Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on behalf of the official opposition New Democrats about Bill C-23, an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The bill affords me my first opportunity to speak in this House, not only on this bill in specific terms, but also on what I think are the principles that should guide Canada's trade policy in general. I would like to start by speaking about some of those principles.
New Democrats are a pro-trade party. We understand deeply that Canada is a trading nation, and always has been. Our economic system depends, in substantial measure, upon selling goods, commodities and services to the world. We are in the enviable position of having a wealth of resources that the world wants to buy. In exchange, Canada also benefits from the importation of many products and services from around the world. These items supplement Canada's natural bounty and provide a richness and diversity that enhance the quality of living for all Canadians.
However, we approach pro-trade policy somewhat differently from what the Conservatives and, indeed, the Liberals have traditionally done. In our view, trade policy should respect and incorporate thoughtful and established values, trade agreements must meet concrete objectives, Here are some of the core principles that New Democrats believe should guide Canadian trade policy.
Trade deals must result in increased trade that benefits Canada's export sectors. Disturbingly, data is showing that in a number of cases, Canadian trade deals have resulted in imports exceeding exports, which adds to our trade deficit, costs us jobs and impairs our economic growth.
Trade deals must be reciprocal. Good trade deals allow fair access by Canadian enterprises to international markets that seek access to our own. Trade deals must create good jobs in Canada. It is vitally important that Canada encourage value-added production and enhance the value of our exports. Shipping raw products out of Canada is short-sighted and shortchanges Canadians. Good deals must raise the economic and social conditions in each jurisdiction. Respect for human rights and a concerted focus to raise the living and employment conditions for the people of the trading nations must be major priorities.
Trade deals must respect and improve environmental standards. In an interdependent world, that is increasingly aware of our need to sustain development, ensuring that commerce is done sustainably is critical. Finally, trade deals must not damage our democracy by diminishing the ability of governments at all levels to make decisions in the best interests of our citizens. All these issues must be factored in and create a balanced approach to trade.
As I have said, Canada is a trading nation and engaging in trade is demonstrably economically beneficial to Canada. It always has been.
However, that does not mean that we have to give up our sovereignty or our ability to set good policy to do so. This leads me to another policy area that is inextricably linked to trade, that is industrial policy. Trade is not only about with whom we trade and on what terms. It is also about what we produce in our country to trade. Industrial policy is fundamentally linked to trade because our industrial policy is about what we make and how we make the things that we are trading.
The guiding principle for New Democrats is that government must help create the conditions to create and develop good, well-paying, sustainable jobs here in Canada for our citizens and future generations of Canadians. As a cornerstone, a strong industrial policy would help Canadian enterprises make value-added products here in Canada. We must make the successful transition from being hewers of wood and drawers of water to an economy that is based upon secondary and tertiary production.
The resource extraction sector in Canada is incredibly important to our economy. However, wherever possible, we should be developing our resources before shipping them off to another country for them to add value. Shipping raw logs to the U.S. or China only to see those economies derive the benefits of exponentially adding value is not only unwise, it costs our citizens jobs. Shipping raw bitumen offshore instead of processing it in Canada costs our businesses profits and our economy billions of dollars.
New Democrats want to encourage a manufacturing sector that makes products here in Canada, high-quality goods made by Canadians making good wages in safe conditions under the most effective environmental protection. In fact, governments all over the world, from the EU countries to China to Taiwan, from Japan to South Korea to Brazil, are partnering with their private sectors to develop domestic industrial policies that position their enterprises to be successful on the world stage while developing their local economies.
Canada must do the same. Government assistance in market development, R and D support, incentives for sustainable technologies and support for strong education systems are vital parts of a successful trade policy.
Let me now turn to the trade agreement at hand, Bill C-23, an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the agreement on the environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the agreement on labour co-operation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Canada and Jordan signed a trade agreement in June 2009. It consists of three separate but linked agreements: the actual free trade agreement and parallel agreements on labour and the environment. The free trade component is relatively straightforward. It eliminates or reduces tariffs on a wide variety of goods and services.
Currently, Jordanian tariffs are quite low. While some are as high as 30%, the average tariff rate is 10%. Most tariff rates are in single digits. Jordan would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs, which currently average 11%. These include tariffs of 10% to 30% on many products of Canadian export interest, including industrial and electrical machinery, auto parts, construction equipment and forest products. Canada would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs in turn and most agricultural tariffs on Jordan's imports to Canada immediately. Over-quota tariffs on supply managed goods, dairy, poultry, eggs, et cetera are exempt from this deal. Non-tariff barriers would be dealt with through the creation of a committee on trade in goods and rules of origin as a forum for discussion.
