Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on Bill C-31, an act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and Ukraine, also known as CUFTA.
We have been speaking a lot in this place these last few days about trade deals; namely, about the Canada-EU deal. I am certainly not surprised that my Liberal and Conservative colleagues, once again, agree that CUFTA should move ahead with no questions asked.
I will note that in this case, unlike with CETA, the government fulfilled its treaty tabling obligations by tabling Bill C-31 at least 21 sitting days after tabling the treaty, tabling an explanatory memorandum, and completing a final environmental assessment. None of these three elements were done for CETA.
I would like to speak in greater detail about CUFTA.
There are certainly some positive elements of this agreement. It would provide opportunities for both Canadian exporters and for the Canadian government to strengthen our long-standing friendship with Ukraine.
I would also like to speak about some concerns with the agreement, which I hope can be addressed during Bill C-31's legislative process.
CUFTA is an important agreement, particularly for our friends in Ukraine. Their country has faced tumultuous times over the past number of years, countering Russian aggression that culminated in the annexation of Crimea. At that time, the NDP called for greater financial aid for Ukraine and tougher sanctions against Russia.
The Canada-Ukraine friendship is an important one. In fact, Canada was the first western country to recognize Ukraine's independence, back in 1991. Today, more than 1.3 million Canadians have Ukrainian heritage. They are very proud of this heritage and their cultural traditions.
The Canada-Ukraine trade relationship is relatively small. In 2015, bilateral trade totalled $278 million, with Canadian exports to the Ukraine accounting for approximately $210 million and Ukrainian imports to Canada accounting for $68 million.
Ukraine represents less than 1% of the total Canadian global exports. Of course, this should increase with the reduction of tariffs under this agreement.
CUFTA would lead to Ukraine eliminating tariffs on 86% of Canadian imports, while Canada would eliminate tariffs on 99.9% of Ukrainian imports. Many of the tariffs would be eliminated immediately, although some would be phased out over three to seven years.
Canadian exporters have largely welcomed the deal, including the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Canadian Pork Council, and the Canadian Meat Council. As they are with all trade agreements that reduce or eliminate tariffs, they are of course pleased to have new opportunities to diversify and to increase their exports.
Additional Canadian products that may benefit from CUFTA include iron and steel, industrial machinery, pulses, canola oil, and fish and seafood. I was initially concerned about the elimination of tariffs on steel, although stakeholders have not been too concerned that this would lead to a barrage of new imports.
As members in this place know, Canadian producers are already faced with a low global price for steel, which is caused by dumping, in part. There have been multiple cases brought before the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, including against Ukrainian exporters.
It is very clear that Canada needs stronger measures to tackle this very serious issue. The Canadian Steel Producers Association and the United Steelworkers have been very clear that the government needs to do more. Canada's trade remedy system needs an overhaul so it can do a better job of protecting our steel industry.
It is an issue of jobs and keeping these good-quality jobs in the communities where they are needed. The member for Hamilton Mountain has been working tirelessly on behalf of steelworkers in his riding. I commend his efforts to bring these issues to the forefront. He is fighting every day to protect good steel jobs in Hamilton.
I know we are both looking forward to the international trade committee completing its study on steel issues, like dumping, that are hurting Canadian producers' ability to compete internationally.
Coming back to CUFTA, I have spoken quite a bit about tariffs because that is largely what this agreement is about. It also includes chapters on sanitary and phytosanitary measures, government procurement, intellectual property, environment, and labour.
On the procurement chapter, in this regard CUFTA is quite different from CETA. CUFTA would open access to government procurement at the federal and provincial levels. On the other hand, CETA would, for the first time, also open up procurement at the municipal and school board levels. This is very concerning. It is why we saw many municipalities coming out against CETA.
By and large, Canadians like to support Canadian jobs and Canadian products. We like to buy locally and procure locally, because we know the benefits are going to our neighbours and our communities.
There are many concerns over opening up procurement contracts to non-Canadian companies. It already happens, but do we really want to continue expanding that practice? I am glad CUFTA does not follow the same route as CETA.
I have spoken about what is in the agreement, but it is also important to discuss what is not in the agreement. CUFTA does not include chapters on cross-border trade in services, investment, financial services, telecommunications, or temporary entry. However, there is a review that would happen two years after CUFTA comes into force, and the government has been quite clear that it would like to extend the agreement to additional areas, such as services.
I ask that the government be forthcoming with these negotiations when they happen. I also note that Canada is currently in negotiations with several dozen other countries for a trade in services agreement, or TISA. The Liberals have been quite silent on this, but this agreement could be quite significant. It would liberalize international trade in services and set binding international rules on how countries can regulate services. It could cover a wide range of services, including banking, telecommunications, health, and energy.
I hope the government will be forthcoming with this agreement and set a different tone from how the Conservatives like to negotiate trade agreements. There is absolutely no reason why a government cannot tell its citizens about what is on the table before a deal is finalized. I think Canadians have been very clear that they do not like the way their government negotiated TPP or CETA. Canadians were kept in the dark about what was being negotiated. When we finally learned what was on the table, the deal was already finalized, and the government said there was absolutely no way to change anything at that point.
I reject the notion that Canadians who want to know about negotiations can simply sign a confidentiality agreement and jump right in. It is obviously an exclusive process that is not designed to inform average Canadians on trade negotiations. The government must do a better job of updating all Canadians on the status and scope of negotiations, not just those who are well connected.
