Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to debate Bill C-8 at second reading. The quicker we can get this free trade agreement through the House, the quicker we can get it to committee and back to the House for third reading. This is excellent legislation that would benefit all Canadians and certainly all Jordanians.
These agreements are the latest examples of our government's strategy to open doors for Canadian businesses and investors in these challenging economic times. This agreement will be the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and related agreements on labour cooperation and the environment.
An aggressive free trade agenda will foster economic growth, encourage competition and provide more choice for Canadians, and it was highlighted in both the Speech from the Throne and budget 2010. As the global economy continues to recover, the one thing that is clear is that free trade, not protectionism, is the key to long-term prosperity for Canadian workers.
Expanding our market access and engaging in free trade partnerships rather than protectionism is part of the government's strategy to help create jobs, growth and opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In particular, this free trade agreement would benefit a number of sectors across Canada's economy.
Today I would like to outline a few of these sectors and talk about why our trade relationship with Jordan is so critical at this time in our history.
The fact is that sectors across Canada's economy need the kind of competitive access provided by this free trade agreement. Our companies need to be able to compete and succeed in a global marketplace. The agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan. To be more precise, the agreement would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.
Farmers would benefit because the agreement would eliminate tariffs on pulse crops, including lentils, chickpeas and beans, frozen french fries, animal feed and various prepared foods. It would also expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, including forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts.
As I am sure the House is aware, our manufacturers and Canadians employed in all of these sectors need every competitive advantage they can get in these challenging times. Through tariff elimination, our free trade agreement with Jordan would open new doors for these sectors, create new opportunities for Canadians employed in them and help our businesses succeed in global markets. The free trade agreement would help to ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access to Jordan's markets.
I want to take a moment to also touch on the Canada-Jordan foreign investment promotion and protection agreement that came into force on December 14 of last year. Signed at the same time as the free trade agreement, it will help encourage two-way investment by providing investors in both countries with the clarity and the certainty they need when investing in each other's markets.
Canadian investors are discovering a wealth of opportunities in the Jordanian market. Sectors, like resource extraction, nuclear energy, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure, all hold much promise for Canadian investors. One need only look at the great success the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has found in Jordan. It is now the largest foreign investor in Jordan. We can all also look at the long list of other Canadian companies, like Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin for instance, that have made significant inroads in the Jordanian market.
That is why the free trade agreement and the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement are such important accomplishments. We are standing up for Canadian business and we are standing strong for Canadian workers. In the broader sense, it is only the beginning.
The Canada-Jordan FTA is Canada's first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country. The Middle East and the north Africa region are becoming more important to Canadian business.
This agreement with Jordan would give us access to a critical market in the region. We have opened a number of significant doorways into the region and set the stage for Canadian businesses to create even more commercial links throughout the Middle East and north Africa in the years ahead.
However, Canada also believes that deeper commercial engagement need not come at the expense of labour standards or the environment. We think trade and investment can be a positive force for communities worldwide. We are very pleased to include parallel labour and environment agreements as part of the larger package of agreements we have signed with Jordan.
I will start with the labour co-operation agreement. It commits both countries to respect the core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization, standards that help eliminate child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination, and that respect freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. The agreement also commits both countries in providing acceptable minimum employment standards and compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses. I should also add that under this agreement migrant workers would enjoy the same legal protections as nationals, when it comes to working conditions.
In a similar vein, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and the development and improvement of policies that protect the natural environment. Domestic environmental laws must be respected and enforced. This agreement commits both countries to this goal.
It also commits both countries to ensure that the strong environmental assessment processes are in place, as well as remedies for violating environmental laws. Through the agreement on the environment, our governments are also encouraging businesses to adopt best practices of corporate social responsibility and promote public awareness and engagement. As with the labour agreement, these measures would help ensure that increased trade and investment does not come at the expense of the environment and that businesses can play a positive role in the life of each country.
This is a critical time for Canada's economy. The global economic downturn has hit all nations hard. Our bilateral trade with Jordan, for example, fell from $92 million in 2008 to $82 million in 2009, primarily due to a decline in Canadian exports to Jordan.
We must do the right things to get there. We must continue to take steps to sharpen Canada's competitive edge. The global economy is not going away and one in five Canadian jobs depend upon Canada trading with the rest of the world. We need to continue opening doors to opportunity for our businesses and investors to thrive and prosper today and beyond the current economic downturn. Our free trade agreement with Jordan is an important part of these efforts. So is the foreign investment protection agreement and the two agreements on labour and the environment. Canada needs these tools to be competitive in Jordan.
This free trade agreement resonates with many Canadians. It would eliminate tariffs on Canadian products into this expanding market. In doing so, it would create opportunities for Canadian industries still on the rebound from recent economic turbulence and complement the government's successful strategy to stimulate economic growth for Canadians on all fronts. It would benefit Canadian consumers by eliminating tariffs on virtually all imports from Jordan. In doing all of that, and this is the key, it would also protect the environment and workers' rights.
