Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today in the House to share how this free trade agreement with Honduras complements our government's Americas strategy.
I would like to speak about how our government's ambitious pro-trade plan and our global markets action plan are creating new opportunities around the world for Canadian exporters.
Our government's global markets action plan, developed in close consultation with Canada's business community, was our strategy to respond to changes in the global economy and to position Canada for long-term prosperity.
The global markets action plan identified 50 priority markets around the world where Canadian opportunities and interests have the greatest potential for growth. This strategy is part of the most ambitious pro-trade plan in Canada's history. It has driven Canadian leadership on the world stage in support of trade, job creation, economic growth, and prosperity for hard-working Canadians and their families.
The results have been impressive. Since 2006, Canada has concluded free trade agreements with 38 countries representing markets with a combined GDP of $2.6 trillion. We have begun deepening trade and investment ties with the largest, most dynamic, and fastest-growing countries in the world, including India, Japan, South Korea, and the EU.
We have also concluded foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with 22 countries. In fact just last year, we concluded or brought into force 10 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements.
The Americas is a priority market for our government. In fact, our government plans to strengthen our engagement in the region to ensure that our efforts are focused where their impact will be the greatest.
I would like to share with the House a bit more about how free trade with Honduras fits into this Americas strategy. This renewed strategy has three goals: first, to increase Canadian and hemispheric economic opportunities; second, to address security issues and advance freedom, democracy, human rights, and the rule of law through capacity-building; and third, to build a stable foundation for Canada's engagement and increased influence in the hemisphere.
Strengthening economic ties is crucial in today's challenging and uncertain global economic climate. Expanding Canada's trade and investment in the Americas will help protect existing jobs, create new jobs, and increase prosperity for Canadians.
Canada's efforts to increase economic opportunity depend on deepening trade and investment ties by advancing our trade agreements. The Americas is a key region for Canadian bilateral trade initiatives. In fact, 7 of Canada's 10 concluded free trade agreements have been with countries in the Americas.
It is not enough to simply sign agreements. Our government's Americas strategy recognizes the need to make Canadian companies aware of the advantages and opportunities these agreements create. Our government understands that it is through engagement, through developing trade and commercial ties, that Canada can support positive change and growth in the Americas. We favour engagement, not isolation.
Promoting freer trade in the Americas opens new doors and creates new opportunities for Canadian companies, increasing economic benefits for Canadians, including new jobs for hard-working Canadians across the country.
Canada's efforts to liberalize trade with the Americas is working. We are removing barriers to trade and facilitating two-way commerce. The Americas offer great potential. Total trade between countries in the Americas and Canada increased by nearly 40% from 2005 to 2010. In fact, we heard the minister of state talking just now about the fact that one-third of the GDP of Honduras depends on Canada. She experienced that and spoke to locals, businesses, and workers in the Honduras about this when she was there.
To continue to further that kind of opportunity, our government's Americas strategy will focus on intensifying trade promotion and relationship building efforts to ensure that Canadian businesses and exporters are taking full advantage of new trade opportunities in the future.
By increasing economic opportunity with Honduras, Canada is growing our economic partnership and contributing to long-term prosperity in both of our countries.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement and its parallel labour and environmental agreements would promote trade and investment, while creating a winning advantage for Canadian businesses and exporters.
To protect Canadian and commercial investments, the security situation in Central America must be taken into consideration and is a core focus in our renewed Americas strategy.
Honduras has recognized its security challenges and has significantly increased spending on security. It has also committed to continued reform of its security institutions. Honduras continues to build strong security co-operation with the United States and co-operates with its Central American neighbours under the Central American Integration System regional security strategy.
Our government is pleased with the significant efforts that Honduras is making to meet is security challenges and in confronting the public security threats facing Central America.
International relationships are fundamental. Competition for market share is on the rise. Canada must demonstrate that it is a serious and committed partner. Our government is continuing to deliver on an ambitious pro-trade plan that would continue to deliver new opportunities, not only in the Americas but also in dynamic, high-growth markets around the world. Furthermore, while sustaining high-level engagement is essential, Canada would continue to benefit from building relationships more broadly across the private sector government and academia.
All countries in the Americas have a vested interest in prosperity, security, and stability. That is why our government is committed to building and sustaining relationships with our like-minded neighbours.
Through our strong bilateral relationships and the increasing people-to-people ties generated through educational exchanges and increased business links, our links with Honduras are growing stronger every day. Every day we are seeing more opportunities for Canadian businesses and exporters.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is a key component to advance the goals of the Americas strategy.
Sadly, it seems as if the NDP will be voting against this agreement. I know that it has concerns, especially about things like human rights, as well as security issues, which I talked about as well. I would like to say, though, that it is the belief of this government that trade is a key driver of prosperity and that increasing trade could only lift people out of poverty. When isolationism is the ideology practised by a country, more often than not it is extremely difficult for that country to lift itself out of poverty.
We believe strongly that trade agreements, trade with like-minded countries and countries that understand that is the way to go, ultimately do lift people out of poverty, such as the people of Honduras. So the elimination of tariffs would be a positive step in the right direction. The agreement would also support human rights in a very direct way, including labour rights. As long as we are respecting other issues like security and environmental issues, these are the kinds of things that we can do and that have been written into the agreement and the side agreements to ensure that they would not only be beneficial to Canada and Canadian businesses and individuals but also to businesses in Honduras.
I ask all members of the House to support the bill and free trade between Canada and Honduras.