comply with these agreements.

The free trade agreement with Panama is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. As was pointed out, our farmers need access to more markets. We are a small country and our farmers need to be competitive and innovative. This agreement will give them access.

Panama is a relatively small economy. In 2009 we exported $90 million in goods to that country, which is not as large as some trading partners. It is, however, a stable country which has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy. Canada is well placed to continue to encourage that.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew to 10.7% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas, and is forecast at 5.6% for 2010. In 2009, bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $132.1 million. Canadian exports made up $91.4 million and $40.7 million in imports.

In the merchandise area, exports to Panama include: machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses and frozen potato products. In the area of service, Canadian exports include: engineering, information and communications technology.

Under the agreement Canada will eliminate over 99% of its tariffs on imports from Panama.

It is important to note that there is no debate here over the issue of human rights. As members of Parliament we may be concerned about it, but we defer on what approaches to take, whether it is through trade, opening up doors, or through the wagging of fingers. Wagging fingers is not a good idea. When I was in India, we discussed what Canada could export, and the first thing I was told was pluralism.

As the government is focusing on creating free trade agreements with other countries, it also needs to look at creating free trade agreements within provinces.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the human rights issue continues to concern me with respect to free trade agreements. When we are providing opportunities for free trade, we have to monitor human rights and labour rights.

These agreements may provide opportunities from a trade perspective, but how can they avoid exploiting some of the employees who would have additional work opportunities?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member is very interested in labour law, and there is a side agreement on Labour co-operation that recognizes the obligations of both countries under the ILO.

On the other front, from a human rights perspective, I made a statement very quickly on whether we would like to engage with other countries. Through trade, we engage people, and through this engagement, people see how different people operate. If we were to shut the country, close the doors, close our borders, people would not understand how others operate. I gave a prime example of when I went to India, I was in the state of Gujarat, and I asked what would be the best Canadian expert and they said it was pluralism. We did not have to teach it to them. They understood how we, as Canadians, worked and lived in harmony, and respected our diversity.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak to Bill C-46 at report stage.

My opinion on the bill has not changed over the course of time of it being in committee. In fact, many of the things presented in committee spoke very strongly against the nature of the bill and against the bilateral free trade agreement with a country like Panama.

Panama along with Colombia are two countries that the Conservative government has decided, in its wisdom, to pursue free trade agreements with and have brought them forward in this Parliament. Neither of these countries is appropriate for free trade deals with Canada.

Clearly Colombia had so many human rights violations that the nature of our protection for those human rights issues, which we hold so strongly in Canada, were simply not there.

In the case of Panama, quite clearly there are human rights issues, but more overwhelmingly are the issues surrounding the nature of the Panamanian business community. That has been brought forward, in great detail, to Parliament through our work, through the work of some of the other parties and through the witnesses at committee and clearly this is not a nation that holds the same level of integrity and honesty within its corporate structures as we do in Canada.

To enter into this free trade agreement, pushing investment with Panama is like injecting more poison into our system. Our system may falter because of the opportunities that exist in this.

Free trade agreements need careful scrutiny, and we have been calling for that. Careful benefit scrutiny, net benefit analysis should take place on any free trade deal with any country in the world. I know we are negotiating a number of those, so there should be work put into that.

Take for instance the much wanted European free trade agreement. Many holes are showing up in that deal already. For instance, today there is a report coming out that indicates Canadian drug costs, drug costs that are directly related to government costs, are going to go up substantially if we go ahead with the European free trade deal as outlined, with the provisions in which the Europeans are most interested.

The opportunity to use generic drugs will be made more difficult. That difficulty is estimated to cost us in the order of $1.5 billion to $2 billion a year. Where does that come from? From the pockets of Canadian taxpayers. What benefits do we get from that? By going along with the Europeans on that, the net total investment in new research and development would be in the order of $400 million.

With the effect of marginal tax rate for corporations in this country of 18%, how much improvement to the economy has to go ahead to make up the difference of $2 billion to the taxpayers? There are no answers for that. No analysis has been done. That directly affects our federal government and all the provinces as well.

There was a curious reception that I went to the other night with the Japanese automotive association. There were opportunities for speeches. The Minister of International Trade made a fine speech about his total belief in free trade, the need to sign these agreements and to work on these things. That was fine. I accept that as his position.

However, the president of the Japanese automotive association said that the European free trade deal was not the panacea for the association, that it would lose on the deal if we signed with Europe.

Let us look at the Japanese automotive industry, one of the clear winners for Canada in the last decade with the setting up of new plants. Of the total number of vehicles produced, most are exported to the United States. Not only are the Japanese in Canada, probably because of our good conditions and public health care, but their product is part of our export development in manufacturing, which everyone in the chamber must understand is very weak on every other front.

The people who are doing a successful job for us in manufacturing automobiles and exporting to the United States are saying that we should look at the provisions of the European free trade deal. Quite clearly, we have to look at trade deals very carefully in this new world. This is not the old world of the 1980s and 1990s when the free trade mantra was something that no one could resist, that no political party was able to completely ignore, that no political party of the right was able to say anything other than it agreed.

Let me get back to the free trade deal with Panama. It is not really a free trade deal. This is about investment. This is about Canadian companies investing their profits in Panama, perhaps on the new expansion of the Panama Canal or a number of other areas. That is what is going to happen. Investors will be taking the money they make in Canada and investing it in another country.

What about agriculture? Riots are going on around the world right now over the price of agricultural products. Canada could do much better. A previous member spoke of pulses, the consortium of producers of lentils, peas and beans. I had an opportunity to speak with those people and they are not concerned about free trade. They are concerned about our railways that do not give them a proper deal on service. They have much more difficulty getting their products to the Canadian ports for export to the world market for produce that is ever-expanding and where the prices of products are going up.

When we talk about agriculture, we are talking about something that is going to be in great demand. When we think about agriculture in terms of free trade, what we should be thinking about is how to protect and enhance our agricultural capacity in our country. This is the way to deal with that.

What is Canada's trade? So much of it is energy and raw resources, the things the world needs, not what it wants. The world wants produced products, but it needs raw products and Canada is in a good position to provide those raw products. We do not want to sell them too cheap or give them away. We want to ensure that our children and grandchildren are well protected in our resources going forward. When we sign free trade deals with countries and say that we must give our resources in a fashion that we do not dictate anymore, we are giving up something, but what are we getting in return?

Let us talk about border security. A big issue right now is that the thickened border has slowed down free trade to the United States. That is nonsense. Trade since 9/11 to the United States has gone up consistently until 2008 when there was a recession and the value of the Canadian dollar accelerated. Those two factors hit our trade very hard with the United States. It went down from about $350 billion to about $100 billion, but it had nothing to do with free trade. It had to do with currency and our ability to deal with our own issues.

As for the currency, we do not have the opportunity to do like the Liberals did in 1993 and lower the interest rate because we are already at rock bottom. We are in a bind. What can we do, quantitative easing? What do we do to improve our currency position vis-à-vis the United States? That is the problem we have with trade with the United States.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Yukon and I share many things.

I agree with him that there should be some countries we enter into fair trade agreements with that are based on careful analysis and that provide us the answers we want.

In some ways probably multilateral trade with Latin America would be better. It has trading group there called Mercosur. There are certain provisions within that trading group that it wants to maintain. Canada has to understand that fair trade means we deal with what the countries that have banded together want.

With some of those countries, though, we have a problem because we have very large subsidies and tariffs against things such as sugared-based ethanol from Brazil. That is a problem. How would we get around that and keep the subsidies in place for our farmers? Those are things that bar us from fair trade agreements with large expanding trading partners.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Western Arctic for clearly outlining why we should be opposed to this agreement. I have a question for him with regard to tax havens.

Back in November, Mr. Todd Tucker appeared before the committee that was examining the bill. He indicated that we were being told not to worry, that we were protected from the fact that Panama could continue to be a bad actor with the tax havens. He said that in the agreement there were clauses that would actually prevent Canada from taking any action, specifically article 9.10, which states:

Each Party shall permit transfers related to a covered investment to be made freely and without delay, into and out of its territory.

Then it goes on to talk about chapters 9 and 12 of the free trade agreement that have non-discrimination clauses.

Could the member for Western Arctic comment on the fact that Panama is noted for its tax havens and that we will not be protected under the agreement from the continuing abuse of the tax haven status in Panama?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, that question troubles and perplexes all of us. When we go into a free trade agreement with the kind of provisions we have proposed with Panama, we open a Pandora's box. There are 400,000 corporations in Panama. They are not there for the weather. They are there because the tax haven status is such that they can be there. Interestingly enough, many of them are also criminal organizations. These are things that will filter through to the Canadian side with this kind of agreement.

Panama refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. Therefore, the country recognizes what it is doing with its laws for the corporations it shelters. It is not interested in changing, so why would we go ahead with this agreement?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, many of the New Democrats give the impression that it is strictly the tax haven issue that prevents them from voting for the bill. I guess a hypothetical question for the member, and I would really appreciate a good answer, is this. If the issue were not a tax haven, would they then be more inclined to support the bill, the concept of freer trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, it is hypothetical and we do not deal with hypothetical issues here. We are dealing with a trade agreement between Panama and Canada. Once this passes the House, then that is the law of the land. Therefore, we cannot be hypothetical about it. We have to be practical and realistic about it.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 12:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to add my voice to the debate concerning Bill C-46.

As has already been said by many of my colleagues in the House, if passed by Parliament, Bill C-46 would implement a free trade agreement, an agreement on labour co-operation and an environmental accord between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

I share many of the positive comments that have already been made during the debate. Canada is after all a trading nation that has, for the past 30 years, maintained a trade surplus with our global neighbours and our competitors, or at least that was the case until now.

Canada is still a nation on which 80% of our economy is trade-dependent, but despite the lofty trade talk, the Conservative government has presided over a tremendous decline in our national trade advantage. Now, for the first time in more than a generation Canada is in a trade deficit situation.

That is right, the nation that was created and has since maintained itself by trading with our neighbours is importing more than we are selling globally. This new dependency must concern all of us. It is disappointing to me, but for Canadian farmers, manufacturers, and other exporters of Canadian goods and expertise, this is simply a disaster.

As members can imagine, I am pleased to see that the government is starting to focus its attention on trade matters, even if I would rather have seen that focus be on larger, more robust and growing markets, markets that could provide a greater growth potential for Canadian goods and labour expansion.

I want to be clear, I am not suggesting that Panama is not worth the effort; just the opposite. Canada and Panama had more than $132 million worth of bilateral trade in 2009 alone. Then, despite the recession in 2010, Panama's GDP grew by just over 5%. Put another way, while Panama's market potential for trade is relatively small, it is moving in the right direction.

In contrast to the Conservative approach to trade, when the Liberals devised the team Canada approach to opening new trading opportunities, we set our focus on much larger markets, such as the U.S., China, the U.K., the Netherlands and Italy. I suppose the difference is that the Liberals were confident that Canada could and should compete at the highest levels on the global stage, while Conservatives continue to concern themselves with smaller, short-terms goals.

That was then and this is now, so I need to be thankful for smaller steps. With this in mind, I want to congratulate the Minister of International Trade for his efforts to make this agreement possible.

What does this agreement actually do for Canada and for the people of Panama? Right now, Panama levies tariffs on Canadian agricultural products in the range of 13% to 260%. That means that Canadian agricultural products such as pulses, frozen potatoes, processed foods and beef are taxed in a way that makes them uncompetitive when directly compared with some of our Panamanian goods. We clearly know that our agricultural community continues to be under fire and under huge stress, and we need to do everything we can to decrease those problems.

As an example, a bushel of soybeans that would sell for $13.98 in Canada would face a tax in Panama of 47%, or $6.57. With that extra taxation, that bushel would cost $20.55 to a further processor in Panama. That is unfair for our marketplace and unfair for our agricultural industry. This means Panamanians would be more apt to buy Panamanian produced goods when given that choice rather than pay the premium for a top notch Canadian product, understood by all of us.

The agreement would put an end to that artificially prompted competitive disadvantage for our farmers and it would allow Canadian farmers to start to compete on a level playing field, something they have consistently proven their ability to do effectively in many other jurisdictions.

On non-agricultural goods, Panama currently maintains an average-applied tariff of between 6.2% and 81%.

The passage of Bill C-46 means that Canadian fish, construction materials, paper products, and vehicle and auto parts will no longer face this kind of harmful taxation. Again, this kind of tariff reduction means that Canadian industry will have the option of opening and exploring Panama's market potential from a position of strength rather than one of initial economic disadvantage.

In return, Canada will eliminate almost all tariffs on currently imported Panamanian goods. This deal will allow the market to sort out which industry is the most competitive and which products are of the greatest quality and desire to consumers. As I look back on history, I have every confidence that when competing on a level playing field, Canadian farmers, anglers, manufacturers, and paper workers will create success and generate tremendous wealth for their respective industries.

I should also mention that this Canada–Panama free trade deal would seek to address non-tariff trade barriers to further help ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods. While each of these things represent positive advantages, I would be remiss if I focused only on trade and not on the labour portions of the agreement which continue to be of enormous concern to me and others. This is especially important given the refurbishing and expansion of the Panama Canal, which is expected to be completed by 2014.

As with some of the other trade deals that Canada has signed, this agreement includes a side agreement on labour co-operation and the environment. The Canada–Panama agreement on labour co-operation recognizes the obligation of both countries under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires that each country ensure that their domestic laws, regulations, and practices protect fundamental labour principles and rights at work.

Specifically, this includes: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced labour, and the elimination of discrimination. These are extremely important issues when we are talking about free trade. As a former minister of citizenship and immigration, I think these are important elements of any free trade deal.

While free trade agreements are most certainly economic devices, the Liberals have long viewed trade and engagement as important instruments of social advancement and human rights promotion. When a nation exists in isolation, there is little regard for these fundamental freedoms and rights. However, once a country becomes part of the greater community of nations, there is an imposition of a greater social responsibility.

Sometimes I wonder which comes first. Clearly, this is the avenue we are pursuing, but monitoring these issues must be of high importance to Canada.

Canada has been a trading nation since it was opened by the coureurs de bois in the 17th century. Our native people traded for all items they could not produce themselves. Generations of Canadians have exported our products and ideas to the entire world. Canadian expertise has been responsible for countless global advances, but it has also helped this nation in ways those first coureurs de bois could never have imagined.

Today, Canada is the 11th largest trader on the planet, ranking well ahead of countries such as Spain, Russia, Mexico, India, and Australia. Our international commerce amounts to more than $600 billion annually, and more than 80% of our economy is directly dependent upon trade and commerce with others. Indeed, to say that Canada is a trading nation would be a tremendous understatement, and it is for this reason that I am pleased to support Bill C-46.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that the position of the Liberal Party on this trade agreement is that as long as we sign the trade agreement, everything else will magically improve. We will just keep our fingers crossed, and do it on a wing and a prayer. I wonder if the member could comment.

This free trade agreement between Canada and Panama was signed in May 2010, but here is what happened in the summer of 2010. The president announced unilateral changes to labour law. The law ended environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. It banned mandatory dues collections from workers. It allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strike-breakers. It criminalized street blockades and protected police from prosecution.

The severity of this attack on labour rights was met with strikes and demonstrations. The police were exceedingly harsh in their response and this was just this past summer. At least six people were killed, protesters were seriously injured, and many were blinded by tear gas and police violence. Three hundred trade union leaders were detained. That was the summer and it was in May 2010 that this agreement was signed.

Does the member really believe that engaging in these kinds of trade agreements will help either labour standards, environmental standards, or human rights generally?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for that very important question. It is one of the issues that I, and I suspect many of my colleagues in the House, continue to try to find a balance.

Which comes first? Is there an improvement to the human rights record, labour, and so on, and then we will have a trade agreement? A good part of me would prefer it to go that way, but history has shown that it usually works the other way.

We need to be monitoring these things very carefully. It gives me a degree of confidence that they will be monitored. I would not hesitate to cancel the agreement and use that threat constantly if labour laws are not respected.

This is about providing more opportunities, not only for our Canadian farmers and manufacturers but also for theirs. It is a two-way street. If Panama cannot treat its citizens with respect and decency, then I would be the first one to stand up and say, “Cancel the agreement”, whether it is this one or any other trade agreement that we would have.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I wonder how much confidence the member has in this government to ensure that the trade agreement stands up for Canadian free trade given its dismal record in relation to the United States.

Time and time again, border crossings have put roadblocks in front of Canadian products going to the United States. There are the labelling and non-tariff barriers. The industry complained of huge lineups in the last few years. This has nothing to do with security. It has to do with standing up for Canadian trade. I wonder if the member would comment on that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, those are the kinds of issues that are not only for the government side but it is part of our responsibilities in the opposition to stay very much attuned, monitor and raise those issues. We must ensure that the government monitors them as well. Part of our job is to make sure that the government does its job.

Clearly, we want to see opportunities for our farmers and manufacturers in Canada. My desire is to see the tariffs removed and assistance going to our farmers and manufacturers.

I am prepared to support this very cautiously. However, I will also monitor what is going on and keep my ear to the ground when it comes to labour law and any kind of outbreak happening in those countries when it comes to the abuse of their citizens.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to rise in the House again today to speak to Bill C-46, which seeks to implement the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

I say “again” because I have previously had the opportunity to speak at length on this bill at second reading. At that time, I focused my comments predominantly on three areas: labour issues; the fair trade movement as opposed to the free trade movement; and, of course, the serious implications of signing a free trade agreement with a tax haven, a free port or free zone, such as Panama, which is a country of convenience.

While I may get back to some of those seminal issues later if time permits, I want to focus today on environmental concerns and the very serious cautions we received in committee about signing a trade agreement with a country that many suggest is a safe haven for international crime.

Let me begin with the latter first.

Alain Deneault, who is a sociologist at the Université du Québec à Montréal, gave a succinct presentation at the Standing Committee on International Trade that summarized much of the prevailing thought and evidence about criminal activities in Panama and how those activities threaten to permeate Canadian jurisdictions if the implementation of this free trade agreement proceeds as planned.

Let me remind members of some of the most salient points.

A number of criminologists consider Panama to be a hub for money laundering, with a link to international drug trafficking, because of the Colon Free Zone. Patrice Meyzonnier, the chief commissioner at the headquarters of France's judicial police, talks in his book about a state involved in drug trafficking and the laundering of a good chunk of the world's dirty money. He says that Panama plays a bridging role between the south and north, from Colombia to the United States.

The criminal activity in the Colon Free Zone takes place mainly in the hotel industry, and via fictitious commercial spaces and fictitious rents.

It is actually a whole economy of money laundering that is corroborated in another book by Marie-Christine Dupuis-Danon of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. She states:

Drug traffickers capitalize on the benefits associated with free zones like the one near Colon in Panama. This zone actually fosters the movement of goods and cash, with little surveillance from the authorities. There are no fewer than 1,890 companies generating a total of $5 billion annually in re-export activities. By definition, there are no customs duties on the operations carried out in the Colon Free Zone. As a result, the authorities are not able to enforce the regulations that are in effect in the rest of the country, including the declaration of sums over $10,000. Drug traffickers buy goods and resell them for cash with a 20 to 30% discount to the dealers in the free port. So they deposit their pesos in banks in the free zone and transfer their funds to their regular accounts in Colombia.

Dupuis-Danon's findings are corroborated by Alain Delpirou and Eduardo MacKenzie in their book, The Criminal Cartels. They stress that cocaine and heroine trafficking is a major industry in the region and that it becomes an even greater problem because the free port of Colon has direct access to an uncontrolled zone in Colombia.

Finally, Mr. Deneault reminded us that Thierry Cretin, a former French judge who worked for the European Anti-Fraud Office, has published accounts that clearly demonstrate that the Colombian and Mexican mafias are very active in Canada while also very present in Panama. It seems hard to believe that we as legislators would vote in favour of anything that would make our country an even more porous jurisdiction for organized crime.

At a minimum, I would have thought that such mounting evidence from impeccable sources would have given the government pause for thought. I would have hoped that it would have caused the government to exercise extreme caution and that it would have reconsidered entering into a free trade agreement with this particular jurisdiction.

In passing, does it not strike others in this chamber as more than passing strange that this deal is being made by a Conservative government that is desperately trying to sell itself as being tough on crime? Does it even understand what it really takes to fight crime? Let me tell the members that it takes a lot more than a catchy slogan to get the job done.

If we want to get at organized crime, then we have to get at the money. By allowing Panama to continue to be a tax haven it is easy for corporations to register there and it makes it easy to launder money via Panama. In essence, Panama is being allowed to facilitate the operations of organized crime syndicates, along with the drug trafficking and human trafficking that go along with them. The Canadian government is essentially condoning those activities when it enters into a bilateral trade agreement with no strings attached.

Clearly, that should never happen. My NDP colleagues and I are doing everything in our power to ensure that it does not happen. That is why we are here today debating the four amendments that we have introduced to Bill C-46.

The four motions are as follows. The first motion is to eliminate clause 7 that outlines the purpose of the bill. The second motion is to eliminate the clause designating that the minister is the representative of Canada. The third motion is to eliminate clause 12 that lays out the minister's authorized activities in his role. The last one is to eliminate the final clause, the coming into force clause stating when the bill would become law.

Together these four motions essentially gut the bill, giving the government an opportunity to rethink its approach to international trade. We certainly would not be the only jurisdiction to take that opportunity. When the debate began in this House on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, we were told over and over again that it must be okay to proceed because the Americans were forging ahead with a similar agreement.

Well, the air has certainly gone out of that balloon, because not only have the Americans not passed that agreement, but no fewer than 54 United States congressmen have now demanded that President Obama forgo the agreement until Panama has signed the tax information exchange treaties.

Those treaties are the first step to putting an end to the tax havens that facilitate money laundering, and the Americans got it right: sign the treaties first and then negotiate.

In Canada, the Conservatives and Liberals are operating on a wing and a prayer. They would implement the free trade agreement and then use moral suasion to get the Panamanians to do the right thing. It is not going to work; others have tried and failed, and we should have learned our lesson.

I see that I only have a couple of minutes left to conclude my comments here today, and I really did want to focus on the environment as well, since I did not have an opportunity to do that in my last intervention. I will try to be brief.

First, let me acknowledge that MiningWatch Canada was absolutely right when it pointed out in its submission to the committee that the environmental impact of this FTA is impossible to gauge because it has not been made public, as it was supposed to be after the signing of the trade agreement.

The report that is publicly available on the initial environmental assessment is almost completely devoid of meaningful content. The one thing it does acknowledge, however, is that:

The main effect is likely to be greater protection for existing Canadian investment in Panama.

There it is in a nutshell. This agreement is all about protecting investments while ignoring the environmental implications of that protection. There is absolutely no attempt to frame any aspect of this agreement in terms of sustainable development.

This will be of huge concern to both environmentalists and to all of those Canadians who were actively engaged in the campaign on corporate social responsibility. As the bill on CSR was recently defeated in this House by Conservatives and Liberals, I guess I should not be surprised that this free trade agreement will be passed by the same coalition.

Nonetheless, let us be clear about what is happening in Panama. Examples of Canadian mining projects in Panama include the proposed Cobre Panama open pit copper project by Inmet Mining on the Petaquilla concession, west of Panama City, which is forecast to deforest 5,900 hectares of what is mostly primary rainforest in the middle of the Mesoamerican biological corridor; the controversial Molejón gold mine project of Petaquilla Minerals, which is repeatedly accused by nearby communities of deforestation and contaminating local rivers, and was fined almost $2 million for environmental violations; and Corriente Resources' illegal activity in the Ngöbe-Buglé indigenous territory, trying to overcome community opposition to a huge open pit copper mine project so the company can first obtain and then sell the property to a larger mining company for development.

This free trade agreement will only increase such Canadian investments, yet we know that environmental protection and legal enforcement and compliance in general in Panama are notoriously weak, even within the framework of existing laws and regulations. Why would we enter into a trade agreement that will end up protecting mining investments that are taking advantage of lax governance and the resulting low cost operating environment, and allow Canadian corporations to undertake projects that would never be approved in Canada, or any other country for that matter, without more stringent controls?

In a global economy, we must take global responsibility. That means that we must vote against the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

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February 7th, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Hamilton Mountain for very ably outlining some of the other concerns that New Democrats have with this latest round of free trade agreements that the Conservatives are proposing.

I wanted to touch on two points. In her speech the member raised these issues around mining and sustainability. When this bill was being studied at committee, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster actually brought forward two proposed amendments that were defeated by the Liberals the Conservatives.

One was with regard to sustainable development. That amendment defined sustainable development as:

development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland Report published by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

The second amendment that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed was with regard to sustainable investment. That amendment defined sustainable investment as:

investment that seeks to maximize social good as well as financial return, specifically in the areas of the environment, social justice, and corporate governance, in accordance with the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment.

The member ably outlined some of the concerns with the mining companies in Panama. I wonder if she could comment on how these two proposed amendments would at least have improved that particular situation.

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February 7th, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan shares my profound concerns about this free trade agreement. In fact, it is one of the reasons that so many of my colleagues in the NDP caucus have taken the time to put our position on the record today and in days past.

The member raises an important question. Sustainable investments and sustainable development are really at the core of what is at issue in this trade agreement. They are the reasons why organizations like the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace are so engaged in free trade issues, particularly in the global south. We should not be engaging in trade if we are not able to respect human rights, environmental laws and labour laws.

We have seen a whole slew of bilateral free trade agreements brought to the House by the Conservative government, be they with Panama, the trade agreement we are talking about today, or Colombia, which is clearly also the case. The amendments that were moved by our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster are absolutely crucial to restoring some integrity, and they really do go to the heart of corporate social responsibility.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I applaud the many members who have spoken on this issue. I think a good debate adds to the availability of trade for our country.

I would like to ask my colleague from the NDP for her viewpoint on this particular fact: About 45% of our gross domestic product comes from exports. That staggering number only goes to show how important these trade agreements with other countries are, and how important it is to reach out. It was the very foundation of trade that helped develop our country.

I would like to ask my colleague why she would be opposed to having an improved trade environment between countries that would allow, for example, Canada to have some impact upon the labour situations in other countries and allow Canadian companies to expand and grow and continue to contribute to the gross domestic product of our country?

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February 7th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's question allows me to say quite clearly that New Democrats are not against trade. What we do stand for is fair trade and not free trade at all costs. That is really the issue here.

The member perhaps exaggerates the importance of Panama to us even as a trading nation. The trade that we have with Panama is slightly in excess of $100 million, which is simply a drop in the bucket in terms of our overall Canadian trade.

Panama is a country that is in complete defiance of the notion of sustainable investment or sustainable development. We have an obligation as global citizens to ensure that we protect the same rights in countries abroad, where we want to do business, as we would do here at home.

Why is it okay for the member to suggest that it is all right for us to ignore labour laws, environmental laws and human rights in other parts of the world, when I know for a fact that she would never condone corporations taking those kinds of actions here?

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February 7th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand today to speak on behalf of my party to Bill C-46.

I commend the member for Hamilton Mountain on her intervention. It struck me, as she was answering questions, that the Liberal member stood in the House and basically said that it was trade at all costs. The reality for our country is that human rights and labour laws are the defining set of principles. To hear that kind of intervention from a party that proclaims human rights struck me as strange. It is not trade at all costs. As the member just indicated, our trade with Panama is around $100 million. That is an awfully cheap price to give up on the rights that Canadians believe so much in.

I want to go through a bit of the chronology on this bill. The Conservative government concluded the negotiations in August 2009. This agreement, by the way, as has been indicated by previous speakers, is very similar to the one with Colombia. We, of course, opposed the Colombia free trade agreement for weeks on end in the House because we felt that it was beneath Canada's dignity to be signing a free trade agreement with such a reprehensible government.

This agreement was signed May 14, 2010. On the same day, the government tabled side agreements in the House on Bill C-46. The NDP is opposing this bill for a number of reasons. In committee, compelling testimony was heard from witnesses regarding the tax haven situation in the Republic of Panama, as well as the poor record of labour relations in the country.

The previous speaker from the NDP, our labour critic, talked about the lack of labour rights in Panama. The member for Burnaby—New Westminster moved motions and amendments in committee that would have addressed some of the glaring failures in this agreement. Sadly, the record will show that they were opposed by the Conservatives and supported by the Liberals.

We do have issues with the free trade agreement. For example, despite requests from the Canadian government, Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. This is very troubling considering the large amount of money that is being laundered in Panama, including money from drug trafficking, similar to Colombia. Panama's complete lack of taxation transparency has led the OECD to label the nation as a tax haven.

Just before the clause by clause review of Bill C-46, the member for Burnaby—Douglas proposed a motion to the committee that would have stopped the implementation of the Canada-Panama agreement until Panama agreed to sign a tax information exchange agreement. Again, his motion was defeated by the Conservatives and the Liberals who argued that the double taxation agreement Panama had agreed to was satisfactory. We do not agree. Unfortunately, the double taxation agreement only tracks legal income, while tax information exchange agreements will track all income, including money made through illegal means. That was as proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

Considering Panama's history and reputation on such matters, it should be clear as to why such an agreement is necessary before signing the deal. Again, we hit a roadblock with both the Liberals and Conservatives on that point.

Subsequently, during the clause by clause review, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed nothing less than 11 amendments that would have made progressive changes to the bill. These amendments included the addition of the crucial concepts of sustainable development and investment, a requirement for taxation transparency and provisions, and to corporate in the bill the protection of labour rights, including the right to free collective bargaining.

Other amendments would have required the Minister of International Trade to consult with labour and trade unions, as well as work with human rights experts and organizations in order to create impact assessments for the trade agreement. It is one thing to sign these agreements but it is quite another thing to follow up and see what the impacts have been on both the country we sign with and in our own industries and businesses that are part of the agreement.

A final amendment would have required Parliament to vote to extend the provisions of the act beyond the first year. All of these amendments, once again, hit that same wall and were voted down by the Conservatives with the help of the Liberals.

The committee heard testimony from Todd Tucker of the Public Citizens Global Trade Watch. Mr. Tucker made a very compelling case when he said that Panama was one of the world's worst tax havens and that the Panamanian government had intentionally allowed the nation to become that tax haven. Obviously there are benefits for a government seen in such a thing.

To summarize Mr. Tucker's testimony, he said that the tax haven situation in Panama was not improving under the current government nor under the conditions today in Panama. In addition, a trade agreement with Canada, in his opinion, would worsen the problem and could cause harm to both Panama and Canada.

Another major issue for myself as a former labour leader is the status of labour rights in Panama and the complete failure of this trade agreement because these are pending agreements. They are like letters of intent in a collective agreement that have no legal weight. These side agreements on labour rights fall far short of what is needed.

Two of the amendments put forth in committee by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster would have protected trade union workers in Panama. The member for Hamilton Mountain made a point a few minutes ago regarding Bill C-300, as well as labour rights. Why would we sign an agreement with a country and not demand, as part of that agreement, equal rights in that country to the rights we have here in Canada. As the principal representative of Canada on the joint Canada-Panama commission, the minister should have consulted on a regular basis with representatives of Canadian labour and from trade unions both here and in Panama.

Like all other amendments, those amendments were also defeated by the Conservatives with their friends the Liberals. Unfortunately, this creates a free trade zone that belittles the rights of labour, a serious problem that is already prevalent in Panama.

Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress spoke to the committee studying the bill regarding the agreement. She testified that while the ILO's, the International Labour Organization, core labour standards had been invoked in the agreement, the agreement was still weaker than it should be. As well, the current Panamanian government has been increasingly harsh on labour unions and workers in recent years.

In addition, two amendments regarding definitions were proposed by the member for Burnaby—New Westminster. By the end of the day, people will know the member for Burnaby—New Westminster who sits on this committee for our party.

The first amendment was with regard to sustainable development. The member for Nanaimo—Cowichan spoke a few moments ago in debate on this. The amendment would define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, as set out in the Brundtland report, published by the World Commission on Environment and Development.

The second amendment was with regard to the definition of sustainable investment. The amendment would have defined sustainable investment as investment that seeks to maximize social good as well as financial return. Again, that is a principle in this country of Canada that we should be sharing with any other countries with which we have agreements, specifically in areas of environment, social justice and corporate governance, in accordance with the United Nations principles for responsible investment.

In addition to those issues with the Canada Panama free trade agreement specifically, there is also the fact that this agreement is just another step in the massively flawed Canada-U.S. strategy of pushing serial bilateralism in the form of NAFTA-style free trade agreements.

The NDP prefers a multilateral approach based on a fair and sustainable trade model. Bilateral trade deals amount to protectionist trade deals since they give preferential treatment to few partners and exclude the rest. This puts weaker countries in a position of inferiority vis-à-vis larger partners. A multilateral trade model avoids these issues while protecting human rights and the environment.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to say that prior to being a member here in 1988 I fought against the Canada free trade agreement. I am very proud to have done so because that free trade agreement ultimately failed Canadian workers. That trade agreement cost Canadians.

I see the Liberal member sitting there laughing at the fact that 504,000 Ontario workers lost their jobs because of the Canada free trade agreement. I do not think they are laughing.

As we look at the subsequent agreements, yes, the investment community may have done well in these but family after family across this country were practically destroyed by those agreements.

I am proud to say that I fought the trade agreement in 1988 and that I fought it again in 1993 when the Liberals said that they would not support NAFTA and turned around and sold out Canadian workers.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I commend the member for speaking so clearly about why we are opposed to certain agreements in this House.

I only need to turn to the softwood lumber agreement to talk about a rotten agreement. On Vancouver Island, our mills are still closed, by and large. Some of them are only gradually reopening after years of a softwood lumber policy that has devastated the forestry sector throughout this country.

I think it is incumbent upon us to stand up and defend Canadian workers and Canadian jobs. I certainly agree with the member opposite that I will not apologize for doing that.

I want to touch on fair trade just for a moment. The member ably outlined the fact that New Democrats do support agreements where fair trade is involved. There are a couple of elements in fair trade that are really important: that forced labour and exploited child labour is not allowed; that producers receive a fair price, a living wage; for commodities, farmers receive a stable minimum price; that buyers and producers trade under direct long-term relationships; that producers have access to financial and technical assistance; that sustainable protection techniques are encouraged; that working conditions are healthy and safe; that equal employment opportunities are provided; and that all aspects of trade and production are open to public accountability.

I wonder if the member would comment on what he sees is important in a fair trade agreement, not a free trade agreement?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the things I said in my remarks is that the NDP supports multilateral agreements, but we also support sectoral trade agreements. An example of that would have been Auto Pact, which served Canada well for years and, to a great extent, the surrounding industries. The parts industries were all sustained by that particular agreement that was allowed to lapse in recent years. That was an example of sectoral trade. We do not need to put all our eggs in the one basket of the free trade agreement, particularly in a relationship such as we have with the United States. In those famous words that a free trade agreement is great, like an elephant with a mouse, until the elephant decides to roll over.

We saw that in the capitulation of the present government in that softwood trade deal to which the member referred. We were winning time and again at the World Trade Organization. We were up for what would have been the next win. Everybody was sure that would happen so they signed the deal.

I toured B.C. with my pensions tour and in community after community workers from those mills came forward telling us how they had lost their pensions because of that particular side agreement. In the famous words of the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, “the softwood sellout”.

In many instances, the trade agreements that we have been signing as a country have sold out human rights and have sold out the workers in the countries with which we are partnering. We should not be standing, as a country for anything less than equal human rights for all workers in both countries.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

Canada and Panama signed this agreement on May 14, 2010, and the bill has made quick progress through all stages to get to the third reading, since it was only introduced on September 23 of last year.

The international trade committee concluded its study on the bill in late December before the House recessed. After careful consultation with stakeholders, the committee concluded that the agreements were satisfactory, and now Bill C-46 has come back to the House.

Freer, more open trade with our neighbours benefits everyone. Through trade agreements, we strengthen our economy, increase wealth, protect labour and human rights and help ensure environmental protection.

Our country relies on trade. In fact, 80% of our economy depends on trading with our neighbours. That is why I support any initiative that improves market access for our Canadian businesses. Canada is a trading nation. Our trade roots date back to the 1600s. Indeed, our country is founded on trade.

This is why Liberals are concerned that for the first time in 30 years, Canada now has a trade deficit. Export amounts to 45% of our gross domestic product, so we definitely need to have a good trade relationship. We need successful trade policies that build and sustain relationships with our existing partners, while also securing opportunities for other nations.

However, it seems our country takes one step forward and two steps back. Consider the United Arab Emirates, for example. We are all familiar with the diplomatic negotiations with the United Arab Emirates over airline landing rights. The U.A.E. is an important trading partner for us, with $2 billion every year in trade. This dispute was about six extra flights every week. However, because it was so poorly handled, we were told to leave Camp Mirage, a military base in Dubai that has been our forward operating base for our mission in Afghanistan. It will cost taxpayers at least $300 million just to close it and who knows how much to set up a new base somewhere else. That is how important trade relationships are.

In emerging markets, for example like China and India, we have delayed or missed opportunities. In the coming years, China and India will generate some 900 million new consumers and spend some $4 trillion on new infrastructure. Yet in 2006 and 2007 our exports to China barely kept pace with the growth of the Chinese economy. In the same period, the U.S. increased its trade by some 60%. We are not only falling behind the Americans. Thailand, the Philippines, Germany, and Australia are all getting a bigger piece of the Chinese import market than we are.

As I stated earlier, the Liberals are very supportive of fair open trade and Bill C-46 does make progress in that direction. However, we are falling behind in securing the biggest emerging markets in the world. If we are to compete tomorrow, we must open up opportunities not only in Panama, but in China, Russia, India, Brazil, and other emerging markets.

Even though Panama is a relatively small economy, there is much potential. In 2009 Canada exported around $90 million in goods to a small country of just under 3.5 million people. The country is relatively stable. It has made important strides in recent years with its development of democratic institutions. Through the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP still managed to grow at 10.7% in 2008, making it one of the hottest economies in the Americas. It is forecast to grow 5.6% for 2010.

Most of our exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment and pharmaceutical equipment. Our service industries provide financial services and engineering, as well as information technology support. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would include open market access for goods, cross-border trade and services, telecommunications, investment, financial services and government procurement.

At the moment, Panamanian tariffs on agricultural products are around 13.4%, but in some cases they can reach as high as 260%. Removing these tariffs would generate many opportunities for the Canadian agricultural sector.

Atlantic Canada also stands to benefit very much from this free trade agreement. It accounts for 10.9% of Canadian exports to Panama.

