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House of Commons Hansard #71 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was spam.

Topics

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is clear, and I mentioned this in my speech, that we would have liked to see studies that very clearly demonstrate and prove that this type of bilateral agreement is profitable for our industries. I was talking about agriculture, the pulp and paper industry and so on, where we already know there are possibilities of opening the market. However, generally, there is no clear study on this.

The same goes for the various clauses that will determine whether there are disputes between the two countries. In any event, these provisions are always included in every bilateral agreement. I do not necessarily think we are anticipating or that we should anticipate any specific problems with Jordan. However, we see the infamous chapter 11 of NAFTA also being used in other countries. I do not understand why the government keeps making this mistake that causes so much harm.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

September 27th, 2010 / 12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak today in support of Bill C-8, 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, and having it reviewed at committee.

I am pleased also to participate in a debate that, unusual for this House in recent times, should be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric.

The official opposition supports the passing of this bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government side of the House support it. We should take advantage of these opportunities when they come along, as they do so rather rarely. However, before my government friends get too excited, I will be raising some real concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and on the missing trade opportunities with China, South Korea and others.

Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed it set a record this July, not a record to be proud of, at a deficit of $2.7 billion. Something is going wrong. We must challenge the government hard on why that is and what we can do about it.

Although we in the Liberal Party want to see continued work on the larger multilateral trade negotiations, and I note that two of my colleagues just now have spoken about the desire for greater multilateral negotiations, we would like to see Canada work even harder in promoting a multilateral approach. We recognize the practicalities and challenges we see happening in that regard. In the absence of progress on the multilateral level, we in the Liberal Party encourage Canada to work at the bilateral level to enhance our trade with as many other countries as possible.

Canada is a nation that supports free trade. Our origins are those of a trading nation, starting with fur and wood and other natural resources. Trade accounts for a significantly greater proportion of our overall economic activity than many other nations. Indeed, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on trade and our ability to access foreign markets.

Canadian exporters benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs on their goods destined for other countries. Canadian manufacturers benefit from the reduction and elimination of tariffs at the Canadian border of the various materials that go into their products. Canadian consumers benefit from the lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on those goods are reduced and eliminated.

Although there will always be debate about protectionism and what steps are best to foster and promote Canadian business success and therefore jobs, most Canadian businesses that look to domestic markets benefit from free trade, not only for all the reasons I have just given but also in being forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules of trade, tariff and non-tariff barriers. In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative and competitive when not hiding behind protectionist walls.

I am proud to rise in the House today for this debate and to show my support, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, for Bill C-8 on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and the Canada-Jordan agreement on the environment.

The Harper government's careless handling of Canada's trade relations has led to trade deficits—

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Order, please. I would ask members to refrain from referring to members by their names.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

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.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak today to the bill concerning a free trade agreement between Jordan and Canada.

Canada and Jordan have had a long and fruitful relationship over the years. Canada has welcomed a large number of Jordanian immigrants over the years. Canada and Jordan are consistent supporters of the UN's effort to promote peace and security. They were a founding member of the Human Security Network and, since 2000, has collaborated on the establishment of the Regional Human Security Centre in Amman, Jordan.

In 1997, Jordan was one of the first parties to the Ottawa convention banning anti-personnel mines. Canada has supported Jordan's efforts to meet its commitment to rid itself of land mines, including through the contribution of $1.5 million worth of equipment to the Corps of Royal Engineers. Jordan hosted the conference of state parties to the convention against land mines in November 2007 and participated in the 10th anniversary of the Ottawa convention.

Jordan and Canada signed a co-operation agreement In February 2009 covering the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Under the agreement, Canada will help Jordan construct a nuclear power plant to generate electricity and desalinate seawater. The understanding was signed between JAEC, SNC-Lavalin, and Atomic Energy of Canada.

On the trade front, Canadian firms have achieved some success in Jordan. The total value of Canadian investments there is dominated by the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan's stake in the Arab Potash Company. The expanding Jordanian economy, which averaged approximately 6% growth per year over the past five years, and the country's growing importance as a regional, commercial and transportation hub, particularly for exports to Iraq, will provide opportunities for Canadian companies.

Jordan also has had a peace treaty with Israel since 1994, and has been seen as an honest broker helping to keep lines of information and communication open between the Arab and western worlds.

Freer trade between countries is more than just dollars and cents. Freer trade usually has, as a byproduct, a freer flow of ideas and information which leads to a greater understanding of the economic, societal and political situations facing each nation. These greater understandings go a long way in preventing conflict and disagreement in the future.

As someone who has been propagating and promoting diversification in trade, I see this free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country as a step in the right direction. However, we need to look at emerging markets. As someone who was born in Africa, Africa also has a great potential. Africa a population of 360 million people who are a potential market for the Canadian economy. As Canadians, we must be mindful that our overreliance on our friends to the south will not help us if there are any problems in the south, such as of the financial crisis we saw recently.

The free trade agreement with Jordan would improve market access for both agricultural products and industrial goods and help ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters vis-à-vis competitors who already have preferential access to Jordanian markets. Key agricultural export interests include pulses, frozen french fries, prepared foods and animal feed.

In 2009, Canadian agricultural exports to Jordan, which were mainly pulses, totalled $10.8 million, and agricultural imports from Jordan totalled $1.4 million.

Upon implementation, the free trade agreement will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian agriculture and agrifood products, which will directly benefit Canadian exporters. Our supply managed sectors will stay protected under this agreement.

This FTA would provide Canadian businesses greater access to not only the Jordanian markets but other markets by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products.

