Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee for giving us the opportunity to speak to you about the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation.
In my presentation I'll briefly highlight Canada's general free trade agenda and note some of the benefits of the Canada-Jordan FTA, as well as discuss generally Canada's relationship with Jordan.
Consistent with government priorities set out in the Speech from the Throne, the government is pursuing a robust trade negotiations agenda under the global commerce strategy. This aggressive pursuit of additional trade opportunities is designed to ensure the broadest possible markets for Canadian businesses. To do this, we make strategic use of an entire suite of international policy tools. This includes not just regional and bilateral free trade agreements, but also foreign investment promotion and protection agreements, science and technology cooperation agreements, air services agreements, double taxation agreements, and regulatory cooperation initiatives.
These tools are used to secure competitive terms of access for Canadian businesses and investors by opening more doors for Canadians in international markets and helping to make Canada stronger in an increasingly competitive global economy. A key component of the government's strategy is a strong and ambitious regional and bilateral free trade agreement agenda, an essential contributor to Canada's future prosperity, productivity, and growth.
Building on the NAFTA and other free trade agreements, the government has recently implemented agreements with the European Free Trade Association and Peru, and received parliamentary approval of an agreement with Colombia, and signed agreements with Panama and Jordan. Last year we launched negotiations towards a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with our second-largest trading partner, the European Union. To date, we've held four successful rounds of negotiations, with a fifth to be held later this month.
Negotiations remain ongoing with partners such as the Caribbean Community or CARICOM, a number of Central American countries, the Dominican Republic, and Korea. We've also launched negotiations towards a bilateral free trade agreement with the Ukraine, and have held exploratory talks with Morocco and Turkey, and we're working to broaden our existing agreement with Costa Rica.
In September we published a joint study with India on the possible parameters of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, and we are exploring opportunities with China, Japan, and with Brazil, together with its MERCOSUR partners, to deepen our trade and economic relations.
Mr. Chairman, we still face a measure of global economic uncertainty, and Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage because their foreign competitors have preferential market access under some form of free trade agreement.
Like other initiatives in our negotiations agenda, the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement addresses those concerns by levelling the playing field with key competitors who already benefit from free trade agreements with Jordan, namely those from the United States and the European Union.
And opening doors to trade and investment is the right approach to create opportunities for Canadians in global markets, markets like Jordan. Highlighted in both the Speech from the Throne, as well as Budget 2010, this free trade agreement will open doors for Canadians in the Jordanian market and help to make Canada stronger in an increasingly competitive global economy.
Over the years, Canada and Jordan have built a strong, mutually beneficial relationship. It is a relationship grounded in common aspirations—aspirations like peace, stability and prosperity for our citizens. Despite a small decline in our bilateral trade with Jordan in 2009, with the impact of the global economic slowdown, growth is the longer-term trend for our trade relationship. For example, Canada's 2009 merchandise exports, which totalled $66 million, were more than double the $31 million total in 2003. This free trade agreement provides an opportunity to further enhance this growing relationship.
Jordan's current average applied tariff is 11%, with peaks of up to 30% applied on some products of Canadian export interest. Upon implementation, this agreement will eliminate Jordanian tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan, with remaining tariffs phased out within three to five years, and only a small number of exclusions limited to the areas of tobacco, alcohol, and some poultry products.
This free trade agreement provides Canadian companies with benefits in a variety of sectors, including forest products, machinery, construction equipment, and agriculture and agrifood products such as pulse crops, frozen French fries, animal feed and various prepared foods. In addition to tariff elimination, the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement contains a variety of other provisions, including rules governing market access for goods, rules of origin, customs procedures, enhanced commitments in the area of technical barriers to trade, trade facilitation and dispute settlement.
Our interests with Jordan as they relate to services are being adequately addressed in the World Trade Organization context. The Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement, signed at the same time as the Free Trade Agreement, covers Canada's investment-related interests.
The Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement contains principle-based chapters on the environment and labour cooperation. High-quality side agreements on the environment and labour cooperation, with strong binding obligations, were also negotiated in parallel to the Free Trade Agreement. Under the agreement, Canada and Jordan are committed to promoting corporate social responsibility.
As Canada's first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country, the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement will not only help improve market access to Jordan's growing market. A free trade agreement with Jordan demonstrates the importance that Canada places on further developing relations with Jordan, while providing a platform for expanding commercial ties and raising Canada's profile in the broader Middle East.
This free trade agreement will also benefit Jordan, in sharing access to Canadian products at competitive rates, increasing access to the Canadian market, and providing rapid tariff reductions.
The agreement is also a concrete demonstration of Canada's commitment to enhancing regional peace and security by improving economic conditions, especially given Jordan's role as a moderate Arab state that promotes peace and security in the Middle East.
As a moderate Arab state with a constructive foreign policy on all major files, Jordan is a natural partner for Canada and an effective interlocutor between the Arab world and the west. Canada and Jordan are consistent supporters of the United Nations' efforts to promote peace and security. They were founding members of the Human Security Network, and since 2000 have collaborated on the establishment of the Regional Human Security Centre in Amman, Jordan.
Canada and Jordan have strong bilateral relations based on common interests and values and people-to-people links. Over the last decade, Jordan has consistently demonstrated a leadership role in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Jordan was also one of the first parties to the Ottawa convention banning anti-personnel mines.
Jordan has already notified Canada that it has completed all of its internal steps to allow the agreements to come into force. Should Parliament elect to pass this implementing legislation, officials would then work with their Jordanian counterparts to bring the free trade agreement and the two side agreements on the environment and labour cooperation into force on a mutually agreed-upon date and as soon as possible.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I look forward to responding to the members' questions.