In late January, early February of this year, 12 Atlantic Canadian companies participated in a trade mission to Panama, building on past trade missions to that country. From Newfoundland and Labrador, four companies participated in the trade mission: Blue Oceans Satellite Systems of St. John's, Cartwright Drilling of Goose Bay, Labrador, Compusult Limited of Mount Pearl and Marine Industrial Lighting Systems of Mount Pearl.

Compusult is a global leader in geospatial interoperability. Its scientific applications support environmental data gathering and management. Marine Industrial Lighting Systems was formed in 1999 and one of its Panamanian projects includes explosion proof submersible floodlights for the Panama Canal.

Panama will be expanding its strategic canal route which connects the Atlantic and the Pacific. This project is valued at over $5 billion and will provide Canadian companies significant opportunities in a wide spectrum of goods and services. The expansion of the canal will allow for increased container traffic, some of which will access ports in Atlantic Canada.

As with Canada's other free trade agreements, Chile, Costa Rica, NAFTA and Jordan, there are side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation recognizes the obligations of both countries under the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. It requires that each country ensure its domestic laws, regulations and practices protect fundamental labour principles and rights at work.

The Canada-Panama environment agreement would allow any person who resides in either country to request an investigation of alleged violations of that country's environmental laws.

This free trade agreement contains sufficient protections for labour and the environment, ensuring that they are not compromised for the sake of trade.

As for the future, Canada needs to focus on emerging markets, Panama and the Americas, as well as India, China, Russia and Brazil. We must do so with haste and ensure more available markets for Canada's goods and services.

I hope my colleagues in the House will join me in supporting Bill C-46 so Canadian business and the people of Canada and Panama can benefit from freer, more open trade.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
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NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member and I are not on the same side of this issue in terms of how we are finally going to vote when the amendments come before the House. I presume we are not going to be on the same side either when the bill comes before us at third reading. However, we can agree on one thing, and that is this is another trade agreement the Conservatives have really rushed to the House.

As a result of that, would the member comment on this? Is she aware of any labour organizations, any environmental organizations, any civil society groups or any individual citizens for that matter being consulted before the Canada-Panama free trade agreement was signed by the government? Does she not believe it is equally important to hear from such labour, environmental, civil society groups and individual Canadians as it is to simply just consult with the business community?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's concern with this agreement. As I said in my speech, there are a number of side agreements such as the Canada-Panama agreement on labour co-operation as well as the Canada-Panama environment agreement. I am sure my colleague is familiar with this as she sits on the committee.

I assume there was an opportunity to call witnesses before committee. The bill has now come from committee and we are debating it in the House.

Like my hon. colleague earlier this morning, I also indicated that we would ensure that the side agreements on labour and the environment worked properly and effectively. The House will hold the government accountable for those agreements. The fundamental principles and rights at work will be upheld. The declaration will be upheld. Issues around the environment will be considered as well.

It is important that free trade occur in our world and that we can have access to other markets. It is important that Canada reach out and ensure that the fundamental principles around labour organization and the environment that we hold dear are also held dear in other locations.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her support of the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and the side agreements that go with it.

In listening to the criticism coming from members of the NDP Party, I am a bit perplexed. They have never supported a free trade agreement in any way, shape, or form. I do not know what they do support in the House because they seem to be against everything they talk about.

What are the advantages to the hon. member's home province of Newfoundland and Labrador in having more extensive trading relationships within the Americas?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Siobhan Coady Liberal St. John's South—Mount Pearl, NL

Mr. Speaker, Newfoundland and Labrador has only been in Confederation for 60-some years. However, the province dates over 500 years and we have had trading relations around the world.

More recently, we have had a lot more trading relationships with South America and Central America. One can look at some of the relationships we have had with Brazil around the oil and gas industry. There are a lot of Newfoundland and Labrador companies spending time in Brazil. I have named a couple of companies that are already doing business in Panama, reaching out to take advantage of some of the work that is being done on the Panama Canal. We have relationships, for example, with Chile in regard to aquaculture and the imports and exports of that trade.

From my home province's perspective, we have long since known the benefit of trade. We have long since reached out to the world. We have long since recognized that exports drive the development of our economy, businesses and employment in our community. We are certainly supportive of continuing to do that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour to rise in the House to take part in such a critical debate, not just about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement but about how we move forward as a country, our relationships at the international level and how we see our role as promoters of trade and growing relationships within the Americas.

However, as I stand here, I am also very proud to be a member of a party that has stood for the kind of trade that prioritizes the concept of fairness, fair trade, a party that reaffirms its vision for 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.

In fact, when we hear Canada speak out at the international level, we hear of the concepts of mutual growth and improvement of living conditions. However, when we look at the specifics of the kinds of trade agreements that the government is promoting, we see an approach that strays from those kinds of ideas, certainly from the values that we in the NDP hold dear and go against the idea of wanting to contribute to the benefit of people in these countries, not just corporations or certain people, but people in general. That is the question in the House when it comes to Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

As my colleagues have expressed in the House, we have grave concerns that this bill has come forward in a hurried fashion, with a real desire by the government to pass it without the in-depth examination of what might be challenging pieces. Certainly there has been critical debate at committee, but there are some key points that I am sure many Canadians would be shocked to find out the government is trying to push through. They require more debate. Members deserve a chance to sit down and ask whether this really is what Canada wants to be promoting on the international stage.

We have heard much talk about the idea that this trade agreement would exacerbate the inequalities in Panama, that it would allow Canadian companies and Canada to be part of scenarios where labour rights are disrespected and abused or environmental rights are disregarded. We have heard that the fact that there are side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment is supposed to deal with these concerns and dynamics that we in the NDP think such a trade agreement would foster in a country like Panama.

The existence of such side agreements is simply not what is going to prevent such abuses from taking place or what is going to prevent such trade agreements from truly looking at how trade could make Panamanians and Canadians better off. There are a couple of reasons why NDP members feel the side agreements and Bill C-46 are inadequate in trying to reach the point of truly contributing to the well-being of Panama and Canadians.

At committee, compelling testimony was heard from witnesses regarding, for example, the tax haven situation in the Republic of Panama as well as its poor record of labour rights. It was noted that Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement, something that is troubling considering the large amount of money laundering in Panama, including money from drug trafficking.

Panama's complete lack of taxation transparency has led to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development to label the nation a tax haven. It has been referenced that a double taxation agreement would somehow resolve such a concern, but the double taxation agreement only tracks legal income while a tax information exchange agreement would track all income, including that made through illegal means.

The tax haven situation in Panama, as witnesses expressed in committee, is not improving conditions under the current government in Panama. A trade agreement with Canada would only worsen the problem and could cause harm to both Panama and Canada.

Another critical area a side agreement would not deal with and the source of such concern would be in the area of labour and the respect of labour rights. It is a tenet of who we are as a democracy and as a country that has believed that people's well-being depends on their freedom to organize, on their ability to be part of unions and on their ability as working people to fight for a decent wage, to fight for proper health and safety and to fight for that dignity that we would all hope for in any country around the world.

However, we recognize that these rights are not respected in Panama the way we respect them in Canada.

Another major issue is the status of labour rights in Panama and the complete failure of this trade agreement to ensure that these rights are not denied to Panamanian workers as they have been in the past.

When Teresa Healy of the Canadian Labour Congress spoke to the parliamentary committee regarding the agreement on labour co-operation, she testified that while the International Labour Organization's core labour standards are invoked, Bill C-46 is still weaker than it should be. As well, she pointed out the current Panamanian government has increasingly been harsh on labour unions and workers, especially in recent years.

It was noted, for example, that over the last few years a number of measures have come into play that have exacerbated the wealth inequalities in a country like Panama. While recording relatively high growth rates, it is the second most unequal society in the region. Forty per cent of the population is poor; 27% is extremely poor; and the rate of extreme poverty is particularly acute in indigenous populations. The country has endured extensive structural adjustment, liberalization and privatization which has not translated into economic benefits for the population.

In response to the international perception that Panamanian labour laws were rigid and a disincentive to foreign investment, President Martinelli announced unilateral changes to the labour law in the summer of 2010. The law ended environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. It banned mandatory dues collections from workers. It allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strikebreakers. It criminalized street blockades and it protected police from prosecution.

These are the kinds of measures that we are in fact not just approving of by continuing to approach this trade agreement as a positive sign and looking to side agreements as though they were going to put a stop to such an agenda put forward in Panama. Canadians would not want to think, would not want to know that we are complicit in encouraging what is fundamentally an attack on people's right to organize and people's right to speak out and fight for a decent living.

The severity of this attack on labour rights seen in Panama has been met with strikes and demonstrations. The police have been exceedingly harsh in their response and that was just this past summer. At least six people were killed; protestors were seriously injured and many were blinded by tear gas and police violence. Some 300 trade union leaders were detained before the president withdrew the labour provisions and called for a national dialogue of moderate trade union leaders and business leaders.

We are pointing out that a side agreement on labour co-operation, as it is termed, is in no way sufficient and certainly does not make a strong statement by Canada that such action is unconscionable.

The NDP is saying trade agreements must respect the tenets of fairness, but also must respect the values that we hold dear as Canadians, whether it be in terms of labour rights, transparency or on the environment. Canadians would demand nothing less.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the province of Manitoba alone employs over 1,000 people in the potato industry and processing.

Given that the Manitoba NDP government's website makes reference to Panama as consumers of our processed potatoes which provides thousands of jobs, would the member agree it would be in Manitoba's best interest to see freer trade?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from my province and I welcome him into the House.

My role as a member of Parliament in the federal scene is recognizing and speaking to the values that many Manitobans hold dear, which is of free but also fair trade, something that we are not seeing as a result of this agreement. We know that Canada engages in trade with many countries around the world, including Panama. However, what we are talking about here is a deeper, certainly more developed agreement. It is an agreement that goes against the basic rights that we as Canadians would demand not just in our country, but would like to see respected in any country around the world.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Churchill ably pointed out that members of the Canadian Labour Congress appeared before committee and talked about the fact that this agreement simply did not cut it.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster proposed some amendments and one of them would have been to protect trade union workers in Panama by offering the right to collective bargaining, as well as requiring the Minister of International Trade to consult on a regular basis with representatives of the congress.

I wonder if the member could comment on why that amendment was defeated at committee.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 2 p.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians know the right to collective bargaining has existed for many years. That we would deny that right to other countries we are hoping to enter into a relationship with is not the way to move forward. It is not the way Canadians would like to see us play a leadership role. Free trade must be fair trade and these rights must be respected.

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February 7th, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-46, which would implement the free trade agreement negotiated between Canada and the Republic of Panama. First of all, I want to say that even though the Bloc Québécois is generally in favour of free trade, it will oppose Bill C-46 and, more specifically, the agreement with Panama.

I will start by providing a brief history of free trade and explain why a number of countries have signed agreements to freely exchange goods, without there being any customs duties or excessive restrictions on these goods.

The oldest major free trade agreement is the GATT, which was signed in 1947. If I recall correctly, that stands for the Global Agreement—

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:30 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

I thank the member for Hochelaga for that very important clarification.

This agreement allowed access to the markets and resources of various countries, which constituted a major step in terms of both human and economic progress.

In the past, many countries waged wars because they wanted to access a resource found in a neighbouring country or because one country was looking for new markets to sell goods. Every empire was built on this desire to have as many places as possible to sell their goods and to accumulate wealth. By opening up trade and accessing our neighbours' resources, without having to invade them or declare war, we probably avoided wars and improved international relations. Over time, these agreements became increasingly important economically.

For an exporting country like Quebec, which essentially produces manufactured goods for export, free trade is attractive because it facilitates access to markets and helps make us more competitive. These agreements enable us to sell our companies' goods, our own creations, to foreign countries, to create jobs in Quebec and to bring in good revenue.

What is more, consumers gain access to these products. In the case of Quebec, imported products often, but not always, have less value added and cost less than usual.

Every country has its strengths and weaknesses. In theory, the underlying principle of free trade is to draw on the strengths of each country to benefit all the partners.

If everything is done properly and Quebec definitely benefits, then the Bloc Québécois will support an agreement. However, let us not get carried away by ideology and say we are for or against free trade no matter what they are trying to sell us. The situation needs to be analyzed and assessed. Obviously, that did not happen in the case of the Panama agreement. In fact, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and from the Department of Industry admitted when they appeared before committee that they did not conduct any studies to determine whether these agreements would be beneficial to our economy. The government is blindly entering this agreement with the attitude that, because we are all in favour of free trade, we will always support agreements of this kind. The Bloc is not prepared to go down that road.

They want so badly to sign a host of bilateral free trade agreements at any cost that they are prepared to consider any and all markets. The government is considering concluding an agreement with China, when we have a $26 billion trade deficit with that country. The Chinese sell us goods worth $26 billion more than what we sell to them. Before considering freer trade with countries like China, we should start by looking at how we could restore trade balance with them.

The Bloc Québécois proposes taking a multilateral approach, in other words, negotiating trade agreements at the international level, or at least with larger blocks of countries. That would help establish a better balance between the economic advantages that each country hopes to draw from the agreement and all the social, human and environmental considerations, which often are not included in these very specific bilateral agreements.

With regard to Panama in particular, we are concerned about the issue of workers' rights. The government of Panama has moved even farther to the right and has passed legislation that many consider to be extremely anti-union, since it will make it illegal for workers to demonstrate, protest or lobby to improve their salary conditions.

Another concern we have about this free trade agreement is the issue of tax havens. Panama is on France's blacklist and the OECD's grey list of tax havens. At least in theory, we do not want companies to be able to do business in Panama, not because of economic opportunities but because of laughably low taxes and the banking system's lack of transparency. We are worried that companies will take advantage of this to avoid paying taxes that they should legitimately be paying to Canada. In addition, if we sign a free trade agreement, we will make it even easier for people who want to use these tax havens. That is a big concern for us.

The Bloc Québécois has long been fighting to put an end to tax havens like Bermuda, Barbados, Panama and many others.

I kept a close eye on the whole saga of Barbados and the shipping company former Liberal Prime Minister Paul Martin operated there. He even voted for retroactive legislation that allowed him to repatriate profits to Canada tax-free. This was money he had laundered through Barbados. We criticized it then and we have ever since. And apparently it still does not bother the Liberal Party very much to sign a free trade agreement with a tax haven.

There is another reason to fight against tax havens. Yes, we need to recover the billions of dollars theoretically owed to our governments, but we also need to keep criminals from hiding their money in these tax havens. Even if they are caught, once they get out of prison, they can recover the money because we have no way of intervening and checking what money is flowing in and out of these countries.

For all these reasons, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the bill that is before us today. We invite the Liberals, in particular, to rethink the advisability of supporting the government and instead vote against this bill in order to send the government back to the drawing board and have it negotiate multilateral agreements that are good for Quebec, Canada and all working people.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely right. According to American statistics, Panama has 350,000 foreign companies registered. They are registered in large part because of the tax haven status. That is one of the reasons why a good number of American Congress members refuse to ratify a similar agreement with the United States and Panama.

Until the American government gets tough with Panama and forces it to start co-operating and shuts down the money laundering facilities and the tax haven activities of Panama, this is going to continue.

We are rewarding bad behaviour by simply promoting and passing this legislation. The Americans are holding it up. They are refusing to act.

Last year France was tough and put heavy taxes on companies doing business with Panama. Panama came to the table immediately and signed a double taxation agreement with France as a result of that pressure. It is about time the Canadian government gets tough and quits rolling over to countries like Panama.

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February 7th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the Canadian government's attitude is especially appalling considering that many other countries are concerned and are trying to take action to put some pressure on Panama. Yet this government not only still wants to sign the agreement, but wants to move even faster. It appears to be proud of the fact that it is moving faster than the Americans and other countries, saying that we are going to sign and ratify this deal with Panama before anyone else. However, all of the signs and signals from other countries should instead be emphasizing the need for caution. The government should instead be thinking that, if all the other countries that are negotiating with Panama are concerned about the human rights situation, and more importantly, about tax havens, perhaps we should also join in and demand greater transparency from a tax haven like Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on his excellent speech, which was an excellent summary of the Bloc Québécois's position regarding this free trade agreement with Panama, which, as he was saying, is a tax haven.

In response to questions at the Standing Committee on International Trade, government officials clearly stated that companies that do business in Panama will be able to bring profits back to Canada tax-free. We could not even get an answer from the Canada Revenue Agency regarding the amount or the value of the tax evasion this will bring about. I find that absolutely appalling.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague if he thinks it is right that such an agreement, even with the supposed fiscal arrangements, should exist and that the middle class will ultimately pay for the tax leakage that Canada will suffer.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Bloc Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, this clearly shows what happens when parliamentarians or parties adopt an ideological approach, as we have seen on both sides of the House. There are those who always support free trade and are willing to sign anything, and there are those who basically are always opposed.

With free trade or any other issue, the Bloc Québécois does not take this ideological approach. We are rigorous. We look at what is before us. Clearly, this agreement is not in Quebec's interests. I doubt that it is even in the interests of the workers in Panama. Therefore, we will not be supporting it.

I believe this is the right approach. The people watching at home today elected us to make these decisions and to take the time to study the issues. If we do not, we are not doing our job and carrying out the mandate entrusted to us by the people. The Bloc Québécois intends to continue carrying out a thorough study of every bill brought forward and will not just blindly follow and trust ideology.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:45 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats are opposing the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, Bill C-46.

I am going to address a couple of issues. I want to talk about the labour aspect of this legislation and, if I get to it, fair trade and the tax haven.

Earlier, we heard one of the Liberal members talk about the fact that the Conservative government would have consulted and yet, I find that a surprising statement given the fact when Dr. Teresa Healy, the senior researcher for the Canadian Labour Congress, came before the committee, she clearly outlined some concerns around the labour aspects of the bill.

I will not read her testimony into the record, but she did say the Canada-Panama agreement does not include specific protection for the right to organize and right to strike. On labour issues, fines are small, there are no countervailing duties. There is no provision for abrogation or any other such remedy. Yet, again, labour provisions remain in a side agreement rather than in the body of the text.

She indicated a bit of the socio-economic status in Panama. She said 40% of the population is poor, 27% is extremely poor, and the rate of extreme poverty is particularly acute in indigenous populations.

She also pointed out the track record of the Panamanian government.

The president announced unilateral changes to labour law in the summer of 2010. The law ended environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. It banned mandatory dues collections from workers. It allowed employers to fire striking workers and replace them with strikebreakers. It criminalized street blockades and protected police from prosecution.

This is hardly a country's labour record that we would want Canada to enter into an agreement with.

The member for Burnaby—New Westminster has been taking the lead on this particular piece of legislation for New Democrats and has proposed amendments to attempt to change some of the more egregious aspects of this agreement.

One of the amendments he put forward was that the trade union workers in Panama be offered the right to collective bargaining as well as requiring the Minister of International Trade, as a principal representative of Canada on the joint Panama-Canada commission, consult on a regular basis with representatives of Canadian labour and trade unions. Sadly, that amendment was defeated at the committee.

I want to put this into context. In an article from October 2010 called “Back to the 'Good' Old Days”, although it is talking about Asia, there makes some good points. It states:

“Child labour rampant in Asia, serfdom on the rise here”.

I am going to quote extensively from the article because it is important when we see the erosion of labour rights in other countries it cannot help but raise concerns at home.

The article starts with a quote from John D. Rockefeller, from 1894. It states:

The disparity in income between the rich and the poor is merely the survival of the fittest. It is merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.

Many of us do not believe that. We believe there are roles for government in terms of redistribution of income.

Quoting again from the article, it states:

During the first 70 years that followed this pronouncement by one of the 19th-century's leading robber barons, the worst excesses of unfettered free enterprise were curbed by government regulations, minimum wage increases, and the growth of the labour movement. Strong unions and relatively progressive governments combined to have wealth distributed less inequitably. Social safety nets were woven to help those in need.

Corporate owners, executives, and major shareholders resisted all these moderate reforms. Their operations had to be forcibly humanized. They always resented having even a small part of their profits diverted into wages and taxes, but until the mid-1970s and '80s they couldn't prevent it. Now they can.

Thanks to the international trade agreements and the global mobility of capital, they can overcome all political and labour constraints. They are free once more, as they were in the 1800s, to maximize profits and exploit workers, to control or coerce national governments, to re-establish the survival of the fittest as the social norm.

This global resurgence of corporate power threatens to wipe out a century of social progress. We are in danger of reverting to the kind of mass poverty and deprivation that marked the Victorian era. Indeed, this kind of corporate-imposed barbarism and inequality is already rampant in many developing countries.

From the statistics that that Dr. Healy quoted, when we have 27% of a country extremely poor and 40% of the population poor, we have to wonder why we would be entering into that kind of trade agreement.

The article went on to talk about how, unfortunately, most Canadians do not seem to know how badly their forebears were mistreated in the workplace of the 1800s. These are labour conditions in Canada, but Canadians often do not realize that in Canada we had some of the worst labour laws going. It talks about a number of things. It says:

Conditions in the mines were especially bad, with most of the miners dying from accidents or “black-lung” disease before they reached the age of 35.

Hundreds of thousands of children, some as young as six, were forced to work 12 hours a day, often being whipped or beaten. A Canadian Royal Commission on Child Labour in the late 1800s reported that “the employment of children is extensive and on the increase. Boys under 12 work all night in glass-works in Montreal. In the coal mines of Nova Scotia, it is common for 10-year-old boys to work a 60-hour week down in the pits”.

This Royal Commission found that not only were children fined for tardiness and breakages, but also that in many factories they were beaten with birch rods. Many thousands of them lost fingers, hands, even entire limbs, when caught in unguarded gears or pulleys. Many hundreds were killed. Their average life expectancy was 33.

As late as 1910 in Canada, more than 300,000 children under 12 were still being subjected to these brutal working conditions. It wasn't until the 1920s, in fact, that child labour in this country was completely stamped out.

In the 1920s in Canada we agreed that child labour was not a norm, finally, that we would agree to. Yet we are saying it is okay to sign trade agreements with other countries where child labour is in fact part of what happens in those countries.

The article went on:

In the United States, another robber baron, Frederick Townsend Martin, was even more candid. In an interview he gave to a visiting British journalist, he boasted: “We are the rich. We own this country. And we intend to keep it by throwing all the tremendous weight of our support, our influence, our money, our purchased politicians, our public-speaking demagogues, into the fight against any legislation, any political party or platform or campaign that threatens our vested interests.”

It is nice to hear that someone was on the record in an honest way about what that particular corporate agenda was.

A modern descendant of John D. Rockefeller, his great-grandson banker David Rockefeller, put it plainly in a speech he gave back in the 1990s: “We who run the transnational corporations are now in the driver's seat of the global economic engine. We are setting government policies instead of watching from the sidelines”.

The article also states:

Already, in most of the developing nations, they have brought back child labour. Conditions in most factories operated by or for the transnational corporations in Asia and parts of Latin America are not much better today than they were in North America and Europe in the 1800s. Thousands of boys and girls are being compelled to work 12 hours a day in dirty, unsafe workshops for 40 or 50 cents an hour.

The article gives a number of examples in some Latin American countries.

When we talk about entering free trade agreements I hear Liberal and Conservative members ask when would the New Democrats ever support a free trade agreement. We would support a free trade agreement when it is a fair trade agreement, when it looks at the working conditions, when it looks at who is being exploited in those countries, when it looks at the corporate agenda in terms of driving the wages down in those unsafe working conditions.

A very good reason for us to question whether or not we should be entering a free trade agreement is when we have a side agreement, as in this particular case, about labour. It is not even integrated into the agreement.

I now have only a brief moment to talk about fair trade.

My colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek earlier talked about multilateral trade. Many of us believe that multilateral trade is a very important way to look at it. Also, when we talk about trade, it should include fair trade.

When we talk about fair trade it is about the fact that workers in the countries of origin have fair access to the profits of their labour. There are a number of principles around fair trade.

To wrap up, I would encourage all members in this House to vote down this agreement. There are better ways that Canada can gauge and demonstrate leadership with countries around trade.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member certainly summed up the situation rather well.

The fact of the matter is that last year Canada's merchandise exports to Panama totalled only $91 million. We can see there is trade going on between the countries right now. We do not need a free trade agreement to trade with countries, including Panama. In fact, it is happening.

It is interesting that 54 United States congresspersons have demanded that President Obama hold back on this agreement until Panama does something about its status as a tax haven, a major conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers and the money laundering activities that are going on there. There are 350,000 foreign corporations that are doing business in that country.

The question is, why are we pursuing this issue when the Americans are holding off?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Elmwood—Transcona raises a very good point. I did not touch on the tax haven aspect, which is one of the more outrageous aspects of this agreement. In fact, there was testimony before the committee by someone whose name I have forgotten, but he came before the committee and said this agreement is actually worse than what is already in place and what it will potentially do because of particular articles in the agreement which would not allow Canada to defend some of its interests. He stated:

But article 9.10 of the Canada-Panama trade act says that “[e]ach Party shall permit transfers relating to a covered investment to be made freely and without delay, into and out of its territory”. Moreover, both chapters 9 and 12 of the FTA have nondiscrimination clauses that protect Panama-registered investors. Article 12.06 states that Canada will always allow Canadians to purchase financial services from banks operating in Panama.

It is a money laundering operation. It is well-known that some of the drug cartels are dealing with Panama and yet we are going to sign an agreement that allows this money laundering operation. I am sure Canadians will not appreciate that.

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February 7th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that France knew how to deal with Panama. Only 12 months ago Panama managed to get itself off of France's blacklist when France simply started levying a 50% tax on dividends, interest, royalties and service fees based in France paid to a beneficiary in any of several countries, including Panama. Guess what? Panama signed agreements with France.

I talked about the 54 United States congresspersons who are refusing to let President Obama sign the agreement. The powerful American government is still not able to get the kinds of results out of Panama that France did because France took direct action. By putting pressure on corporations, the corporations went to the French government and demanded that something be done to straighten out Panama's practices. Guess what? Something happened within three months.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the man I was quoting was Mr. Todd Tucker, a research director with Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch.

The member for Elmwood—Transcona again raises a number of good points. I want to read into the record how bad it actually is in Panama. Mr. Tucker stated:

Not only are these businesses not taxed, but they're subject to little to no reporting requirements or regulations.

According to the OECD, the Panamanian government has little to no legal authority to ascertain key information about these offshore corporations, such as their ownership. Panama's financial secrecy practices also make it a major site for money laundering from places throughout the world.

He went on to say in his testimony before the committee:

The Canada-Panama trade deal would worsen the tax haven problem. As the OECD has noted, having a trade agreement without first tackling Panama's financial secrecy practices could incentivize even more offshore tax dodging. But there's a reason to believe that the trade deal will not only increase tax haven abuses but will also make fighting them that much harder.

From around the world we are hearing about how bad this is and yet Canada is signing on to the deal. It makes no sense.

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February 7th, 2011 / 4 p.m.
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Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to once again speak about Bill C-46 because a government cannot possibly be unaware that it is impossible to serve such different interests at the same time; it does not make sense.

It is true that Panama has a developed economy. In fact, it has the most highly developed economy in Central America. One of the reasons why Panama's economy is so highly developed and open to the world is that, at a some point, a canal was built that serves as a route between the Americas. As a result, Panama is already accustomed to trade, travel and transit, and has been for a long time.

As a matter of fact, it is this familiarity with transit and trade, as well as the fact that many people pass back and forth through Panama but do not live there, that have made it into a tax haven. Such has been the case for a long time. We are becoming more and more aware of it; however, the members on the other side of the House do not seem to be responding to this situation.

It is said that Panama has moved from the blacklist to the grey list. Panama has signed agreements. In fact, it has signed several and has said that it would like to sign a tax treaty. We are saying that, if an international trade agreement is to be signed, a tax treaty, at minimum, should also be signed. This should not all be incorporated into the same agreement. There should be two separate agreements. But, there is always the power to negotiate.

If Panama receives $91 million worth of Canadian products per year and sells $41 million worth of its products to Canada per year, we find ourselves in a situation that, although may be marginal from an economic perspective, is still significant. The Government of Canada therefore has the power to negotiate. It can say to the Panamanian government that it agrees and that it is prepared to facilitate trade; however, from a tax perspective, there are a certain number of irritants. I will come back to this.

We should also remind Panama that it wants to sign a trade agreement with us, that there is a tax agreement to sign, but that the International Labour Organization finds that Panama's treatment of its labour force is inappropriate. In other words, the Panamanian government is recognized by the International Labour Organization as a government that breaches even minimal labour standards. Here again, we have leverage and can say that before we sign a trade agreement, Panama will have to make significant progress in terms of its tax policy and its labour relations. And why not add the environment to boot? It seems, according to our information, that Panama is not necessarily the best country in the world when it comes to respecting environmental rights.

Even though we are in favour of opening up markets, let us not forget that Canada is part of NAFTA because of Quebec's massive support for the Progressive Conservative government that concluded this international trade agreement with the Americas. We agree with having open markets, but their strategy is all wrong. They should be taking advantage of this opportunity.

What is a tax haven? I said a couple of minutes ago that I would come back to taxation.

There are some terms that are used that people do not understand. A tax haven is four things.

First, a tax haven is a place that has no or nominal taxation. To have a tax rate of 15%, 18% or a little more than 20% on business profits, as we have in Canada, or 11% on SMEs, is perfectly fine. However, 0.5% or nothing at all is considered a nominal tax rate. There is a gap between the tax rates.

Second, a tax haven lacks transparency. When it comes to ethics, transparency and disclosure, if Canada wants to sign a tax agreement with Panama, then there at least needs to be transparency in the information we receive.

Third, there are laws or administrative practices that prevent the exchange of information. Getting any information, let alone transparent information, is quite something. Sometimes the government considers itself to be a tax haven when we ask it for some information, as we did in the Standing Committee on Finance to no avail. Our colleague from the Liberal Party was talking about this earlier. However, sometimes we receive piles of documents that are absolutely not transparent.

Fourth, there are indications that the country attracts investors solely for tax reasons and not for their economic activities. Earlier, our NDP colleagues told us just how many businesses just have a post office box in Panama.

The characteristics of a tax haven are a post office box, difficulty obtaining information, unclear information and non-existent taxation. Those are four relatively simple elements that define a tax haven.

We should be taking this opportunity to state that we want a tax treaty. But if we had a tax treaty with a country that has zero taxes, people would wonder what business we had forcing Panama into levying more than a 1% tax on business income. On the other hand, it would make no sense for Canada, by signing a tax treaty with Panama, to exempt Canadian companies doing business in Panama from paying taxes because they pay them in Panama. That is why we need to discuss tax treaties between Canada and Panama. That is why we are delving into this issue and saying that these agreements need to be reviewed.

What are the elements of Quebec sovereignty and independence? The first is the ability to have our own taxation. During question period, we prove that Quebec is not independent when the federal government gets involved in Quebec taxation. The second is the ability to make all of our own laws. During question period, we also prove that Quebec is being invaded by federal laws. The third element of sovereignty is the ability to sign our own treaties. If Quebec were sovereign, it would not sign this kind of agreement with Panama unless there were worthwhile taxation, labour rights and environmental agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the member would like to comment on the curious position of the Liberal Party on this free trade debate.

We saw what those members did on Colombia when they changed leaders and changed critics. They changed their position. Now they seem to agree with the Panama agreement even though they have been told by the Americans that the American Congress refuses to pass a similar type of agreement with Panama because it is a country that launders drug money and, as the member pointed out, is a tax haven.

In his opinion, why would the Liberal caucus support this agreement when its friends, American Democrats, are opposed to a similar agreement?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the NDP member has given me the opportunity to speak again about the inconsistencies of our Liberal Party colleagues. These members try to say that they can no longer stand the Conservative government, just like Quebeckers and Canadians. We think that Quebeckers can no longer put up with the Liberal Party's flip-flopping. Last year, they said that they were against the budget and that they would do everything they could to oppose it, but then suddenly, they changed their minds.

I have much more respect for the member for Pontiac, for example. He sat in the Quebec National Assembly as a minister in the government that brought in tax harmonization—that is a little friendly reminder—but at least he stands tall. As the NDP member said, we do not know where the Liberals stand. Unfortunately, they will pay the price come election time, because people will wonder which side they are on. When they keep jumping from right to left, no one knows where they are anymore.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 7th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to congratulate the member for Hochelaga for so eloquently expressing our party's opinion.

He did not have time to address one issue, which is the Conservative government's apparent desire to associate with countries whose actions do not respect the values that have been adopted here, or at least in Quebec. I am thinking, for example, about the concerns we have regarding respect for workers' rights.

Last May, the Republic of Panama passed Law 30, which had a provision that would incriminate workers who dared to defend their rights. This was very similar to the position the Conservatives took regarding equality in the workplace for women when they prohibited unions from going to court to defend them, unless the unions want to risk being fined.

I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about whether the Canadian government has lost its way by wanting to associate with governments that would do such things.

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February 7th, 2011 / 4:15 p.m.
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Bloc

Daniel Paillé Bloc Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is so competent and eloquent on this subject—as he has been throughout his career—that I almost feel like asking him to speak in my stead.

Law 30 no doubt makes such agreements unacceptable. What we fear with this kind of government is that it is rushing to get ahead of the Americans, the British and basically everyone else. It is thus sending a message to the entire world that Canada could become a haven for anyone who uses tax havens. This would be very harmful. It would be very bad for Canada's reputation, and perhaps that is why we lost our seat at the UN.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:05 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to complete my comments on Bill C-46, the free trade bill between Canada and Panama.

Just generally, I have had some concerns about bilateral trade deals that we have entered into. I have spoken in the past on the Colombia free trade deal. Issues at the time had to do with human rights abuses, displacing people in the cause of improving corporate opportunities, corruption of government and the judiciary, a whole host of issues that had very little to do with the benefits of bilateral trade.

In the case of Panama in Bill C-46, we do not have the same kinds of elements but we do have one that is extremely important to demonstrate that we cannot just look at trade and the benefits of trade in isolation. Our trade exchange with Panama now is very insignificant in the scheme of things, but the expansion of the Panama Canal brings some hope and promise for increased traffic through the canal and opportunities for businesses, particularly for Canada in the construction, engineering and consulting firms. Agriculture may also have some benefits.

The other area is taxation. The finance committee is now looking at tax havens and their use as instruments for tax evasion. This is a very serious problem. It is in the hundreds of billions of dollars. With regard to Panama, the committee heard by teleconference from a witness from the OECD, Mr. Owens, who confirmed to the committee that Panama was rated as in the grey scale. That is pretty well the worst concern one could have in terms of harbouring tax evaders and the secrecy that allows them to do it.

On Thursday, Mr. Donald Johnston, who was a former minister of finance for Canada in the early 1980s and a former secretary-general of the OECD, re-affirmed and confirmed Mr. Owens comments that Panama was one of the biggest problem areas in terms of promoting or at least facilitating evasion of taxes.

The current bill does not specifically incorporate any provisions to address the tax evasion problem, which is a very expensive problem for Canada. However, there are double taxation agreements in place with other countries to ensure that a Canadian, for instance, will not be taxed in one jurisdiction and also in Canada.

The other and probably equally important issue is the tax information sharing agreements. These agreements are the instruments that would allow us to obtain more information about those who have set up situations that would probably allow them to evade taxes in Canada. That is not part of this agreement. The point of my speech so far has been that, as we enter into trade agreements, we should exhaust every opportunity to establish a good faith relationship with that country so we can deal with some of our mutual problems.

I am concerned that government members have not been speaking to this bill, which is at report stage, because if a member of the government stands to speak to it they will be subject to questions by all other hon. members. They do not want that. They do not want to be held accountable and that concerns me and it should concern all Canadians.

Trade is an important issue but democracy is a more important issue.

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February 4th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be speaking later to the bill and will be echoing some of the concerns that the member has mentioned, particularly around the OECD and the concerns that have been raised. As he mentioned, there was testimony at committee about concerns that the OECD raised and ones that we share.

When we look at a sequential approach, one would think that issue would be paramount to deal with that issue around concerns of banking, tax havens and disclosure.

In light of the concerns that the member has quite rightly put forward and which we brought forward in committee and spoke to in the House, can the member see fit to actually support this bill or is he stating unequivocally today that he will be voting against this bill when it comes to a vote?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my comments yesterday and this morning, the issues with regard to tax havens, tax avoidance, information sharing agreements, et cetera, are not part of this bill and have not been part of any bilateral trade bill that Canada has entered into. On occasion there have been side agreements or other matters.

My point is that the government needs to recognize that these are important opportunities as we enter into trade relationships with other countries and that we must also address other mutual points of interest, such as tax evasion.

In answer to the member's question, trade is important for us to consider. I would have liked to have heard more from the government as to its justification and its affirmations about the benefits that will come out of this one. However, the government has not spoken. I do know, however, that the trade deal as it stands now is in itself and in isolation some benefit for Canada, particularly to the agricultural sector and possibly the engineering, construction and consulting areas.

I will be supporting the trade bill but I want to ensure that all hon. members realize that there are these other issues that should be on the table at the same time as we negotiate these deals and that we should consider more multilateral deals rather than dealing with the bilaterals because it is so important in many of these same regions of Panama.

I will be supporting the bill but I do share the member's concerns.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I did not hear all of the hon. member's presentation but I heard enough to understand that he wants to support this bill; his main argument is that it would be good for Canada. I want to ask him what he means by that since we know that Panama is a tax haven and that companies establish themselves there specifically to avoid the taxes that ordinary citizens like you and me have to pay.

I am therefore wondering how he can say that it is a good idea to encourage business investments in a tax haven that is on the OECD's grey list.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it gives me an opportunity to explain to members that tax havens are not illegal. Tax haven means that there is a tax regime or a jurisdiction where the tax rates are lower in that jurisdiction than they are in Canada. A company would establish operations in that other country and be able to do some of its business out of there and pay a lower rate of tax than in Canada.

The problem is not the tax haven. The problem is not reporting that income in Canada. We should understand that tax havens are not illegal and they are not bad. They help a lot of good companies to be better and bigger than they otherwise could be in a higher tax jurisdiction.