In terms of numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of goods. Almost $66 million of that, or 80% of the trade, was in the form of Canadian exports to Jordan. It is a fairly small number. The precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased tenfold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that the same could occur for Canada.

Jordan is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes an agreement on environment and labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect and ensure labour rights. The labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment 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 agreement would be the first Canada has signed with an Arab country, but hopefully not the last. There is a huge market that Canadians can access if this Jordan-Canada agreement is successful. Canada and Jordan share a long-standing, friendly and constructive relationship which I hope this agreement will help solidify.

On the trade front, Jordan already has a free trade agreement with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The free trade agreement with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's free trade agreement with the European Union went into effect in May 2002. its free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.

This is an important agreement and I do hope that the current government is serious in passing the legislation. The last week has shown a dramatic increase in the rhetoric thrown around by government ministers, which, in the past, has been a precursor to either a prorogation or threats of an election.

The government on the one hand tells Canadians that it wishes to govern but then, at the same time, does what it can to make the operations of Parliament dysfunctional, whether it be in the House or in committees. Therefore, Canadians need to be aware that those principles that block the passage of legislation should be avoided and that the government should be serious in ensuring that the free trade agreement is what it wants.

Canada is a trading nation and, without international trade, our factories would close and our farms and mines would have no markets in which to sell their resources. The economic crisis in the United States and its slow recovery has reinforced the argument that Canada must diversify its trading partners so that it is no longer so reliant on one market for the success of its domestic industries. We must also put some focus on markets that will take our finished products rather than exporting raw natural resources, which result in an export of jobs from Canada.

It is important that we look at the globe and the economic engines of the globe. It is also important to look at markets to see where we can export Canada's know-how, technology and value-added goods. The days of Canadians being hewers of wood and drawers of water are long gone. We are a sophisticated nation with an educated population and a good base for export and we should take maximum advantage of this.

As well, we have a multicultural population, which is our biggest advantage. It is through this population that we can enhance the trade ties, which is commerce through culture, or the phrase “multiculturalism means business” comes to mind.

As we reflect on our country, our hopes and aspirations for the future, we need to be global thinkers. This first free trade agreement with a Middle Eastern country is, at first blush, an important first step. We would then have access a lot more surrounding countries that are secure and peaceful allies of Canada.

We have been told that if we put all our eggs in one basket we cannot mitigate risks. We are advised all the time to diversify our portfolios. Canadian businesses need to deal with the fallout from the market meltdown that affected our neighbours to the south. Therefore, it is important to take into consideration different FTAs.

The Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Mark Carney, has been exhorting Canadian businesses to end their overreliance on the U.S. markets and adopt an aggressive approach to emerging markets. The governor has also joined a list of more than 350 groups, which represent hundreds of thousands of Canadians, opposing the scrapping of the long form census. Canadian businesses need accurate data; therefore, it is important that the government does the intelligent thing and not scrap the relevant data that businesses needs.

The Conservative government cannot ask businesses to embrace emerging markets if the businesses do not have accurate data. The figures we have been quoting so far are from our reliable Statistics Canada's long form census data, which has been providing us with credible information.

Therefore, while we talk FTAs, we must ensure that the way our government moves and the direction it takes should be in a logical and credible manner.

The free trade agreement that we talked about with Jordan is necessary and once it is in the hands of the committee and we have heard from stakeholders and carefully examined this agreement to ensure that it is in Canada's best interests, I am sure it will receive a speedy passage from the House.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of discussion in the House about bilateral agreements, but also about the need for a multilateral approach, particularly in places like the Asia-Pacific and certainly in the Middle East.

I am sure my colleague is familiar with the greater Arab free trade agreement, which embraces about 18 states in the Arab world, that is breaking down barriers. This, I would suggest, might be an opportunity, once an agreement is reached with Jordan, for Canada to really push to be part of an agreement in which we would have access to a significant market, particularly in the Arab world, as diverse as from Qatar all the way to Algeria. It would seem that that might be an important approach to take.

I would ask my colleague for her comments on a greater Arab free trade agreement arrangement with Canada.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the member mentioned, multi-trade agreements are very important, He mentioned the Asia-Pacific trade agreements.

We need to think larger and bigger and stop our reliance on and stop doing one-on-one agreements. Access to Jordan will be fine but we have Egypt, Libya and so on. When I went to some of the Arab countries, France and Britain are there. Everybody is there taking full advantage of their markets. It is important because we have so much technology and educational interchange that we can offer.

I think multilateral agreements will be the next step. I hope this will be the first of the agreements that we sign with an Arab country.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the speech and discussion from my colleague from Don Valley East. I was particularly interested in her discussion on the trade opportunities and the lack of trade that we have now, and therefore the lack of effort that the current government has taken to take advantage of the trade opportunities in Africa and with African countries. Perhaps she could elaborate on how the free trade agreement that is proposed with Jordan could set an example for increased trade with some of the African countries.

I know we have talked a bit about the need for multilateral agreements, but in recognition that those are not achievable in the way that we would hope in the near future, that there are other opportunities. I would very much like my colleague to address that if she could.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Liberal Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate my colleague from Willowdale on her position as critic.

I will be able to give my colleague some interesting information. I was just in Africa. African communities from Cape Town to Cairo are unionizing and they are being helped by none other than our illustrious former prime minister, Paul Martin. He is helping the African unions get together to create an economic union. This will create a huge market of over 360 million consumers, who are wealthy individuals. Already, the French and the British are selling cellphones there. Almost every person in Africa, even in the remote areas, has a cellphone.

