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House of Commons Hansard #143 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague from Alfred-Pellan for her question and the points she has made.

Our colleague from Burnaby—New Westminster moved amendments that would give workers the right to collective bargaining and would require the Minister of International Trade, Canada's main representative, to regularly consult with workers' representatives and unions. He also moved an amendment to define sustainable development as development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

I do not understand why there would not be support for such amendments. We are talking about social justice, the environment and long-term investments in people, our environment and our earth. Development must be sustainable in the long term for future generations.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Conservative Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Madam Speaker, I need to understand why the hon. member and the NDP believe in protectionism as an effective economic strategy for Canada. Why does she not see the value in Canada engaging with countries like Panama to negotiate free trade agreements, separate agreements on the environment and important labour standards and principles? Why would that not help bring countries like Panama into the community of nations and advance the important principles that we are so fortunate to adhere to here in Canada?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Mylène Freeman NDP Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Madam Speaker, one important point is that Panama is not a major trading partner of Canada. The two-way merchandise trade between the two countries only reached $149 million in 2008, which is less than 1%.

According to the U.S. department of justice, Panama is a major financial conduit for Mexican and Colombian drug traffickers' money laundering activities.

The NDP believes that NAFTA agreements were initially designed for trade between highly industrialized developed countries. However, Panama is a developing nation, as I mentioned in my speech. This trade deal will not help Panama grow sustainably or increase the standard of living for its citizens.

The amendments proposed by my colleague for Burnaby—New Westminster would have helped this agreement but, unfortunately, the other parties voted them down. Instead, this trade deal will increase the role and incentive for exploitation by multinational corporations and inequality will grow at a far greater pace and scale than was the case before because this is a developing nation.

That is why we are opposing this trade agreement. However, that does not mean that we oppose all trade. We want a fair trade agreement that is environmentally sustainable and fair for workers. That is what we want to see in these trade agreements and I do not think it is too much to ask.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Mississauga—Brampton South Ontario

Conservative

Eve Adams ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to speak about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. I would like to spend a few minutes explaining how this agreement fits into Canada's larger economic plan.

The government understands the importance of trade and the benefits it brings. As an export-driven economy, Canada must open its borders. One in five Canadian jobs is dependent on international trade. Thus, bilateral and regional trade agreements are key to ensuring Canadians' continued prosperity. That is why expanding Canada's trade relations to rapidly growing foreign markets, such as Panama, is an important part of our government's pro-trade plan to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity.

With the challenges in concluding the World Trade Organization Doha round, regional and bilateral trade agreements have taken on increased significance. The government also recognizes that there are a growing number of countries where Canadian companies are at a competitive disadvantage because their competitors have preferential market access under some form of preferential trade agreement.

Canada cannot afford to sit on the sidelines while other countries vigorously pursue trade deals to secure better market access for their products and services for their country. That is why our government is in the midst of the most ambitious pursuit of new and expanded trade and investment agreements in Canadian history.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is yet another step this government is taking to help Canadians compete and succeed in the global market. It supports the global commerce strategy which will ensure that Canada maintains its current economic strength and prosperity in an increasingly complex and competitive global economy.

With 60% of our GDP dependent on trade, it is completely clear that jobs and communities across Canada depend on the business we do with other countries. Our Conservative government's pro-trade plan is an essential contributor to Canada's prosperity, productivity and growth.

By improving access to foreign markets for Canadian businesses, we are supporting domestic economic growth and creating new opportunities for Canadian workers. Canada's exporters, investors and service providers are calling for these opportunities. Business owners and entrepreneurs want access to global markets.

This government is committed to expanding the various opportunities created by free trade agreements. Our track record speaks for itself.

Since 2006, Canada has established new free trade agreements with nine countries: Colombia; Jordan; Peru; the European Free Trade Association countries of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland; and more recently Honduras and Panama.

