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House of Commons Hansard #73 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

September 29th, 2010 / 3:25 p.m.

York—Simcoe Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan ConservativeMinister of International Trade

moved that Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in the House today to the Canada-Panama free trade act.

Pursuing trade agreements is essential to bringing continued prosperity to Canadians. And this is why the implementation of free trade agreements is a priority for the Government of Canada and demonstrates our commitment to helping Canadian businesses compete in markets abroad.

As the world economies recover, expanding trade and investment relationships to improve market access is more important than ever. By opening our markets and pursuing greater market access abroad, we are sending a clear message that protectionism is not the way to achieve global stability and prosperity. By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we are supporting domestic economic growth and creating new opportunities for Canadian workers.

Our government knows that Canada's long-term prosperity is driven by the ingenuity and creativity of hard-working families, small business owners and entrepreneurs across the country.

Canada’s exporters, investors and service providers are calling for these opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets, and this government is listening.

Canada made the big jump into free trade with our free trade agreement with the United States. Many in the House will remember the 1988 election and how that very much gripped the country. It was perhaps the only election in my lifetime thoroughly dominated by policy, not personalities, not advertising campaigns, but by substance, and one policy in particular, that of free trade.

As a result of that great debate and the subsequent results, the success of free trade with the United States, that debate is very much a settled question in Canada now. Canadians embrace free trade. Our trade with the United States has doubled since that time and our trade with Mexico, as part of the North American Free Trade Agreement, has increased almost five times.

There are true Conservative roots in the commitment to free trade. After we ceased to be government, for the next 13 years our predecessors were somewhat reluctant to embrace free trade, notwithstanding its apparent success. Three new free trade agreements were negotiated, however, in that time with Chile, Costa Rica and Israel.

Since we formed the government again in 2006, we have pursued an aggressive and ambitious free trade agenda, including commencing renegotiation of our free trade agreements with Chile and Costa Rica to make them much more comprehensive and ambitious.

We have also concluded, in just a little more than four years, new free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Jordan and the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Lichtenstein. We also have seen, through these agreements, in a very short period of time significant victories for Canadian workers and Canadian entrepreneurs.

We are continuing to look ahead to other key global partners, including, for example, the European Union. Our free trade agreement with the European Union would represent the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American free trade agreement.

The study that was done before we began our European Union negotiations indicated an annual benefit to the Canadian economy of some $12 billion a year from such an agreement. That is a boost that our Canadian workers and our Canadian economy really need to see. That is why we are excited that that negotiation is proceeding very positively. A fifth round of negotiations will take place next month right here in Ottawa. We are optimistic that we will have an agreement in place by the end of 2011.

What will be notable about that agreement is that it will be the very first free trade agreement the European Union will have negotiated with a developed economy, putting Canada in the very enviable position of being the only major developed economy in the world with a free trade agreement with both the United States and the European Union, the two biggest economies in the world, a tremendous platform on which our businesses and our workers can succeed.

However, we are also committed to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners, including Ukraine; the Central American four of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador; the Caribbean community countries; and the Dominican Republic.

Last Friday, I had the pleasure of hosting here in Ottawa my counterpart, Anand Sharma, the minister of commerce and industry from India. At that time, we released publicly a study into the possibilities of a comprehensive economic partnership agreement, a free trade agreement between Canada and India. That study showed that if we were successful in achieving such an agreement, the annual boost to the Canadian economy would be between $6 billion and $15 billion a year with similar annual benefits to the Indian economy. We are in the process now of putting together the negotiating mandate we need to be able to undertake those kinds of discussions.

As members can see, our government is firmly committed to free trade. However, the United States will remain, certainly for my lifetime, the major priority of Canada in free trade as 70% of our trade is with the United States and it is a relationship we must constantly tend to. We did that when we became the only country in the world to achieve a waiver from the buy American provisions of the U.S. stimulus program, and we continue to stand up for Canadian businesses and protect our access to that critical market. That will remain our number one priority.

However, we have three major initiatives underway: first, the European Union free trade talks, as I addressed; second, our initiative with regard to India, which looks very positive at this point in time; and third, an effort to carve out for Canada a role in the Americas, not dissimilar to the one Australia already has with regard to the Asian marketplace.

We can see that falling into place. We have our existing free trade agreements with Chile and Costa Rica, which are being improved and enhanced by this government. We have the free trade agreement implemented with Peru and the recently passed free trade agreement with Colombia. We have had negotiations with the Dominican Republic, the countries of the Caribbean community, and the Central American four. Altogether, we can see that Canada is working very hard to achieve that special, privileged position of having a dominant free trading position within the Americas.

Indeed, it is as part of that overall strategy of being a key trading country in our hemisphere, on which the Prime Minister has spoken, that we also now add the concept of a free trade agreement with Panama.

I was very proud and pleased to sign that agreement in May with Roberto Henríquez, my counterpart, and now I am pleased that we are commencing debate on it in the House of Commons.

The government is dedicated to pursuing trade relationships that work for Canadians. In addition to these markets, Canadian businesses have long been asking for closer ties to Panama—an innovative, dynamic economy, and a gateway to Latin America and the Caribbean.

That is why we have negotiated, concluded and signed last May a free trade agreement with Panama.

Panama has had one of the fastest growing economies in the Americas. Its real gross domestic product growth in 2008 was 10.7%. Even during the economic downturn it posted positive growth in 2009. Panama's real gross domestic product is expected to rise even further in 2010.

