Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to begin debate on Bill C-23, the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement. Our government is committed to securing and deepening access to traditional markets, like the United States, and broadening and expanding access to more markets, like Jordan.
Trade accounts for over 60% of our annual GDP and, with one in five Canadian jobs generated by trade, it is a matter of fundamental importance to the financial security of hard-working Canadians and their families.
Our focused pursuit of new free trade agreements helps to demonstrate our government's commitment to helping Canadian workers and businesses compete in markets abroad, as well as our commitment to creating more jobs and economic growth for Canadian workers.
We continue to see fierce competition in the global marketplace, with emerging economies and global players continuing to climb the value chain and establishing themselves in a wide range of sectors.
This government will do everything it can to ensure that Canadian workers and Canadian businesses have the tools and opportunities to build the links needed to succeed in today's global economy. Our government is committed to bringing continued economic prosperity to Canadians by pursuing bilateral and regional free trade relationships. Negotiating and implementing trade agreements with our international partners will also help to level the playing field for our companies in an increasingly complex and competitive environment.
Pursuing free trade agreements sends a clear signal that protectionism is not the right way to achieve increased global stability and prosperity. In these challenging times, deeper trade ties are the best way to create jobs and economic growth. Our government will get that done. That is why we have an ambitious, job creating, pro-trade plan. The Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act is a key part of this plan.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement also demonstrates Canada's support for an Arab state that, like Canada, supports peace and security in the Middle East.
We will recall that in 2007, the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister joined His Majesty King Abdullah II in a commitment to take our commercial relationship to the next level. The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement, along with related agreements on labour co-operation and the environment, signed in 2009, are a direct result of this commitment.
Canada's economy is export driven. Canadian families understand that trade is a kitchen table issue that provides jobs and helps put food on the table. We know it is in our best economic interest to seek out new opportunities for our producers, workers and exporters in as many foreign markets as possible.
Moreover, negotiating free trade agreements allows for Canadian firms to specialize and increase their comparative advantage in the global marketplace. By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian workers and businesses, this government is keeping its commitment to support economic growth and create new jobs for Canadian workers.
In a number of countries, Canadian firms are at a competitive disadvantage because their foreign competitors have preferential market access under some form of a free trade agreement. The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement addresses this serious issue by leveling the playing field with key competitors who are already benefiting from free trade agreements with Jordan, namely competition from the United States and the European Union.
Through the Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act, our government is ensuring that Canadian workers and firms are on equal footing to compete with firms from across the world in the Jordanian market. Opening doors to trade and investment is the right approach for creating opportunities for Canadian workers and businesses in global markets.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement would create new export opportunities and strengthen bilateral ties between our two countries.
The free trade agreement with Jordan would benefit both Canadians and Jordanians by giving Canadian and Jordanian exporters unprecedented access to our respective markets and eliminating tariffs on a number of key products. World leading Canadian sectors, like forestry, manufacturing and agriculture and agri-food would benefit.
Over the years, Canada and Jordan have built a strong, mutually beneficial relationship. This free trade agreement continues to build on that important start. It is a relationship grounded in common aspirations, like peace, stability and prosperity for our citizens. This new free trade agreement would help to move these aspirations forward.
Despite the recent economic downturn experienced by the global economy, our bilateral trade with Jordan increased to $85.9 million in 2010 from $82.5 million in 2009, indicating that the longer-term trend of our trade relationship is one of growth.
For example, Canada's 2010 merchandise exports to Jordan of $66 million were more than double the $31 million total in 2003. This free trade agreement would provide the opportunity to further enhance this trend of upward growth.
Jordan's current average applied tariff is 11%, with peaks of up to 30% applied on some Canadian exports of interest. In fact, 67% of Jordan's tariff lines, covering over 99% of Canadian exports, will be eliminated when the agreement is first implemented. This is a huge step forward in the growing economic partnership between Canada and Jordan and will help to ensure that Canadian firms remain competitive globally. Jordan's remaining tariff reductions will then take place over three or five years.
Let me give a better idea of the specific sectors that will benefit if the Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act is quickly moved through the House.
Top exports in 2010 included paper and paperboard, vegetables, wood, vehicles and machinery. In 2010 Canada imported some $20 million in goods from Jordan, including both knit and woven apparel, inorganic chemicals, precious stones, mainly jewellery, and vegetables, cucumbers.
Our trade relationship has clearly been growing, despite Jordan's most favoured nation applied average tariff of 11% and peaks of up to 30% on many key Canadian exports.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement aims to remedy this situation and promote continued prosperity for Canadian workers, producers and exporters. Once this agreement is brought into force, Canada will immediately benefit from duty-free access for over 99% of current Canadian exports by value.
What does this new agreement mean for individual exporters? Permit me to run through some specific examples, starting with the agricultural sector. Canadian exporters of pulses, lentils, chickpeas, beans and peas will benefit from the immediate elimination of Jordan's tariffs of 5% to 10% on these products. Of Canada's $7 million of vegetable exports to Jordan in 2010, the majority were lentils and chickpeas, which currently face a 5% tariff, and peas that are subject to a 10% tariff, both of which go to duty-free access immediately upon implementation of the agreement.
In 2010 exports of frozen potato products to Jordan totalled some $88,000. These exporters will benefit from the immediate elimination of a 20% Jordanian tariff and place them on a level playing field with competitors in the U.S. and the E.U., which currently benefit from duty-free access to the Jordanian market.
Canadian beef exporters will benefit from the immediate elimination of Jordanian tariffs, which range from 5% to 23% on all beef products, including fresh chilled frozen and preserved meat and offal and processed products such as sausages and jerky.
Jordan lifted its restrictions on Canadian beef products in February 2009, which will allow this sector to benefit from these lower tariffs.
