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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

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Liberal Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a continuation of the previous point of order.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

There was no point of order, so unless you are raising one there is not one before the House.

The hon. member from Burnaby—New Westminster.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was just accused of being dishonest. As you know, that is not parliamentary language. I like the hon. member. I understand that maybe on the other side of the House things are getting a little wild. That is okay, but I would ask her to withdraw--

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster can make that request. That ultimately is up to the other member.

Is the hon. member rising on debate or on a point of order?

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, to answer to the point of order.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

That was not a point of order. The hon. member for Burnaby--New Westminster was replying to a question put.

If the parliamentary secretary is rising on a point of order, I will take that. If not, time has expired for questions and comments and we will resume debate.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Conservative Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am rising on a point of order. The member from the NDP has alleged that I said something that I did not say and would not say. I simply would like the member to answer the very simple question that was put to him by both the Liberal Party and the Conservative Party and stop skirting around the issue.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

I answered it five times.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The Chair has heard from both hon. members and will review the blues to see whether anything inappropriate was said.

Continuing debate, the hon. member for Richmond--Arthabaska.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, when things heat up, I am always happy to step in. I intend to calm the waters. I am not saying that my speech will be boring; I am sure it will not be. As the hon. member for Bourassa knows very well, and as he has just said, we in the Bloc Québécois always have interesting things to say, particularly when it comes to free trade agreements.

It is my pleasure to rise on this issue, particularly because with all the time allocation motions the Conservative government has imposed on us recently—and I certainly do not want to put ideas in their heads for the bills that are currently before the House—our turn does not come quickly or often.

So I am going to take full advantage of it to talk about the Conservative government’s free trade policy since it came to power and more specifically about Bill C-23, the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I had the opportunity to address this issue several times in previous Parliaments. The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the bill. Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Israel. We are familiar with the unique sensitivity of that region and the conflicts that go on there. The message to be sent would be positive, in fact: it would be about signing a free trade agreement with a country like Jordan.

Obviously, if you look at things through Quebec’s eyes, you can understand the reason why we support this bill. Obviously, we will always weigh all the factors to determine whether this free trade agreement is good or bad for the Quebec economy. We are not opposed to all free trade agreements, nor are we in favour of all such agreements. Obviously, the pros and cons have to be weighed in relation to the Quebec economy.

In the case of Jordan, we are not going to argue that this is going to be an extremely fruitful free trade agreement, but it may be worthwhile, particularly for the agricultural sector. There is not a lot of water in Jordan; not a lot of crops are grown or livestock raised. So this is a door that may be worthwhile for the agricultural sector. I will offer some statistics in a moment about our trade with that country. They will prove that it is not enormous at the moment, but every door that is opened in this respect may be worthwhile.

Lumber might also be a worthwhile avenue for Quebec; certainly pulp and paper would be. This affects me specifically, as does agriculture, because companies like Cascades and Domtar are well established in my riding. These are possibilities for the pulp and paper industry, the Quebec industry that already exports the most to Jordan, in fact.

I have statistics dating from 2008. I have not found any that are more recent. At that time, trade between Canada and Jordan totalled $92 million, which is a long way from the numbers we are currently hearing in relation to the free trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union. Of that $92 million, $35 million came from Quebec and $25 million came from the pulp and paper industry. So that is why I was saying that this avenue was worth exploring. In fact, Quebec is the Canadian province that has the most trade with Jordan: 45% of current trade originates in Quebec. As I said, Canadian exports total $92 million, and that will undoubtedly improve somewhat, thanks to this free trade agreement. So we can conclude that it will also improve for Quebec.

Reports suggest that Jordan is currently in the process of modernizing its government and economy. It is a country where education is very important. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, promoting trade with this country could send a clear message of support to other Middle Eastern countries in this regard. As I was also saying, Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. By signing this agreement with Jordan, Canada would demonstrate a degree of balance in our interests in that part of the world, given the strained political relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, including Jordan.

What currently concerns us about the Conservative's approach to these free trade agreements is that they have chosen to sign bilateral agreements. Everything we are hearing right now about the development of international trade involves opportunities for bilateral free trade agreements. They recently signed such agreements with Colombia and Panama. They are holding discussions with the European Union, which is not, of course, one country.

The Conservatives have basically abandoned the Doha round. All multilateral agreements have been put on hold and other free trade agreements are being discussed, including a very significant one with China.