We are also negotiating with many other countries, including the European Union. A free trade agreement with the European Union would be the most significant Canadian trade initiative since the North American Free Trade Agreement and could increase trade with this important partner by 20%. Such an agreement would also give a $12 billion boost to the Canadian economy, which is equivalent to a $1,000 increase in the average national family income or the creation of 80,000 new jobs in Canada.

Canadian businesses recognize the many benefits a trade agreement between Canada and the European Union would have for workers and businesses.

We are also intensifying our focus on Asia. During the Prime Minister's visit to China in February 2012, leaders announced that Canada and China will proceed to exploratory discussions on deepening trade and economic relations on the completion of a bilateral economic study.

Also, this past March, the Prime Minister announced the launch of negotiations toward a free trade agreement with Japan and the start of exploratory discussions with Thailand.

Canada also continues to explore the possibility of participating in the trans-Pacific partnership, the TPP negotiations.

The potential benefits of these initiatives are enormous. However, that is not all. Canada is also committed to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners, including India, Ukraine, Morocco, the Caribbean community and Korea. In addition, Canada is working to modernize its existing bilateral free trade agreements with Chile, Costa Rica and Israel, as encouraged in the exploratory discussions with Mercosur, the largest trading bloc in Latin America, made up of Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay.

All of these initiatives are critical for the economic future of our country. With the global economic recovery remaining fragile, it is important that Canada continue to deepen its trade and investment ties with strategic partners. Expanding Canada's trade and investment ties around the world will help protect and create new jobs and prosperity for our hard-working neighbours and for all Canadians.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is be yet another step in the right direction. This agreement represents an opportunity for Canadian businesses to grow and expand their operations in the growing and dynamic Panamanian economy.

The agreement would also reduce tariffs for Canadian producers who want to export to Panama. Upon implementation of the free trade agreement, Panama will immediately lift tariffs on 89% of all non-agricultural imports from Canada, with the remaining tariffs to be phased out in five to fifteen years. Tariffs will also be lifted on 89% of Canada's agricultural exports to Panama. This reduction in trade barriers will benefit a wide range of sectors across the Canadian economy, including fish and seafood products, paper products, vehicles and parts in the greater Toronto area, construction materials and equipment, industrial and electrical machinery and many more. This agreement will provide Canadian service providers with a secure, predictable, transparent and rules-based environment, which will facilitate access to Panama's $20 billion services market.

Panama is an established destination for Canadian direct investment abroad, particularly in the banking and financial services and construction and mining sectors. This proposed agreement will provide greater stability, transparency and protection for Canadian investments in Panama.

The free trade agreement will also better enable Canadian companies to participate in large projects, such as the $5.3 billion expansion of the Panama Canal, by providing non-discriminatory access to a broad range of government procurement opportunities in Panama to Canadian suppliers. This is an enormous opportunity for Canadian companies to compete.

For all these reasons, the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama is a good thing. It will support more Canadian jobs by improving our ability to export more products and services to this market. That is why implementing free trade agreements is a priority for our government.

I ask all hon. members to support Bill C-24, which aims to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama, as well as the side agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre NDP Alfred-Pellan, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member opposite for her speech, and especially for how well she addressed the House in French. It was most pleasant to listen to.

I have a fairly simple question for my colleague about Bill C-24. We know that a tax information exchange agreement has not been signed with Panama. The only thing that has been signed is a double taxation treaty. However, that is not necessarily enough because it concerns only legitimate revenues. So any revenues or means that are considered illegal are not included. Illegal revenues could be included in a tax information exchange agreement.

I would like to know why we have not signed this tax information exchange agreement, since Panama has already signed them with major partners, including the United States.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague from the other side for her very kind words. In fact, as we enter into free trade negotiations with a number of countries, we are looking at providing greater stability and transparency for our companies. The ability to go out and trade freely and to compete on the global stage is something for which all Canadians are clamouring.

