Thank you for inviting us to this committee. I think Andrew has made the case for why free trade agreements like this are important to Canadian business. I would say they're particularly important at a time like this, when we're seeing the vulnerability of our uni-market south of the border. With the intensified security and the border thickening and economic slowdown, we can see the importance of other markets.
There are some new people whom I haven't seen around this table before, so let me say that SNC-Lavalin doesn't have as many employees as Andrew spoke about in his industry. We have about 22,000 people worldwide. We're currently implementing—getting actually paid for now—about 9,500 projects in 100 countries. We are an engineering and construction company; 15% of our total revenues last year were in Africa, 10% in the Middle East, 9% in Europe, 5% in Latin America, and 4% in the United States. As you can see, we're already well diversified internationally.
When I looked at your bill, I was interested to see that it looked as though it was all goods being dealt with. So I went to the agreement itself, and it covers services quite thoroughly and provides for the temporary entry of business people, which is a very important factor. It's a thorny problem for us constantly, getting business people with whom we're negotiating--and to whom we want to show something we've done in Canada--a Canadian visa. It's a time-consuming and burdensome process. This isn't going to help that, but I can't help mentioning it.
We've worked in Panama since 1975 and have completed 18 projects there in a number of areas, mostly in the power sector and mostly supported by the development banks or—really, the most interesting project—by CIDA, which was working with the six Central American countries to build a regional power grid to get the most efficiency out of their power assets. This is something we're working on in east Africa and have done in the Middle East, in former Yugoslavia, and now we're working in Central Asia as well; that is, a way of maximizing efficiency of power grids.
We see a lot of opportunities in Panama: in the power sector, obviously, where we've been working, and in all kinds of infrastructure—roads, water, sanitation—and in institutional strengthening, notably in the mining sector.
I don't know whether you noticed, but about two weeks ago it was announced that we would lead a consortium—we have 70% of it—to build a $4 billion copper mine in Panama, owned by Inmet, a Canadian mining company. We're going to build it and all of the surrounding facilities. It's about half mine and half surrounding infrastructure, including ports and roads and things. There will be a second phase too, building the concentrator, which is almost another billion dollars.
We succeeded in doing that without the free trade agreement, but the free trade agreement will provide a good framework for further business.
Basically, in Latin America, a region of government concentration, a number of these free trade deals are emerging. We have one in Peru; there's now one in Colombia, in Panama, and Chile. This really facilitates Canadian businesses, including ours. It provides an increasingly secure framework for doing business in Latin America, so we welcome it.
One thing I'll mention is that we have a business approach whose initials are LRDI, which is for “local resources development initiative”. When we go in on a project like this, we use local labour and train thousands of workers and work to develop and mentor local businesses also. This is something that's part of this contract as well. We're doing it now in Madagascar on the Ambatovy project, and it's what we've done in South Africa and Mozambique on our smelters, which we built there for BHP, the famous BHP Billiton that didn't buy Potash. This is a local development. We don't take a lot of our own people in; we use local partners and develop local partners, labour, and suppliers as an intricate part of the project.
Thanks very much. I'm happy to take questions in any language except Spanish.