This is obviously a problem for us because this approach is much less effective than a multilateral approach for the development of fairer trade that respects the interests of all nations. For example, in the Doha round, developing countries placed considerable hope on a multilateral agreement. However, the richest countries in the world are not listening at all and are not interested in changing things, which means that multilateral free trade agreements are constantly being blocked. Canada is clearly not helping this cause.

We want to see a change in 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 just on the pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment. We want the new free trade agreements to include enforceable provisions that require respect for minimum standards related to human rights, labour laws and respect for the environment.

Some will say that such is not the case with all bilateral free trade agreements. Of course, we had evidence of that this week when we again discussed the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama. Panama is a tax haven. How can we accept, in 2012, that a country like Canada would enter into a free trade agreement with a country where it is still possible for banks and big companies to take advantage of tax havens? Moreover, in Canada, there is still nothing in place to prevent such practices. There are some provisions, but they contain loopholes that make such practices still possible. What message are we sending to big companies, banks and not exactly right-thinking people—not right-wingers—who see that Canada has decided to enter into a free trade agreement with Panama? The message is obviously to step right up: the door is open and tax havens are ready for business.

We cannot agree to this kind of free trade agreement. Another quite recent free trade agreement was the one with Columbia, a country where human rights are violated, journalists are murdered or imprisoned, and unions are completely banned.

I cannot understand why free trade agreements are still being entered into with these nations in the belief that the situation in these countries is going to improve, perhaps magically, as a result of signing a trade agreement. Rather, we are sending the opposite message: that it is not a problem; that in these countries abuses of power are okay; that the people in these countries can be treated in ways we would not do here, in our country, to our people. These countries are given the impression that our concerns are not serious because we will trade with them regardless, and everything will be fine and dandy. That approach is not at all credible. That is why multilateral agreements fundamentally improve the situation.

In their current form, side agreements that deal with minimal labour and environmental protection standards lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective. That is what we want to see in future free trade agreements.

In order to be credible on this issue, there must be swift compliance with the major conventions of the International Labour Organization against discrimination, forced labour, which still exists in countries with which we trade, child labour, which unfortunately still exist today, and also conventions regarding the rights of union associations and free negotiation.

That being the case, all the free trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that we are dealing with countries that are, at the very least, on the right track, countries that are prepared to make the changes needed to be able to trade. I have always thought that, before approving a free trade agreement like the one we are planning to sign with China, we should put our cards on the table and be satisfied that such countries will comply with our minimum standards, that there are no children working and no union leaders in prison, and that sound environmental practices are being followed.

I am not sure that in the early stages of discussions with China we will succeed in having that country adopt basic environmental standards. Take agriculture, for example. When products are imported from China, we do not know how they were grown, or what water and pesticides have been used. Even today, products enter Canada even though in some instances their quality is clearly dubious. There have been scandals. There was the scandal in China over melamine in milk. There were scandals over toys in which the concentration of lead was much too high. It is therefore important to ensure that changes have been made before any bilateral agreements are signed with countries like China.

For some years now, Jordan has been demonstrating that it can conduct trade operations in a manner that Quebec finds acceptable. Jordan can be trusted and trade relations with that country would be beneficial to both parties. The figures I gave just now make it clear that these free trade agreements are not on the same scale as the one that is currently being negotiated with the European Union.

There is another way the government negotiates free trade agreements that is open to serious criticism. For the free trade agreement with the European Union, the issue of supply management was left on the table for the first time. Historically, all governments and parties have always excluded supply management for our farmers—poultry, milk and egg producers, an approach that has been very beneficial for both producers and consumers. We have always excluded supply management so that countries could not interfere with our tariffs and try to sell more products to us. Unfortunately, with the European Union, we left the supply management system on the table. This is extremely worrisome, even though the Conservatives are telling us not to worry about it, and that they will comply with the motion I moved and sponsored in 2005 to tie the hands of Canadian negotiators with respect to international supply management.

The fact remains that there is no transparency in the discussions between the European Union and Canada, nor in any free trade agreement. The time has come for Parliament to do what other countries do, so that the details of these agreements can be discussed while negotiations are underway, in order to remain informed about the substance of the discussions and be able to comment on the nuts and bolts of free trade agreements.

