Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join in the debate today on the NDP motion which, while focusing on the so-called chapter 11 of NAFTA, is really a cover for the NDP's very negative attitude toward free trade. I am very pleased to assist in putting down to some of the ideas that the NDP would put forward.
I come from the riding of Algoma—Manitoulin in northern Ontario where a large number of people—and we hope more in the future—work in the forestry sector, the mining sector and in tourism. If nothing else, these are very important commodities in trade. We should try to imagine what our lives would be like if we did not trade in forest products and minerals, and there was no movement of people across our borders to enjoy our fine country.
We could start with the premise that all trade begins between two people bartering something. In the history of humankind, trade started with two people bartering commodities for each other's mutual benefit. If we take that notion and carry it to the level of trade within a village and among villages, and take it to a higher and more sophisticated level involving trade among nations, the simple premise that trade should be mutually beneficial applies as much at the international level as it does at the local level. What is good between two people in terms of trade must and should be good between two people at opposite sides of the planet. There is no line beyond which trade no longer is a good thing.
What we are really debating is not that there should be free trade but that there should be freer trade. It is hard to imagine a world where there would not be some rules of engagement, but the point is that we want to move forever closer to a notion of free trade in a universe where everyone can play by the same rules.
I had the opportunity to spend two years teaching high school math and physics in Jamaica back in the early 1970s. Jamaica traded mainly bananas and sugar within the commonwealth. At the time it had a sweetheart deal with the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom actually paid a premium for Jamaica's sugar so that it would have a guaranteed supply. Some years ago the United Kingdom decided it did not want to pay a premium for the sugar and abandoned Jamaica as one of its suppliers.
During the years when Jamaica had a preferred sale for its sugar to Britain, a certain dependency was created. As a result, diversification in the Jamaican economy did not occur. When the British buyers decided to no longer pay that premium and abandon Jamaican producers, there was no diversified economy in which to respond. I had a chance to visit a couple of summers ago, and sadly the economy in Jamaica has gotten worse over the years, not better.
What we really want to be sure about in free trade is that there are as few rules as possible because the best and most effective way to eradicate poverty, not only in our own country but around the world, is to make sure everyone has equal and fair access to the markets of others.
If we really want to make sure that education, health care and other social services are available around the world on an equal basis, we must share the benefits and the markets, which are easy for Canadians to access but very difficult for poor countries to access, through trade.
In terms of our own economy, I have a few simple facts. Others may have mentioned these but they certainly bear repeating. Since 1993, under our watch, the country has produced something like two million new jobs, 80% of which are the result of trade. In fact, exports make up about half of our gross domestic product. There is $2.5 billion a day in trade. There is no question that Canada is a trading nation.
Again there is the guise of a concern about chapter 11. I want to make it very clear that our Minister for International Trade and, I think, our Prime Minister have said that we need to look at chapter 11. We need to tighten things up and we need some clarification, but let us agree that things are generally working. It is not unusual when we have an agreement to need to fine tune things from time to time.
I submit that if we waited at all times to sign an agreement that we knew was perfect before we began, we would never sign agreements. We would never buy a house. It would have to be perfect before we bought it and there is always something wrong with a house when we buy it, whether it is new or old. This is something we have to face after we get the key and open the front door for the first time.
We have to go into agreements and deals with the idea that we have made the best arrangement possible in the circumstances facing us and that we know ongoing negotiations will be necessary to ensure that as time goes by we can make those adjustments and tweak those rules and regulations so that things get better for all players.
A deal that impoverishes one partner and enriches another is not a deal. The government believes in trade that is fair, honest and transparent. I submit that the government, through the whole FTAA process, has been totally open to an extent limited only by our obligations to other nations in terms of confidentiality. To the extent that the Canadian government could be open, it has been so.
Before I use up all my time, I want to comment on a question from the member for Peterborough, who asked about the place of our first nations, our aboriginal people, when it comes to free trade or national trade. I think it is a very poignant question.
I have about 25 first nation communities in my large northern Ontario riding. In fact, with the support of trade officials with whom I have had a chance to discuss these matters, we are in the process of planning a one day conference on free trade in my riding to make sure that our aboriginal people as well as aboriginal people right through the Americas have an equal and fair opportunity to participate in the whole free trade process. To the extent that we leave people behind—and nobody on either side of the House would argue that we would leave anybody behind—either for reasons of illiteracy or reasons of access to resources and so on, to that extent we have failed.
Mr. Speaker, did I let you know ahead of time that I am splitting my time with the member for Mississauga South? Pardon me for not reminding you of that at the beginning.
Let me conclude by making a comment about the well televised protests we saw at the recent Quebec summit. I was a university student in the late sixties and early seventies and was involved in protests myself, although I never threw a brick or damaged any property. If one was in university or college in the late sixties and early seventies, one was no doubt involved in some form of protest or another. Those who would damage the reputation of legitimate protesters by damaging property have ill served all parties to the discussion.
Mr. Speaker, I just want to thank you for this opportunity, as I pass this on to my colleague, and say that the government plans to continue its excellent job when it comes to negotiating free trade for all its citizens.