Madam Speaker, it is great to be talking about trade and TPP, or CPTPP. I call it TPP because it is just easier. Actually, that is really what it is: an agreement that we, the Conservatives, developed, worked on and prepared a letter of intent. We gave it to the Liberals with a bow tied around it, and three years later we are actually going through the process of ratifying it.
I want to give a little history on TPP, exactly how it came about and what the intent was behind it.
If we go back a few years to 2014 and 2015, like-minded countries came together and said that rules needed to be created in the Asia-Pacific region that all countries would follow. It was a way to ensure proper rules were in place so countries like China and India would not bully other smaller economies in that region. This was a chance to do that.
The other thing that was happening was the chance to modernize NAFTA. Canada, the U.S. and Mexico were all part of the original TPP. They were saying that we could take this, add clients in North America, and this would replace and modernize NAFTA. In fact, if we would have done that, we would not be in this quagmire we are today and we would not have this insecurity in our business community. If the Liberals would have taken the TPP in 2015 when they were elected, instead of stalling and delaying, had embraced it with Obama and put it through, we would not be sitting here today talking about NAFTA and the concerns around it. It is frustrating for farmers, forestry workers and people in the mining and manufacturing sectors because it is three years later. They have been through a lot of stress and hardship in those three years.
This deal is great for Saskatchewan. It is great for our agriculture producers. They are the first to tell us that. They will have preferential access to markets in Japan. The fact that the U.S. is no longer involved makes it even better. Our beef producers can go into Japan with lower tariffs than our American competitors. Our grain growers can go into Japan and Asian markets with a competitive advantage over the Americans. The American farmers are fuming about this. They want to be part of this agreement also. However, because of their choices and their leadership, they are not part of this agreement. We are, so it is very important we are part of the first movers in this agreement to take full advantage of this opportunity.
I was in Japan last January and had a chance to sit down with some of our trade commissioners there. They are great people. Whenever I travelled, I tried to ensure I had a day to talk to different trade commissioners and embassies about the challenges and opportunities Canadian businesses had in that part of the world.
The people in Japan are excited. They talk about forestry products, for example. Our forestry sector is doing relatively okay, but, again, it has this cloud of tariffs and lack of market access into the U.S. The Asian market is something new to these people of which they can really take advantage. Our trade commissioner is saying that there is a huge opportunity for them to sell lumber and lumber products into Japan. Again, having that tariff-free access into the market is going to benefit that sector and help pivot away from the U.S. It will provide more security and stability in those communities with lumber as their main occupation.
When we look at the beef producers, Japan has huge trading houses. They do not just trade in Japan; they trade all over Asia. When producers are selling to these trading houses, their product becomes part of the mix in components put out for sale in different areas in Asia. For example, if one is selling beef steaks to go into TV dinners, it will be Canadian beef going across Asia, through these Japanese trading houses, feeding people across Asia. That is an advantage our beef producers will have that our American producers across the line will not.
When we talk about the Japanese business community, it is very loyal. Once someone is involved with the Japanese, once a proper relationship has been established with them, it is almost for life. They want to deal with those people over and over again. All of a sudden price is not the biggest issue anymore. They want quality. They want things we can deliver out of Canada. That is the advantage of having that tariff-free access and being the first mover.
That was why we needed to have this agreement come forward three years ago. It was why we should have had this agreement last spring. It is really disappointing that the Liberals would have rather done marijuana legislation than legislation that would have such a positive impact on our economy across Canada. At least we are here today. I give the government credit for making it the top priority, because we have to provide some stability for our business community and some new markets for them to sell into.
We have to remember that the Liberal government has not been very successful when it comes to trade files, when it comes to foreign policy. When the Liberals said that Canada was back, the reality is that years later we are not back. In fact, we are viewed as something other than what we were in the previous Harper government. This is a chance for us to go back into the marketplace, exert our great products and compete on a level playing field.
When I had round tables this summer, I talked to many manufacturers and agricultural producers. One of the things they talked about was competitiveness. We need to have a debate in the House about competitiveness. We need to really understand what has happened to our sectors and the impact that regulations and taxation like carbon taxes has had on them and their ability to compete, not only in North America but around the world.
When we start imposing taxes and regulations in Canada that shut down our industries, those products are being replaced by products in other parts of the world that do not have the same regulations and taxes. Those products will not have the same environmental benefits we have in Canada. We should be selling more goods, building more things because our environmental standards are so high compared to other regions in the world. We should be exporting like crazy because it is better for the global environment if we do it here than in a third world country.
However, the government wants to penalize our manufacturers and the different sectors. It views them as something bad, but they are our global strength. We should be embracing and working with them to ensure they have all the opportunities to sell their products and goods around the world, not beat them up. The government is doing nothing but beating them up, calling them tax cheats and all different kinds of names, undermining them through tax code changes and lack of consultations. Those things have to stop. Our business community cannot afford it.
When I talk to the business community, I am very scared. Businesses are not talking about expanding in Canada. Any thought of expansion in Canada is on hold. If they are going to expand, it is going to be in Tennessee or elsewhere in the U.S. where there are all sorts of incentives and tax breaks, an environment that actually wants their business, that wants them to grow there. We do not have that atmosphere in Canada anymore. We have an atmosphere where business is viewed as something that is evil. That is wrong and it has to change.
Hopefully the government will understand that by getting a trade agreement it opens up market access. That is really good. However, if we do not give our businesses, companies and farmers a level playing field through taxation and regulation, what good is it? They cannot compete because we have made them uncompetitive. Those are the issues we have to address. The Liberals cannot say that they passed the trade agreement, everything is good and go back and eat Cheerios. The trade agreement is just the first step.
The Liberals need to go to work and help people open up markets. They need to use our trade commissioners and trade services to ensure they understand what markets are available to them. We have to ensure we have EDC and BDC in place to help them expand their operations in Canada to grow the market. We need to help them with business plans in areas where they do not understand how business is done. We have those professionals within the bureaucracy. We need to leverage those professionals and ensure they have the tools to do what they need to do. We have to ensure the business community understands that those tools are there and are available.
This is a good agreement. It has some flaws. One of the biggest flaws is it should have been done three years ago. Having said that, at least we are doing it now.
I want to compliment the Liberal government for at least doing it now. This is the right thing to do. I am glad it is doing it and I look forward to being part of the trade committee to see this move forward. I look forward to going back to my farmers and forestry workers and telling them that we do not know what is going on the in the U.S., that we are not sure what is happening with NAFTA because Liberals will not tell us, that they are secretive, but at least we have fair and good market access into Asia. They can put resources that pivot toward that market to stabilize their businesses and continue to grow in Canada.
I look forward to seeing the vote on this and seeing this passed. I look forward to going back to farmers and forestry workers and telling them that we have given them another tool in their toolbox to be successful.