As for Canada and the European Union, we have no idea whether there have been discussions on supply management. We can sometimes learn things from leaks—for example that the French would like to send us more cheese. If the French sent us more cheese, Quebec, which is a major producer of cheese, might suffer the consequences. It is essential to remain extremely cautious.

I have been speaking about agriculture, but the same arguments hold for Quebec culture. It is important to pay careful attention with this kind of free trade agreement. Although transparency is the norm today, it is unfortunately not the case with the Conservative government.

The bilateral agreement approach is not the right one. When we are presented with bills like the one we are discussing today, Bill C-23 between Canada and Jordan, they have to be treated on a case-by-case basis. This particular bill needs to be examined in light of what is stated in the free trade agreement. Frankly, it is impossible to say that it is not a good agreement. We will therefore agree to vote in favour of it.

A small word of warning about water exports. I spoke about them in one of my speeches during the previous Parliament. I know that in the bill to implement the agreement between Canada and Jordan the issue of water, whether in liquid or gaseous form, is excluded, but this is not explicit in the free trade agreement itself.

Perhaps the negotiators could take note of this information; it could also be discussed in committee. Just now, I was speaking about the possibilities of agricultural trade. One of the reasons Jordan does not grow many crops is that it does not have a lot of water. It would be highly undesirable, for any current or future agreements, if we were to begin to think we could use water—particularly water from Quebec, which is very well endowed in this respect—to encourage other countries to import a lot of water. Our view is that trade in water should be completely excluded. Hence it would perhaps be a good idea not only to specify this prohibition in the implementing legislation, but to do the same in the agreement itself.

In spite of everything, it is possible to have productive dealings with Jordan for all those reasons. As I was saying earlier, in that part of the world, it is important as a symbol to show that we are open to trade not only with Israel, but also with other countries such as Jordan. It is a good example to hold up. Because we know that, at the moment, the Conservative government tends to have blinkers on and to take the side of one country only—not to mention any names, but it is Israel. This message that we are sending seems to me to be much more a message of openness, and the result will be that everyone will benefit.

In terms of future agreements, we must also make sure that we do not negotiate free trade agreements blindly, with no regard for human, environmental and labour rights. If we do, we will end up with free trade agreements like the one with Colombia. I can hardly wait to see if there will be any improvements because of that free trade agreement. I am sure there will not be, because we are sending the opposite message.

We are telling them to carry on, that there will be no problem, that they are going to make money and do business without anyone even rapping them on the knuckles or warning them that there will be no trade until they have improved their situation. That is a bad example. There are good examples, such as when it is possible to trade with countries that have good intentions, though they may not necessarily be at the level of Canada or Quebec. In that context, Jordan is a really interesting case.

From Quebec's point of view, looked at through our eyes, we do not have the luxury of saying no to all attempts at free trade, given all the small and medium-size businesses we have everywhere. I call on all Quebec members to bring themselves to accept that we can negotiate free trade agreements with certain countries. This is one of them. Panama is not a good example, and neither is Colombia. But in this case, given the figures, while there is not necessarily any money to be made, there is an interesting opportunity certainly for agriculture and forestry, both of which need opportunities badly, and why not also for pulp and paper, as I mentioned.

Perhaps I am being a little self-serving in this because, in my constituency, it will be very attractive for companies like Cascades and Domtar. We also have Kruger in the area. The opening of these opportunities is the reason that the Bloc Québécois has decided to support the principle of this bill.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1 p.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from the Bloc Québécois for his speech, which the NDP accepts. It was a good New Democrat speech. There was something in his speech that particularly spoke to me. It involved natural resources, and I asked a question about it earlier.

Earlier, he talked about water. What does the member think about the export of our natural resources, resources like water, to other countries? I would also like to know what he thinks about environmental protections, which this agreement does not seem to have. Could there be lawsuits related to environmental protections that we would like to have in our country?

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1 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. I would like to correct him, though: it was not a New Democrat speech. Frankly, we fought to stay alive, and there are still some Bloc Québécois MPs in the House. They voted in favour of a bill that prohibits floor-crossing, and they would not accept me even if I decided to join them. It was a Bloc Québécois speech, which is very different from the New Democrat discourse.

