Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to speak to this very important topic.
Canada is a trading nation and our government understands the importance of trade for economic growth for a strong and prosperous middle class. In fact, our country depends on global trade. Trade opens markets for Canadian goods and services, helps Canadian businesses expand, fosters innovation, strengthens our economy and provides Canadians with opportunities in markets around the world.
When we assumed office, the damage that the Conservatives had inflicted on Canada's standing in the world was glaring. They had failed to promote Canada's interests abroad, especially with our most important trading partner, the United States.
COOL, country of original labelling, is a prime example of the damage the Conservatives did to our relationship with the U.S. For years our beef and pork farmers suffered from punitive, unfair U.S. country of origin labelling provisions, while the previous government stood by and did nothing. The Minister of International Trade resolved the issue in her first eight weeks in office.
The former prime minister even cancelled the three amigos summit, an important forum for advancing key files of Canadian interest. We cannot advance issues if we do not have the meetings, and we have corrected that. We will have a three amigos summit soon.
Keystone XL is yet another example of the Conservative failure to promote Canadian interests with our southern neighbours. On the thinning border with the United States, it was our government that finally made substantial progress during the state visit in Washington D.C. on March 10.
It is the same story with Europe. Despite all the fancy parties and the champagne photo ops, the previous government failed to have CETA signed and implemented. When we assumed office, the deal was completely stalled. However, yet again the new Minister of International Trade's progressive approach to free trade is what allowed us to build support for CETA on both sides of the Atlantic and to get the deal back on track and signed.
In short, in the 10 years in office, the previous Conservative government displayed a fundamental misunderstanding of geopolitics and of the importance of the Canada-U.S. relationship in particular.
Trade agreements are an important means by which the Government of Canada can open new markets and level the playing field for Canadian business, while providing predictable and transparent international rules for exporters and investors. However, we need to ensure that our trade agreements are in Canada's best interest.
With respect to the TPP, the government is committed to being fully transparent and open with Canadians, and to hearing what Canadians have to say on the merits of the TPP. We are conducting extensive consultations to provide Canadians the opportunity to have their views heard. The Minister of International Trade, myself, cabinet colleagues and government officials have met with Canadians across Canada. Unlike the previous government, we are meeting with people who disagree with the accord, and we will continue to do so before the government considers whether to ratify the agreement.
To date, we have learned that some Canadians feel the TPP represent significant opportunities. Others have serious concerns with aspects of the agreement, and many have simply not yet made up their minds. These different perspectives speak to the importance of ongoing consultations.
The government signed the TPP this past February to ensure that Canada would remain at the table to give the government the opportunity to continue consulting Canadians. Signing the TPP was only a first step that did not amount to ratification by our government.
The House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade is also holding its own consultations on the TPP and has been travelling across the country as part of its outreach. The committee has already held hearing in eight cities across the country. Today it is in Windsor, Ontario, meeting with representatives of labour, automotive, agriculture and business sectors. In addition, that committee is accepting written submissions from anyone who wishes to share his or her views.
We promised to hold consultations, and we are keeping that promise. Since November, we have organized over 250 consultations with more than 400 different stakeholders. In addition, the government has received over 20,000 letters and emails as part of the consultation process. The Minister of International Trade and I have visited over a dozen cities across Canada to hear what Canadians think about the TPP. Consultations were held in Edmonton, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax, Oakville, Windsor, Regina, Winnipeg, Quebec City, St. John's, Fredericton, Charlottetown, and Guelph.
During our visits, we held meetings, round tables, site visits, and town halls. Hundreds of Canadians shared their opinions with us during this process.
Canadians from all kinds of backgrounds participated in the consultations. We heard from provincial representatives, business women, innovation companies, farmers, think tanks, the forestry and lumber sector, the fish and seafood sector, environmental groups, small and medium-sized businesses, unions, auto workers, auto parts manufacturers, port authorities, academics, students, and business leaders.
