Mr. Speaker, the Canada–Korea free trade agreement is a landmark achievement that will result in mutual benefits and prosperity for both countries and lay the foundation to unlock the full potential of our political, economic, and security relations.
The most recent Speech from the Throne committed to expanding trade in the Asia–Pacific region to benefit hard-working Canadians and businesses, especially our crucial small and medium-sized enterprises and industries across the country. We are delivering on that commitment with this agreement.
The conclusion of the Canada–Korea free trade agreement negotiations was announced in Seoul by the Prime Minister and South Korean President Park Geun-Hye on March 11, 2014. During the announcement, both leaders demonstrated their strong commitment to raising the overall Canada–Korea partnership to a new level and to entering a new era in our countries' bilateral relations.
The Canada–Korea free trade agreement represents a significant achievement for Canada. It will provide exporters, investors, and service providers with strategic access to a key gateway to the wider Asia–Pacific region and will also provide a level playing field for them and their key foreign competitors from the U.S., the EU, Australia, and other countries that have concluded free trade agreements with South Korea.
In addition, the Canada–Korea free trade agreement is projected to boost Canada's GDP by $1.7 billion and increase Canada's exports to South Korea by over 30%. Canadian workers in sectors across every region of the country stand to benefit from increased access.
This free trade agreement is an ambitious, state-of-the-art agreement covering virtually all sectors and aspects of Canada–Korea trade, including trade in goods and services, investment, government procurement, intellectual property, labour, and environmental co-operation.
It is disappointing to note that during 13 long years in government, the Liberals completely neglected trade, completing only three free trade agreements. The Liberals took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in this era of global markets. Thanks to our government, Canada has reached free trade agreements with an additional 38 countries.
While the Canada–Korea free trade agreement will provide a modern and stable foundation to grow our bilateral relations, it builds on our long history of political and economic co-operation.
Canada and the Republic of Korea established diplomatic relations in 1963. During the Korea War between 1950 and 1953, Canada contributed the third-largest contingent of troops to the United Nations command. Some 26,791 Canadian soldiers served in Korea, of whom 516 died.
As I said earlier today, my cousin was one of those people. Lance Corporal John Howard Fairman, who died on October 13, 1952, was the son of my aunt and uncle, Howard and Blanche Fairman. He grew up in Hastings, Ontario, and volunteered for the Royal Canadian Regiment.
After the Korean War armistice, 7,000 Canadian soldiers served as peacekeepers between 1953 and 1957.
Prior to the establishment of diplomatic bilateral relations, Canada participated in supervising South Korea's first elections in 1948, as part of the United Nations Temporary Commission on Korea. Currently Canada is the only state, other than the United Nations, with permanent military representation at the United Nations Command in Korea. Canada participates in the UNC military armistice commission that supervises the armistice.
As well, we are proud to have sent a Canadian delegation of veterans and government officials to South Korea for the 60th anniversary of the armistice on July 27, 2013.
This long-standing, strong, and meaningful relationship has been underlined by the recent leaders' visits. Indeed, The leaders have met twice this year. First, as I mentioned, the Prime Minister visited South Korea in March. In fact, the Prime Minister has visited South Korea on four occasions. The second meeting was just last week, when President Park made her first state visit to Ottawa. It was a great honour to welcome President Park and her delegation to Canada at that time. She was the first Korean president to visit Canada in 15 years.
The Governor General attended the inauguration ceremony of President Park in February 2013, accompanied by four Canadian parliamentary colleagues. This visit comprised part of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Canada and South Korea. Both countries organized a series of activities and initiatives to further raise the profile of the relationship and deepen co-operation.
The Minister of Finance visited South Korea in October 2013 as Minister of Natural Resources, and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans just recently travelled to South Korea to promote Canadian fish and seafood products.
The former Minister of Veterans Affairs, now the Minister of Public Safety, led a delegation of 35 Canadian veterans on a visit to South Korea in April 2013 as part of a revisit program for Korean war veterans. Some 74 Canadian Armed Forces personnel participated in the U.S.-Republic of Korea-United Nations Command military exercise in August 2014, forming the largest non-U.S. contingent from any of the other sending states.
I think members are beginning to see that Canada and South Korea are natural partners.
To further strengthen our already strong ties, Canada and South Korea have established a strategic partnership. Its purpose is to provide the opportunity to focus on areas affecting our bilateral relationship and to identify ways that we can work together regionally and globally on issues ranging from forestry to the Arctic to education to hosting the Olympic Games. This partnership will lay out a strategic direction for stronger relations in key areas of common interest, including energy and natural resources, science, technology and innovation, and Arctic research and development.
Our ties are not limited to bilateral relations. We recognize that we live in a changing and dynamic world. South Korea is in a region with many challenges. Canada and South Korea share similar regional views and objectives on a range of multilateral and global issues.
Our people-to-people ties are extensive and deep. Nearly 170,000 Canadians identify themselves as being of Korean origin. Over 23,000 Canadians are currently residing in South Korea, including about 3,200 language teachers, and 141,800 Korean tourists visited Canada in 2013. They constituted the eighth-largest source of tourists in Canada and spent almost $250 million in the Canadian economy.
Education ties are extensive and growing. South Korea is Canada's third-largest source of international students, with over 19,000 students. There are over 100 agreements among institutions in Canada and South Korea facilitating the exchange of students, faculty, staff, and curricula as well as providing joint research and degree programs.
South Korea is home to a Canadian studies community, including several university-based centres and the Korean Association for Canadian Studies. In Canada, the Korea Foundation supports several university research chairs and South Korean studies programs in universities across Canada.
When the Prime Minister visited South Korea in 2009, he was honoured to be the first Canadian leader to address the South Korean national assembly. At that time, he observed the following:
Canada and South Korea have been staunch allies in the defence of freedom and democracy.... We are not a warlike people, but when the cause has been just and necessary, Canadians have always answered the call. There is no doubt the cause of South Korean freedom was just and necessary. And, the truth of the ideals for which we fought has been revealed beyond a shadow of a doubt as this Republic has flourished, while the Communist North has floundered.
As I have described, Canada is a long-standing partner of Korea and its people. I believe that the Canada-Korea free agreement would contribute to this relationship and to both countries' mutual economic growth and prosperity.
I ask all hon. members to support this agreement, ensuring it enters into force as quickly as possible, as part of their support for Canada's broader collaborative and strategic partnership with South Korea.