Mr. Speaker, there is a saying among economists that “a rising tide lifts all boats”. Canada is certainly on the rising tide, and we believe that everyone in our country will see their fortunes rise.
Hundreds of major resource projects are scheduled to begin over the next decade.
New jobs are being created all the time. Middle-class after-tax incomes are outpacing those in the U.S. We have one of the strongest fiscal positions in the industrialized world.
We will balance the budget by 2015. No wonder Bloomberg and the World Bank consider Canada to be one of the best places in the world to do business. Our economic future is bright.
However, Canada's long-term prosperity also depends on increasing our trade. When we increase trade, prices for goods and services fall, making goods all that more affordable for families. These are goods like those sold by Baxter in Alliston, in my riding, or by Munro in Essa Township. Canadian families have a greater choice of goods and services, businesses can hire more workers, and wages go up. In other words, our standard of living improves in every way. There is no better job creator or economic growth generator than free trade.
This is why our government made a commitment to the most ambitious trade plan in Canadian history. We are vigorously pursuing our free trade agenda and giving Canadian investors and exporters the tools they need to compete—and win—in the global marketplace.
Since 2006, we have increased the number of countries that Canada has free trade with from 5 to 43.
These nations together make up more than half of the global economy and represent nearly one-quarter of the world's countries. Last fall, the Prime Minister announced a historic agreement in principle with the 28-nation European Union that will give Canadian businesses access to half a billion affluent new customers.
Now we are discussing the free trade agreement with the Republic of South Korea, which has a large and growing market and a GDP of $1.3 trillion. This agreement is historic because it is our first bilateral agreement in Asia, a key market in Canada's expanding international trade role. The agreement will generate increased exports and investment opportunities for Canadians by creating a stable trade and investment relationship. This will bring significant benefits across many sectors in the Canadian economy. We estimate that it will increase Canadian exports to South Korea by 32% and boost Canada's economy by $1.7 billion. It will also give a better foothold into the vast Asian market.
At the same time, the labour provisions in the free trade agreement will ensure that these economic advantages are not made at the expense of workers' rights. Our government's first priority is economic growth. When Canada enters into trade agreements, we believe it is important that fundamental labour rights are respected. This is why international labour co-operation agreements and labour chapters are key components of our trade agreements. The Canada–Korea trade agreement has a labour chapter that includes several labour provisions. More precisely, under the terms of this FTA, Canada and Korea have committed to ensuring that our labour laws embody and provide protection for internationally recognized labour principles and rights.
These include, in the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work, the right to the freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the effective abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination in the workplace. Both countries have also committed to ensuring acceptable protections with regard to occupational health and safety, employment standards, and non-discrimination with respect to working conditions for migrant workers.
Clearly, Canada sees the pursuit of liberalized trade and the promotion and protection of labour rights as mutually reinforcing and equally important. They go hand in hand.
We believe it is important to defend Canada's competitive position by ensuring that our trading partners do not gain an unfair advantage by not respecting fundamental labour rights or by not enforcing their labour laws. The inclusion of strong labour provisions in our free trade agreement creates a level playing field for Canadian businesses and workers when they compete internationally. This is good for businesses all across the country, including Georgian Hills Vineyard in my riding and others.
As Minister of Status of Women, one thing I am also proud to note is that Korea is just as committed to advancing women in the economy as we are here in Canada. We know that when women succeed, our economy benefits. This agreement will undoubtedly translate into more jobs for women in both our countries.
It is clear that Korea is just as committed as we are to the success of this accord. However, as members can appreciate, the commitments that we make in these agreements are only credible if we have a means of enforcing them. To this end, the Canada–Korea FTA includes an enforceable dispute mechanism that may lead to financial penalties in the case of non-compliance with the obligations of the labour chapter by either signatory country. Members of the public can submit complaints if parties involved fail to meet their obligations.
I am confident that this agreement will help create well-paying jobs for Canadian workers, without requiring us to compromise our values.
I am confident that this agreement will help create well-paid jobs for Canadian workers without requiring us to compromise our values. Let us bring this agreement into force as soon as possible so that Canadian workers and businesses can access all of these benefits.
I therefore ask my fellow parliamentarians to support Bill C-41 so that we can implement the Canada-Korea free trade agreement tout de suite.