I heard my colleague from British Columbia speak, and I have a great deal of respect for him. There is a dogma in the NDP: it is against any free trade agreement. A little squabble broke out before I started my speech. The member who is now the finance critic, but who was the international trade critic for a long time, was asked what free trade agreement the NDP had supported in the House. They cannot name one.

That is why I said that Quebec's next generation is important. As a people, as a nation, we cannot refuse every free trade agreement. We need to weigh this in the balance. I gave the example of Panama and Colombia. The free trade agreements concluded with those countries are not good agreements. Those two countries do not respect environmental rights or the rights of workers. They use child labour and do not respect the right to form unions and other things like that.

In the case of Jordan, both for Quebec and for Canada, this free trade agreement could help both nations. We cannot be dogmatic about this, and we need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Rousseau NDP Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for his excellent speech. Could he tell me why it is important not to sign free trade agreements blindly? He said that the NDP did not endorse some agreements because they did not respect the environment and workers' rights. He said that we have to make sure that some sectors of our economy can benefit from them. He named the forestry and agriculture sectors, which are major economic sectors, as in my riding of Compton—Stanstead.

I would like to stress the importance of continuing to create jobs in Quebec. Over the past 30 years, Quebec has been greatly affected by free trade agreements, since the first free trade agreement between Canada and the United States in the mid-1980s. The manufacturing, forestry and agriculture sectors have been greatly affected by those agreements. That is why it is very important for us to discuss those agreements in depth.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member. I agree with him. Just now I said that we must not be dogmatic. I do not want to be mean to anyone, but we cannot afford to sign bad agreements, especially in Quebec, where most manufacturing companies export their products. The agriculture sector has major exports too, but obviously not in the supply management sector. There has to be a balance in a free trade agreement. That is where negotiators play a vital role. There are free trade agreements that we want and we have to accept, but there are some that we cannot have. It is on a case by case basis. These agreements are important for Quebec, a nation that is generally in favour of free trade. We are aware that people have lost out because of free trade agreements, but we have to look at each case on its merits.

I have to see what is good for the constituents in my riding, which is similar to that of the hon. member, and I will vote in the House based on that. In Quebec, we can benefit from free trade agreements when they are not with countries that are tax havens or that throw people in jail.

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1:05 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère NDP Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member from the Bloc Québécois questions us a lot about the fact that we always reject free trade agreements. All of the free trade agreements that have been presented to us were bilateral. It would be worth considering presenting us occasionally with multilateral trade agreements involving more than one country, where the fundamental rules relate first and foremost to human rights. That certainly changes the nature of the agreements. Does he not think it is essential for us to change our outlook completely and abandon bilateral agreements in favour of multilateral agreements? Then there might be more New Democrats who would support them.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, if the member listened carefully to my speech, that is exactly what I said. The Conservatives’ approach consists of signing nothing but bilateral trade agreements. So the Doha round and all the multilateral agreements under way at the WTO have been put on ice.

I have had the opportunity to visit Geneva myself on several occasions. I am the critic for a number of other subjects, but I was and am the Bloc Québécois critic for agriculture and agri-food. In that case, it was crucial for us to support multilateral agreements. It is to the benefit of the developing countries and to everyone’s benefit, except that is not this government’s approach.

That said, this government regularly presents us with bilateral free trade agreements. We have to look at them in light of what is presented to us, what they mean, both for our economy in Quebec and for the Canadian economy, and also for the countries signing this type of free trade agreement.

If I am told that we are going to sign a free trade agreement with a country like Colombia, but Colombia is going to ratify international agreements about environmental rights, workers’ rights and trade union rights and is going to make sure that children are not going out to work, then plainly that is a positive thing, and for Colombia as well. However, that is unfortunately not the case.

So yes, we support multilateral agreements, but that does not mean that we have to oppose all bilateral agreements. Some are good, both for Quebec and for Canada, and for the country the agreements are being signed with. The agreement we are talking about now, with Bill C-23, falls into that category.

Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity ActGovernment Orders

1:10 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the subject of free trade, particularly in the context of globalization. Now, after the creation of the World Trade Organization, we have a situation that is completely different from what it was before the creation of the WTO.

As always, the models for free trade are based on the NAFTA principles and not on the principles of other agreements that would, in my opinion, produce more benefits for the environment and for all societies.