I cannot mention this fact enough. This is not just a free trade agreement. It has a side agreement on labour co-operation and the environment. They were negotiated in parallel with the free trade agreement and link directly to environmental and labour provisions. Both the environment and the labour agreements contain what the negotiators call a non-derogation clause, meaning that neither Canada nor Jordan may waive or lessen existing environmental and labour laws to encourage trade or investment.
In effect, the parallel labour and environment agreements would help to ensure progress on labour rights and environment protection.
I will begin by elaborating on the agreement on the environment that is included in this agreement.
This agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to strive to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.
Canada and Jordan are committed to complying with and effectively enforcing their domestic environmental laws, ensure that proceedings are available to remedy violations of environmental laws, promote public awareness of environmental laws and policies, put in place environmental impact assessment processes, and encourage the use of voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises.
The agreement on the environment also creates potential avenues for cooperation. Areas of activities would include cooperation on enforcement and compliance, corporate social responsibility and environmental technologies.
The agreement's dispute settlement provisions are forward-looking and progressive.
Members of the public would be able to submit questions to either party on any obligations or cooperative activities under the agreement. Canada and Jordan can undertake consultations to resolve any disagreements and, if need be, the matter can be referred to ministers for resolution.
As a final step, both Jordan and Canada would be able to ask for an independent review panel to investigate situations where they think the other party has failed to effectively enforce its environmental laws. In these circumstances, Canada and Jordan will work to develop an action plan to implement panel recommendations.
Environmental and labour protections are integral to the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement. We all know that the environmental and labour standards can go together and even benefit from free trade. Our free trade agreement with Jordan, along with the parallel agreements on the environment and labour cooperation, ensures that they do.
Finally, in summarizing this agreement, I just want to go over a couple more points.
We know that Canada and Jordan would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and most agricultural tariffs and have both committed to reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. Canadian exporters wold benefit from enhanced access to the Jordanian market. A Canada-Jordan free trade agreement would also help to level the playing field, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access against our companies here in Canada.
Under tariff elimination, there would be an elimination of all Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs that currently average 11%. These include tariffs of 10% to 30% on many non-agricultural products of Canadian export interests, including industrial and electrical machinery, auto parts, construction equipment and forest products such as wood building materials and paper. The elimination of the vast majority of Jordan's agricultural tariffs, including key Canadian export interests, such as pulse crops, frozen french fries, various prepared foods and animal feeds, which face high tariffs of as much as 30%.
The vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan would benefit from the immediate duty-free access to the Jordanian market upon implementation of this free trade agreement. Upon implementation, Canada will immediately eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs on imports originating in Jordan, as well as most agricultural tariffs. As in all of our past free trade agreements, Canada has excluded over-quota supply managed dairy, poultry and ag products from any tariff reductions.
There are also reductions to non-tariff barriers to trade in this agreement, commitments to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods, provisions to affirm and build on obligations under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and an agreement to apply the provisions of the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures in bilateral trade.
A committee on trade in goods and rules of origin would l be created as a forum for Canada and Jordan to discuss any goods-related trade issues that arise, including technical barriers to trade.
There would be a bilateral goods trade overview. Canadian exports to Jordan totalled $65.8 million in 2009, up from $31 million in 2003. Our top exports to Jordan in 2009 included vehicles, forest products, machinery, pulse crops, such as lentils and chick peas, ships and boats and plastics. The top exports for the previous year included paper and paperboard, copper wire, pulse crops, machinery and wood pulp. Canadian merchandise imports from Jordan totalled $16.6 million in 2009, up from $6 million in 2003. Top imports included knit and woven apparel, precious stones and metals, mainly jewellery, vegetables and inorganic chemicals.
All our consultations and reviews of this very important agreement show us that trade will not just be expanded, but will be drastically expanded. It comes at a time when we need jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers. A couple of parties seem to totally reject the free trade agreement. They would take us back to the Great Depression again and work us through all kinds of technical trade barriers that Canadians simply cannot afford.
Finally, in the spirit of co-operation, I think there are a number of free traders in the House, certainly in the Liberal Party. They have been favourable to free trade agreements in the past. I would ask them to look at this agreement and to support it. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian traders. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian exporters.
A very good example is my own riding, a very rural riding on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. Ninety-seven per cent of all the jobs created in my very small, very rural riding are trade related and manufacturing jobs, whether they are fish processing jobs or manufacturing, it is all value-added. There is an aeronautical sector and an aerospace sector. In the forest products everything is dimensional lumber. It is all manufactured again. Agriculture is all value-added.
If those people cannot sell their products, if they cannot move on to the world market that we have traditionally enjoyed in Atlantic Canada, especially in Nova Scotia, through the days of the schooner trade and before that, then we are taking not only a step backward, we would be taking a step backward to ancient history, where people lived in walled city states and fought one another instead of trading with one another. That would be a tremendous mistake.