I would like to speak about another aspect of CUFTA. While the agreement includes a state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism, it does not include ISDS, investor-state, provisions. However, it is important to note that these provisions actually existed before CUFTA came to be. Back in 1995, Canada and Ukraine signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, which includes these investor-state provisions.
New Democrats have gone to great lengths these past few days to draw attention to the ISDS provisions in CETA. These provisions do not belong in trade agreements, yet so many of Canada's agreements include them. We have long maintained that foreign companies should not be granted special privileges above and beyond those enjoyed by domestic companies. Foreign investors should be obligated to go through domestic courts before being granted access to a special court where they can sue our governments.
New Democrats analyze trade deals as a whole. We have supported deals in the past, including the South Korea deal. This is because we are able to step back and examine all parts of a deal and draw our conclusions based on the sum of its parts. New Democrats support trade. We always have and always will. That does not mean we are going to go blindly into every trade and investment deal. Our approach is similar to how we have approached omnibus budget bills. There are many aspects that we support, but there can also be egregious aspects that are worth standing up against.
Yesterday, my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona gave a great analogy about how other parties tend to talk about trade and their blind support for any and all trade agreements, no matter who the partner, no matter the provisions the agreement contains. He compared this to a large company looking to merge with another company. Imagine them sitting down in the boardroom and saying, “We don't have the time to study this. We don't need the numbers to analyze the deal, because obviously, bigger is better. This is a good economic principle, and therefore we just need to go ahead, no questions asked”.
Obviously, this sounds ridiculous, and yet I see the government pushing ahead with deals like CETA without having done the same due diligence. Where is the analysis of the benefits and the costs? Where is the analysis of where we are going to gain or lose jobs? Where are the consultations? Where are the studies? Canadians should expect better from their government.
My colleague the hard-working member for Vancouver Kingsway has done a lot of work on the trade file in the past. He developed a very pragmatic approach to assessing trade deals on the whole. He outlined several criteria for how we as parliamentarians could do our due diligence in assessing whether a trade deal is in fact in Canada's best interests.
First, is the proposed partner one who respects democracy, human rights, environmental and labour standards, and Canadian values? If there are challenges in these regards, is the partner on a positive trajectory toward these goals?
Second, is there a significant or strategic value for Canada in having a deal with the proposed partner?
Finally, is the deal itself satisfactory?
There are no easy answers, but this lens is very helpful in looking at deals and deciding whether, on balance, they make sense for Canada. I certainly considered this lens in evaluating the Canada–Ukraine FTA and, on balance, I do think this is an agreement New Democrats can support. That said, there are some areas of concern. Ukraine has had a tumultuous few years. It certainly appears to be on a positive trajectory toward a stronger, democratic society that upholds human rights, environmental standards, and labour standards. On the other hand, there continue to be conflicts and tensions, as well as some human rights concerns.
It was not very long ago that the EU postponed its trade agreement with Ukraine over concerns with human rights and democratic values. Therefore, I am hopeful that Ukraine will continue on its positive trajectory. We need to be realistic about the ongoing challenges, and therefore I would like to see a human rights impact assessment as a component of this agreement.
I have noted that the Canada–Ukraine trade relationship is a relatively small one. However, we are also historic friends, and Ukraine needs its friends very much right now. Canada sent a training mission to Ukraine in 2015, known as Operation Unifier. There was no debate in this place before 200 troops were deployed, which is a dangerous precedent. Now Ukraine is asking for Canada to extend this mission.
We also know that last year the government launched a consultation on the possible addition of Ukraine to the Automatic Firearms Country Control List. Adding Ukraine to this list would make it permissible to export Canadian-made weapons to Ukraine. The government has been dodging questions on the results of this consultation and on whether Canada will in fact add Ukraine to the list. It is time for the government to be forthcoming on this, particularly as we debate ratifying a free trade agreement with this country.
I would also like to note an environmental concern with this agreement. I read through the government's final environmental assessment of CUFTA, which is a requirement as part of the government's treaty-tabling process. The assessment makes really no mention of the impact of increased imports and exports of coal. We would like to get some more information on this, also at the committee level.
Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to ask these questions of the minister when she came to our committee the other week. We had just an hour of her time to cover both CETA and CUFTA. I do hope the minister will make herself available again, as I do believe it is important to give these agreements proper study and due process.
I would like to end by reiterating that New Democrats intend to support the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement at second reading. I have outlined some concerns with the agreement that we would like to see addressed. However, I have also outlined many benefits of the agreement. It would allow us to strengthen our historic friendship with Ukraine and would benefit various Canadian exporters. This would be the second of three pieces of trade legislation that have come before this Parliament that New Democrats support.
As I have outlined, New Democrats are strong supporters of good trade that benefits Canada. The trend of multilateral deals that deal with everything but the kitchen sink is not the way Canada should be engaging with our partners. Bilateral deals, such as the one before us today, have much clearer benefits and do not ask average Canadians to bear the brunt of extending corporate privileges to foreign investors. I look forward to seeing Bill C-31 come before the trade committee and to participating in today's debate.
As I believe this will be my last speech in this place before the House rises until January, I would like to wish my constituents and my colleagues very happy holidays and a merry Christmas. I would like to particularly thank all the people in this House who work behind the scenes to make Parliament function so well every day. I thank everyone who helps in Parliament. Merry Christmas.