Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.
Honourable members, I'm happy to be here with you for the first time.
This is my first of, I hope, many such appearances before your committee. I think, when it comes to trade, we have to act as one team, and I really want to thank the committee for the tremendous work you've been doing over the last 13 months. Really, I have heard from different members of this committee, Mr. Chair, of all the work you've been doing on behalf of Canadians, and I really want to commend you. You've travelled and you've listened to Canadians, and I very much look forward to reading the report.
In particular, I want to thank you for the extensive consultations the committee undertook during your study on the Trans-Pacific partnership, and I'll be happy, dear colleagues, to answer any questions following the meeting we had in Chile, as I mentioned today in question period. I look forward to reading your full report on this study. I commend you for undertaking that. It's important to hear the views of Canadians, and I hope that we will continue to engage together in this endeavour. Your diligent work on that important file will no doubt inform and guide the government's trade efforts in the Asia-Pacific region in our pursuit of a truly progressive trade agenda in the years to come.
Clearly, if I may say, Mr. Chair, Asia-Pacific is and will remain a key pillar of our trading relationship. I want say that to each and every one of you who took time away, probably also from your families and your other travels, to have undertaken that.
Given what's happening in the world, the work we're doing on behalf of Canadians is more important than ever. Canada's participation in international trade is vital to the entire nation's prosperity. Canada has always been a trading nation.
Exports are key to our economy. They contribute to growth and productivity, and they help create jobs across the country and in each of our constituencies.
Overall, exports represent about 30% of Canada's GDP. Approximately one in six Canadian jobs depends directly or indirectly on our export activities.
Mr. Chair, this is to say that Canada represents about 0.5% of the world's population and about 2.2% of world trade, so we are a nation dependent on trade, and that's why the work of this committee and our officials.... I'd like to thank the deputy minister, the parliamentary secretary, all members of this House, and this committee. What we're doing is extremely important in the lives of Canadians.
This is why we believe that trade and investment means growth for our businesses and the economy, and growth in turn means well-paying jobs for the middle class and those obviously working hard to join it.
We know this is true, as a result of the dramatic improvement in standards of living since the Second World War, in both developed and developing countries. Free and open trade in recent decades have played an important role in this regard.
We also know these advantages haven't benefited everybody to the same extent, and we're seeing the results today. With this in mind, we need to take the legitimate concerns of our citizens seriously, and take concrete action.
As Prime Minister Trudeau said in Hamburg recently, “it’s time to realize that this anger and anxiety we see washing over the world is coming from a very real place. And it’s not going away.”
We need to do everything we can to ensure that the benefits of trade are more widely and equitably shared. Failure to do so will only strengthen the forces of protectionism and embolden those opposed to freer and more open trade.
That's why Canada is establishing a progressive trade program with its partners in the country and abroad.
What does “progressive trade” mean?
Progressive trade means ensuring that all segments of society can take advantage of opportunities flowing from trade and investment, while focusing in particular on women, indigenous peoples, youth and SMEs.
Progressive trade means codifying these principles in dedicated chapters with trade agreements or the modernization of existing ones. For example, it means adding a chapter on gender, including parity, pay equity, and gender-based risk assessments. These are concrete and real steps we can take to put our trade agenda on a more progressive footing.
This is not just the right thing to do; it's also essential for economic growth and prosperity. SMEs, including those owned by women, youth, and indigenous peoples, are the dynamos of our economies and the lifeblood of our communities.
In Canada, for example, SMEs account for virtually all Canadian businesses, and employ 90% of our private sector workforce. But only a small percentage of these businesses export. Under our progressive or middle-class trade agenda, we are putting their needs and aspirations and those of all non-traditional business owners and entrepreneurs front and centre, to help them reach their full export potential.
In addition, progressive trade means showing openness and transparency, and maintaining an ongoing dialogue with civil society and a wide range of stakeholders.
It also means ensuring that trade agreements include strong provisions in important areas such as workers' rights, gender equality and environmental protection, and reinforce the continued right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
In short, it's about efforts that help ensure international trade works for businesses and citizens alike—that it works for people.
Our government stands for these progressive values, and is promoting them in the Commonwealth, at the G7, the G20, the WTO, and elsewhere.
I may add that everywhere I go, I talk about our progressive trade agenda, and I can tell you, it does make a difference. Canada is recognized around the world as a leader in rules-based, principled trade, and that's what makes Canada so special.
An example of the implementation of progressive trade is the recent entry into force of the WTO's Trade Facilitation Agreement, or TFA. The benefits of this agreement are expected to be the most significant for developing countries and SMEs, for which trade costs are excessive.
The WTO estimates that the full implementation of this agreement could reduce trade costs by an average of over 14%, and boost the value of global merchandise exports by up to $1 trillion. Up to $730 billion of that amount would benefit developing countries.
According to the World Bank, up to 10 million women business owners in the developing world could benefit from efforts to allow SMEs to become more competitive from an export perspective.
These are the accomplishments that we must share and the results we should try to achieve together.
Canada looks forward to working with the developing countries to fully implement their commitments under the TFA, including through the Global Alliance for Trade Facilitation. Canada is a co-founder of the alliance, which was launched in December 2015. As a platform for leveraging public and private sector expertise, leadership, and resources, the alliance helps developing country members of the WTO implement commercially meaningful TFA-related reforms.
Canada also looks forward to the provisional application of our modern, progressive free trade agreement with the EU, otherwise referred to as CETA. This agreement represents a landmark initiative towards ensuring our country's prosperity. We have negotiated market access and improved conditions for trade that go beyond NAFTA. But more importantly, we have done so in a progressive and responsible manner. This agreement will help to generate much needed growth in jobs, while fully upholding Canada's and Europe's standards in areas like food safety, environmental protection, and workers' rights.
I think, Mr. Chair, this is something we should all be proud of as Canadians. This was an agreement that was crafted more than 10 years ago; many people have worked on making this a reality for Canadians. As I've said, of the many places in the world, this is the right deal at the right time for the world.
Also, CETA will open opportunities for Canadian businesses in the European Union's $3.3 trillion government procurement market. Let me add, Mr. Chair, that it will also provide access to a market of over 510 million consumers.
Once the agreement enters into force, Canadian businesses will be able to supply goods and select services to all levels of the European Union government, including the European Union's 28 member states and thousands of regional and local government entities.
CETA will also offer consumers lower prices and more choices. It will benefit workers by helping to create better quality jobs related to exports. It will also benefit our businesses, regardless of their size, by helping to reduce costs resulting from the elimination of tariff and non-tariff trade barriers.
The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement that was just completed also included several key progressive elements. These elements will help ensure that as we deepen our trade relationship with Ukraine, the economic gains are achieved while promoting Canadian values and priorities. For example, the agreement includes comprehensive commitments on labour and environment in dedicated chapters. These chapters are high standard and provide strong protections, including mechanisms for any citizen to raise trade-related concerns in either of these areas and, if necessary, a dispute resolution process.
The agreement also includes anti-corruption provisions that oblige Canada and Ukraine to adopt or maintain legislation on anti-corruption, and these are also subject to dispute settlement mechanisms for use in the event of a perceived violation.