Mr. Speaker, today we have heard, yet again, the government talking more about others, casting aspersions on people and making up fictitious policy statements of other parties, as opposed to talking about the merits of this trade deal. That is unfortunate. A responsible government model would be to bring forward one's best ideas, talk about the benefits, make sure they are understood and that Canadians are aware of the benefits.
Alas, this government is more interested in throwing political mud as opposed to promoting its ideas. I guess it is nothing new. We hear it every day in the House. The Conservatives like to throw mud even more than talking about their own ridings. I guess it is not a surprise that again today we have the minister spending more than a third of his speech attacking our party and trying to in some way paraphrase us. It was fiction, indeed.
We really need to take these trade deals seriously. For most of his career in the public service, my father worked on negotiating GATT agreements. One of the things he was very clear about was that in getting involved in trade agreements, Canada has to make sure it understands all of the issues on the table. He used to negotiate the GATT agreements in Brussels on behalf of our country. He was very proud of our country's ability to take away barriers where we could, but also make sure we had a balance.
The government does not seem to understand that; it is in such a hurry to sign a free trade agreement with whomever. This is a problem, because once these free trade agreements are stacked up, they actually have to be monitored. People have to be in place to follow them.
The minister was bragging about the great robust global trade strategy. Then, who did he cite? Liechtenstein. I have nothing against the good people there, but it does not amount to lifting all boats up.
We should also note that the government has had free trade agreements with countries like Honduras, for instance. With regard to the amount of value recently concluded for the free trade agreement in Honduras, in a full year, our trade with Honduras is equal to 71 minutes of the trade we do with the United States. It is interesting that the government brags that the equivalent of 71 minutes of trade with one of our bigger trading partners is somehow going to lift all boats up
The government has not been able to sign one agreement with a major Asian economy. It has stumbled around trying to figure out how to deal with China. It has members who still do not believe we should even have a relationship with China. I cite some of the members who have spoken for themselves. I will not quote them.
We have a problem here in terms of the government's credibility on trade. It says one thing and it talks about this robust strategy, but when we add up the list of countries, including Panama, it really does not amount to a comprehensive strategy.
This is a changing world. In the decades ahead, we will see a dramatic shift in global power. Projections indicate that by 2050 only the United States will represent the western nations among the top seven largest economies. China will be first. India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, United Kingdom, Germany, Nigeria, France, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam will have larger GDPs than Canada. This is a manifestation of a truly multipolar world, which the government does not understand. While the economic power is dispersed, new cultural, diplomatic and military strengths will be asserted that will effect trade.
What will the world look like in 2050? That is something we need to keep in mind when we are talking about these trade agreements. What values will guide our trade agreements in international politics, and how will Canada project and promote our values and interests in the future? The answers to these questions will depend on the choices we make as a country. Will Canada be isolationist, as we have seen lately, in terms of its diplomacy and the notion of signing a trade agreement with whomever and not looking at strategic interests, or will Canada assert itself as a responsible leader, comprehending this ever-changing world?
The reality is there are vital economic and trade interests that we all recognize are important. However, the problem with the current government is that it lacks a coherent strategy and the competence to assert Canada as a responsible leader on the global stage. In doing so, it fails to achieve the very objectives it sets for itself, as I already mentioned.
There is rhetoric in saying that we have a global trade agenda and when we look at the tally sheet, we have Liechtenstein, Iceland and Honduras. There is not one single trade agreement with any of the major Asian economies.
Let me talk about Asia. It was just a month ago that Canada was denied a seat at the East Asia Summit. This adds to our collective embarrassment of losing our seat at the Security Council. I am not sure if many Canadians know this, but the East Asia Summit is where decision-makers and those who want to have a voice in the Asian economies go to meet to assert their interests.
Canada was shut out. Two other countries were allowed in. There are 18 countries around the table. We have not heard that from the government. The government has not even explained why we were shut out.
Why were shut out of the East Asia Summit? This is a table where, as I said, important decisions are made that have major impacts on our country. We all know it is the Pacific powerhouses where trade is going to be. I just listed the 2050 projections in terms of where the GDP growth is going. However, in our absence, we will not have the input at that important table at the East Asia Summit.