Tax avoidance is also not illegal. Tax avoidance is in fact necessary because people are entitled to pay the least amount of tax that they legally owe but not more. Tax evasion, however, is illegal, and that is when people do not pay any tax, do not report any income and decide to take care of themselves first. That is what we are going after. The OECD is concerned that there are far too many opportunities for companies to establish themselves in tax haven jurisdictions and to evade taxes. That is the problem and that is why it should be on the agenda of the government but it has not been and it has not explained why.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:15 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I join with others in debating Bill C-46 regarding free trade with Panama. Negotiations were concluded back in August 2009 and, according to the government, there was a comprehensive free trade agreement with Panama. The agreement also includes side agreements. We saw this pattern with regard to Colombia on labour and environment. After the negotiations were completed in August 2009, there were formal signings in May 2010.

When Bill C-46 passed second reading in October 2010, it was then referred to the committee which went through a clause by clause review of it. It is important that we and all Canadians know that the NDP brought forward amendments that would deal with some of the concerns raised by a member of the Liberal Party just a minute ago, including those around tax information, exchange agreements, double taxation, et cetera. Sadly, however, they were defeated. I will, however, put on the record that they were not just defeated by the Conservatives. They had help from the Liberal Party in defeating some of those amendments, which would have passed if there had been support from the Liberal Party.

When we look at the concerns raised by the Liberals, it is important to note that when they had the opportunity in committee to deal with those concerns, they sided with the government on this. It calls into question what the Liberal Party is doing. However, I will leave it to the Liberals to explain their dynamics on this. On the one hand, they are saying that they have concerns about tax havens. I was shocked to hear one of the members of the Liberal Party say that tax avoidance and tax havens were okay because that is a way of doing business but that we want to ensure it is reported. I will leave that for them to discuss among themselves.

However, it is very difficult to understand the Liberals' position when it comes to this bill. On the one hand they say that this is terrible and that we should not be dealing with this kind of trade agreement because of all the concerns around tax havens and double taxation. The list is long and it sounds very similar to our concerns. On the other hand, the Liberals are saying that they will vote with the government on this.

It is perplexing. I know what the Conservatives' strategy is. They have decided that multilateralism is not the way to go and so they are rushing around trying to sign up anyone to a bilateral agreement, which is precarious at best. I think it shows a lack of vision in terms of where we should be going with international trade. For the record, we have stated time and again in this House that we should be going toward a multilateral approach.

My father worked for many years as a public servant dealing with the GATT. It was important at that time for Canada to deal at a multilateral level, My father would negotiate with other countries on behalf of this country on the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. We know what happened to that. We know what happened with the Doha round. However, the government now says that maybe it should one day get back to that but, in the meantime, it goes down this bilateral route which undermines the whole approach of multilateralism.

Let us put aside for a second the concerns we have with this deal. Does anyone really think that signing a free trade agreement with Panama will lead to the economic prosperity of Canada? Let us get real here. We need only look at how much investment there is between the two countries. What it does is it undermines that whole intention that many of us have of going down the multilateral route. It is an opportunity that costs and it also decries this notion that we should be trying to work with other like-minded countries, particularly those in the G8 that are looking toward a fairer trade regime, and saying that we all have concerns around the way trade is done and we need to work together to ensure particularly the bigger economies in the world will follow some sort of fair regime.

However, the government is not doing that. It is going off on our own, cap in hand, to anyone who will sign one of these agreements and clearly doing it for political reasons.

As I said, no one really believes that signing a trade agreement with Panama will lead to a green and pleasant land in Canada. In fact, the government will try to spin people by saying how great it is because it is signing all these trade agreements, as if that will make a difference in lives of people. It will not. What it will do, and we have seen this in the debate and the details as we have gone over them, is make it more precarious for Canadians and also for those who are concerned about issues around international banking.

In terms of disclosure of tax revenues and investments and tax havens, the government is sending a message to the international community that it is willing to sign a deal with Panama, without having had the concerns that other governments, like France, have had about disclosure. The sequence is entirely wrong. If we thought this was the way to go, we should have dealt with the concerns of the OECD with tax havens, taxation and disclosure. However, that did not happen.

What is the message? The message is basically Canada really does not care about that. The government is so concerned about looking like it has made progress on trade, which has question marks abound, that it will look the other way when it comes to the concerns with tax havens and disclosure.

I met with ambassadors from throughout Latin America. They are very concerned about the issue of narco-trafficking. One thing said was that we had to follow the money. We have to ensure we know where the money goes.

What is the message from this country? When it comes to the issue of narco-trafficking, we will look the other way if we can put something in the window for people to see we have made progress on “free trade”. It is not principled. It is not effective. I think most Canadians, if they knew what we are signing, would oppose it. That is why it is important to take the time to debate it in the House.

I join with the members from the Liberal Party, notwithstanding their challenge in having a position and then voting the other way, that the Conservative Party is silent on this. It will not talk about it. It has a “move on, there's nothing to see here” attitude. I am not sure if the Conservatives have actually read the agreement. A great poll would be to ask those members if they had read the agreement and know what is in it. It is important to highlight that.

If we are going to be signing on to these agreements, why the hurry? Why are we not hearing from all members of Parliament on this, beyond talking points from parliamentary secretaries?

If we look at the profound effect that some of these trade agreements have had, not just on Canada, but on those we trade with, it also raises an issue. I fundamentally believe, if we are to enter into trade agreements with other countries, it should be of mutual benefit. I do not see that in this case.

We should be looking at strategic kinds of agreements within sectors. We should be ensuring they are sustainable. We should be ensuring there is mutual benefit.

When it comes to the Panama-Canada free trade agreement, we do not see that. What we see is us undermining our credibility when it comes to dealing with financial disclosure, tax havens and real fairness. For that reason, we will be opposing it. I only wish the Liberal Party would find it in itself to do the same, but we will wait for it to decide on that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the member's comments. He always adds to the debate, unlike the Conservatives, but that is another day.

The member mentioned that at committee the Liberals voted against NDP's proposed amendments for the tax sharing agreements and possibly the double taxation.

I rushed out to try to get the minutes of the meetings to see what the amendments were. For the record, I am advised that the amendments were unsatisfactory in their form to establish the requirements necessary. If we look at the act, even with regard to the side agreements on labour and on environment, they are quite comprehensive in terms of their content.

The only reason someone would vote against something the NDP wanted is if the solution was inoperative. I offer that for the hon. member in that there is still this concern. None of those agreements have ever appeared in any of the free trade agreements, so we do not even have a model on how they would be incorporated into a bill.

However, I can assure the member that we do support the establishment of double taxation agreements as well as tax information sharing agreements to deal with tax evasion.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the point of view of the member. I know that when the amendments were brought to the committee, two parties voted against them. I will leave it to him to look over the minutes and talk to his colleagues about how that went down.

I am curious of the Liberal member's position of accepting tax havens and tax avoidance as long as it is declared. However, if the Liberal Party is so concerned about this issue of double taxation of tax havens, we need to understand the sequence.

When the OECD reports that it has concerns regarding a jurisdiction and we do not have this kind of agreement in place, it is odd for members to say that they will support the government's trade agreement, but they would also like to see an agreement on double taxation disclosure and tax havens be realized. The sequence is entirely wrong. A principled stand would be to say that because they are so concerned about this and until such time as it is dealt with, they will not support the government on it. Does the Liberal Party believe the government will actually get that job done? It will be moving on to the next trade agreement with whomever and forgetting about that.

The problem for the Liberal Party is that it has a position, but it has not followed up with a principled position on the vote. We can have a position, we can have many positions, but if we do not vote to back up that position then, it is just words, and that is unfortunate.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:25 a.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments regarding his opposition to the bill. I recognize he represents an urban riding. I have the privilege of representing a riding that is largely urban but has a large farm community as well.

Is the hon. member aware that this free trade agreement will immediately eliminate tariffs on 94% of agricultural exports from Canada and will provide exporters of beef, pork, frozen potato, malt, oilseeds, maple syrup and other products free access to the markets?

I know he may not have a direct concern for farmers, but surely he could find enough support in his party for the farm community, the producers of the great products for which Canada is known, and give them access to these markets. Our farmers desperately need this access.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I actually have a farm in my riding and we can go out and visit it.

It is important for the member to know that we understand the issues of farmers. Fundamentally, farmers have always wanted fair trade. However, when they see trade agreements such as this, which have other overlays to it, they would know these compromises fair trade. If we want to support our farmers, we need to get involved with these kinds of agreements to allow fair trade back and forth.

When a jurisdiction is on the OECD radar for issues related to its financial institutions and where the money goes, it can affect every sector. I think the member knows that. I do not think he is pitting of farmers against the rest, but I think farmers care about fair trade as much as any of us.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, we are here this morning to debate Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

The Bloc Québécois is not in favour of this bill for a number of reasons. First, this is a bilateral agreement, which the Bloc Québécois believes is ineffective. We believe that a multilateral agreement would be more effective in developing much fairer trade that respects the interests of all of the nations.

The Conservative government has decided to drop the multilateral approach to trade and is entering into many negotiations to sign bilateral agreements. There have not been any studies done by officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade or at Industry Canada to help us determine whether these bilateral agreements would be beneficial to our economy. Regardless of whether these agreements are good or not, they seem advantageous, so the Conservatives and the Liberals are jumping at them. They are jumping into other bilateral negotiations before conducting any studies.

If we do not know that we will come out a winner by signing a bilateral agreement, we should not move forward. For example, the Conservative government plans on signing a bilateral agreement with China. In 2005, Canada imported $32 billion worth of Chinese products, which generated a trade deficit in Canada of $26 billion, or $1,000 per capita. When trade with a country generates five times more imports than exports, the main priority should be to balance the terms of trade and not to make them even more liberal.

The Bloc Québécois will not support these bilateral agreements until we receive a guarantee or can be convinced that they will benefit the Quebec economy.

We are told that Panama is the most industrialized country in Central America and it has the highest economic indicators in the region. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Canadian exports to Panama consist mainly of finished products, such as machine tools, automobiles, electronic and electrical equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses and frozen potato products. Canada also exports financial, engineering and professional services, as well as information technology and communications services.

Canadian direct investments in Panama are made mainly in the banking, financial, construction and mining sectors. Every time the Conservative government comes forward with a bilateral free trade agreement, it always includes mining.

Our primary imports from Panama are metals—mostly gold—precious stones, fruit, exotic nuts, fish and seafood.

The free trade agreement between Canada and Panama will have an impact on our country. According to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, this deal includes eliminating Panamanian tariffs on many Canadian products.

This means that our businesses will be able to invest in Panama without any tariff restrictions. Thus, Panama will eliminate all tariffs on non-agricultural products.

The Canadian exports that should benefit the most from these concessions are fish and seafood products, construction materials and equipments, frozen potato products, pulses, beef and beef products, most pork products, malt, forest products, and flight simulation and training equipment. So far, so good.

Canada, for its part, will eliminate 99% of its tariffs on products from Panama, except certain sugar products and products under supply management, of course.

The federal government wants to ratify this agreement very quickly because, so it says, it wants to get ahead of the United States and the European Union, which have both signed similar agreements but have a much longer ratification process.

The problem for us is that Panama is a tax haven. I would remind the House about a certain prime minister a few years ago who had interests in Canada Steamship Lines and who managed to get some deals ratified with known tax havens, including a deal with Barbados, which he just slipped through right under our noses. Panama is also part of this group of countries that are known tax havens. It is even on the OECD's grey list.

The OECD uses four criteria to determine whether a country should be placed on its grey list of tax havens: no or only nominal taxation; lack of transparency; laws or administrative practices that prevent the exchange of information; and indications that the country is attempting to attract investments that are tax-driven and do not involve economic activity.

One of the things that stands out for me is the fact that there is no or only nominal taxation. I have nothing against our corporations doing business. However, I do have a problem with the fact that, because of a lack of transparency, corporations cannot say how much money they make there and do not repatriate the money. As for laws and administrative practices that prevent the exchange of information, it seems to me that I have seen this before. I am currently a member of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. We are coming to realize that the government is using the excuse that it must protect confidential information to withhold information about money, for example about the freeze on budget envelopes, or about what it is doing with the money. It is very annoying. It means that Canadians cannot find out what is being done with their taxes, and government officials cannot determine how much profit has been made in other countries. This issue of laws or administrative practices that prevent the effective exchange of information is tiresome.

Then there are the indications that the country attracts investments that are solely tax-driven and to not involve economic activity. We must remember that, in some countries, certain Canadian corporations have a dismal record when it comes to mining, among other activities. How will we ask questions to obtain information about what is happening? This is a problem for the Bloc Québécois.

Furthermore, the right-wing government has passed a repressive bill that, in theory, could criminalize workers. It has agreed to review the law but we are not sure that it will do so.

In short, the Bloc Québécois does not support this bill.

We do not know enough about it, and there are not enough guarantees and safeguards. It is a bilateral agreement that completely ignores human considerations and does not demonstrate the openness that should be the hallmark of such agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:40 a.m.
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Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

According to the Institut de la statistique du Québec, 30% of exports to Panama come from Quebec. As far as imports are concerned, Quebec's share is under $2 million.

We are all for trading with Panama and exporting to that country. Nonetheless, we do not want to be involved with these rogue states that use freer trade and making money as an excuse for violating environmental laws and workers' rights established by the International Labour Organization. These things are extremely important to Quebeckers. Even though Quebec does business with Panama, if such agreements are concluded, Quebeckers will not forget how important these two concepts are for Panamanians.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:40 a.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will make a statement first and then ask the hon. member from the Bloc to comment.

Under NAFTA, Canada has paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees and compensation to U.S. investors who felt aggrieved by Canadian decisions. Let us say that after the Canada-Panama trade deal is ratified, Panama continues to be problematic on the tax shelter front and Parliament puts in place legislation to give Panama a deadline to clean up its act or face sanctions. Canadians banks could be restricted from transferring their money to Panamanian affiliates, for example. Article 9.10 of the Canada-Panama trade act says:

Each Party shall permit transfers relating to a covered investment to be made freely and without delay, into and out of its territory.

Moreover, article 10.6 says that Canada will always allow Canadians to purchase financial services from banks operating in Panama.

Does the hon. member from the Bloc share my concerns in this regard?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is a pretty minor treaty. It is not a large bill by any means. The trade between Canada and Panama is fairly limited, some might even say “insignificant“. Certainly when compared with the daily trade between Canada and the U.S., it is not significant at all.

However, as a proposition, these treaties are important because they establish a legal framework, particularly with the reduction of tariffs and the freeing-up of trade. They are the beginning of the establishment of a legal framework for contractual relationships between countries and between corporations and persons. They are a small step in international law. However microscopic the steps might be, as a general proposition, it is a good idea to enter into these trade agreements. Members of the Bloc, my party and the NDP have rightly criticized the modesty of the agreement. That is what I wish to talk about while I have time in the House.

The side agreements with respect to labour and the environment are at least a step in the right direction. They are rather modest, hardly robust, but a step toward developing a legal framework between the two nations.

Last Wednesday I had the good fortune of listening to a lecture by Mr. Justice Ian Binnie at the University of Ottawa law school. His starting point was that if there is going to be an international economy, as there is, as nations trade more with each other and if they are to have economic relationships with each other, we must have and continue to develop our legal relationships with each other. In other words, at some point, somehow, somewhere, people who have grievances need to be able to redress them in some fashion or other, regardless of the merits. Frankly, I agree with Mr. Justice Ian Binnie, as I am sure you would, Mr. Speaker, that there is quite a gap between the development of economic relationships and the development of legal relationships.

A treaty is a modest step. As members may know, I was the sponsor of Bill C-300, which was a modest attempt to bring to Canadian corporations a degree of accountability with respect to their funding received from the government and the people of Canada.

It was ironic to me that the proponents of this Panama treaty were simultaneously very vigorously opposed to Bill C-300, when in fact all of this is the creation of a larger legal environment so that relations between people and corporations might be properly regulated. Had the government embraced Bill C-300 and, possibly, other forms of engendering corporate social responsibility, a treaty such as this might actually have been an easier pill to swallow for those who are opposed to treaties as a general proposition.

I want to quote Justice Binnie. He stated:

It is beyond question that companies have the ability to significantly influence human rights around the world for good or for ill. Sometimes influence implies obligation. In light of mounting evidence of “corporate complicity” in human rights abuses, there is, at the very least, an obligation upon the legal community—

—and I would add, upon the parliamentary community—

—to clarify the obligations of transnational companies as a matter of national and international civil and criminal law.

He then favourably cited John Ruggie and the work that he has been doing at the United Nations.

The big issue is access to justice. I do not profess to be an expert on Panamanian law, but as a general proposition I can say that the access to justice and the satisfaction one might receive from a court in a developing country is somewhat less than satisfactory.

It is quite clear that a lot of these courts are not robust, that corruption is rife, and that people seeking redress for very legitimate claims, be they regarding human rights abuses or forms of civil remedy, be they regarding environmental degradation or expropriation, do not receive satisfaction. From time to time it is Canadian corporations that are involved in these human rights abuses and there is no place for the individual to go.

If a Panamanian had a complaint with a Canadian company and wished to sue in a Canadian court, that individual would be precluded from doing so by the rule called forum non conveniens. It is a simple concept. Regardless of the merits of the individual's claim, regardless of how aggrieved the individual might be, regardless of the quantum of the individual's damages, that individual is cut off from access to Canadian courts by virtue of the fact that Canadian courts will say they are not the place in which the individual can sue for that particular grievance.

We do not have to reinvent the wheel. We could quite easily insert into a treaty such as this one the ability to modify in certain circumstances this rule of common law so that Panamanians in this particular instance would have access to Canadian courts so that they too could receive justice and redress from Canadian corporations.

I refer again to Mr. Justice Ian Binnie who said that a very practical level, domestic law reform is needed if domestic courts are to play a useful role in remedying international human rights abuses. He said:

For example, statutes of limitation are often unduly strict on their face or as interpreted and applied; statutory and common law obstacles to corporate veil-piercing exist and these may inappropriately shield parent companies from liability in respect of subsidiaries. There can be inordinate difficulty establishing...jurisdiction (especially where liberal use is made of the doctrine of forum non conveniens).

Justice Binnie said that in some cases there will be a good reason to limit or deny the possibility of civil recovery. However, as a general matter the state duty to protect means that a concerted effort be made to eliminate barriers to recovery that are unnecessary or arbitrary in their operation.

It is a pity that the government did not take this opportunity to open up a justice system on both sides which would allow Panamanians and Canadians access to a justice system which has some opportunity of receiving redress not only for states but for individuals and for corporations. The reason this is important is that not only does it affect the individual potential litigants, those who have been on the receiving end of human rights abuses, but it also affects us as Canadians and our reputation abroad.

I regret to say that our reputation in the last number of years has not been enhanced by the activities of some Canadian mining companies. I can literally take members on a world tour, from Mexico to Guatemala to Honduras to Peru to Venezuela to Colombia, over to various African countries, et cetera. In all of these instances people in those countries are alleged to have had some grievance with Canadian companies. There is no effective remedy for those grievances. For better or for worse, the Conservative government has cut those folks off from having access.

This could have been an opportunity to open up a legal system that is fair and just and one where there would be an opportunity for people to receive redress. Regrettably, the government chose not to do that and that is to our detriment and ultimately to the detriment of our national reputation which has been suffering around the world.

In conclusion, I see this as a minor treaty, but I also see it as an opportunity lost.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.
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Peterborough Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, it is disappointing when we talk about establishing bilateral trade agreements that are so important for a trading nation like Canada that we have to descend into a discussion that once again impugns the good name of Canadian mining companies, companies like SGS operating in Lakefield in my riding, which work with mines around the world.

The member continues to talk about Bill C-300 which specifically targeted jobs not in other countries, but jobs in this country. He impugns the good name of Canadian mining companies and would limit their ability to compete around the world. Mining is one of the most important sectors in this entire country.

It is terrible that we cannot talk about a bilateral agreement, something important to Canada, without having a member stand up and impugn the good name of Canadian mining companies. I am disappointed.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pity that even at this stage, after two years of debate on Bill C-300, the hon. member has not read or does not understand the implications of the bill.

Contrary to what he says, this actually would have been an opportunity for any company that he cited to have a full and fair grievance resolution process. However, he would rather take along with the mining companies their chances in the public media, and so our reputation continues to be degraded.

We continue to have to deal with this in a fashion that we bear the price. It has come to the point in some countries that it is not a good idea to identify oneself as Canadian. That has happened under the watch of this government and it is regrettable to the extreme.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.
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Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I find it grievous as well that the member continues to impugn the names of Canadian mining companies. If the member were honest with himself and accepted factual evidence, he would find that Canadian mining companies that operate abroad operate under a much higher standard of environmental concern than any other mining company from any other country in the world. I am almost embarrassed that he would continually impugn the name of our Canadian mining companies when we set worldwide such a tremendous example for other companies from other countries to follow.

He should be ashamed of himself. The member should reflect on the fact that his own leader did not stick around to vote on his bill. Perhaps he had misgivings about it himself.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 10:55 a.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am embarrassed by the member's level of ignorance about what is going on in the world. Does he want the world tour? Does he think it is a great idea that our own Governor General is embarrassed in Mexico with Mexicans saying, “Canada go home”? Does he think that it is a great idea that Canadian mining companies have difficulties in Guatemala and Honduras?

I agree with the general point that many Canadian mining companies try to operate at the highest level, but some do not. This was a very modest attempt to bring those that do not into some level of compliance with internationally recognized human rights standards.

It is incontrovertible that Canadian mining companies and large international corporations have a huge impact on human rights. The sooner the member and his party wake up to that reality, the sooner we will get on to developing a legal framework which will give fair redress to those aggrieved.

I feel bad for the hon. member. He has been in the chamber for many years, but he seems to continue to fail to get that point.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, while I am pleased to rise in the House to debate Bill C-46, I feel somewhat strange doing so. This past Tuesday, February 1, was groundhog day. In the United States, in Philadelphia, Phil came out of his hole and realized that he could not see his shadow. This apparently means we will have an early spring, which I am quite happy about.

Knowing that I would be debating this bill here today, it felt a little like groundhog day. We debated a very similar bill last fall, a bill that had to do with a free trade agreement between Colombia and Canada, which we did not agree with either, but which was passed in this House thanks to the Liberal and Conservative members.

When we explained why we did not agree with that bill, our reasons were very similar to our reasons for disagreeing with this bill. Of course, the current situation in Panama is a little different from what was going on in Colombia and is still going on there today. We did not agree with what was happening in Colombia last fall. The Conservatives and the Liberals voted in favour of the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia, and the situation in that country has not changed much.

Atrocities are still being committed against people who simply want to defend their labour rights. Workers there have no more rights than they did before and the mining companies do not respect their rights any more than they did. The government is just as corrupt as it was before and very little effort has been made to change anything. Yet in the fall, we were told that the deal would bring considerable change and that discussions were already under way in that regard.

The government is talking about a free trade agreement with the Republic of Panama. It is not that the Bloc Québécois does not believe in free trade. On the contrary, we believe in it and are in favour of it, but we think that we should focus on multilateral approaches instead, which are much more effective in developing fairer trade that respects the interests of all nations.

However, the Conservative government seems to focus more on bilateral agreements, which do not benefit all nations and, more specifically, do not benefit the people who live in the countries involved in the agreements. These bilateral agreements are not beneficial to Quebec or Canada.

In the summer of 2010, the right-wing government in Panama passed a law prohibiting unionized workers from defending their rights and making it a crime to demonstrate to defend their rights. Of course, they say that this law is currently being reviewed, that it will be repealed and completely reworked, but what guarantees do we have?

We were told that Colombian workers would no longer be killed and that they would be heard, but they were not. They can make all the promises they want, but until we have proof and guarantees that men and women will be treated with respect, the problem will persist. One of the problems in Panama right now is that women and children are not treated with respect. Because there are loopholes in the labour laws, children continue to work and women are not treated equally and do not have the respect they deserve.

Naturally, the Bloc Québécois is not in favour of this bill. It is opposed to any bill that would not guarantee that a country's people would have their rights respected. It is also opposed to any bill that would not guarantee, here in Canada, that our banking regulations would be respected.

Unfortunately, Panama does not respect tax regulations and there is tax evasion there. We do not have any assurances right now that this problem will be resolved. The government has not signed any agreements or treaties with Panama to ensure that these regulations would be respected that we would not have to worry in the future if the bill were passed.

I think there are already so many tax havens, and so many businesses, companies and people evading taxes, that our huge deficits keep growing. In my opinion, the people who earn the most money should pay their share, as all citizens must, including the entire middle class who pays the most tax in Quebec and Canada.

I am sure people in the middle class would like companies and individuals who evade taxes to be required to pay their fair share to the Canadian treasury. If they did, our programs could be improved and we would have better programs, not just for women and children, but also for seniors.

The government says that it currently cannot invest more money in programs for seniors and children because of our significant debt. If we went after the money in the countries where tax evasion has been occurring for a very long time now, I am sure we would manage to quickly eliminate our debt. If we just conclude free trade agreements with countries without worrying about resolving this problem, then people who are benefiting from tax evasion and agreements with these countries will continue to evade taxes and put their money wherever they can, without worrying about paying their fair share. That is wrong. Everyone should pay their fair share because everyone benefits from programs.

We are against this bill. It is important for members of the House to understand, yet again, that this type of bill should not be passed. I hope this time we will make sure it is not.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments about not supporting this bill. I am not sure of the makeup of her riding, but in my riding there are a number of agricultural producers who would benefit greatly from this bill.

This bill would eliminate 94% of the agricultural tariffs that are currently in place with respect to Panama. Products such as beef, pork, potatoes, pulses, malt, oilseeds, maple syrup and Christmas trees would qualify immediately for exempt status.

Does the member think that this bill would be a negative for farmers, or would it help farmers across Quebec gain access to markets that are so crucial, especially now when farmers are facing very difficult times?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Nicole Demers Bloc Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is true that farmers are facing challenges and that a more effective agricultural and product-naming policy is needed. When that happens, I am sure that they will be able to sell their products more easily. We also need to keep all the services to which farmers already have access and all existing mechanisms in place, so that their products remain the products that we have in Quebec. I know that they will be happy about this.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I understand the Conservative Party recognizes the scourge of drugs in nations around the world. Quite clearly, Panama accounts for about 85% of the transactions in illegal income and about 55% of those cases are directly related to money laundering from the drug industry.

What does my colleague think about this situation where the Conservative government, with its high-sounding talk about putting Canadians in jail for every little drug crime, is now jumping into bed with a country that has the worst record in the world for laundering drug money?

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February 4th, 2011 / 12:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Brian Murphy Liberal Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to join in the debate on Bill C-46. The bill has been debated in the House for quite some time and quite a few members have spoken to it. There seems to be a theme developing.

I would like to say that having a lengthy debate on a trade agreement like this is largely symbolic. The reason we are having such a debate on a trade issue in this House is that Canada is undergoing a change as an international trading entity. Canada is experiencing its first trade deficit in 30 years. Those who do not understand or study history are doomed to repeat it. There were years well after Confederation when, at various times, various governments attempted to isolate Canada from its natural trading partners and potential trading partners. We saw a period of Conservative isolationism under Prime Minister Diefenbaker, and it was not good for Canada.

What we are seeing here is a government that may talk about free open trade, may talk about improving Canada's international trade situation, may talk about Canada's international reputation as being the foot in the door toward trade negotiations, but that talk has not been followed through with achievement. Let us look at some recent facts.

Canada being denied its seat at the United Nations Security Council was a direct result of a lack of campaigning by the Conservative government for that seat. What campaign there was came all too late and was all too little. I would have thought that, of all people, those Conservatives would know something about campaigning. We will give them some credit. They use government money to campaign domestically. However, when they should have campaigned for the seat on the United Nations Security Council, they did not. We lost that international prestige. Being a member of the Security Council might have opened some doors toward further trade negotiations. It diminished Canada's role and reputation internationally.

Let us look at the second item that has blurred the otherwise glossy image of Canada on the international stage. That is the whole imbroglio around the UAE, losing the back entry, theatre entry, for our forces in Afghanistan over a petty, negligent negotiation over domestic air rights. What a shame to have this squabble on the international scene, which further diminishes Canada's image internationally.

We can start with how the Prime Minister has made statements and has spoken to Americans about how he views Canada. I particularly remember, and will never forget, his comments made about Canada to an American assembly of right-wing conservatives in Canada. He made these comments and they shall never leave my brain as long as I am able to remember them. There is a whole posse of statements.

One of them is, “In Atlantic Canada, they have a culture of defeat”. I am from Atlantic Canada. I found that offensive.

He also talked about bilingualism, one of the founding principles of our nation. The Québécois and the people who speak French in communities outside Quebec have a birthright to speak French and understand their government's services in the French language. It is something which, as a proud Acadian by marriage, I believe in very firmly. It is an entrenched principle in law in Canada, by statute in New Brunswick. I might add that in Canada's first officially bilingual city, the city of Moncton, it is not just law, it is a way of life.

However, the Prime Minister once said, “bilingualism is the god that failed”. That is what the Prime Minister said.

This bill is not about bilingualism. It is about how he perceives our country and how he sells our country to other nations. It is not a real selling pitch to say, “I live there, but in Atlantic Canada they have a culture of defeat. And our official languages policy, well, that is the god that failed”.

Also, he is the person who said that we are a failed northern European welfare state, or something along those lines.

I do not want to get used to quoting the Prime Minister verbatim because there are so many faux pas that diminish our role and reputation as an international leader.

We are facing a trade deficit, the first in 30 years. The Conservative government has diminished our image internationally, yet it wants a deal with Panama so it can say that it is great champion of international trade, that Canada's image will be completely resurrected like Lazarus because it has a deal with Panama.

There are many problems with the state in Panama. There is no question that the NDP would go on ad infinitum about all the problems with Panama. We agree, from a corporate social responsibility point of view, that there are definitely domestic problems in Panama.

There is another sovereign principle though, and that is that we cannot get involved in the affairs of foreign nations directly. What we can do is, by moral suasion, bring countries into the fold by virtue of trading partnerships and show them a better way to treat their people, to achieve internationally accepted standards of corporate social responsibility, social justice at home, et cetera. For this reason this deal is should be supported.

On this side, we see it as a symptom of how little the Conservative government has on the shelf to show for five years of governing and directing Canada through the waters of international trade, international diplomacy and our stature generally.

By definition, we are a trading nation. Our internal market is only 33 million consumers. We also happen to have massive reserves in natural resources. We need to export and import. We need trading partners. We need to cultivate positive relationships with our trading partners. How did we come to lose our trading surplus? Why did the government do this to us when we have a rising dollar and oil reserves that are the envy of most countries in the world?

The Conservative government should have been contemplating the development of new trading partnerships years ago. We knew it was risky to rely so much on our number one trading partner, the United States. The government has been lax in exploring new markets. Whenever we denigrate other countries, it does not help.

If the U.S. economy experience is something similar to Japan's lost decade, and let us hope that is not the case, we stand to keep our negative trade balance for at least a decade if we do not diversify our trading partners.

The government needs to do more to protect us from American protectionism. It is an automatic reaction in down times for some American politicians to close the tent and say that they have to protect their people. I am not debating whether they are mean-spirited or not. In the famous words of an Irish-American politician, Tip O'Neill, all politics is local. That is how protectionist measures evolved in the United States. When we have someone as eminent as Joe Lieberman and other sainted and long serving members of the House and Senate, from both parties, saying that they need to watch and tighten the borders, the economy and get America on its feet first, I believe this is not an intended but inadvertent danger posed by Americans toward our economy.

The government needs to do more to develop new trading partnerships in Europe and in the BRIC countries, Brazil, Russia, India and China. Let us talk about China for a second.

The government is very slow to move to the realization that China is a behemoth. It is the power of the future. We must make our concerns known about human rights. We all believe in human rights enforcement and upholding human rights internationally. However, we must talk to them. There is no way we can change the heart or the mind of a nation or a people without talking to them. The government did not do that for years.

As I mentioned briefly, we have concerns with the issues of tax havens and labour rights. However, let us look at the conclusion of this.

The famed Panama Canal underwent a $5.7 billion expansion recently. It opens up new opportunities in Central America and Canada and we need to be part of this progress. There is too little that prevents us from entering this agreement. There is so much to win. We are talking about a $90 million economy in Panama. It is not the biggest deal that could be brought to the table, but we support it. We just wish the government would take better care and be a better steward of our international reputation in diplomacy, in trading and in stature.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:35 p.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken to Bill C-46 before, but it is an important issue that deserves full consideration.

Many of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have mentioned the many problems in the trade agreement with Panama, none more so than our member for Burnaby—New Westminster who has worked tirelessly on this file. He has single-handedly orchestrated the only truly effective opposition to this very flawed trade deal.

However, I was very disappointed to hear about what has been happening in committee consideration of Bill C-46, with the Liberals siding time and time again with the Conservatives to defeat the amendments put forward by the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster. His amendments were excellent and they would have been helpful.

Amendments that would have improved the legislation include one that promotes sustainable development. That was defeated when the Liberals joined with the Conservatives. One to promote sustainable investment was also defeated by the Liberals in committee in the same way. One to require taxation transparency was defeated by the Liberals. One to ensure the protection of labour rights, including the right to collective bargaining, was defeated by the Liberals. The key motion, to hold off on this deal until Panama agreed to sign a tax information exchange agreement, again was defeated by the Liberals.

Often, it is getting really hard to tell the difference between the Liberals and the Conservatives. The way the so-called official opposition has rolled over on opposing this problematic trade deal, and other deals, has only blurred the line between these two parties so people wonder if there really is a difference at all anymore.

One of the many problems with this trade deal is the lack of measures to ensure proper conservation, particularly regarding biodiversity. I know this all too well, being a biologist myself. We know that the Isthmus of Panama has a rich ecosystem with over 10,000 species of plants. Of these, 1,250 are known to exist only in Panamanian rainforests. There is nothing on climate change or greenhouse gas pollution in either this trade agreement or in the environmental side agreement. These words do not even appear in the agreement.

Both countries signed the Kyoto accord, but as we can tell from the actions of the Conservative government and the Liberal government before it, merely signing an international agreement does not mean Canadians will respect our obligations in these agreements.

Panama's environment has a wealth of biodiversity and its diverse and rich ecosystems are now threatened by many development projects under way without regard for the possible effects on the environment. This agreement does not deal with that at all, or with any of the key environmental issues in Panama today, such as water pollution from agricultural run-off, threats to fishery resources, endangerment of wildlife habitats and therefore to wildlife as well, deforestation, land degradation, wetland destruction and soil erosion. Of particular concern are the endangerment of wildlife habitat and the depletion of fisheries as a result of projects such as the construction of commercial shrimp ponds and recreational facilities in the coastlines.

This headlong development is contributing to a level of deforestation of the Panamanian tropical rainforest and wetland destination that was only matched previously when the Panama Canal was originally bulldozed through the jungle. Together, these are contributing to major soil erosion problems in the unique geography of this isthmus country.

We cannot have a complete consideration of this trade deal with Panama without mentioning serious omissions regarding labour rights. Panama has had a poor record in respecting the rights of workers. In fact, just last year many people were killed there when workers protested draconian changes to labour laws by the Panamanian government.

The changes were typical Conservative, union-busting techniques to let companies fire and replace striking workers with impunity, to criminalize the right to demonstrate, to give police immunity from prosecution afterward and to ban the collection of dues. When they objected to all this, hundreds of labour leaders were rounded up and thrown in jail.

With a regime like this in Panama, we would think that basic labour rights would be a consideration in any trade deal, but things like the protecting of basic right to organize are not in this deal at all.

During second reading debate, some members talked about the serious problems with Panama being a tax haven. I mentioned that the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD, blacklisted Panama as an uncooperative tax haven in 2008. It was one of only 11 countries with no sharing of tax information.

I would like to examine the serious implications of the tax issues with this trade deal in Panama more today. The government of Panama has refused to sign a tax information exchange agreement. Why? It is because it has pursued a deliberate course away from information sharing and toward becoming a deliberate, planned tax haven. It has succeeded. There are an estimated 400,000 corporations, including offshore corporations, in this tiny country, more than quadruple the number registered in Canada.

Billions of dollars in money laundering is performed in Panama each year, including money from drug trafficking from places like Mexico and Colombia. Now it is one of the world's worst tax havens on top of that.

One of the reasons the U.S. Congress has held off on a risky trade deal with Panama is because of tax shelter issues and concerns over money laundering. For example, a 2009 report by the United States state department red flagged Panama for these issues things like: laundering drug money and being an illegal tax haven; adopting the U.S. dollar; lots of offshore banks and shell companies; the world's second largest free trade zone; and its location between Colombia and Mexico. The U.S. state department also noted that Panamanian banks were already favoured by global criminal organizations for money laundering.

It is no wonder criminal organizations like Panama. The financial system is famous for its secrecy. The government there does not even have the legal authority to learn crucial information about offshore corporations set up there, even who owns them.

The International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, again by the U.S. state department, said:

The funds generated from illegal activity are susceptible to being laundered through a wide variety of methods, including the Panamanian banking system, Panamanian casinos, bulk cash shipments, pre-paid telephone cards, debit cards, insurance companies, real estate projects and agents, and merchandise. Panama’s vulnerability to money laundering is exacerbated by the government’s lack of adequate enforcement, personnel, and resources devoted to anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism... as well as the sheer volume of economic transactions, a significant portion of which is in cash.

We are talking about U.S. cash.

Lawmakers in the U.S. want Panama to take steps to increase transparency to share tax information for a U.S.-Panama trade.

Alarm bells should be going off. We are signing a comprehensive trade deal, one that ties the hands of anyone wanting to combat tax evasion and money laundering.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to repeat a question I asked one of the member's colleagues earlier today, and that had to do with the support that the bill would give to Canadian agricultural producers.

When we think that 94% of the agricultural exports from Canada would be exempt under the bill, I cannot believe the member's party would be opposed to this kind of access to markets for our farmers.

Could he explain why his party opposes a plan that would support Canadian agriculture?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it clearly will not be a big deal for Canadian agriculture for exports to this very tiny country.

I have two questions in response to the hon. member's question.

First, why, if the Conservatives cared about agriculture in Canada, did they try to kill the Grain Commission, the inspection of Canadian grain and eliminate the grain inspector jobs across Canada, including Thunder Bay?

An even bigger question is for all the Conservatives. In this day when good, fair trade deals with prosperous, forward-thinking and visionary countries might be a good idea, why are the Conservatives making deals with the losers, instead of the winners?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments on the peculiar choice for a bilateral trade agreement with that particular country given that it is one of the world's worst and most well-known tax havens where tax fugitives go to stash their money so it is free from the reach of the tax man.