Animal feed will also benefit from the elimination of Jordanian tariffs of up to 23% and some of these are currently subject to an additional 10% tariff that will be eliminated immediately upon implementation of the free trade agreement.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is certainly more than just agricultural products. The elimination of Jordanian tariffs, ranging from 15% to 30% on certain wood products, could benefit Canadian exporters of doors, frames, joinery, shakes and shingles and other building materials.
Canadian exporters of paper goods, such as toilet paper, paper towels, facial tissues, envelopes, stationery, wrapping paper, boxes and corrugated cardboard, will benefit from the elimination of Jordanian tariffs ranging from 10% to 30%.
With $9.7 million in exports in 2010, mainly light passenger vehicles, Jordan is a growing market for Canadian auto and auto parts exports. The elimination of Jordan's tariffs ranging from 10% to 30% will help Canadian exporters to further expand into this market.
Canada exports a variety of mechanical and electrical machinery to Jordan, $9.2 million in 2010, including heavy construction and mining equipment, communications equipment, filtration or purification devices, pumps, machinery and components. The elimination of Jordanian tariffs, ranging from 10% to 30% on a variety of current and potential Canadian machinery exports, will certainly help our machinery manufacturing sector.
Canada's exports of pharmaceuticals to Jordan totalled just shy of a million dollars in 2010, of which 80% were subject to a 5% Jordanian tariff. That will be eliminated upon implementation of this free trade agreement.
Although Jordan is currently a small market for Canadian fish and seafood exports, the elimination of Jordan's 10% to 30% tariffs on fish and seafood could help Canadian exporters expand their presence in the Jordanian market.
I have to admit that I have covered a lot of numbers, but numbers matter to Canadian workers, producers and exporters. In an increasingly competitive world, lower tariff numbers can make the difference for exporters who are considering whether to expand or enter into a new market.
This growing trade relationship is just one of many reasons why our government continues to work with Canadian businesses to ensure closer commercial ties to the Jordanian marketplace. Our government's work to support Canadian firms doing business in Jordan has been recognized by the business community in Canada and has been met with support from a wide range of businesses, including the Forest Products Association of Canada, the Grain Growers of Canada, the Canadian Cattlemen's Association, as well as the Canada-Arab Business Council, all of which appeared before the Standing Committee on International Trade.
Members will remember that our free trade agreement was just one of the agreements we signed with Jordan in 2009. We also signed a bilateral job-creating foreign investment protection and promotion agreement, which came into force on December 14, 2009. This job-creating investment agreement establishes clear rules for investment between our two countries.
Canadian investors are particularly excited about opportunities in Jordan's resource, extraction, nuclear energy, telecommunications, transportation, manufacturing and infrastructure sectors and this job-creating investment agreement provides Canadian and Jordanian investors with the predictability and certainty they need when investing in one another's markets.
I am sure members will agree that this free trade agreement and the 2009 job-creating foreign investment protection and promotion agreement with Jordan are no doubt complementary.
We are living in very challenging economic times and the economy remains our government's number one priority. In order to ensure that our economy continues to grow and continues to be competitive in the global marketplace, trade barriers must be broken down all across the world, through new free trade agreements.
Protectionism is never the answer. Our government believes that Canada's ability to continue to recover from the global economic downturn depends, in large part, on the global trade and investment partnerships that we pursue. That is why we are moving so ambitiously on free trade negotiations with our global partners.
Since 2006, Canada has concluded new free trade agreements with nine countries, most recently, an agreement with Honduras that was announced August 12. Canada is also in discussions with many more countries, including the European Union and India, two of the largest, most promising markets in the world.
This government is dedicated to ensuring that the Canadian economy remains strong through pursuing trade relationships that work for Canadians. This ambitious pro-trade plan is important for Canada.
Passing the Canada-Jordan economic growth and prosperity act will allow for the quick implementation of the free trade agreement with Jordan in order to help Canadian workers and Canadian businesses compete.
Earlier this week, the Canada–Panama economic growth and prosperity act was debated. Unfortunately, the NDP opposed the Canada-Panama economic growth and prosperity act. This should not come as a surprise, as its record is very clear. The NDP has opposed all trade agreements.
Unlike the NDP, our Conservative government is focused on broadening and deepening our trading relationship, as it protects and creates jobs and economic growth for Canadian workers and their families.
I reach out to the NDP and the Liberal Party. We need their support to pass these free trade agreements in the House. They are important for the Canadian economy. They are especially important in these trying economic times. Unfortunately, every time we reach out, we hear the same things in return. The NDP continues to represent some very narrow special interest groups. It continues with its job-killing, anti-trade agenda. It continually invents any reason at all not to support free trade agreements. On Monday, at the end of the day, the NDP said that, once again, it would oppose this agreement.
While we are focused on protecting and growing Canada's economy through our job-creating, pro-trade plan, we continually have to deal with opposition parties that obstruct this. That is the last thing we need. I would urge all my colleagues in the House of Commons to give support for a quick passage of this bill so the international trade committee can begin its work.
We have seen a very clear position come down on the side of the NDP. I do not expect that to be the position of the Liberal Party, the third party in the House. We would hope we do get its support on this bill.
However, let me assure Canadian workers and their families that our Conservative government will be strongly supporting the Canada–Jordan economic growth and prosperity act to ensure we continue to create jobs and economic growth. It is now time to move ahead with the legislation.
Our government and our party will send a clear message to Canadians that continued prosperity for Canadian workers and Canadian businesses is a priority, not just for the Conservative Party but for the House of Commons. The best way to do that is through ensuring a speedy passage of Bill C-23, Canada–Jordan economic growth and prosperity act.
This is important legislation. It was before the House in the last Parliament and it is before the House again. I urge my colleagues to send this to committee as quickly as possible and then send it back to the House post-haste.