moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia, be read the third time and passed.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to again speak in the House to the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. This agreement is an important part of the government's ambitious free trade agenda, an agenda aimed at supporting Canada's economy, Canadian workers, Canadian businesses and building prosperity for our economy.
The fragility of the global economy emphasizes the value of expanding trade and investment relationships by improving access to markets abroad.
Our government is committed to pursuing this initiative and building Canadian prosperity through bilateral and regional trade relations. Canada's economy is export-focused, and as such, it is in our best economic interest to find as many new foreign markets for our producers and exporters as possible.
By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we support economic growth and create new jobs for Canadian workers. That is the experience of the North American free trade agreement and the experience of new free trade agreements under this government with Peru and with the European Free Trade Association.
We have had other free trade agreements, one before this Parliament on Jordan and another one recently signed with Panama, and we are currently negotiating a very ambitious free trade agreement with the European Union. This Canada-Colombia free trade agreement before the House today is an important part of that agenda.
Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for the opportunities that all of these free trade agreements provide, and this government is listening.
Colombia is a significant trade partner for Canada. In 2009, our two-way merchandise trade totalled $1.3 billion and, over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%. Clearly, Canadian businesses and producers see potential in this market.
However, the reality is that Canadian exports, particularly commodities, are at a disadvantage when compared to many of our main competitors, like the U.S., for geographic reasons.
Speedy implementation of our agreement with Colombia will help our exporters strengthen their position. Canadian exporters are in danger of finding themselves at an even greater disadvantage in this important market. Once in place, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will benefit Canadian exporters by removing a number of major trade barriers to the Colombian market. For example, Colombia will eliminate duties on nearly all current Canadian exports to Colombia, including wheat, pulse crops and mining equipment.
In 2009, Canada exported agri-food products worth $247 million to Colombia. In fact, Colombia is the second largest market for Canadian agricultural exports in South America.
Once this free trade agreement is in place, over 85% of Canadian agricultural exports to Colombia will be duty-free immediately. The removal of these duties is a significant advantage for Canadian agriculture and agri-food producers. This government is standing up for Canada's agricultural producers. This sector is critical for Canada. It contributes about $100 billion to the country's gross domestic product and employs over two million Canadians.
The benefits of this deal extend across the Canadian economy. It is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector. This sector has been hit particularly hard during these recent difficult economic times and it is a sector that would benefit from new market opportunities.
With rapid growth in the Colombian economy in recent years, Canadian companies made important investments. The strong presence of Canadian companies has also created many export opportunities for Canadian exporters of industrial goods, particularly oil and gas and mining equipment manufacturers.
Some of Canada's leading exports to Colombia include off-road dump trucks and auto parts. The manufacturers of these products would benefit under this agreement, and I need not point out the obvious, that auto parts manufacturers in the auto sector have been hit hard in recent years and the workers in this sector would appreciate the economic opportunities this would present.
Knowledge of infrastructure needs and the production of industrial goods are areas in which Canada excels.
These export sectors are integral to our economy. They are part of every Canadian community, large or small. That is why our government is seeking access to new markets.
Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, and two-way investment is an absolutely critical driving force in today's global economy. It is important for Canada to maintain both inward and outward investment with our global partners, partners including Colombia, with the stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reaching approximately $800 million in 2009, and thanks in great part to Colombia's oil and gas a mining sectors, this number is expected to grow over the coming years.
Those are just a few areas where Canada has significant interests and can offer a lot to our Colombian partners going forward.
The Canada-Colombia free trade agreement offers both Canadian and Colombian investors an unprecedented degree of stability, predictability and protection.
This agreement establishes a stable legal framework and strict obligations to guarantee freedom of investment capital transfer and to protect investors from expropriation. Thanks to this agreement, investors will also have access to transparent, enforceable and impartial dispute resolution procedures.
In terms of services, this sector is a primary driver of the Canadian economy. It is responsible for 71% of our gross domestic product and for three in four Canadian jobs.
The Colombian market holds many opportunities for growth across this service sector in areas such as financial services, legal services, engineering and architecture, and high technology, for example. Canadian service providers already have a substantial presence in the Colombian market. Our services' exports to Colombia are in the area of about $80 million to $85 million each year. Propelling these numbers are Canadian financial, mining, engineering, petroleum extraction sectors and tourism.
Service sectors like these in Canada have a lot to gain. This agreement would afford service providers a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based trading environment, and would provide an added measure of confidence.
Under this agreement, Canadian service providers can plan for the future knowing that they will receive the same treatment as Colombian service providers.
In addition, the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement will provide direct benefits in other areas that are important to Canada. Thanks to the procurement provisions in the accord, Canadian suppliers will be able to bid on requests for proposals for goods, services and construction issued by most Colombian federal departments.
There are also comprehensive provisions covering the temporary entry of business visitors, intra-company transferees, traders and investors, spouses, technicians and an extensive list of professionals. This would ensure timely processing and transparency in the review of temporary entry applications. Businesses would directly benefit from this expedited process and the people to people movement would mean that Canadian investors and Canadian professionals would be better positioned to benefit from the opportunities offered in the Colombian market.
Those are just a few examples of the many benefits that would be achieved and accomplished by this free trade agreement.
In difficult economic times, we cannot hide behind walls or behind barriers. We need to seek out new opportunities on the global stage, and that is why this government has been committed to securing access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses through negotiations with the European Union, Ukraine and others across the Americas.
It is now time to move ahead with this legislation. it has been debated at length by this Parliament, by numerous speakers and by extensive evidence at committee. It has been studied as thoroughly as any other agreement, perhaps even more than the North American Free Trade Agreement, I hasten to suggest. Of course, we believe that in this agreement, our parallel agreements on environment and labour help address the concerns that some have raised with regard to Colombia.
I ask for the support of all hon. members for the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements. This would be a great step forward for Canada, another addition to our overall free trade agenda, which is leading to growth and prosperity for the Canadian economy and for the benefit of Canadian workers, which is why we think this is a long overdue agreement.
Canada would lead the way, ahead of those in the European Union and in the United States that have agreements in place but have failed to ratify them as yet. We would be in a position to do that. This agreement would provide an advantage and an opportunity to our Canadian workers, an advantage that this government is committed to capitalizing upon.