I was shocked to learn that over 400,000 corporations are registered in tiny Panama, which is actually four times the total number of corporations in all of Canada.

Would the member care to comment on the idea of tax fugitives using what they call tax-motivated expatriation to avoid the reach of the Canadian tax authorities and so that they do not need to pay their fair share? Why is the government encouraging any involvement with a country that has that kind of a reputation and record?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is very clear that the Conservative government is tying its aspirations and its image to the coattails of the United States. The United States has been seeking multilateral free trade deals around the world for a long time and has failed to achieve them, including at the latest round in Doha.

It is quite clear that, having failed in multilateralism, the United States and now Canada are pursuing, one by one, these bilateral trade deals with anybody who will make them, including some of the less honourable countries in the world.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I was a little bit concerned. We are all familiar with the battle that the NDP has with free trade agreements and its opposition to virtually all of them. We have seen that in the past here in the House.

I was struck by my colleague's comments as I came into the House. He talked about the fact that we are only picking losers for the deals in these free trade agreements. We are working on free trade agreements with dozens of countries, including countries like India and Morocco. I do not know if the member is familiar with the announcement last week that we are initiating a free trade agreement with Morocco and of its importance for western Canadian durum and wheat producers.

Does the member consider India and Morocco as loser countries as well?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have little doubt that the Conservatives and I would have different definitions of the kinds of countries with which we should be signing free trade deals.

In response I will just say that we should be signing free trade agreements and fair trade agreements with countries that have basic human rights, basic democracy, sustainable economies, sustainable fiscal policies, sustainable banking situations, sustainable ecosystems and that are fair and honourable to labour.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Liberal Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

I am pleased to participate in a debate that, unusual for this House in recent times, we had hoped would be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric. It is not so, but we had hoped. I support the passage of the bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government side of the House support it.

Unfortunately, before we discuss the meat and potatoes of Bill C-46, we need to deal with the amendments put forward by the NDP. I appreciate that the NDP does not support the bill. I can also appreciate that it put forward amendments following the rules and practices of the House. However, this is simply a last ditch attempt to halt a bill that would allow for better economic relations with Panama.

Let us look at what the NDP is asking for and why this 11th hour effort is just another example of that party's inability to accept that free trade is not a bad thing.

The NDP began by proposing that clause 7 be deleted but that is the clause that sets out the purpose of the bill. If the description of the purpose of the bill is taken out, that poses a bit of a problem. It would be similar to a car with no driver. Maybe those members are trying for a revival of the TV show Knight Rider but most of us like to have a driver behind the wheel. They are also asking that clause 10 be deleted. That clause contains institutional and administrative provisions and, without those kinds of clauses, there would be no bill.

I know members of the NDP want to ensure that the bill does not pass, so it is not a major surprise to see such amendments, but this total disdain for the possible benefits of free trade is very disappointing. Why these stall tactics without some truly constructive amendments?

They are also asking that clause 12 be deleted. This clause deals with panels, working groups and other people involved in administering the bill, particularly in terms of labour and the environment. It seems to me that these matters are important to NDP members, so I question their objective in opposing clause 12.

In addition, they are asking that clause 63 be deleted, the coming into force provision.

Without those clauses there would be no bill. Are my NDP colleagues playing political games here in the House rather than having an informative and intelligent debate? Many of these issues have already been discussed in committee.

I can safely say that I will not support the amendments, but I will take a bit more time to talk about the bill as currently drafted.

In spite of the global economic decline, Panama's gross domestic product increased by 10.7% in 2008, which is one of the highest rates in the Americas. It is expected to increase by 5.6% in 2010. In 2009, bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $132.1 million; Canada's exports were worth $91.4 million and imports from Panama totalled $40.7 million.

Canada's main exports to Panama include machinery, electronic equipment for vehicles, pharmaceutical equipment, leguminous seeds, and frozen potato products. Services related to export that Canada offers include financial services, engineering services, and communications information and technology services. Goods that Canada imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, primarily gold; fruit and nuts; and fish and seafood products.

The Panama Canal is essential to international trade. Its expansion should be finished by 2014. This $5.3 billion project could create opportunities for Canadian companies to provide services in the areas of construction, environment, engineering and consultation on capital investment projects, as well as in many other areas.

Some of the issues covered under the trade agreement include market access for goods, cross-border trade services, telecommunications, investment, financial services and government procurement.

Panama maintains an average most favoured nation applied tariff on agricultural products of 13.6%, with tariffs reaching peaks as high as 260% on some products. The free trade agreement will eliminate those tariffs on 90% of products immediately, and on the other 10% little by little over the next five to 15 years. This should enhance the competitive position of Canadian agricultural exports such as frozen potato products, pulses, pork—which is currently taxed at a rate of 47%—malt, processed foods and beef.

Panama maintains an average most favoured nation applied tariff on non-agricultural goods of 6.2%, with peaks of up to 81% applied on several key Canadian exports. The free trade agreement will completely eliminate those tariffs, which will certainly help Canadian exporters of fish and seafood, construction materials and equipment, industrial and electrical machinery, paper products, and vehicles and parts.

Canada would immediately eliminate over 99% of the tariffs imposed on current imports from Panama.

The free trade agreement will also address non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods and the promotion of good regulatory practices, transparency and international standards.

We live in a global economy and our survival as a nation depends on our ability to work with other nations around the world. We have seen the disadvantages we incur when we are slow to interact with growing economies.

The fact is that Canada today has a trade deficit. For the first time in 30 years, we are actually buying more than we are selling internationally. That is ominous for a small, open economy like Canada that has depended disproportionately on external trade for our standard of living and our wealth as a country.

If we look at where the world is headed and where the growth will be over the next five to ten years, we see that it will be in China, India and in the Asian economies. We also see a lot of opportunities in Africa, despite the governance concerns in certain countries. We see a lot of progress in Africa and we see a tremendous amount of growth and opportunity.

Then we look at the Latin American countries and, increasingly, it is becoming clear that being dependent on the traditional economies of the U.S. and Europe is not where we want to be. We need to think outside the box. We need to look for new partners and facilitate trade. We need to provide tools both at home and abroad that will make Canada a country that others want to invest in and trade with. If there are problems between the two, we will work it out. Simply saying “no deal” because no country is perfect is a pretty obvious sign of a very narrow-minded party.

Yes, I agree that Panama represents a small trading partner compared to the government's missed opportunities with China and India, but it is still a real and obvious partner. I strongly believe that there is strength in numbers and, even if the government has failed to truly engage our largest trading partners, we must never forget about the smaller ones. They provide unique opportunities and highlight Canada's place on the world stage as a country open to all.

In closing, I must remind the House that the 21st century is here and we cannot close our doors to the world. We need to be looking at partnerships with any and all governments while promoting our values and strengths abroad.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 12:55 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to enter into the debate on Bill C-46. If we are to use trade as an instrument to elevate the human condition and not just to exchange goods and services, then we must consider the fact that trade with Canada should be viewed as a privilege and not as any kind of right. In fact, we should be choosing trading partners who earn the privilege of trading with a great nation like Canada.

If it is our intention, even as a secondary goal, to help elevate the standard of wages and living conditions of the people with whom we are trading, if we are indeed to be global partners in the globalization of capital, then we must also consider that with the globalization of capital must also come the globalization of human rights, labour rights and environmental standards. We should use our capacity as a trading nation to achieve those secondary goals.

I would go further and argue that we should not enter into any country that will not stipulate to those lofty standards that seek to elevate the human condition. We owe it to our global partners and we owe it to the global efforts to eradicate poverty and create a planet that is sustainable for the future.

I note, not by any kind of coincidence, that the driving force behind this trade agreement is the mining industry. It is the greatest lobbyist that came forward to try to justify and defend a bilateral free trade agreement with a country like Panama that does not meet any of the standards I just pointed out. Panama does not meet any of the tests of a country that has taken active steps to recognize and protect human rights. Also, it is a country that has actively taken steps to undermine the health and well-being of the global economy by proactively creating itself to be one of the largest tax havens in the world.

We have to ask ourselves as parliamentarians why we would want to participate in a trade agreement with a country whose actions and actual practice we abhor, or claim to abhor. The members in this chamber often raise the fact that we criticize and chastise those tax fugitives who would avoid paying their fair share of taxes by harbouring their activities and funnelling their profits in dummy shell companies around the world even though the corporate taxes in this country are going down to 15%, one of the lowest in the developed world. It is estimated that we lose $7 billion a year in lost tax revenue by allowing situations to exist where countries can move their taxable profits and income into these dummy companies.

Are we not acquiescing to, or even encouraging this international behaviour by recognizing these countries with a free trade agreement? Canada, I am proud to say, does not tolerate this kind of thing lightly. It seems a contradiction to me.

In recent years we have had this debate over and over again. Even though the parliamentary secretary said we are engaged in negotiations of free trade agreements with countries such as India and Morocco, those are not the ones that come forward in the list of priorities for the government or before this chamber. We end up debating free trade agreements with Colombia and narco-states overrun by criminals, gangsters and people who murder trade unionists in the streets. Panama is not much better. It is a sanctuary and refuge for some of the worst actors in the world.

What business do we have welcoming them into our family of trade when we try to pretend that we operate at a higher standard of behaviour? Why should we stoop to that level of behaviour? Why would we be sullied? Why would we let them darken our towels until they clean up their own act?

If we are to elevate the human condition of our trading partners, it should be a prerequisite that they come up to our standards, not that we lower our standards to theirs. With globalization comes the risk of harmonizing to the lowest common denominator, not the highest common denominator. We must be ever vigilant, as parliamentarians, to ensure that the latter does not happen.

It is difficult to put the brakes on something that sounds as innocuous as free trade. I think the words were chosen very carefully. But, our negotiating history in free trade agreements has been poor. They are not fair trade agreements. The NDP is always being accused of not being in favour of free trade. Nothing could be further from the truth. If it truly were free trade, if it truly were fair trade, it would have our enthusiastic support and endorsement, but we never see that.

We always send Department of Justice lawyers and globe-trotting representatives to negotiate these free trade agreements. I do not know who gives them their mandate, but they keep coming back with pretty bad packages. Our history has been appalling in negotiating to ensure that the best interests of Canadians are paramount before these trade agreements are signed. It seems we will sign anything with anyone. We are too easy. Our bargaining stance is on our knees. We beg them to leave us with a bit of dignity when they are finished with us. That has been our experience. We wind up with deals that cost us a fortune, that do not protect and defend our standards on an issue such as supply management regime, for instance. All these things are at risk when we enter into these deals and arrangements.

I notice in this deal, again, we have made a classic mistake regarding most favoured nation treatment and national treatment. Again, foreign investment from the partner country should receive the same treatment as domestic investment or investment from any third country. The same language keeps popping up in all these trade agreements. Even after the NDP reminds the government of the day not to do that, it keeps doing it again. It does not listen to us. Sometimes I am concerned that Conservatives are not listening at all.

It boggles the mind, really. I lived through the great free trade agreement debates in 1988. I watched as we allowed section 11 in NAFTA. We leave ourselves vulnerable time and time again with our eagerness to appease and please our trading partners. We seem willing to sacrifice the best interests of Canadians.

It is like Margaret Atwood said about the Canadian beaver. It seems as soon as there is any stress at all, we get backed into a corner and we bite off our own testicles. I agree with Margaret Atwood. It is not an image that we like to dwell on, but we do not show the kind of strength in our bargaining position that we should when we are at international bargaining tables.

Now we are faced with yet another free trade agreement to debate. We debated ones on Peru and Colombia. Now we have Panama. Where are these big trade agreements with the big actors that the Conservative government says it is negotiating? I would argue it is at the negotiating table, but probably kneeling at the negotiating table, begging to please, please sign a deal with us. It will give away whatever other countries want, never mind the best interests of Canadians, never mind the best interests of the people who sent us here. The government will sign anything with anyone anytime, if it can get it through the House of Commons.

It is a good thing this is a minority Parliament. We are going to keep fighting this bill as long as we can.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Dennis Bevington NDP Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, I am having trouble with the deal that is being struck with Panama. It is different from the deal with Colombia. Human rights are very important to my party. We can understand perhaps why the Conservatives were not so big on labour unions, but with regard to this one, I have had to listen to their pious pronouncements on being tough on crime and getting rid of the drugs in the schools and on the streets and so on. This is a situation where we are legitimizing the world's largest launderer of drug money.

What is in the minds of the Conservatives? How can they go to sleep at night when they are so hypocritical? Why do they not wake up to what they are doing and recognize what the problem is with Panama and why an agreement should not be signed?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:05 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, in the province of Manitoba we have learned that if we want to get tough on crime, the profits of crime must be choked off. If we take the ill-gotten gains away from a criminal there is a fighting chance that we will stop the practice because we want to make the point that crime does not pay. That is why we put in place the proceeds of crime bill, where we could seize the assets and ill-gotten gains of a criminal more easily.

We can do the same internationally by choking off sanctuaries such as Panama that are used by international drug dealers to launder and warehouse their money. However, we do not do that by legitimizing the country and its practices.

There are 400,000 corporations registered in Panama. That is four times all the corporations in Canada. None of them produce a single thing because they are just shell companies that are being used to house and launder money, and to avoid taxes. Tax fugitives and drug dealers make up the entire chamber of commerce in Panama. Why would we sign a trade agreement with it?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, on a number of occasions I have seen a film narrated by Mary Walsh called Poor No More, which touches on the whole issue of poverty. One of the reasons for poverty, of course, is the tremendous influence the Council of Chief Executives has on government policy. This organization is made up of 150 of the biggest corporations in Canada and some of its members use tax havens so they do not have to pay so much money to the government. As a result, the government has less revenue to do the things it should be doing.

I was wondering if the hon. member could comment on this aspect of the trade deal.

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February 4th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, chartered accountants call it “tax motivated expatriation”. We call it “sleazy, tax cheating loopholes” and it is appalling.

I read a five-part series by Diane Francis in the National Post, not exactly a right-wing rag, that denounced and decried the federal government for allowing tax loopholes to exist where wealthy Canadian families and wealthy Canadian CEOs of corporations can be tax fugitives and avoid the arm of the Canada Revenue Agency. They do not have to pay their fair share which means we have to pay more. Even a right-wing journalist like Diane Francis says it should not be allowed.

The Conservatives not only turn a blind eye to it, but they ratify, endorse and legitimize it by entering into a trade agreement with a country that makes its living by sheltering drug money and offering tax havens for tax fugitives like members of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives headed by John Manley, the rich guys.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add my own reflections with respect to Bill C-46, the bill to engage in free trade with the Republic of Panama.

For just a moment I would like to reflect anecdotally on my insights on the role I think Canada should be playing in a hemispheric sense.

The globalization of capital reminds us that we live in a very competitive economic environment where the barriers to the flow of capital and investment should be reduced. The economic and fiscal corollary is that is necessary for us to reduce barriers to investment in our own economy. Traditionally, we have had high tax barriers as part of our national policy. Those particular approaches cannot be part of the character of a modern economy.

As a young person, I had the opportunity to work in the Caribbean and to travel extensively throughout Latin America. As a result of that experience back in the mid-1960s, it was my perception that because Canada was not a colonial power and not a country with a reputation for exploiting economies and people, as had been characteristic of history, we had a natural affinity and responsibility, in fact an opportunity, to develop hemispheric relationships, particularly with the Caribbean, Latin America and South America, whereas European countries had a natural affinity, a responsibility and accountability for development in Africa and Asia.

I do believe that the free trade agreement and the movement to free trade had their roots in those perceptions, those senses of what Canada's role could be in developing the kind of relationships that were more in keeping with the 20th century, the 21st century and, in fact, the future.

I will give the government credit for its outreach to the Caribbean countries, the conferences that have been held with CARICOM, the development of relationships that are non-exploitive in an historic sense, which are opportunities for the Caribbean, and now for Latin American and South American countries, to start to deal with the very issues that are residuals of the isolationism that we have had in a hemispheric sense.

Thus, while I acknowledge the points that have been made with respect to labour and human rights legislation, I also acknowledge the irrelevancy, the acrimonious base, in fact, that is established through tax haven approaches, which have been very competently described. These are the residuals of tax regimes and outlooks and viewpoints that have created the kinds of problems that have existed in social, humanitarian and criminal terms.

If anyone is to argue that we can go forward by looking backwards, that we can go forward in dealing with these humanitarian, labour and fundamentally criminal issues related to taxation, which are in fact anachronisms in today's global community, then the place where we should begin to deal with those is in our own backyard, in our own hemispheric relationships, where we have patterns of immigration, investment and reciprocity that are stronger in human terms, in fiscal and economic terms, and in terms of our own self-interest.

If we argue that what goes on in Mexico with respect to the criminal activity around drugs is only happening in Mexico, if we argue that the issues with respect to Caribbean countries and their being used as turnstiles to subvert Canadian youth in our cities, and if we argue that those are going to be addressed by isolating those particular countries, we are in fact going in a very wrong direction.

Using that as an introduction to the premises that I hope the House will use in establishing a framework for evaluating our economic outreach, I would indeed hope that, per Maslow's hierarchy of needs, self-interest and self-preservation are at the top.

What we are doing is that we are dealing with countries in a hemispheric sense, where we have historic and huge issues that are either going to be a foundation for progress or are going to continue to drag us back, and we and our children and our children's children will suffer for that.

I look at free trade agreement with Colombia, the outreach to the Caribbean, and I look at Panama now and hope that the House was sensitive to the characterization of “losers”. I have great respect for the member and I know that in the heat of the moment, that was the characterization. I know that is out of character for that member.

Here we have a country that was subject to the criminal activity of a man who is now incarcerated but was the president of Panama and who exploited that country and who characterized all that is bad, and now we have a new, free and democratic government that has thrown off the shackles of control of the United States and the Panama Canal and has now inherited its rightful heritage. We have a country that characterizes in every way the hope and aspirations of its young people.

We hope that those aspirations do not find themselves expressed on the streets in rioting in Panama City, as they are in Egypt, Tunisia and other states, where young people look down at the United Arab Emirates, at Abu Dhabi, and at the tremendous development in technology and the luxury cars and so on, and they ask what is happening to them with the unemployment in Egypt and Cairo?

The young people are saying there has to be a change. That change in Panama has been remarkable over the last few decades. That is not to say there are not problems in Panama, but they are representative of the kinds of issues we all have to deal with.

Again, reflecting on that, here I see a treaty that I am going to call a fair trade treaty because it takes the remarkable growth in Panama and reduces the high tariffs reciprocally, as other speakers have talked about.

In terms of the labour and human rights issues, while it would be better that they were entrenched in the agreement, which we would all support, this is a starting point. This is neither the beginning of the end nor the end of the beginning. It is a threshold that we can cross with the people of Panama, as we should with many other countries hemispherically, with whom we share a huge future relationship.

The time to start that is now.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my colleague might comment that in fact ratifying the Canada-Panama free trade agreement is a good thing because Canada is a trade-dependent nation and it will lead to growth. In fact, if we get ahead of the United States, it leads to a comparative advantage and will create jobs for Canadians.

I want him to comment on the NDP's concern that Panama is a tax haven. In fact, we have agreements with many tax havens. We trade with many tax havens. I wonder if the NDP thinks we should eliminate those agreements with countries like the Cayman Islands, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, et cetera.

It is criminals who launder money. It is criminals who do not check whether a free trade agreement is in place before they conduct criminal activity.

I wonder if the member thinks this is just a red herring and, in fact, ratifying this treaty is not actually good for our economy.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I do not think it is a red herring.

There are the sidebar agreements. The issue with respect to criminal activity is one that is of huge concern. It is equally concerning that our colleagues in the New Democratic Party have, from time to time, concentrated on the whole issue of human rights, labour relations, the right of free association, and so on and so forth. The sidebar agreements are not stand-alone silo agreements. They must come under the principles of the international federation of labour and the International Labour Organization.

I am confident that the professionalism, capacity and expertise of those organizations and the opportunity to use them in the manner in which labour organizations and activists have indicated is a good match. We should help them in that respect because it will reinforce the principles of the free trade agreement as they relate to on-the-ground implications and the impact on the citizens of Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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Cypress Hills—Grasslands Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the member opposite what his thinking is about Canada's responsibility to other nations around the world. We have been blessed in many ways in this country with the history of our institutions and the strength of those institutions that many other countries do not experience.

I am wondering how he sees the principles of freedom, democracy and the strength of our institutions tying into our responsibility around the world. I would ask him to tie them to our trade agreements and the kinds of agreements that we have made around the world with various nations.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

It is a good question, Mr. Speaker, and it gives me an opportunity to applaud the outreach of some of our former parliamentary colleagues.

We all know about corruption and the implications of corruption in other countries from a perspective of what we can do with respect to sharing what the member has described as our growth in democratic and humanitarian terms. We have colleagues who as part of an organization travel throughout the world and talk to activist groups, non-governmental organizations, government and parliamentary associations in other countries, sometimes at great risk to themselves. They attempt to graft onto those political situations the kind of institutions and institutional experience we have had over the growth of our parliamentary traditions. I laud those members. They come from all sides of the House.

That is a role Canada can play not only in a governmental sense but in a non-governmental sense. We can have a pervasive impact on developing respect for fundamental human rights and mirroring that in democratic institutions. Those efforts will make that kind of outreach more than cosmetic. They will be deep instruments of progress and a better legacy for Canada internationally.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

Alex Atamanenko NDP British Columbia Southern Interior, BC

Mr. Speaker, I believe we should carefully and constructively study what the Canada-Panama free trade agreement says.

I believe we should discuss the questions already raised about human rights and tax havens. They should not be set aside. For example, we know that last July there was a new wave of union repression in Panama that resulted in the death of several workers, more than 100 injured workers and more than 300 arrests, including the arrests of the leaders of two unions, SUNTRACS and CONATO. That was the brutal response of the Panamanian government to protests against a new law restricting the right to strike and freedom of association and providing for prison sentences of up to two years for any worker who protests in the street. This simply shows that the agreement on labour co-operation will not really protect the rights of workers in Panama because it does not contain any real enforcement mechanism and the Panamanian government clearly intends to ignore it.

According to the OECD, Panama is an offshore banking centre and a tax haven. We have already discussed the issue of tax havens. This agreement does not address tax havens and the lack of financial transparency. A free trade agreement modelled after NAFTA would broaden the scope of the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement and would further encourage corporations to commit tax evasion. It would give multinationals other tools and reasons to challenge Canadian regulations.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

moved: Motion No. 1

That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 7.

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 10.

Motion No. 3

That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 12.

Motion No. 4

That Bill C-46 be amended by deleting Clause 63.

He said: Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise on the NDP amendments to take out certain key portions of Bill C-46, which is the implementation legislation on the free trade agreement with Panama.

The reason why the NDP is opposing this agreement, as many of the witnesses who came before the standing committee can attest, is because this is just another symbol of what has been a pretty dysfunctional trade strategy from the government.

Over the last 20 years, the middle class has been gutted. We have seen reduced incomes for most Canadian families and increasing inequality. Inequality in Canada is at the same level as it was in the 1920s. A lot of this is due to a series of bad right-wing economic policies that have been put forward, first, by the Liberal government and continued by the Conservative government. One of the components within that is how the Conservative government approaches trade strategy.

We will hear Conservatives in the House talk about how this is a fantastic opportunity and that Canadians will prosper. Canadians have heard that line in agreement after agreement. The government said the same thing about the softwood lumber sellout. It said the same thing about the ship building sellout. It said the same thing about the buy America sellout.

However, we have seen the contrary. We have seen middle class incomes eroding, poor Canadians getting less and struggling harder to make ends meet. In part, it is because the government signs these agreements without due thought to the consequences.

This may be surprising, but the Conservative government does not even do impact studies before it signs these agreements. It just goes ahead from the back of a napkin, hoping and praying that everything will turn out right.

It is fascinating to actually look, in real terms, at the export figures. Every time we have signed a bilateral trade agreement, our exports to those markets have actually gone down and not up.

We will hear some bafflegab from Conservatives later today and they will use a very clever trick. Instead of using real dollars, they will use current dollars. As we know, if we use current dollars, we can throw out anything and show that people are earning more money because the inflation rate and devaluation that takes place is not taken into consideration in that purchasing power. It is the same thing with exports. In real terms, in constant dollars comparing apples to apples in the markets that the Conservative government has signed these bilateral trade agreements, our exports have gone down. That is a statement of fact.

The Conservatives will try a lot of bafflegab, but a real reason why their trade strategy is so dysfunctional is because they have not done their homework and checked the figures. In fact, the NDP did the research through the Library of Parliament because, after asking DFAIT month after month, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade was unable to give the actual real-term constant dollar value of our exports to those markets.

I will cut to the chase. We have a dysfunctional Conservative government with a dysfunctional trade strategy. The government is making most Canadians poorer because it is not giving due thought to the impacts of what these trade agreements are and has a rabidly right-wing approach on trade agreements generally.

We have signed a trade agreement with Panama, but what is the problem with Panama? In a study from the Internal Revenue Service of the United States, tax havens and criminality are mentioned as well as what happens in Panama because of its encouragement to launder dirty money. The study says that 75% of all sophisticated drug trafficking operations use offshore secrecy havens like Panama.

I will cite from Tax Havens: How Globalization Really Works by Ronen Palan. He states, “It is evident to all who have studied the offshore banking business that its growth has been fuelled by the phenomenal increase in cash from the U.S. drug trade”.

The IRS states that of the investigations it has conducted, 45% involved illegal transactions derived from legal income and about 55% of cases actually dealt with illegal income from drug trafficking. The IRS cites the offshore money laundering havens where this takes place, which is very interesting. Leading them all is Panama and the Cayman Islands. The sites named by the IRS account for 85% of all cases involving transactions of illegal income.

It is not simply a process of signing a trade agreement with just any country. We are talking about the leading money laundering dirty drug money tax haven in all of the world tied with the Cayman Islands. The the government has a trade agreement with it.

I will not have time today to go into the labour violations, environmental standards or treatment of aboriginal people in Panama. However, I know my NDP colleagues will be mentioning this over the next few hours and days of debate. Instead I will focus on the issue of the money laundering of dirty drug money.

The Conservatives know full well the fundamental issue that has come up and stopped Congress in the United States from moving forward with a trade agreement with Panama. It apparently has higher standards than the Conservative government. One would think the Conservative government would then say that it would negotiate hard on behalf of Canadians, that it would put a stop to the money laundering of dirty drug money and that it would demand a tax information exchange agreement with the Panamanian government. It did not do that.

It sent a letter last year and the Panamanian government did not deign to respond for a long time. However, because the Conservatives are soft on the crime of money laundering dirty drug money decided they wanted to move ahead with the trade agreement, despite the fact it had absolutely no commitment from the Panamanian government to clean up the mess.

What response did they get? We will hear Conservatives say that they got a commitment from the Panamanian government to clean up all the money laundering of dirty drug money that takes place in Panama. That is what they will tell parliamentarians and the public, but they do not have a tax information exchange agreement. Even something minor like a double taxation agreement only deals with legal funds. It does not deal with the money laundering of dirty drug money that takes place in Panama as I speak.

The Conservatives did not get any of those assurances. However, there is a clause in the bill. What does the clause in the trade agreement actually say? It says that nothing should impede the transfer of funds in or out of the country. I guess what the Conservatives are saying is that not only is having a tax haven okay, which they are fine with as they are soft on the money laundering of dirty drug money, but it also says that they cannot stop the flow. If the Hells Angels decides it wants to money launder in Panama, I guess that means the trade agreement says that is okay, too.

These are the fundamental points about which people who voted for the Conservatives in the past should be concerned. We are not talking about economic development or progress. This dysfunctional trade policy has actually put the lie to those pretensions.

We would not be seeing most family incomes and exports to those bilateral markets go down in real terms, despite the bafflegab where the Conservatives try to magically produce, on the basis of current dollars, some kind of magical formula that does not take into consideration the fact that exports have gone down because the export strategy, pretty pathetically, is dysfunctional and failed. It is not just that. The agreement itself allows that protection and comfort for the money laundering of dirty drug money.

This is fundamentally hypocritical. It is appalling to me that a Conservative government that is so soft on white collar crime and so soft on the laundering of dirty drug money, if it is trying to push an election at the same time, would actually bring this bill forward. Over the next days of course we are going to be raising these issues, and of course Conservative voters would be the most concerned about this hypocrisy from the Conservative government.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I listened very carefully to the speech made by my NDP colleague. I think that he highlighted the problem with this free trade agreement. He talked about money laundering, whether it is being done by drug dealers or people who launder illegally obtained money. The public often wonders why our laws are not harsh enough for cases like that. But here we are talking about an agreement with a country that is a tax haven and that encourages such practices. These examples show the public how it is possible for regular people and criminals to do this right in front of the police, because it is allowed. These people can do this in countries like that.

I would like my colleague to expand on that.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:10 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Saint-Maurice—Champlain for his question.

He understood correctly. The witnesses we heard in committee were very clear about this. There is absolutely nothing to prevent the money laundering that is still happening in Panama. Moreover, if past practices are any indication, Panama is one of the worst offenders in the world in this regard.

I was surprised. I thought that the Department of International Trade would hold a press conference with Mom Boucher to promote this bill. However, as understand it, Mom Boucher is not available at the moment. I find this type of situation absurd: if you are a drug dealer, criminal or money launderer, then you have a friend in the Conservatives. They are proposing an agreement that will serve only to increase money laundering and illegal drug operations.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, since my colleague from Burnaby—Douglas raised the issue of his party having done an impact study, and also because he and I both served on the transport committee, I wonder whether he would be prepared to share with us what impact the development of the Panama Canal would have on the transportation routes resident in our Pacific gateway strategy, most specifically with the ports in the Lower Mainland, and with some of the commerce that flows from that.

I wonder if he would share with us whether his impact study would give us an indication that the free trade agreement would compensate for the loss of the transportation services that would accrue to the Pacific gateway ports.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, I did not say that the NDP had done an impact study. I would like to state for the record and for the member for Eglinton—Lawrence that what I was saying was that it was surprising to me that the Conservative government, regardless of the agreement it tossed on the floor of the House of Commons, never does its due diligence. The Conservative government never does its homework. It never does the homework that is required to actually present the case to Canadians.

Now the Conservatives will do a lot of cheerleading. We will hear it this afternoon. We know exactly what they are going to say, that It is all about economic prosperity. However, hard-working Canadians who are working harder and harder for less and less are seeing jobs going overseas. They are seeing the kinds of deals that actually encourage the laundering of dirty drug money. I think those Canadians are very skeptical now about the kind of vacuous cheerleading we hear from the Conservatives on this.

The Liberals are not obliged to support the Conservatives on this, and we hope the Liberals will be on board with voting against this bad deal.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:15 p.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, it is a privilege to rise to speak to this bill. I did not expect to be speaking to additional NDP amendments to the bill, but I can honestly say I am not terribly surprised.

Without question these amendments are dilatory, obstructionist and unnecessary. They are a thinly veiled attempt to kill the bill, nothing more, nothing less. Worse yet, in my opinion, they disrespect the committee process because all committee members had ample opportunity to put forward all of their amendments at committee stage. We had lengthy debate and heard numerous witnesses, yet here we are debating four amendments that have nothing to do with the substance of the bill. They are only here to kill the bill.

I am happy to speak to Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and am privileged to do so.

We need to recognize a few facts, because the previous speech was pretty short on facts.

Panama is a strategic hub for the Americas. It is an important nexus of commercial activity throughout the region. It is already an important market for Canadian businesses. In 2009, two-way merchandise trade between our countries totalled $132.1 million. Panama is a market with great potential, and this free trade agreement would help Canadian businesses take advantage of the opportunities that it offers. I have a personal example.

There is an engineering firm in my riding that specializes in the oil and gas sector. At the present time it is looking at some contracts in Panama. In order to fulfill those contracts, because of the duty, the company is better off to use its subsidiary business in Mexico and ship straight from Mexico to Panama. If this deal goes through, those jobs will stay in Canada.

This agreement would also establish a level playing field so that our companies could maintain or improve their competitiveness in a market where strong competitors, such as the United States and the European Union, have or are seeking preferential access.

A Canada-Panama free trade agreement would result in tangible benefits for Canadians. For example, it would be of key importance to Canadian merchandise exporters.

In 2009, two-way trade between Canada and Panama in non-agricultural merchandise amounted to $104.2 million with Canada's non-agricultural exports to Panama totalling $68 million. The hon. member wants to ignore the numbers as if they did not exist, but we have substantive trade between Canada and Panama now. It begs the question: why would we not include clearer rules to establish beneficial rules-based trading with a country that we are already trading with, that helps Canadian businesses and helps Canadian jobs?

Key Canadian non-agricultural exports to that market have included pharmaceuticals, machinery, vehicles and electrical and electronic equipment. Once implemented, our agreement with Panama would immediately eliminate tariffs on 99.9% of recent non-agricultural imports from Canada. The agreement would eliminate tariffs ranging from 5% to 11% on Canadian pharmaceutical exports to Panama, which amounted to $10.8 million last year.

Canadian machinery and automotive exports to Panama are currently subjected to tariffs as high as 15% to 20% respectively. Under the free trade agreement these barriers would be eliminated.

In these challenging economic times, when our manufacturing sector benefits, the country benefits.

In the forestry sector the Canada-Panama free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs as high as 15% on a range of wood and paper products, creating new opportunities for Canadians in the export of lumber, plywood, books, packaging materials and other products.

Here at home the forestry industry accounts for approximately 12% of Canada's manufacturing GDP and directly employs 230,000 Canadians. As the Forest Products Association of Canada has said, it is the economic lifeblood of over 200 communities in our country. Our government is working to ensure that industries like this one that contribute so much to our economy have access to growing markets like Panama and have the ability to make the most of the opportunities there.

In terms of our agricultural trade, Canadian producers exported $23.6 million of agriculture and agrifood products into Panama in 2009, and there is room to improve.

Panama currently applies tariffs on many agricultural products, some as high as 20%. Once implemented, the free trade agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on goods accounting for 94% of Canada's agricultural exports to Panama. This would benefit Canadian farmers countrywide, including exporters of frozen french fries, pulses, malt, oilseeds, beef and pork products, maple syrup and Christmas trees.

Canada Pork International has gone on record that Panama is one of the Canadian pork producers' top 15 markets. Approximately $5 million worth of pork products are exported there each year. They support the Canada-Panama free trade agreement and have emphasized the importance of moving ahead with this agreement to take advantage of entering a market ahead of our largest competitors.

The benefits of having access to the Panamanian market do not end with our agricultural and non-agricultural goods, producers and exporters. A free trade agreement with Panama would also improve access for Canadian service providers looking to enter this dynamic and growing market. Panama is a services-oriented economy and some in Canada's service sector have already established operations there.

In 2008, our commercial services exports to Panama totalled $12 million. This includes those providing financial services, engineering and professional services, information and communication technology services, and others.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would help Canadian service providers expand their operations, pursue new opportunities, and keep pace with their competitors.

In its services negotiations, Canada obtained access beyond Panama's World Trade Organization commitments, particularly in areas of export interest to Canada, including mining services, energy services and environmental services. This means preferential access for Canadian service providers in sectors where Canada has expertise to share.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would also establish new rules to govern trade in services, ensuring the secure, predictable and equitable treatment of service providers from both countries.

This is to ensure that a company such as SNC Lavalin, which is leading a consortium to build a $4 billion copper mine in Panama, owned by Inmet, a Canadian mining company, will directly benefit from this agreement.

We are making our way through some difficult economic times. Many hard-working Canadians are looking for us to show leadership on the economy, promote sustainable economic improvements, and create opportunities for job growth. Our government has made a commitment to do just that, to help Canadians capitalize on their expertise and expand into new and exciting markets.

Canada's producers, exporters and service providers are constantly faced with fierce competition, and we must do what we can to ensure they compete on even ground with their competitors.

We must continue to reduce barriers to trade and negotiate competitive terms of access in global markets. We must show the world that Canada's businesses are second to none.

A free trade agreement with Panama would help to do this.

For all of these reasons, I call on all hon. members in this House, including the members of the NDP, to support Bill C-46.

In the time remaining, I would like to summarize some of the highlights of this bill. There are a couple that we cannot ignore.

We cannot ignore the increased traffic that will go through Panama after it is finished twinning the Panama Canal. We can look at that as an obstruction, a challenge, or we can look at that as an opportunity. Quite frankly, I look at it as an opportunity. There is no reason that increased flow of traffic cannot feed our container ports on the west coast and east coast of Canada.

We simply do not have to wait for the European Union or the United States to sign free trade agreements before we come in a day late and a dollar short. We are leading the way, we are promoting Canadian businesses, and we intend to continue.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I do have a question with regard to taxes. A number of concerns have been raised by a number of colleagues about the tax haven issue, the worry that Panama provides some opportunity for tax havens.

Now, I will be the first to say that these tend to be taken advantage of by the people who do not actually follow the rules, and there is no indication that increased trade would actually allow any increased activity in this regard. However, there has been some effort of the part of the Canadian and Panamanian governments to enter into some form of a tax agreement, whether it be a double tax treaty to avoid double taxation or a tax information exchange agreement.

I wonder if my hon. colleague could speak a bit to where those negotiations stand.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, it is an important question. It is also one that certainly merits some discussion.

I appreciate the hon. member's comments that we do not expect that everyone doing business with Panama is looking to launder money. That is something that we need to address. Certainly, by far, 99.99% of all Canadian businesses doing business in Panama are there for legitimate and correct reasons.

On the issue of co-operation with the finance department and Panama, our Minister of International Trade has been in contact with his appropriate counterparts in Panama. We expect Panama to live up to all of its obligations under the OECD.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:25 p.m.
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NDP

John Rafferty NDP Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Madam Speaker, in trade deals, the government has a propensity to make side agreements. In particular, I am talking about, in this case, as in others, the side agreements on labour and environmental issues. Of course, the biggest problem with that is enforcement, as there is no enforcement mechanism.

I have a question for the parliamentary secretary. I am wondering if he agrees with me that if these agreements were not side agreements but actually in the body of the trade agreement, and therefore enforceable so that disagreements could be worked out between the two countries to ensure that labour and environmental rights were protected, whether this would go a long way in this place toward getting more agreement on this sort of deal.

I wonder if he would like to make a comment on that.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. It is a reasonable and responsible question.