There are specific issues relating to Jordan with this trade agreement. I would like to preface that with a review of how we came to where we are in terms of where Canada's interests lie as a society, not merely our trade in goods. All of these debates usually rest on the notion that if members have questions about new trade agreements, they are against trade with another nation. I remember a venerable senator who had been minister of agriculture for many years commented that trade is not new, what was Marco Polo doing. We certainly have had trade for a very long time. No one is against trade.

In the context of global trade, we have seen a remarkable transition. We used to live in a world of tariff barriers that allowed the Canadian economy to grow to be as strong as it is now. After the Second World War tariff barriers were targeted and we began to see them coming down. The efforts to say that one country must not discriminate against another began to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction to what we had seen before the Second World War.

These efforts led to the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In the first instance, the GATT was quite restrictive in terms of focusing on trade in goods, which is what most Canadians understand we mean when we talk about trade agreements: trade in goods, our ability to buy and sell, the ability of our neighbours to buy and sell to us. This trade in goods is something that has been handled by the GATT for a very long time.

Things changed substantially in the 1990s. It took nine years of negotiations, the Uruguay round, to bring forward an updated version of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and within that new agreement to do some things that had not been done before. It was the advent of looking beyond goods to look at trade in services, to look beyond those things that were completely commercial and make changes that had implications for culture, for society overall, for the environment and for labour. In other words, the approach of the trade world began to impinge on other aspects of society. They became not just trade agreements, but agreements that actually changed the very fundamental relationship between citizens and their government versus the relationship of corporations and those governments.

If there was a time when we had too many tariff barriers, if there was a time when we were too protectionist, that time is long past. We have now seen the pendulum swing so far that the so-called liberalization of trade is not just advancing the flow of goods but to advance the interests of a dogma of globalization, which allows more and more multinational corporations to dictate policies, to have a greater role and arguably a greater role than the citizens.

I will back up and look at the model to which I referred earlier, the NAFTA model. It has dictated a great deal since we entered into that agreement. Probably the most egregious part of the NAFTA model is the investor state provisions which allow a corporation based in a country that is part of the trade agreement, in the case of NAFTA corporations based in the U.S. or Mexico, to have the ability to sue the Canadian government if it passes a law that they do not like.

Chapter 11 of NAFTA, the investor state provisions, allows a foreign corporation from the U.S. or Mexico to sue the Canadian government at the federal level. It allows a foreign corporation to have rights which are superior to those of a domestic corporation. A domestic corporation does not have the right to sue our government. This provision actually gives preferential treatment to foreign corporations to sue Canada if there is a regulation passed by the House of Commons. In a democratic house of assembly we can pass a law which is untouchable by a Canadian corporation, but a foreign corporation can sue us for damages.

Not only under the investor-state provisions within NAFTA can a U.S. or Mexican corporation sue us, it can sue the federal level, a province and a municipal government. We have seen the examples under chapter 11 of NAFTA for quite some time. Laws passed by this House had to be repealed because of a chapter 11 challenge. I refer specifically to Ethyl Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, which sued the Canadian government for costs and damages when this House chose to restrict access to a manganese-based gasoline additive that the health community warned was neurotoxic and the environment community warned was a danger to the environment. The car manufacturers said that they did want it in their cars because it compromised the catalytic converters, hurt their warranties and they needed action on it.

Even when the factual basis for governmental action is not in question and there is no notion that the action taken was in any way motivated by trade discrimination, in other words, we were not trying to give preferential treatment to a Canadian industry or product, the agreement is sufficient. The lawyer who represented Ethyl Corporation at the time, Barry Appleton from Toronto, said, “it would not matter if one added liquid plutonium to children's breakfast cereal, if the government banned it and the people who made it said that they lost profit through that action, they could sue”.

I may have taken too long on that specific example but I wanted to make the point that trade agreements have gone too far. We are no longer talking about access to goods and services. We are talking about changing the fundamentals of the relationship. The primary relationship between a government should be to the citizens who elect the members of Parliament to serve in that government. There should be no superior rights of redress to a foreign corporation but we have seen that happen time and time again.

The most recent and egregious example was when the Prime Minister chose to pre-empt a complaint by a forest company against actions taken by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In that case, AbitibiBowater was the holder of what had been a 99 year lease that allowed it, at bargain basement prices, to have access to a large area of forest on the condition that it ran a pulp mill. Into the bargain, believe it or not, in this 99 year lease, had been thrown water rights and other ancillary benefits.