Panama is also a strategic hub for the region. It is also an important logistical platform for commercial activity. As a link between two great oceans, Panama, and of course the historic and well-understood Panama Canal, is vital to global trade.

We know that Canadian businesses and workers across a number of sectors can compete and win in the Panamanian marketplace. And the Canada-Panama free trade agreement will help them do that. This agreement is a good deal for Canadian companies, in particular for goods exporters.

Our exporters have been active in the Panamanian market. In 2009, Canada's two-way merchandise trade with Panama was $132.1 million, and our trade has been largely complementary. Upon implementation of the free trade agreement, things will improve significantly. Panama will immediately lift tariffs on some 99.9% of all non-agricultural imports from Canada, with the remaining tariffs to be phased out over five to 15 years. Tariffs will also be lifted immediately on 94% of Canada's agricultural exports to Panama.

These outcomes directly benefit a number of sectors that already have established business ties in Panama, including agriculture and agri-food products, pharmaceuticals, pulp and paper, vehicles, machinery, and information and communications technology products, among others.

We are also pleased that Panama has recognized Canada's inspection systems for beef and pork and has removed its previous ban on Canadian beef.

Canadian service providers will also benefit from the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. Panama is a service-oriented economy. Canada has expertise in sectors such as financial, engineering, mining and petroleum extractive services, construction and environmental services—areas where there are opportunities for growth into the Panamanian market. And the agreement ensures the secure, predictable and equitable treatment of service providers from both countries.

With the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, we are helping Canadian service providers thrive.

Panama is also an established destination for Canadian direct investment abroad. At the end of 2008, the stock of Canadian direct investment in Panama totalled $93 million.

Canadian companies are choosing to invest in this market in areas such as banking and financial services, construction and mining. And they will benefit from the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. This deal will provide greater stability, transparency and protection for Canadian investments in Panama.

Government procurement has also been a key priority in our deepening trade relationship with Panama. One of the key drivers is the ongoing Panama Canal expansion and its associated projects. The Panama Canal makes Panama a natural centre for global trade. In fact, Panama handles 5% of global trade and has some of the world's largest export processing zones. The planned Panama Canal expansion, which is actually under construction, is only reinforcing its position as a nexus for international importers and exporters.

The canal expansion is a $5.3 billion project. It provides numerous opportunities to Canadian businesses through subcontracts and satellite projects, which will be further consolidated by this free trade agreement. We are calling on the opposition to consider and approve this free trade agreement very quickly so that our workers and our businesses can profit from the opportunities that exist right now.

The government procurement provisions in the Canada-Panama free trade agreement guarantee that Canadian suppliers will have non-discriminatory access to a broad range of procurement opportunities, including those under the Panama Canal Authority. Projects, including those associated with the canal expansion, may also lead to increased goods exports from Canadian manufacturers that have expertise in infrastructure.

We are also proud of the work done to protect labour rights and environmental responsibilities. Of course, in general, freer trade and increased prosperity have been shown to aid in improving human development indices. Of course, we have with this agreement, as we have had with others, parallel accords dealing with labour and the environment.

For all these reasons, the Panama agreement is a good deal for Canada, but it is also a good deal because it ensures that Canada remains competitive in the Panamanian marketplace. Panama has an active trade agenda with many partners, including the United States and the European Union. For this reason, time is, as I said, of the essence. Any delay of this bill would hurt Canadian businesses that are eager to compete and capitalize on the opportunities in Panama.

If Canada can establish access to the Panamanian market before our competitors take hold, it will give our companies an advantage, a real foothold, in doing business there.

Panama is also negotiating a trade agreement with Colombia and is exploring trade deals with the European Free Trade Association, the Caribbean community, Peru, Korea, and others.

Clearly other countries are noticing Panama’s potential, and they are looking to take advantage of this strong and growing market. That is why it is important for this government to take action now. And it is why I ask for the support of all honourable members for the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and the parallel labour co-operation and environment agreements.

I am a great believer that free trade is one of the reasons Canada has been performing better than many other major competing economies. We have been leading the major developed economies of the G7 in economic growth. We are unique among those economies in having replaced or restored, through our job growth, all of the jobs that were lost at the start of the economic downturn. We are again in the distinct position of having the lowest debt and the lowest deficit, as a proportion of our economy, of any of those major economies.

We have, of course, as we all know, the soundest banking system in the world, as has been confirmed repeatedly by the World Economic Forum.

The reason for this success is not just the sound policies adopted by the government on fiscal responsibility and appropriate stimulus when required. It is also because of our approach to opening marketplaces and opportunities for our workers and our businesses.

Free trade is a reason for Canada's prosperity and Canada's success. It is the reason we are working so ambitiously to put in place opportunities for Canadian workers all around the world. Our free trade agreement with Panama is part of that plan. It is part of our strategic approach to the region of the Americas and to this hemisphere, and it is one reason Canadian workers and businesses can expect to succeed more in the future and enjoy greater prosperity in the future.

Those are all good reasons why this should be supported in the House of Commons.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I would like to make some observations regarding this free trade agreement.

Panama, as the minister likely knows, is regarded as a tax haven by OECD countries, including the United States. In fact, in 2008, Panama was one of 11 countries that did not have tax information exchange agreements signed or in force. It is one of three states, with Guatemala and Nauru, that will not share bank information or any tax information for exchange purposes. In fact, there are over 350,000 foreign-registered companies registered in Panama.

