Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join this debate on Bill C-13, the trade facilitation agreement. Of course it comes as no surprise that I am going to be supporting this piece of legislation, as technical as it as and as difficult as it was to read through it.
I think it gives us an opportunity to celebrate the good work of the previous minister of international trade, the member for Abbotsford, a friend on this side of the House, whose hard work on behalf of Canadians has borne fruit.
It was at the ninth WTO ministerial conference, as the previous member mentioned, in Bali in September 2013, that ministers adopted the Bali package, which included allowing developing countries more options for providing food security, boosting least-developed countries' (LDC) trade, and helping development more generally. The largest deliverable was streamlining customs procedures through the trade facilitation agreement, which is now before us, which we have a chance to debate, implement, and ratify.
The previous government not only made free trade a centrepiece of its economic agenda but also demonstrated that Canada can be ambitious and bold when it seeks to expand access to new markets for Canadians. Over a 10-year period, the Conservative government was able to negotiate free trade agreements with 46 different countries, bringing the total number of countries with which Canada has trade agreements to 51. That is 4.6 agreements per year.
The Liberal government, on the other hand, is coming close to one year in office, next month, and it has exactly zero. It has zero new agreements ratified and consented to by Her Majesty. I think that is quite the record for the first year of government. It has no record on free trade to call its own. In fact, a previous treaty that we implemented and that this House passed, Bill C-11, the Marrakesh treaty, was passed last session and was, again, the work of the previous government and is now implemented in legislation.
I am not complaining. I would like to see the government implement more legislation based on the good work of the previous government, especially on the free trade agenda. There are lots of legacy pieces there that should be implemented. Again, when the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade spoke on this bill originally, he said this would reinforce the government's strong record on trade; except there is no record of which to speak. It is the record of the previous Conservative government, and in fact, all the good ideas and all the hard work of the member for Abbotsford, who contributed more to Canada in terms of free trade agreements signed, negotiated, and ratified than any other member in maybe the last 50 years.
There is no record for the Liberal government to promote, reinforce, or strengthen here. This bill, though, does lay the foundation for the potential of a record. There is an opportunity. There are two more free trade agreements that the government could bring before the House so we could ratify them properly.
Like many good ideas, they started with the Conservatives and, I want to again mention, the member for Abbotsford who deserves high praise. Many of these agreements, many of these successes, are thanks to him and the work he did when he was a member of the government.
Bill C-13 is good news. We know that trade accounts for 60% of Canada's annual GDP and represents one in five Canadian jobs that are tied to export. Members of the WTO have ratified the TFA, like those mentioned before: the United States, the European Union, China, and Japan. They expect Canada to do the same without delay.
We know that 108 countries, two-thirds, have to complete the domestic ratification process. The sooner we do it, the better for Canadian investors, importers, and exporters of goods, including small and medium-sized businesses, which will benefit from the implementation of the TFA.
I want to highlight one business in my riding that would benefit from this agreement. This business is called Tundra Process Solutions. We know that in Alberta right now times are tough in the oil patch. Easily more than 100,000 jobs have been lost. That is direct jobs and does not even count the indirect jobs.
I was pleased today to join the member for Lakeland, when she was doing a press conference on her e-petition. It was very successful. She had an oil worker there from Grande Prairie, talking about the job losses he is seeing.
Tundra Process Solutions is one of those companies in the oil patch that is diversifying. It is a great Canadian story. It is in my riding. It has purchased a manufacturing company that builds equipment, from California, and actually moved it to Calgary. It is a manufacturing oil and gas company producing equipment that it is selling to the world today.
With this type of agreement today, it could export to new countries, bypassing some of these very complicated customs rules and tariff rules, as well as the paperwork, the red tape required for it to move its product to a willing buyer in another country. This is how it is going to make money. Its 25-plus workers who depend on export will be quite happy when the TFA is passed, because their jobs depend on finding new markets for the product they produce.