The issue here is quite simple. We are actually dealing with a trade agreement. We are not dealing with an agreement that is specifically on labour or on the environment; we are dealing with an agreement on trade. The trade agreement has an appendix with an agreement on labour and an agreement on the environment along with it, because of the importance we place upon proper labour laws, rules and regulations and proper environmental laws, rules and regulations. Therefore, we penned an appendix to the trade agreement.

However, it is a trade agreement. It is not a separate agreement on labour or a separate agreement on the environment. We appreciate the importance of both issues and have included them within the bill.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, the bill should be called “Drug traffickers: You can keep the proceeds of crime act”, because that is exactly what the current government is presenting. “Send the proceeds of crime to Panama” is what the government is saying.

I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary, because he has just not dealt with any of the witnesses who spoke to this issue, why is he saying the IRS is wrong in investigating so many cases of dirty drug money laundering in Panama?

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Madam Speaker, what this bill should be called is “Opportunity”. There is opportunity here for Canadian businesses. There is opportunity for Canadian services. There is opportunity for the non-agricultural sector. There is opportunity for the agricultural sector.

I would ask one more time for the NDP to withdraw its position, to back up and actually support this piece of legislation.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:30 p.m.
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Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, first, I must talk about the amendments proposed by my colleague. He is asking that numerous clauses be deleted, yet he said that they are key clauses. Frankly, that is a problem.

He is asking that clause 7 be deleted, but that clause sets out the purpose of the bill. If the description of the purpose of the bill is taken out, I think that poses a bit of a problem. He is also asking that clause 10 be deleted. That clause contains institutional and administrative provisions. Without these kinds of clauses, there would be no bill.

He is also asking that clause 12 be deleted. This clause deals with panels, working groups and other people involved in administering this bill, particularly in terms of labour and the environment. I know that those topics are extremely important to my colleague. In addition, he is asking that clause 63 be deleted, but that contains the coming into force provision. Without these clauses, there is no bill, and frankly, I feel that my colleague is playing games here in the House. We have already discussed these issues in committee.

I will now say that we will not support the amendments, and I would like to take a bit more time to talk about the bill, as currently drafted.

I just briefly explained why we do not support the amendments proposed by my colleague. In effect, they were already proposed and dealt with in committee, and were they to be put into effect they would effectively destroy the bill. As much as I respect my colleague, I find this a bit of an abuse of time in the House of Commons; it really is playing games. I would rather we dealt with the substance of the legislation, the implementation of a free trade agreement with Panama. I am pleased to say that the Liberal Party is in support of this particular bill.

I will provide members with some statistics. In 2008, Panama had one of the highest real GDP growth rates in the Americas, at 10.7%. Despite the global economic downturn, Panama posted positive growth in 2009, at 2.4%, a trend that was expected to continue in 2010. We await confirmation of those numbers.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is currently under way and slated to be completed by 2014, at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. This expansion alone is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in such areas as infrastructure and construction, as well as environmental, heavy engineering and consulting services, capital projects, human capital development and construction materials. Like the free trade agreements between Canada, Chile and Costa Rica, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and the free trade agreement proposed with Jordan but not yet ratified for a number of reasons, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour cooperation and the environment.

Panama is indeed a relatively small economy. We would prefer that Canada were able to pursue multilateral trade negotiations through the World Trade Organization. Unfortunately, those negotiations have come to an effective standstill. We do support the efforts to engage in negotiations for bilateral trade agreements, including with Panama.

Although Panama is a relatively small economy, in 2009 we exported $90 million in goods to that country, which maybe is not as much as to some trading partners, but it is fairly significant for those enterprises, the agricultural, agrifood, construction, and a variety of other sectors in that country. The $90 million is a significant amount of business, and this trade deal stands to significantly increase that figure.

Panama is also a stable country that has made significant progress in recent years in development and democracy, which Canada is well placed to continue to encourage. This is a significant aspect of our trade philosophy.

Freer trade encourages a freer flow of information and a freer flow of ideas. Rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light comes through, and opens doors through which Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate countries, our capacity to engage on human rights or to discuss issues, such as the one we and others have raised today, the issue of tax havens, we only reduce our ability to engage with and help those countries improve.

Panama has engaged in significant efforts through the OECD to enhance its activities and its reputation internationally. I believe we stand in a very good position to encourage rather than discourage that effort.

We support this bill. Despite concerns about the current lack of a double taxation treaty and a tax information exchange agreement between Canada and Panama, we should support this bill.

I want to emphasize the fact that the Canadian and Panamanian governments have already begun to work on a tax agreement. Panama has asked that we implement an agreement to avoid double taxation, while Canada would prefer an agreement about exchanging tax information. However, the two governments are in talks to set up a tax agreement.

Although there have been some concerns raised about the suggestion that Panama acts as or provides a tax haven and money-laundering opportunities, the Government of Panama and the Government of Canada have worked very hard so far to establish an agreement on the exchange of tax information.

In the first instance, Panama asked Canada to enter into an agreement to eliminate double taxation. Canada responded by asking instead for an agreement on the exchange of information with regard to taxes. Panama came back and said no. It said that it would prefer a double tax treaty. It should be stressed that the traditional OECD model of a tax treaty, which is the one Canada always signs, has a full article dealing with the exchange of tax information.

We support the bill for two reasons. First, it would provide significant improvements to opportunities for Canadian enterprises and therefore encourage Canadian jobs. Second, because Panama does not have a trade agreement right now with the United States, we heard a number of witnesses at committee stress how the United States is worried about Canada signing this deal because of the significant competitive advantage that it will provide to those very Canadian enterprises. I will include agriculture, agri-food and construction. Earlier in my speech, I outlined a number of the areas in which we would stand to benefit.

That significant competitive advantage for Canadian enterprises, given the lack of a similar agreement so far with the Americans, given the pressure on the American government to sign such an agreement and given the fact that the Canadian and Panamanian governments have been working toward a tax agreement of one kind or another that would provide information on the exchange of tax information, has strongly provided the basis for our support of this bill and for the conclusion and ratification of the free trade agreement with Panama.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
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Conservative

Mike Allen Conservative Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Madam Speaker, I happen to agree with the member for Willowdale that deleting clause 7, which deals with the purpose of the bill, would somewhat take away from the bill. However, she also spoke about the benefits that Canada would get from this bill.

Given some of the demographics we are experiencing in Canada today, there is no question that we will need to compete very much on high value-added services. Having been an employee for SNC-Lavalin at one point in time, I do know the value of the engineering services and the $5.3 billion for the construction of the Panama Canal, plus the mine that the parliamentary secretary referred to. Could she just elaborate a little more on what this means for us in exporting value-added services and what it means for the growth of a strong workforce in Canada?

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, Canadian enterprises of a variety of sorts would absolutely stand to benefit. The expansion of the canal is only one aspect. Of course that includes companies like SNC-Lavalin, but also a whole variety of other companies that engage in construction, provide construction materials and provide consulting services. Environmental technology services are in high demand and Canada is highly regarded internationally as a source of that kind of consulting service.

However, I also want to stress that we heard many witnesses at committee from the agricultural and agri-food sectors. Farmers in many regions of the country have been having a very tough time. We also know that many Canadians in the manufacturing sector have been having a very difficult time. There absolutely is benefit in engaging in greater trade with countries like Panama because the more opportunities we have to export products, services, knowledge and ideas, the more the people in Canada who are involved in producing, creating, and participating in those activities benefit. So it absolutely would be a net benefit to Canadian enterprise, Canadian farmers and Canadian jobs.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Madam Speaker, what everyone can assume is that the position of the Liberal Party is not to worry about the money laundering of dirty drug money because somehow this trade agreement will magically wave it all away.

As everyone will recall, that was the Liberal position on the Colombia trade deal and since the Liberals worked with the Conservatives to ram the Colombia trade deal through, we have tragically seen an increase in the number of murders by the secret police and military and paramilitary forces in Colombia. It is the same line that we had from the Liberals on Colombia, that somehow things magically would go away. It was false and it is false on Panama.

I would like to ask the hon. member if she would not prefer to simply come clean with the Canadian public and say that her party was wrong on Columbia and that maybe they are wrong on Panama and perhaps should vote against it.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I find it a little challenging to have an allegation that somehow we are responsible for deaths in Colombia.

In any event, I am extremely proud of the fact that my Liberal colleague from Kings—Hants worked incredibly diligently with the Colombian and the Conservative governments to add a piece to the Colombia free trade agreement specifically dealing with human rights. We are, as Liberals, extremely proud of that fact.

It is nonsense to suggest that we somehow support the idea of tax havens and money laundering. As I said in my speech earlier, the people engaged in money laundering and looking for tax havens, whether they be in the Caymans, Panama, Switzerland, Liechtenstein or any number of places, are people who break the law. These are people who will not be paying attention to whether there is a free trade agreement in place. We do not support that.

I reiterate that I am very encouraged by the efforts of both the Canadian and Panamanian governments to move forward on an agreement with respect to taxes. Canada stands in a very good place to encourage countries that are moving forward. Panama is working very hard to move forward with the OECD regulations. This is an opportunity for Canada to encourage that kind of behaviour rather than to discourage it.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois at this stage of Bill C-46.

Amendments have been proposed, and some of our colleagues have claimed that they gut the bill. It is exactly for that reason that we support these amendments.

This bill would implement a free trade agreement with Panama, which is not a good agreement. Many people, both Conservatives and Liberals, have spoken about the economic advantages. However, we cannot deny, and I believe we must acknowledge, that Panama continues to be a tax haven in the eyes of the OECD. Panama has not been taken off the OECD's grey list of tax havens.

Apparently, Panama has taken steps to be removed from this list, but that has not yet happened. Panama still has to conclude agreements and tax treaties with certain countries. Canada would be able to verify or monitor tax evasion by Canadian citizens if it signed a tax information exchange agreement with Panama.

When the bill was being studied, we heard that the Minister of Finance or the Minister of International Trade, I do not remember which one, had written to his counterpart in Panama about negotiating and signing such an agreement. The committee asked different witnesses on a number of occasions if Panama had agreed. To date, we have not been given an answer. We even heard a representative of the Government of Panama tell us, at the Standing Committee on International Trade, that it was not in the interests of his government to enter into a tax information exchange agreement with Canada.

If it is not in the interests of the Government of Panama, why is the Canadian government so intent, despite everything, on going ahead with this free trade agreement and passing an implementation bill, when that would mean giving away all our bargaining power with respect to Panama?

It is because we have given in to Panama. We have given in and will allow it to have free rein so that Panama can tax Canadian businesses. It has said that it wants to sign a double taxation agreement, which really means a no tax agreement. Canadian businesses will be able to repatriate profits to Canada, tax-free, and pay minimum tax in Panama. That is absolutely unbelievable.

The Canada Revenue Agency cannot even say estimate how much tax revenue it will lose because of such an agreement, how much tax leakage the middle class will have to make up through their work and their own taxes.

It is absolutely incredible that we are moving forward with such an agreement. That is why the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the proposed amendments. At least some attempts have been made to improve the bill. In committee, it was proposed that Canada and the Republic of Panama ratify a tax information exchange agreement, based on the OECD model agreement on the effective exchange of tax information, that would not cause Canada to lose tax revenue.

The Conservatives and the Liberals voted against that idea. They could at least have said they want to conclude a free trade agreement with Panama. As many have pointed out, such an agreement might not be such a bad idea.

However, if we end up losing revenue and promoting tax evasion and money laundering, I think that ethically speaking, we have to ask ourselves some serious questions.

Should we continue to move forward with this? The Bloc Québécois says no. We absolutely must wait and see whether this possible agreement could be used as a negotiating tool and as a way to put pressure on Panama to get off the OECD's grey list of tax havens and sign a tax information exchange agreement with Canada. That would be fairer for Canada.

I want to come back to the testimony of Richard Montroy, a Canada Revenue Agency senior manager who testified at the Standing Committee on International Trade on November 17. We asked him whether companies could still bring tax-free profits back to Canada when there is a tax information exchange agreement in addition to a free trade agreement. He said yes.

In other words, there will always be companies bringing money back home no matter what. However, if we had all the tax information on Canadians and their investments in certain countries, we could recover some of the money that is eluding the Canada Revenue Agency.

That is not the case. The government has given up. The Bloc Québécois thinks we absolutely must support these amendments, go back to the drawing board and wait until Panama does its homework before moving forward.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to remind the hon. member that, although the witness did say that it was not in Panama's interest to sign a tax information exchange agreement, what he meant was that the country would rather sign a double taxation convention. Panama has asked Canada twice to sign a tax information agreement. It is not that Panama does not want to sign an agreement but that it wants to sign a more comprehensive one.

I would like to ask the hon. member this: How will this help Canadian farmers, businesses and individuals who are currently able to export more goods to Panama? How would they benefit if the agreement were not signed?

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, the hon. member raised two points. She spoke about the testimony that the representative of the Panamanian government gave in committee. Although she was there too, I do not share her opinion that the representative clearly stated that it is not in the Panamanian government's interest to sign a tax information exchange agreement. To me, it seems obvious that a tax information exchange agreement associated with a double taxation convention, or no taxation for one of the countries, is much more comprehensive. When one of the two parties involved in such an agreement refuses to exchange tax information, it is because the party in question has something to hide. It is obvious. A tax information exchange agreement would allow both countries to know the value of the investors' assets and investments. Panama has rejected this completely. To me this is obvious.

With regard to the hon. member's second question about farmers and business people, clearly, postponing an agreement gives everyone the opportunity to adapt and it puts pressure on Panama. However, that does not mean that farmers cannot continue to profit from the situation.

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I appreciate my hon. colleague's input at the Standing Committee on International Trade. I disagree with his position on Panama, but I have a question on which we may be in agreement.

The issue is fairly simple. Canada and Panama are already trading substantially, hundreds of thousands of dollars, millions of dollars' worth of trade. How could it hurt to put clear rules around the trade that already exists and reduce tariffs and barriers for Canadian businesses? How could that hurt Canadians?

Motions in AmendmentCanada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 1:55 p.m.
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Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Madam Speaker, in response to my colleague, I would say that we do not need a free trade agreement to define some clear rules. We could very easily start by creating a tax information exchange agreement and then negotiate a double taxation agreement, if necessary. We do not need to sign an agreement first.

The main problem now is that we are doing things backwards. When a country is recognized as a tax haven, we should sign a tax agreement before signing a free trade agreement. But that is not the case here.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this legislation, the free trade agreement between Panama and Canada.

The fact is that Canada has its trade deficits today. For the first time in 30 years, we actually buy more than we are selling internationally. That is ominous for a small, open economy like Canada has that depends disproportionately on external trade for our standard of living and our wealth as a country.

If we look at where the world is headed and where the growth will be over the next five to ten years, we see that it will be in China, India and in the Asian economies. We also see a lot of opportunities in Africa, despite the governance concerns in certain countries. We see a lot of progress in Africa and we see a tremendous amount of growth and opportunity.

Then we look at the Latin American countries and increasingly it is clear that being dependent on the traditional economies of the U.S. and Europe is not where we want to be.

The fact is that the Conservative government spent its first three years in office chiding China and ignoring India. It did more to damage Canada-China relations than any government I can imagine. In fact, it imperilled a profoundly positive relationship that goes back 40 years ago to when Pierre Trudeau, a Liberal prime minister, was the first western leader to establish diplomatic relations with post-revolution China.

We know growth will be coming from Asian economies such as China and India. We also know that growth will be coming from Africa. What are the Conservatives doing with Africa? In fact, we cannot find Africa on a Conservative map. The Conservatives have completely ignored Africa. They have ignored the important opportunity and responsibility we have to transform Canada's relationship with Africa from one of aid and dependency to one of trade and opportunity. I believe there is a tremendous opportunity for Canada to deepen its traditionally strong relations with Africa and to move forward as trade partners.

I want to speak to Latin American opportunities and specifically to Colombia because we face some very similar challenges.

There are a lot of natural resources in Latin America. We in Canada, of course, have a lot of natural resources. We have seen an ascension of our Canadian dollar from 62¢ back in the earlier part of 2002 and now it is almost at par. If we look at Latin American countries we see a tremendous rise in Latin American currencies. This is as a result of the demand for our natural resources, our commodities.

Throughout the Americas, both Canada and Latin America face a very similar challenge with Dutch disease and the crowding out of our traditional manufacturing sectors and jobs, which is why it is important that we work together to bring down the trade and regulatory barriers between our economies so that we can be more competitive and be competitive with some of the emerging economies in Asia.

In terms of FTAs with the region, we have had an FTA with Chile since 1997 and with Costa Rica since 2002. The FTAs with Colombia and Peru were ratified in 2010. We now have this agreement with Panama.

I had the opportunity last week to meet with President Martinelli of Panama. We discussed the free trade agreement and we discussed the need for our two countries to work together for the good of our citizens.

Panama is a country that has made tremendous progress. I actually shared a panel with President Martinelli at the World Economic Forum last week in Davos where we were discussing the trade opportunities within the Americas and the need to work together because the American political system and Congress right now face tremendous challenges when it comes to trade issues. The level of protectionism in the U.S. that is so pervasive in Congress right now is preventing the U.S. from playing the leadership role that it ought to be playing in places like Latin America.

This creates a responsibility for Canada to be a good partner with Latin American countries that face very similar challenges and some similar histories as Canada. The American protectionism in Congress right now creates a responsibility for Canada to act and to lead in Latin American but it also creates opportunities for our construction and infrastructure companies, our financial services sector and our agriculture sector.

One of the things we watched with the Colombia FTA was that after we ratified the FTA, American farmers are now putting increased levels of pressure on their legislators to get their FTA ratified with Colombia because American farmers are losing out and Canadian farmers are actually gaining market advantage in Colombia. The same will happen in Panama because it is clear that we will ratify this FTA, or I certainly hope so, in Canada before the Americans have the opportunity do it.

When we look at the roles that some of the Canadian companies are playing in the region, we see Brookfield Asset Management; AIMCo, the Alberta investment fund; the Bank of Nova Scotia which bought Royal Bank of Scotland's Colombia assets; Pacific Rubiales; Talisman; Canaccord; and Columbus Communications, a Canadian company that has 14,000 kilometres of undersea fibre optic cables throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. Those are some of the important roles that Canadian companies are now playing in shaping the future of Latin America and the Caribbean region, and it just the beginning.

One of the things that has emerged over the last several years in Canada is that we have become a global centre for mining. Fifty-seven per cent of the world's publicly traded mining companies are now listed on the TSX. Eighty per cent of the volume for all mining equity financing in the world is in Toronto, which is actually 33% of global equity financing in dollar terms. To put this into perspective, the U.S. markets only account for 9%.

This gives us an opportunity to lead in these sectors, not just in terms of trade and commerce, balance sheets and financial statements, and shareholder returns and dividends, but in terms of corporate social responsibility and in terms of Canadian companies helping to set the standard in terms of social, progressive and environmentally responsible behaviours.

Last week I met with President Luis Moreno, the president of the Inter-American Development Bank. He shares with me the belief that Canada can play a leadership role in helping shape corporate social responsibility throughout the Americas by working with the Inter-American Development Bank. Canada does best when our companies and our governments work together with other governments multilaterally through agencies that we support and invest in, like the Inter-American Development Bank.

I know that some concerns have been raised about the tax haven issue, but I think it is critically important to recognize that Panama has actually proposed double taxation agreements to the Canadian government. We believe it is very important to move forward with these agreements and we want to see the government do that.

Some of the concerns that some of my colleagues in the NDP have raised have been very similar to concerns they have raised about every FTA. In fact, we could simply take out of the NDP talking points the name of the country and say that it opposes the FTA with a certain country, and then just fill in the country and add the reasons, which are basically always the same reasons. There are no new reasons because it is an ideological as opposed to a practical argument against the odd duties created by traded.

One of the arguments that the NDP members used against the free trade agreement with Colombia was that there had been some level of illicit drug trafficking and money laundering in Colombia in the past. I want to address that because if we are serious about working with the Government of Colombia and the people of Colombia to reduce that drug trade, the most important thing we can do is provide alternative economic opportunities through legitimate trade. I would argue vigorously that failure to do so would make us complicit with that drug activity.

What does one expect the people of Colombia to do if we do not trade with them and we do not provide legitimate economic opportunities? Desperate people will make their livings in the only way they know how. The best way to liberate them from the tyranny of the drug trade is to provide legitimate economic opportunity.

I also met with President Calderon last week from Mexico. One of the things President Calderon and his security advisers told me was that the success of President Uribe in Colombia, in the Colombia Plan with the United States, in stamping out the drug trade has led to the drug trade growing in Mexico.

It is a multilateral issue. Canada, the United States, Mexico, all the countries in the Andean region throughout Latin America have to work together, not just to help achieve security in one country but to help achieve security throughout. We have to do it multilaterally.

A good place to start is through free trade agreements with these countries that are moving forward and enabling Canadian businesses and farmers to participate in the opportunity of helping these countries move forward and the opportunities to prosper in Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are so many questions I could ask the hon. member. I am glad to see him back in the House.

The same comments the Liberals were making about NAFTA and how NAFTA was going to lift Mexico out of the difficult economic problems it was having actually led to the opposite. The removal of the tariffs has led to a meltdown in the Mexican rural economy. Tens of thousands of people have died in the drug wars in Mexico. My colleague's argument about NAFTA is contradicted by the facts as are his arguments about Colombia.

The member said that the agreement with Colombia would somehow increase human rights respect and decrease the constant and ongoing human rights violations by security, secret police, the military and the paramilitary in Colombia. Instead, tragically, in 2010, 46 trade unionists were assassinated, many of them teachers. A few days ago Manuel Esteban Tejada was killed. We are seeing an increase in the number of murders, not a decrease. We will have to surmise that if the member was wrong on Mexico and he is wrong on Colombia, he and the Liberal Party must be wrong on Panama.

The IRS has said that Panama, along with the Cayman Islands, is the worst haven on earth for drug money laundering tax havens. This trade agreement would stimulate that. Rather than a double taxation agreement, Canada asked for a tax information exchange agreement, which the Panamanian government has refused to sign. How can the member justify this agreement when the Panamanian government is refusing to sign a tax information exchange agreement?

The Liberal Party is supporting an agreement that allows the unhindered flows of capital from Canada to Panama at the exact time when the IRS is saying that Panama is one of the worst in the world for money laundering of dirty drug money.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I always enjoy listening to the hon. member. I basically disagree with everything he says because he is usually totally misinformed. It reminds me how important it is to have a party in the House of Commons that is not right of centre like the Conservatives or left of centre in the economic hinterland like the NDP. It is good to have a good politically centrist, economically pertinent and informed and socially progressive party like the Liberal Party in the House.

I do not know where to start. It is tough.

First, in terms of Colombia, 82% of Colombians support the government of President Santos. Only 6% of Colombians voted for anti-trade candidates in the last election. The Colombian people support free trade.

Second, the murders that he is referring to have often been committed by FARC, his ideological soulmates, and by drug traffickers. If he is serious about protecting trade unionists and teachers in Colombia, he should provide legitimate economic opportunity to the people and help wean them away from those terrible drug lords and drug trade, which for many people in Colombia, in fact for 40 years, represented the opportunity.

I find it interesting that the hon. member never talks about FARC. He never talks about his ideological soulmates, the Marxist-Leninist FARC in Colombia, that has been murdering people. He never talks about the murderous Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. He never talks—

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I have never heard the hon. member in fact say anything against the tyranny of FARC or of the violence that it has continually committed on the people of Colombia and the fact that it has been housed in Venezuela. In fact, Hugo Chavez's Venezuela houses FARC and from Venezuela FARC is attacking the people of Colombia. The member and his party sit back and applaud Chavez. They believe Chavez is their folk hero when he is a cancer on Latin America.

We have a responsibility to work with President Martinelli in Panama, President Santos in Colombia and with democratic regimes in that region, those who understand the importance of free people and free economies to allow people to prosper and move forward.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be speaking today about Bill C-46. This debate has been lively because of the divergence of opinions among the various political parties as well as their different values. The debate about these free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama is a debate about conflicting values.

I am speaking about this bill today because it deals with an agreement that I have been following for a while, having sat on the Standing Committee on International Trade for a few years.

To begin, I would like to say to the House that we, too, will be supporting the proposed amendments, even though they would void this bill. The fact remains that we think that is a good thing. In fact, this bill would allow Canada to sign an agreement with a tax haven, that is, with Panama. While the government is saying that it wants to fight against tax havens, it is now ready to sign a free trade agreement with a country that is on the OECD's tax haven blacklist.

We are against this free trade agreement. We now know that this tax haven, Panama, denied Canada's request for more tax information. In exchange, the two countries agreed on double taxation. That is nothing like our request for more tax information from each country once the agreement is signed.

The Bloc Québécois is not against all free trade agreements. We were against the one with Colombia, clearly, as well as the one with Panama. However, we were the first party in this House to call for a free trade agreement with the European Union. And we believe that agreement is more fair and reasonable for Canada and Quebeckers.

And we, the sovereignists, orchestrated the free trade agreement that was signed in the 1980s with the United States and Mexico. We are in favour of a free trade agreement when it is fair to workers and the economy and when it complies with environmental or labour standards or standards that make investment as prosperous for Quebec and Canada as for the country signing the bilateral agreement.

In the case of the free trade agreement with Colombia, I participated in the mission to Colombia and Panama in order to meet with different people affected by the agreement. I remember very well that the unions, women's groups and labour groups were opposed at that time to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement for all sorts of reasons. There was the corruption, even within the Uribe government, and the role of the paramilitary, who protected some mine operators who exploited workers. We were against the agreement. It was unacceptable to Quebec and Canada.

Justice and fairness are values held by Quebeckers. We meet the standards of the International Labour Organization, as well as environmental standards. It is hard for us to imagine signing agreements with countries that do not respect these fundamental values.

As a leader in labour, environmental and economic relations, we should set an example and sign agreements with people and countries that respect our values. The opposite is true in the case before us. We are signing agreements with countries that do not respect our values. There is a lot of talk about drug dealers in Panama. It is a country where drug dealers launder money, a country that has many tax shelters. This agreement could allow some companies to avoid paying taxes, which would further reduce Quebec's and Canada's tax base. Our tax base equips us with more health and education services, social policies and social programs.

By signing an agreement with this country, the government would certainly encourage some companies to export, but there is a risk that these companies could take advantage of very low taxes and tax opportunities in Panama, which would lead to the loss of considerable revenue.

The situation in Panama is not as serious as the situation in Colombia, but it is still rather worrisome. First, there is the issue of workers' rights, which are not very well protected in Panama. Members will recall an announcement that made international headlines on June 30, 2010. The government of President Ricardo Martinelli passed Law 30, which was deemed to be anti-union legislation. This law included a reform of the labour code that was considered to be repressive because it would criminalize workers who demonstrated in defence of their rights. The Government of Panama recently agreed to review this law, but we have every reason to be concerned about the government's true willingness to comply with international labour conventions.

As parliamentarians and in the name of international solidarity, we must take action and speak out against bilateral free trade agreements that violate workers' rights.

Unfortunately, the Conservative government, with the support of the Liberals, is claiming that this kind of bilateral free trade agreement will generate revenue, create jobs and improve our competitiveness. I do not believe that the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will benefit workers in Berthier—Maskinongé or the rest of Quebec.

We must not forget that Panama is still considered to be a tax haven and a place that does not comply fully with international labour laws. The Conservative Minister of Finance told us that he was currently negotiating a tax treaty with Panama in order to tighten the rules on banking transparency to better combat tax evasion. We recently learned that Panama has no interest in signing this type of treaty. Furthermore, nowhere in the Minister of Finance's records do we see any evidence that such a treaty with Panama currently exists or is under negotiation.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's concern regarding this agreement is the lack of requiring adherence to critical environmental principles.

We had discussions in the House previously on the bill, in which I and others raised a number of problems, including the fact that the Government of Canada had severely downgraded the environmental side agreement it entered into with the United States and Mexico.

In the series of trade agreements that the Conservative government has entered into it has consistently downgraded environmental provisions. These provisions should be included within the trade agreement if the government really believes in balancing economic development and environmental protection.

Should the government at least have a strengthened agreement requiring that environmental obligations be lived up to by both sides including the effective enforcement of environmental laws?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her excellent question. This is no different than Colombia. We know full well that neither environmental standards nor the workers are being respected there and that the workers are often exploited.

I am a member of Parliament with a background in the labour movement, community and the environment. I naturally believe that workers' rights are universal rights. What I am saying and what I am trying to say to the House is that Quebec and Canada should be setting an example for the world with fair and equitable working conditions and by meeting environmental standards in mining, for example, or other common activities where we are concerned about greenhouse gases and climate change.

We should be signing free trade agreements with countries that meet these standards and share these values. But we are signing agreements with quasi-delinquent countries. In this case we are talking about Panama, which is a tax haven where drug traffickers generally launder their money. It is a known fact recognized by the OECD.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member is familiar with the OECD's grey list and blacklist as well as the French blacklist on tax shelters.

In February last year, the Government of France was tough with Panama because it was refusing to sign a double taxation avoidance treaty. France was creative and levied a tax of 50% on dividends, interest, royalties and service fees paid by anyone based in France to a beneficiary based in the countries on the blacklist, which includes Panama.

What happened? The Panamanians immediately rushed to get off the list and within months France signed a tax treaty with Panama.

France is not negotiating a free trade deal with Panama, yet Canada, which is actively negotiating a free trade deal with Panama, does not seem to be interested in the fact that it is dealing with a country on France's blacklist.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his excellent question. This worries the Bloc Québécois because, as I said earlier, this country is on the OECD's blacklist. It is difficult for the French to sign this type of agreement, and the U.S. Congress is no different. The Americans are very hesitant to sign an agreement with Panama for the reasons I gave in my speech.

We have a government right now that only seems to worry about the economic side. But this agreement will not produce huge economic spinoffs, and it will not create many jobs in Quebec and Canada. The government is not taking that into account. In any event, in the exercise of power, it is not concerned with environmental issues.

As everyone knows, we have tried many times to get the House to pass anti-scab legislation for the workers, to no avail. Look at employment insurance and it is clear what the government thinks of workers. There are still some issues there. So, with the support of the Liberals, unfortunately, the government is signing this type of agreement with Panama, but I do no feel that it is an agreement that respects the values of Quebec and Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, if we followed through on the amendments being proposed and if the amendments were to pass, it would literally gut the bill as we know it and in essence void the bill.

The amendments brought forward at committee were not passed. I am not too sure in terms of the actual strategy in reintroducing them at this stage, other than I believe the New Democrats are trying to send a very strong message of opposition to the bill.

It is important for us to recognize that the greater economic engagements for Canada as a nation can best be done when we look at how we might be able to expand trade with the world.

A number of years ago we had the whole team Canada philosophy of former prime minister Jean Chrétien, with the idea of working with provinces and reaching out to other world economies and selling Canada as a trading nation. The Liberal Party was very aggressive in this regard.

Because we no longer take the approach of trying to appeal to the world to trade with Canada, a direct result is that Canada has a trading deficit. The Conservative government needs to be held accountable for that trading deficit. It is something we should not take lightly. If the Conservatives want to steal some ideas from previous Liberal governments, one of the ideas I would suggest they take is the idea of working with the provinces, going abroad, going to some of the economic powerhouses to see what we can do to generate more open markets so that both countries could benefit immensely.

I had the opportunity during the break to go to two countries, the Philippines and India. In both countries I had the opportunity to talk about trade. India is thought of as one of those countries that is going to be an economic powerhouse in the not too distant future. Some predict it will become more of an economic powerhouse than China. I would like to see the government pay more attention to the Government of India in terms of developing additional economic ties.

One of the greatest assets we have as a nation is our people. We have hundreds of thousands of people of Indian ancestry who have connections and the ability to use those connections to improve the relationships between Canada and India. It would go a long way in raising the standard of living not only for people living in India but also people in Canada. India is a phenomenal country that has much economic opportunity. Canada is missing the boat by not being more aggressive on the India file.

The Philippines is a country which I have fallen in love with. I would love to see more economic and social ties with it. It is an area where there is great potential.

I would like to see the Canadian government be more outward in its thinking in terms of how it can develop these countries, assist in different ways, but also to put an emphasis on improving trading relationships between Canada and countries like the Philippines and India.

That is why I was a big advocate of the concept of the team Canada approach. Not only did it involve government leaders but it involved educators and industry reps. It was very wide in terms of the different stakeholders that were involved. Many connections were made because of the size of the group that went to China or wherever it might be.

Earlier a member made reference to the China factor. China's economy is gigantic and continues to grow. The government really has not done well in terms of fostering a good relationship with China.

When we look at the things I am referring to, it is no wonder Canada as a nation is actually falling behind. We now have a trade deficit. My advice to the government is to put more emphasis on trade. After all, Canada is dependent on trade. We are a trading nation. It is important for us to recognize that we need to encourage other countries to purchase our materials, services and so forth. Without that, our lifestyle would be dramatically different from what it is today. We need to encourage that.

When we look at the proposed Canada-Panama agreement, unlike the New Democrats, I am not fearful of the opportunities that exist. Yes, I have some concerns. I think most Canadians would have some concerns and I do not question that. I see the value of having a trade agreement such as this and the impact it could have on Canada and Panama as well.

It equates to millions of jobs in Canada. Some would estimate that trade factors in the neighbourhood of 80% of our economic activity. Millions and millions of jobs are affected by it through exports of manufactured goods from Ontario or oil sales from Alberta.

One of my favourite industries in the province of Manitoba is the hog industry. The hog industry has grown considerably over the last number of years in the province of Manitoba. In fact, there are more pigs produced than there are people in the province of Manitoba. I could be corrected on this, but I believe that Manitoba is now producing in excess of three million pigs annually.

Manitobans are not the ones who are consuming all of those pigs. The pork industry is very dependent on exports and those types of exports need to be encouraged. If we go down the chain, there are a lot of jobs. Whether it is the producer, the slaughterhouse or the retailer, it generates a lot of jobs.

Freer trade can be a wonderful thing. I would suggest that we approach it with an open mind, that we be sensitive to the issues of labour and our environment and that we try to tie those into the agreement, because we are all better off if we do that, but I do not think we need to live in fear. If we lived in fear of freer trade, Canada would not be where it is today. We need that trade.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the member's comments. At one point he said that he would not care if the Conservative government would learn some lessons from the Liberals in terms of travelling abroad with its provincial partners and so on.

He also indicated that we are falling behind in our trade efforts. It appeared from his remarks that he might be unaware that our government has initiated talks with the EU and with India as it relates to free trade. We have also completed a number of free trade agreements. We completed one with Colombia. We are currently working on the Panama one, as we know, and there is one with Jordan.

If we look at the Liberals' 13 years of inaction on this file, when over 13 years they only signed three trade agreements, I am having difficulty understanding how he could suggest we are falling behind. How could we possibly be more aggressive? We are signing these agreements. Those in the business community are thrilled with the opportunities we are creating for them. I would like him to explain his position on that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite simply, I would look at the bottom line. The bottom line is that we actually have a trade deficit for the first time in 30 years, from what I understand. There has been some movement on the file. It would be totally irresponsible of the government to completely ignore the world. However, there is so much more we could be doing and that we should be doing.

I use the team Canada concept as an example. That is something I believe the government needs to act upon. We need to work with the provinces and the different stakeholders, both government and private sector, in appealing to the nations of the world. I acknowledge the government has done some work in India, but we could do so much more. We could do much more in Asia, for example, in Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan. There are many other countries where we could be doing so much more.

I look at the bottom line. There is a trading deficit and there is so much more we could be doing in approaching other countries. The Government of Canada should be playing the lead role in doing just that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, does the member think it is a bit odd that a federal government, the Conservative government, that proclaims itself to be tough on crime is signing free trade deals with countries like Panama that are on the OECD blacklist, on France's blacklist? According to the United States state department, Panama has over 350,000 foreign registered companies. It is definitely a tax haven involved in money laundering activities. It is a conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers.

Essentially, what is happening is the Conservatives are promoting this with the help of the Liberals. The member is actually aiding and abetting a government that purports to be tough on crime but is actively looking for trade opportunities with drug traffickers and money launderers.

How does he square that support?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, some of the problems the member for Elmwood—Transcona makes reference to can be found in the United States and we are not going to abandon trade with the United States. All countries have issues and do have some problems.

We can look at it from a positive point of view too in the sense that Panama is a part of the World Trade Organization. We have seen the expansion of the canal. There is great potential in Panama. I do not believe we should give up on countries because of some of the issues they have and are trying to deal with, or that we should pass judgment absolutely. At the end of the day, I think that Panama has proven itself to be of a stable nature and a country that is moving forward. I understand that its GDP even grew during the time of the recession. It has its tourism, shrimp and banana industries. There has been a lot of positive things happening in Panama too.

We need to respect the fact that it could be better and we do have some concerns, but it is important that we move forward.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 3:55 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is an opportune time for me to make my presentation on this bill because I was about to ask the member for Winnipeg North a follow-up question.

He said that we do not abrogate our trade agreements with the United States or other countries that might have questionable practices that we do not approve of. My retort to him would be that the United States is not signing this agreement either. In fact, no fewer than 54 United States congressmen have demanded that President Obama forgo the agreement with Panama until Panama has signed the tax information exchange treaties. That is how to get things done. We get tough with these countries. We refuse to sign free trade deals with them until they sign those tax information exchange treaties. That is my point.

France was able to get tough with Panama 12 months ago. France refused to accept the status quo. France got tough with Panama, and Panama with cap in hand immediately signed an agreement with France. Just so the member knows, in France, dividends, service fees, royalties and interest paid by French entities to a beneficiary in a blacklisted country, which is Panama and others, will be faced with a 50% tax. Gains from real estate and securities transactions will be subject to the same levy. Also, France's 95% tax exemption on dividends issued by a subsidiary to its French-based parent company will be removed if the subsidiary resides in any blacklisted jurisdiction. Guess what. There was immediate action. The companies themselves started putting pressure on the French government and it responded.

Just so the members knows, of the blacklisted countries we are dealing with now, the list is getting smaller and smaller. Ever since the OECD compiled the list some 10 years ago and France came up with its blacklist, the list of countries has been getting smaller. We can see that the process can work and does work if we want to put pressure on them.

I will give the member another example. Switzerland has been a famous tax haven for many years. Many Canadians have been involved in Switzerland. It was not until the Obama administration started to put pressure on Switzerland two years ago on the basis of the terrorism argument that Switzerland started to become compliant and gave out information. If we take away the terrorism case and if we take away the fact that it was a powerhouse country like the United States that put pressure on Switzerland, Switzerland would still be thumbing its nose and refusing to give out information.