Fifty-four democratic congresspeople in the United States have called on President Obama not to ratify the agreement until Panama signs an agreement to forward information on these tax evaders. I would like to ask the minister why the government is proceeding when 54 congresspeople in the United States have said that unless Panama signs on and allows the Americans to get information on these tax evaders, they will not sign this agreement.

The minister wants to basically reward Panama. I would like to know what efforts he is making to get Panama to sign on so that we can find out who is hiding out in tax havens such as Panama.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am always impressed by the creativity and the ingenuity of the New Democratic Party in finding new reasons to oppose any free trade agreement that comes along. It is part of its ideological commitment, and I understand that, but I did not think it would be reaching for the argument that we should do what the Americans say they would like us to do. We actually let our trade policies be made here in this country. We are pursuing this trade agreement because it represents opportunities for Canada.

However, with regard to the issue he raises, the issue of tax-sharing informing for tax purposes, it was addressed by G20 leaders, under Prime Minister Harper's leadership, in June, here in Toronto. It is something on which they are working together and to which we are firmly committed. I will note that Panama has committed to implementing the standard developed by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development for the exchange of tax information to combat international tax evasion. We will continue to work with them to make sure that it happens.

I can tell the member that I actually wrote to my Panamanian counterpart in July of this year to express our interest in pursuing such a tax information exchange agreement with Panama, and I look forward to that happening very soon.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

NDP

The Acting Speaker NDP Denise Savoie

I know that the minister did not intend to name the Prime Minister.

Questions and comments, the hon. member for York South--Weston.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks Liberal York South—Weston, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure that the House agrees that the dependence on our American trading partner over the next decade, or several decades, has to have a counterbalancing strategy with respect to our trade relationships with the world, in particular in relation to capital flow, investment, and so on. We need to look at a new regime.

The minister tangentially touched upon the issues of the environment and fair labour practices. That was of great concern to members of this House during the debate on the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. I wonder if the minister could elaborate a little more on how the trade agreement will encompass fair labour practices and positive environmental strategies, given that these have been concerns and in fact would be concerns to Panamanians.

We have a private member's bill that is looking at fair labour practices in the mining industry where there is Canadian investment in mining.

I wonder if the minister would just make a comment on that.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to elaborate a bit further on the parallel agreements on labour and the environment.

The parallel agreement we have with Panama on labour principally requires that both countries respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work.

To further protect the rights of workers, both countries commit to providing acceptable protection for occupational health and safety, including compensation in the case of injuries and illnesses, as well as acceptable minimum employment standards regarding hours of work, minimum wage, and overtime pay.

They also agree to ensure that migrant workers are accorded the same legal protections.

I could go on, but essentially both countries have agreed to significant consequences for infractions and a dispute settlement process.

On the environment front, we have a commitment to respect each other's environmental laws, to ensure that, in an effort to attract investment, trade, or jobs, there will be no reduction of environmental standards. Both sides have agreed to respect their commitments under the United Nations convention on the diversity of species.

These examples represent the basics contained in both of those agreements. They ensure that the things we value in Canada, like protecting our environment and the basic rights of our workers, will be respected by both countries under this agreement.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Madam Speaker, I want to express my shock at hearing that the NDP is taking its foreign policy leadership from the U.S. Congress and allowing American politicians to influence their decision-making process.

We are going to make decisions based on what is best for Canada. I have to thank the Minister of International Trade and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food for negotiating this free trade agreement with Panama.

I have had the opportunity to travel to Panama on a number of occasions. Every time I go down there I see the country moving ahead. It is still going through some major development. I can see that the middle class continues to grow and expand, to become more wealthy.

It is this type of opportunity that presents the greatest chance for recovery of our agriculture sector here in Canada, especially on the prairies.

Panama is a major trading nation. At the Panama Canal, which I have visited a couple of times, one sees volumes of trade going through the canal, from sea to sea, day in and day out, night and day. That presents us with an opportunity to make use of its connections in addition to feeding its market.

They are huge users of pulse crops and red meats. I know that cattle producers, hog producers, and grain and pulse growers in Selkirk—Interlake and throughout the province are pleased with this government and its efforts. For this I want to thank the Minister of International Trade publicly.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, I note the ongoing interest in agriculture of the hon. member for Selkirk—Interlake.

As I said, 94% of Canada's existing agricultural exports to Panama will immediately become duty free. That includes pulses: peas, lentils, and the like. Also, there are high-quality beef cuts, live animals, animal genetics, a wide variety of pork and pork products, malt, linseed, canola, sunflower seeds, maple syrup, Christmas trees, and frozen French fry products, which are important for some from Atlantic Canada.

I could go on. All this is good news for farmers, producers, and agricultural workers across Canada.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Liberal Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Madam Speaker, I wanted to ask the minister a question, since he has focused on which industries are going to benefit from this. He talked about 90% of all the agricultural goods becoming immediately excise free.

I am wondering whether he would quantify that percentage. How many thousands of dollars are we talking about? Are we talking about millions, and if so, how many millions? If this is good for agriculture, is there a strategy in place for the manufacturing sector in southern Ontario, or is the minister just hoping?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Madam Speaker, there were about 17 questions there.

The hon. member will be interested to know that we already export $23.4 million of agricultural products annually to Panama. We expect this to grow significantly once this agreement gives Canada an advantageous position vis-à-vis our competitors such as the United States.

As to manufacturing, 99.9% of the existing manufacturing goods and other goods that we export to Panama will immediately become tariff-free upon the implementation of this agreement. That includes equipment, machinery, and other common exports to Panama.

