Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at this stage of Bill C-23, which is the Canada-Jordan trade agreement.
A great deal has occurred since the trade agreement was initially agreed to in August 2008, four years ago. When the agreement was officially announced in June 2009, the Arab Spring had yet to occur. The instability that has overtaken the region in the past year has been nothing short of transformative. In this climate, the FTA with Jordan is about to unfold.
We are supportive of the bill in principle, as we have been supportive of previous trade agreements. However, we remind the government, which boasts about its trade agreement accomplishments, that this agreement with Jordan is now more than four years old and still has not really been completed. That point was raised by witnesses before the international trade committee.
It is easy to announce new so-called agreements, but it would be nice to finalize them. That seems to be a long time coming. There is a lot of talk by the government on all the trade agreements it has on the go, but we have yet to see much in terms of results. Closing deals is something that the government just cannot seem to achieve.
I would note that the CETA agreement is not near completion, although the minister said earlier in the year that it would be completed before spring. Now the minister is saying that it is going to be a considerably longer period of time.
On the trans-Pacific partnership that the government is talking about getting into, the problem is that the price of admission is the selling out of our supply management system. The members of the TPP know it and the government knows it.
I will give the government some credit, in that it has said it will not put it at issue on the table as the price of getting into negotiations. However, we are concerned about what we are hearing from TPP partners. We know of Canada's great interest in getting in and we know that one of the conditions raised by the United States and New Zealand is in fact at the price of our supply management system.
This morning I had the opportunity to tour, with a couple of members of the NDP and a member of the Conservative government, some supply management operations an hour outside of Ottawa. The success of those operations is phenomenal in terms of their ability to provide consumers with a high-quality product at reasonable prices.
Driving through that community, we see quite a number of supply management operations. hose numbers tell us of the health of that industry, not only in terms of the operations themselves but also in terms of the communities and their development. People in the community are bringing sons and daughters into the operations.
Supply management is a very successful program, and we need to ensure, no matter what the trade agreement, that our supply management system remains intact and successful in this country. I would suggest it is a model of rural development that we should be promoting to the rest of the world, rather than giving the multinational corporate sector the advantages it wants through the demise of supply management.
However, I believe it is just a matter of time before the government finds a way to transition our supply-managed system to a more open market system. In fact, we have seen the Prime Minister's statement when he signed the deal with the Conservative Party and the Alliance party. The Prime Minister himself said that he would like to see supply management basically be given some time to transfer to the open market system.
Those are the words of the Prime Minister before he was prime minister. We just simply, from this end, do not trust the government on maintaining its support for supply management when it comes down to the hard fight.
During the course of committee testimony, Jim Stanford of the Canadian Auto Workers presented the committee with facts that should be of concern to all Canadians concerned about economic growth and the real impact of trade agreements that the government is pursuing. The facts speak for themselves. We have, as a country, lost more ground than we gained through the free trade agreements that we have signed and we have actually performed better with countries that we do not have any such arrangements with. That is a concern.
According to Mr. Stanford:
I've reviewed our five longest-standing trade pacts: 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 boost exports and strengthen the trade balance, then signing free-trade deals is exactly the wrong thing to do.
Mr. Stanford himself said that he supports trade arrangements. He respects the importance of trade. However, I think that statement spells out something that we do not have in this country that the Liberals believe we should have—that is, an industrial strategy, in terms of value added, that has to happen domestically and internally within the country to reap more of the benefits back to Canadians and the Canadian labour force from these trade agreements. I think that is what we are missing. That is something that I think the country has to work on.
Allow me to focus on the Canada-Jordan agreement itself.
We should keep in mind a cautionary note included in a recent report by the RAND Corporation, which stated:
Small states situated next to states in turmoil frequently suffer collateral economic damage. Jordan is a case in point.
There are a couple of areas of concern that were raised during the hearings by the international trade committee. Among the areas of concern are those related to child labour matters and to other labour-related issues which would best be resolved through an open and transparent agreement. I will get to a statement on that aspect in a moment
We have heard a bit about the labour conditions and working conditions in Jordan, and it is really a matter of concern. Jordan is a country with a workforce of 1.8 million, of which 313,000 are guest workers. That means they are migrant workers in the country. According to a September 2011 Human Rights Watch report:
Pressing financial needs have led hundreds of thousands of women to migrate as domestic workers to Jordan, where many face systemic and systematic abuse. This results from a recruitment system in which employers and recruitment agencies disempower workers through deceit, debt, and blocking information about rights and means of redress; and a work environment that isolates the worker and engenders dependency on employers and recruitment agencies under laws that penalize escape. Jordanian law contains provisions and omissions that facilitate mistreatment, while officials foster impunity by failing to hold employers and agencies to account when they violate labor protections or commit crimes, and belittling or ignoring a disturbing pattern of abuse.
What concerned me as I started to raise questions on this issue was the trade zones in Jordan where these plants for manufacturing garments are. They are not local companies or employers, nor do they employ local employees. These are migrant workers who are coming in. The plants are located in Jordan and there is some spinoff to the economy but we will find that the companies are owned elsewhere, the managers are often from other countries and the workers are migrant workers, just to put into context the way that these operations work.
