Thank you, Mr. Chair. I am very pleased to appear before the committee to speak to you about the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement and the related agreements on the environment and labour cooperation.
My presentation today will briefly highlight Canada’s general free trade agenda, note some of the benefits of the Canada-Jordan FTA, as well as discuss generally Canada’s relationship with Jordan.
I was going to conclude by introducing my colleagues, but that has already been done. I brought along a lot of people to show that the process of negotiating free trade agreements is a multi-departmental responsibility. It was also to ensure that we would win if a vote were held.
In terms of the general free trade agenda, in accordance with government priorities, including the global commerce strategy, the government is pursuing a robust trade negotiations agenda. This aggressive pursuit of free trade 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.
The government’s ambitious regional and bilateral free trade agreement contributes to Canada’s future prosperity, productivity and growth. Building on the North American Free Trade Agreement and other free trade agreements, the government has recently implemented agreements with the European Free Trade Association and Peru, and has concluded agreements with Colombia, Jordan and Panama.
Last year, we launched negotiations toward a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with our second largest trading partner, the European Union, with whom we have held two successful rounds of negotiations; the third is coming up in two weeks. Negotiations remain ongoing with partners such as the Caribbean Community, Central American countries, the Dominican Republic and Korea. We have held exploratory talks with Morocco and Ukraine. We are also working with India to study the possible parameters of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement.
And we are exploring opportunities with countries like Japan and Brazil/Mercosur to deepen trade and economic cooperation.
We still face a measure of global economic uncertainty, and in a growing number of countries, Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors have preferential market access under some form of free trade agreement. 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.
Highlighted in both the Speech from the Throne and 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.
Jordan is a growing market for Canada, with 2009 merchandise exports of $65.8 million and 2009 merchandise imports of $16.6 million. The top Canadian exports in 2009 included vehicles; forest products; machinery; pulse crops, mainly lentils and chickpeas; ships and boats; and plastics. The top 2009 imports included both knit and woven apparel; precious stones and metals, mainly jewellery; vegetables; and inorganic chemicals.
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.
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 vibrant market, which continues to grow, but it will also provide a platform for expanding commercial ties and raise Canada's profile in the broader Middle East.
A free trade agreement with Jordan demonstrates the importance Canada places on further developing relations with Jordan, especially given its role as a moderate Arab state that promotes peace and security in the Middle East. This free trade agreement is also a concrete demonstration of Canada's commitment to enhancing regional peace and security by improving economic conditions.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is a first-generation goods agreement that does not cover services or investment. Our interests with Jordan, as they relate to services, are being adequately addressed in the agreements in the World Trade Organization, and the Foreign Investment 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 a variety of provisions, including market access, rules of origin, customs procedures, and enhanced commitments in the area of technical barriers to trade, trade facilitation, and dispute settlement.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement also contains principle-based chapters on the environment and labour cooperation, expanded upon in the parallel high-quality agreements with strong binding obligations. Under the agreement, Canada and Jordan are committed to promote corporate social responsibility.
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.
Over the last decade, Jordan has consistently demonstrated a leadership role in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. Canada and Jordan have strong bilateral relations, based on common interests and values and people-to-people links.
Both countries 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. 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 three agreements into force on a mutually agreed-to date as soon as possible.
Mr. Chair, my colleagues and I would be happy to answer the committee’s questions.