It is important that Canada not just navel-gaze but that we expand our horizons and take the next step and consider Africa when it comes to our next free trade agreement.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we support sending the bill to committee, because as other members have mentioned, we think there is a lot to be discussed.

When it comes to Bill C-8 in terms of the overall scheme of world trade, it is safe to say that Jordan is not our largest trading partner. That said, it is important that we examine closely what the trade agreement is about and its deficiencies and have some discussion and further study at committee.

In August 2008 the government concluded the negotiations on what it called a comprehensive free trade agreement, and I will speak to that nomenclature later. It said that the agreement would take a look at side agreements on investment, labour co-operation and the environment. We have seen this pattern from the government on other free trade agreements, so called.

On November 17 the government tabled what was then Bill C-57 for the enacting legislation. We have seen this pattern with the government. The government introduces bills and then interrupts its own action. Bill C-57 died on the order paper because of prorogation, but it was reintroduced on March 24 as Bill C-8. If the government had been in a hurry to pass the bill, it probably would not have prorogued the House. I have talked with people on the Jordanian side and I know they were a little frustrated with that.

The agreement is the kind of model we have seen before with the foreign investment, promotion and protection agreement, FIPPA, which was concluded in June 2007. It takes the idea of the FTA and folds it into the body of this agreement, along with the side agreements that I mentioned.

There are four main components to the bill: the free market access in goods and services; the investment protection side agreement; the labour protection side agreement; and the side agreement on the environment.

In terms of trade between the two countries, as has already been mentioned by one of my colleagues, we are talking in the area of tens of millions of dollars, not hundreds of millions of dollars. We are talking about over $60 million in terms of our exports to Jordan and the reverse is roughly $20 million.

Usually these bilateral free trade agreements favour the dominant economy and will ultimately facilitate a degree of predatory access to less powerful domestic economies. When we look at the multilateral trade agreements under the WTO, they would not necessarily allow that.

I want to spend a moment on that point. Much has been said about bilateral versus multilateral. If we are looking at fair trade I think we have to acknowledge this as all parties and all members. People threw up their hands after Doha and said that it was not going to work so we should just have one-off and bilateral agreements. That is the Conservative government's strategy. That essentially says that dominant economies continue to dominate at the expense of the smaller developing economies, which do not have the capacity to protect their market interest and to protect their emerging economies.

Some would say that if we can expand our trade with Jordan and get our goods and services there, then fine. The concern is that Canada's role and reputation in the world matter. Our branding, if you will, matters. This is why we would like this bill to be examined at committee. If it is just seen as our gaining a couple more million dollars in exports, and I already mentioned the numbers and they are not significant, then the question is, to whose benefit is it? If it is just looking out for Canadians and for some niche markets, then we have to ask if it is really worth it.

We on this side of the House have looked at previous trade agreements and said that if it is a matter of just gaining some access to the prices at the producer level, the people who are producing the goods and services not only that we export but that we import, we need to pay close attention to the effects. I will not go over it in great detail, but there is documented evidence of some concerns with respect to the garment industry in Jordan regarding the abuse of workers, particularly from places like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. They were brought in as guest workers for fairly large companies with contracts with companies like J.C. Penny and Wal-Mart.

The concern is that we might have this labour market access, but when we look at how those companies function on the ground and how labour is treated in this instance--I will talk about the environment in a minute--there are real concerns. Essentially we are tipping our hats and saying that we are not really concerned with how the products are made; we are just concerned about the access to markets and the cost, so we will bring down our tariffs on certain goods on which we agreed to trade and they will do the same and everything is fine.

The government will say that we have a side agreement on labour. Most notably, the agreements on labour and the environment are side agreements; they are not embedded and entrenched. I have to respectfully critique our friend from the Liberal Party who talked about how progressive and important the labour and human rights side agreement in the Colombia free trade agreement is. It could be argued that it is better than what they had, but when we are looking at oversight, strong rules and ensuring there will be more than reporting, we do not see that here.

It is fine to report that there has been human rights or labour abuses, but what really matters to the people who are affected, the guest workers I referenced, is that there be some regulation to ensure their protection so that they can enjoy some basic standards that we all enjoy. It is fine to have side agreements on labour and the environment, but if they are not strongly supported in terms of rules and capacity to follow those rules, they are nothing more than words.

We have seen as an inoculation to any critique of trade agreements that we will always have a side agreement on labour, on the environment as opposed to what we see in the European Union where it is embedded in their rules and laws. Members of the European Union must follow certain labour standards. It is not about having a side agreement, investigating and maybe having a report. We all know what happens to reports around here; sometimes they are read, sometimes not and often the recommendations are never implemented. That is what we are talking about.

If we are serious about trade that is fair, that it is not just predatory where we would gain access to markets that are not necessarily as strong as ours and that we can take “advantage” of that, we have to examine what that means, not just for our benefit, but for the reciprocal benefit of those with whom we trade. That is our concern when it comes to this or any other free trade agreement.

In the bill it is also important to look at clause 26 which deals with section 42.4 and how we identify goods. This is something that has been an issue going back to the GATT. It certainly was a major issue with the WTO negotiations. That is to be careful as to nomenclature.

I say that because the meaning assigned to that expression is under 42.4 of the agreement in the section identical goods and the meaning assigned to that expression is in article 514 of NAFTA and article E-14 of the CCFTA. It goes through all the other agreements with which we have been engaged.