When the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador said that it would not let AbitibiBowater close its mill and sell off everything it had under the lease, which would include water rights and the forest itself, as Newfoundland and Labrador said that it did not have access to those, the foreign corporation sued. In that instance, the Prime Minister chose to castigate the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pay out tens of millions of dollars to AbitibiBowater and said that it did not want something like that to ever happen again.

These investor-state provisions are creeping into all of these so-called bilateral investment agreements, or BITs. The Prime Minister just returned from Beijing and was very thrilled to have a new proposed trade agreement with China that would include these very provisions that would allow a foreign government to sue us.

In this instance, we are looking at a proposed agreement with Jordan. There are many good and substantial reasons to improve relationships with Jordan. Jordan has a reputation and a long-standing role as one of the most stable and least xenophobic Arab states and is certainly the most supportive of the existence of the state of Israel compared to most of the nations in that region.

Jordan has many things to recommend it but democracy is not among them. It is a monarchy. However, the late King Hussein of Jordan was always seen as someone of enormous wisdom. I must say that I was always impressed by his sense of wisdom and by his wife, Queen Noor, who was a strong advocate for the environment.

I had the great honour of serving on the earth charter commission, which was co-chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong. I had the good fortune to get to know Princess Basma of Jordan, who was King Hussein's sister. As I approach this, I have a sense of Jordan's place in the world and a sense of, albeit small, personal connection.

However, when we look at the implications of this trade agreement with Jordan, I do not think we should rush into it without having much better and more substantial answers for a couple of key points. We have heard numerous commentators point out that the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement could create free licence to greater human smuggling, that there would be an increased flow of foreign workers into Jordanian factories and that this could undermine labour rights in Jordan.

When we enter into a negotiation such as this, I would suggest a couple of steps that we tend to miss. The first step would be how to build a stronger relationship with a country. We can fill in the blank for the country, although in this case it would be Jordan. Yesterday we were talking about Panama. How do we build good links? Canada, traditionally, has been able to build good links through a robust Department of Foreign Affairs. There were skilled and qualified diplomats working in these countries. There were people who spoke local languages, spent time getting to know the local NGO community and were able to provide a context with which we dealt with nations. The importance of our foreign affairs outreach in recent years has been quite diminished. We have closed embassies and consulates around the world, which means that our reach is reduced.

When we have a relationship with a country, whether it is Panama, Jordan or China, it is important that the relationship be built on many pillars. One is, of course, the diplomatic one to which I referred. Another is greater social interaction and cultural exchanges. The government has shut down all the programs that dealt with allowing Canadian artists to perform overseas, which was building stronger relationships through our culture.

We also need relationships to be built on, not on the model of the NAFTA but more like the model from the European Union. In that model, all nations within the EU, when they undertook to become part of that shared common market, had to accept the toughest levels of environmental and labour standards of any one of the member countries. This is a key principle that is completely lacking in NAFTA. Under NAFTA, there are no requirements to meet higher standards. The most we got out of the language of NAFTA was that it would be unacceptable for a country to lower its environmental standards in order to advance trade.

There is a very large difference between NAFTA saying that countries are not allowed to lower their environmental standards to attract more trade and the completely different approach of the EU, which is that countries must raise their standards. Generally speaking, Germany has the highest environmental standards and therefore other countries had to raise themselves up to equal the German standards. Some of those countries were poor and so there was a transfer of resources to help them do that.

If one were looking at models around the world to find ways to use the trade pillar to advance other issues, then one would never follow the NAFTA model. It would be the worst possible way to go. One would look at the best examples around the world and follow those. If we have relationships on the basis of trade, those relationships should include raising the bar and telling foreign corporations that they need to look at a code of conduct enshrined in law internationally in the same way that we protect intellectual property rights. We know how to design regimes, such as the TRIPS Agreement, which requires that all nations proactively pass legislation to protect intellectual property rights and give all countries the ability to search and seize goods crossing a border if they do not meet the qualifications for intellectual property rights. We know how to do these things.

What if we were to say, for instance, that no goods at a border are allowed to pass if they have involved child labour? We could say that we will not allow goods to cross a border if they involve the destruction of precious ecosystems. Instead, our trade mantra is that we do not interfere with PPMs, process and production methods. What is an intellectual property infringement other than a process and production method? It means the product was produced by stealing someone else's intellectual property. Why is it a greater offence under the trade regime to steal intellectual property than to exploit children, destroy forests or increase greenhouse gas emissions?