Turning to the labour co-operation agreement, the labour rights provisions in the Canada-Jordan deal include both the summary in the main trade agreement of obligations on labour issues and a separate agreement on labour co-operation where the labour obligations are elaborated in greater detail. The agreement references rights contained in the 1998 ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work and the ILO's decent work agenda, which are very substantive. The following commitments are made:
Each Party shall ensure that its labour law and practices embody and provide protection for the following internationally recognized labour principles and rights: (a) freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining (including protection of the right to organize and the right to strike); (b) the elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labour; (c) the effective abolition of child labour; (d) the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation (including equal pay for women and men); (e) acceptable minimum employment standards, such as minimum wages and overtime pay; (f) the prevention of occupational injuries and illnesses; (g) compensation in cases of occupational injuries or illnesses; and (h) non-discrimination in respect of working conditions for migrant workers.
In principle, a complaint regarding labour violations could lead to a ministerial consultation, a review panel for determination of non-compliance and ultimately, to the imposition of fines being paid by the offending government.
The agreement on the environment obligates both sides to comply with and enforce effectively their domestic environmental laws, not to weaken these laws in an effort to attract investment, ensure proceedings are available to remedy violations of environmental laws, co-operate on compliance in environmental technologies, and allow members of the public to question obligations under the agreement. An independent review panel process is also present.
After careful consideration of the agreement, I am pleased to announce that Canada's New Democrats will support the passage of Bill C-23. The Canada-Jordan deal is not perfect. It is not a deal in a form that a New Democrat government would necessarily have negotiated. However, after careful consideration of the deal before us, we have determined that it is worthy of support because we think it is good both for the Canadian and the Jordanian people and because it avoids the major problems that characterize other trade deals that the Canadian government has signed.
Here are some of the major reasons the New Democrats will support the bill. While Jordan is a minor trade partner, the agreement would provide net economic gains for Canada, including in value-added industries, and for Jordan. There is no real evidence of domestic harm to the Canadian economy caused by this trading relationship or agreement. In fact, trade relations and volumes have been increasing among both countries in positive fashion. The New Democrats believe this agreement would bolster business and jobs in both nations. Jordan is a moderate Arab state with a constructive foreign policy that has made, and is making, important progress in the areas of democracy, human rights and labour standards.
This agreement addresses labour standards squarely, and in particular the rights of migrant workers, which were not included in the trade deal the United States made with Jordan 10 years ago. These include elevated standards of work hours, wage protection and stronger penalties against human trafficking. They also include extending domestic employment standards to migrant workers and affording them the ability to join unions if they so wish.
Jordan has demonstrated its commitment to raising the living conditions of its workers, including raising the minimum wage twice in the last several years. Anti-discrimination commitments and provisions to raise conditions among Jordanian migrant workers will particularly help women, who make up two-thirds of the migrant work force.
At committee, the ILO testified that there is encouraging progress on labour issues in Jordan.
New Democrats supported this legislation at second reading, and at that time we stated in the House that we would consider further support if the labour situation continued to improve in Jordan. In important ways, it has.
The environmental agreement, while far from perfect, contains a benchmark commitment to enforce environmental standards. In addition, this free trade agreement contains no investor-state provision, which we generally oppose. There are no invasive chapters on public procurement or intellectual property in this deal, which are serious criticisms of other trade deals including in CETA presently being negotiated.
With no agreement, trade with Jordan will still occur given the low tariffs. It is therefore arguably better to sign an agreement that engages Jordan in a positive, constructive manner with significant commitments than to have none at all. Sometimes it is better to have good progress, if not perfect progress.
As the dominant economy in this relationship, Canada is in a strong position to ensure enforcement of and compliance with labour and environmental commitments. New Democrats will hold the government to account to make sure it does this. When we form the government, we will actively engage with all of our trading partners to ensure compliance with our agreements.
Unlike Colombia, Jordan is not a major human rights violator. Unlike Panama, Jordan is not an international money laundering jurisdiction or tax haven.
I want to read a quote from Ms. Nancy Donaldson, director of the Washington office of the International Labour Organization, who testified at committee. She said:
The government has placed employment and decent work for Jordanians at the heart of its response strategy....They endorsed the national employment strategy in May 2011...formally signed a decent work country program, or a national framework strategy, for 2012 to 2015.
The goal is to support national initiatives to reduce decent work deficits and strengthen national capacity to mainstream decent work.
...We're excited about Jordan because very recently the government has decided they are going to require all manufacturers to participate in the Better Work Jordan program. That means, frankly, bad actors can't opt out and have good actors carry the responsibility.