Overall, our exports are in the range of $80 million to $90 million a year. It varies somewhat, but we expect to see significant growth once we secure an advantageous trade position.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for his graciousness in welcoming me as his new critic for international trade.

I rise to speak today in support of Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama, and to having it reviewed at committee.

I am pleased to participate in a debate that, unusually for this House in recent times, should be relatively free of heated partisan rhetoric. As the representative of the official opposition, we support the passing of this bill for many of the same reasons that members sitting on the government's side of the House support it.

Indeed, this is the second time in only three days that we have had this opportunity. It mirrors our recent debate on similar trade agreements with Jordan, which have now been referred to committee. We should take advantage of these opportunities to agree when they come along, as they so rarely do.

However, I will also be raising some concerns about the government's lack of action on increasing U.S. protectionism and its failure to seize trade opportunities in China, South Korea, and other countries.

Canada is now experiencing the first trade deficits it has seen in 30 years. Indeed, the country set a trade-deficit record this July, $2.7 billion. Something is going seriously wrong and we must challenge the government hard on why this is and what we can do about it.

I will also mention that, although we in the Liberal Party want to see even harder work on multilateral trade negotiations, we also recognize the practicalities and challenges this task entails. 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, wood, and other natural resources. The portion of our economic activity attributable to trade is greater than that of most other nations. Indeed, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend upon 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 lower prices of imported goods when tariffs on those goods are reduced or eliminated.

Although there will always be debate about protectionism and what steps best promote Canadian business success and generate Canadian jobs, most Canadian businesses that serve domestic markets benefit from free trade in being forced to innovate and compete with others from abroad, provided that those abroad comply with international rules on trade, tariffs, and non-tariff barriers.

In the long run, Canadian businesses are more than capable of being strong, innovative, and competitive without hiding behind protectionist walls.

I am proud to rise here today to take part in this debate and show my support, on behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada, for Bill C-46, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Panama, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Panama and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Panama.

The Conservative government's mismanagement of Canada's trade relations has led to the first trade deficits we have seen in over 30 years. We need to increase our efforts and our engagement in order to improve the situation and increase international trade between Canada and other countries around the world.

Canada depends on trade. It is worth noting that 80% of our economy relies on access to export markets. The Liberal Party supports the principle of free trade, and it also supports any initiatives that will improve access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses. Although Panama has a small economy and Canada's existing trade with that country is relatively limited, there are opportunities for Canadian businesses.

In 2008, Panama had one of the highest real GDP growth rates in the Americas at 10.7%. Despite the global economic downturn, Panama posted positive growth in 2009 at 2.4%, a trend that is expected to continue in 2010.

The expansion of the Panama Canal is currently under way and is slated to be completed by 2014 at a projected cost of $5.3 billion. This expansion is expected to generate opportunities for Canadian companies in such areas as infrastructure and construction, as well as environmental, heavy engineering and consulting services, capital projects, human capital development and construction materials.

Like the free trade agreements between Canada, Chile and Costa Rica, the North American Free Trade Agreement and the free trade agreement with Jordan, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries’ obligations under the International Labour Organization's Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, which requires both countries to ensure that laws, regulations and national 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 labour and the elimination of discrimination.

The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement and the agreement on the environment both include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Panama to comply with these agreements.

The free trade agreement with Panama is another opportunity to increase access to more markets for Canadian farmers and business.

Yes, Panama is a relatively small economy. In 2009 we exported $90 million in goods to the country, which is not as large as with some trading partners. It is, however, a stable country which has made significant progress in recent years in terms of development and democracy, which Canada is well-placed to continue to encourage.

In spite of the global economic downturn, Panama's GDP grew at 10.7% in 2008, one of the highest in the Americas, and is forecast at 5.6% for 2010. In 2009 bilateral trade between the two countries totalled $132.1 million, Canadian exports making up $91.4 million of that and imports, $40.7 million.

Primary Canadian merchandise exports to Panama include machinery, vehicles, electronic equipment, pharmaceutical equipment, pulses and frozen potato products. Canadian service exports include financial services, engineering, information and communications technology services. Merchandise imports from Panama include precious stones and metals, mainly gold, fruits and nuts, fish and seafood products.

The existing Panama Canal, vital for the international trading system, is undergoing a massive expansion, with completion slated for 2014. The $5.3 billion expansion is already generating business for Canadian companies in construction, environmental, engineering and consulting services, capital projects and more, and is expected to generate even more over the next while, helped by this free trade agreement.

Canada will immediately eliminate over 99% of its tariffs on current imports from Panama.

The free trade agreement also addresses non-tariff barriers by adopting measures to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods, promoting good regulatory practices, transparency and the use of international standards.

On labour and environment, like most of Canada's free trade agreements, this free trade agreement includes agreements on the environment and labour co-operation that will help promote sustainability and protect labour rights. The Canada-Panama labour co-operation agreement recognizes both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization, the 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 enable members of the public to request an investigation to perceived failures of either Canada or Panama to comply with these agreements.

I have a few words on human rights.

Although it is not the issue here, as it was in the debate over free trade with Colombia, the question of human rights will always come up in the House when we debate free trade agreements, and rightly so, sometimes more than others. As I have said in the House a number of times, it is a good thing that Canadian members of Parliament are concerned about international human rights and I have noted that, regardless of what party we sit for, we all 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. Some of my colleagues will say that putting up walls and preventing more open trade and engagement will somehow help, that somehow, Canada wagging its finger at other states rather than fully engaging will miraculously be listened to. I am afraid that that is not how the world works.

