There are too many Stanfields.
Good morning. I am Jon Stanfield, president of Stanfield's Limited North America. We are an apparel manufacturing company primarily focused on men's, women's, and industrial safety base layers, or what we call underwear. We have several brands that we manufacture and sell into the North American market.
Stanfield's Limited is our Canadian operation. It is based in Truro, Nova Scotia. Our company was founded in 1856, and has been manufacturing products from the same factory in Truro, Nova Scotia, since 1882. It has been family owned and operated since its inception. I'm here to speak today on behalf of our company.
The apparel industry was a thriving industry in Canada prior to the free trade agreement and NAFTA, which was finalized in 1992. Since this time, the industry has seen employment numbers drop dramatically. Canada also has relationships with such LDCs, or least-developed countries, as Cambodia and Bangladesh, which has also led to a manufacturing exodus due to these countries' low-cost labour pool. Fundamentally, there has been a general shift to offshoring manufacturing in our sector. There are very few companies in Canada like Stanfield's that continue to manufacture branded apparel products.
When NAFTA was enacted, governments of the day needed to determine which industries they were and were not going to support. Unfortunately, apparel manufacturing was not supported. Subsequently jobs left the country. A solution was to have agreements with LDC nations allowing product to flow in duty-free. Low-cost labour, poor infrastructure, and possibly poor oversight of working conditions has led to abuse and fatalities. In some circumstances, Stanfield's Limited has produced certain products in Bangladesh. It has not been our choice but the choice of our customers, our retailers, who want the lowest price possible.
Canada needs to have access to more open markets for its goods and services. We are a small but mighty nation, and we need to have access to markets to increase trade, allowing Canadian companies to grow and expand internationally. Canadian companies need new markets to have a sustainable future. Canada alone is too small, and scale is only gained through global access. TPP is one of those opportunities. Will some industries suffer? Yes. Do we need human rights assurances and good, clean, healthy working conditions in partner nations? Yes, absolutely.
Stanfield's Limited, through its U.S. subsidiary Performance Apparel Corporation, created a partnership with a Vietnam-based manufacturer several years ago, prior to even contemplation of this agreement. Our vision was that this country would eventually become part of a trade pact like this, and it would have a positive effect on our businesses in both the U.S. and Canada. Vietnam, as an example, has greater infrastructure, a large employment pool, and is more willing to invest in equipment and technology than are other LDC nations.
Our company's objective is to produce as much of our apparel products as we can in Canada. We still produce more than 80% of our branded products in Canada, mostly for the Canadian market. Our challenge in small-town rural Nova Scotia is human capital, by which I mean employment. Our main challenge for the future of our company is to be able to hire people, but we cannot find the skilled labour we require. You might think sewing is a mundane role, but it's definitely a skill. For every 10 people we hire here, one may make it, and that is not sustainable.
Companies like Stanfield's need access to a labour pool. As much as Canadians felt that the temporary foreign work program was a bad program, the TFW was actually a perfect fit for our unique challenges in rural Nova Scotia. It gave us access to a skilled pool of sewing labour. It allowed us to continue to produce a larger portion of our products in this country. These people were gainfully and willingly employed, paying taxes in our province and in our country.
As I look forward, I see our company having to import more products from foreign sources, which takes our money. It leaves the country. As well, it will lead to lower employment levels as we scale the business properly.
Inside of TPP, along with trade, I would like to see access to human capital or labour become transferable between the participating nations. It would allow companies like ours to choose to import product or choose to import labour. I believe this to be very important to our future in Nova Scotia. I encourage movement of people through a type of foreign worker program with the TPP nations. I encourage government to cut the red tape in a needs-based assessment for certain industries. I believe apparel is a specialized and underappreciated job engine in this country.
When we sign these types of trade deals, we need to seriously look at the LDC nation scenario. We need to shift policy away from these types of countries whose track records on working conditions have not been good. LDC countries' access to Canada has only led to a flood of low-cost, cheap products coming into Canada, hurting those who wish to stay and produce here. There are no advantages otherwise, and it should stop.
Canada should participate in the TPP to increase our access to new and emerging markets in the Pacific Rim. It will allow for the flow of goods back into Canada from nations that are investing in technology, innovation, and manufacturing. It will allow for Canadians to lead the way with these investments, as we have done in the past.
Finally, I encourage the government to allow for duty-free and easy two-way access to labour in Canada, thus allowing us to choose where we manufacture.
In the end, trade is global, and human capacity and capital are mobile. Canada must participate.
Thank you for your time, and I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words.