We will continue to negotiate with countries to ensure they have the most reliable regulatory framework possible. It is our intention to ensure that the rule of law prevails. That is exactly why countries engage in free trade negotiations, so their companies can compete and have some confidence that if they need to avail themselves of legal recourse, the laws will apply to them as foreign nationals.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

June 19th, 2012 / 11:55 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims NDP Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, the Canada-Panama agreement is a bilateral agreement between two countries. When we look at the resources and trading power that Canada has compared to Panama at this stage, does she not feel that is an unbalanced relationship, that it actually opens the door for transnational corporations to exploit the people of Panama and does not lead to sustainable development, which is what Panama needs?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

In fact, Madam Speaker, what we have found historically is that when countries engage in free trade and residents prosper, people do better. They want opportunities and would like to compete. As I mentioned during my comments, a massive $5 billion construction project is about to get under way in Panama. We would like to provide our Canadian companies the opportunity to go there to compete and ensure that they are not at some sort of disadvantage because other countries have negotiated preferential agreements.

Panama is also a very critical hub to Central America and will allow an important foothold for our companies to go there, establish their beachheads and compete and create wealth for Canadians and foreign nationals.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Independent Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Madam Speaker, my question for the hon. member is this. Is she aware that the United States has resisted, based on advice in a 2009 report from its state department, signing any free trade agreements with Panama because of the serious problems in money laundering, banking, civil rights abuses, et cetera? If she is aware of that, why would Canada go where the U.S. fears to tread?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, I want to reassure the House that in fact Canada wants to send a very strong signal to ensure that the rule of law will always prevail. Panama has committed to implementing the OECD's regulations on the exchange of tax information. I would like to reassure the hon. member that we are actively considering this matter.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, in my riding of Simcoe—Grey many of the local businesses are very pleased with new free trade agreement. What type of impact is that having on the local businesses in my colleague's area.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Eve Adams Conservative Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Madam Speaker, whether it is folks involved in the manufacturing of electronics, or auto parts or in the services industry, many of my neighbours and residents are chomping at the bit to compete on the world stage. They have great products and expertise and they do awfully well when they compete on the world stage. It means additional wealth for my neighbours.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

Noon

Simcoe—Grey Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

I think all hon. members will agree that this agreement opens up a wide range of exciting new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses as well as investors.

In these difficult economic times, Canadians depend on governments to work together to pursue new opportunities in markets around the world. Opening new markets and promoting trade is a key part of this government's plan to create new jobs and improve the well-being of Canadians over the long term.

This government is committed to broadening Canada's trade relationships with regional partners like Panama. We will continue to fight to open markets for Canadian businesses to ensure they are well placed to compete in these difficult economic times.

The Canada-Panama free trade agreement is about more than just trade and investment. This government is committed to protecting the environment. Indeed, the government believes that trade liberalization and environmental protection can be mutually supportive goals. That is why, as part of the comprehensive free trade agreement, Canada and Panama are committed to strive for good environmental governance in order to protect the environment, while reaping the benefits of increased economic activity flowing from liberalized trade.

In addition, when Canada and Panama signed this free trade agreement, we also signed a parallel environmental agreement. The parallel environmental agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.

Recognizing the importance of environmental conservation and protection, as well as the promotion of sustainable development, the environmental agreement will require Canada and Panama to enforce their domestic environmental laws effectively and to ensure that they do not relax or weaken those laws to encourage trade or investment.

The agreement also includes important commitments to encourage voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises and to ensure that appropriate environmental assessment procedures are maintained in each country. In addition, the agreement reaffirms both countries' commitment under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to strengthen the protection of biological diversity and respect, preserve and maintain traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities.

Furthermore, the agreement contains commitments to promote public participation and transparency. It includes the mechanism for residents of Canada and Panama to ask questions of either party about the obligations or co-operation under the agreement.

In addition to these commitments and obligations I have mentioned, the agreement also establishes a framework between Canada and Panama for undertaking co-operative activities. Most specifically, Canada and Panama have agreed to work together to develop a co-operative work program to support the environmental objectives and obligations of the agreement, address environmental issues of mutual concern and enhance overall environmental management capacity.

Themes for co-operation would include topics ranging from conservation of biodiversity and migratory species to parks and protected areas management to cleaner production technologies and best practices for sustainable development.

In order to oversee the implementation of the agreement, it provides for a committee on the environment to be established. This committee would be made up of government representatives from Canada and Panama.

Finally, the agreement contains mechanisms to manage differences that may arise under the agreement. We recognize that in some cases non-compliance with the environmental agreement may be more a question of limited environmental capacity than a lack of commitment to the obligations. Therefore, our approach focuses on collaboration in order to seek constructive solutions and build an environmental management capacity rather than impose additional burdens.

Beyond the environmental agreement itself, the Canada-Panama free trade agreement includes a principles-based environmental chapter as well as environmental-related provisions in other parts of the FTA, highlighting the importance of environmental protection and conservation and the promotion of sustainable development.

For example, in the exceptions chapter of the agreement, Canada negotiated important environmental-related provisions stipulating that Canada and Panama could take environmental measures that were necessary to protect human, animal or plant life or health, provided that they were not applied in a discriminatory manner or represented a disguised restriction on international trade or investment.

In addition, Canada negotiated provisions that allow certain multilateral environmental agreements with trade-related provisions to prevail over the free trade agreement in the event of an inconsistency. As we can see, the parallel environmental agreement and the environmental-related provisions in the Canada-Panama free trade agreement are an important part of this initiative that would ensure increased trade does not come at the expense of the environment.

Through these agreements, Canada and Panama have demonstrated our commitment to protecting the environment. The agreement is yet another clear example of the government's approach to mutually supporting trade liberalization and environmental protection.

As the government continues to open doors for Canadian businesses abroad, we want to ensure that our presence is positive and that our activities are sustainable. We believe that free trade can play a positive role around the world. The environmental agreement with Panama is an example of just this. The Canada-Panama free trade agreement, complemented by its parallel environmental agreement, would create new commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses while ensuring the protection of our planet for future generations.

For these reasons, I ask all members of the House to support the Canada-Panama free trade agreement.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting that the bulk of the member's speech focused on the environment. The agreement says that neither party will do any damage to their domestic environmental laws. Could the member comment on what she feels Bill C-38 would mean in terms of Canada's environmental laws in the context of this free trade agreement? Does she see that many of us feel that Bill C-38 actually reduces Canada's environmental protection and what does she think it means in this context?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, quite simply, Bill C-38 enhances environmental protection and creates an opportunity for sustainable environmental development.

I would just like to stay focused on what we are contemplating today. From the standpoint of provisions with respect to the environment and the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, as I mentioned in my speech, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue a very high level of environmental protection, to improve and enforce environmental laws effectively and maintain appropriate environmental assessments. We are making sure that we have sustainable development while still having protected environmental programs in place, whether through this trade agreement or others that we will do in the future.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Conservative Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, we worked on this issue with Panama in previous Parliaments, as was mentioned by others. Why is it important for Canada to be moving forward with free trade agreements around the world, including this one with Panama? What will that do for the Canadian economy, and why is it important at this time, based on the world economic situation?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Burlington has done such great work in the House.

The bilateral agreements between Canada and Panama have totalled, just in 2011 alone, over $235 million. The member asked what the benefits are. My riding of Simcoe—Grey is here in the province of Ontario and the benefits are substantive, whether that be the elimination of tariffs on key exports in this province, focused mainly on construction machinery, electronics, chemicals, or pharmaceuticals like Baxter, in Alliston, or making sure that they have the opportunity to expand their markets, thereby expanding what they are exporting, and create jobs. That is what this is all about. It is about creating jobs in the long run for Canadians so they can have a better quality of life.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to drill down a bit more on this agreement. Last night on CBC we saw a documentary on mining in Panama and the effects that it is having on the population and the environment, killing fish and lakes. Could the member tell me exactly where the binding framework is for Panama and Canada when it comes to the environment under this agreement?

We can have a side agreement, but if we do not have a binding framework agreement where citizens can come forward and raise concerns, like we do in NAFTA, it is only worth the paper it is written on, which is not a lot.

Can the member point out what section of this agreement would allow for a binding framework agreement when it comes to the environment?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Conservative Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned in my speech, there is a separate agreement on the environment that would commit both countries to pursue a high level of environmental protection. The agreement on the environment includes provisions for encouraging the use of best practices in corporate social responsibility, and a commitment to promote public awareness so that members of the public may step forward and express their concerns with respect to environmental laws.

The agreement reaffirms the country's international commitments under the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity to promote conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity, as well as to respect, preserve and maintain the traditional knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous peoples.

We are moving forward substantially on this. As I mentioned before, we want to be focused on sustainable development while we are still focused on environmental protection. That is exactly what this free trade agreement is doing.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am no longer a member of international trade committee, but I enjoyed my time there immensely. Over a year ago, prior to the previous election, we were working on this same agreement then. Checking with one of the people in the lobby, we worked out that there were over 50 hours of debate on this minor treaty alone. To those who are wondering about whether the House sufficiently debates issues, the answer most clearly is yes. I do not blame the people of Panama or the government for being a bit frustrated with Canada that we have yet to implement this treaty.

I am pleased to rise today to talk about Bill C-24 and the Canada-Panama free trade agreement. This agreement would provide benefits to Canadians in numerous sectors, and hopefully I will have time to get through most of them. In particular, I wish to speak about the services sector.

As many hon. members I am sure are aware, the Panamanian economy is built on the service sector. Panama is not known as a manufacturing hub. It is perhaps best known for its canal and for the strategic position it provides to the world in the transportation of goods.

Panama offers opportunities for Canadian service providers in a broad range of commercial services, financial services and temporary entry for business persons. This free trade agreement would expand opportunities in these key areas and others.

In 2009, which according to my notes is the latest possible data, Canadian commercial services exports to Panama amounted to $48 million. During the negotiations with Panama, our government's approach was to develop substantive provisions to govern cross-border trade in services as well as to provide a level of market access similar to that afforded under NAFTA. Canada sought similar treatment as afforded to the U.S. under its free trade agreement with Panama. This is important because we are going to be competing with American businesses as we try to sell to Panama.

When it comes to free trade, a lot of the benefits are derived from buying and importing from countries so that we acquire lower-cost goods, but we are also interested in selling to Panama and obtaining the same treatment so that we are on level ground with the United States, one of our major competitors. This is yet another example of how our government is committed to achieving a level playing field for Canadian businesses around the world.

Free trade is a cornerstone of our economic success as a nation. Our ambitious pro-trade plan is helping to open doors for our businesses around the world, including in Panama.

The free trade agreement contains strong provisions to provide access on a competitive basis. The agreement provides market access beyond Panama's obligations under the WTO and GATT, particularly in areas of Canadian expertise and export interests, which include mining and energy-related services, professional services, which involve engineering and architectural services, environmental services, distribution and information technology.

The services and services-related provisions of the agreement would benefit Canadian exporters, particularly small to medium-sized enterprises, through the implementation of principles and conditions of regulatory stability as well as fair and equitable treatment. Regulatory stability is important not just as has been demonstrated in our current budget, but in our agreements around the world.

Canadian services exporters would also benefit from provisions designed to increase transparency of regulations, including increased transparency on access for temporary entry for a broad range of service providers.

The agreement also provides a framework for the negotiation of mutual recognition agreements respecting professional licensing and qualification requirements and procedures.

Consistent with past practice, Canada has taken reservations in this free trade agreement to maintain full policy flexibility in areas of domestic sensitivity, including social services, health and public education. There is no concern or fear-mongering necessary in those areas.