I will quote for members the words of the General Secretary of the ASEAN. Mr. Surin Pitsuwan explained that Canada failed to get a seat at the East Asia Summit as a result of a lack of engagement that would project Canada's qualities. He said:
The goodwill is there. The name is there. But you don't see the sustained effort of trying to project it out.
What did he recommend?
What Canada can do is to transform its expertise in those areas of peacekeeping, peace-building into a more mediating role. A country like Norway has been very active and engaged. Canada has been less than Norway, maybe by choice.
He argued that while everyone wants to expand trade in an economic partnership, it comes along with leadership at the same time. Leadership, in Canada's case, is because of our history in conflict resolution.
I will finish with this quote, which he said at the end:
It has to be a package, an integrated approach.
This should have been—sadly, I do not think it has been—a wake-up call for the government. When we are shut out of the most important table when it comes to the Asian economy, it says something.
When we have a bill like the Panama free trade agreement and we have the government suggesting this is a wow moment for us and our economy, we really have to wonder if the government is actually in tune with what is going on in the world. We were shut out of the Security Council.
To my embarrassment, as a representative of this Parliament, we had an opportunity recently, at the General Assembly, to have our Prime Minister come forward to say what our country is about, what our values are and indeed what our trade interests are. Instead, he did not take that opportunity and sent the foreign affairs minister, who then wagged his finger at the UN and many member states and, as an aside, quoted Kahlil Gibran, Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, with some of the most misplaced quotes I have heard in a long time.
However, if we are going to take trade seriously, then we have to understand the importance of relationships. When we do not take diplomacy seriously, then it is hard to see how we can further advance trade. That is the point in critiquing our failure to get a seat at the East Asia Summit.
Having a free trade agreement with countries like Honduras and Panama is not going to get the job done. In fact, there is a very interesting critique on trade that was brought out last spring. I know the Prime Minister has read it and, in fact, I think he got most of his front bench to look at it. It is titled,“Winning in a Changing World: Canada and Emerging Markets”. It is an interesting document.
The Conservatives often like to accuse us of having tunnel vision and that we only listen to certain people. Well, in this particular critique, there are some recommendations for the government. For example, it is this document that cites that the free trade with Honduras amounts to 71 minutes of trade with our partner to the south, and the value of it is questioned. It comes up with some different recommendations than the path the Conservative government is following and suggests not just looking at a free trade agreement cookie-cutter approach. Why? It is not strategic.
I remember my father telling me about his work and that when we get into trade, if we just put all-in agreements and language saying we would open up major sectors without understanding the implications, we lose our strategic advantage.
The report suggests, and I applaud the authors on this, to look at the sectors here that we should invest more in to help us trade and make sure we are going to get competitive advantage with the emerging markets that I mentioned. It also points out that we cannot do these free trade agreements with emerging economies like India, China and Brazil.
I was in Brazil when the minister was there a couple of years ago. I was there for a conference on the Global Fund to fight HIV-AIDS. The whole world was there, but I was the only Canadian representative. The minister happened to be in Sao Paulo that day pitching trade, but we would need a search warrant to find evidence of that. There was no evidence in the media and absolutely no indication of what he was doing there.
Meanwhile, the story of the day was how Brazil was reaching out to Africa, looking at making sure we are going to be more connected in the world to helping those who are suffering from HIV-AIDS, malaria and other diseases. This was actually a strategic approach as well as doing the right thing.
Others have criticized the current government on being one dimensional. If all it is worried about are free trade agreements, we can see the results: a total shut-out in Asia. After seven years, the Conservative government has nothing to show for its robust global trade strategic plan other than a couple of pithy agreements, as I have mentioned already.
However, my concern is that we have a minister who travels to one of the most strategic should-be partners in the BRIC, Brazil, but we do not even get noticed. In fact, when we talk to people in the Americas, they scratch their heads and ask what happened to the Americas strategy.
I remember the fanfare when the Conservative government announced there was going to be this great Americas strategy. Well, we had a rescue mission a couple of summers ago with the Prime Minister who, I guess, had to rescue his trade minister. He travelled around South America yet again, but the question is, what do we have to show for it? Where are we with Brazil? Why are we not focusing on a relationship with them? Why does the Conservative government not understand that it is trade diplomacy as well as investment? The debates we are having right now are clear that there is a problem in terms of the government understanding how to layout not only its strategy, but the rules.