Over the coming weeks, the Minister of International Trade will be organizing a public meeting in Toronto for May 25 and another in Montreal for June 6. We invite everyone to take part and share their points of view on the TPP. We will do everything we can to give Canadians an opportunity to study the agreement, ask questions, and tell us whether they think it will be good for the people of this country.
Let me summarize some of the comments we received. As I mentioned earlier, although some people said they support the TPP, other people expressed some concerns. For instance, civil society organizations and unions are concerned about the impact the agreement will have on jobs in Canada, the scope of application of the investor state dispute settlement mechanism and certain provisions regarding intellectual property. Some people are saying that Canada should call off the signing of the agreement altogether.
Still, other stakeholders are urging Canada to ratify the agreement as quickly as possible. More specifically, Canadian companies that are export oriented and some industry associations support the agreement. Those players see the TPP as an essential tool that will allow Canadian businesses to compete in Asia-Pacific countries, a region that is going through a period of strong economic growth, and to access priority markets or increase their presence in those markets.
The impact of TPP rules on intellectual property and innovation in Canada is another subject that people cannot seem to agree on. Some people believe that these rules will stifle innovation. Others have talked about potential benefits, including a more predictable rules-based system to protect the intellectual property of Canadians who are engaged in trade in the region.
We have heard that the TPP could cause significant job losses in the auto sector. However, we have also heard some say that the TPP provides the sector with an opportunity to penetrate new markets in the Asia-Pacific region.
When it comes to labour and services, the government has heard from representatives who are certain that the TPP would create opportunities for Canadian service providers seeking to expand their activities in the Asia-Pacific region. Other stakeholders are concerned that the TPP would make foreign workers more competitive.
The government has held consultations with the agriculture and agri-food sector with a focus on exports and Canada's supply management system. We also heard about the opportunities that the TPP would create for Canada's beef, pork, canola, and pulse industries. However, we have also heard concerns over the repercussions that the TPP might have on supply managed sectors.
Each of these consultations has contributed to an important pan-Canadian dialogue on the spinoffs from the TPP, and will continue to do so. The purpose of the consultations is to understand the point of view of Canadians and Parliament, and to conduct an exhaustive assessment of the benefits of the TPP and its possible spinoffs.
So far, these consultations have been quite instructive. They will continue. No timeline has been set yet for the consultation process.
I want to point out that signing the TPP was just the official start of the government's review of the agreement. The government will weigh the results of the consultations before deciding whether to ratify the TPP or not.
This is a complex agreement and it takes time to conduct a thorough review. It is important and encouraging that Canadians are pressing us for more information about the repercussions that this agreement will have on Canadians in every region and every sector.
I will now talk about some next steps.
According to the terms of the TPP agreement itself, countries have two years to complete their domestic ratification process. Following that two-year period, a smaller group of at least six countries could bring the agreement into force, provided that they together account for at least 85% of the combined GDP of the TPP countries. This requires the U.S. and Japan to bring the agreement into force. As of today, no TPP country has ratified the agreement.
When the Minister of International Trade met with all TPP ministers on the margins of the TPP signature event in New Zealand in February, she relayed the importance that the Canadian government places on transparency and public consultations for the TPP. When the minister meets again with her counterparts next week on the margins of the APEC trade ministers meeting in Peru, she will convey the same message.
As part of our objective to consult with Canadians, the Global Affairs Canada website for the TPP is currently under review, and updates will be available over the coming weeks. However, the website remains active, and I would encourage all Canadians to submit any public inquiries through the consultation portal on the website. They will also find the full TPP text, which is available in both English and French. I would also encourage Canadians to follow our continued consultations over the coming months.
As a trading nation, Canada's economic growth is directly linked to international trade. The government strongly supports free trade as a way to open markets to Canadian goods and services, grow Canadian businesses, and create good-paying middle-class jobs.
The government has committed to bringing forward the TPP to a debate and discussion here in this House, so that we can hear from parliamentarians. The fact is, we have committed to open consultations with all groups, whether they are opposed to the TPP or for the TPP, and that marks a significant departure from the previous government. It is a promise we made during the election campaign, and it is one that we are seeing through.