Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House this afternoon to talk about the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement as a member of the international trade committee and as someone who had the opportunity to travel with the committee just over two years ago. This is a very important initiative for our government and our global commerce strategy.
As a side note, it was two years ago today that then minister of international trade, David Emerson, announced formally that we would be entering into these negotiations. I know for a fact that we have had considerable debate from both sides of the House and through committee. It is time that we move on as a government and as country to provide opportunities for our businesses. This agreement is a great opportunity for Canadian businesses.
We know that there are challenges within Colombia. We have heard today and through our committees over 130 different testimonies and 98 different witnesses. The fact is that there has been progress over the eight years that President Uribe has been president. We know that there are new leaders coming on stream who support the general principle of trade agreements and of moving forward and fostering opportunities for Colombians as well as Canadians.
Once this free trade agreement is implemented, Canadians will be able to expand their presence in this important market. This is exactly the kind of opportunity Canadian industries across the country have been asking for.
One of those associations was the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, which testified to our committee, “Colombia has the potential to be an important future market for beef exports”.
The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters stated, “Colombia is a very good example of a market that is growing very rapidly where we have been successful in expanding our presence in that market...supplying them with Canadian products and services”.
Hon. members of the House should recognize just how important the Colombian market is for the businesses in their regions. As the member of Parliament representing Kelowna—Lake Country and the Okanagan, I know that British Columbia will benefit from this agreement, as will Ontario, Quebec, and all parts of the country. We are looking to expand trade and to yield customers new opportunities. In particular, British Columbia's machinery and paper industries stand to benefit most from this agreement.
We have heard already that Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba will benefit from this agreement. Specifically, the prairies and the agricultural producers are a key building block of our economy. The immediate removal of Colombian tariffs from groups such as wheat, barley, and pulses will make these products from the Canadian prairies even more competitive in the Colombian market.
In addition, Alberta enjoys a significant investment presence in the Colombian market, thanks to oil and gas projects. By providing greater predictability and protection for investors, our free trade agreement with Colombia will help secure Canadian investment in the region. We have heard over and over again that rules-based trading is secure, safe, regulatory protection for investors, which is key to continuing to help grow our markets as well as Colombia's.
These investment provisions will directly benefit those Alberta firms that are investing in Colombia. In Ontario and Quebec, manufacturers need all the opportunities they can get to grow stronger. That means opening doors in new markets, such as Colombia. With this agreement, Colombian tariffs on all machinery and industrial goods will be eliminated. Canadian manufacturers of mining equipment and heavy machinery, concentrated in Ontario and Quebec, will benefit from the immediate elimination of Colombia's 5% to 20% tariffs on products in this sector.
This is a significant opportunity for all Canadians. With over 42 million dollars' worth of vehicles, 15 million dollars' worth of mechanical machinery, and 10 million dollars' worth of electrical equipment exported to Colombia in 2009, companies in Ontario have a lot to gain, as well, from this agreement.
This is a very important agreement for Quebec, as well. Quebeckers employed in industries such as paper, paperboard and other forest products, copper, and machinery will clearly benefit from free trade with Colombia. After all, 21.6%, or over one-fifth, of Canada's exports to Colombia last year were from Quebec. That is a significant figure.
In total, Quebec's exports to Colombia amounted to $130 million in 2009, including $29 million worth of machinery and $27 million worth of paper and paperboard.
On the east coast, the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador exported about $52.84 million worth of products to Colombia.
By deepening our trade relationships with Colombia, important industries will benefit, such as paper and paperboard and machinery exporters. With these kinds of benefits across Canada, it is no wonder that Canadian businesses, investors, and producers alike have been calling for closer commercial ties with Colombia.
This agreement is a result of this government listening to Canadian businesses and strengthening this country's economy. It is clear that this agreement makes commercial sense, and not just for one specific region or one province; it makes sense for all of Canada. Colombia is a significant trade partner for this country. In 2009, our two-way trade in merchandise was worth over $1.3 billion. That is right; it was over $1.3 billion. Over the past five years, Canadian merchandise exports have grown by over 55%.
By eliminating tariffs on a range of products, Canadian exporters and producers will become more competitive with other nations that are also trading with Colombia. This trade agreement will have significant benefits for important sectors of the Canadian economy, such as forestry, manufacturing, agriculture, energy, resources, and mining. These are all areas in which Canada excels, and they are integral to our economy. These sectors are economic drivers of both small communities and large urban centres across this great nation. In particular, in the agricultural sector, Colombia is an established and growing market for Canadian exporters.
In 2009, Canada exported agriculture and agri-food products to Colombia worth $247 million. Colombia is the second largest market for Canadian agricultural exports in South America. Key stakeholders in Canada's agricultural sectors have spoken out about how important this deal is for their businesses. Pulse Canada has testified that Colombia is a critical market for Canadian pulses and special crops. The Canadian Pork Council has said, “it would be critical, for us to be a player in the Colombian pork market, to see this great agreement passed”.
This government is listening. Once implemented, most Canadian agricultural exports will benefit from immediate duty-free access to Colombia. This includes wheat, barley, and pulses, which in 2009 represented 35% of Canadian merchandise. Exports to Colombia are currently subject to tariffs of up to 60%. Duty-free access to Colombia for these products is an important achievement.
This agreement is also expected to have a positive impact on the Canadian manufacturing sector by creating new market opportunities for Canadian exports of manufactured products.
Canadian companies, in particular the extractive and explorative companies, have made important investments in the Colombian market. As I mentioned, having had the opportunity to travel there, we saw first-hand those investments and the corporate social responsibility leadership those Canadian companies are providing the Colombians.
Canadian companies, with their presence, have created many opportunities for Canadian exporters of equipment and other manufactured products.
One of the leading exports to Colombia in recent years has been off-road dump trucks, for which immediate duty-free access would apply with the implementation of the free trade agreement. Who would have thought; off-road dump trucks? However, it is a great market, and it is an expanding market and opportunity.
Canada has also shipped a substantial quantity of auto parts to Colombia in recent years, which will receive the same tariff treatment as the United States exports, including on remanufactured products. The free trade agreement with Colombia will strengthen these types of linkages by fully eliminating Colombian tariffs on these and many other products.
Colombia is also a strategic destination for Canadian investment, to the point that the stock of Canadian investment in Colombia reached $773 million in 2009 alone. This agreement establishes a stable, legal framework for Canadian investors in Colombia.
The oil and gas and mining sectors will also benefit from provisions, directed by governments, to promote principles of corporate social responsibility in their business communities. The promotion of corporate social responsibility, something that is near and dear to my heart, fosters better relations between companies and local communities and contributes to a stable business environment. Canadian companies have indicated their strong belief that their increased engagement in Colombia, bringing with them good Canadian values, would help advance local conditions with respect to corporate social responsibility. Canadian service providers, in particular for financial, engineering, mining, and petroleum extractive services, will also benefit from more secure, predictable, and equitable treatment in Colombia.
The Standing Committee on International Trade has heard from many companies, associations, and individuals regarding the direct benefits this agreement will have. Without export markets, our industries will be unable to expand, compete, and grow. That is why I ask all hon. members to show their support for Canada's businesses from coast to coast to coast by supporting the passage of the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement.