Mr. Speaker, it will make it that much easier for the government members who want to hear my speech to come now and then stay for question period. I know many of us are receiving a lot of correspondence from our constituents on Bill S-4, so it is important to talk about it and study it in detail.
Bill S-4, which come to us from the Senate, would implement a tax treaty with the Government of Israel as well as a tax arrangement with the Government of Taiwan. It would also amend the Canada-Hong Kong Income Tax Agreement.
These types of tax treaties are very important for facilitating international trade for investment between different countries. Certainly, in that light, our party is very much a pro-trade party, and that is why we support the bill.
The bill is about enforcement, fighting tax evasion, and more broadly about facilitating trade liberalization. It is about making it possible for companies to do business in multiple jurisdictions and, in particular, deepening our relationship with some very important partners, with Israel and Taiwan.
Today I will talk about three issues: trade liberalization in general, the Canada-Israel relationship, and the Canada-Taiwan relationship.
With respect to trade liberalization, I have said before that it is important for the government to move from inertia to action on trade. We have had a number of different bills and issues up for debate with respect to trade: the implementation of the trade facilitation agreement, the CETA deal, and next week I believe we will debate the Canada-Ukraine free trade deal. The Conservative Party supports these, in part because we recognize they are really the continuation of work that was begun under the previous government. One does not come up with a tax treaty overnight. In fact, these are cases where a lot of hard work was done by the previous trade minister and by Stephen Harper, the previous prime minister.
When it came to trade, we were quite aggressive in our trade agenda. We were negotiating and updating agreements. We were undertaking a vast array of different negotiations to expand Canadian access to trade, such that at the time of the election, there were trade deals that we had negotiated between TPP and CETA, which represented over 60% of the world's GDP. Therefore, Canada would have been uniquely positioned with respect to trade.
We know the story on the TPP, with the government not leading on TPP and backing away from it to a large extent, but still being supportive of some of these things we had done. Therefore, the government is putting these bills before the House, and this is one of them with which we agree. We see them as positive bills, but they reflect as well a certain inertia, the continuation of policies that were begun under the previous government. That much is good.
It is positive to see the continuation of good policies that were started under the Conservative government, but we also need to see the Liberals be proactive on trade and start new initiatives that reflect emerging opportunities and challenges. Inertia is not going to be enough, especially given the current global economic climate. The history of the Liberal Party in office has been continuing to leave in place trade deals that the previous Conservative government created but not necessarily implementing new original trade initiatives. This is the general context.
An emerging protectionist sentiment is happening around the world right now. We have a president-elect in the United States who has expressed in the past a certain degree of skepticism of the value of trade within North America, and perhaps more so of trade between the U.S. and Mexico, but there is generally a concern about trade coming from the new incoming administration. It is important for other world leaders, other nations in general, to make strong arguments about the importance and benefits of an open economy.
It is for us to be actively pursuing that discussion, but also to be seeking out opportunities to sign new agreements, to move a trade liberalization agenda forward, perhaps with other countries, perhaps in different kinds of arrangements than we have seen exist in the past. We can do that and at the same time we can show the benefits of those trade arrangements. Canada should seize this moment and continue to be a pro-trade country, a country that benefits from trade, not merely continuing with inertia but also undertaking new initiatives.
When we talk about trade liberalization, and specifically about the bill before us, it is important to recognize that these kinds of agreements have economic benefits, but they are also ways of affirming and deepening relationships between like-minded countries.
Certainly our strategic relationships with Israel and with Taiwan are important. They reflect our values. These are both places which are democracies in regions, in environments that are not as friendly to democracy as perhaps our context is, Israel, of course, being the only democracy in the Middle East. Then we have Taiwan, not declared as an independent state but as a self-governing jurisdiction, which is a democracy, and certainly beside the world's most influential non-democracy. That really speaks to why Taiwan and Israel, in a special way, reflect Canada's values.
When we sign these kinds of agreements, they create opportunities for commerce, which create economic benefits for Canadians and for people in these countries. However, it is also a powerful signal about the importance of these relationships, and it creates a deepening of people-to-people commercial and therefore social ties between these nations. We should recognize the economic benefits of trade, but not entirely see trade as being distinct from the opportunities to build a greater community among like-minded democracies.
The current environment, in which we may have an American administration more skeptical about trade, should not prevent us from seeking other opportunities to pursue new and deeper trading relationships with other like-minded and pro-trade countries. For example, in light of the Brexit vote in the U.K., the U.K. will be working through what exactly its new relationship with Europe will be. However, we know that many of those who were pro-Brexit were also supportive of having broader trading relationships for the U.K.
After the relationship between the U.K. and Europe is finalized, we certainly need to pursue the opportunity to deepen trading relationships and pursue free trade between Canada and the U.K., and possibly, depending on the trajectory of the trans-Pacific partnership, we need to deepen our trading relationships in Asia with like-minded countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand.