Some have pointed out that if we do not have a clear understanding of nomenclature in our agreements with our trading partners, then we are susceptible to different kinds of abuse. If we do not agree that an apple is an apple, there are ways of changing that nomenclature. It could affect the Canadian economy and the reverse could be the same for Jordan. We could get into dumping and all sorts of other situations.

I do not think enough attention is being paid to these issues to understand that when we get into a free trade agreement, that once the document is signed and the rules established, we need people who will follow the trade agreements. This goes back to our discussion earlier about the importance of having multilateral trade agreements with fair rules and people who can follow them.

We are layering these bilateral agreements one upon the other. We are setting up dispute panels. At the same time, we see a phenomena in DFAIT where we do not increase our capacity in our trade missions overseas. In fact, we do the reverse.

Who is minding the store? How many resources do we have? What would be required to enforce a trade agreement, as small as this one is with Jordan, or for that matter with other countries? How do we ensure that things like nomenclature are monitored, that there are no abuses in terms of labour practices and environmental practices?

It is fair to say that anyone can report an abuse of a labour practice or environmental standards. However, when these things are actually implemented, it is not like someone can pick up the phone and express concern about a labour standard or an environmental practice. It requires people on the ground to monitor these things and that means Canadian resources on the ground.

Many will say that we have to do the best with what we have. Doha broke down. Multilateralism for now is dead. Therefore, we can only do bilateral agreements. We must understand what that means. It is not just about signing agreements with Lichtenstein, Iceland and Jordan. It is about establishing fair rules and oversight. If we are to engage in this strategy, as the government is with bilateral agreements, then we need to have the necessary capacity to ensure that these agreements are followed and that there will be proper oversight.

These things need to be brought up at committee. We need to hear from witnesses on some of the concerns around labour practices and other concerns when it comes to trade with Jordan. If we are to engage in trade with Jordan, we need to ask what the real advantage will be for Canada. Some of the products have already been enumerated by some other members and I will not repeat them. Let us see how much capacity we have in terms of trade with Jordan that will make a difference.

Where does this agreement fit in? The government does not seem to look at how these trade agreements will fit in with our industrial policy. It is fine to sign off on these 50 agreements and say they are good because we can access more markets, but what will it mean to everyday people in Canada? That is important. Where is this going? How will this strategy benefit Canadians in terms of our economy and our economic development?

I want to point to some other issues around Jordan and the Middle East. I refer to the fact that we seem to have some problems engaging other countries in the Middle East. We need to pay as much attention to them as we have to Jordan in terms of this free trade agreement. I am going to be very specific.

Right now the United Arab Emirates has some important issues that Canada is ignoring. I think of access it is trying to gain in terms of flights to Canada to increase mobility between the two countries. Accessing our post-secondary education system is a major issue for it. We have not paid much attention to that country. I do not have to tell members of the House about the important relationship we have with it, considering it is key in terms of our mission in Afghanistan and the flow of goods and services through that country.

We need to understand that it is more than just than these trade agreements. It is about diplomatic relations. I will paraphrase Joe Clark, the former Conservative prime minister, when he came to our committee. He said that one of the things the government and Parliament should understand was trade agreements did not buy access to the world. He said that they would give some access to a market, but more important, we needed to invest in diplomacy and in our foreign affairs. The government has not done that.

It is fine to have small trade agreements with certain countries, but he gave a very detailed overview in his intervention at the foreign affairs committee about two years ago. Joe Clark made the argument about the free trade agreements we signed onto versus investing in diplomacy. He said that it was more important to invest in diplomacy and in our embassies and our services within those embassies than it was to only look at trade agreements.

The reason is this. When we look at what Canada's role in the world is, it is not about providing products to everyone in the world. We are just not big enough. We provide our fair share of raw materials. We need to do a better job of that by doing value added and enhancing our markets. However, what we did do well in the past was we were invaluable in terms of diplomacy so countries would ask us to be involved. That was more of a benefit to our economy as well as to our reputation than signing trade agreements.

The opportunity cost here is that if we only have trade agreements bilaterally with certain countries and ignore our diplomatic relations and take away our Canadian advantage of being an invaluable partner for either peace and security issues, environmental standards, or looking at how we can enhance global relations, then we have lost in that deal. We would be better to enhance our presence overseas and our missions overseas. We would be wiser to ensure that the relationships we have in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and in Latin America will be sustained. The problem for many of us is the government seems to think that we should do trade at the cost of diplomacy and development. We lose in that equation.

As I said at the beginning of my speech, many will say that free trade with Jordan is no big thing. We need to take a look at some of the issues I mentioned, but we also need to take a wider look at multilateralism, diplomacy, development and not just a one-dimensional kind of approach and these kinds of free trade agreements.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there are two issues that my colleague brought up and I would like him elaborate on them. One is this ongoing concern about bilateral agreements instead of multilateral agreements. As my colleague acknowledged, the Doha round collapsed. We are not in a position now where multilateral agreements are being pursued with any real effectiveness, certainly not in the larger scale of Doha. Therefore, I would like my colleague to address the issue that bilateral agreements somehow will create a barrier to further multilateral agreements and negotiations. He might try to take an more positive view of bilateral agreements in addition to promoting trade. The pursuit of bilateral agreements may in fact provide stepping stones for future multilateral agreements and that they are not necessarily inconsistent.

My second part of the second would be this continued concern about trade versus diplomacy. Freer trade allows freer exchange of information and ideas. How on earth could that possibly be inconsistent with pursuing diplomacy? I would really like my colleague to talk a bit about why he thinks trade and diplomacy are inconsistent. He might again look at the positive view of this and see increased trade as that opportunity to engage in the increased opportunity of communication so we can engage in further diplomacy.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, just to clarify, I did not say one or the other. I said that what we saw was a government pattern of having trade at the expense of investing in diplomacy.

