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House of Commons Hansard #87 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Denis Blanchette NDP Louis-Hébert, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his speech. He said that we need to have sufficient guarantees to be able to support this bill. He talked about labour law, but his comments suggested that Canada should impose its own conditions to make the free trade agreement acceptable to us. Could the hon. member for Beauport—Limoilou expand on that?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his question. In terms of guarantees, we could take a colonialist approach and impose conditions, but that is obviously not the approach of the New Democratic Party, not in the slightest. However, as a trading partner in any trade negotiation on any scale, I think that we have every right to be demanding. That does not mean imposing our will, but we have to ask questions when we notice problems. We may wonder why certain things occur in that country and why, despite an international agreement being reached, it still tolerates a situation that is in violation of the agreement.

That is one of our concerns. Unlike its diplomatic relations, which Canada can suspend at any time should a problem arise, a free trade agreement is a considerable commitment on Canada's part.

Thus we may find ourselves in a position where we support and are complicit with governments that do not fulfill their duties toward their citizens and other residents. That is unacceptable and the New Democratic Party would like to look at this aspect with the government, transparently and on an equal footing. Is the government going to address our concerns? Is it going to agree to open the books and answer our questions? We are open and we hope that the government will answer our questions.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his excellent speech. We are indeed showing openness here, by moving forward and allowing this bill to be sent to committee to be improved and refined. I have a concern with this bill in terms of NAFTA's famous chapter 11, of which everyone is aware. Not only is it still detrimental to our workers, it is also detrimental to the environment. Unfortunately, Canada has been involved in well-known legal challenges. Some private multinational companies have filed lawsuits because of environmental protection legislation.

As we work to analyze this bill, and eventually to study it in committee, would it be important and essential to check whether protecting the environment and the working conditions of our workers at home does not present a problem?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Raymond Côté NDP Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Drummond for his question.

We are talking about the free trade treaty bill, but I would rather say treaties—a series of agreements. In parallel with a free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, there is also an agreement on the environment and an agreement on labour cooperation. It is certainly good that we are able to identify these matters. We will be able to see if the separate agreements are sufficient. The problem is precisely that they are separate from the main text of the free trade agreement, contrary to the American approach.

Let us concentrate on the environmental aspect. If there are problems of an environmental nature, potential conflicts will be resolved by consultations and by the exchange of information. And if the consultations do not allow the conflict to be resolved, the aggrieved party can ask for an independent panel of experts to be set up to look into the conflict. That is not stringent at all. I do not want to make assumptions about the Hashemite Kingdom's good faith, but, at the same time, is that going to be enough? I recall the example of the free trade agreement between the United States and Jordan in 2000, which was not enough to solve the major problems about rights and about the exploitation of workers. Similarly, we have separate agreements on labour rights and on the environment. If we do not obtain sufficient guarantees, the unfortunate danger is that they will be agreements in name only.

So it is very useful as a marketing exercise, but, in terms of standing up for the interests of workers, both Canadian and Jordanian, it may be more an opportunity for the two countries to have a high-level cocktail party than to provide concrete benefits to their people.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to this issue. I will be speaking in favour of sending this legislation to committee where I hope to see amendments welcomed to make this free trade agreement more humanitarian, more environmentally friendly, and definitely more beneficial for Jordan and Canada.

Many people probably are wondering how big Jordan is. Jordan is a small country. It is one of our trading partners but it is not one of our top trading partners. Out of our top 100 trading partners around the world, Jordan is ranked 88th. We do a fair bit of trade with Jordan. Our two-way trade amounts to $85.9 million. We export about $70.1 million and we import $18.7 million, mainly in clothing and textiles. If we compare that to Norway, which is ranked 10th out of all of our trading partners with exports to Norway of $2.5 billion, we can see that Jordan is important but it is not as large a contributor to our imports and exports. This begs the question: Why must there be a free trade agreement with Jordan?

We should be looking at facilitating trade around the world with many different countries. We are living in a global economy and we need to address many of the global issues.

I have been doing some research, although I must admit it has only been a very little amount because of the timing. It seems to make sense to me that this treaty with Jordan would be significant not only because we already have a good relationship with Jordan, but because it is also seen as a gateway to the rest of the Middle East and northern Africa. As such, it may not be significant on its own, but it would give us a foothold and open that gateway into other countries. We cannot ignore that.