Freer trade encourages freer flow of information and freer flows of ideas. Rather than building walls, freer trade opens windows through which light gets in and opens doors through which Canadians can engage on all sorts of levels with others. If we isolate a country, our capacity to engage in human rights is in fact 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 Canadians a greater opportunity, through businesspeople, customers, clients and other engagements that can flow from those relationships, to show by example, not in a paternalistic, finger-wagging, we-know-best attitude, but rather showing by examples how things work so well for us in Canada and our willingness to share, on a friendly basis, those examples.

As I have said many times, it is the citizens of a particular state who are responsible for improvements in their state, not Canada. Canadians have a wonderful opportunity to engage with those citizens, in exposing what works in other parts of the world, 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.

Although we do not have the heightened level of concern with respect to Panama as we had with Colombia, I will take the opportunity 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 with 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 to free trade on human rights in both countries, the first trade deal in the world that requires ongoing human rights impact assessments. Again, I commend my colleague from Kings—Hants for his excellent work in this regard.

All of this goes to my support and my party's support for Bill C-46 and the free trade agreement with Panama. Greater economic engagement helps us all economically, for more jobs and more prosperity for Canada, yes, but for both countries, and free trade is, in this case, a win-win opportunity.

At this point, however, I wish to highlight some real concerns about the Conservative government's approach to international trade. We are losing the concept of free trade with our biggest trading partner to the south, the United States. When the recession hit, the United States government responded with protectionism, in putting forth its buy American policies and tighter rules. The Conservative government initially stood by watching, as if it did not know what hit it. It engaged in photo ops in Washington, not realizing 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, costing 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 either the whats of the negative effects on Canadian business, or the hows of fixing the problem, and 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 affect many Canadian jobs.

However, the minister's response was no action whatsoever. Instead he says, "Gee, it's too bad, we're always collateral damage in the battles between the United States and China”. Then he says, “We're hoping that it does not reach the vote state before the U.S. elections”. Then he says, “If it passes, we'll probably seek an exemption for Canadian companies”.

With all respect, it simply is not enough to dismiss Canada as collateral damage, or to merely hope that protectionist legislation will not pass. Just like last time, we urge the government to get its hands dirty, to get on the ground, not only in Washington but across 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 just some vague hopes and prayers.

I also want to use this opportunity in the debate on the merits of free trade to exhort the government to do much more in its dealings with China, South Korea and others. I acknowledge the announcement and production of the report this last week between Canada and India, and I am encouraged 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. At the same time, I am 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, for investments in the financial services industries. There are tremendous opportunities for trade in educational services, in co-operation and engagement not just at the Canada-China level, but provincially and municipally. My colleagues should understand that I do not suggest for a minute that the federal government impinge upon those jurisdictions, but rather stress that we in Canada could work much more co-operatively and productively by engaging all orders of government in a concerted effort to take much more advantage of the opportunities that 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 support of this, we have proposed the concept of global networks. We say that the older, simpler concept of trade and commerce on its own, of simple export and import of goods and services, should be expanded to include all kinds of engagement on all levels, such as education, culture and environmental co-operation, a much greater engagement, a much broader engagement, and exchange of people and ideas.

Canada should be taking advantage of these extraordinary opportunities that the world and other growing, bustling economies and societies offer, opportunities which the Conservative government just does not seem to understand.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Madam Speaker, I had another question for the minister that I was unable to ask, but maybe the Liberal critic would have some comments on this.

I pointed out for the minister that 54 United States congressmen had demanded that President Obama forgo the agreement with Panama until Panama signed the tax information exchange treaties. The minister said that he did not follow what the United States did.

The fact is the Americans know that Panama is a tax haven. I would like to know where the minister has been since he is obviously not aware of it. For example, the U.S. justice department says that Panama is a major financial conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers and money laundering activities. Surely, the minister and the government would not want to help drug traffickers and money launderers. We all remember Manuel Noriega, the president of Panama a few years ago. He is now doing time in a Florida jail for drug trafficking.

As long as Panama refuses to sign these tax agreements, why would Canada support this type of essentially illegitimate and criminal activity? The government has an opportunity to get its signature on those agreements before it signs. That is what the Americans do. That is best practice. It is just plain common sense. If Panama is prepared to sign those agreements, then perhaps the government could proceed with the agreement.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, God forbid that I should presume to speak for the minister in this regard, so I will not.

My colleague has raised a legitimate concern. The minister mentioned the fact that Panama had agreed to make significant movements in this regard. However, I would suggest for my colleague that this is exactly the type of thing we look forward to discussing when the bill gets to the international trade committee. I look forward to the member's contribution in that regard during those discussions.

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4:10 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, even though I did not hear her entire speech, I believe my colleague did not touch on a certain impression we get in all this. Does she not get the impression that the government is being hasty in passing various bills on free trade agreements it has concluded?

There was the one between Canada and Jordan, and now it is presenting an agreement between Canada and Panama. Is the hon. member not afraid that the government's secret goal is to speed things along? This all seems to be going very quickly. It might be better to take a bit more time to assess the repercussions, both positive and negative, of these free trade agreements.

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4:10 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for his question. I do not believe that we are moving too quickly in concluding these free trade agreements.

The Liberal Party is in favour of free trade and agrees with concluding free trade agreements with more countries. What bothers me is that the government is concluding such agreements with smaller economies that do not necessarily represent the best opportunities for Canada.

