The Conservative government has created trade deficits for the first time in more than 30 years. There needs to be more effort and a greater commitment to improve this situation by increasing international trade between Canada and other countries in the world.
Canada relies on trade. Eighty per cent of our economy depends on access to export markets.
The Liberal Party supports the principles of free trade as well as initiatives that improve access to foreign markets for Canada's businesses. Even though Jordan's economy is not that large and trade between Canada and Jordan is not extensive, we can make a comparison with what has happened in the United States.
Since 2001, when the United States and Jordan signed their free trade agreement, their trade volume has increased tenfold. We hope to see similar results here.
Like Canada's free trade agreements with Chile and Cost Rica as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.
The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires that each country's national laws, regulations and practices protect the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination.
Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.
The free trade agreement with Jordan is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and businesses. It will eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and a majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.
Canadian businesses that are particularly well placed to benefit from this greater access will be farmers of crops such as lentils, chickpeas and beans. Frozen french fries are included, as are animal feed and various prepared foods. The agreement should expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, such as forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts, because the agreement will eliminate tariffs on such Canadian products as forest products, Canadian manufacturing products and certain agriculture and agri-food products.
Here are a few numbers: Canada's GDP was over $1.5 trillion in 2009. Jordan's was a little over $26 billion. Ten years ago, the value of trade from Canada to Jordan was approximately $22 million, and the value of trade from Jordan to Canada was about $3 million. Last year, the corresponding numbers were almost $66 million from Canada to Jordan and almost $17 million in the other direction.
As noted earlier, these are not very large numbers in the grand scheme of Canada's trade. However, we are very hopeful that the experience in the United States since entering free trade with Jordan, where trade expanded tenfold, will be repeated here in Canada. The Jordanian economy, good news, is predicted to grow by 3% this year and by 3.7% in 2011.
I will repeat that the experience of the U.S.-Jordan Free Trade Agreement has been very encouraging. That agreement was signed only in 2001. Since then, trade between those two countries has increased tenfold. We are very hopeful of having a similar experience as a result of the agreement between Canada and Jordan.
Jordan has also entered into free trade agreements with some of Canada's other important trading partners. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002, and a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.
From a political perspective, we support increased trade and engagement with Jordan because it further facilitates engagement with the country and encourages stability in the region. Canada has had a free trade agreement with Israel since 1997. This would be the first signed with an Arab country. It is appropriate that this agreement be with Jordan, as Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East, and indeed, has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994.
Countries like Canada should take the opportunity to encourage those efforts and should support constructive efforts toward forging better, more engaged, more prosperous and more peaceful relationships in the region.
This particular effort builds on the fact that Canada and Jordan already share a good and constructive relationship, as exemplified by our recent agreement on co-operation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, signed in February 2009.
In addition, Canada and Jordan have a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. It was signed at the same time as this free trade agreement but is already in force. It is based on the principle of national treatment from an investor's perspective: a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan, and of course, vice versa in Canada. This principle of national treatment is a core component of free trade.
Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes agreements on the environment and on labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect labour rights. The Canada-Jordan labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination. Both the labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that will enable members of the public to request an investigation into a perceived failure of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.
I will say a few words on human rights. The question of human rights will always come up in the House when we debate free trade agreements, and rightly so. As I have said in the House a number of times, it is a good thing Canadian members of Parliament are concerned about international human rights. I have noted that we all, regardless of what party we sit for, want full human rights for everyone around the world. We do, however, from time to time, disagree on what Canada can do to further that goal and on how it can do it.
Some of my colleagues will say that putting up walls and preventing more open trade and engagement will somehow help, that somehow, Canada, by wagging its finger at other states instead of fully engaging them, will miraculously be listened to. I am afraid that that is not how the world works. I believe that rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light gets in and opens doors through which we Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate a country, our capacity to engage in human rights is reduced.
Economic engagement increases our ability to engage in other areas, such as education and culture. All of that engagement increases the capacity to engage in the area of human rights. It gives us, as Canadians, a greater opportunity, through business people, customers, clients and others, to show by example, not with a paternalistic, finger-wagging, we know best attitude, how things work so well for us here in Canada. We can show that we are willing to share, on a friendly basis, those examples.