As I said, Joe Clark said it best. One is better to invest robustly in diplomacy and in missions abroad than just to focus on free trade.

We need to have a strong, robust investment in our diplomacy and ensure that our embassies abroad are fully functioning and reach around the globe. We do not see that. In fact, that would do us better than focusing on one-off bilateral trade agreements only.

In terms of the bilateral/multilateral issue, it is difficult to understand, and we are not the only country to does this, why we are just pursuing bilateral agreements, saying that this is all we can do, that one day we will take all these pieces of the puzzle and it will make a multilateral, unison structure. I do not see that happening. Instead of pursuing these one-off agreements with small economies, where I am not sure the benefit is equal, we need to get back in the game of going toward the multilateral approach. That is where diplomacy comes in.

If Canada is not in the game of multilateralism, and one sees the emergence of BRIC countries, we will be left behind. We can do both, but I do not see us doing that. I see us pursuing only bilateral agreements. I am not hearing anything at all about propositions toward multilateralism, which again comes back to having reach around the world and being able to have a voice that is heard. We do not have that now.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-8, currently before us. Like one of my colleagues who spoke earlier, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which is identical to Bill C-57 that was introduced before the House was prorogued.

There is no doubt that in the case of a bill to implement a free trade agreement, it is important to assess both the scope and the quality of the trade that already exists between the two countries. Of course Jordan's market is small. Canada exports to Jordan and vice versa, but those exports are relatively minimal. It is important to bear in mind, however, that although people may also object given that this is, once again, a bilateral agreement—and I will come back to that in a moment—concluding an agreement like this one does send a message to other Middle Eastern countries that want to improve their trade relations with western countries. Canada and Quebec will benefit from this agreement. This sends a clear message that entering into agreements can improve trade. This also means that products subject to the free trade agreement can be introduced into and produced in each country.

Jordan is in the process of modernizing its government apparatus and must rely on international trade to support its economic growth, especially since it has few natural resources.

From Quebec's point of view, since we already export a lot of pulp and paper products, I think that this is an excellent opportunity because this free trade agreement will further facilitate trade by eliminating tariff barriers on most products.

A free trade agreement with Canada may help this emerging economy. It will certainly help Canadian and Quebec businesses. The international relations aspect is also important. Establishing this relationship with Jordan will be beneficial.

I heard yesterday on Tout le monde en parle that Denis Villeneuve's film Incendies, which will represent Canada at the Oscars, was filmed mostly in Jordan. While that does not necessarily prove anything, it is a sign that Jordan is a country worth setting up long-term, balanced trade relations with.

Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. Signing an agreement with Jordan after signing one with Israel signals our interest in balancing our trade relations with countries experiencing political tension, such as that between Israel and its neighbours. Signing an agreement with another one of those countries after signing one with Israel balances power to an extent, or at least shows that we want to sign trade agreements and engage in trade with all Middle Eastern countries.

In free trade agreements, it is important to protect Canada's and Quebec's supply-managed agricultural production. Jordan's agriculture is not very well developed and poses no threat to Quebec producers. Jordan's forestry resources are also very limited. Therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for our forestry industry, which is primarily located in Quebec. The pulp and paper industry is facing serious challenges because of the lack of support from the Conservative government, which did not want to provide the same support as it did to the automotive industry. Once again, had there been support for the forestry industry in Quebec, we could have avoided plant closures and maintained research and development in order to have the plants switch to new products. A free trade agreement with Jordan will make it possible, on a small scale initially, to increase our pulp and paper exports.

I was listening earlier to the question and speech by my NDP colleague, who stated that Canada is unfortunately focusing on bilateral agreements. I will repeat that overlooking multilateral agreements narrows the overall vision of Canada's foreign trade policy. We enter into agreements with different countries and try to get the most out of them while supporting the countries with which we have signed agreements. The failure to consider a multilateral agreement for a number of sectors makes it impossible to establish broader principles. In fact, it forces us to sign individual agreements with given countries, without any interrelationship. A multilateral agreement, however, would provide an overall vision and make it possible to establish broad principles that would apply to all agreements.

The free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan is a relatively small one. It could be divided into a few main parts, such as the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. What is interesting here is that the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan is not integrated into the free trade agreement; it is not a separate chapter. There is an agreement on the environment and a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and Jordan. The fact that these agreements are not included as chapters in the main agreement is somewhat irritating. The government is negotiating side agreements instead, and we know from experience that these are never as strong as ones that are integrated into the main free trade agreement. In a way, they show that the Canadian government is not as willing to truly protect the things addressed in these side agreements. These things are not completely neglected, but not including them in the full agreement diminishes their importance.

I would like to speak a little more about different side agreements. With respect to the agreement on labour co-operation, which is a side agreement, we know that the structure and design of this agreement between Canada and Jordan are rather similar to those of the agreements on labour co-operation between Canada and Colombia and Canada and Peru. I will not get into the agreement signed with Colombia that the Bloc Québécois was completely opposed to, for other reasons. But we can still see the similarities between the agreement we have in front of us today and the agreements that have been signed in the past.

These agreements commit both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Regarding the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan in particular, according to the assessment that was done, each party commits to respecting and enforcing internationally recognized labour principles and rights. The Bloc Québécois will be very vigilant in watching that Canada ensures that the principles of these agreements are respected.