In addition, two employees, one of a Swiss bank, sold their computer records to the German government. Canada was a beneficiary of some of that because the Germans gave us a list of about 100 Canadians, who have since declared their participation in this tax shelter. I believe that is how the information came out about the Mulroney situation that was before the House not too long ago.

Exactly the same phenomenon occurred with a bank in Liechtenstein in the last two years. An employee of the bank made off with the tax records and went to France. The authorities pursued the person and tried to recover the disks. The person turned the disks over to the authorities and the authorities went after the bank.

We now have another big group of several hundred names that was reported a few months ago. In fact, there are more people in that second group from Canada than from the United States. Progress is being made. These things can get resolved.

Canada now has this amnesty program rather than try to charge back taxes. It is crazy. If the hon. member, or any of us in the House, were chased for taxes, we would be hit up with penalties. We may even get time in jail for avoiding taxes. However, anybody who has been hiding their money in these tax shelters, the revenue department has an amnesty program. People just have to sit tight and wait until they are caught. The department will give a period of time, perhaps a month or two, for them to voluntarily declare what is being hidden.

That is what happened with the people in B.C. There were 100 people who walked into Revenue Canada and confessed. Their names had already been given to Revenue Canada so there was little investigation to do. They paid their taxes and they were scott free. I guess they were not supposed to do it anymore. With this latest group, the same principle applies.

Where is the big stick? Where is the initiative of the government? As much as it talks about getting tough on crime, it is all talk, especially when it comes to situations like this.

I think the member clearly understands that and would support it. That is why 54 United States congressmen have refused to proceed with the agreement. The American agreement was signed by George Bush before he left office and it is going nowhere.

The Liberals might want to ask their trade critic, the member for Kings—Hants, who is heavily involved in these areas. He does a lot of globe-trotting to meet with politicians in Colombia, or wherever Canada is negotiating trade deals. We were on a trip together to the United States to meet with senators. They are not getting anywhere in the United States. This deal is dead in the states because of the country's reputation as a haven for money laundering and tax evasion.

Further, I am sure the member is aware of a company called AIG, a big insurance company. It was one that was bailed out when the economy collapsed in 2008. That company had a lot of nerve. It took billions of dollars of taxpayer money to be saved from collapse as it was argued they were too big to fail. The company was one of the 350,000 foreign registered companies doing business in Panama. Six months after it took all of this cash from the taxpayers of the United States, the executive gave themselves huge bonuses. About this time, the company filed a law suit against the United States government to recover taxes it felt it should get back on its investments in Panama. Talk about nerve.

That has riled up the members of Congress. I have a letter signed by Michael Michaud, member of Congress, and Walter B. Jones, member of Congress. This really has the Americans riled up and they will not allow this agreement to go through. Why is Canada putting this as a top priority and why are the Liberals supporting it?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there is anything wrong with Canada taking an action which goes against what the U.S. doing.

The United States has made a choice for whatever reason, and the member for Elmwood—Transcona does not know what those reasons are. He can speculate as to what those reasons are, but he does not know what the rationale is in terms of the U.S. not signing a trade agreement with Panama.

What I know is Panama has demonstrated stability over the last number of years, with the World Trade Organization, the doubling of the canal, different labour and environmental issues have been dealt with.

Canada has been afforded the opportunity to enter into a trade agreement. If that means some tractor companies in Winnipeg might be able to get a bit of an inroad now or some of our agriculture can get a bit of an inroad, I see that as a positive thing.

Does the member for Elmwood—Transcona believe that Canada can not go alone, or do we always have to go with the United States? Is that what the member would argue?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the issue is whether we should sign trade deals with money launderers and drug dealers.

Does the member support money laundering and drug dealing? We are supposed to be cracking down on these activities. The government is supposed to be tough on crime. Where is the example of that? Why is the government not following through on their rhetoric? If the government was going to be tough on crime, it would ask the Panamanians to sign the tax agreements and then it would negotiate.

That is what is happening with the United States in this situation. The former president of Panama, Manuel Noriega, is doing time in a Florida jail. He was involved in money laundering and drug dealing. The Americans went in, seized him and put him in a Florida jail for many years to come. He has been there a long time. That is getting tough on crime.

Where are those guys and why is the member supporting them?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:05 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, a lot of good points were made by my colleague. It is obvious he thoroughly researched the matter. He raises a lot of concerns about this agreement, which are not being responded to fully.

Within the context of how Canada holds itself out to the world, we hold ourselves out to believe in fair working standards, reasonable pay, protection of the environment, livable communities. It is a real stretch to entertain an agreement with a country such as Panama. My colleague has raised a number of critical points.

In her testimony before the committee, Dr. Teresa Healy, senior researcher for social economic policy department of the Canadian Labour Congress, pointed out a number of important issues, which I was not aware of before. One was this. In 2010 apparently President Martinelli announced unilateral changes to the labour laws. One of those changes ended environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. He is even undermining basic environmental assessment which is internationally recognized.

How can we conceive of entering into an agreement that he will balance environment and the economy?

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February 3rd, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, that is a very good question.

There is trade, albeit limited trade, with Panama. Whether we sign an agreement, ratify the agreement or not, it will not stop trade.

The member for Winnipeg North should recognize that. Trade will continue under the current conditions. The current high dollar is what is really determining the trade balance in this situation. As the dollar goes up, our exports will become more expensive and our imports will be cheaper. It is an issue of the dollar.

The member is absolutely right about the lack of trust in those governments with which we negotiate. They do not honour commitments they make in terms of labour or environmental rules. We have seen this over and over again. Once the agreement is signed, they start backtracking on these promises, if they even make the promises.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama. The Liberal Party will be supporting the bill.

I would like to raise a couple of concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and its failure to seize trade opportunities with Indian recently, China, South Korea and other countries. I will also raise concerns about the lack of a tax treaty.

Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed, the country set a trade deficit record in July of $2.7 billion. The government's priorities are concerning. Rather than pursue east-west bilateral or multilateral trade opportunities with growing economies such as India and China, the government is focused on trade agreements with smaller nations, representing a small fraction of our trade. It focuses on a misguided crime and justice agenda, which does little to stimulate the economy or to create jobs.

The Liberal Party supports the principle of free trade. Canada is a trade-dependent nation. Eighty per cent of its economy depends on access to foreign markets for Canadian exports. Liberals support initiatives that create jobs and improve market access for Canadian businesses.

In 2008 Panama had one of the highest real GDP growth rates in the Americas at almost 11%. Despite the global economic downturn, Panama posted a positive growth in 2009 at 2.4%, a trend that is expected to continue throughout 2010 and 2011.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is currently under way and is slated to be completed by 2014 at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. The expansion is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in such areas as infrastructure and construction, as well as the environment and heavy engineering, consulting services, capital projects, human capital development and construction materials.

Like the Canada-Chile and Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreements, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the free trade agreement with Jordan, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement would include side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement recognizes the obligations of both countries under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires both countries to ensure that laws, regulations and national practices protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association; the right to collective bargaining; the abolition of child labour; the elimination of forced labour; and the elimination of discrimination.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment would include complaints and dispute resolution processes that would enable members of the public to request an investigation into the perceived failures of Canada or Panama to comply with these agreements.

Yes, Panama is a relatively small economy, as I mentioned. In 2009 Canada exported only $90 million of goods to that country. Yet it is a relatively stable country that has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy, which Canada is well-placed to continue to encourage.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew at almost 11% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas, and is forecast at almost 6% in 2010. In 2009 bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $132 million, Canadian exports making up $91 million of that and imports $40.7 million.

Primary Canadian exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment and frozen potato products. Canadian service exports include financial services, engineering, information and communication technology services. Merchandise imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, mainly gold, fruits, such as bananas, nuts, fish and other seafood products.

The existing Panama Canal, vital for the international trading system, is undergoing a massive expansion, with completion slated for 2014. The $5.3 billion expansion is already generating business opportunities for Canadian companies. Canada will immediately eliminate over 99% of its tariffs on current imports from Panama should this proceed.

The free trade agreement also addresses non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods and promoting good regulatory practices, transparency and the use of international standards.

On the matter of a tax agreement, my party has some concerns that nothing has been undertaken. The concerns reflect the lack of a tax treaty. Neither a DTA, which is a double taxation agreement, or a TIEA, a tax information exchange agreement, has been signed with Panama. However, the Liberal Party will support this bill on the basis that a tax agreement will ultimately be achieved between our two countries. We will not put the benefits of free trade on hold while we wait for either a DTA or a TIEA. We believe a delay would take away the clear competitive advantage that a free trade deal would give Canadian businesses and farmers given the lack of free trade that currently exists between Panama and the United States.

At this point I wish to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade. We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the U.S. government responded with protectionism in putting forth its buy American policies and tighter rules and regulations. The Conservative government initially stood by watching as if it did not know what had hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing that the battle needed to be fought across all states at the state level.

By the time a so-called exemption was worked out, which itself required significant concessions by Canadian provinces, the protectionism in the United States had already hurt Canadian businesses, costing real Canadian jobs. The exemption only covered 37 states, a great example of how it is not just Washington that must be engaged.

Despite our vociferous efforts to get the Conservative government to engage much more forcefully at the state level, the government did not seem to understand either the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business or the hows of fixing the problem, and here we are again. The United States is threatening more protectionist legislation with its foreign manufacturers legal accountability act, which, although not technically aimed at Canada, would significantly hurt many Canadian businesses and affect many Canadian jobs.

I also want to use this opportunity in the debate on the merits of free trade to encourage the government to do much more in its dealings with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and production of the report last week between Canada and India, and I am encouraged that this is moving in the right direction.

I urge the government to capitalize on the extraordinary growth and scale that presents such fantastic opportunities for so many Canadians here and around the world, an economy that is growing at an incredible rate.

There are incredible investment opportunities being made in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment and public transit. We have been told repeatedly by the Chinese people that they are looking for green technology, for forestry products and for investments in the financial services industries. There are tremendous opportunities for trade in educational services, in co-operation and engagement not just at the Canada-China level but provincially and municipally as well.

We in the Liberal Party have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of Canada in the world. In support of this, we have proposed the concept of global networks. We say that the older, simpler concept of trade and commerce on its own, of simple export and import of goods and services, should be expanded to include all kinds of engagement on all levels, such as education, culture and environmental co-operation, a much greater engagement, a much broader engagement and exchange of people and ideas.

I look forward to this bill moving along as quickly as possible while formalizing a solidified tax treaty. In doing so, I intend to give my full support to the bill and I urge all hon. members to do the same.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.
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Conservative

Scott Armstrong Conservative Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if my hon. colleague is aware that in four short years our Conservative government has signed new free trade agreements with Colombia, Peru, Jordan, Panama and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein.

Our government continues to work to open doors around the world so that our producers, our job creators, can continue to exploit export markets and trade from one end of this continent to the other, as well as across the seas in Europe and Asia. We are doing everything we can to ensure we open up markets for our producers.

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February 3rd, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

I am aware of that, Mr. Speaker.

However, the fact is that the government spent the first three years with the Prime Minister being churlish with China and ignorant of India. The government has had four trade ministers in five years, denying any of them any real opportunity to build important and sustainable relations with other ministers in other countries, trade relations, foreign relations or simply relations between people. Changing trade ministers almost every year is not good for policy or for defending Canadian interests abroad.

The fact is that a Liberal government would take a different approach. We would focus on the global network strategy that I talked about in my speech. We would work in partnership with business, universities, civil society and private citizens in order to better leverage Canadian relations with the world. We would harness our multicultural communities as a natural bridge to the fastest growing economies in the world, the economies of India and of China, which the Conservatives have so neglected over the years, and other growing economies. We would return to the very successful team Canada mission approaches focusing on several sectors where we have had a comparative advantage, areas like education and clean energy technologies.

A Liberal government would clean up the fiscal mess that the borrow and spend Conservatives have got us into.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand that this issue is not black and white. that there are things to do, but that a trade agreement is a positive development for agriculture and agri-food and other sectors, plus the expansion of the Panama Canal.

There have been some concerns and a lot of those concerns, quite frankly, are a consequence of the inaction of the government not having a plan to deal with the tax issues and not having a plan to broaden its interests in, as the member referred to, China and India. In fact, it has damaged those interests and I think the member may have something to say about that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Bonnie Crombie Liberal Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on the advantages of this agreement and why we have chosen to support it.

We support the agreement for two reasons: first, it would l provide significant improvements and opportunities for significant Canadian enterprises; and second, it would encourage Canadian jobs.

Many Canadian companies are already active in Panama, including AIMCo, the Bank of Nova Scotia, Borealis, Canaccord, Brookfield, Talisman, SNC-Lavalin and other engineering construction firms, and this would continue.

Many of the witness who came forward at committee stressed how Canada would have a comparative advantage in this agreement since the United States has not yet signed an agreement with Panama.

There would be significant advantages from a job creation standpoint and from a comparative advantage economic standpoint for Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:25 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise here today to speak to Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

I am pleased to do so because I have the sense that by participating in this debate, much as our party critic in this area did, one is really doing something positive, not only for the Quebec nation, but also for the Canadian nation. Indeed, some members of this House are taking a back door approach in order to sign a free trade agreement that will be extremely harmful to Panamanians, Canadians and Quebeckers.

I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois will not support this implementation bill, and for a reason that is very important to us: Panama is a tax haven. Not only is it a tax haven, but it is on the OECD's grey list. Accordingly, it is a tax haven that does not co-operate with the OECD and does not sign the agreements set out by that organization.

Furthermore, Panama has seriously repressed its union movement. I would remind the House that in June 2010, the Panamanian government passed Law 30, which is considered to be very anti-union by the World Federation of Trade Unions and the International Labour Organization.

Of course, the government members will tell us that the president of Panama announced on August 5, 2010, that he plans to comply with all ILO conventions and remove the repressive aspects of the law. So far, however, no such action has been taken and we can only wonder what the real scope of the labour co-operation agreement with Panama will be. In that regard, I would also like to point out that the other co-operation agreements we have signed, whether concerning the environment or labour rights, have never been very effective and have never produced anything beyond meetings and symposiums. They have never led to any corrective measures when it comes to labour rights. Therefore, that is our second reason for opposing this free trade agreement.

I would also like to add that the Bloc Québécois is not completely inflexible on this issue. In 1994, the Bloc Québécois, who had been in the House for one year, supported the North American Free Trade Agreement, although, at that time, the Bloc was unaware of the magnitude of the effect that chapter 11 would have on the protection of American and Mexican investments in Canada. Clearly, this chapter also applies to the protection of Canadian investments in the United States and Mexico.

The fact remains that we supported this agreement at the time. We also supported free trade agreements with northern European countries. A Conservative member mentioned it earlier. We have absolutely no problem with this.

We are following with great interest the negotiations for an agreement with the European Union, despite the fact that we have some concerns, we are waiting for explanations and we would like to see the documents. I would like to remind the members of the House that the unions have been asking for these documents. As parliamentarians, we should have them, as has been the case in the past. Surely, the members remember how, several weeks before the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, the governments that were negotiating agreements around the free trade area of the Americas made their negotiation documents available. That is certainly not the case with Panama and the European Union. However, we must still give the government the benefit of the doubt. Quebec and the Bloc Québécois are among those who have been promoting a free trade agreement with Europe for an extremely long time already, at least a decade. We hope that such an agreement will yield positive results for Canada, Quebec and the European Union.

Once again, in certain cases, we do not support the signing of trade agreements with countries that do not abide by a certain number of rules. Such is the case with Panama and Colombia. It is absolutely unbelievable that the Canadian government would be so irresponsible as to want to sign an agreement with Colombia, knowing full well that human and labour rights are violated there on a consistent and repeated basis.

It is evident that what is important is to have a position based on principles. Yes, we support opening borders, but we also support complying with major international agreements on human rights, labour rights, environmental rights as well as cultural diversity, which is extremely important.

In the case of Panama, the situation is even more serious and, in my opinion, this has not received sufficient attention in this debate. An article appeared in Le Devoir on January 10, 2011, entitled “The Canada-Panama Free Trade Agreement—Cozying up to the Drug Trafficking Paradise”. It was written by Alain Deneault, the author of Offshore, paradis fiscaux et souveraineté criminelle, and Claude Vaillancourt, who is the co-president of ATTAC-Québec. Not only is Panama a tax haven that does not co-operate, even by OECD standards, but it is a tax haven that makes life easier for drug traffickers. And that is the kind of bill promoted by the Conservative government. It says it is tough on crime. It is tough on petty criminals, but it is the friend of big-time criminals and we have the proof: the Panama free trade agreement it is trying to make us accept.

I would like to read a paragraph from this article in the January 10, 2011 issue of Le Devoir.

Panama certainly deserves its bad reputation. This country's main economic activity is providing financial services to drug traffickers and multinationals. It has specialized, among other things, in discount flags of convenience, without any bureaucratic red tape. This allows vessels to sail without worrying about domestic laws and sailors' working conditions.

Capital enters and leaves Panama without any restrictions. Transactions are protected by banking secrecy rules, and there is no monitoring of financial activity. The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which is nevertheless fairly accommodating when it comes to evaluating how co-operative tax havens are, has placed Panama on its “grey list”.

Panama is a tax haven, and one that makes life easy for drug traffickers and money launderers. We are talking about organized crime, the mafia and other criminal groups or organizations. This will have disastrous effects on Panama. It will allow organized crime groups from Canada to launder their money in Panama. It will also allow some organizations that are currently located in Panama to benefit from the rules in the free trade agreement and locate here, in Canada and Quebec.

I remind members that the OECD has come up with four criteria to determine whether a country is a tax haven. The first is whether the jurisdiction imposes no or only nominal taxes. For example, I remember the case of Barbados—I believe—where the tax rate is regressive instead of progressive. The higher the profits, the lower the tax rate. They start with the wonderful rate of 3% and go right down to the alarming rate of 1%. Since Canada has signed a double taxation treaty with Barbados, if a Canadian company operating in Barbados meets a certain number of administrative criteria and has paid that wonderful tax rate of 1% on its profits, it is able to repatriate money to Canada tax free. That was the first criterion.

The second criterion is a lack of transparency. I have already said that Panama fits the bill. The third criterion is whether there are laws or administrative practices with respect to the exchange of information. Panama has refused to sign the 12 bilateral agreements to meet the OECD standards. The fourth criterion is whether there is any indication that the country is attracting investments solely for tax purposes and not for the purposes of economic activity.

Panama fits that definition of a tax haven. As I mentioned, since it has refused to sign the 12 agreements, it is currently on the grey list. So before we implement this agreement, we must be certain that Canada has signed a tax treaty with Panama and that Panama meets the OECD criteria. Otherwise we would simply be an accomplice to international organized crime.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member's input into this bill, a trade deal with Panama, has been straightforward and thoughtful.

As I understand his reasoning, he is very concerned about human rights abuses and also disrespect for union principles. The rest of the stuff seems to be okay, though.

I would ask the member if he believes we should not be doing business with countries that do not respect a collective bargaining position and do not respect human rights. I wonder how he squares that with doing business with China.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, internationally, Canada has a responsibility to uphold major international conventions. And it should start by signing the seven fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organization.

There is a big difference between doing business with the entire planet—including countries that do not respect workers' rights—and having free trade agreements that favour trade relations between countries. There will be a number of debates about the possibility of a free trade agreement between Canada and APEC because certain member countries pose a problem. I want to make a distinction. I am not saying that we should not trade with China, Panama or even Colombia, but there is a big difference between trading and favouring these countries by signing trade agreements, such as free trade agreements, with them.

There is another reason. The Bloc favours a multilateral approach within the framework of the World Trade Organization as opposed to bilateral, piecemeal agreements that are directed at the weak, in essence, using the countryside to surround the cities, as Mao Zedong said. That is what Canada is doing with the United States.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
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Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question because it allows me to make another point I have not had time to mention.

One of the big negotiation problems Canada is running into with the South American countries is that it is trying to impose chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, which gives multinational companies and corporations state status, thereby allowing them to sue another state before a special tribunal. Proceedings are under way. Canada had to pay $300 million for decisions Newfoundland made with regard to a forestry company whose name I forget, because it wanted to avoid going before the special tribunal under chapter 11.

In the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama, chapter 11 is chapter 9. When did this chapter 11 come to be? It did not exist in the North American Free Trade Agreement or on the international level. It appeared when the United States and Canada entered into negotiations with Mexico. Since we did not trust the Mexicans—we being Canada and the United States, not me—a chapter was included allowing Canadian and American businesses to challenge the laws and regulations of the municipalities, provinces and countries involved. These countries were targeted. That is why a large number of Latin American countries refuse to negotiate with Canada. They do not want to negotiate with the United States either because they know full well that the scales are tipped in favour of big business against national governments and national sovereignty.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:35 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate being allowed a few minutes to speak in this debate.

In principle, I am going to support this agreement. I am going to talk about one issue which I think the House and the international trade committee should not lose sight of as this discussion goes forward.

A number of members have talked about the importance of trade to our economy. This is very true. It goes right back to our country's founding when our economy was based on the trade in lumber and fur. It has not stopped. Eighty per cent of our gross domestic product relates to trade.

In the last couple of years, there has been a lot more bilateral trade agreements entered into mainly with smaller countries, and mainly as a result of the near death of the WTO Doha round, which does not seem to be going anywhere very fast. It comes right down to the law of comparative advantage. Canada is a large country. It has a large geography and many natural resources. It benefits us to trade not only with the United States, our closest and most important neighbour, but with other countries around the world, such as Panama.

We cannot lose sight of the other side of the equation. Many countries of the world, such as Panama, are what we call developing countries. Through the law of comparative advantage, they also benefit from trade. Bilateral trade lifts both countries.

Our trade with Panama is more symbolic than anything. It is very insignificant. I believe there is $90 million of mostly manufactured Canadian products going from Canada to Panama. In return we import about $30 million of products, mainly nuts and tropical fruits that are generally not grown in Canada. Really there is no sector that will be advantaged that much, and likewise there is no sector that will be disadvantaged through the Canada–Panama free trade agreement.

We had the same debate on the agreement with Colombia. Anytime we get into these debates we are not dealing with perfect situations. There are always going to be issues with these countries. A lot of these countries have very troubling and difficult histories. Some have made tremendous improvements over the last number of years, while others have made slight improvements. We cannot ignore that. We have to keep pushing, nudging and urging those countries to improve their human rights issues, to improve their environmental laws and regulations, and of course to improve their tax issues also.

There are some opportunities in this agreement with Panama. One that has been mentioned by previous speakers is the expansion of the Panama Canal. It is a $5.2 billion project. Canada has many engineering and construction companies that are well suited for this type of development and hopefully they will benefit from closer relationships with the country of Panama.

We are not dealing with a perfect situation, but I have reviewed the labour co-operation agreement. It is an agreement signed by Panama in which it agrees to respect the right of freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, elimination of forced work, and the elimination of discrimination.

I am not naive. I know that if we went to Panama today we would find abuses. We would find imperfect and problematic situations. However, from everything I have heard and read, I believe there have been significant steps made in the right direction. We see the same thing with some of the environmental issues.

It comes down to what comes first, the chicken or the egg. Do we wait until the country has a perfect record, perfect environmental regulations, no allegations of any labour code abuses and no allegations of human rights abuses, or do we wait until there is very significant development, put in place the framework for further improvement and allow the country to improve its economy with a free trade agreement with a developed country?

Those are the reasons I support the agreement going to committee for further study and review.

One issue that concerns me, which I will talk about for a few minutes, is the whole issue of tax havens and tax information. I would like us to move closer to an agreement, whether it is a double taxation or a tax information exchange agreement. There have been proposals from Panama to Canada and vice versa. It has not been finalized yet and hopefully this issue will be finalized shortly.

I am going to spend a minute or two talking about that issue because I feel strongly about it. We can talk about Panama, the Cayman Islands and Liechtenstein, but we should be talking about what is going on right here in Canada. We are basically not doing anything about tax evaders.

As a previous speaker alluded to, we have had two very serious situations recently. There have been 1,700 Liechtenstein accounts and 160 Swiss accounts. The names, account numbers and amounts are all clearly on the record. CRA officials know about it. They are all residents of Canada. They were given 30 days to walk into the nearest CRA office and declare amnesty. Are they fined? No. Are they charged? No. They might have to pay a small penalty, a bit of back interest or a bit of back taxes, but that is all that happens. To my way of thinking, that is a fundamental travesty of justice.

Let us say two kids went out last night, broke into a service station and stole a carton of cigarettes. Tonight they will be in jail and perhaps they should be in jail. But if a person puts $5 million in a Swiss bank account and leaves it there for 20 years, he is defrauding the Canadian taxpayers of probably $200,000, $300,000 or $400,000 each and every year. If the person is caught, what happens? He or she gets total absolute amnesty.

The person would then transfer the money to another haven, wherever it is around the world, because he or she has nothing to lose. If the individual is caught again, what does he or she do? Within 30 days the person would go in to the nearest CRA office, declare amnesty and the whole thing occurs over and over again.

The point I am trying to make is that Canada should be very aggressive. The people who are caught doing this should be charged, convicted and, if convicted, they should be jailed. I want to talk about tax havens, but I realize I am off topic.

In principle, this agreement should be signed. I know there is a tax issue. The whole tax issue should be worked on and I believe it will be finalized in due course.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:45 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the presentation made by the Liberal member, who mentioned that he will vote in favour of the agreement presented by the government. I did not really understand what could possibly motivate him to support this bill. He said that human and labour rights are violated in Panama and that Panama is recognized as a tax haven on the OECD's grey list. An information exchange agreement is not even included in the main agreement. Only businesses will benefit from this agreement. Canadians will not derive any benefit from it, and the signing of such an agreement will also tarnish their country's reputation.

Does the hon. member see some advantage in supporting Bill C-46?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of the labour agreement, I said that I am not naive enough to state in the House that everything is perfect, but Panama and Canada have entered into a labour agreement. It basically protects a number of issues. It is well-written. If the countries do not follow the agreement, further action will be taken. Also an environmental agreement has been signed and that again will push the envelope that much further.

From reading the background material, we are looking at a country that is moving forward. It has what I consider to be a significant gross domestic product increase every year. The country is in the process of modernizing. It is strategically located. I am not going to suggest that everything is perfect, but it is moving in the right direction. This agreement will be beneficial for Canada and for the people living in Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I understand the member is not running in the next election, so I want to wish him well. I have had many good times with him in the public accounts meetings when I was a provincial member and he was the long-time chair of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts.

The member explained quite well the problems with tax evasion and money laundering. I disagree with his assessment that we should be signing and implementing a free trade deal when we should be doing what France did a year ago, that is, get tough with Panama. When France started taxing corporations doing business in Panama, the Panamanians simply signed the tax treaties that the French wanted.

We are not going to get anywhere if we simply sign agreements without getting tax treaties signed first. That is the point. The member was on the right track and he had great arguments, but he should vote against this deal until those tax treaties are signed.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:50 p.m.
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Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, we probably both have similar views in certain situations, but we have come to a different conclusion as to whether the glass is half full or the glass is half empty. I do not believe we should hold up the trade agreement. I have read everything I could get my hands on. There have been many good and positive steps made on the tax treaty. Canada has given proposals. We received proposals back from Panama and I think it will be concluded.

The point I want to leave the House with is it is not what goes on in Panama, it is what goes on in this country regarding tax havens. If we took a dozen of the people who had large accounts in Switzerland and took the information that is readily available on the Internet, WikiLeaks, or wherever, and charged them instead of giving them amnesty, convicted them and put them in jail for five or six years, the whole issue of tax havens would disappear pretty quickly.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 4:55 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are at report stage of this bill. My colleague has moved a series of amendments at this stage which, although they are only a small part of the overall bill, would have the effect of destroying the bill by deleting some key clauses in the bill.

It is quite appropriate that the House should support those amendments for the deletion of those provisions. This is another in a series, the Colombia free trade deal being the most egregious example, of bilateral trade agreements that we have entered into that are not in the interests of Canada. In many cases they are downright exploitive of the country that we negotiate them with.

If we analyze trading arrangements, the ones that are the fairest, as opposed to the nomenclature of being freest, are clearly the ones that are done at the multilateral level rather than the bilateral level. With a few notable exceptions, Canada is in a position with a country like Panama. We dominate it. We have heard figures that trading is relatively modest between the two countries by international standards, but it is much more to our advantage.

In this kind of relationship the smaller, weaker party is at a distinct disadvantage once the agreement goes into play. That is particularly true when one understands the history of this model of trading agreements. We accord what in effect is state status to very large multinational corporations under the NAFTA agreement. We have seen very clear examples where we have been the negative beneficiary of the clause that gives them that status and the right to sue national governments, in effect being on par with them.

A classic example where we were the negative beneficiary was the one involving a chemical substance that Canada wanted to ban and did so. Part of the refining process for this substance was in Sarnia near my community. We ended up paying something like $13 million or $18 million to a multinational corporation, without even fighting it. The Liberals at that time just caved, which they are really good at.

The one that really bothers me is when Mexico was at the receiving end of this type of a lawsuit. A multinational corporation based in the U.S. was moving toxic materials into a very poor community in Mexico. The national government simply did not have the financial wherewithal to fight the suit and ended up having a judgment awarded against it for many millions of dollars. I think it was $20 million to $30 million U.S. which it had absolutely no ability to pay.

We see those kinds of abusive processes and it is why there are many countries in Central America and South America that will not enter into negotiations with Canada on those kinds of bilateral agreements because of that clause and because in a number of cases we are the dominant partner.

It is not good for our international reputation if we enter into these agreements with these kinds of countries. That is particularly so, as we saw with Colombia and its history of abuse of human rights, but it is also true with Panama.

We have heard repeatedly today, and it is conceded by all sides, it is a tax haven and a centre for money laundering and organized crime. Some 400,000 corporations are registered by the Panamanian government, hundreds of times probably out of proportion to the normal economic activity that many corporations would represent. They are all shell companies and a good number of them are used to launder money through organized crime syndicates. Others are there purely to avoid their tax responsibilities in their domestic countries.

That is the kind of country and government, maybe government more so than country, because I do not want to disparage the people of Panama, with which the Conservative government is entering into the agreement. The end result, when we enter into an agreement with like this with a country with those types of practices, we are condoning those practices.

It is really interesting that the Conservative government is doing this, the so-called tough on crime government. I have oftentimes very great doubts about whether the Conservatives would know anything about fighting crime, how to get at it, but we know, any of us who have studied it to any degree, and they should know, that if we are to get at organized crime, we get at the dollars.

By allowing Panama to continue to be a tax haven that inspires those corporations to register there, it also makes it very easy for it to launder money through there. By doing that, the drug trafficking and human trafficking that goes on within those organized crime syndicates, Panama clearly is assisting them in their operations and we in effect are condoning it when we sign on to this kind of agreement.

It is a very good reason why we should not be signing this. In addition to that, there are others. I want to deal with one in particular around setting standards.

If I have time, I will go to the environment, but I want to deal with labour standards. I must admit I was somewhat taken aback by the last speaker when he said that the Panamanian government was making progress. I am dealing now with labour standards, because this agreement, if it is processed to its final stage and is signed and ratified by both countries, does not have any meaningful provisions in it that would ensure workers in Panama would have even minimal standards of job protection, health and safety standards and environmental standards.

In 2010 there was some perception by the president of Panama that somehow the Panamanians were not friendly enough, and it is really hard to imagine this is the case, to the corporate world. Therefore, they passed a law in the summer of 2010 which eliminated environmental impact studies on projects deemed to be of social interest. That would be infrastructure programs, I assume, in many cases.

Then they went on and made it illegal to have mandatory dues collections for collective bargaining arrangements. People cannot do that in Panama, something on which my community led the way, back after the second world war. The ban formerly came out of Windsor in 1945, so now it is illegal to do that in Panama.

It allowed employers to fire striking workers when they were in the course of a legal strike. It criminalized street blockades, civil protests. It also protected police from prosecution when they abused workers in a strike-breaking situation.

That is the kind of country that we are going to be signing on to, and it is beyond the pale that we would be doing so.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.
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Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to my hon. colleague's remarks and I heard him talk about what this agreement would mean to Panama.

It is my understanding that as a Canadian parliamentarian my primary duty is to represent Canadians. I appreciate the hon. member's concern for human rights, which we all share, but here is the difficulty I have with his argument and I would like him to address it.

Panama is a democratic country. It is not a dictatorship. The government was democratically elected. If the democratically elected representatives of the people of Panama believe this is a good deal for Panama, why should Canadian parliamentarians be opposed to it on the basis of the argument that it is bad for Panama? Panamanian representatives support it for Panama. Canadian representatives support it because it is good for Canada. Why should we interfere in their democratic process?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two answers to that, one a general one.

It is in the interests of Canada to protect our reputation at the international level, but the government has done a great deal of damage to that. That includes our relationship with countries that are quite prepared to abuse human rights. Every parliamentarian has the responsibility to protect Canada's reputation in that regard. That is the general answer.

With respect to his claims around Panama's democracy, we could have some strong arguments about that if we actually studied the country and in particular when we think of people like Noriega. I do not think that was a democratic government. Things have not changed a lot since then.

My colleague's real question was whether that government was a vibrant representative democracy. Even if we concede that it is, and I am not, it still comes back to our responsibility to uphold human rights, including the right to organize collectively and the right of a worker to have a safe working place and in the environmental field to have a safe environment for the community as well. We have a responsibility to be involved in that when we enter into these kinds of agreements.

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February 3rd, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.
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Liberal

John McKay Liberal Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows I have the utmost respect for his thoughtfulness both in this chamber and outside and his legal analysis. He elevates the quality of debate in the House.

The hon. member will also know that his party and our party pushed for a bill on corporate social responsibility and ultimately it lost, which was quite regrettable in my opinion.

The hon. member and I probably also would agree that the side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment, et cetera are not as strong as one would like, but maybe as good as one is going to get.

Is the issue of corporate social responsibility, and that is the ability of an indigenous person to sue a Canadian corporation operating in Panama, advanced by this treaty or is it affected at all?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:05 p.m.
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NDP

Joe Comartin NDP Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a practical answer to that question. I do not see it being advanced because of the inability of individuals in Panama to use that.

It comes down though to the basic model. There is the Mercosur trading arrangement in South America in which maybe eight countries take part. I have had various discussions over the years with people from some of those countries who have told me there is a whole different model and the one in the European Union is the one they would prefer to enter into. It would be multilateral and resources would flow from the centre to new countries coming into the agreement. That would be a major plus.

When we were having multilateral discussions with South America, there was some discussion about there being some financial incentives from the wealthy countries to build the infrastructure and move technology into the country so it could advance. However, those discussions were broken off. That is the kind of model that we should be looking at and doing it at a multilateral level.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:10 p.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this issue once again.

I am a member of the international trade committee. This bill has been before the House. We have had an opportunity to listen to stakeholders. At the end, we concluded that this was a good agreement for Canada and was one that we should pursue. That is why I will be speaking in support of this bill.

Given that Canada is a trading nation, I believe it is in our interest to do so. We have launched a series of trade agreements with a variety of countries that have been very successful for many businesses in Canada.

We recognize that Panama, compared to the giants of Latin America, is a small player, but this is a strategic place and partner that has great potential for the future. There are important opportunities there for growth between the north and south. The Panama Canal is a gateway that will undergo a massive expansion and could be an opportunity for Canadian businesses. We hope, through this initiative, dialogue and agreements, that there will be business opportunities between both countries. There would be different projects going on underground on which hopefully businesses could bid successfully. We have this opportunity.

As I said, the trade is relatively small, at about $100 million, but it has potential to grow. As well, these are significant steps in relation to tying things up, country by country, in the Americas.

My hon. colleague spoke about Mercosur, which is a large bloc in South America that includes Brazil, the dominant player there, Argentina and other regional players such as Uruguay, Paraguay and now Venezuela. It is a market that we have to get into. This is a market that we would eventually have a trade agreement with, similar to the agreement we are in the process of with the European Union. It is a complex process, but one that is necessary to engage in because the European Union is an equally important bloc on which we have to concentrate.

As we all know, trade for Canada is predominantly with the U.S. at over 80%. We have to diversify the treaty relationships we have with other countries around the world. This offers us an opportunity. Strategically it makes sense, given the major projects in the canal as well as the strategic importance of Panama.

Panama has made some strives over the years. It went through a very difficult time during the Noriega regime and afterwards. The 1980s was a difficult period, but it has made a transformative presence on the world stage. It is a stable democracy. It is a major player in the Organization of American States, of which Canada is a player, and this is a very positive thing. It is a country that has been providing stability for the region. Panama is a player that we want to engage bilaterally and through this agreement.

It is important to note that this agreement has very important side agreements on issues of labour and the environment. On the labour issue, my colleague spoke of corporate social responsibility, which I feel strongly about, and that needs to be done. In some ways this elevates the discussion and brings the focus not just on trade agreements, but labour rights and human rights issues, as they are equally important. We did that with the Colombian free trade agreement. There was a very important agreement on a human rights review. That was an historical step in terms of a trade agreement.

Although we are not anywhere near where we want to be in terms of corporate social responsibility, we are beginning to realize that it cannot be ignored and it has to be addressed in our trade agreements, bilateral agreements and discussions. We want to make sure that Canadian businesses are conducting themselves ethically abroad. By and large, I think they are but Canada can play a major role as a leader for the rest of the world in the fields of human rights and corporate social responsibility. This has to be the issue for the future.

Getting back to the agreement, it covers such issues as the right to freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, among other things. I am very supportive of such an agreement that recognizes that when entering arrangements like free trade agreements, labour rights must be protected and encouraged. This is a positive outcome of this particular agreement.

In terms of potential business for Canadian companies, the opportunities, although presently small, have considerable room for growth. Canadian business provides a wide range of products, including vehicles, pharmaceutical equipment and machinery, among other things, but the opportunity for growth exists. Certainly it exists in the financial sector. We have major players in the Americas, such as Scotiabank, which has been carrying the flag of Canada. It plays a major role in the financial sector throughout Latin America and, of course, it is a major player in Canada as well.

As for the services provided by Canadian companies in the financial, engineering and communications sectors, there can also be an opportunity for growth.