As I have said many times, it is the citizens of a particular state, not Canada, who are responsible for improvements at home. Canadians have a wonderful opportunity to engage with those citizens to expose what works in other parts of the world and in particular here, where we are proud of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, our successfully pluralistic society, and our peace, order and good government approach to governance.
In this regard, with respect to Jordan, we do not have the heightened level of concern we have had with Colombia, as witnessed by the significant debate in the House with regard to human rights in the free trade agreement with Colombia. That is not the issue in regard to the free trade agreement with Jordan.
I want to take the opportunity here to commend my Liberal colleague, the member for Kings—Hants, my predecessor in the role of critic for international trade, for the excellent work he did on the human rights amendment to the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. Under that Liberal-negotiated deal, Canada and Colombia must publicly measure the impact of free trade on human rights in both countries. It is the first trade deal in the world that requires ongoing human rights impact assessments. Again, I commend my colleague for Kings--Hants for his excellent work in this regard and for hearing the concerns of every member of the House with respect to improving human rights for others in other countries.
All of this goes to my support and my party's support for Bill C-8 and for free trade with Jordan. Greater economic engagement helps us all economically, through more jobs and more prosperity, in both Canada and Jordan. Free trade is, in this case, a win-win opportunity. However, I wish at this point to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade generally.
We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner, the one to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the U.S. government responded with protectionism by putting forth its buy American policy and tighter rules. The Conservative government stood by watching as if it did not know what hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing that the battle needed to be fought all across the States at the state level.
By the time a so-called exemption was worked out, which in and of itself required significant concessions by Canadian provinces, the protectionism in the United States had already hurt many Canadian businesses and had cost many Canadian jobs. Even the so-called exemption only covers 37 states, a great example of how it is not just Washington that must be engaged. Despite our vociferous efforts to get the Conservative government to engage much more forcefully at the state level, the government just did not seem to understand the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business nor the hows of fixing the problem. Now, here we are again.
The United States is threatening more protectionist legislation, the Foreign Manufacturers Legal Accountability Act, which, although not technically aimed at Canada, would significantly hurt many Canadian businesses and would affect Canadian jobs.
What is the minister's response? There has been no action whatsoever. Instead, he said that it is too bad, that we are always collateral damage in the battle between the United States and China. Then he said that we are hoping that it does not reach the vote stage before the U.S. election. Then he said that if it passes, we will probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies.
With all respect, it is simply not enough to, one, dismiss Canada as collateral damage, or two, to merely hope that it will not pass, just like the last time. We are urging the government to get on the ground, not only in Washington but across all of the states, to ensure that Canada is exempted from this very damaging proposed legislation before it happens. Canadian businesses need something done to prevent this from happening, not some day, and not with hopes and prayers.
I also want to use this opportunity of debate on the merits of free trade to exhort this government to do much, much more in dealing with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and the production of the report this last week on Canada and India, and I encourage this as moving in the right direction. However, having just returned from China and Korea, I am overwhelmed by the growth, the size, the pace, and the scale of what is happening over there. I am in turn dismayed by how little the Canadian government is doing to capitalize on the extraordinary growth and scale that presents such fantastic opportunities for so many Canadians.
There are incredible investments being made in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, and public transit. We have been told repeatedly by the Chinese that they are looking for green technology, for forestry products, and for investments in the financial services industry. There are tremendous opportunities for trade and educational services and for cooperative engagement not just at the Canada-China level but at the provincial and municipal levels. My colleagues should understand that I do not suggest for a minute that the federal government impinge on those jurisdictions. Rather, I stress that we here in Canada could work much more cooperatively and productively by engaging all orders of government in a concerted effort to take much more advantage of the opportunities these extraordinary economies offer to Canadians.
We in the Liberal Party have stressed and will continue to stress the importance of Canada in the world. In this we have proposed a concept of global networks. The concept of trade and commerce, the older assumptions of trade and commerce, should be expanded to include all forms of engagement: educational, cultural, people exchanges of all kinds. Canada should be taking advantage of the extraordinary opportunities that this government, so far, simply does not seem to understand.