Madam Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak in the debate on 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.
We are debating a motion that was proposed and moved by the member for Hamilton Mountain, the NDP labour critic, to delay consideration of the bill for six months, given the serious problems with it that she outlined in her speech yesterday. We usually call it a hoist motion, and if there has ever been a piece of legislation before the House that deserves to be hoisted off the agenda, it is this bill to implement the trade agreement between Canada and Panama.
Once again, we have before us a bilateral trade agreement that was presented to the House and Canadians with all kinds of claims about how good this will be for Canada and the Canadian people. Sadly, the reality is that in the past these free trade agreements have not done much for either Canadians or for trade.
There is a debate going on about the efficacy of these agreements. Studies are showing that more often than not trade actually declines between countries after bilateral free trade agreements have been signed. This has been shown to be the situation in the United States, with the agreements that it has signed. As champions of this method of improving trade around the world, the Americans will really have to struggle with that research.
The NDP international trade critic explained earlier today that, when we look at the value of Canadian trade in real dollars, factoring in changes in the value of the dollar, this lessening of trade is in many cases true for Canada as well, perhaps with the exception of NAFTA. Canadian trade exports to countries with which we have signed bilateral trade agreements have actually gone down after the agreements have come into effect. Costa Rica is a good example. And generally, there is no clear correlation between increases in exports and these so-called free trade agreements.
In addition, some people are arguing that our trade exports with the United States would have gone up regardless of the NAFTA agreement. Even with NAFTA, the grandpappy of all these agreements, there is some question about how well it did all the things that it promised to do. The benefits of these deals are highly overrated and oversold by the governments that have put them forward to the Canadian people and the House.
The reality is that the situation of Canadians has not improved with the signing of these free trade agreements, starting with NAFTA. Where is the prosperity that was promised every time we heard about one of these agreements? The incomes of the wealthiest 10% of Canadians have increased dramatically since the implementation of the NAFTA agreement, but every other income category in Canada has either stagnated or declined. These deals have not been good for middle-class Canadians. They have been a disaster for low-income and working Canadians.
There is a real problem with bilateral trade agreements, with seeking out specific trade agreements with specific partners around the world. There is also a serious problem with the effect these agreements have on Canadian sovereignty.
We have all heard about chapter 11 of the NAFTA agreement, which allows for the override of the democratic will of Parliament by corporate interests. We know that the same kind of provision is included in the deal we are discussing today. It has been included in other trade deals that have been brought forward since NAFTA, and we know that such a clause amounts to a serious diminution of the sovereignty of Canada. We have to protect our ability to make the laws that we need in order to ensure prosperity and success in our own country.
It would be great if the Conservative government spent as much time and effort promoting Canadian trade as it does in negotiating these questionable free trade agreements. It is remarkable to consider how little Canada spends on promoting Canadian exports around the world, compared with Australia or the European Union. There is probably more bang for our buck in trade promotion than in pursuing these kinds of deals.