Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to the bill and follow the hon. member from the Bloc.
As the members know, the bill was introduced last year as Bill C-57, but after Parliament prorogued it was reintroduced on March 24 as Bill C-8.
For people who are watching today, I will give a little information about the bill. This is an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the agreement on the environment between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
The volume of the speeches in terms of intensity has dropped a lot compared to the speeches a few days ago on Bill C-2, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.
Clearly from our perspective in the NDP caucus, we certainly do not see the situation in Jordan being anywhere near as dire and bad as what we see with regard to the situation in Colombia.
Having said that, we see some concerns we can address as far as Jordan is concerned. We have reports from the U.S. Department of State dealing with the 2009 reports on human rights practices, which I will get into during my speech, and also a report by a lawyer from Jordan indicating problems with honour killings in Jordan and what is going on there to stop that from happening in Jordan.
Certainly there is room for improvement, once again, but it is not as dire a situation as we are dealing with in Colombia.
The critic for the NDP, the member for Burnaby—New Westminster, indicated this morning that we will be looking at this and are prepared to have the bill move to committee and deal with these issue at committee, because that is obviously where we are going to have to resolve some of these issues as to what the true situation is in Jordan as far as human rights are concerned and how we might better be able to amend or reconstruct the bill to deal with the situation in Jordan as we find it now.
I note that the volume of trade with Jordan is not large. In fact it dropped in 2009 from what it was in 2008. To get a flavour for what type of trade we are dealing with, I simply consulted the speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade in which he indicated that many Canadian companies have a solid presence in the Jordanian market. Interestingly enough, a company that I have been familiar with for many years, the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan, for instance is one of Jordan's top foreign investors. I did not know that.
It is joined by companies like RIM, Research In Motion, the manufacturer of the BlackBerry that we are all tied to; Bombardier; SNC-Lavalin; Four Seasons Hotel; and Second Cup coffee shops. Many others are active in Jordan.
The member who spoke before me dealt with the components of the trade between the countries. They are diverse. It is everything from forestry to agriculture, from food to machinery, as well as communications technologies and apparel.
Canada's expertise in nuclear power is another sector of interest to the Jordanians, especially as they are embarking on a nuclear energy program for their country. The member did talk about over $90 million in 2008 in trade between the two countries, although as a matter of fact I believe it was $92 million. Once again, that dropped substantially last year.
Canada is a supplier to Jordan of a range of goods, including paper, copper, vegetables, machinery and wood. In addition, Canadian and Jordanian exporters have access to respective markets eliminating tariffs on a number of key products, and world-leading Canadian sectors, such as forestry and manufacturing, agriculture and agri-food will benefit as well as pulp and paper.
We get an idea, looking at his presentation, as to what sorts of products we are talking about here that are trading between these countries.
As I indicated, we are talking about a fairly small amount of trade. Jordan is a country of 5.1 million versus Colombia, which I believe is in the 40 million range, and has the smallest GDP among middle-eastern states. The economy remains dependent on foreign aid. Interestingly enough, Canada contributed about $7.9 million in foreign aid in 2006-07.
The fact of the matter is that, on practically every debate about free trade agreements in this House, we have had the Conservative speakers question the NDP about why we do not like the agreement or what kind of agreement they have to come up with that would make us happy. Of course we respond to them that we are not in favour of their free trade approach nor have we ever been. We are in favour of a fair trade approach.
I would think that over time, whether it is with the government or a future government, we are going to see agreements renegotiated over time, in keeping with what the Bloc members have mentioned in their speeches. We are going to be looking at more multilateral approaches to fair trade, and we are going to be taking into account some of the elements that we in the NDP have been suggesting should be in fair trade agreements. For example, we have been suggesting new rules in agreements that promote sustainable practices and domestic job creation. We never seem to consider domestic job creation when we are negotiating these agreements.
When we are doing bilateral agreements, there is usually an imbalance of power in the arrangement. Our negotiators are trying to negotiate exactly what is best for us, not necessarily what is best for the local economy of the people we are negotiating with.
In addition to sustainable practices, we should be looking at domestic job creation and healthy working conditions, and while allowing us to manage the supply of goods, we should promote democratic rights and maintain democratic sovereignty at home.
The question is how we can promote fair trade and, as I indicated, new trade agreements that encourage improvement in social, environmental and labour conditions, rather than just minimizing the damage of unrestricted trade.
The federal and provincial procurement policies, which stimulate Canadian industries by allowing governments to favour suppliers here at home, supply management boards and single desk marketers, like the Canadian Wheat Board, headquartered in Winnipeg, can help replace imports with domestic products and materials.
The way the multilateral trade agreements have developed over the years is that we have potentially a flooding of a local market, as we have with the free trade agreements with Mexico and Colombia. For example, with tomatoes to Mexico and foods to Colombia, it basically put farmers, who have been self-sufficient for many years, out of business.