Some concerns have been raised about the free trade agreements. I know there have been issues raised in committee in relation to the banking regulations in place in Panama with regard to money laundering. This is a big issue and the government needs to take it very seriously. It is a challenge that other countries face when they have tax-free havens, including some in Europe. This needs to be addressed.

The thrust of this agreement is one of economic support and solidarity between two countries that are important allies and provides stability in that region.

As I mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, Canada is a trading nation and responsible sound trade agreements are in the interest of Canada and are good for Canada. I think most Canadians would agree that we cannot act in isolation. This is the time for us to engage the world.

We are all aware that the discussions in Doha have not gone very well. Given that those discussions have not gone well, countries like Canada have engaged in bilateral agreements. There are those who would challenge the wisdom of that and whether the agreements should be multilateral or bilateral, but at the end of the day we have to move forward because the discussions have not been very meaningful or conclusive thus far. We cannot stand back while other countries sign agreements.

As I mentioned, Brazil is a huge player in that area. It is a country of 170 million people with a $2.2 trillion budget that keeps on growing. Our engagement in Panama further links us to the markets in South America, such as Brazil and other players.

The GDP of Panama is $44 billion. As I mentioned, the amount of trade we do with it is small, about $100 million, but it is nothing that we can dismiss as there are strategic interests for Canada.

I would be pleased to support this agreement. It is fairly good for Canada and Panama and offers the opportunity for mutual benefits, increased trade and co-operation in years to come. This is the essence of good trading relationships and good trade agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.
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Bloc

Robert Carrier Bloc Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, I still find it disappointing to hear a Liberal colleague speak in favour of this bill. He says that the proposed agreement is good for Canada. That is too abstract for me, and I would like him to be more specific.

We need to remember that the OECD considers Panama to be a tax haven. Perhaps it would be good to review the criteria for declaring a country a tax haven: lack of transparency; laws or administrative practices that prevent the effective exchange of information; and indications that the country is attempting to attract investments that are purely tax-driven and not for economic activity.

I am wondering what good there is for Canada in all of that. Perhaps it is good for businesses that will avoid paying taxes, which our constituents will end up paying for them. I would like to hear the member explain his position.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for the question. I would especially like to thank him for his concern and his interest in everything that is good for Canada.

At committee, we had the opportunity to hear from several witnesses who spoke about this bill. Representatives from certain businesses clearly indicated that this bill offers many advantages for our country and for businesses that work in Panama. After several meetings during which I had the chance to hear many people's testimony, in the end, while I cannot say there was a complete consensus, I can say that people who have been able to invest in Panama said that the bill would benefit businesses and would benefit Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech and the one presented earlier by his Liberal colleague. I would have to say that I am very puzzled because I specifically remember his saying that side agreements are important. Let us backtrack from this. What is very important for fair and balanced trade is that we enter into trade agreements that provide for a balancing of trade to further economic development and looking after human rights, labour standards, and environmental protection. The scholars would tell us that we do that by making sure there is one trade agreement that contains all those measures and is legally binding.

If there is anything we should have learned from the failings of the NAFTA and its side agreements, is that it was a mistake. As I recall with two previous U.S. presidents and moving on through to President Obama, there were great concerns about the frailties of the NAFTA.

I think the member is confusing apples and oranges. Actions by the government to command another party to agreement are different from corporate social responsibility where obligations are imposed on an independent corporation.

I wonder if he could speak to that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I spoke on two issues. One was the issue of this particular agreement and the side agreements which I thought was important. I said in terms of the evolution of the agreement, I think this is a very big step. I mentioned the fact that even on the Colombia free trade agreement, we did deal with the issue of human rights with a review that takes place annually.

It is not the ideal of the corporate social responsibility bill that I had supported that was put forward by my hon. colleague, but it certainly is a step forward that we even have this on the table. That should be seen as an achievement in itself, and not going back to the idea that it cannot happen, because it is happening with these side agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

February 3rd, 2011 / 5:25 p.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide some commentary on Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

This afternoon we are debating the four report stage motions which were moved by a member from the NDP. These four motions are all motions to delete certain clauses in the bill.

The first motion is to eliminate clause 7, which outlines the purpose of the bill. I think the bill probably would still operate even if we did not have the narrative about what the purpose is because it is almost self-evident.

The second motion is to eliminate the clause which designates that the minister is the representative of Canada. That is almost self-evident as well, although it is probably good to have it in there.

The third motion is to eliminate clause 12, which lays out the minister's authorized activities in his role.

The last one is to eliminate the final clause, which is the coming into force clause, i.e., when this bill would become law.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh had indicated that, in substance, putting all these together probably makes the bill somewhat sloppy or inoperative and basically would kill the bill.

Now we know exactly why we are spending all this time on this. It is probably why the Speaker has given so much latitude to members who are speaking because there is not very much we can say. These are constructive motions basically to scrap the bill. Some people would rather talk about the bill, which is really not what we are debating.

It is interesting that there has been so much irrelevance relative to what we are supposed to do, but probably some of the more interesting commentary that we have had with regard to bilateral free trade agreements in general. There have been a lot of very good issues that have come up. Some relate to double taxation issues, or tax-sharing information, or multilateral versus bilateral agreements, and some of those benefits and whether or not we should be doing trade at all with countries that do not respect human rights, with countries that do not respect the collective bargaining process.

We talked about the fact that in this particular case the trade activity between the two countries is very small. It is $90 million one way and $30 million the other. It is inconsequential. Yet, there have been eloquent speeches about what a great thing this is for agriculture and so forth. That is nonsense, quite frankly. There is not a great deal of trade.

However, what there is, is a future. There is the expansion of the Panama Canal which is going to be finished, I think, in 2012. It is going to open up new opportunities.

The most important aspect that has been raised is that there is a problem in Panama. It has been identified critically by the OECD, and it has to do with tax evasion through tax havens. Tax havens are fine. Tax avoidance is fine. Tax evasion is illegal.

We need good faith with our trading partners. They may not be part of a particular trade instrument that we have, such as a bill like this one, but they should be part of the conversation. I think that members have basically said we need to have this conversation about how we are going to conduct ourselves in terms of having ethical trade with other countries around the world. We need that conversation. I hope that it will start as a consequence of the input of hon. members today and that we understand that even in Canada there are people who do bad things. There are people who are money launderers, who break the laws, all the things we accuse these other countries of. Let us not be holier than thou. We have problems ourselves. We have to clean them up.

Mr. Speaker, I will finish this speech at the next sitting.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:05 a.m.
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Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, a few weeks ago, the Bloc Québécois and I spoke out against Bill C-46, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. The Conservatives' eagerness to ratify this agreement was one of the reasons we could not support it. About a month ago, while we were considering this bill in the House, we found that it was not in line with the Bloc Québécois' values and beliefs or those of Quebeckers.

Our position remains unchanged because we have seen no indication that neither workers' rights nor the tax haven situation in Panama has improved since then. My Bloc Québécois colleagues and I will never be able to support any agreement, treaty or government decision that does not respect these fundamental rights. We will never accept such an agreement unless we can be certain that these rights will be respected.

Before going any further, I would like to answer a question that was asked by the Conservative member for Abbotsford. After my last speech on this subject, he asked why the Bloc Québécois would not at least allow this agreement to go to committee to ensure that amendments are made that would satisfy the Bloc. I would say that if some of these problems could be fixed in committee, we would be in favour of sending the bill to committee. However, some of the problems with the agreement or relations with Panama are beyond Canada's control. For example, there is the issue of police repression of unions. As my colleague, the member for Joliette said, although we could study the issue in committee, we would be wasting our time if the Panamanian leaders have no interest in examining and addressing the situation.

That said, since I have the honour of speaking on this topic today, I think it is important to briefly reiterate the Bloc's position on bilateral agreements. The Bloc Québécois is not a protectionist party. Quebec exports 52% of what it produces, and our businesses, especially cutting-edge businesses, could not survive in the domestic market alone. That is why the Bloc Québécois supported NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, and was the first party to propose entering into a free trade agreement with the European Union. Clearly, our party supports free trade.

We believe that in order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. This would be easy if the Conservatives were willing. A trading system that results in exploitation in poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. Members can be assured that the Bloc Québécois will never tolerate a system of free trade that would result in a race to the bottom. We simply want to increase wealth and not poverty, in Quebec, Canada, and in the countries with which we are signing agreements.

We are well aware that the absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete with products made with no regard for basic social rights. We are in favour of a real policy of multilateralism, not the shameless pursuit of profit at the expense of people's living conditions and the environment, which is all too often the case with the bilateral agreements that the government wants to sign.

I would like to remind the members of an aspect of this agreement that the Bloc Québécois finds very worrisome, and that we proclaim loud and clear every time we have the chance.

Panama is still on the OECD's grey list of tax havens, and it is even on France's blacklist of tax havens. Yes, I said France. Obviously Panama poses a problem.

While major European corporations are leaving that country because of its lack of banking transparency and its promotion of tax evasion, Canada wants to send its companies there. Does that make any sense? We need to think about this. The fact that France is pulling out of the country and we want to go in needs some serious consideration.

The Bloc Québécois feels it is imperative that, before concluding a Canada-Panama free trade agreement, the Conservative government sign an information sharing agreement with Panama. Nonetheless, this agreement must not exempt subsidiaries located in the targeted jurisdictions from paying income tax.

I want to repeat that, even though the free trade agreement signed on May 14, 2010, comes with a comprehensive agreement on labour co-operation, protecting labour rights in Panama remains a serious concern.

President Ricardo Martinelli's right-wing government passed Law 30, legislation that is considered anti-union, just a few months ago in June 2010. It is unbelievable. Basically, the law criminalizes workers who demonstrate to defend their rights. Here we are in 2010 and that government is still passing that kind of legislation. Once again, this certainly gives us something to think about.

We also know that Panama was shaken in recent months by crackdowns described as anti-union. Between two and six people were killed and about 100 were injured during violent demonstrations that were held after Law 30 passed in June 2010.

As a member who comes from the agricultural labour movement, I naturally believe that workers' rights are universal rights, and no trade agreement, no free trade agreement—and I mean none—should be entered into without absolute assurance that workers' rights will be respected. That is a fundamental principle of fair trade. That is how fair trade begins. It is not rocket science.

Accordingly, we rigorously apply that principle to all of our actions and the decisions we make. That is one of the reasons we simply could not support the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement recently. Our party acts in accordance with our values and policies.

Even though on August 5, 2010, the Panamanian government agreed to review this law, we nonetheless have cause for concern about the Martinelli government's true willingness to respect the International Labour Organization conventions. Why is the government in such a hurry to ratify this agreement? Should we not ensure that the Panamanian government is backing down on Law 30 before we make any commitment? Why not make sure the Panamanian government reverses its decision and supports labour rights in that country instead?

Without any assurance that workers' rights are respected in Panama and considering that this country is still on France's blacklist and the OECD's grey list of tax havens, it is not possible for the Bloc Québécois to support this bill.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for his presentation. He has raised some extremely serious points about the bill we are debating today.

I would like his opinion or that of the Bloc on the government's agenda with regard to this free trade agreement. It took the same approach with Colombia and other countries, an approach that ignores human rights, fairness and transparency. These values are important to Canadians but, as we can see, the government is taking a very different approach.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for her excellent question.

I was elected to sit in this House two years ago. I have had to take a stand on a number of issues, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement in particular. The Bloc Québécois thinks it is unfortunate that the government, which the Liberals are supporting more and more, insists on concluding bilateral agreements knowing that this will lead to situations like the one we experienced with Colombia and the one we are currently going through with Panama.

Quebeckers are in favour of free trade. We were the first to want a free trade agreement with the United States. The Bloc Québécois was one of the first political parties to support NAFTA. Our political party and the Province of Quebec support free trade, but we prefer a multilateral approach in order to avoid thorny problems arising every time.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:15 a.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the debate that is going on. However, I disagree with the position taken by the NDP and the answer of the member from the Bloc.

It is interesting to talk about the bilateral agreements that we have been signing as a government, but I am sure the hon. member understands that the multilateral forum, at least at Doha, has failed. As it is not moving forward, Canada has no choice but to look at bilateral trading agreements, so that we have jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers.

The Panama Canal is being expanded to double its present capacity. A lot of trade out of Asia, China in particular, will be coming to the east coast through the Panama Canal. Panama is a key country in Central America. It is a country we need to look to the future with. We need to be part of that future.

What is wrong with putting rules in place for our trade with Panama? Rules-based trading has to be better than non-rules-based trading.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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Bloc

Claude Guimond Bloc Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his comments and his question.

Yesterday afternoon, we talked about this at the Standing Committee on International Trade. Indeed, the Doha Round negotiations are causing problems and leading us to sign more bilateral agreements. I think we should ask ourselves why there are problems in the Doha Round negotiations and then try to resolve them. We know that the biggest problem has to do with everything that is happening in the agriculture sector. Why not bring everyone to the table to resolve the problems in the Doha negotiations and then sign multilateral agreements?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, it is an honour for me to rise in the House today and speak to Bill C-46, Canada-Panama Free Trade Act.

I rise, along with many of my colleagues who have spoken in this House, opposed to this free trade agreement. We have brought forward a critique and recommendations that speak to our concerns about this free trade agreement and about the government approach to bilateral free trade agreements.

I would like to begin with a story that I was witness to just a while ago in my home constituency. I was in The Pas, Manitoba, one of the communities that I represent, at the announcement of federal infrastructure funds that were to be used to help the local pulp and paper mill to develop a more green approach in its production.

There was quite a bit of support for this initiative. While we were sitting and talking about how important this commitment was to the plant and to the community, one of the speeches by a government member referenced the importance of bilateral free trade agreements to Canadians as a whole.

The irony is that the pulp and paper mill we were in is across the street from a lumber mill that has been shut down for a year and a half as a result of the softwood lumber agreement. Some people who were laid off from the lumber plant now work in the pulp and paper plant. This community was hurt a great deal as a result of that shutting down. Many jobs were lost. And the community was saddened by the wholesale export of trees that come from our area only to be processed south of the border or overseas.

Everybody knew that the government did not stand up for the people in my community or the people across Canada who depend on the jobs in the lumber industry. Free trade agreements are not always fair. Some have caused the loss of good-paying jobs and the loss of support for communities all across our country.

The irony is that we are hearing about how these free trade agreements will make Canadians' lives better, when in fact we know that this not the case.

Bilateral free trade agreements usually favour the dominant economy and ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to the less powerful economy. This is more apt to happen in bilateral agreements than in multilateral ones. In this case, Canada is the dominant economy, and this deal is characterized by imbalance.

Since this is true, why do we keep negotiating these kinds of trade agreements? Does the government not care about this imbalance? Does it have no qualms about the challenges that will come of our being given greater access to Panama, whether we are concentrating on resource extraction or on extending our export-driven interests? It is a question that needs to be asked.

Canada's reputation is built on multilateral co-operation, consideration of human and environmental rights, and fairness in our work at the international level.

We have seen, certainly in the area of foreign affairs, a different approach on the part of the government, an approach that throws away some of the core values that Canada was built on, and on which my generation was raised.

When we look at this trade agreement, there are some points that cause concern. Labour rights are something that we in Canada uphold and respect. We believe that working people have the right to form unions and negotiate for a decent wage and decent benefits. This is not the case in Panama. If we go through with this agreement, we will be going against Canada's tradition of fairness for workers.

In July, there was a new wave of anti-union repression in Panama. Several workers were killed, over 100 were injured, and over 300 were arrested, including the leaders of the SUNTRACS and CONATO trade unions. This was the government of Panama's brutal reaction to protests against legislation restricting the right to strike and the freedom of association. The legislation provides for up to two years in jail for workers who take their protests to the streets.

It is despicable for us to engage in a trade deal with a government that undertakes this kind of repression toward working people. It is something that we will continue to see as a result of the bilateral free trade agreement with Colombia. But here we have a chance to stand and say no, this is not right. This is a government that denies its own citizens basic rights such as the right to unionize and the right to strike.

Another glaring hole in this free trade agreement is the failure to deal with the fact that Panama is an offshore banking centre and a tax haven, with a serious lack of transparency that displays excessive banking secrecy. We in the NDP have been critical of the government's failure to act against offshore tax havens and tax loopholes that benefit Canadian entrepreneurs. Here we would be engaging in a free trade agreement with a country that turns a blind eye to these destructive practices and is showing no interest in correcting them.

We in the NDP stand in opposition to these elements, which accompany this trade agreement. These elements are either not being looked at or they are being viewed in an unrealistic way. The government apparently thinks it is okay to enter into bilateral free trade agreements with a country like Panama that has such disregard for principles that are important to Canadians.

On the environmental side, there is reference to the existence of an agreement on the environment. But given the government's approach to anything environmental, whether it is in our country or abroad, we doubt that this agreement will be taken seriously.

We understand the importance of trade and trading with countries. In this day and age, we would not be where we are without trade. What we oppose is bilateral free trade agreements that reject fair and sustainable trade. This rejection often generates discontent and increased protectionism. We have all seen the destructive impact of the NAFTA on the U.S. economy and, quite frankly, on our own.

To end, I would like to return perhaps to the people I represent and the way in which we have seen jobs taken away from our area, good paying, community sustaining jobs, as a result of free trade agreements that have failed to put Canadians first. This is one more example of that pattern.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the member will know there are 350,000 foreign companies registered in Panama to take advantage of its tax haven status and the Canadian government has done absolutely nothing to try to get a double taxation avoidance agreement signed with Panama before it proceeds to ratify this agreement.

In February of this year, France took very proactive action. The French government levied a tax of 50% on dividends, interest, royalties and service fees paid to anyone based in France to a beneficiary based in one of the countries on its blacklist. Guess what? Within months, Panama signed a double taxation avoidance agreement with France. That is an example of where we can get results and action.

I would like to know what the member thinks about the government's lack of action, to try to implement a free trade deal with a country and not even try to deal with the issues of a tax haven.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, absolutely this is a real failure to show interest in building a bilateral free trade relationship, and certainly engaging in an agreement without dealing with such a glaring absence of accountability and transparency on the part of Panama. One would think it would be interested or enthusiastic about entering into trade with Canada. Instead of Canada saying that the government is interested but has some serious concerns with respect to the area of tax havens, and of course we are saying with respect to labour issues and the environment, the government is throwing its hands up and going for the lowest common denominator instead of making a real difference.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:30 a.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me to stand up on this issue again and talk once more about the importance of trade to Canada, but more importantly, to talk about the principles that underpin a sound, fair and effective trade policy.

I want to underscore from the beginning something that my colleague said so well, which is that I think all Canadians understand the importance of trade to our country. I think all Canadians want Canada to have a healthy, vibrant trading relationship with countries that help to provide a sound basis to the Canadian economy and allow us to build an economy that is strong, environmentally sensitive, sustainable and fair.

I think trade relationships with other countries and Canada can be built on such a foundation. The New Democrats are constantly a voice of patience and intelligence in urging this House to pursue such a policy. The particular bill before this House is something that does not meet those criteria, and accordingly, it is something that our party is opposing.

Here are some of the reasons we are opposing this trade agreement.

This of course is a trade proposal and an agreement that would impose upon Canadians the obligation to provide very favourable trading terms to a country that I think has a very unenviable record on a number of fronts.

First, we are engaging in a NAFTA-style trade agreement with a country, Panama, that is an infamous offshore banking centre. It acts as a platform for multinationals and a conduit for opaque banking activities and tax evasion. Let me tell you what Congressman Michael Michaud, a Democrat, quoting from the U.S. State Department, recently said about Panama:

[Panama's] industrial policy is premised on obtaining a comparative advantage by banning taxation of foreign corporations, hiding tax liabilities and transactions behind banking secrecy rules and the ease with which U.S. and other firms can create unregulated subsidiaries. According to the State Department, Panama has over 350,000 foreign-registered companies.

This agreement would propose building a so-called free trade platform that would provide front corporations with additional powers and incentives to their right to challenge Canadian regulations and standards and shape trade to serve their needs, not the public interest of Canadians.

This trade deal would make it easier for Canadian and foreign corporations to move to Panama and flout Canadian labour laws, pay their workers in Panama an average wage of about two dollars an hour and not have to pay for pensions, benefits or sick days.

Canadian law states that workers enjoy certain minimum workplace safety laws and benefits. Corporations that would be established in Panama, and that this trade agreement would make easier to establish in Panama, do not have to do any of those things.

Let us stop for a moment. This is not just bad for Canadian workers, this is bad for Canadian businesses. Businesses that set up in Canada have to pay living wages and market wages. They very often have to establish pension plans and pay for health care premiums, insurance premiums, life insurance premiums, and workers' compensation premiums. In other words, they have to act like fair and responsible corporate citizens.

Canadian businesses would be affected by companies that could go to Panama, set up subsidiaries, and provide the exact same products that in many cases are being produced here, but those companies would not comply with any of that. I think any Canadian watching this debate or who follows this subject can easily see that is most unfair to Canadian businesses.

I want to talk about Panama's tax haven status. I think that is a major concern in regard to this proposed legislation.

In 2008, Panama was one of 11 countries that did not have a tax information exchange agreement signed or enforced. Panama is one of three states, with Guatemala and Nauru, that would not share bank information for any tax information exchange purpose.

The OECD blacklisted Panama in 2000 as an unco-operative tax haven. In 2002, in a letter from the Republic of Panama to the Secretary-General of the OECD, Panama committed to meet the OECD standards for transparency and information-sharing such that it would no longer be considered a tax haven.

Here we are today, in 2010, and Panama has not, to date, substantially implemented that internationally agreed tax standard to which it committed itself.

There was a study done this year by Cornell University that examined a study done by the IRS over a four-year period earlier this century. I think it was between 2004 and 2007. It found that Panama was tied for first in the country as a source of tax-laundered money emanating from the drug trade.

It is interesting that Panama is also tied to Colombia. In 1903, Panama was formally separated from Colombia, with the blessing and military support of the United States government. Today, Colombian banks retain a prominent role in the Panamanian banking system, as well as the offshore banking system in Panama. They are very active in managing the considerable assets of high net worth Colombians.

What is this about? Canadians are well aware of the fact that Colombia in particular is one of the world's most renowned narco states. It is one of the major suppliers of cocaine to North America, and there is a lot of illegally produced money in Colombia. The connection between Colombia and Panama and the way that this money is laundered through Panama is not a matter of speculation, it is a matter of fact.

These are the two countries that the Conservative government has hastened and rushed to sign free trade agreements with. I find this always very surprising, because the government likes to talk about how it is tough on crime. It talks about that for domestic purposes and tries to make it a wedge issue, to create fear among Canadians and use it as a political issue, but who does the government sign business agreements with? Out of all the countries in the world, who does it pick in this hemisphere? It is Colombia and Panama, two countries that are renowned for their drug production, for their tax evasion, and for their money laundering.

This agreement, if we leave everything else aside, would do one thing. It would make it easier for money to be laundered through the drug trade, because this agreement says that all financial transactions between Canada and Panama would be unregulated. That is just simply unsound, and it is curious.

I also want to talk a bit about the labour situation in Panama. Just this summer, in July, there were a number of trade unionists in Panama who gathered publicly. To do what? To protest in the streets. That is all they did. They peacefully gathered, assembled, and expressed their views. What happened? Over 100 people were attacked and injured, several workers were killed, and over 300 people were arrested, including leaders of the SUNTRACS and CONATO trade unions. This was the Government of Panama's brutal reaction to protests against new legislation that restricted the right to strike and freedom of association, including provisions to jail for up to two years any workers taking their protest to the streets.

That did not happen 10 years ago or 20 years ago. That happened this summer.

This is the record of Panama: jailing its citizens for having the audacity to protest legislation in the streets; killing and attacking trade union workers who simply want to gather and express their rights to join a trade union if that is their wish.

The Prime Minister, yesterday and today, is in the Ukraine, talking about standing up for human rights in the Ukraine, making it very clear to the world that, according to him, in that context, Canada wants to ensure that we promote human rights in the world, that we will not, I think, according to his words, sacrifice our principles in order to secure economic benefits or trade benefits.

Yet here at home, in the House of Commons, we are debating a bill that seeks to establish preferential trade relations with a country that absolutely obliterates human rights.

I do not think that anybody on either side of this House, including hon. members on the government side, would stand up for what happened in Panama this summer. I would like to hear from them. What is their position on human rights and signing trade agreements with a country that saw people attacked in the streets and jailed for up to two years for expressing their democratic wishes? What is their position on signing an agreement with a country that seeks to deprive its citizens of the right to join a trade union which, by the way, violates commitments made to the International Labour Organization and several treaties that Canada signed? Why would we want to sign an agreement with a country such as that?

The fact that that country violates human rights is something that should be of concern to all Canadians, and we oppose the bill accordingly.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:40 a.m.
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NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, the American Congress gets it. No fewer than 54 United States congressmen have demanded that President Obama forgo the agreement with Panama until Panama signs the tax information exchange treaties which, as I had indicated, France got in short order when it started taxing French corporations that were among the 350,000 foreign companies that are operating in Panama.

The Americans have figured it out. They know that Panama is a major conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers. The Americans are holding up the agreement. The member for Mississauga South asked the other day why the Americans are not proceeding to ratify and implement the agreement. That is why they are not doing it.

The company AIG was instrumental in getting huge bailouts just two years ago, thanks to the American taxpayers. AIG gave its directors huge bonuses only six months later. On top of that, it is suing the American government for $306 million. It is trying to get back money because of involvement in the tax haven in Panama. A situation like this is absolutely ludicrous.

The Americans have figured it out. The question is, why can the Canadian government not figure it out?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, the comments of my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona are bang on. Many members of the House are getting it as we learn more and more about this trade agreement.

It is noteworthy to point out that this agreement was negotiated relatively in secret and in haste. This Parliament is doing what a good, effective parliament does. It is scrutinizing the context in which it was negotiated. It is looking in very great detail at the facts that are involved and what this agreement would do, so that we can very carefully plot a trade strategy for our country that is based on the principles I outlined earlier of fairness, of respect for the environment, of respect for human rights, of reciprocity between the two countries, to ensure justice for our businesses and our workers.

I want to talk briefly about the environment. I note that the environment is sloughed off as a side matter in this agreement. It is not considered significant and pivotal enough to be put in the main body of the agreement. We cannot leave the environment any longer to provisions that are made as an afterthought, that commit countries to maintain what are often very poor environmental records, as this agreement does. It is important that we start making the environment a priority in these trade agreements, to make sure that countries that want to get the benefit of trade with Canada also commit to improving their environmental records, as we ought to do as well.

That is an important part of trade in the 21st century. That should be part of every agreement. This agreement is substandard in that regard.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Madam Speaker, we seem to see this repeating over and over again. The two things that we continually talk about and which other countries have put into their agreements are the environment and labour standards and other labour issues. Yet we continually see the government leaving them as sidebar agreements rather than being included in the main body of the agreement.

My colleague is a labour lawyer and understands the importance of making sure they are in the body of the agreement. I wonder if he could comment on why it is important that those items no longer be side deals and that they be incorporated in the main body of the agreements.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:45 a.m.
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NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, my hon. colleague from Welland has also devoted his life to improving the lives of workers and their families in the trade union movement.

I have negotiated many contracts in my time. The first thing everyone knows about putting something in a side deal is that it means something. It is not meaningless. When there is the main body of an agreement and there are appendages and side agreements, it is not done for no consequence. It is done for a reason.

The first thing of note is the optics of it. What it conveys to the parties that negotiate the contract and anybody who reads it is that the parties that negotiated those agreements thought that those issues were secondary, not important enough to put in the main body of the agreement.

It also has to do with enforcement mechanisms. They are weak in this agreement for enforcing environmental and labour standards because they exist in side agreements. That is another flaw of this agreement and this bill.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 11:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to speak today to the bill before us, a bill that would fast-track agreements, in particular the bilateral free trade agreement between Canada and Panama.

The fact is that the government is fast-tracking the ratification process for an international agreement similar to those that have already been ratified by Canada. I am thinking, among others, of the agreement with Peru. These agreements are designed to fast-track and increase trade between Canada and other countries. In the case of the bill before us, the agreement in question basically attempts to fast-track trade with Panama.

Panama has decided to increase its trade relations through formal trade agreements with three countries that belong to NAFTA, including Canada. We also know that the United States has negotiated and signed an agreement. Canada would be the last to do so.

First of all, we are not opposed to trade agreements that facilitate trade among countries, whether they are southern, northern or European countries. We have clearly indicated that we would like Canada to negotiate, ratify and sign a free trade agreement with the European Union, but with some conditions. And that is the point we wish to make today in this debate. We are saying yes to trade agreements, yes to free trade agreements, but not at any cost.

The Bloc Québécois has an analytical grid of the trade agreements signed by Canada, which we use to determine whether or not we should support specific trade agreements that are or may be negotiated. What are the criteria for supporting trade agreements?

First, we must ensure that human rights are respected. We cannot agree to sign and ratify a free trade agreement with a country that does not respect the most basic rights, human rights, and that allows repression and the violation of fundamental rules such as women's access to certain sectors of economic activity. We cannot allow Canada to sign trade agreements with countries that violate human rights and the fundamental rights of their citizens. That is the first criterion.

The second criterion is that there must be a minimum level of environmental protection in countries with which we will be conducting tariff-free trade. We cannot agree to trade agreements with countries that have weak environmental regulations, because that would facilitate trade and lead to agreements that are socially and environmentally irresponsible.

Furthermore, what would be the consequence of signing such agreements? It would enable Canadian companies to go to these countries to develop the natural resources, free from any environmental regulations. So a country that chose to implement serious, stringent environmental regulations would lose economic activity to countries that chose to disregard the environment in order to allow businesses to save money and cut costs, at the expense of the common good.

We cannot agree to a trade agreement with a country that has poor environmental regulations. Lastly, we cannot agree to trade agreements when workers' rights are violated and when police crack down on legitimate, peaceful protests.

These three key issues must be taken into consideration when we decide whether or not Canada should ratify or sign a trade agreement.

In this case, with the trade agreement between Panama and Canada, what analysis needs to be done? Our analysis should be based on the principles I just mentioned.

In recent years, Panama has shown that it wants to enter freely into international trade agreements. But what is Panama's record like on the three issues I just mentioned? In terms of the environment, Canadian companies, particularly mining companies, have pushed to be able to operate in Panama, where they have a number of mining claims. They saw that there were abundant natural resources, particularly gold and silver, so they decided to purchase mining claims in Panama to be able to develop these resources. That is good, it is commendable, and it is acceptable. It allows for the creation of wealth, but under what conditions is this being done? That is key. Are human rights, workers' rights and a minimum level of environmental protection guaranteed?

Canadian mining companies are currently in discussions with Panama's government to establish a new legislative framework for environmental co-operation, just as there is co-operation between Canada and the United States as part of the free trade agreements. That is what we want; that is good. We hope that these discussions between Canadian companies and the Panamanian government will lead to the most basic and most stringent environmental protection rules. It would also be good to see the government taking part in these discussions.

Before these agreements between Canadian companies and the Panamanian government are signed, can we know the outcome? Yes, Canada has signed a free trade agreement with Panama, but can we wait for the discussions between these two levels of stakeholders to finish before we ratify this agreement? That would be the socially and environmentally responsible thing to do.

There is also the issue of tax havens. We cannot agree to trade with a country that still does not divulge information and that has a secretive banking system. Panama is still on the OECD's grey list. Last year, the Panamanian government committed to signing 12 tax agreements by 2010. That is one sign that the Panamanian government wants to move in the right direction and improve its record, which is far from enviable at present.

The Panamanian government seems to be showing a desire to put an end to tax havens. Before we ratify an agreement, can we wait and see whether the Panamanian government will follow through on its commitments? It would be smart of the Canadian government to do so. In fact, that is what the American government and Europe have decided to do. The United States and Europe are not rushing to ratify this trade agreement because they want to know that the Panamanian government will follow through on its commitments.

That is what a socially responsible nation should be doing.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / noon
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NDP

Niki Ashton NDP Churchill, MB

Madam Speaker, my colleague did a good job of presenting his and his party's position on this bill.

Since we are discussing some of the problems with this approach to free trade with Panama, I would like him to comment on why the government so badly wants to create this kind of relationship, and not just with Panama. The same thing happened with Colombia.

Where are the Conservatives coming from, and why are they so determined to pass this kind of bill, which is against the values and interests of Canadian workers, not to mention the values of justice and fair trade, which are really important to our country?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / noon
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Madam Speaker, the answer is simple. The reason that the Canadian government wants to expedite ratification of the Canada-Panama agreement—unlike Europe and the United States, where the debate in Congress is ongoing—is that it wants to give Canadian companies a competitive advantage in the Panamanian market. That is what it wants. It wants to show Panama that it is eager to proceed regardless of whether workers' rights are respected.

That is the real problem with the Canadian government's approach. By trying to ratify this agreement in a hurry, contrary to what the United States is doing, the government is showing that it does not care about workers' rights, social rights and environmental rights. It cares only about international trade and the economy. I think that is why Canada is trying to rush ratification of this trade agreement.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / noon
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NDP

Bruce Hyer NDP Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, like the hon. member for Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, I am concerned about yet more NAFTA style bilateral agreements that move our jobs offshore and cost us more and more autonomy here in Canada.

However, given the hon. member's extensive expertise and interest in the environment, I would like him to comment a little bit more and explain why the side agreement on the environment seems to have absolutely no teeth. It seems to be a feel good exercise, a kind of gentleman's agreement. Am I wrong? Does it have teeth? Will it protect the environment? Does he share my concerns?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / noon
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Bloc

Bernard Bigras Bloc Rosemont—La Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, that will depend on the negotiations that are under way between Canadian mining companies and the Panamanian government. However, when we look at other agreements, they must ensure that national governments are in a strong position to shape environmental policies. We have not yet received that assurance. When looking at the power of chapter 11 in free trade agreements, we realize that, in the end, international agreements often rob national governments of their powers to regulate environmental matters, for example.

An international agreement must never weaken the power of nations to implement regulations concerning environmental protection. It is not true that the major multinationals will determine the rules for social and environmental protection. The state is there to protect ecosystems and populations. It is very dangerous to place this power and this recourse to international courts in the hands of any multinationals. I believe that there is cause for concern. Canada must have guarantees before ratifying such an agreement.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:05 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is with great regret that I rise to speak to the Canada-Panama free trade act. As I said previously in the House on both this proposed trade agreement and on the trade agreement with Colombia, the government has completely reneged on its promise to supposedly balance environment and trade, environment and development. Instead, the government has moved backward in time.

Even though the North American Free Trade Agreement has a lot of problems, at least there was a substantial side agreement on the environment. Today I will go through how the government has specifically downgraded that agreement.

I would like to bring to the attention of the House one of the reasons that I tabled an environmental bill of rights. I tabled the bill of rights because it was important for Canadians to have cast in law their right to participate in decision-making and their right to have the implications of any government decisions revealed to them.

The Conservatives ran on a platform of increased openness and transparency. In their time in power as the Government of Canada, they have done nothing but the opposite, and the tabling of this bill reflects that. First, where is the dialogue with Canadians about what they think is important in trade agreements with other nations?

Previous governments stated that they thought that balancing labour rights and environmental rights and protection were equally important to trade, and so we had side agreements. At the time, there was a lot of controversy because it was felt by many that if we were really going to put development and trade on par with environmental protection and labour rights, then they should be incorporated into a legally binding document.

The government professes to balance development and trade with environmental protection and that it believes in openness, transparency, accountability and engagement of the grassroots public and yet it has tabled trade agreement after trade agreement doing the complete opposite. There has been no dialogue with the public on what direction we should be taking in our trade agreements since NAFTA. I would highly recommend that the government initiate that dialogue because Canadians will pay the price.

Under my environmental bill of rights, Canadians would have the right to this information. They would have the right to see proposed trade agreements with nations such as Panama. They would have the right to participate in decisions about the criteria for entering into trade agreements with other nations and what would be included in those documents. They also would have the right to know whether we should move forward on the long overdue promise of putting environment on par with trade and development.

Here again, similar to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement, we have the same reprehensible document. The side agreement on environment has been stripped of any of the substance that it had under the free trade agreement with Mexico and the United States, to the point where we may as well not have the side agreement.

Specifically, we have taken away the ministers of environment meeting to discuss the major environmental implications of decisions on trade and development in the respective two countries. Under the side agreement to NAFTA, the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation, the government very wisely created the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment. In this case, that has been taken away. Instead, there is an advisory body composed of lower echelon bureaucrats. Nothing is revealed. There is no budget in this time of restraint in our country and, most likely, in Panama as well. Where is the budget line item to adequately finance the review of decisions on trade in the respective countries?

There is no full-time secretariat, unlike the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation which established a full-time secretariat. The three countries to that agreement alternate the head and staff of the secretariat. We have no such secretariat. This will simply be another task downloaded on an already overstretched bureaucracy that, in all likelihood because of our deficit, will be cut back even further.

It is not clear who is actually going to be the watchdog for this side agreement and who is going to be addressing and responding to public concerns. Where is the line item in the government's budget with respect to providing those services for this trade agreement?

There is no full-time commission, no full-time budget, no independent secretariat. The value of an independent secretariat under the North American Free Trade Agreement is that people have a level of comfort in coming to that secretariat and raising issues. In fact under the North American agreement on environmental co-operation, under article 13, citizens of the three respective countries, Mexico, the United States and Canada, can recommend to the secretariat that particular issues of concern to the environment on a bilateral or trilateral issue be investigated independently by the secretariat with independent consultants. The council of ministers can recommend that issues of common interest be reviewed in a co-operative manner to come up with co-operative solutions.

There is no such body here where we can have a level of confidence that the government sincerely wants to pursue any implications to the environment of the trade agreement.

There is also no mechanism for open dialogue. Under the North American agreement the council commits at least once a year to meet in the open, transparently, with the public of the three countries. There is no such commitment in this agreement, so everything is going to be behind closed doors between bureaucrats.

A number of public bodies to hold the council accountable for delivering on the side agreement are created under the North American agreement on environmental co-operation. There are no public advisory committees under the side agreement with Panama.

There is under NAFTA a joint public advisory committee that includes representatives of industry, of public interest groups, of scientists and other learned people from all three countries selected to advise the secretariat and to advise the ministers. We have no such body here. There is no mechanism for the people of Panama or Canada to provide input to the governments on issues that may arise related to this trade agreement.

Where is the grassroots government promised by the Conservative Party of Canada? The Conservatives promised they would be a new kind of government. They said it would not be top down, that it would be grassroots up, that the people of Canada would drive policy. Where is the voice for the Canadian people on this agreement or either of the two side agreements? It does not exist.

