Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this important free trade agreement and to share my time with the hard-working member for Don Valley West.
I will start off by reconfirming that there is no government in Canada's history that has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. The Minister of International Trade has been spending many days away from home trying to secure new markets and to deepen Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world. I think it is key to these efforts.
The Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first FTA with an Asia-Pacific nation, is an ambitious, state-of-the-art agreement covering virtually all sectors and aspects of free trade.
Today I will speak specifically to the foundation of the agreement, which is the extensive and profound people-to-people ties that bind Canada and South Korea. I think that is a very important aspect that has not really been talked about.
It is an increasingly interconnected world. People-to-people ties are crucial to ensuring long-term success in the competitive global economy. It is all about relationships, and this free trade agreement is a classic example. It is a landmark achievement that would result in mutual benefits and prosperity for both of our countries and that would lay the foundation to unlock the full potential of our political, economic, and secure relations.
Canada can leverage its rich history and flourishing people-to-people ties with South Korea to build on this free trade agreement and pave the pathway to jobs and prosperity for generations to come.
Canada and South Korea have had formal diplomatic relations for over 50 years, yet the connections between our two peoples extend back more than a century. Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1963, Canada came to South Korea's aid in the Korean War, contributing the third-largest contingent of troops to UN forces. More than 26,000 Canadian soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with their Korean brothers and sisters against the spread of tyranny. Unfortunately, more than 500 individuals ultimately gave their lives. George Barr, from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 in my riding, and others across Canada, have been incredible ambassadors for the Canada-Korea relationship. The memories of helping folks in Korea and Canada continue to strengthen that bond.
Korean President Park was here last month for her official state visit, and she laid a wreath in memory at the National War Memorial. It was one of the highlights of her visit and was a testament to the importance of the shared history of our two nations.
When I had the honour of travelling with the Prime Minister and the delegation in March for the initial signing of the agreement in Seoul, the Prime Minister and the delegation laid a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery, as well.
I would like to take a moment to think about Corporal Cirillo. His funeral procession is taking place in Hamilton right now. I am thinking about soldiers, the men and women who sacrifice their lives, and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families as well.
After the Korean War, almost 7,000 additional Canadian soldiers served as peacekeepers in South Korea between 1953 and 1957. Canada also participated in supervising South Korea's first elections in 1948 as part of the United Nations temporary commission on Korea. Aside from the United States, Canada is the only other state that has permanent military representation, with the United Nations Command, otherwise known as the UNC, in Korea.
Canada continues to participate in the UNC Military Armistice Commission that supervises the armistice. Last year, a delegation of Canadian veterans, led by the current Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, travelled to South Korea to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, 2013.
Building on our proud and shared history, our bilateral relationship is further championed and advanced by our strong, growing, people-to-people ties. Canada is home to some 200,000 people who identify themselves as being of Korean origin. It is the fourth-largest Korean diaspora in the world. Over 23,000 Canadians are currently residing in South Korea, including around 3,200 language teachers.
Last year, our government designated the year 2013 the Year of Korea in Canada. It marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Korea and celebrated the contributions of the Korean diaspora to Canadian society.
The Year of Korea in Canada featured a number of cultural and artistic events. I am sure many members had the opportunity to take them in. There were great festivities across the country that gave Canadians the opportunity to learn more about Korean culture, tradition, and diversity.
The Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Group is co-chaired by Senator Yonah Martin, Canada's first and only Korean senator, an incredible, hard-working individual. She shares that responsibility with our acting Speaker, the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, who has held three successful Canada-Korea dialogue series on the Hill, the last of which was held in June this year. It was attended by more than 100 participants.
Senator Martin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, and the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock also travelled to Seoul, Korea, in September to meet with senior government officials, Korean national assembly members, and business officials to discuss the wide-ranging benefits of the trade agreement to continue to move this agreement forward.
Some Canadians were a bit disappointed with the NDP at committee recently when members tried to remove what I believe is one of the cornerstones of a modern trade agreement, the investor protection provisions. The Liberals talked about this trade agreement in 2003, but it was our Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade who were actually able to get this over the goal line.
The opposition had taken us virtually out of the game of international trade. It was not a priority for them, and I understand their reasons. However, our government wants to create jobs and open doors and opportunities to put Canadian workers and businesses first. The opposition put us at severe risk of falling behind in the era of global markets, but that has changed in a positive manner. Fortunately for Canadians, our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians.
Last month, during President Park's visit to Canada, our government announced its intent to develop a science, technology, and innovation agreement with South Korea, providing Canada with the opportunity to further strengthen the people-to-people ties and to build a lasting strategic framework with one of the world's most innovative economies and top funders of research and development.
The agreement would provide Canadian stakeholders with opportunities to create new partnerships and enhance business-to-business linkages through a mechanism that would directly support bilateral, industry-led research and development funding projects in strategic areas.
As well, I am proud to say that our education ties are extensive and growing. I am sure members from all parties have constituents who have gone to South Korea. It is Canada's third-largest source of international students. We have had constituents going there to teach, and we have had more than 19,000 young and talented students choose Canada as the destination of choice to pursue their education. Based on the average estimated expenditure by international students in Canada per year, that would translate to Korean students contributing over $500 million to the Canadian economy. Many high-calibre international students choose to stay in Canada post-graduation, leading to the enrichment of human capital in Canada. Those who go back to Korea are some of Canada's best ambassadors.
There are over 100 active agreements among institutions in Canada and South Korea facilitating the exchange of students, faculty, staff, and curricula and providing joint research and degree programs. That is very important. The Government of Canada has a number of memoranda of understanding with South Korea, including in the areas of industrial science, engineering and technology, research, co-operation, clean technologies, energy, and Arctic research and development.
On tourism, over 140,000 Korean tourists visited Canada in 2013. It is the eighth-largest source of tourists to Canada, which is very important to my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country. They spent almost $250 million in the Canadian economy. South Korea is one of the Canadian Tourism Commission's top-ten priority leisure markets. In 2013, the annual growth in the number of Korean tourists to Canada stood at 3.3%. An estimated four million Korean travellers are actively considering a Canadian holiday in the next two years.
On September 22, the Prime Minister and Korean President Park witnessed the signing of an open-skies air transport agreement between Canada and Korea, another significant milestone moving forward.
Ultimately our goal is to create jobs and growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. That is why we will continue to deliver pro-export leadership.