As I said earlier, the fact that these agreements are side agreements undermines their power. It is therefore especially important that we look at them through a very critical lens and analyze such side agreements regularly in order to ensure that they are being respected. When we speak of rights and principles, we mean the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and minimum acceptable employment standards including workplace safety and compensation for workers who are sick or are injured in accidents.

Thus, as in the case of other labour co-operation agreements Canada has entered into, this agreement with Jordan contains a non-derogation clause whereby neither country may waive or lessen existing labour standards in the hope of attracting foreign investments. As I said earlier, we plan to be extremely vigilant in that regard, in order to ensure that these principles are respected from the very beginning, if this agreement is approved by Parliament.

In addition, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement also includes a dispute resolution process that includes monetary penalties similar to the process included in the Canada-Peru and Canada-Colombia labour cooperation agreements. If a special review panel established through the dispute settlement mechanism determines that either of the parties is not complying with the labour co-operation agreement and the parties cannot agree on the correct course of action, or if the non-compliant country fails to implement the agreed-upon course of action, a monetary penalty can be imposed.

According to our analysis, the text of the agreement provides that these financial penalties can be deposited in an interest-bearing fund, the profits of which will be earmarked for implementing the action plan or any appropriate compliance-related measure. The size of the financial penalty is one of the major differences between the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and Canada's agreements with Colombia and Peru. The latter two agreements provide for a fine of up to $15 million U.S. per violation, but there is no maximum in the Canada-Jordan agreement. We think that this is still a good measure because the fact that there is no maximum penalty will provide an even greater incentive to respect this agreement on labour cooperation to the letter. We will keep an eye on how this plays out.

There is also a Canada-Jordan environment agreement. Once again, this is a side agreement, just like the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation. Its scope of application and content with respect to the environment are largely similar to what was in the agreements signed with Peru and Colombia.

Under this agreement, both countries commit to ensuring a high level of environmental protection and to enforcing their environmental laws effectively. There are several provisions, but I will mention just a few of them.

The countries, Canada and Jordan, cannot violate their federal environmental laws to encourage investment. According to the agreement—and we hope that both countries will comply—Canada and Jordan may not lower their standards to encourage foreign investment. For example, a company that wants to invest in Jordan may say that environmental standards prevent it from doing so. This provides good protection. The same would apply to a Jordanian company wishing to do something similar in Canada or Quebec.

Information on environmental laws, rules and administrative decisions must be made available to the public. All information on the tools for monitoring environmental protection, in relation to the various investments, must be made public.

Appropriate environmental assessment procedures must be implemented and must allow public involvement. We will not go so far as to say that there needs to be public consultation or a public hearing. We are saying that there must be public involvement. In other words, the environment ministry in each country or whosever is going to manage these agreements, whether in Canada or in Jordan, will find an appropriate way to ensure that the public is consulted and can have a say.

Another important aspect of the agreement on the environment is that the parties have to ensure that procedures are in place to sanction or rectify environmental law violations. It is all well and good to say that we do not want to lower environmental standards to encourage new investment, but the appropriate measures need to be in place to oversee such regulations. Penalties also need to be in place. The parties are committing to implementing strict measures. The parties should also encourage the voluntary use of exemplary practices with regard to corporate social responsibility by the corporations in their respective countries.

Earlier, a comparison was made of the free trade agreement between Canada and Peru and the one between Canada and Colombia. The Bloc Québécois completely disagreed with the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia because of the lack of monitoring over corporate social responsibility, leaving the corporations to set strict standards to monitor and reduce the number of abuses of power that occur in Colombia. We expect the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan to respect the workers and the environment of both countries. There is no need to follow the bad example of the agreement with Colombia.

I have a lot more to say about this, but I will stop here.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Liberal Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, many of us are dismayed by what is now taking place in the Middle East. Continuing to build settlements in the West Bank is, in my view, something that has to stop immediately, particularly now that peace talks are taking place. I beseech the Israeli government to stop all Israeli settlement in the West Bank.

Water is a huge issue in the Middle East, particularly in Jordan. They have serious problems with the lack of potable water, which is a major infrastructural problem in that part of the world. I would ask my colleague whether he sees an enormous opportunity for Canada, through this free trade agreement, to work with Jordanians and other countries in the Middle East to help them access the potable water that their people need. Also, would this agreement give Canada an opportunity to develop an arrangement for transferring expertise between our universities and the post-secondary institutions in Jordan?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the beginning of my speech, I said that Canada has already negotiated and signed a free trade agreement with Israel and that signing an agreement with another of its neighbours in the Middle East could somewhat balance the decision or desire of both Quebec and Canada not to simply line up with either Israel or other Middle Eastern countries. I think that we need to maintain a balance. This agreement will allow us to diversify our trade agreements as well as demonstrate our desire to help all countries in the Middle East.

Canada, and Quebec in particular, has significant expertise in terms of water. We have a lot of water and they have very little. We have expertise in terms of large quantities of water. Perhaps we could encourage trade that would allow these people, through various technologies and ideas submitted by universities in Quebec and Canada, to develop some concepts to improve their access to adequate quantities of water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I was interested in my colleague's comments, particularly on the side agreements with respect to labour and the environment. I want to focus on the side-agreement on labour.

It strikes me that we know Jordan already has in place a free trade agreement with the United States. That free trade agreement has a side-agreement on labour that is a very similar, if not identical, to the one that is before us in this House. We know that the labour policies in Jordan do not protect the collective bargaining rights of workers and leave the rights of migrant workers out of account. I know the member is well read on this issue and knows of the abuse of migrant workers, which is troubling. It has been well documented by UN agencies.

