Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise in the House today to speak to Bill C-30. I commend all my colleagues in this House who have spoken to this bill over the last few days. It is a very important bill. I especially commend the member for New Brunswick Southwest, who made a great statement today on this bill. I would also like to recognize our trade minister for all the hard work she has done on this file. She has worked extremely hard on this important agreement, and along with our Prime Minister, on representing Canada across the world as an open, trading country.
I would also like to give recognition to our international trade committee, which I am very proud to sit on as the chair. I would like to thank the members of the committee for their work and engagement during this process. It is a very active committee. We are dealing with softwood lumber and problems with the meat sector in the United States. We also, over the last year, had a dialogue with Canadians and stakeholders on the TPP. We went right across the country. We had thousands of people come forward. During those proceedings, for the first time, the committee had an open mic at the end of each meeting, so we had a lot of feedback on the TPP across this country.
I am here to talk about the agreement with the European Union. Recently we had an excellent meeting with the European Economic and Social Committee, and we will continue to work closely with our European counterparts. They are very excited about this agreement.
Thinking of how Canada was formed, we go back hundreds of years. I guess it was 400 years ago that trade started between Europe and Canada. At that time, it probably started off with fishermen, with probably Spanish and Portuguese fishermen coming and getting fish and trading it back and forth. Other immigrants came over the years and created trade. We had farmers, and of course, the fur industry was another big one, with the voyageurs. Trade with Europe was very important in the early years, and it still is.
As the country expanded and immigrants came, most were from Europe. Ukrainian people came over. A lot of them are in my riding, but many of them went out west and developed the grain fields, and those products were traded back and forth.
Our connection with Europe goes way back, with over 400 years of trade. That continues to be so, though many of the products have changed.
The proposed comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union is a modern, progressive trade agreement that, when implemented, will generate billions of dollars in bilateral trade and investment, providing greater choice and lower prices for consumers and creating middle-class jobs in many sectors. That is what our government stands for. We want to increase the middle class and have it do better, and trade is important. Countries that trade have a larger middle class and have more efficient and competitive industries.
CETA is the product of hard work and frank discussions. We have some of the best negotiators in the world on our team. There was a lot of commitment from our Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade, our committee, and countless other people behind the scenes. I also have to commend the work of the former Conservative government on this agreement. The Conservatives set the groundwork for this. They started the negotiations, and they did a good job. They did not finish it, but they started the process, and we finished it. I have to commend the former Conservative government for initiating this, getting it going, and making it happen.
Negotiating a trade agreement such as the Canada-European comprehensive economic and trade agreement benefits Canadians. It creates new job opportunities and helps many people. The United States is still our biggest trading partner, but we have to look at other markets and see other trading partners. The European Union is tremendous. I think there are over 500 million citizens there. It is a big market, and they want our products. Canada's exports to the EU are diverse and include a significant share of value-added products in addition to traditional exports of resource-based products and commodities.
We have precious stones and metals. We have machinery and equipment. Minerals, fuels and oil, mineral ores, aerospace products, and fish and fish products are some of the top merchandise we sell to the EU.
Atlantic Canada, where I am from, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is closest to Europe. This will be a big advantage for us. Our two export sectors that will particularly benefit from CETA will be metals and mineral products, and of course, the fishing sector.
In Atlantic Canada, we have more than 400 small harbours. They each have 20 or 30 boats. We cannot eat all the fish in Atlantic Canada, and the rest of the world wants our fish, so it is very important that we have markets around the world for our fish products.
When it comes to exporting our products, Atlantic Canada has ports we can ship from. We ship our products year round. We have good deepwater ports that are ice free. We are two days closer than many other ports, such as Montreal, Boston, and New York. Atlantic Canada is well-positioned to do well, not only with products but by being the entry and exit point for products coming and going.
My home province of Nova Scotia will benefit significantly from CETA and will have preferable access to the EU market. The EU is Nova Scotia's second-largest export destination, and it is its second-largest trading partner, with a large portion of that share coming right from my island of Cape Breton.
Once in force, CETA will remove the boundaries for Nova Scotia exports and will create new markets and opportunities in the EU. Nova Scotia will benefit from improved exporting conditions. CETA will provide us with a competitive advantage over exporters in other countries that do not have free trade agreements with the EU. The United States tried to do an agreement like we did, but it did not succeed.
I have a neighbour in Cape Breton who is from Germany. His company is called PolyTech windows. They are beautiful windows. He is looking at making the windows in Nova Scotia and exporting them to the United States. We will not only benefit back and forth but we will be a gateway into the United States for a lot of products from the Europeans that we can add value to in Canada.
Between 2013 and 2015, Nova Scotia's merchandise exports to the EU were worth $465 million. As I said, fish and fish products were the largest share, at 45% of exports. Following fish and fish products were agriculture and agrifood.
Nova Scotia is unique. We have a lot of different products that have great potential, whether it is potatoes, blueberries, apples, or even beef. We have good beef in Atlantic Canada. It is grass-fed beef, and that is what Europeans like, so we have a great opportunity.
I visited an operation in Lunenburg where they grow the haskap berry, which is a very nutritious product. They are looking at exporting that product to the EU and doubling their production.
When we look at all these different products we can trade and sell, we have a great opportunity.
This important agreement also hits home on a personal note. My parents came to Canada from the Netherlands. They came to Cape Breton, and that is where we started our farm. We also trade. We sell strawberries to Iceland, calves to the Caribbean, and lettuce to the United States. As farmers, and as we have heard from farmers right across this country, whether it is beef farmers, canola farmers, or pork producers, we see this as a big opportunity.
In closing, when other countries are closing their doors to trade and immigrants, Canada is opening our doors. The benefits as a result of CETA for the Atlantic provinces are going to be tremendous. CETA is a modern, progressive trade agreement that could generate billions of dollars in bilateral trade and investment and provide greater choice and lower prices for consumers.