In my speech I said that Canada was not really involved in China's economy. What is happening in China is incredible and yet the Conservative government is not doing much with that country.

The United States is the largest foreign economy we trade with. That country makes an effort to protect its market, which can make life difficult for Canadian companies. I therefore do not believe that the government is trying to conclude other free trade agreements too quickly, but I do take issue with what it is not doing.

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4:15 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, as my colleague will know, for us the issue is not so much about being for or against trade. The issue is whether one is for free trade or fair trade. For us that is what the central focus of the debate ought to be.

I am pleased to tell members of the House that the member for Burnaby—New Westminster will soon be tabling a bill in the House on fair trade. For us it is absolutely key that in any free trade agreements there be respect for the environment in all of the trade dealings. There must be respect for the economy; trade agreements must be economically viable. Trade agreements also must have respect for human rights and social justice.

In July there was a new wave of anti-union repression in Panama, resulting in several workers killed, over 100 injured and over 300 arrested. When I look at the labour side agreements that are part of all of these bilateral agreements the Conservative government is signing, it really worries me because labour is never a part of the formal agreement. It is always in a side agreement.

Much like we saw in the trade agreement with Colombia, what we see here again is a provision that says, “kill a worker, pay a fine”.

Does the hon. member really think that the labour side agreement is enough to persuade her that this is not just a free trade agreement, but that it is a fair trade agreement as well? Does she have enough concerns about these issues to deal with them effectively in committee?

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4:15 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, of course we are concerned about fair trade. Of course we are concerned about human rights. I will say two things. That is exactly the kind of thing I look forward to having discussed at committee. That is exactly what the committee process is for, but I will also say that we do not rely just on the fact of specific words in a specific agreement or a side agreement. We of course do that. That is why we do them. That is why we encourage agreements on labour specifically. That is why we encourage agreements on the environment. We want to have those agreements. They are part of the discussion.

However, I cannot stress enough to my colleague that the fundamental philosophy we have here is that when we engage in free trade, the freer trade encourages a freer flow of information, a freer flow of ideas, a freer exchange of people, whether it is through business, whether it is through clients or whether it is through education exchanges that are spurred on by those business activities.

The situation in Panama in terms of labour rights and all of the things that happen domestically is up to Panamanians. The opportunity Canada has is to open those doors and windows wider so that we can engage even more fully. The people of Panama can themselves see the opportunities and the examples that Canada has to show. Again, as I said in my speech, not in some paternalistic way, not with some we know best attitude, but by showing by example there are opportunities for improvement and that it is not just coming from specific language and specific agreements, it comes from the entire philosophy that greater engagement will encourage greater exchange of people, of ideas, of information. That will give Canada and Canadians an opportunity in their engagement with Panama and Panamanians to have the Panamanians look for improvements wherever those improvements can be found.

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4:15 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to Bill C-46 to implement the agreement negotiated by representatives of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade with the Government of Panama. We oppose this free trade agreement. It is not that the Bloc Québécois is against free trade and free trade agreements, but in this case, there are strong reasons that justify our opposition.

Panama has one of the most well-developed economies in Central America. However, the Bloc Québécois does not believe we should ratify a free trade agreement with Panama when it is still on the OECD's grey list of tax havens. Every country turns to that organization for that list; it is used as a reference. People at the OECD evaluate different criteria with regard to tax havens, which I will say more about later.

We asked departmental representatives a few questions. They said that Canada is currently negotiating a tax treaty with Panama in order to tighten the rules on banking transparency to better combat tax evasion. However, there is no mention anywhere of such a treaty with Panama in the Department of Finance's register of tax treaties currently in effect or under negotiation.

It is clear to us that Panama is still on the OECD grey list and France's blacklist of countries that promote tax evasion. That is the major reason we oppose such an agreement.

The other reason we object to implementing this free trade agreement is that we do not get the impression that workers' rights are very well protected in Panama. In June 2010, the right-wing government of Ricardo Martinelli passed Law 30, which is considered to be anti-union. This law is said to include labour code reform that is seen as repressive since it would criminalize workers who demonstrate to defend their rights.

On August 5, the Panamanian government agreed to review this law, but we have every reason to be concerned about the desire of the Martinelli government to respect the conventions of the International Labour Organization integrated into the side agreement on labour standards.

For these two major reasons—which we will look at again in more detail—we believe that we should delay the ratification of the free trade agreement, in light of the adoption of Law 30, with which the Panamanian government has taken a real step backwards.

Although two days ago we were talking about the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement—Bill C-8—which we were in favour of, we do not agree with the Conservative government's strategy of focusing on bilateral agreements instead of multilateral ones, which are preferred by the Bloc, as we said yesterday.

The Bloc Québécois believes that a multilateral approach is more effective for the development of more equitable trade that protects the interests of all nations.

I would like to come back to the issue of respect for human and labour rights in Panama. Human rights are guaranteed by the Constitution, and in general, they are respected. That is a fact. However, the judicial system still has a number of problems in Panama, including the conditions of imprisonment, the length of preventive detention, corruption, and the lack of independence of the judicial system. In rural areas, there are problems with child labour and with indigenous communities and marginalized ethnic minorities, as well as discrimination against women.

In recent months, Panama has seen a wave of what is considered to be anti-union repression. Sources estimate that between two and six people died, and about a hundred were injured during violent protests that followed the June 2010 adoption of Law 30, known as the “sausage bill”, because it contains all kinds of reforms, such as reforms to the labour code and to environmental legislation.