I wonder if my colleague thinks that the Canadian side agreement that was just negotiated with Jordan will be effective in protecting labour laws. Is this not a key question in determining whether this free trade agreement should be allowed to proceed?

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is important that these types of questions be answered in committee. We agree, it must be ensured that the side agreement on labour will protect all workers in Jordan, not just permanent residents and Jordanians. It is important that this issue be addressed.

Earlier, I said that a side agreement is never as powerful as an integrated chapter within a trade agreement. We have some reservations and this only aggravates them.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my colleague a simple question.

Does he agree with our NDP colleague, who seems to be saying that international trade talks and efforts to enter into multilateral or bilateral agreements cause problems and that we should instead focus on diplomacy.

I believe that engaging in foreign trade provides more opportunities to engage in diplomacy. I was somewhat troubled by what our NDP colleague said. He seemed to be saying that they may not necessarily be mutually exclusive but that they may not lend themselves to being carried out at the same time.

I would like to know what my Bloc Québécois colleague has to say about that.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say to my colleague that I heard the point raised by the NDP member. He was contrasting the need for diplomacy in general and the fact that we enter into bilateral agreements. From what I understand, in terms of diplomatic efforts, Canada or any country that must come to an agreement with other countries must do so in a very general context.

Diplomacy means that we can talk to more than one country at the same time and come to an agreement with them all. What he was pointing out is that entering into bilateral agreements sometimes perhaps creates—and I did say perhaps—some difficulties with a third country. In fact, we may sign an agreement with a country that is in conflict with another country with which we would like to sign a separate diplomatic agreement. That perhaps undermines—again, I said perhaps—some diplomatic efforts when the government focuses on entering into bilateral agreements even though multilateral agreements are probably more suited to diplomatic efforts.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up quickly on the answer that the member gave to the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca. This was with respect to water.

If I heard the member correctly, he said that he would be open to thinking about things like exporting water and arriving at bilateral arrangements between Quebec and Jordan.

I want to quote a brief comment by his colleague from Sherbrooke, who is also a member for the Bloc Québécois. He said on March 29:

We are saying that, despite the fact that natural surface and ground water in liquid, gaseous, or solid state is excluded from the agreement by the enabling statute, this exclusion is not spelled out in the agreement itself.

He then asked:

What assurances can the parliamentary secretary give us that Quebec's water will not be exported under this new free trade agreement?

I would ask the member to clarify this. Is the BQ in favour of, or opposed to, exporting water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will refer to the answer that I gave earlier. From what I understand, it was a matter of technological support—in Jordan, or perhaps other Middle Eastern countries—by Quebec and Canadian experts. They would help these countries find water. It was not a matter of exporting water from Canada or Quebec. That was never what I was referring to earlier. I said that we had people who had been working on this for a long time. There is research being done at universities. The expertise is there, and we could help other countries find water and conserve it over a longer period. But I never talked about exporting water.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate on Bill C-8. Let me first of all indicate that all countries are governed by their national interest, and certainly in Canada's interest, trade is absolutely paramount given the fact that 80% of our economy really needs access to foreign markets. Therefore, we are certainly concerned on this side of the House that for the first time in over 30 years we are now facing trade deficits, which obviously is something that needs to be addressed very quickly. Obviously this agreement is only one in a series of what we hope will be agreements, particularly on a multilateral basis, to push access not just for Canadian products, but obviously that helps business, cultural aspects and political aspects in terms of dealing with other countries.

There is no question that this agreement gives us an opportunity to begin further inroads. Since 1997, we had the free trade agreement with Israel, but we really need to look at not just Jordan but the greater Arab free trade agreement that Jordan is a member of. Over 18 countries are members of that. It would give us hopefully, down the road, access from the United Arab Emirates all the way to Algeria. It would give us the opportunity to really expand in areas on environmental protection. It would deal with areas of communication, areas dealing with forest products, et cetera.

The difficulty, of course, is that this is just one aspect. I had the privilege in July 1997, when I was parliamentary secretary to the minister of the environment, to meet with the minister and with King Abdullah II of Jordan to talk about environmental protection issues in particular. The king was very clear that he wanted to see more opportunities with Canada, and obviously the development of this agreement would give us opportunities to discuss and promote both environmental protection, labour protection and other issues with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.

We on this side of the House support sending the bill to committee. I assume it will address a number of the issues that some other colleagues have raised in the House today. In terms of access to trade, trade is really our lifeblood and we need to not only be only aggressive looking at what our neighbours are doing, for example, the United States which has an agreement with Jordan, but it is also very aggressive in Asia and the Asia-Pacific region. We do not have one agreement in Asia-Pacific. We have exploratory discussions right now with India, but the reality is that while the Americans have been moving forward with even a discussion on an Asia-Pacific agreement, we still sit back and have not been aggressive. We are in the ninth round with Singapore. We are still dealing with the Korean situation, particularly the issue of automotive access. But in terms of where the real action is, it is dealing with multilateral agreements, and this is where the United States and the EU, which also has an agreement with Jordan in this case, are taking a very proactive role.

Although this is one step and we certainly welcome that, there are the larger issues that we need to deal with, particularly looking at the whole issue of an agreement with the Arab free trade zone. That would certainly be of benefit to us.