I have also noticed that the diaspora from Jordan is very active. According to the last census, about two-thirds of them live in the Toronto area. Part of the diaspora lives in my community of Newton--North Delta as well. They are Canadians who contribute to our society but for very good reasons have kept strong links with their home country.

As we look at what is happening internationally, it is always good to explore markets around the world, big and small. At the same time, we have to look at what that means.

I want to refer to NAFTA. I was not in Parliament when NAFTA was negotiated, but I do know that some of the fallout from NAFTA has not been good for Canadians.

In my province of B.C., logs are being loaded on trucks to be shipped to the United States while towns in B.C. are turning into ghost towns and dormitory towns as the mills close down.

In British Columbia and other provinces, people see well-paying jobs that gave them some security with respect to health care and pensions going over the border. They are wondering what free trade really means. Does it mean that we give away Canadian jobs? That is the question that has to be asked every step of the way.

We always hear that there will be a review panel to review this and that. My experience with review panels has not been all that great.

Let us look, for example, at the administration to the south of Canada. After all, we did sign NAFTA with the Americans. Their government blatantly said in a speech to the nation that companies that bring jobs back into the United States will get greater tax benefits, and it will look favourably on companies that create jobs at home.

Whenever we look at free trade agreements, we often feel that we cannot raise those kinds of issues, or how often do our government negotiators do that. Other countries do not shy away from protecting their jobs at home. The Americans do not shy away from offering extra tax incentives to keep companies at home, growing jobs at home, instead of contracting out to call centres and manufacturing places all over the world.

That is one side of the free trade agreements that we always have to be aware of, the net effect on working people right across this country.

The other side of the coin is we always have to pay attention to what happens in the country that we have signed a bilateral agreement with. We have signed some bilateral agreements with countries to the south of us. In my previous life, as the president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation and then with the Canadian Teachers' Federation, I had the privilege to travel to many countries where I saw the sweatshops and the working conditions. I saw the beautiful roads that bring goods up to the north. However, once one leaves those main arterial routes, what one sees is abject poverty.

Canadians have to ask themselves if that is what they want for their future. Do they really want to see child labour? Do they want to see children in deplorable working conditions? Do they really want to save a few pennies while those kinds of working conditions occur in other countries?

Let us look at the labour situation in Jordan. From all accounts it is not that great. However, to give Jordan credit, it has signed agreements and protocols. Unfortunately, very little enforcement is taking place. As a trading partner, do we really want to finalize this trade agreement if we do not see some teeth given to enforcement?

The United Steelworkers Union supported this free trade agreement in the beginning. Then it began to see what the working conditions were like.

Charles Kernaghan, the U.S. National Labor Committee executive director, testified that after nine years of a U.S. trade agreement, thousands of foreign guest workers in the Middle East kingdom continued to be stripped of their passports, forced into 99-hour--let me stress that, 99-hour--workweeks and were denied their rightful wages while being housed in bedbug-infested dorms.

Even though the USW had supported the U.S.-Jordan trade deal when it was negotiated in the early days, it now says that it was a decision its union has come to deeply regret. It no longer supports it. The U.S.-Jordan trade deal immediately descended into the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign workers to Jordanian factories.

We know that Jordan is very dependent on migrant domestic workers as well. Some of them are not just hired as domestics to work in people's homes, but to work in textile factories as well. Once migrant domestic workers are hired, there is very little mobility for them. They are at the mercy of their employers. It is not easy for them, even after years of service, to change employers. Therefore, though Jordan has committed in a side agreement to address labour laws, it behooves us to do due diligence and to make sure that we see some action on enforcement.

Human Rights Watch Canada, in October 2011, released a report called “Domestic Plight: How Jordanian Law Officials, Employers, and Recruiters Fail Abused Migrant Domestic Workers”. The report details the absolutely deplorable working conditions for domestic workers. Most of these workers come from countries where people are desperate to go somewhere to make a living. They come from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and India. The report shows that very little has changed since these issues were first raised in 2010. That definitely should draw our attention and should push us. I am sure our negotiators will be pushing hard on that. We will be looking for some commitments to that at the committee stage.