Another area of service that is of particular interest in dealing with Panama is financial services. In this area the agreement establishes NAFTA equivalent access for all financial services in respect of right of establishment, full national and most favoured nation treatment, certain cross-border commitments and various other carve-outs.

In terms of provincial government measures, the openness of the provincial financial sector framework was bound at existing levels. As members probably know, Canadian firms are among the top financial providers in the world, and we are proud of their success.

This free trade agreement would enable them to succeed in the dynamic and growing Panamanian market. In terms of sector-specific market access commitments, the levels of access Panama offered to Canada achieved parity with what was offered to the U.S. through the trade promotion agreement.

The portfolio management commitment, however, would only take effect at the time the U.S. trade promotion agreement comes into force. Importantly, Canada has achieved the same treatment as the U.S. in respect of ownership of insurance brokerages, pension fund management and securities dealers' requirements.

Canadian financial institutions expressed significant interest in expanding relations with Panama through a free trade agreement. If members have ever been to Latin America, they will have seen that Scotiabank very much plants the Canadian flag all over the continent of South America and Latin America. Scotiabank, for example, currently operates 12 branches in Panama City that offer a wide variety of banking services. These include corporate and commercial lending facilities, project and trade financing, cash management services and personal retail banking services.

These institutions supported a free trade agreement to better position Canadian business vis-à-vis competitors in this market, particularly those that already benefit from preferential trading agreements with Panama, and to institutionalize investments and dispute settlement protection for existing investments.

I will wrap up with just a few brief words about the temporary entry for business purposes, again, something that helps to expand the delivery of services to Panama and increases our service sector in Canada with its export.

The service provisions of this trade agreement address the important question of temporary entry for business people. The temporary entry chapter takes important steps to address barriers that business persons might face at the border, such as limits on the categories or numbers of workers who can enter the country to work or provide services.

Temporary entry provisions are important because they facilitate entry for covered business persons by eliminating the need to obtain a work permit for business visitors and by eliminating the need to obtain a labour market test and/or economic test for other categories. They also would exempt certain occupations from numerical restrictions, such as domestic/foreign proportionality requirements and quotas with respect to the hiring of foreign nationals at a single enterprise.

This free trade agreement would ensure the secure, predictable and equitable treatment of service providers from both Panama and Canada. It would give Canadian companies enhanced access to the Panamanian market, which offers numerous opportunities including the ongoing multi-billion dollar expansion of the Panama Canal. This is a free trade agreement that would benefit service providers and all Canadians.

Let me also add that one of the things we must always recognize with all free trade agreements is that all parties can benefit. Trade is not a zero-sum game; it is something that expands the possibilities for both consumers and exporters on both sides of the equation. This has been recognized by economists for hundreds of years. In fact there are many people who will look at trade as one of the best ways to alleviate poverty in countries that have not achieved the economic success of Canada, including in areas of income inequality, an area about which I am sure opposition members will be most interested in asking questions.

I encourage all hon. members to vote for this agreement, an agreement that would bring Canada and Panama closer together and increase the wealth of all Canadians.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned earlier that there was quite an interesting documentary on CBC last night, The New Conquistadors. It was focused on Panama, specifically mining in Panama. It talked about the toxic tailings ponds that are killing fish in lakes and water and the fact that indigenous people are being pushed off the land. Canadian mining companies are the ones that are involved here. We have indigenous people protesting in front of Canadian embassies. As a result, sadly, of the protest two people have been killed recently.

I say that because one of the issues around this trade deal is: Where is the binding framework agreement when it comes to environmental standards? I asked the member's colleague earlier if he could point out where it is in this agreement. He basically said that it was a side agreement and would promote the ideas of sustainability, et cetera, but there is no binding framework agreement that is actually going to be solid, like we have in NAFTA.

