Mr. Speaker, with respect to this very important debate on the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia, trade not only brings economic opportunities, it brings dialogue between them. It brings ideals, beliefs and what they have in common. This trade agreement is very important. We have sees other trade agreements around the world, such as the NAFTA with Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, and how it forged our countries together, not only in trade but in our relationships with each other.
Very recently we went on a Middle East tour with the foreign affairs committee, and we talked to the people of Jordan. Jordan has a free trade agreement with Israel and Egypt. Those countries get along. They get along mostly because they are trading with each other. They are relying upon each other for exports and imports.
Regarding the European Union, with all the centuries of strife in Europe, one of the reasons it works so well in Europe is because they are traders now. It is very important that trade is happening around the world because it makes different societies and different nations get along.
Seven years ago, when I was on the trade committee, we went through South America. It was quite an eye-opener to see the potential in this region. We were there at the time we already had a free trade agreement with Chile. Our exports to Chile, such as paper products and airplane parts, increased when we had a deal with Chile, and we started buying products from it.
I remember that tour. We went all through those South American countries. With the ones that we had agreements with, especially Peru and Chile, there was a tremendous amount of trade. As well, air routes were open between those two countries, so there was a lot of dialogue.
We really should be looking at the potential for buying more products from Colombia. It is very strategic. We are in the northern hemisphere and we cannot get certain products here that it can provide. Right now we have SNC-Lavalin from Canada setting up shop there. There is so much we can gain.
A couple of years ago, when I was responsible for emerging economies in the previous government, I toured all these countries, especially the emerging economies in Asia. I saw how their economies were increasing and expanding, and it was mostly because of trade.
I visited the eastern European countries. After the Iron Curtain came down, we saw Poland, Romania and Hungary doing more trade with the rest of the world. Their economies got better. Their social networks got better. Even the labour laws got better in these countries because of trade.
We should not be so afraid of having a free trade agreement with Colombia. It is going to be very good for both countries.
We have to think of the situation right now in South America. Venezuela is strong-arming Colombia. It is helping with the guerrillas who are fighting the Colombian government. We should help Colombia break away from its dependence on Venezuela and the few countries it is trading with. We have to do trade with Colombia, because if it stays in the situation, it will constantly have strife and its economy will not expand.
We are not the first country to sign a free trade agreement with Colombia. I mentioned the European Union, which already has a trade agreement with Colombia. The countries of the European Union are all democratic countries. They have very vibrant trade unions. They are committed to human rights. They see the merit of having a free trade agreement with Colombia. If they have seen the merit and gone through all the hoops, we should be looking at it.
We see other countries stepping up to the plate to do trade with Colombia, such as the Scandinavian countries, Britain, the Netherlands, France and Germany. They are all helping Colombia prosper. There is a saying about prosperity, that people will flourish when things are happening, business is good, and people have jobs. But when people do not have jobs and economies are bad, it is very hard, especially on young people.
I remember visiting Syria. Syria and Cuba are boxed in and they do not have a lot of trade. There are a lot of young people in the streets who are not working. They do not see any hope in trade or business. They do not see any future. Many times in these countries, and it has happened in Colombia, they fall for the other side of the economy. That is not good. In Colombia, it is narcotics. A lot of young people have nowhere else to work but in those industries.
A lot of countries that do not have trade agreements and are not trading with the rest of the world are boxed in. They have a lot of young people. It brings nothing but strife and they cannot move forward. It is very important that we are one of the leaders on the trade agreement with Colombia.
Canadians are traders. We are one of the biggest countries in the world, with one of the world's smallest populations, and look at how much trade we do in a day. We are importing almost $1 billion and exporting almost $1.5 billion a day. When we look at the world, those numbers are tremendous for a small population of 30 million people. However, we are traders. We believe in trade, and we have to show leadership.
For 40 years, Colombia has been paralyzed and divided. They have been desperate. There is violence. Legitimate trade, not trade in narcotics, is what will bring Colombians out of it. We have to foster that trade and we have to help them.
I was talking to the member for Kings—Hants, who mentioned that even the U.S. is making a trade deal. The NDP talks about labour standards and how bad they are in Colombia. The member for Kings—Hants was there, and he said they have the strongest and best labour standards in the world. The biggest problem is that they do not have enough inspectors on the ground to make sure those rules are followed. Canada is helping them fund their labour inspectors so they can fulfill and push those rules.
We should not have a free trade agreement carte blanche. We should have labour laws and human rights attached to it. That is the way we should look at it. There is no reason we cannot. We have done this with other trade agreements.
It would be best to move the bill forward to the trade committee. I have been on the trade committee and I know how it works. Committee members are very efficient and they move fast. They will go through the legislation quickly. Let us dissect it and make sure those things are in place that some Canadians are concerned about.
Instead of stopping the legislation from moving forward, NDP members should be thinking about the people of Colombia. They should be thinking of companies like SNC-Lavalin that are working there. They should be thinking about the products we could pull out of Colombia that could make our lifestyle better, whether it is cut flowers, coffee or many of the produce items that we cannot grow in the winter. These are all reasons to move forward with the legislation.
There have been quite a few speakers over the last few days. There was a lot of information brought out, but some of it was misinformation. We should correct that for the record. We should look at this free trade agreement, because Canada is a leader in free trade agreements. It should not stop there, and we should help it move forward.