With the lowering of tariffs across the globe, the cost of complying with customs formalities has been reported to exceed, in many instances, the cost of duties to be paid. Trade costs are among the most fundamental factors shaping the evolution of trade.
We have to remember that we do not live in a static world. If Canada does not move forward with more free trade agreements, others will, and that, by definition, will start cutting us out of those markets. Therefore, we have no choice but to pursue a free trade agenda.
The TFA is critical for many parts of its legislative measures, and there are two of them specifically. I will mention one of them, but there are two important ones. Article 11.8, which the member for Louis-Saint-Laurent mentioned before in debate, prohibits the application of technical regulations to goods moving through a WTO member's territory from a point outside its territory to another foreign point as a good in transit. This would affect Tundra Process Solutions Ltd., because it is moving equipment from country to country, some of which is being purchased and some of which is being leased. Oil and gas is an international business. Many companies are horizontally and vertically integrated and can move equipment around, so this is good news for them. This is measure is an excellent one to introduce.
I think of the government's financial agenda and the budget it proposed. This would have no financial implications for the Government of Canada. This would be paid for with current dollars.
To support the TFA's implementation, Canada, Germany, the U.K., and the U.S. provided support in December 2015 for the launch of the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. It is a fantastic idea. It is more good news from the previous government and more good work by the member for Abbotsford. This initiative was designed to assist developing countries to implement the TFA.
The UN Conference on Trade and Development estimates that the average customs transaction involves 20 to 30 different parties; 40 documents; 200 data elements, 30 of which are repeated at least 30 times, and the re-keying of 60% to 70% of all data at least once. In my previous life working for a chamber of commerce, I know that specific point is when errors begin to happen and costs begin to rise, because the errors have to be fixed but oftentimes can start to compound. Then there are regulatory problems and delays in the business. If this agreement could help to at least reduce these by 50%, it would be a huge change for Canadian businesses. Again, there are many technical and legislative benefits to the TFA.
I want to finish on the principle of the matter. Free trade at its core is about a willing buyer and a willing seller meeting and making a voluntary transaction. Its core is about freedom. As former Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier said, "Canada is free and freedom is its nationality."
The great debates in Canada were about reciprocity, reciprocity between provinces, and reciprocity with our closest trading partner the United States. That has been the fundamental part of what it means to be a Canadian. We have had a lot of trouble with internal trade between our provinces. We can all agree that we want new markets to send our products to, so they can see the maple leaf and the words, “Made in Canada”. I am proud of that when I see it overseas when I travel. Trade between people regardless of nation they live in is the ultimate proof of the nationality of freedom that Sir Wilfrid Laurier spoke about.
The economy does not need more stimulation or subsidies. What it needs is us to get out of the way and get rid of these laborious customs rules and the paperwork involved. That would provide more freedom for businesses owned and operated by Canadians. It is for Canadians. We can recapture that spirit of freedom that Sir Wilfrid Laurier encouraged.
Let us pass the TFA and move on to the true record of the government. It could ratify the Canada-European Union free trade agreement. It could ratify the trans-Pacific partnership agreement. It would have a record to speak about. It would have a legacy to speak of in 10 years. It would have something to look back on. It could say it was a government that promoted free trade.
Free trade has always been a part of this country. It was about reciprocity in a different generation. Today we talk about free trade. Sometimes we talk about fair trade, equitable trade, but it is about choice. It is about giving Canadians the choice on whom they choose to trade with, and with the least rules possible. Let us give Canadians the freedom to trade as they wish. Let us live up to Sir Wilfrid Laurier's call that “Canada is free and freedom is its nationality”. That quote appears in our new passport. It is in each so that every single Canadian can turn to the middle of the page and look at it right there. That encapsulates what Canada is all about. It is about the freedom to trade, the freedom to associate, the freedom to speak one's mind.
I cannot see anything better than ratifying this agreement and proceeding to ratifying the next agreements.