If I am missing something here, maybe the member could enlighten me. If not, why do we not have a solid binding framework agreement that is going to be something we could actually show people, to demonstrate we are being responsible when it comes to the environment?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question, but there is a presupposition there that I do not necessarily buy into, which is that the democratic government of the country of Panama cannot protect its own citizens.

I did not see the documentary last night, but I am aware of documentaries that have said similar things about Canadian mining projects in Canada. Possibly sometimes those are true. Does that mean Canada has had poor environmental practices? Does that mean that the Panamanian democratically elected representatives cannot implement their own environmental laws?

We should not stereotype countries that are less economically developed than Canada that they do not have their own democratic institutions to defend and decide their own responses to environmental, labour and other issues. That there are protesters and discussion about it means there is a good democratic and robust discussion in Panama that the Panamanian people will resolve.

It is positive that we have an environmental agreement, but do we absolutely need a binding agreement with them? Not necessarily.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question relates to concerns expressed in this and previous Parliaments with respect to Panama being a locale for money laundering and a tax haven.

My concern specifically relates to the protracted negotiations that went over some eight years before the United States was finally able to sign a tax information exchange agreement with Panama. Even within that tax information exchange agreement, the level of disclosure was not ideal. It was certainly less than ideal. In other words, the Panamanians were quite reluctant to provide the level of disclosure the Americans wanted. What concerns me is that after all that, Canada does not yet have a tax information exchange agreement with Panama, and here we are passing legislation with respect to free trade.

Does my colleague opposite share my concern with respect to a tax information exchange and entering into a closer business relationship with a country where these concerns with respect to money laundering and a tax haven have been expressed?

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Bradley Trost Conservative Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question and I am glad to note that he did not make the mistake that some other members have made in this House when they referred to old data that Panama was on the OECD's watch list. In fact, Panama has made enough agreements with enough countries that it has been pulled off the black list or grey list, and now that situation has changed.

With respect to dealing with the United States, I would remind the hon. member, and I am not familiar with all the details, that Canada right now is having a little problem with the overreaching elements of the American Internal Revenue Service with its demand for financial institution on Canadians and Canadian institutions that have dealings with Americans or are American born. We all have constituents who were born slightly south of the line who are now being hassled or have the fear of being hassled. Therefore, I would not necessarily share that concern, because the United States can be extraordinarily aggressive in reaching out to the world.

The final point I would make to the hon. member is the fact that Canadian financial institutions, which are deeply tied into Canada on an economic basis, are going to be expanding there, and I mentioned Scotiabank in my speech. I think they would provide some reassurance that the standard business practices in Panama going forward would be increasingly aligned with countries like Canada. Scotiabank has a vested interest there to make sure their reputation is spotless in actions, words and deeds.

CANADA-PANAMA ECONOMIC GROWTH AND PROSPERITY ACTGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Sean Casey Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-24. The Liberal Party has long been in support of opening new markets on the basis of fair trade. We will be supporting this particular legislation. We do have some concerns, given the obvious bipartisan support, that this is yet another instance where time allocation has been imposed, but nonetheless, the Liberal Party stands in support of the content of the legislation.

One of the key concerns with respect to our trading relationship with Panama, and this has been evident with respect to the government's free trade agenda, is about the domestic practices within some of the countries where we are seeking to have new trade arrangements. An additional point to be kept in mind, and one the government would do well to carefully consider, was raised by Jim Stanford of the Canadian Auto Workers, who appeared recently at the international trade committee.

Part of his presentation outlined the following, with respect to the lack of apparent benefits derived from free trade agreements. Mr. Stanford, before the committee, reviewed the five longest-standing trade agreements. He said:

...with the United States, Mexico, Israel, Chile and Costa Rica. Canada's exports to them grew more slowly than our exports to non-free-trade partners, while our imports surged much faster than with the rest of the world.

Mr. Stanford went on to say:

If the policy goal (sensibly) is to boot exports and strengthen the trade balance, then signing free-trade deals is exactly the wrong thing to do.