Under the previous government as well we commenced free trade negotiations with India. I think there is a very strong opportunity to continue this process and hopefully be able to see the realization of a free trade agreement between Canada and India. Very strong people-to-people ties exist between Canada and India. Despite a lot of differences between the ways our economy is structured, there is a positive opportunity there for us to benefit from those ties and to establish deeper commercial relationships as well.
In that context, I am skeptical of the government's trade policy in that the only new trade initiative it has talked about is pursuing a free trade agreement with the People's Republic of China. From my perspective, the strategic genius of TPP was about establishing a trading agreement among like-minded countries in the Asia-Pacific region that would have really set the terms of trade within that region in a way that would invite the People's Republic of China and other countries to come up to that standard in environmental protection, human rights, labour rights and intellectual property.
Instead, the emphasis from the government, rather than negotiating those kinds of strategic partnerships with like-minded countries that will advance our values, is before we have even completed the process with countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand, let us go and negotiate a bilateral trade agreement with China, a country where there are obviously significant problems with human rights, environmental protection, labour rights and intellectual property.
We see in that not a sufficient appreciation of that relationship between economic collaboration and our values, the benefit of having trading relationships that establish the strategic conditions for advancing our more fundamental and important convictions in our values and in terms of our ideas on human rights.
To sum up this point, we are in an environment where there are increasing challenges, rhetorical challenges coming from different quarters to the idea of trade liberalization. Therefore, it is important that we continue to move forward with initiatives like Bill S-4 that deepen trading relationships and create more opportunities for international commerce. It is also important that we not just continue with things that were done under the previous government, but that we also look for new initiatives and emerging opportunities to advance our trading position, our economic as well as our strategic position within the world.
Having said that as a general point, I would like to delve a bit into specifically the importance of the two principal relationships that are touched on by Bill S-4: our commercial relationship with Israel as well our commercial relationship with Taiwan.
I had an opportunity to visit Israel this summer. It was a great visit. I went as part of a parliamentary delegation with a number of colleagues from different parties. Whenever we hear about Israel in the news, it is often in the context of our important strategic and security relationship with perhaps Israel's relationship to different conflicts that are happening in the region. However, it is important for us to appreciate, and perhaps look into, an aspect that is not as often discussed, which is Israel's economic vitality and the unique innovation, how co-operation between Canada and Israel gives us opportunities to understand and benefit from that innovative culture and strong economy that exists in Israel. It was a real pleasure for me, and I think, for the other members who participated in the trip this summer, to understand and see first hand some of that innovation taking place.
The advanced tech and research and development that occurs within Israel has rendered it the nickname Silicon wadi. Wadi is an Arabic word for valley. It is kind of a Middle-Eastern adaptation of Silicon Valley. A lot of innovation happens in Israel, and we see that in a number of different indicators. The highest level of research and development spending relative to GDP anywhere in the world takes place in Israel and it is the largest destination for global venture capital per capita worldwide. There is significant investment and research happening there.
A lot of my colleagues and I asked about the policies that were in place in Israel to encourage this kind of innovative economic culture, and how we could learn from that in the context of our own discussions about encouraging innovation in Canada. Certainly there are opportunities to learn from each other. We can learn lessons from the incredibly innovative dynamic in Israel. However, it is also interesting to reflect on the connections between Israel's innovative economic environment and also the culture. Members who have read the famous book Start-up Nation will know that aspects of creativity and innovation are really encouraged throughout Israel's culture.
One of the discussions we had as part of our delegation, especially when we were in Israel, was learning about the strong sense of purpose and mission of those in Israel. For the most part, there is a real appreciation of Israel as a nation with a specific purpose, to be a homeland for the Jewish people. That sense of purpose and mission feeds people's desire to create, to contribute, and to build a stronger society. As well, the system in Israel is one of military service that takes place after high school. Virtually everybody participates in this national service. That as well is a time in which innovation and creativity are encouraged and people are given opportunities to learn skills they can then use as part of subsequent innovation throughout the rest of their lives.
There is this fascinating connection that exists between an innovative culture and the economy.
Obviously not all of those lessons are particularly applicable to the somewhat different kind of society we have here in Canada, but the opportunities that come from increased collaboration, commercially and otherwise, are very significant. We should appreciate the importance of security and strategic co-operation with Israel, but also understand it within the context of economic opportunities.
I would like to speak, as well, about the Canada-Taiwan relationship.
I think members know we have a bit of a curious relationship with Taiwan. We do not have formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan. That is why we speak here not about a tax treaty but a tax arrangement, which is different in name but similar in form to what we are talking about with Israel and what we deal with in other cases.
The kind of relationship that exists between Canada and Taiwan is extremely important and close, notwithstanding the uniqueness of the names we use, because Taiwan has not declared itself as an independent state. Taiwan is a major trading partner for Canada, and the great opportunities for us to share and to learn from each other, as I guess somewhat different kinds of societies, are very significant—obviously, Canada drawing on a rich wealth of natural resources.
Taiwan also is a—