When we do free trade with another nation, we have to look at not only what we gain out of that deal but what kind of an impact it has on development within that nation. For example, should foreign investors get a higher level of protection than investors from within Jordan? I would say absolutely not. It is so colonial in many ways to say, “We are coming in, we trade with you and therefore we should get better investment protections. Our companies, individuals from Canada who invest in Jordan, should have better, superior provisions for the protection of their investments than Jordanians themselves”.

I do not know how we could look at ourselves in the mirror if we were to sign such agreements. Certainly, I know that as a Canadian, it is very difficult when foreign corporations have better rights than Canadians. Therefore, why would I want to support something that would give such lack of protection to Jordanian investors? As part of the agreement we should absolutely ensure that no such two-tier system, one for foreign investors and one for native investors, is created.

It is very similar when we look at environmental issues. We live in a global economy. We live in a world that is shrinking every single day it seems. We can watch what is happening in our living rooms. I can turn on my TV and see what is happening in drought-ridden Africa. I can see the abject poverty and the need for humanitarian aid immediately. I can see the violence in Syria and experience it, sitting in my chair in my living room.

In the same way, our environment is not confined within different countries. Whenever we negotiate, it is absolutely imperative, not only for our generation but for the generations to come, that we pay special attention to ensuring that we build in environmental protections. Whatever happens in Jordan, whatever regulations it adopts, has a direct impact not only on Jordan and countries surrounding it but really on the whole globe, just we know that the clearing of the rain forests has a direct impact on our climate here. Therefore, it is imperative for our world's existence that we pay special attention to addressing environmental issues.

It is often easy to say that it can be a sidebar deal, we will deal with it later, or that we cannot really push for environmental issues until after we are a trading partner. One lesson I have learned is that we have a far better chance of getting somewhere when we still hold some chips in our hands. We do, so let us not put that one off.

It is the same with human rights. I have not changed my position in the House over the years. As a nation we have a very proud history not only for advocating for human rights around the world but for being champions of human rights around the world. Over the last few years, we have seen that reputation tarnished a bit. Yesterday in committee I heard about a comment made in South America that Canada no longer really cared about our reputation overseas and that we do not have the kind of reputation we used to have. I can tell the House that Canadians care very deeply about our reputation around the world.

When I was much younger, I travelled around Europe from England. I was always amazed at how many Americans had the Canadian flag attached to their backpacks. Those were the days when I could travel with a backpack. I do not think I could do that today. I often asked these young Americans why they were not wearing their American flag. They said that they got much better treatment when they wore the Canadian flag, that people treated them totally differently. Before leaving the U.S. they would try to acquire a Canadian flag to sew onto their backpacks or wear, to show that they were from Canada. They said they were welcomed and that people would want to speak to them and tell them about the amazing work we were doing on human rights issues, on addressing poverty and on working with developing countries. We were known as peacekeepers, as a nation that brokered peace and because of that they had a great deal of admiration.

However, in my opinion, we no longer have a seat on the United Nations Security Council, thanks to the actions of the government. Canada no longer has that untarnished image as peacekeepers. I would say that it behooves us, and I plead with the government, to make sure that as we are looking at signing free trade agreements, be it with China, Jordan or any country around the world, that we absolutely make human rights a central issue. We have to make sure that we are there not only as advocates but that we make it one of our conditions, and that we put some teeth into those negotiations to enforce human rights in those countries.

We have heard the argument that we can do that after we become a trading partner. We need to be doing that now. As I said at the beginning, I am supporting the bill going to committee, where New Democrats will be raising those concerns.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean Ontario

Conservative

John Baird ConservativeMinister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, one human right which is incredibly important is the right for people to provide for themselves and their families, to have the resources to put roofs over their heads and food on the table. Our great hope with this free trade agreement is that it will help spur economic growth in Jordan. That is tremendously important.

I should note that Jordan, under the king's leadership, has made great strides. He has sped up some of the reforms that he had already undertaken in the Arab Spring. We welcome that. He has been a great constructive partner for peace throughout the region. This government has taken a strong stand on human rights all around the world. The Prime Minister, in a recent visit to China, brought up these issues at every senior meeting and discussed them forcefully, as Canadians would expect him to do.

