Mr. Speaker, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak today on Bill C-24, 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 trade agreement is one of a series of agreements that the government has gotten into very hastily. This is another one that was negotiated in record time, without proper consultation, and our party has opposed it.
I do not want anyone to think that our party is opposed to trade. I know it is a common mantra for those opposite that New Democrats are opposed to trade; we are not opposed to trade. However, we are opposed to this trade deal.
I only have 10 minutes, so I will try my very best to be succinct in stating why we are opposed to this particular trade deal.
As I mentioned, it was done hastily and without consultation with relevant stakeholders, as well as without consultation with trade unions and environmental groups in Panama. It was done without consultation with civil society or citizens in Canada and Panama who have an interest in these agreements. It was done without respect for labour standards and collective bargaining, despite the addition of a labour agreement.
There is no protection against money laundering and tax cheating in a country that has been decried a tax haven.
There is no commitment in the agreement to sustainable development and sustainable investment, which should be an important part of any free trade deal.
When we talk about trade in this country, we should not just be talking about the movement of goods. We need to be talking about a partnership, but what we have seen is the government making hasty trade deals that do not respect what Canada wants and needs.
If trade was all about free trade deals, Canada's trade would be increasing and improving, not getting worse. The government members talk about how they are very interested in trade and carrying on with these trade deals, but where are the results? When we look at the difference between signing free trade deals and actually increasing trade, Canada's trade has actually deteriorated. The quantity of goods and services shipped abroad from Canada is actually 7% lower than when the government took office. It is lower than it was back in the year 2000. What we do see in trade is an ever-increasing proportion of raw materials and raw resources, especially oil, making up that trade.
At one time, we had a very impressive trade surplus with other countries. That has now gone into a deficit. Even though we have increasing petroleum sales, 3% of GDP per year is in fact a decrease in sales.
This is from a report by Jim Stanford, an economist with the Canadian Auto Workers, that was published in The Globe and Mail on May 21. He is obviously very concerned about issues, particularly in the manufacturing trade. He has done a study of our longest-standing free trade pacts, which are with the United States, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica. What is interesting is that our exports to those countries have in fact grown more slowly than our exports to non-free trade partners, while our imports from these countries have surged much faster than with the rest of the world.
Therefore, if our goal—which is a sensible one, according to Mr. Stanford—is to boost exports and to strengthen the trade balance, then signing free trade deals, as we have done, is exactly the wrong thing to do.
What is very interesting is that the five biggest trade deals we have had have resulted in more imports to us from these country, which is good for them, but fewer exports to them. We have not increased our trade nor boosted our proper partnerships.
The problem is pretty difficult, particularly for some aspects of our economy. We are seeing an endorsement by the government of an over-valued currency. We have heard our leader talk about that. I know many people in this country do not want to talk about that. The members opposite do not like to talk about the fact that our currency is over-valued and is trading at some 25% above its purchasing power parity with other countries,. However, it does hurt Canada's exports and skews our trade with other countries, particularly the kind of trade that takes place when we are exporting unprocessed materials, including crude oil, bitumen in particular, without refining it. If we are not refining the stuff here and we are not making mining machinery here, our capacity to produce higher-end products will further diminish.
We do have a significant problem with trade and we have a problem that is not being fixed by these free trade deals.
What does the NDP support? We support trade, but we support fair trade. We want to ensure that the trade agreements we sign with other countries are fair and reasonable for both parties, partnerships that build positive relationships and not just open doors.
For example, in Panama we have situation where the government of Panama has refused various Canadian requests to sign an agreement to share tax information. It is extremely important in terms of transparency to have a tax information exchange agreement. The Government of Panama has refused, but Canada goes along with it anyway.
What is it we want as New Democrats? What do we want to have in trade agreements? First, in order to have a totally fair trade strategy, we want to have a comprehensive, common sense impact assessment for each agreement that we enter into that demonstrates that trade deals with Canada are beneficial for Canadian families, workers and industries, and that we do not have a trade agreement that will lead to a net job loss.
Second, we want to ensure that any agreement we negotiate supports our own sovereignty, our freedom to chart our own policy in the future and our ability to be competitive on the world stage, and that it supports the principle of a multilateral fair trade system.
Third, it is fundamentally important that all trade agreements promote and protect human rights by prohibiting the import, export or sale in Canada of products that are deemed to have been created under sweat shop conditions, forced labour or conditions that are not in accordance with fundamental labour standards and human rights.
Fourth, we also want to ensure that all trade agreements respect sustainable development and the integrity of all ecosystems.
Fifth, we want to be clear that before we go ahead with any enabling legislation, it be subject to a binding vote on whether we accept the terms of the agreement. The current system of tabling agreements in the House for a period of 21 days prior to ratification is neither mandatory nor binding.
In the case of the Panama trade deal, we see a repetition of the failures of previous trade deals to be fair, to be reasonable, to respect human rights, to provide the kind of protections that Canadians need and actually lead to increased trade from Canada to these countries.