The reform of the labour code is seen as repressive, because it would make it a crime for workers to demonstrate to defend their rights.

Some of the country's environmental groups submitted an application for support to the UN environment program to convince the Panamanian government to review changes that will diminish the state's ability to preserve its natural resources.

Unions have asked for support from the international labour federations while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is asking for an investigation of police brutality during protests against Law 30 in July 2010. According to our sources, the Panamanian government is conducting its own investigation.

On July 14, 2010, the International Trade Union Confederation, together with its affiliated organizations in Panama, firmly condemned violent repression of the strike movement by workers and demanded the immediate repeal of “the controversial Law 30, which has become a licence to kill for the police, creating a climate of extreme violence” among the people. I am quoting from the article entitled “New Panamanian Law Threatens Environment and Human Rights.”

On August 5, the Panamanian government agreed to review the law. We should monitor this issue before going any further. Otherwise, after signing the agreement, Canadian corporations may find that they are damaging the environment or contravening the International Labour Organization's core convention, C87. That is rather important.

I will now return to the issue of Panama being a tax haven on France's blacklist and the OECD grey list. The latter lists countries that have committed to exchanging tax information but that have not substantially implemented the rules.

Section 26 of the OECD model tax convention provides the most generally accepted standard for the bilateral exchange of tax information.

There is no indication, on the Department of Finance web site of treaties and conventions, that an information exchange agreement is being negotiated with Panama.

Before entering into the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, the Conservative government absolutely must sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama and this agreement must not allow subsidiaries located in the targeted jurisdictions to be tax exempt.

Obviously, it is important that this agreement be concluded, negotiated, drafted and signed before finalizing the free trade agreement. It is also clear that, under such an agreement, corporations cannot use their presence in Panama to justify tax evasion. For the Bloc Québécois, it is entirely inconceivable that we would be associated with such a practice.

With this free trade agreement, we will likely see more trade and a significant increase in Canadian investment in Panama. We will see more taxpayers, both individuals and businesses, earning income in both Canada and in Panama. That is why it is essential for the Government of Canada and Panama to sign the type of information exchange agreements I was talking about earlier.

Since Panama is a tax haven, such a free trade agreement would become an invitation to evade taxes, or use loopholes in the law to help a taxpayer avoid paying a tax he or she normally should.

At the end of the day, should a free trade agreement promote tax evasion? It is a very serious question because we would not want Canada to inadvertently promote investments that encourage tax evasion under the pretext of concluding more trade agreements and lowering taxes. That makes absolutely no sense.

For example, a company whose income would be legally taxed according to the rate in effect in Panama would be tempted to set up a business structure to take advantage of this near-zero tax rate.

The Conservative government is already signing tax treaties with tax havens and we all know it. The Bloc Québécois absolutely believes that we need to be vigilant because in June 2010 the government signed tax information exchange agreements based on the OECD model with eight jurisdictions: Bahamas, Bermuda, Dominica, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

This information tells us that we absolutely must be careful; the Conservative government absolutely must avoid putting Canada in a position, once again, of promoting tax evasion, when there are plenty of workers in Quebec and Canada who can barely manage because they have to pay their taxes.

In La Presse on July 6, 2010, we read:

In return for these agreements, Canada seems to have given these jurisdictions an advantage. Subsidiaries of active Canadian companies domiciled in these islands can effectively repatriate their foreign profits to Canada tax free.

Bermuda, Bahamas and the other islands will thereby have a similar status to Barbados, which has been the only tax haven to have this privilege.

It is high time we gave ourselves a real policy of multilateralism.

The current course of globalization, a phenomenon bearing both great hope and great injustice, must be redirected. Disparity between rich and poor, the failure to respect rights and freedoms and the lack of regulations on the environment and labour give rise more to despair than to hope.

Openness to trade and the establishment of international regulations to counter protectionism and protect investment are good things that the Bloc supports. That does not mean that trade rules should have precedence over the common good and the ability of governments to redistribute wealth, to protect their environment and culture and to offer their citizens basic public services such as health care and education. These fundamental elements must always take precedence over any trade that we establish in order to increase our exports. These basic criteria must guide our negotiations and intentions to sign free trade agreements with other countries.

Quebec is a trading nation. Our companies, and especially our cutting-edge companies, could not survive on just the domestic market. International exports account for one-third of Quebec's GDP. If interprovincial trade is added, exports represented 52% of Quebec's GDP in 2005.

Protectionism is not in our interests, and that is why Quebec, and Quebec sovereignists in particular, massively supported the free trade agreement with the United States and then NAFTA.

That is also why the Bloc Québécois was the first party in the House of Commons to call for a free trade agreement with the EU.

Then again, it would be naive and false to claim that everything is just fine, in the best of all possible worlds. While freer trade has led to greater wealth overall, it has also produced its share of losers. And that is unfortunate.

The trade environment has worsened considerably over the last few years, and we must take that factor into account. Between 2003 and 2007, Quebec went from a large trade surplus to a $13 billion deficit. In 2006, every Quebecker therefore consumed $2,000 more than he or she produced. And this only covers our international trade balance; another $5 billion deficit must be added in interprovincial trade, which also made us considerably poorer.

The result of this trade deficit is that our manufacturing sector has become dangerously weak. Between 2003 and 2007, it lost nearly 150,000 jobs, which was nearly all the jobs lost in this sector in Canada, including 65,000 lost since the Conservatives came to power, mainly because of foreign competition and a strong Canadian dollar. Trade liberalization can only be profitable if it is guided by certain rules; otherwise, it is a race to the bottom.