When I spoke at the United Nations on behalf of Canada, I raised the plight of various groups around the world, whether they be women, religious minorities, gays and lesbians, people seeking political reform around the world, or people seeking justice, freedom and democracy. That is essential. We have sought human rights in Sri Lanka and Iran, which has an abysmal human rights record, and we will continue to do that.

I appreciate the member's thoughtful comments on wanting to get this bill to committee so that it can be studied more thoroughly.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I agree that our government spoke out and took a very strong stand when it came to human rights in Sri Lanka. It made me feel very proud when that happened. I commended the minister personally at that time.

Human rights are not just about earning a living. They are also about working conditions of workers. After almost 12 years of a free trade agreement with the U.S. in which Jordan had made commitments to work on those issues, a report was released at the beginning of this year which stated that there are still people being forced to work 99 hour weeks and their wages are being withheld. Part of the human rights issue includes the right of working people to negotiate and have a say in who they work for. Their passports are taken away, their salaries are withheld from them, they have to work horribly long hours and live in deplorable conditions.

We have an opportunity and I would urge the minister to take this opportunity to protect people in Jordan.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we talk about labour or environmental laws, and the importance of human rights. Some countries, from a Canadian perspective, are more challenged than others in being able to meet world standards. This includes many of the countries we have a lot of trade with today. One can reference China, where there has been a great deal of expression with regard to these laws.

Free trade agreements are quite often, in principle, a movement toward economic co-operation and development between two countries. They are an extension of trading that is currently in place. The question I have for the member is this. To what degree do we hold back on these agreements because of environmental and labour laws and human rights issues when in fact we are already trading with those nations? We are trying to influence them. None of us in the chamber supports the exploitation of child labour, as an example. We are trying to discourage that in the world. To what degree do we not enter into free trade agreements because of those types of issues, when we are already trading with countries like China?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I absolutely agree that it is not just when we look at free trade agreements but also when we are trading that we need to look at human rights issues.

We already trade with Jordan, so why is there this need for a free trade agreement? Obviously it goes beyond that. I suppose it is a little like dating. When dating, one can just wake up one morning and decide not to go out on a scheduled date, much as it is when a country is trading without an agreement. However, when one signs a trade agreement it is like committing to a marriage or a long-term, legally binding relationship that would take quite the rigmarole to get out of.

I would call this our second sober look at a relationship. Yes, one might be dating and there may be problems with the dates, but before putting on a wedding ring, one would look at all of the dates again with a little more clarity. I would hope so anyway.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I would ask my friend if she agrees that we have a real disconnect when we talk about trade agreements. It is as if when we question new trade agreements, we are somehow against trade.

I am very cognizant of the fact that the Uruguay round resulted in a new version of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the WTO, in which all nations are involved. We trade with all nations and the GATT rules are more than adequate in most circumstances, but these additional trade rules tend to be more about conveying new powers to corporations and new obligations on governments.

I would ask the member to comment on that.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, absolutely, we have seen that happen with NAFTA and other free trade agreements. There is more and more power being invested in international corporations and powers that go way beyond. Often as nationals we are told that we have no control over that because it is part of the NAFTA deal. This is what I meant about going from a date to a marriage.

I also want to talk about child labour. We know the horrific nature of child labour, but I want to point to a province in Canada, namely B.C., where it is legal for children at the age of 12 to go to work. That is in our own backyard and we need to address that too.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague from Newton—North Delta for her excellent speech on human rights. We are talking about a free trade agreement and we can change things at the international level. This is the right time to do it, particularly when it comes to human rights. I would like to focus on women’s rights, because in Jordan, unfortunately, not very many women are in the labour force, even if they are very highly educated. I would like to know what my colleague thinks about women’s rights in Jordan.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, when it comes to women's rights, we have challenges right here in our own country. We know that in the Middle East and in a lot of the eastern countries and South America, women do face greater challenges. When we look at a lot of these domestic workers, many of them are women who are working horrendously long hours. Our trade agreements are an opportunity for us to build in human rights and protection for vulnerable workers, including women.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the new Bill C-23 on free trade between Jordan and Canada gives us an opportunity to consider the nature of such an agreement. A free trade agreement means opening doors. Canada is opening its door to Jordan, and Jordan is opening its door to Canada. But what is going to come in? That is a fundamental question. Our cultures are different in terms of human rights, labour law and environmental law. Is it possible to harmonize these two countries? Well, that is the entire question, and the entire problem.