If we look at the global governance of trade, there is tremendous potential there for good. There is tremendous potential to harness the ability that has been used to protect intellectual property rights and use those kinds of agreements to protect labour standards, to protect children, to protect ecosystems and to advance a low carbon economy. All of these things could be done but they are not being done.

To ensure that Canadian corporations, U.S. corporations, Dutch, Chinese or whatever corporations participate in the GATT, we should have a global agreement on corporate behaviour stating that all corporations operating within this trade zone, which is basically every country except Cuba, need to meet minimum standards, such as proper labour standards and environmental standards. In that way, no corporation would be disadvantaged by having to take these standards on because all corporations would have a level playing field. It would be quite progressive coming from the lessons learned through the development of the GATT, the WTO, the TRIPS Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services and so on. We have not done that here.

We have before us an agreement that follows the traditional typical model. It would give investment rights. It has a few nice words. There would be more of an environmental assessment review. We have had a review of what the Canada-Jordan free trade negotiations would mean. There is some agreement to work together on environmental issues. However, we still have the looming problems of reduced labour standards within Jordan, the risk of human trafficking and the fact that we have skewed the relationship that we have with other nations to the effect that it appears that nothing matters other than trade.

I suppose the House can now sense that there is a theme to what I am saying. We are not against trade and we are not against new trade agreements but a balance must be achieved so that our relationship with other countries in the world is based on multilateralism and internationalism. It must always recognizes the priority of citizens in a country to make decisions and have them binding. It must not give superior rights to corporations over citizens. It must rebalance the importance of diplomacy, of exchange and of fair trade in goods. It must insist that the rules that govern our trade agreements constantly reinforce and elevate the nature of our relationships, not put us in a situation where the populace of various countries push back.

We will see come before the House before too long the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union. As I have been talking about EU trade agreements, how ironic is it that we are not seeing in the draft of that agreement a replication of the EU model but one that looks more like the NAFTA model with the benefits that will largely accrue to European pharmaceutical companies and so on? However, that agreement is not before us yet.

I do not oppose the bill going to committee where it can be improved. Our relationship with Jordan is important but it must be much richer, more complex and more nuanced than advancing agreements and relationships with Jordan through a trade agreement that fails to live up to its potential. We must revisit this. We must protect the rights of workers and protect the environment.

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NDP

François Choquette NDP Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my hon. colleague on her fine speech and her excellent comments.

I would like to mention once again that the NDP will be supporting this bill, so that it can be studied in committee. It must be reviewed in committee to ensure that it adheres to some very important principles.

Consider, for example, the famous chapter 11 of the North American Free Trade Agreement, NAFTA. I need not remind you that this chapter has been extremely harmful here in Canada, particularly as regards the environment.

In Canada, chapter 11 has given rise to lawsuits. Certain multinationals have sued the Canadian government to demand, for example, the right to use certain chemical products, contrary to our desire to protect the environment.

I would also like to know whether my hon. colleague thinks it important to ensure in committee, for example, that the environment will be protected and that we will not be facing a problem such as that caused by NAFTA’s chapter 11.

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Green

Elizabeth May Green Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my friend, the hon. member for Drummond, for his comments.

This is a question that is difficult to answer, because what we have here is a bilateral agreement which, like the other agreements, ignores the environment and workers’ rights. I think that, to improve the situation, this agreement should take an innovative approach, an approach where the governments of Canada and Jordan agree to set targets to make the situation more beneficial for workers and for the environment.

In other words, if we could put some targets in a trade agreement that said that not only would this be one where we would not want to see standards lowered, but this would be one where we would like to see standards advanced, and our agreement would be a model for the world.

It is hard to look at what we have now because it is one of those cookie-cutter agreements, like all the rest. We should take it apart and think about what would make it a model that other countries might want to emulate. For instance, with issue of human trafficking, we could have a system where the Kingdom of Jordan would recognize that its reputation as a progressive and forward looking power could be advanced by banning the use of workers who did not have minimum standards for the work they did in that country.

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

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Some hon. members

Question.

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The question is on the motion that this question be now put. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Some hon. members

Yea.