Mr. Speaker, it is with pleasure that I rise today to speak to a bill dealing with free trade. The Liberal Party, traditionally through decades, has been fairly clear in terms of recognizing the value of world trade. The Liberal Party does not fear having trade agreements. In fact, we have been advocating and are very supportive of the movement toward additional agreements. We see the value in the sense that Canada is very much a trading nation. We are very dependent on trade. Trade equals jobs here in Canada. It is important to our lifestyle. The way we live here is dramatically affected by the amount of trade that we have throughout the world.
Liberal governments in the past have demonstrated very clearly that we understand the trade file. In fact, going back to the Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin era, we find that we consistently had trade surpluses. This is something that is highly achievable if the government understands the complexities of the whole file of trade. This is something that the current government has been somewhat challenged on. Yes, the Conservatives talk about free trade agreements and they have entered into some free trade agreements, but where they have been found wanting is in the area of overall trade. When it comes to overall trade, we will find that since this Prime Minister has become Prime Minister, we have been going down from the original high of billions of dollars in trade surplus to where we have seen billions of dollars in trade deficit.
That is important because at the end of the day a healthy trade surplus means more jobs for Canadians. It means that our middle class is going to be doing that much better economically. On the one hand, we recognize the value of entering into free trade agreements, but on the other hand we want to emphasize to the Conservatives that they are not doing their jobs when it comes to overall trade for our country. This is where the government really needs to improve. Regarding our manufacturing industry, one only needs to look at the devastation in Ontario in terms of our manufacturing jobs. Tens of thousands of jobs have been lost because the current government has been asleep at the switch and not addressing the needs of our manufacturing industry, not only in the province of Ontario but in other areas also.
Today, we talk about the free trade agreement with Korea. The Conservatives like to pat themselves on the back, saying how wonderful they are for getting this free trade agreement with Korea. The reality is that Korea has been attempting to get free trade agreements with countries around the world since about 2003. Shortly after the Koreans initiated that bold initiative of wanting more free trade agreements, Paul Martin expressed an interest in Canada being a part of that free trade initiative by Korea. In 2004, the negotiations actually began. Looking at what Korea has been able to accomplish, we see it has agreements in place with several nations, including the European Union, the United States and smaller nations like Chile, and I believe, Peru, a number of nations.
Canada, on the other hand has been asleep again at the switch and there has been a significant cost. I have referred to it in the past and I will reinforce it this morning. The pork industry in the province of Manitoba could have had more pork sales to Korea had the government acted in a more prompt fashion, or had it followed the lead of Paul Martin in 2003-04.
At the end of the day, that is just one industry, albeit an industry I am very proud of in Manitoba because of the jobs that have been generated, whether in Brandon, Winnipeg, or rural communities, through pork production. Some of the huge pork farms that are out there contribute good, strong, valuable jobs to our economy. There is no doubt this free trade agreement would enhance certain industries in Canada, and Liberals look forward to that. However, there should be no doubt that the government was not doing its job by allowing other countries to move forward, and in essence, take a bit of the share away from what Canada could have had if the government had been a little more aggressive on this file.
The government talks a lot about the European Union agreement. The Liberal Party was again supportive of going forward with a trade agreement with the European Union.
It was interesting that when the president of Ukraine addressed the House of Commons, one of the things he made reference to was the need to have a free trade agreement with Ukraine. When one thinks about it, Ukraine is moving rapidly toward freer trade association with the European Union, yet Canada seems to be putting that issue on a back burner. Liberals would ultimately argue that there is merit for us to be looking at a free trade agreement with Ukraine.
What about other Asian countries? A few years ago, I would have been standing in my place and talking about the Philippines. The Philippines is a beautiful, wonderful country. Today, we continue to be very dependent on the Philippines for immigration. Tens of thousands of people come to Canada from the Philippines every year and we have benefited immensely, economically, socially and more, because of immigration from the Philippines.
Why not take advantage of this relationship with the Philippines and look at other ways, outside of immigration, to expand relations between the Philippines and Canada? We should look at trade. There is so much more that we could be doing on the trade file and again we see the government falling short on a number of occasions.
I was on a panel with the New Democrats and Conservatives and we were talking about trade. The NDP seemed to be of the opinion that they have supported trade agreements in the past. The reality is that the New Democratic Party is very different when it comes to world trade. It seems to be willing nowadays to change. For the first time, it appears it might vote in favour of this legislation.
I have challenged New Democrats in the past and I will do it again because they still like to say that they supported other free trade agreements, in particular the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement. New Democrats should review some of the comments they made about the Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement.
It is fair to say that there has not been a day inside the House of Commons where New Democrats have stood in their places and voted for a free trade agreement. If I am wrong, I challenge any New Democrat to stand in his or her place when it is time to ask questions and tell me the date so that we can look up in Hansard when New Democrats voted in favour of a trade agreement. There is always hope. This could be the first agreement that they vote in favour of.
The point is that we in the Liberal Party have recognized the value of free trade. We hear lots of words from the Conservatives, but they suffer in terms of tangible action. Yes, agreements have been signed, but let us recognize the fact that they have not been all that timely in terms of their announcements, and so forth. Many of the agreements we have today are there because they were initiated by the former Liberal government.
There is lots of room of improvement, both for the Conservatives and I would even suggest for the New Democrats, on this particular file.