For a long time, Canada's trade policy was simply to improve access to foreign markets. From that perspective, it has been very successful. Today a majority of products, over 80% of world trade, flow freely.

However, we are now beginning to see the downside of unbridled liberalization: heavy pressure on our industry, offshoring and trade agreements that amount to a licence to exploit people and the environment in developing countries. The trade environment has changed in recent years and as far as Quebec is concerned, it is not for the better.

Joseph Stiglitz, Nobel Prize winner in economics and former vice-president of the World Bank, had this to say when he received his honorary doctorate from Université de Louvain on February 3, 2003:

As our interdependence has increased, we have discovered that we need rules to govern the process of globalization and to create institutions to help it function. Unfortunately, these rules are too often established by the rich countries to serve their own interests and especially individual interests within these countries.

The Bloc Québécois is proposing a change in Canada's trade priorities. Canada should now shift its focus from trade liberalization to creating a more level playing field. The Bloc Québécois believes that our trade policy must focus on fair globalization, not the shameless pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment.

That is the Bloc Québécois' position on Bill C-46.

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4:35 p.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Conservative Prince Albert, SK

Madam Speaker, I understand the Panamanian government is planning a $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal. This is in addition to $13.6 billion in investment planning, including $1.5 billion for a new metro system in Panama City.

I understand the hon. member plans to oppose the free trade agreement, even though it will provide Canadian companies, which are known all over the world for their great products, the guaranteed ability to bid on these projects.

The member says he thinks the government is moving too fast with this bill. I wonder if he would say the same thing to the workers, many of whom live in Quebec, employed by the companies he wants to prevent, by delaying or opposing this bill, from bidding on the nearly $19 billion in government procurement contracts in Panama. Can he explain that to the people of Quebec? Can he explain it to me here in the House?

This is a great opportunity for Canadian companies, for companies in Quebec. Why would he object to that? Can he explain this to me?

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4:35 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this free trade agreement because it does not completely safeguard the workers in Panama today. If implemented, this agreement will allow some companies to set up shop there to evade taxes. Quebec workers would see companies take advantage of a free trade agreement to avoid their obligation to pay taxes here in Canada.

Quebec workers and the people of Quebec know what is what, and they will have no trouble understanding why the Bloc Québécois is opposed to this free trade agreement.

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4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Liberal Willowdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I would simply like to ask my colleague whether the Bloc members are dead set against this agreement. Perhaps in committee we could try to determine where the problems are and fix them. Can my colleague tell me whether his party is completely unwilling to discuss this in committee? Perhaps there is a way to amend the agreement to address the issues my colleague spoke about.

Will the Bloc Québécois completely reject this bill or will it participate in committee discussions?

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I do not get the impression that my colleague would be able to tell me whether the OECD will take Panama off the grey list of countries that promote tax evasion for companies investing in Panama.

All of these questions are hypothetical. The main objections we have voiced are in relation to that. I said that Panama is considered to be a country that openly promotes tax evasion. In addition, it has not yet passed laws or taken the necessary measures to protect all its workers.

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4:40 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Madam Speaker, I have listened to the Bloc, the Liberals, and the Conservatives talk about this trade agreement.

Let us keep in mind what is at stake here. Right now, as the minister said, the trade amounts to $130 million. That is one-tenth of what it cost for security at the G8 and G20.

We are talking about an agreement that is fundamentally flawed, an agreement that gives rise to huge concerns about human rights, environmental protection, and fair trade. I do not think we need to blow this out of proportion and say it is going to be the be-all and end-all for saving the Canadian economy.

I want to ask the member about a concern that has been raised with respect to where some Canadian investments may be headed, namely, the mining sector. I have heard from many people who are actively engaged with the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which has been following these trade agreements closely because they are concerned about what Canadian mining corporations are doing in the global south, particularly when it comes to environmental matters, indigenous peoples, and labour laws.

I wonder if the member has heard from any of his constituents, particularly from the organization I just mentioned, and whether he might be able to comment.

Canada-Panama Free Trade ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Bloc

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

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague for her question

Unfortunately, I did not hear the minister's presentation. I do not know how they make their plans, but the Standing Committee on International Trade was meeting just as the first debate got under way concerning this international trade bill. Perhaps they could have watched out for that kind of overlap, since they create the agenda. However, as for her question, even though I did not hear the minister, we have seen how the organizations that she mentioned, ones that defend people, see very dangerous gaps in terms of respect for human rights in various countries. We saw how the Conservatives acted during the debate about the free trade agreement with Colombia, when there were numerous presentations from people who came from all over, including Colombia. NGOs also came to testify that workers are under tremendous pressure and are also victims of relocation by mining companies. There are Canadian mining companies that are not respecting these workers' rights or the rights of the local populations in general. I cannot imagine that they have changed overnight. I think that they still have the same listening technique, which means that they choose not to hear the pleas of these people.

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4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Conservative Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Madam Speaker, the member raises questions about guarantees for workers. The provisions of this agreement do cover a wide range of issues that would protect workers, such as, the abolition of child labour, the freedom of association, the rights of collective bargaining, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and many other initiatives that would protect workers.

Why would the Bloc member and the Bloc as a whole oppose guarantees for Canadian workers, like the guarantee that Canadian companies would now be able to bid on infrastructure projects in Panama, projects that could total as much as $19 billion.