The International Labour Organization, the ILO, in a July 2011 report on Jordan, outlined the following area of concern. It states:
Since 2006, continuous action has been taken to improve labour law compliance in particular in Qualified Industrial Zones (free trade zones) and the apparel sector as a response to the increasing number of labour infractions in relation to migrant work in this sector.
It goes on to state:
In Jordan, labour inspection campaigns are conducted in the apparel sector, as many labour law infringements take place in this sector, mostly concerning migrant workers.
Therefore, there is a lot of concern being expressed by the ILO as it relates to this issue.
We did hear testimony that was rather disturbing and it is on the committee record. I would like to mention some of that testimony because we were told by the Jordanian representatives that there was some improvement, and I will grant them that, but it has not improved to the extent that we would like to see. Therefore, I am putting this on the record to make it very clear to Jordan that the Government of Canada is watching, the NDP is watching and we are watching.
This testimony was given by a Mr. Jeff Vogt, legal advisor to the Department of Human and Trade Union Rights of the International Trade Union Confederation, the ITUC, which is a global confederation of some 160 million workers worldwide, including workers in Canada. He gave testimony on March 29 of this year. He stated from a report that he had done:
The workers have no rights whatsoever. It's a real sweatshop. Workers are housed in primitive dormitories. The Chinese workers and Bangladeshi workers have no voice. In the dormitories during wintertime, there is not sufficient heat or hot water. Their bathing facilities are a bucket of water; they use a cup and splash water on themselves. The workers are treated with no rights whatsoever.
He went on to say:
I would say in that Rich Pine factory, every single labour right under Jordanian law and under the U.S. free trade agreement is being blatantly violated in broad daylight.
Those are pretty serious allegations. What I find troubling is that those are the working conditions so that the wealthy in the industrialized countries of the world can buy cheaper clothes. There is something wrong with that situation. We would certainly demand that the Jordanian government apply the laws that it has in place so that those kinds of working conditions do not exist.
He went on further to say:
I want to talk finally and briefly about the Classic factory in Jordan. It's the largest factory in Jordan. There are 5,000 workers from Egypt, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and China.
They have $125 million of exports to the U.S., most of it Walmart and Hanes. The workers are working 14, 15 hours a day. Maybe they get two Fridays off a month. The workers are slapped, screamed at. When shipments have to go out, they'll work 18-and-a-half-hour shifts. But that's the least of it. What we have discovered is that at the Classic factory, Jordan's largest factory, there are scores and scores of young women guest workers who have been raped at the Classic factory.
He goes on and explains further.
The fact is that, even though Jordanian representatives have come before committee and talked about the laws, from what we are hearing in that testimony, they are not being forced aggressively enough. That should not be happening in the global community in terms of apparel manufacturing. Those are inhuman conditions for people to work in. It is clearly a violation of human rights, and unacceptable.
I would suggest that the Canadian government needs to be very strenuous in its observation of those labour rights and demanding that proper labour and human rights be applied to the workers following a signature to this free trade agreement.
The Canada–Jordan labour co-operation agreement would commit both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's declaration of fundamental principles and rights at work.
The ILO's 1998 declaration, which aims to ensure that social progress goes hand in hand with economic development covers the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour and the elimination of discrimination in respect of employment and occupation.
To further protect the rights of workers, Canada and Jordan have also committed to acceptable protection for occupational health and safety; acceptable minimum employment standards, such as minimum wage and hours of work; providing compensation in case of workplace injuries and illnesses; and providing migrant workers with the same legal protection as nationals in respect to working conditions. I think it is very important that that agreement is part of this FTA with Jordan.
The countries have also agreed, subject to the availability of resources, to develop a framework for co-operative activities that he will allow Jordan to better meet its obligations under the LCA.
I will come back to what I said earlier. A lot needs to be done to ensure that workers' rights, human rights and the conditions of work are being applied properly because, clearly, as Mr. Jeff Vogt said on March 29, the evidence is that that has not been happening to date.
The United States department of state, in its most recent country report on human rights 2010, outlined a number of concerns which, even though the statutes are in place, remain. I will not go through all those concerns that are outlined in that report. I have outlined a lot in terms of the rights' issues.
While the Conservatives have proclaimed the promotion of trade, it has been under their watch that the mismanagement of the file in terms of trading relationships has resulted in trade deficits for the first time in over 30 years.
With respect to the United States, we have seen the government surprised by increased United States protectionist actions. First, it was surprised by the initial buy American provisions in the 2008 United States stimulus package. Second, it was surprised in the fall of 2011 when buy American provisions returned in the Obama administration's recent jobs plan. Finally, it was surprised by the announcement of the United States Federal Maritime Commission that, at the instigation of United States senators, an investigation in United States-bound container traffic being diverted to Canadian ports and whether to impose fees or tariffs as a result of the diverted trade.
While we are looking at a lot of trade deals around the world, the government is falling down on the ones we already have in existence.