As well, under the North American Free Trade Agreement all three countries created national advisory committees to advise the environment ministers of the respective three nations on the issues they should be bringing before the common body. I do not know what has happened to the national advisory committee under the Conservative government. Perhaps it does not exist anymore even under that agreement, but there is no such mechanism under the Panama agreement.

There is no requirement to hold public meetings. There is the opportunity to raise a concern but it is with some not yet identified body of the bureaucracy of the two countries. Where is the level of comfort? With whom will these concerns be raised: the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Department of the Environment, or the Department of National Defence? With whom will this be raised? There is absolutely no certainty that whatever body is established will have the full competency to deal with the kind of issue that is raised, whether it is to deal with pesticides, climate issues, access to safe drinking water, or the trade in a particular commodity that may or may not be contaminated. There is no certainty of who within the two respective regimes will be responsible for giving serious attention to those concerns.

Of greatest concern to me is the fact that in this agreement with Panama, the side agreement on the environment misses one of the most important provisions of the North American agreement on environmental co-operation and that is the right of any citizen to file a complaint that the law is not being effectively enforced. This provision was put in specifically because of the concerns that with free trade, protection of the environment may be put in second place. It gave the right of citizens in any of the three countries of Mexico, Canada or the United States to file a complaint of failure to enforce against any of the three parties. That is completely missing in this agreement.

Where is the commitment to pay equal attention to environmental protection as there is to opening the doors to trade? It is absolutely missing, as is the whole right to public scrutiny of whether or not these free trade agreements are having implications for the protection of the environment and the protection of biodiversity. This topic is being discussed in Japan as we speak. Canada is being maligned. Canada has been given the first Dodo award because we have failed.

I would recommend that the government seriously consider withdrawing this trade agreement, go back to the table, meet with people who have participated for over a decade in the North American agreement and learn from what they have learned.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Malcolm Allen NDP Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is extremely knowledgeable and articulate about environmental issues. I listened with great attention, because I knew that the things she would tell us would be extremely important.

Some of us are not quite as wise about environmental issues, the regulations and all those other things. The environment and labour aspects are done as side agreements and outside the main body of these free trade agreements. We always say that there should be a holistic approach on how we do labour agreements and contracts. My colleague has articulated why we have been skeptical about having them outside the main agreement. She has articulated the reasons for including things in them that actually give them teeth, so that citizens can come forward when they have complaints and actually have those situations addressed. I thank my colleague for that.

When it comes to the environment, my sense is that the government has made it a secondary issue, rather than one of primary concern. It really should be a primary issue for all of us. It should be right at the top of the agenda rather than where it is now.

I wonder if she could explain to us how we should make it a holistic part of any trade agreement we enter into anywhere in the world, so that not only does it have teeth, but it is at the forefront of all agreements that we enter into.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague has raised many concerns, particularly with respect to the labour side of this agreement.

It is quite straightforward how we would incorporate environmental matters into the trade agreement. We simply would treat them with the same level of seriousness.

The trade agreement provides that private corporations can go after the government for compensation if their trade, development and economic situations are prejudiced by a decision by the Government of Canada to protect the environment. We should have parallel measures in every trade agreement where the public interest of Canada would be given equal weight when some kind of a trade decision is made to the prejudice of the environment of Canada.

We simply need to raise the measures that are in the side agreement on the environment to the level of the binding trade agreement, and frankly give the citizens of Canada the standing to come before those tribunals and speak on their behalf.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:15 p.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member for Edmonton—Strathcona is by far the strongest MP from Alberta in this House of Commons. She does a tremendous job speaking up for her province.

I am wondering how she feels this plays back home in her region of Alberta. The Conservatives are trying to push through a deal with what is tied for the worst regime for dirty drug money laundering on the entire planet. Rather than dealing in any way in this trade deal with the dirty drug money laundering and the tax haven status of Panama, the Conservatives, in a desperate attempt to cover their own tracks, sent a letter to the government, but there is nothing in the trade deal that stops dirty drug money laundering. In fact, it is the opposite. This is going to facilitate it.

I am wondering, for folks back home in Alberta, as she is the strongest MP from Alberta, if she could comment about how Albertans are going to see Conservatives trying to facilitate dirty drug money laundering through Panama. How is that going to play back home?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 26th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.
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NDP

Linda Duncan NDP Edmonton Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his vociferous efforts on behalf of Canadians to ensure there is fair trade that will benefit workers and the environment, and trade that will benefit Canadians as well as the citizens of other countries.

I do not think that the perspective of Albertans is going to be any different from the perspective of other Canadians. Albertans are equally concerned about the loss of revenue to the federal coffers through money laundering and the illegal transfer of money, and they are equally concerned about the drug trade.

I think that Albertans are looking for avenues for fair trade for their products, for cattle, hogs, grain, and manufactured goods, particularly with respect to the manufacture of energy efficient mechanisms. They are looking for opportunities for fair trade and to get a competitive edge in the markets around the world. They are not looking to enter into agreements that are going to have no benefit to them as a people.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:05 a.m.
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South Shore—St. Margaret's Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to join the debate on the free trade agreement with the country of Panama. It is an opportunity that I would not want to miss.

Trade is important in my part of the world on the east coast of Canada and in the province of Nova Scotia. We have a long history of trading with all of the east coast areas, such as the Caribbean and Panama. For the life of me, I find the opposition to this agreement a bit difficult and ingenuous.

We already have a long-standing trading relationship between Canada and the country of Panama. We are only trying to set clear parameters and rules and have them apply to that trading relationship but for some reason some people and parties in this place are completely against having rules-based trading. For the life of me, it makes no sense.

As all members in this place know, this is a time when we need to open doors for Canadians, to level the playing field, to create new commercial opportunities and to work with our partners around the world to help Canadians succeed. Panama is a perfect example of a partner with great potential. Canadian manufacturers, exporters and producers, including small and medium-sized producers, need access to markets like this one in order to compete.

In 2009, our two-way trade in merchandise totalled $132.1 million. Key Canadian products, including machinery, motor vehicles and parts, pharmaceutical equipment and pulse crops were some of the driving forces behind this success. Canadian businesses want a deeper partnership with Panama so that they can take full advantage of this dynamic market and what it has to offer.

It is time to deliver on what our businesses and economies need to succeed.

Once the Canada-Panama free trade agreement is in place, trade in these and other products, like pork, beef, fish and seafood, paper products, construction materials and equipment, would become easier for Canadian companies.

Members of the House should recognize just how the Canada-Panama free trade agreement would benefit other regions. Let us take Quebec, for example. In 2009, Quebec merchandise exports to Panama totalled $30 million. These exports fell mostly in the areas of meat, vehicles, machinery, pulp and paper board, pharmaceutical products and scientific precision instruments.

Once implemented, the free trade agreement will eliminate current Panamanian tariffs on vehicles of up to 15%. It will eliminate current tariffs on pork of up to 70%. These are just a few examples of how this agreement would benefit Quebec sectors of export interest.

We have also mentioned in the House, Panama's focus on infrastructure investments which also present great opportunities for growth and infrastructure-related exports, such as machinery, a strong sector in Quebec and Ontario. I do not understand why the Bloc Québécois is against the bill that would provide so many economic opportunities for Quebec.

In Ontario, merchandise exports to Panama totalled $29.3 million in 2009. The key products driving these exports were pharmaceuticals, industrial and electrical machinery, vehicles and scientific and precision instruments. The free trade agreement would eliminate current Panamanian tariffs on a variety of products that are of interest to Ontario exporters. For example, once in force, the agreement will eliminate current tariffs on pharmaceuticals of up to 11%. The agreement will also eliminate current tariffs on industrial and construction machinery of up to 15%.

As everyone in the House knows, these difficult economic times have made our manufacturing sector vulnerable. This sector, in particular, needs new opportunities for growth and our government is acting by providing these opportunities through the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

Canadian exports, particularly goods, are already at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors. If we delay the passing of this agreement, like the NDP and the Bloc Québécois would want us to do, we risk seeing Canadian exporters and investors further disadvantaged in Panama. We would be setting our companies up to compete on an uneven playing field in a market where we see economic potential.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement would also benefit Canadian businesses in the western region of our country. In 2009, total merchandise exports from western Canada amounted to $22 million.

In Manitoba, producers of precious stones and metals, as well as those of iron and steel, would benefit from the elimination of current Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their exports. Our agricultural producers in Saskatchewan would be able to export their pulses and cereals without facing tariffs of up to 15% and 40% respectively.

More broadly, Panama maintains tariffs averaging 13.4% on agricultural products with tariffs reaching peaks as high as 260% on some of those products. This agreement would eliminate tariffs on 94% of agricultural exports from Canada to Panama.

The power-generating machinery and information and communication technology sectors in Alberta would benefit from the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 15% on their exports to that market.

In British Columbia, exporters of fats and oils would see the elimination of Panamanian tariffs of up to 30%, while wood producing exporters would be able to export their product to Panama without facing tariffs of up to 15%.

Closer to home, in Atlantic Canada, we would also benefit from the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. In New Brunswick, producers of frozen french fries would no longer be faced with Panamanian tariffs of up to 20%. Paper and paperboard producers would see the elimination of tariffs of up to 15%.

Nova Scotia exporters of Christmas trees would be able to have their products enter the Panamanian market without tariffs of 15%. Vehicles and parts exporters from the province would also benefit from the elimination of current Panamanian tariffs of up to 20% on their products.

I want to raise one more point before I conclude my speech. I am sure everyone in the House read the Edmonton Journal this morning and Paul Vieira's article out of the Financial Post that was in there. He states, which is worth repeating:

It's easy to brush off or ignore the federal government's attempt to play up the virtues of its recently negotiated free-trade deal with Panama. The country has a GDP of $28.2-billion, which pales in comparison with Canada's $1.5 -trillion economy, and exports to Panama were a rather meagre $91-million last year.

If that is all that people can see in this agreement, then it all stops there. We need to look to the future, and not just for the future of Canada but also for the future of Panama.

Rather than focus on the country's size, we should focus on the crucial piece of infrastructure in that Central American country, the Panama Canal. Experts tout that the super tankers coming from China will need to pass through a bigger and refurbished canal set to open in 2014 to drop off goods to the U.S. ports and the Canadian ports in the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.

The way Asian trade has been growing and will resume growing once we get a recovery with momentum, it will overwhelm existing Pacific ports. Panama is the key country in the trading block known as the Central American and Caribbean region, or the CAC. This part of the world is small but its economies are indeed growing and are expected to advance at a slighter faster pace than many of the advanced economies in the years ahead.

There are advantages for Canadian companies in this region, as the companies are relatively easy to get to. They are in the same time zone. At least, when it comes to most of the Caribbean, language is not a barrier as English is widely spoken or understood, as well as French, leading some companies to eye the area as possible locations for call centres or other back-office operations. Canadian banks have invested heavily in the Caribbean. Mining companies are also active in the region.

Why would we not want to increase trade with Panama? Why would we not want to put rules-based trading in place where we already have trading? Why would we not want to strengthen our trading agreement with Panama with the inclusion of an agreement on labour and the inclusion of an agreement on the environment? Why would we not want to see life for Panamanians improve?

I, for the life of me, cannot understand the opposition to this deal.

Finally, it has been a pleasure to speak to this bill and I move:

That this question be now put.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Liberal

Geoff Regan Liberal Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of his speech, my hon. colleague from South Shore--St. Margaret's spoke about the long trading history our province of Nova Scotia has had the Caribbean region.

I think of the Caribbean region as a little more than Central America as the history of trade because we think of the many years over which Nova Scotia would ship fish to the Caribbean and then the ships would not come back empty. They would come back with things like molasses and sometimes some other liquid products from sugar cane that were well known and a source of considerable wealth in his part of Nova Scotia and other parts of Nova Scotia. Particularly during the time of prohibition in the U.S., the region was known for the movement of some considerable quantity of rum.

What does the member see in this agreement in terms of benefits for businesses in Nova Scotia and their workers but also in terms of the benefits for people in Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is certainly true, particularly in the coastal areas of the riding that I represent, that there was a lot of trade and there still is ongoing trade with the Caribbean and Central America. One of the main products that was shipped down to Central America was fish. However, interestingly enough, a lot of dynamite out of the Dynamite Wharf on Mahone Bay Islands was shipped down. A lot of the schooners coming out of LaHave shipped a lot of fish and dynamite down there and absolutely brought rum back. It was a great commodity with a great marketplace in Atlantic Canada.

Based on that history, we can see the advantages for Panama, for Canada and particularly for the east coast today.

I will go back to my original statement. Panama is an area that is growing and it is looking for partners throughout the world. We will see the twinning and the opening of the second Panama Canal in 2014. The infrastructure development that is going on there today is tremendous. There are opportunities there now for Canadian companies and businesses, including east coast companies. We have the ability to provide logistical support when the traffic moving through the Panama Canal increases by about 30%. This is a part of the world that is growing already by 3% to 4% and we expect will grow by much more than that when the economy starts to improve. It is also a part of the world, as I mentioned before, that is not only in our same time zone and has the ability to dialogue with Canadian companies in English and in French, but it is also a part of the world in which we should be interested. We should want Panama, the rest of Central America and the Caribbean countries that need opportunity. They have a growing population and we want them to do well, and they will do well, especially if we reinforce the trading opportunities that we already have with them.

It is not as if we are not trading with Panama now. We will continue to trade with Panama. To have rules based trading only strengthens those trading opportunities for Panamanians and for Canadians.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:15 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope the hon. member is aware that the Bloc Québécois' position has always been clear: Panama is a country on the OECD grey list of tax havens. Before the treaty is ratified, we would like the government to sign a tax information exchange agreement banning income tax exemptions for subsidiaries created by Canadian companies in that country. I want the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade to get the message that the Bloc Québécois will never promote setting up Canadian subsidiaries in tax havens. I hope he will support the Bloc's request.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Conservative

Gerald Keddy Conservative South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, the question goes back to my original statement that rules-based trading can only improve the situation that already exists for trade between Canada and Panama. However, we should be clear that the Minister of Finance has already written to his counterpart in Panama, asking that it undertake its obligations. The government of Panama has made a commitment to undertake obligations for tax information sharing with the OECD. That should answer the hon. member's question.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:20 a.m.
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Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to have the opportunity today to speak to Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama. I will allude to those agreements as well with respect to the environment and labour co-operation. We definitely need to have a holistic approach when we talk about trade.

The Liberal Party supports sending the bill to the trade committee for further study. The Liberal Party, as the party of free trade, has always promoted efforts to expand the access of Canadian companies to foreign markets. We understand the importance of allowing companies to succeed not only domestically, but abroad as well. After all, we are a trading nation and 80% of our economy depends on exports. Therefore, we must always look for new opportunities to break down barriers and bolster trade.

Ideally, we would like to see Canada open up markets on a multilateral basis. It is important that we recognize we can do much better if we have a multilateral approach. However, with the Doha Round negotiations of the World Trade Organization currently stalled, that means Canada has to focus on bilateral agreements, and that is understandable. The agreement with Panama is one of those agreements that should be pursued. It will provide access to a small but very important Panamanian market.

I have a few key statistics to set the context when I talk about market size. First, Panama has a population of 3.5 million, but, more important, it also has a GDP of $26.2 billion and it is growing. There is some economic growth there as well. Last year we exported over $90 million to Panama and imported $40 million, with a total bilateral trade of $132 million. There is definitely some potential there.

However, the current expansion of the Panama Canal is where there are real opportunities for Canadian companies. Construction, environmental engineering and construction firms will have the opportunity to hopefully gain access to that major initiative.

In 2008, I had the distinct pleasure, along with my colleagues from the trade committee, to travel to Panama to see the canal first-hand. I had the opportunity to look at Panama as a possible jurisdiction for free trade and to pursue a free trade agreement with it. I saw the canal, which carries such a large portion of the world's trade, and marvelled at the engineering that allowed for its creation. I also saw the dynamic and modern city of Panama, which is a business hub for that region. The message conveyed to us was that Panama was stable. It is a modern country that has made significant progress in terms of development and democracy over the years.

Panama has also taken tremendous pride in reclaiming the canal from American control back in 1999. The canal's ambitious expansion is part of a sense of ownership and the understanding that the canal is key to the country's future prosperity.

However, there are some concerns I want to raise with respect to this debate. It is good that we are pursuing this free trade agreement, but it has very minimal impact in the context of our overall trade. While our competitors, other countries, other jurisdictions are pursuing aggressively courting other major developing economies like China and India, Canada is lagging far behind. I believe we are going about this in the wrong way in how we pursue our trade policy.

Canada should be focusing its trade agenda on larger growing markets like Brazil, India, China and Russia, where there are more opportunities for Canadian companies. By focusing on large markets, we can set the template that can be easily transferred to small markets, thereby speeding up the overall negotiation process.

To that effect, the Liberal Party recently presented, as part of our platform and as part of our international outlook, a global networks strategy, which really articulated a trade policy agenda going forward. That would work as a means to generate economic opportunities with the countries I alluded to before, the emerging major powers.

This proposed agreement would provide an opportunity to look at areas of trade and investment, financial services, transportation, higher education, research and development, energy, natural resources and a whole range of areas. I wanted to take this opportunity during the debate in the House to mention this because it is so important that we do this.

It is important for us to look at trade as a means to gain access to markets. This is the first time in over 30 years that we have had trade deficits, something which has alarmed many businesses. Small and medium-sized enterprises in my riding have had to close their doors because of lack of opportunities, not only in the domestic market but in the foreign market as well.

Panama is a first good step, but the real opportunities are in countries like China, Indian and Brazil.

Going back to the comment I made earlier, with respect to having a holistic approach when it comes to free trade. I mentioned that the agreements on the environment and labour co-operation were very important. We also need to talk about this when it comes to trade.

As Canadians, we value market access and market fair play. We want to reduce tariffs. We want to promote economic opportunity. However, we have a responsibility that goes beyond that, too. We have a responsibility, as global citizens, to invest and ensure that we hold ourselves and our trading partners to the best possible environmental standards, that we take this opportunity to talk about labour co-operation and labour standards and ensure that countries comply with international standards. We also have a responsibility to address issues of human rights.

The Liberal Party has always talked about this kind of approach. We have not only talked about free trade but fair trade as well. We have also very much promoted the importance of the environment and labour. It is something we have discussed with regard to many trade agreements and it is important we do not miss the opportunity in this debate.

Tremendous progress has been made in Panama. I saw it first hand. However, I believe we can continue to improve the situation there and also create a framework of going forward for other free trade agreements as well.

As I indicated, in terms of investment abroad, it is not only important to simply to have a free trade agreement with Panama. It is also important that we invest in the trade commissions and foreign embassies abroad that provide support to businesses.

There are many examples in my riding of businesses, particularly the small and medium-sized enterprises. Larger corporations tend to have that infrastructure in place. The small and medium-sized enterprises are looking for opportunities. Not only do they need market access, but they need the market intelligence, the data, the relevant information to better understand the market so they can better position themselves.

I would encourage the government, when it does invest or does pursue these free trade agreements, to also look at areas and means as to how we can really bolster our foreign embassies and trades abroad because it is so important.

Above and beyond pursuing a global network strategy in terms of free trade agreements and investing in foreign trade commissions, we also need to start putting together Team Canada missions. The Liberals pursued this very aggressively in the 1990s. It was an opportunity for us to really brand Canada. I realized this as a result of my travels abroad, even when I was in Panama, Colombia and other jurisdictions. It is very difficult to talk about free trade because some of the perceptions and stereotypes that exist do not necessarily reflect the economic reality and potential of Canada.

It is important that we brand Canada. It is important that we work together, all parliamentarians, in travelling abroad with business leaders and leaders from all sectors of the Canadian economy to brand Canada and to show that we have enormous potential. It would give us the leverage needed to ensure we could successfully pursue other bilateral trade agreements. This would be a step in the right direction. However, we need to ensure that we also pursue some of those key markets, as indicated, which are very important to our businesses, as well.

I would like to take this opportunity again to say that the Liberal Party looks forward to this debate and discussion. We would like to take this into committee, study it, bring forward witnesses, talk about issues that have been raised in the House and ensure that we promote trade in a manner that really benefits the economy as a whole. However, I would like to, from a local perspective, from my constituency of Mississauga—Brampton South, take the opportunity to emphasize the importance of focusing our resources and our strategies around promoting small and medium-sized enterprises and giving them the tools they need to succeed not only domestically, but abroad as well.

There is enormous potential with Panama because of the expansion of the canal. I am confident the Canadian companies that have expertise in engineering and infrastructure would ensure we could meet the requirements of Panama. We will be able to pursue that after we push forward this free trade agreement. This is really encouraging because a lot of companies in my riding and across the country would benefit from that. I hope all parliamentarians take it under consideration as part of our economic recovery going forward.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my colleague. We lament the fact that he is no longer the trade critic for the Liberal Party. The one time, since I have been in Parliament, where the Liberal Party did not act as a sock puppet to the Conservative trade deals, regardless of how bad they were, was when he was trade critic. He came back from Colombia and stood with the New Democrats and the Bloc and said no to the Colombia trade deal. That was a proud moment for the Liberal Party. It was the last time that it took any principled position at all on trade and it was under his leadership as trade critic.

As the member well knows, the biggest problem with the Panama trade deal, and the elephant in the room, is the dirty drug money laundering that takes place in Panama. It is tied for worst in the world, according to the IRS, for drug gang, dirty money laundering. It is a tax haven. It is a fiscal paradise.

The Hells Angels are listening to the debate and saying, “Great, the Conservatives are helping us yet again by bringing absolutely no regulation on dirty money laundering in Panama”. We had the parliamentary secretary saying that the government would send a letter and ask the Panamanians to stop the dirty drug money laundering. The member knows that this is a crock. It is ridiculous.

Given that there is nothing that deals with dirty drug money laundering, with the Hells Angels use of Panama as a tax haven, why is the Liberal Party supporting a deal that so clearly goes against the interests of Canadians, against our Canadian police officers who are trying to fight dirty drug money laundering? Why is the Liberal Party capitulating yet again to the Conservatives on a trade issue?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take exception to the comment made about the current trade critic. The member for Willowdale has done an exceptional job for the Liberal Party, for our caucus and for her constituents in representing trade issues. She very much promotes free and fair trade. She is very much concerned about human rights and so is the Liberal Party.

When it came to the free trade agreement with Colombia, we worked very hard in committee to raise legitimate issues with respect to free trade. We worked very hard with the then trade critic as well to ensure we had a side agreement to address those issues. This party is not only committed to free and fair trade, but also to human rights. I am confident that our member for Willowdale will address these concerns if the bill is sent to committee.

With respect to the question around money laundering, again this has been raised on numerous occasions. If this is a legitimate concern, then I legitimately believe that this can be addressed during the committee hearings. I am confident that we can find a solution to deal with this issue, if it does exist to the extent that the member describes it.

This is an opportunity for all of us to come together and find a solution. As I said before, it is absolutely critical that we pursue free trade agreements. It is unfortunate that any time we talk about free trade, the NDP finds some excuse to oppose it. It is frustrating because we need to find opportunities for companies, especially in foreign markets, to expand, grow and create the jobs that we need, so we can have a quality of life not only for ourselves but for future generations as well.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:30 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, first, I want my Liberal colleague to be well aware that the Liberal Party's current position is in line with the position it has taken in the past. When Paul Martin was prime minister and Liberal leader, he signed a tax treaty with Barbados that did not include an information exchange agreement. That encouraged Canadian companies to set up subsidiaries in order to evade Canadian income tax. I know that Paul Martin himself benefited from this.

Once again, is the member aware that this is the good old Liberal way: signing agreements with tax havens where friends of the party can set up subsidiaries and avoid declaring and paying tax on income, because they would be exempt from declaring it here in Canada?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member, when he asks his question, that referring to the integrity of the former prime minister is something I do not think is a proper assessment in this debate. When he pursued free trade agreements, he did so keeping in mind Canada's national interests, and that includes Quebeckers as well.

The businesses that had opportunities to succeed in these free trade agreements not only existed in other parts of the country but in Quebec as well. Quebec companies very much rely upon free trade agreements and opportunities abroad with respect to economic opportunities, for creating jobs and ensuring they have an opportunity to succeed and create a footprint that can really make Quebec and Canadians proud of the opportunities we have with free trade agreements.

As I indicated, any questions on money laundering or tax evasion will be addressed in the committee hearings. This is where some of the work will be done and it will allow us to have the opportunity to ensure we deal with it in a manner that is in our national interests.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:35 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

This is important because we are talking about the position of the Conservatives and the Liberals. The people who are watching have seen what their position is. The main reason why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this agreement and will not support it is that Panama is on the OECD grey list of tax havens.

I will read the four OECD criteria for determining whether a country is a tax haven: nil or nominal taxation; a lack of transparency; laws or administrative practices that prevent the effective exchange of information; and indications that the country is attempting to attract investments that are purely tax-driven and not for economic activity.

One way a country can deal with one of these criteria is to sign a tax information exchange agreement with other countries, and that is what the Bloc Québécois is calling for. The European Union and the United States are working to that end. They have shown that they want to sign a free trade agreement with Panama, but they are dragging their feet because, with the recent financial crisis, the leaders of those countries are very reluctant to develop trade with countries that promote tax evasion. That is a fact.

I understand that the Liberals support this agreement because, when they were in power, they led the way with this sort of agreement. None other than the Liberal leader, who was the prime minister of Canada at the time, promoted a free trade agreement with Barbados. His own companies benefited and got huge tax breaks. The problem is that, when we ratify an agreement with Panama, we will be telling Canadian companies that if they set up a subsidiary that has its own income in Panama, they will not have to declare that income here in Canada.

We do not want that. We do not want the government to encourage Canadian companies to evade taxes and use their income to create subsidiaries in Panama just so they can avoid declaring that income here in Canada. Why would they not do that if there were an agreement that let them do business with Panama? And to top it all off, it would be legal to create subsidiaries whose declared income would not come back to Canada.

What the Bloc Québécois is asking for is simple. We want a tax information exchange agreement, which is what the OECD calls for. Such an agreement must not exempt Canadian subsidiaries in Panama from income tax. This would be equitable and logical.

All the taxpayers here in Canada pay their taxes and work hard to pay those taxes. They are seeing their pension income decrease. It is happening, and the media are telling us that the main pension funds have a solvency ratio of 87%, which means they have a shortfall of 13%.

I think that the people of Quebec and Canada should expect the government not to sign trade or free trade agreements with countries that are on the OECD's list of tax havens. This is not Canada's list; it is the OECD's. In response to that, the Conservatives told us today, through the parliamentary secretary, that the Minister of Finance wrote a letter to the leaders of Panama. He told them that they must do what is necessary to be removed from the OECD's list of tax havens.

A lot of good that does to have the Minister of Finance write a letter. They will take that letter and file it away in the circular file. Thank you very much. Why? Simply because being a tax haven has its advantages. That is the reality. These countries have no intention of co-operating, and that is why Panama is on the OECD's grey list of tax havens. If Panama had wanted to co-operate in the past, if it had wanted to be respectful of other countries, it would not be on the grey list of tax havens.

Why does the government want to sign an agreement at any cost and as quickly as possible, if not to encourage Canadian businesses to set up subsidiaries there? Sure, they want to do business in Panama, but by setting up subsidiaries that will enable them to evade taxes on their revenues.

The Liberal member says that we can discuss this in committee, but a discussion will not work. Either we sign an information exchange agreement that prohibits tax evasion by Canadian companies or we do not sign the free trade agreement with Panama.

The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party want to sign the agreement anyway, without requiring a tax information exchange agreement and without requiring that Canadian companies not establish subsidiaries, whose revenue they would not have to declare in Canada. This inevitably encourages tax evasion. What will happen? The same thing that has happened over the past two months. At France's request, the HSBC Bank had to provide a list of clients with Swiss bank accounts, which included some Canadians. Canada did not care. In the past, the Liberals did not care, just as the Conservatives do not care now. France did care because the French people were tired of paying taxes while the rich evaded taxes.

Today, Canada has had to come around because we have a minority government. The Conservatives were afraid of paying the political price. Canadians on the list given to France are being asked to pay up. We know very well that tax evasion is a Criminal Code offence. However, the Conservative government has not indicated that people who evaded taxes will face criminal sanctions.

Today, the Conservative Party, supported by the Liberals, will sign a free trade agreement, supposedly for the sake of potential trade between Canada and Panama. By the way, Panama is a small country. That is not the issue. Yes, we can do business with Panama, just as we can with other countries. It is worthwhile. However, we cannot do business with a tax haven and legalize it in an agreement, in an international treaty, that would allow our Canadian and Quebec companies to create subsidiaries that would be exempt from paying tax on their Canadian revenue. We would be encouraging them to evade tax.

The Bloc Québécois stands up for all Quebeckers, not for the few rich people who might take the opportunity to establish subsidiaries in Panama and, with the free trade agreement, legalize the situation. That is what the Liberals did with Barbados when then prime minister, Paul Martin, had interests in that country. He signed a free trade agreement with Barbados to legalize his own personal business. The Conservatives are doing the same thing for some of their friends.

I find that sad. Quebeckers and Canadians work too hard in order to pay their taxes to then have a few rich and privileged people do business with a tax haven and establish subsidiaries that they would then be allowed to use to hide revenues that should be declared in Canada and therefore taxed in Canada. It is simple: when a subsidiary is established in a tax haven, which, as the OECD explains, imposes no or only nominal taxes, the company pays no tax on business done with that country. In this case, the country we are talking about is Panama. And the company would be crazy not to do this, because the Conservative Party, with support from the Liberals, would ratify this agreement without requiring a tax information exchange agreement, which the Bloc Québécois and the OECD are calling for, and without requiring that tax-exempt revenues be covered by this agreement. A company that establishes a subsidiary in Panama would then be subject to Canadian laws and tax rates, not Panamanian tax rates. This would be a good way for Canadians and Quebeckers to do business.

This would also be a good way for the public to know that everyone doing business with Panama is paying their fair share of taxes, just like the citizens. Once again, the Conservatives are succumbing to the Liberal phobia of allowing the rich to avoid paying taxes.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Liberal

Paul Szabo Liberal Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the economic arguments for free trade agreements are very compelling on a number of points.

There are some side issues, and they are part of this debate. The United States signed an agreement with Panama three years ago, and the Panamanian Congress ratified it 13 days later. But here we are three years later and the U.S. Congress has still not ratified the Panamanian agreement.

Is the member aware of the reasons that the Americans have not proceeded with ratifying that agreement?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a time of financial crisis and stock market crisis, I can understand why the Americans do not want to sign or ratify any agreements with countries that are known tax havens.

I appreciate my colleague's question. Of course he was on the Liberals' side back when he was defending the treaty with Barbados, which is also a tax haven. I am very disappointed that the Liberals are siding with the Conservatives and have not examined their consciences regarding some of the bad decisions they made when they were in power. Once again, the Liberals are not offering any change. It is not surprising that they are having such a hard time these days, and it will only get worse in the weeks and months to come.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:45 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as with the Canada-Colombia agreement, the Liberals and the Conservatives are refusing to listen to the public. As the member is well aware, only the Bloc Québécois and the NDP were able to address the constant human rights violations in Colombia. The Conservatives, on the other hand, wanted to support the government in Colombia. Panama has some of the worst tax loopholes in the world. Yet the Liberals and the Conservatives want to endorse the actions of a country that is a known tax haven.

Why are the NDP and the Bloc Québécois the only parties that are listening to Canadians? Why do the old parties—the Conservative Party and the Liberal Party—always go along with the lobbyists instead of listening to people who want a fair and equitable tax system and want us to put an end to tax havens instead of helping them grow?

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October 22nd, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
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Bloc

Mario Laframboise Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. He was against the free trade agreement with Barbados for the same reason we are discussing today.

At the time, the most powerful and most significant lobbyist was the Prime Minister of Canada; he had interests in Barbados. I can understand why friends of the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party force the government to sign a free trade with a country, when signing such an agreement legalizes the business they do with that country.

I am very surprised. The Liberal Party and the Conservative Party say we will improve the treaty in committee, but there is nothing to improve. Either we sign a tax information exchange agreement before signing the free trade agreement, or we do not. There is no room for negotiation. That is how it works all over the world. The OECD is asking that exchange agreements on personal information, tax information in particular, be signed.

The Conservative Party and the Liberal Party, on behalf of a few of their supporters who will make money in Panama, a known tax haven, are thumbing their noses at the right approach to politics, an approach the Bloc Québécois has been using since it arrived in the House in 1993 and the approach the NDP seems to be using.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 10:50 a.m.
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NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing interventions from the Conservatives and the Liberals around this bill, I am saddened to have to stand in this House, although I have enjoyed hearing the speeches from the Bloc.

As members are well aware, when we talk about Panama we are talking about a country that is tied for the worst money laundering tax haven on the planet. That is according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. This is the reason the U.S. has not ratified an agreement with Panama, and yet the so-called anti-crime Conservatives are pushing ahead with this deal with a drug gang, drug money, money laundering, tax haven country.

The Conservatives are bringing it to the House of Commons with the explanation that the reason there is not one word in this agreement that in any way would close off the money laundering, close off the drug money, is that they sent a letter to the Panamanian government. They did not say how, whether it was sent by snail mail or by email. That somehow resolves the money laundering issues that made the U.S. Congress say no to this deal, say it is not going to pass this deal, and which are the reason the U.S.-Panama agreement has not been ratified.

For the Conservative government to pretend it is somehow anti-crime is a real crock when put in the context of presenting this bill, because this bill does not deal in any way with money laundering or drug money and does not in any way close those loopholes. The bill in fact widens them. Hells Angels across the country are rejoicing. The Conservatives have done something incredibly stupid and appallingly irresponsible, but they expect members of Parliament to ratify it.

In a normal functional Parliament, all three opposition parties would say, no, this is irresponsible and they are not going to ratify this deal. Sadly, the Liberal Party is once again endorsing Conservative action. We have seen this before. We saw this with the softwood lumber sell-out, which cost tens of thousands of jobs across this country and crippled many of our softwood lumber communities, and yet the Liberals just rubber-stamped it.

We saw this with the shipbuilding sellout. We had in this House hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country pleading with us that members of Parliament should put in place protections for this key strategic industry, our shipbuilding industry. The Liberals endorsed the Conservative action. That was irresponsible.

We have already cited the Colombia trade deal, a massive sell-out of human rights, a complete repudiation of Canada's principle, a principle and a value that the vast majority of Canadians share, that we do not reward regimes for killing trade unionists and human rights activists in their countries. Yet the Conservatives and the Liberals endorsed that government and the actions of its intelligence service and paramilitary and military groups and the ongoing killings of human rights advocates and trade unionists in Colombia.

Now this bill has been brought forward, which implicitly endorses the idea that Panama can be a tax haven for dirty drug money laundering.

When the IRS says Panama is tied for worst in the world, one would expect the Canadian government to be a bit more responsible. The Conservatives have not been responsible. They have not dealt with it in any way, and that is why the NDP is standing up in the House and saying this is irresponsible.

Canadians are calling out for a fairer tax system, calling out for an end to the shell game where big Canadian corporations and the wealthy can transfer their money overseas and not have to pay taxes on it, while the hard-working middle class and poor Canadians have to work and pay their taxes. They contribute to their country. Here we have the Conservatives, with Liberal support, saying they will facilitate money laundering, facilitate tax havens and let people move money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. That is absolutely irresponsible. It is the only word one can use to describe it.

Then we have to think that because the Conservatives have taken this irresponsible action that there must be some merit to it and maybe it is because they have some strategy around trade. Sadly, not even that is the case.

When we look at all the bilateral agreements Canada has signed, such as those with Israel and Chile, the famous shipbuilding sellout, the EFTA deal, the one with Costa Rica, when we look at all those FTAs, in case after case after case we sign the FTAs and exports to those markets from Canada drop. That is the absurdity to all of this. We have a lot of free trade cheerleaders but not a lot of them are doing their homework. They are actually not looking at the export statistics.

The government will say it is going to throw out some figures that are in constant dollars and say that shows a growth in trade. However, yesterday the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance, a man who I admire, actually was able to say that we have to take real terms to talk about the cost of the Canadian deficit and debt. He actually talked about that. There is one financially literate member among the Conservatives.

Here we have a situation where not a single Conservative, in real terms, has looked at the export figures that have actually declined. I compliment the parliamentary secretary because he understands the difference between current dollars and constant dollars. Nobody else on that side appears to know the difference. People who know the difference know that our exports have declined in every single bilateral market. Therefore, there is a fundamental problem.

Now, Conservatives will say that maybe exports have declined in real terms, maybe we do not know what we are doing with money laundering, but surely this contributes to prosperity. Again, we have to look in real terms and talk about constant dollars to get the most recent figures about what has happened to family income in Canada. If we go back to the NAFTA days and the signing of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, sadly, we will see that for middle class and poorer Canadians, in every single case there has been a decline in real income.

We sign these bad trade agreements, transfer out Canadian raw resources and have them processed and value-added overseas. We outsource the jobs that were in Canada before, take the good family-sustaining jobs and replace them with service industry jobs that are lower paying. We have more burger flippers than we have ever had before in this country, but we have lost half a million good manufacturing jobs largely because many of these trade agreements are structured so that Canadian companies can take their factories and manufacturing capacity overseas.

When we look at the overall income of the average Canadian family, it is no secret why the debt load of the average Canadian family has doubled over the past 20 years. It is because real income has declined for every single income category except one, and that is the real reason why we are seeing this dirty drug money laundering bill today. The wealthiest of Canadians now take 52% of all Canadian income, most of the Canadian income pie, and those are the folks who would love to take their money to Panama and not have to pay taxes on it. We are seeing a hollowing out and a very bad, dysfunctional export strategy.

In this corner of the House we are standing up for the average Canadian family and saying that, if the government has such dysfunctional trade and export strategies, it is up to us in this NDP corner of the House to say no to bad trade deals and no to deals that are irresponsible. That is what we are doing.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

October 22nd, 2010 / 12:30 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Bloc Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, today we are debating Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

To begin, I would like to say that the Bloc Québécois does not support this bill, mostly for the same reasons that it is against so many bills concerning the implementation of bilateral free trade agreements between Canada and certain countries. In this particular case, there is the additional issue of Panama being a tax haven, one that is on France's blacklist and the OECD's grey lis