Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House and talk about the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.
Canada's prosperity is directly linked to reaching beyond our borders for economic opportunities that serve Canada's trade and investment. Our government is focused on the real priorities of Canadians: creating new jobs and new opportunities. That is why we continue to open new markets for our world-class exporters around the world.
With the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement, we would create new sources of prosperity for Canadian businesses of all sizes and for their workers. This agreement, along with the recently announced landmark agreements with the EU and South Korea, is further proof that the most ambitious trade expansion plan in Canada's history continues to deliver results for all Canadians.
Key sectors that would benefit immediately from better market access include beef, pork, potato products, vegetable oils, and grain products, as well as a range of processed food products.
The FTA also signifies Canada's support of Honduras' continued democratic, economic, and social development, as lagging as that may be. Honduras continues to follow a positive path of development, and the economic and social benefits accruing from the CHFTA with Canada would help to support this process.
Overall, Honduras would ultimately eliminate tariffs on almost 98% of tariff lines under the agreement. Canada would likewise eliminate its tariffs on almost 98% of tariff lines under the agreement.
Honduras is already an established market for Canadian exports and holds significant increase potential for Canadian business. With so much expertise, Canada can take advantage of significant opportunities in Honduras.
This agreement is a comprehensive free trade agreement with obligations that extend well beyond those subjects to include other areas of importance to Canadian business. The free trade agreement would provide comprehensive obligations in areas such as financial services; the temporary entry of business persons; electronic commerce and telecommunications; and competition, monopolies, and state enterprises.
The Canadian banking system is consistently recognized as being among the best in the world. In fact, the World Economic Forum has ranked Canada's banking system as the most sound in the world for six years in a row. This is an area where Canada is truly excelling. The Canadian financial services sector is a leader in providing high-quality, reliable financial services. Across the Americas, Canadian banks are helping foster economic growth through access to credit card and other financial services. In Honduras specifically, Canadian financial institutions such as Scotiabank have an active presence and offer a wide variety of banking services. This agreement would help those Canadian financial institutions to take advantage of opportunities in Honduras.
On financial services, this agreement would provide market access parity with what Honduras was offered to the U.S. through the trade promotion agreement with that country and contains a robust prudential carve-out. These market access commitments are complemented by key obligations that would ensure non-discrimination, provide a right of establishment for financial institutions, and promote regulatory transparency in the financial sector.
These are key elements that the Canadian financial services sector is seeking in order to ensure that it is able to compete in an increasingly competitive global market. Our Conservative government is responding to this demand.
Another important area included in this trade agreement is to ensure that businesses are able to fully maximize the opportunities in Honduras for temporary entry for business persons. Ensuring that their employees are able to work in Honduras is an important issue for Canadian businesses is a natural complement to market access for goods, services, and investment.
In recognition of the significant number of Canadian companies operating in the region, the agreement would remove unnecessary barriers impairing the ability of companies to bring in the skilled workers they need. The agreement would extend to an extensive list of professions, including various technicians, and would include provisions for spousal employment.
The strength of this free trade agreement does not stop there. It would extend into the areas of electronic commerce and telecommunications. Electronic commerce is an important addition to previous free trade agreements in light of the importance of ensuring that new digital economy issues, such as the protection of personal information, consumer protection, and paperless trade, are not overlooked.
These issues are increasingly important for businesses in the 21st century, and Canada and Honduras have recognized this fact. In the free trade agreement with Canada, Honduras would agree to a permanent moratorium on customs duties for products delivered electronically. This includes items such as electronic software, music purchased online, and digital books. This moratorium is important not only for businesses but for consumers as well.
In addition to electronic commerce, telecommunications provisions were also included to support the competitive development of the telecommunications sector. Through this free trade agreement, Canadian telecommunications service providers would be able to better compete with their American and European counterparts in the Honduran market.
Clearly, there are many benefits to this free trade agreement with Honduras that go beyond trade in goods and investment. I would like to touch on the obligations of the free trade agreement that would relate to competition, monopolies, and state enterprises.
This agreement would meet Canada's objectives of ensuring that anti-competitive business practices and the actions of monopolies or state enterprises do not undermine the benefits of trade and investment liberalization that would be achieved in this agreement. Canada and Honduras would co-operate on issues related to competition policy through their respective authorities. The obligations would ensure that Canadian companies doing business in Honduras would be treated fairly, and there are many other areas in the agreement that would offer real commercial benefits to Canadian companies.
Upon implementation of the free trade agreement, 68.4% of Honduran tariff lines would be duty free. The remaining tariffs would be eliminated within periods of five to 15 years, with a small number of sensitive agricultural products being excluded from tariff liberalization or subjected to a tariff rate quota.
This free trade agreement would create enhanced market access opportunities and bring potential benefits for Canadian exporters in many sectors where products are currently subject to Honduran tariffs, including such areas as agriculture and agri-food products, wood, pulp and paper products, industrial machinery, vehicles and auto parts, aerospace, information and communications technology, fish and seafood chemical products, and plastic products.
More specifically, for my home province of Alberta, the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would benefit exporters through the elimination of Honduran tariffs in sectors of export interest, such as beef, furniture, textiles, and construction equipment.
Overall, this is a high-quality and comprehensive trade agreement. It would allow Canadian businesses to compete and excel in the Honduran market. This is a market where many key exporters are seeing enormous potential. Honduras is a fast-growing market that presents real opportunities for Canadian businesses. It is important that Canadian firms establish an early presence in this emerging market and build solid relationships that will provide them with a competitive edge.
This free trade agreement has the support of key exporters and investors across Canada, and its passage through the House will ensure that Canadian business would be able to take advantage of opportunities in this important market. I look forward to support from those interested in fostering our economic future as a trading nation.