We hope that this agreement will bring progress to Jordan in terms of human rights, environmental law and economic law, but that is not a foregone conclusion. At first blush, the problems are significant. When it comes to labour law, in some areas Jordan looks more like the Middle Ages than like a modern country.

Our steelworker colleagues have told us that on one visit they observed abuses in relation to migrant workers, there being many of them in the textile industry and in home support work. First, those workers very often have their passports taken away from them when they enter the country. They are required to work at a hellish pace, more than 90 hours a week. Very often, their wages are not paid or it is difficult for them to get their pay. When it comes to housing and nutrition, the least that can be said is that they are deficient. They live in cramped, dirty apartments or dormitories. Their food is nothing special; it is low in both calories and vitamins.

Working conditions like this are unacceptable, particularly when we will be competing with that country economically. Our entrepreneurs, who pay wages and make sure that our country’s social and humanitarian laws are obeyed with respect to all workers in Canada, will be facing competitors who have no such concerns and spend as little as possible on their workforce. This agreement, which might well be copied in numerous Middle Eastern countries, must not send our entrepreneurs into bankruptcy and Canadians into unemployment. This is a fairly basic question for the political representatives of the Canadian people. We want a trade agreement that benefits both countries and that is not going to lead to a reduction in Canadians’ economic and social rights.

That is not the only problem, although we have seen some encouraging initiatives. Jordan has taken some important steps. To begin with, there was a reform of the labour laws, which recognize the right to organize, the right to unionize, the right to speak and the right to negotiate collective agreements. These are important steps that must be considered. Jordan has also banned human trafficking. This is an important step in a country where recruiting people from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India to work in Jordan was a flourishing industry. These foreigners were recruited and, once in Jordan, not paid. Jordan now wants to put an end to this practice.

Jordan has also criminalized forced labour in its labour code. Forgive me for saying this, but it is some ways an acknowledgment of the existence of slavery. Forced labour includes compelling someone to work for an unreasonable number of hours. Jordan criminalized this practice in its criminal code. It is prohibited. In 2011, Jordan harmonized its relations with the International Labour Office and the International Labour Organization. These are very important steps and that is why we are not opposed to this agreement, however we do want to review it.

These are positive steps. If Jordan has taken a step towards integration with the global marketplace then, for goodness sake, why not? This is very encouraging. Seeing Jordan pass laws, however, is one thing, but making sure they are enforced is quite another. This is important and must be verified. We recommend, therefore, that this bill proceed to second reading, where it can be more closely considered, and where we can determine whether the promises made have been kept. This is to be expected.

We will keep a very open mind as we consider this bill in committee. We will review what Jordan has done. Having said that, we will be exceedingly inquisitive and prudent, and we will not take any statements as gospel truth. We will make sure that there has been progress, that these laws have brought about true change, and that domestic workers are no longer slaves, let alone sex slaves, as is sometimes the case. We will demand to see the change.

There is also the matter of the environment. Before the Conservative government came into power, Canada was truly determined to combat pollution and provide a safe environment for Canadians and workers. The guarantee was made that the workplace was not deadly. It was guaranteed that any environmental emissions would not be dangerous in both the short and long-term, for Canadians now and in the future. These are basic things. There are no illegal dumping grounds in Canada; there is no chemical soup in our waters. We will not tolerate having our environment sullied and our access to clean water jeopardized. All that seems quite basic and yet, when it comes to clean water, there are some shortcomings, particularly on first nations reserves. It is quite disturbing for a country like Canada, but it would appear that we have the willingness to change. I shall take that into account and hope that things do indeed change.

What is the situation in Jordan? The rules in this regard are not clear. It is simply indicated that neither of the two countries has the right to suppress the basic environmental rules. But does Jordan already comply with the basic minimum rules? Can Jordan be compared in this regard to Canada? All the indications are that it cannot. That means this constitutes an invitation to all the polluting industries of Canada to relocate to Jordan, where they will not have to make expensive investments to conform to Canadian standards, and where they will not have to pay the workforce as well as they do in Canada. This is an important question.

