Mr. Speaker, when I stand in the House on another so-called free trade treaty with a small developing country, the sense of déjà vu is interesting, the sense of repeating our history and repeating the gross errors we have made so many times in the past with these types of trade agreements. Those errors are not just errors that compound the economic problems this country has; they compound the problems in the country with which we are making these so-called free trade deals.
I think of when I spoke against the NAFTA agreement, in particular when I pointed out that in the first year after NAFTA came into effect in Mexico, the average wage went down by 20%. The cost of corn to the producers was reduced by almost 50%, the value of their corn product. Farmers were forced off the land and into the ghettos and barrios of a number of the major cities in Mexico. That is the kind of impact these deals have.
There are some good parts to these deals, if one is wealthy in the existing country, if one is a multinational corporation in the existing country, or if one is an authoritarian government that wants to maintain control of its population. Each one of those sectors of those countries benefits from these deals.
However, the average citizens do not. In a lot of cases, their conditions actually deteriorate. We can see that, consistently. I think there is a seminar being put on one day this week by a number of countries that are neighbours to Panama on the conditions that are going on there with regard to child labour, violence against women, violence against the aboriginal populations and the list goes on. There are great human rights abuses that a trade deal will do absolutely nothing to better. In fact, as I said earlier, in many cases it will actually make them worse.
I want to address one particular problem with this agreement, as I have very little time in 10 minutes to get all the points out. Panama is a major tax haven. In spite of attempts by the international community, in spite of demands from Canada, it has done very little at a legal level to correct the money laundering that occurs in huge numbers of dollars in that country.
There are 400,000 corporations registered in Panama, a country many times smaller than us. We do not have anywhere near that many corporations registered in Canada. We have about a quarter of that many, if that. They are there for one purpose only, and that is to launder money in the vast majority of cases. Very few of them are legitimate operations.
There is a huge number of dollars coming in from the Colombian drug trade. There is a huge number of dollars coming in from the Mexican drug trade. It is being laundered and being passed back so that it can be used legally in other countries.
We are signing on to that operation. Our banks and our financial institutions are going to be able to take part in that. They are going to be used by the operations down there to move that illicit money back into Canada and into the international markets through our banking system.
When we demanded of Panama that it begin to clean up, it paid lip service to it, but at the practical level it is growing. Money laundering is in fact growing in Panama and has been for at least the last decade.
We sit here and we hear the Conservative government and its Liberal affiliates supporting this deal.
For this reason alone, the Minister of Foreign Affairs wants to support it. He knows better than most members sitting on that side of the room just how bad the situation is in Panama, but he will pay lip service to its ideology and support this deal. It will continue on down there, and in fact the money laundering process will grow. We will be aiding and abetting it by signing this deal.
Not one member in the House should stand and vote for it when the vote comes, as eventually it will at third reading. Members should vote against it. We should do it right now when it finally gets to a vote at second reading.
The billions of dollars that flow through that country is not just drug money. It is organized crime members using the money that they take from human trafficking and all of their other abuses, such as the gun trade, and it just goes on and on. That is what we are signing onto with that country.
Panama could clean it up. We as a country should tell it that we will not deal with it, that we not will we enter into a trade agreement with it until it does that. However, that is not what we are saying. We are looking the other way.
There are three lists of countries that the international community creates: the white, grey and black lists. Nobody is that bad to be on the black list, which makes us wonder how valid it is. The white list is made up of countries like Canada that have meaningful controls over their financial institutions and that combat money laundering and tax havens on a systematic and reasonably effective basis.
Panama is on the grey list and has been for a long time. I do not know why it is not on the black list. However, there is nobody on the black list, so I guess that explains that. A country gets onto the grey list when it makes noises about doing something like cleaning up its financial institutions, banking systems and its economic structure that allows for the tax havens and the money laundering.
Like the other countries that are on that list, once they get on it they stay on it indefinitely. Hardly anybody ever comes off of it and goes onto the white list. Nobody goes onto the white list. They just do not do anything except talk about it. We have done this at the international financial level, but it is meaningless. I would suggest there is no reason to believe that Panama will ever come off the grey list when we have countries like Canada with its current government, along with its Liberal affiliates, that will support that process by entering into these deals.
The other reason we should not enter into this trade deal is that in spite of the provisions in the agreement dealing with labour standards, practically that will not occur. Panama does not have the governmental infrastructure to enforce human rights and environmental and labour standards.
When asked what kind of a deal we would support, it is one wherein we would say to those countries that we want trade, but we will not do it if it is to the exclusive advantage of multinational corporations and the very wealthy in those countries. If it benefits Canada as well as their people, then we are interested and we will negotiate. However, until such time as we enter into those kinds of agreements, this party will continue to oppose them.