Mr. Speaker, it is great to be back and opening up our fall session with a discussion, as I said earlier, on a topic that is very important not only to Canada but also to Colombia.
There is no doubt members realize that especially during these economic times brought on by a global economic recession, it is vital for Canada to continue to keep its doors open for business opportunities where investment can grow. I have seen examples of this need right in my own riding of Simcoe North where producers and manufacturers, those involved in supplying key industries that would be able to expand and grow in a market like Colombia, would directly benefit.
It is a great delight to be part of a discussion that is advancing opportunities for investment and for business growth for Canadians.
The Colombia free trade agreement is part of this government's ongoing focus on expanding our interests in trade generally. As was commented on earlier in this debate, Canada has been active on a number of fronts, not just in the Americas but in Europe and Asia as well. All of this is vital in terms of expanding the reach and in turn the prosperity that companies can provide, operating here in Canada and supplying to markets and supply chains active in these new markets for our country.
Looking at our overall progress in the last few years, we need look back no more than four years to see that we have opened up new agreements with not only Colombia but also Peru, Jordan and Panama. Of course we are all familiar with the works that have been concluded in EFTA.
In addition to working on specific bilateral trade agreements, we are continuing to keep more trade offices open in emerging markets and those that we know are vital to our own interests.
We are helping to expand trade. We are opening doors for Canadian business and encouraging investment at a very critical time for our country. Through the Prime Minister's interest in expanding our interest in the Americas, this has been ongoing for close to three years.
I have mentioned some of the markets that we are already expanding into, but the Americas are of particular interest to Canada because of our geographic proximity, being in the same hemisphere.
This is an area where Canada can play an increasingly vital role not just in trade, but also in areas of defence and policies relating to our diplomatic efforts in our part of the world. When events unfold in this hemisphere, Canada's interests are more directly impacted and so our focus on trade and on greater and stronger ties with other nations in the Americas are of tremendous benefit not just to Canada but to all of the member countries that make up this hemisphere.
It should not be lost on members or those who are listening at home that we are not only achieving an economic benefit by these agreements but that we are also helping to reinforce our own national and security interests at the same time.
Let me take a moment to speak a bit more specifically about Colombia in particular.
Members have heard a number of points made on both sides of the questions, both pro and con. It cannot be lost on our audience in the House or on people who are tuning in that these kinds of agreements represent benefits not just for Canadians but also for Colombians.
On the whole issue of advancing human rights and making sure that we are recognizing important labour and environmental standards in the course of these agreements, it should be understood that the interests of advancing human rights and those of advancing economic benefits are not mutually exclusive. That is to say that one can benefit the other. They are indeed complementary activities that we need to be engaged in on both fronts, not just to create an economic upside.
We all recognize that Colombia is still moving along the path of better security at home and better recognition of human rights. Certainly, Canada has been active in advancing those interests. We are not there yet, but something like increased trade with a country like Colombia can move that along at a much quicker pace.
We need to realize that Colombia is not going to make much more progress on human rights if they become isolated by the international community. That is something that is certainly not lost on our interests here in Canada. Indeed, we have seen where Colombia is taking up the same kinds of discussions with the United States, the European Free Trade Association and, in the near term, with the European Union as well.
While we recognize that it is still not perfect there, we need to see that progress is being made and that the continued engagement of Canada and other international partners in Colombia is going to advance and improve the situation on the ground. We have made some terrific progress in the last four to five years.
What are the direct elements of a free trade agreement? I suspect these are items that may have been covered in earlier discussions, but I am delighted to see that this is the kind of free trade agreement that is going to include greater market access for goods, better cross-border trade and services and investment in the financial services sector and in government procurement. In this day and age, we know that in order for businesses in Canada or those in Colombia to be successful, they have to be part of an integrated industrial supply chain that is producing goods and services not just for their own markets but for the world.
The more we open up the doors to investment in other countries, the greater the chance that Canadian companies right here at home are going to be able to participate and supply goods and services to those transactions. It is not like it was a decade or more ago, when we looked for markets in isolated pockets. This is a large and growing global supply chain that our companies can play a greater part in and indeed they are doing so. As we open up more agreements just like this one, the upside for our companies becomes even greater.
I will go back to a point I made earlier with respect to benefits for Colombians themselves. Right off the bat, a free trade agreement like this is going to reduce if not eliminate tariffs for Colombian manufacturers, exporters and producers. They will then be able to increase trade with Canada and probably even expand into North American markets in the near term. More liberalized trade will expand investment and create more job opportunities for Colombians on the ground. However, the same can be said for those businesses that are part of that activity right here in Canada.
I am getting the sign that we are just about out of time here. I would just like to sum up and say that this is exactly the kind of activity that we need to continue to make a part of our priorities on the economic front. It is going to bring great results for us here at home. At the same time, it is going to be advancing security and interests important to that host country as well.
Let us continue to keep on with these kinds of free trade agreements. They are going to make the world a much better place. We know that to be true from our own examples these last few years.
I invite questions from the hon. members.