In certain countries, people have said that asbestos was safe if worked properly under acceptable health conditions. It seems that this is the case in Canada. However, we know that in countries to which we export asbestos, this is absolutely not the case. This question is relevant and deserves to be verified. We do not want to encourage a country to become a dump for the whole world because it has an agreement with Canada. That would be neither acceptable nor tolerable. Our public image all across Canada depends on this, as do our ethical standards as a community. Do we want to develop an economic and political culture in which profit prevails over respect?

In short, we shall certainly not sign a blank cheque. There are more problems in the area of economic rights. Expropriation is prohibited. Do we have the right not to be expropriated when we invest in a country? I am sorry, but no. To promote the economic rights of its citizens, a country may legitimately consider it necessary to expropriate a private enterprise, even if that enterprise is a foreign company from a country with which a free trade agreement is in place. An expropriation can be carried out for medical, economic development, educational or a multitude of other reasons within the context of a democratic government.

Expropriation does not mean theft. It is simply the forced purchase of a company which is regarded as essential to the country. This is a country’s sovereign economic right. It appears however that there is an intention to place a limit on this agreement. That limit is likely to affect Jordan more than Canada, for there are a great many Canadian multinational mining and manufacturing companies. There are few Jordanian companies liable to invest in Canada in key sectors of our economy. If that should happen, however, I do not see why Canada should require a barrier of this nature. Yes, a sovereign country, any sovereign country, has the right to protect the economic rights of its citizens by effecting an expropriation. Hydro-Québec was born of an expropriation; so was Ontario Hydro. Petro-Canada was established through expropriations. We are not complaining about this.

There is also the issue of repatriating profits, which can be a bone of contention. Repatriating profits, if they are excessive, could put a country in a difficult situation, leading to a deficit on balance of payments and a lack of investment. In Canada, we are currently experiencing what is known as Dutch disease. Our dollar is going up because of massive natural resource exports, especially in the energy sector. At the same time, we are experiencing a major deficit on our balance of payments. That is what is known as Dutch disease. And it comes on top of a loss of our industry.

A sovereign country can choose to tackle this problem by restricting the repatriation of profits through legislation that requires the profits to be partially or fully reinvested. It is not illegal for a country to want to make sure that its economic partner guarantees a financial return. A sovereign country does not need to limit its powers in a free trade agreement. The free trade agreement has to bring wealth to both countries. In the present situation, that does not seem to be the case. We are eroding the powers of a state in favour of private enterprise and capital. We are forgetting that we were elected by our constituents to defend them, not to sell or give up on their rights. We will have to think carefully before we pass this type of legislation.

We keep seeing the same types of problems. We negotiate agreements with small countries without asking any questions about the very nature of the rights in place in those countries. Panama is the perfect example. Some say that it is a problem because it is a tax haven. No, Panama is not a tax haven, it is a tax dump. Every drug trafficker goes through Panama. That is no recommendation. Will we be able to guarantee that there will be an end to those practices? No, and that is a problem. Now we have exactly the same type of problem. We are not saying no to what is unacceptable. We know about it and we put up with it.

In what has been proposed, the agreement is lacking when it comes to corrective measures. In an agreement between two countries, it is important to document what might cause problems and the action we will take to resolve those problems. There are major shortcomings in that respect as well, and we would like to put an end to them. In discussions in committee, we would like to hear opinions and proposals so that we can amend an agreement that is questionable at the moment. That does not mean that we are dismissing any possibility of an agreement with the Middle East, far from it. We appreciate it when a country agrees to negotiate agreements with us that may be highly profitable, that may lead to an increase in imports and exports and, especially, that may help a country improve its legislation.

It seems that Jordan would really like to become a country that is not at the low end when it comes to human rights, that is not a dumping ground for corporate polluters. It does not want to be a country where domestic work is almost associated with prostitution. We realize this. We are quite pleased to see the direction being taken by the Jordanian people and government. If it is true, this direction deserves to be encouraged. If this is the case, we will negotiate as equals with a country that has given us satisfactory guarantees with respect to basic human rights.

We will need to consider plenty of other factors, in addition to economic, labour and environmental rights, including religious rights and issues relating to family and matrimonial law. How are we going to align these agreements? All of that will be an essential part of the committee's discussions.