Looking back on some of the previous free trade agreements, with Colombia there were outstanding issues with respect to labour and human rights, and the same concern applied in Jordan. With respect to Panama, one of the outstanding concerns, as I raised in my question just a few moments ago, is the issue of tax havens and issues related to money laundering.

Just to put this in context, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade , in response to issues on the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and violations of human and labour rights and Canada's response, told the House

...what...members fail to realize is the entire issue of extraterritoriality. There are certain things we can do when negotiating with another country and certain things we cannot do because they are beyond our sphere of influence.

The question that must be raised, of course, is: What mechanisms within any agreement should be in place with countries where issues of concern are found to exist and persist?

For example, with respect to the Panamanian situation, when federal government officials were testifying before the international trade committee last fall, they could not address adequately the matters of money laundering and the tax haven issues related to Panama.

Again, as I indicated earlier in my question to the hon. member for Saskatoon—Humboldt, in December 2010, Panama signed a tax information exchange agreement with the United States. In testimony before the United States' House ways and means subcommittee back in March of last year, Public Citizen's Global Trade Watch research director raised concerns with respect to the money laundering issue in the wake of the agreement signed between the U.S. and Panama. He said:

Panama promised for eight years to sign a Tax Information Exchange Agreement (TIEA). Yet when it finally signed a TIEA with the Obama administration in November of 2010, the agreement did not require Panama to automatically exchange information with U.S. authorities about tax dodgers, money launderers and drug traffickers.

In the previous Parliament, concerns were raised with respect to Panama as a tax haven in which instances of both tax evasion and money laundering were found. Concerns were raised as to whether a free trade agreement should be proceeded with, without a clear tax information exchange between Canada and Panama in place.

There is as yet no tax treaty or tax information exchange agreement between Panama and Canada.

The history, as we understand it, is this: Panama asked that we enter into a double taxation treaty, which is more comprehensive than a tax information exchange agreement; Canada refused and asked for a more limited, less all-encompassing agreement; Panama, which at the time had only entered into double taxation treaties, insisted on a double taxation treaty; Canada has not yet responded to this second request.

All double taxation treaties include information exchange obligations between signatory countries. That is because of the model convention of the OECD. As of November 2010, Canada was party to double taxation agreements with 87 countries, with eight more signed but not yet in effect. As of November 2010, Canada had signed nine tax information exchange agreements, the less robust agreements, and they were yet to come into effect.

In testimony this past fall before the international trade committee, reference was made to the correspondence between Canada and Panama, in which the latter was asked whether Panama had responded to the concerns expressed by Canada on the tax haven issue. According to Department of Foreign Affairs officials, no such response had been received.

This past December, during debate on Bill C-24, the parliamentary secretary went to considerable lengths to express his confidence in the commitment by Panama to improve its exchange of tax information and went to great lengths to reference the OECD statement acknowledging the progress of Panama in that regard. However, the issue of tax havens and money laundering is and should be of concern to the government.

It is unfortunate that the parliamentary secretary apparently did not read the statement issued last July by the OECD, which states that the OECD's Global Forum:

...must still evaluate whether Panama's domestic laws will allow for effective availability, access to and exchange of information.... The government has introduced domestic changes so that the agreements can be effective. The Global Forum will follow up to make sure they work as intended. It is important that Panama continues to work to fully implement the standards.

Article 6 of the agreement between the United States and Panama on the issue of tax co-operation and information, entitled “Possibility of declining a request”, states that the “The competent authority of the requested Party may decline to assist”.

To conclude, the Liberal Party will be supporting this agreement. We feel, in the circumstances, that the discussions and negotiations between the two countries with respect to the exchange of tax information should be at a more advanced stage before we as parliamentarians consider this legislation and we raise that as a concern, but it will not be a significant enough concern to prevent us from supporting the agreement.

We would encourage the government to proceed as rapidly as possible to ensure that the issues with respect to tax havens and money laundering with our trade partners in Panama are properly and adequately addressed.