It's a good policy approach. There are monitoring processes, which are then reported back to the manufacturers, with remedial recommendations where there is non-compliance. Then, after a period of time, they are published for the public to know and for the brands to know.
We've been in Jordan long enough now that we are seeing some progress in a number of areas where there has been difficulty in non-compliance.
Mr. Pierre Bouchard, director of bilateral and regional labour affairs in the Department of Human Resources and Skills Development, said:
To elaborate on those options and what the legal obligations are, it's important to underline that our agreement with Jordan is the first agreement where Jordan makes specific commitments concerning the labour rights of migrant workers.
These are encouraging signs. This shows a willingness and a good faith attitude on the part of our trading partner, which gives us hope that this deal will encourage continued progress in Jordan.
While the development of respect for the rights of labour and migrant workers in Jordan is encouraging, there is more work to be done. At committee, there was also alarming testimony about continuing mistreatment of workers in Jordan, particularly in the qualified industrial zones where migrant labour is used. Concerns have been raised about the ability to effectively enforce the standards called for in the labour side deal.
This agreement also has no real sanctions or penalties for non-compliance with the environmental side agreement.
While there is no investor-state provision in the free trade agreement, Canada did sign a foreign investment protection agreement with Jordan in advance of this deal, which contains the very problematic tribunal complaint mechanism that subjects governments to attack by multinational corporations, as we just saw in the Mobil decision that will cost the Newfoundland and Labrador government and the Canadian government millions of dollars for simply requiring that certain research work be done in Canada. This shows how important protecting sovereign democratic rights in trade agreements is and why New Democrats believe so strongly in doing so.
This leads to an important point. Signing an agreement is not an end in itself, and it is not the end of the process either. As with any good contract and ongoing relationship, care must be taken to monitor and enforce the reciprocal commitments if the deal is truly to have integrity and meet its stated objectives. I sincerely hope that the present government will take this care.
However, we must recognize when we see an agreement that does not have many of the provisions to which we object. We see that here. We must recognize when we are working with a partner who, while by no means perfect, as we are not, is improving with regard to human rights and labour rights. We see that in Jordan. We must recognize when we see a deal that will bring mutual economic benefit to Canada, our trading partner and our business sector. While Jordan is a small trading partner, our trade relationship is growing and we see that this agreement would bring mutual benefit. That is why I am happy to stand with my New Democrat colleagues and support this bill.
This is the beginning of a new chapter in our trade relationship with Jordan. Our countries already trade with each other every day, but this is the start of a new engagement which we, along with the government, business and other stakeholders, including, most importantly, the labour movement and civil society, believe has the capacity to bring increased economic activity, improved labour standards and a lasting commitment to environmental protection to both countries.
If these results do not occur, we can withdraw from this agreement. This agreement provides that either party can give six months' notice at any time and withdraw. This is something that is not mentioned enough. We cannot just sign a deal and assume that the market will take care of everything or that others will monitor the agreement for us. We cannot assume that the promised benefits of trade agreements will happen organically and magically without monitoring or working hard. If, as the time goes on, we determine that the benefits are not happening, we should not hesitate to use the termination clause that is present in all trade agreements to get out of this deal, if required. Promises must not just be made; they must be kept.
In conclusion, I want to say how exciting it is for me to have been named the official opposition critic for international trade at this time. Now more than ever, Canada's New Democrats are poised to form the government, but New Democrats know that this does not just happen and that the trust of the electorate is not something to be taken for granted. It must be earned.
With regard to trade, I am excited to show Canadians that a New Democrat government would put trade at the top of its agenda. I am excited to work with business, labour, all levels of government and civil society to build a new template for the trade deals we would sign, because New Democrats know we can sign deals that do not hurt our democracy by imposing restrictions on provinces and municipalities to make policy. We need not sell our sovereignty or impair our democracy by insisting on investor-state dispute resolution mechanisms that tip the balance of power away from people to multinational corporations.
We know we can unite trade policy with sound environmental protection and labour and human rights standards. We know we can have better enforcement mechanisms to ensure these are not empty promises. We know we can sign trade deals that provide a mutual benefit to Canada and our trading partners. New Democrats will write better trade agreements than the current government and the Liberals before them.
Today our world faces many large questions. Can we have a global economy that has global, social and environmental policies and open democratic governance by the economic decision-makers? Can we ensure that the benefits of increased trade produce shared gains that elevate the living standards of all the people of our world? Can we commit to a more just economic policy that sees trade as a tool to make a better world for every nation? New Democrats say yes, we can. We will continue to show Canadians that a New Democrat government would advocate positive proposals precisely to these ends.