There is no question that Canadian exports, although they were only worth $77 million in 2008, still are important in terms of forest products and in terms of some of the agri-food areas and obviously machinery. But again, that is simply one aspect. We import only about $15 million, as of 2008, but it is building those bridges. That is why, for this country in particular, given that we have over 85% of our trade with the United States and given the economic downturn being faced around the world, the impact it has on the Canadian economy is significant. If we put all our eggs in one basket, there is difficulty, obviously, when doors close. So we need to have these other areas.

Canadian business has demonstrated very clearly that it can compete with the best in the world given the opportunities out there. This is obviously something that we on this side of the House will continue to push.

The elimination of all of the Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs, which currently average around 10%, is small, but again an example of the need to promote Canadian agricultural products, which we know are the best in the world.

The need to promote and reduce tariff barriers in general means that this country will become much more competitive internationally. It will give us, again, a bridge in the Middle East. Jordan and Israel have a peace agreement since 1994, so there is obviously trade going on. We can continue to promote many of these aspects, which I think are important.

Colleagues have mentioned environmental technology. One of the things about climate change, of course, is that Jordan is dealing with significant climate change issues, as are other countries, particularly in terms of desertification. Again, Canadian technology and expertise can be very helpful in terms of dealing with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. It is an opportunity to promote and expand our environmental goods in that part of the world. I think it is important. Hopefully, it will be a bridge later on for other countries in the Middle East.

There is no question that, at this point, Canada is going to be able to take a leadership role, but we need to be able to evaluate some of the issues that have been raised. In terms of textiles, et cetera, there does not seem to be any concern raised in that area. Obviously, some members have asked about the nature of the labour agreement. It is similar to the one that the United States signed with Jordan. Again, we can certainly look into that at committee. If we look at where Jordan has come from, particularly since 2002, coming out of the IMF agreement it had in terms of its progress on banking, monetary reform, and in many sectors, Jordan certainly is a very good partner for Canada in this region.

When we are examining those kinds of issues, we again want to be able to say to Jordan and to the rest of the world that Canada is open for business. It is obviously going to be a two-way opportunity both for the Jordanians and for Canadians, but also we will be clear that this is simply one aspect and that Canada continues to diversify. As the lifeblood in dealing with that trade deficit for the first time in over 30 years, we have to diversify. We also have to get our businesses to line up to compete in that area.

Going back to the Asia-Pacific for a moment, the fact is that the Japanese concluded a free trade agreement with the Philippines, as well as with Mexico, a NAFTA partner. It is important because the Japanese were able to deal with agricultural issues, which traditionally they have always been very protectionist on. Yet they were able to get agreements with two countries that have large agricultural aspects.

The fact is that we are still toiling away with Korea and Singapore. We need to look at what others are doing. Of course, the Americans have clearly demonstrated that they see the future there. An ASEAN agreement, with the 10 countries in ASEAN, will mean that a market of over 590 million people will open up with Australia, with the United States. We have to be there.

Therefore, though we support the idea of a bilateral agreement in this case, the much larger picture is the trading blocs that are emerging, the ASEAN, the EU, and dealing with the Asia-Pacific. All those are really critical.

If one looks at an example such as Vietnam, Vietnam is a market that now has a very strong foreign investment provision. It is welcoming Canadian companies that are there, such as Manulife. Again, we are missing the boat when we are not developing these kinds of strong free trade agreements. Because Vietnam is part of the ASEAN group, we need to have that.

I know time is ticking down until after question period, but I want to point out that again these kinds of agreements will benefit Canadian manufacturers and Canadian labour. It will benefit many opportunities where we can in fact expand. I hope to add a little to that after question period.

Canada-Jordan Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

2 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Peter Milliken

The hon. member will have about ten and a half minutes in the time allotted for his remarks when debate is resumed.

Red Deer Chamber of CommerceStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Conservative

Earl Dreeshen Conservative Red Deer, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize the Red Deer Chamber of Commerce. Being 113 years young and 930 members strong, the Red Deer Chamber excels at keeping Red Deer businesses competitive and profitable.

Committee volunteers tackle emerging business issues and make recommendations to government. The agriculture and environment committee has addressed market problems in the entire pork supply chain, effectively advocating for all producers across Canada.

Staff are currently putting together what will be another hugely successful Agri-Trade in November, the largest agricultural trade show on the Prairies.

The chamber is teamed up with the city and county in RDRED, the Red Deer Regional Economic Development partnership, which continues to attract investment to the region.

Congratulations to the newly elected board of directors. I look forward to the counsel of their skilled directors, the remarkable staff and their fearless leader, Tim Creedon. The Red Deer Chamber of Commerce continues to be a pillar of sustainable economic development in the region.

Pioneer Park Stormwater Management ProjectStatements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Bryon Wilfert Liberal Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to recognize the leadership that the Town of Richmond Hill has displayed in the areas of water management and sustainable infrastructure renewal.

For several years our town had witnessed the decay of the Pioneer Park flood control site, which had lost its ability to safeguard the communities it was built to protect in 1985 and which no longer reflected modern standards of stormwater control.

However, thanks to upgrades carried out under a recent rehabilitation project, the new Pioneer Park stormwater management system is not only capable of protecting the nearby hospital, roadways and communities, but will also help the town control water quality and soil erosion and will help stabilize and rehabilitate the East Don River waterway.

For the town's exemplary work on this project, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the Insurance Bureau of Canada have made Richmond Hill an inaugural recipient of a national Watershed Award. This award recognizes municipal governments that have demonstrated leadership in their efforts to adapt to climate change by reducing their vulnerability to flooding and water damage.

I would like to congratulate the Town of Richmond Hill on its leadership.