We destroy a solid farming community in a place like Colombia and we flood the market with cheap produce, which makes our farmers happy in the short run but at the end of the day we are not looking at the overall effect and the long-term damage to the local people. What we should be looking is developing agriculture on a local basis. We should be efficient and grow as much of our own products as possible. Obviously, we need to export some of our products and some products just do not grow in certain places. I mentioned the other day about importing bananas into Canada because we do not grow them here. We can export products that people do not have in other areas.
However, wherever possible, if a country can produce a product locally then we should be encouraging that in our practises and in our trade agreements.
Local community and individual initiatives to buy fair trade imports and locally produced goods are really important. As I indicated before, companies like Starbucks, which I am becoming increasingly familiar with almost on a daily basis, do tell people that they buy their coffees on a fair trade basis. People, especially young people, are more than willing to pay a fair price for coffee or whatever product they are selling, if they can be assured that the people at the other end are getting a fair wage and a fair return for the product.
People like to feel good about themselves. They like the know that if they buy an article of clothing, shoes, sweaters or whatever that it was not manufactured under sweat shop conditions. They like the idea of helping to bring up our economy and the economy of the producing country.
However, the bilateral agreements that we have seen so far are essentially extensions of the Ronald Reagan mantra and ideology of a race to the bottom, that we drive markets down and prices down to the lowest common denominator and we think that will be the ultimate in efficiency and that we will have a healthy economy because of it.
What has been the effect? The whole American mid-west is suffering greatly because jobs are being exported. We are exporting not only plants and the jobs that go with them out of Canada and the United States but we are exporting entire industries that were the backbone of our economy, our country and this continent for a number of years. There might be some short-term benefits but in the long run it is not better for the country as a whole.
The bottom line is that we need to become self-sufficient not only for ourselves but also for the people we are trading with.
We in the NDP feel fair trade policies are important. Even some members of the Conservative Party caucus feel that protecting the environment is the way to go by the use of domestically and locally produced goods. If a product is produced locally rather than sending it thousands of miles across the continent, there will be less freight costs, fuel costs and less carbon will be produced. Promoting environmentally conscious methods for producers is something that benefits all of us and it is something that we should be working toward.
The free trade policies that we have adopted, that we have fostered over the last 10, 20 years as a government, have basically resulted in increased pollution to the environment and a bigger concentration of multinationals.
The environmental side agreement of NAFTA, for example, has proven to be largely unenforceable, particularly when compared with protections for industries and investors.
A system of fair trade can encourage the growth of Canadian jobs, both in terms of quality and quantity. Fair competition rules and tougher labour standards will put Canadian industries on a level playing field with our trading partners and slow the international race for the bottom that has resulted and the loss of Canadian manufacturing jobs. I dealt with that issue before about this kind of neo-conservative, and I guess liberal, ideology of racing to the bottom thinking that somehow that will solve the economy's problems.
Free trade rules, on the other hand, have hurt Canadian job quality. Since 1989, most Canadian families have seen a decline in real incomes. I know the member for Burnaby—New Westminster has spoken at length about that point many times, not only here in the House but at other speaking engagements he has had across the country.
Fair trade can also protect labour rights by fostering the growth of worker co-operatives and labour unions. Like the environmental side accord, we have a co-op in Winnipeg that anyone can join. Every year I get a cheque for $800 or $1,000 on gasoline purchases and the price of the gas is the same at all of the gas stations. It is the same price for the product and yet the co-operative sends rebates to the consumers of the product.
For example, NAFTA's labour agreements have gone mainly unenforced, getting industries that are willing to violate workers' rights giving incentives to relocate Canadian jobs. Fair trade policies that favour co-ops, unions and equitable pricing will protect workers in the developing world who might otherwise be exploited and would take away reasons for Canadian producers to export jobs.
Fair trade rules will also protect society and human rights around the globe. That was a very large concern in our debate just last week with regard to the Canada-Colombia free trade deal.
In the few minutes I have left I want to deal very quickly with the whole issue of the 2008 human rights report on Jordan produced by the U.S. Department of State. We say right at the outset that Jordan is not Colombia. Jordan does not have as many obvious human rights abuses as Colombia but there is potential for concern.
In addition to that report, we have a report prepared by an attorney, Ms. Nimry from Jordan, who explains in detail the whole issue of honour killings. The committee needs to look into that issue and find out why we are looking at an average of 25 honour killings a year in Jordan. We recognize that the Jordanian government is taking steps to deal with the issue but it is still happening. In some areas of Jordan, a woman's life is at risk if she talks to a man who is not a relative or if she refuses to marry someone who is chosen by the family or if she marries someone with whom her family does not approve or if she marries a man from a different religion.
I could go on with excerpts from this particular report. It is very interesting reading and it is something that we need to look at.
The Liberals, once again, might want to go holus-bolus and marry up with the Conservatives to try to run this through as quickly as possible to meet their free trade agenda but we in the NDP have no intention of letting things go that quickly. We want to ensure this bill goes to committee and is properly dealt with there.