It is because of this very possibility of discussing these factors that we are going to support this bill on the trade agreement between Canada and Jordan at second reading.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Laurin Liu NDP Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his speech. Since this is about a bilateral free trade agreement and not a multilateral agreement with several countries, can he tell me about some of the guarantees that should be put in place with regard to Jordan?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, the risk is twofold. Given that we are negotiating an agreement with a country whose human rights situation and socio-economic conditions are far below ours, we could end up with the lowest common denominator and certain rights could be abandoned. The reverse would be even worse. We would then be involved in a kind of economic colonialism. Both would adversely affect both Canada's image and the everyday rights of Canadians.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, if I heard correctly, I thought the member made reference to the NDP's voting in favour of the bill going to committee. If that is the case, am I to assume that the principle of free trade agreements is something the NDP is now looking at supporting? Is it just a question of having an appropriate amendment that would ultimately see the NDP supporting free trade agreements?

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11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, a trade agreement is an agreement between two peoples. It implies much more than economic transactions. It indicates the future of our relationship at all levels. In that context, we are not opposed, but it is not just a matter of a few amendments. We are talking about human rights and about our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. For the NDP, some things are not negotiable and we will not bargain them away. I am a member of Parliament for the NDP, not for the Liberals. So I will not be selling my soul.

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11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Genest-Jourdain NDP Manicouagan, QC

Madam Speaker, could the hon. member go into more detail about the concept of corporate expropriation and the circumstances that would give rise to it?

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11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, here is an example that happened right here in Canada. In the 1960s, the Government of Quebec felt that the foreign concerns controlling our production and distribution of electricity were a hindrance to the smooth economic development of Quebec. As a sovereign people, we decided to take possession of the assets that, in large part, were ours.

We paid for them; we did not steal them. We paid the proper price for those facilities, those means of electricity production and distribution. Another country like Jordan could decide to do the same thing. It is not a crime for a government to make sure that its citizens have access to electricity.

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11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jonathan Tremblay NDP Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord, QC

Madam Speaker, we hear a lot about what happened in the past. In the NDP, we are not necessarily against free trade agreements between countries per se. However, we want everyone to benefit, and by everyone I mean each country, and each and every citizen, whether rich or poor. In the past, rough timber was sold for offshore processing and brought back to Canada, where it is sold at a premium. That means that our manufacturing sector does not develop.

We have a number of concerns regarding what will happen to our natural resources. Will our water be protected, for example? Will we be forced to export our water, if asked? I would like my colleague to respond to that.

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11:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

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

Indeed, in this agreement, and in all agreements of this type, a state's power to intervene in certain trade issues is limited, and that is unacceptable. It is an intolerable constraint. A second, even bigger constraint is that Jordan relies heavily on migrant workers from other countries. These migrant workers are subject to a legal double standard. Native-born Jordanians have rights that these temporary migrant workers do not. That opens the door to the outsourcing of our industries by using a large labour force in a country that does not pay its workers.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Madam Speaker, our colleague from Newton—North Delta spoke of certain key sectors in Canada, including the textile sector. Increasingly, companies in those sectors are going abroad to Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan. However, there are sectors that need to be protected and we must ensure that agreements like this one have more teeth, as my colleague said. What does my colleagues think about the sectors that are at greatest risk in Canada?

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, offshoring is not a new phenomenon, but it is clearly accentuated by this kind of agreement. The same thing occurred with Europe and Tunisia. In that particular case, it really was an economic favour; Europe wanted to favour Tunisia. In this case, companies are quite simply being given the right to lay off their Canadian workers in order to increase profits by relocating production to countries where production and workplace safety standards are non-existent. It is a race to the bottom when it comes to our rights and those of workers. The workers are the losers, regardless of their origin or nationality. The problem with bilateral agreements of this sort is that the working class is not protected.

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11:35 a.m.

NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his excellent speech. I have some concerns about the free trade treaty. I always go back to NAFTA and its famous chapter 11, which has permitted multinationals to sue the Canadian government and other governments attempting to protect the environment. There have been some famous lawsuits in Canada. Certain multinationals have sued the Canadian government, which has had to compensate those multinationals in the millions and billions of dollars because it tried to prevent them, for example, from using chemicals hazardous to the environment and to human health.

This is one of my concerns. I hope my colleague will agree with me that it is absolutely necessary to ensure, when this free trade treaty is studied in committee, that our workers and our environment are protected.