The report I mentioned, “Winning in a Changing World: Canada and Emerging Markets”, is written by Derek Burney, as well as a former chief executive officer representative, Thomas d'Aquino. These are clearly not people who would be noted as radical leftists. When speaking about on getting trade right, they said that:
Canada should target markets with significant potential instead of those with which agreements are easy to conclude.
I want to emphasize this because this is where the government's strategy fails. They are saying that in our guiding principles for trade:
Canada should target markets with significant potential instead of those with which agreements are easy to conclude. A smart engagement strategy invests political and negotiating capital in talks that deliver real benefits and clear results. In the long term, the hectic pursuit of “announceables” serves neither public nor private interests.
This report is saying that the strategy of the current Conservative government is not going down the right path. However, as the Conservative backbench and front bench know, their game is to try to set up a narrative where they are in favour of trade; they are good, but the others are not and they are bad.
The fact is that when we have people who know what trade is about, there has to be political investment. The study talks about that. This is diplomacy. This is where the government has been unable to get the job done. It is not just talking about going after “announceables”. The government could be classified as a government by press releases and not results. When I asked the minister exactly how many jobs would be created with the Panama free trade agreement, he attacked me. When we ask how this would enhance our opportunities, there is no response except that the NDP does not like trade. It is bizarre and I do not bother responding to it. I leave his rhetoric alone and people can gauge it.
Let us go further into what the study looked at. It looked at what Canada needed to do, which is to look at emerging markets and negotiate customized trade and investment arrangements with this in mind. It says that we should abandon these free trade agreements and this cookie-cutter approach. I know the Prime Minister has read this and hopefully the trade minister has as well.
Let me explain what the words mean. The authors say, “We must negotiate customized trade and investment arrangements”. Customized trade arrangements, as my father used to say when he negotiated GATT, is ensuring that our producers are not going to be subsumed and played by other producers. Things like nomenclature are important. Allowing a foot in by other economies is not going to mean the abandonment of support for the economies, producers and those creating jobs in Canada. It means doing trade differently.
With due respect, the government is kind of fighting the last war. It thought that just saying free trade and finding a sign-off with anyone was a strategy. It turns out to be political grandstanding. When the media is not around and people talk about diplomacy and trade, they scratch their heads and ask why the government is going down the path of these pithy free trade agreements when the world has changed and moved on.
I will go through the emerging economies that I mentioned earlier, which we know are Brazil, India, Russia and China. What the authors are saying in the report is that we cannot make free trade agreements with these countries because they do things differently. The trade agreements have to be customized. When the government trumpets the free trade approach, we have to question not only the benefits for Canadians but, most important, just like when we sign off on international agreements in diplomacy, where we are going to land in 10, 15, 20 years. How are we going to be locked in?
The FIPA that we have been debating in the House is a classic example. Not many Canadians are aware that we will be locked in to this financial arrangement with China for 31 years. Most financial agreements negotiated in the past provide an option for us to say that after six months' notice, we are out of the deal. Not in this case. On the one hand, the government is signing a free trade agreement with Panama, which has questionable benefits for Canadians. On the other hand, it signs a FIPA with China which locks us in for up to 31 years.
One has to wonder what the government's strategy is, other than “announceables”, as was critiqued in the report that I read, saying the government was able to announce something and that is somehow that is good policy. It is not. In fact, when we look at the countries I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, in 2050 the largest economies will be China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Russia, Indonesia, Japan, U.K., Germany, Nigeria, France, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. When we look at each one of those countries individually, they are very different. We cannot sign one of these free trade agreements, like the government has, with each of these countries.
The nature of a multipolar world means that we have to change our mindset. It is not just about one big trade agreement with one country. The critique of our trade arrangement with the United States was always that it locked us in too much and we needed to ensure we would provide more opportunities for Canadian companies and workers.
At the end of the day, the problem with this agreement is the lack of vision of where we are going with comprehensive free trade. As I mentioned, reports by those who have looked at where Canada is going in trade show it is actually in the past. We need to be looking for tailored, comprehensive free trade agreements and this is not one. That is why we cannot support it.