Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, whom I had the opportunity to work with on the Standing Committee on International Trade before she became the deputy whip. She did excellent work for her constituents and for Canadians.
Strong and diverse trade is key to Canada's economy. That is why I am proud to speak in support of the benefits of a modernized free trade agreement between Canada, United States and Mexico. Trade has always been at the core of Canada's economy. As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, I heard from Canadians about the importance of trade for our economic prosperity and well-being. The goods, the innovation and the skills that we export are the backbone of our economy. It supports the growth of small businesses and creates good, well-paying jobs for Canadians.
In the last four years, we have created over one million new jobs and brought our unemployment rate to its lowest point in over 40 years. Our expanding trade markets are a key part of this growth and have created new opportunities for businesses to grow. When the time came to renegotiate NAFTA, our government approached the task with clear determination and strength.
Our free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico represents the biggest economic region in the world. More than $2.2 billion in goods and services are traded daily. For British Columbia, NAFTA means continued market access security for over 20 billion dollars' worth of exports that we send to the U.S. each year.
However, this negotiation was more important than just what the numbers represent. It was about making sure that Canadian workers who rely on well-paying export-dependant jobs were being protected, as well as making sure that Canadian businesses would have the opportunity to grow and prosper, with access to 480-million consumers in North America.
Since our government began negotiations, representatives have visited the United States more than 300 times. We made more than 500 individual contacts with American officials, of whom over 310 were members of Congress, and met with many governors and other business leaders. It is because of this leadership and hard work that we are here today discussing the successful negotiation of this NAFTA agreement.
This agreement preserves free trade across North America's $25-trillion market, which has grown significantly since the original NAFTA was adopted in 1993. lt does this while making sure that we are protected from the threat of auto tariffs that would put thousands of good-paying jobs and families at risk.
There are a number of key elements within this deal that are going to provide protections for Canadians. First, this deal fully upholds the impartial dispute resolution of chapter 19 of the original NAFTA. With this system, any disagreement over trade goes to an independent binational panel that gets to decide on how the matter will be resolved.
Second, this agreement removes the proportionality clause that was not in the interest of Canada's energy sector. It is because of these changes that the oil industry will save more than $60 million a year in administrative fees and costs.
Third, we have successfully negotiated the removal of the investor-state dispute resolution system that has allowed companies to sue the Canadian government. Since coming into effect, this has cost Canadians taxpayers more than $300 million in penalties and legal fees. This system put the rights of corporations over those of the governments, and we have brought an end to that.
As an MP from British Columbia, I am very pleased to note the regional benefits to British Columbia. This means stability for workers in the lumber industry, energy and the processed food sector, to name a few. For agriculture goods under the new agreement, Canadian exports will continue to benefit from duty-free access for nearly 89% of the U.S. agriculture tariff lines and 91% of Mexican tariff lines. This is a big deal for British Columbia. In 2017 alone, farmers in British Columbia exported over $2.1 billion to the U.S. markets. New gains in this agreement mean new market access opportunities for British Columbia exporters of everything, from berries, dairy products and even sugar.
The preservation of chapter 19 is especially important for British Columbia's softwood lumber industry, which exported $4.3 billion to the United States in 2017. It also ensures that British Columbia's 178,000 small and medium-sized businesses will have an easier time shipping their products to the U.S. and Mexico, by eliminating paper processes and providing a single portal for traders to submit documentation electronically. The new chapter on small and medium-sized enterprises will foster co-operation to increase trade and investment opportunities for businesses.
As I mentioned earlier, all of these achievements took hard work, resolve and, above all, the strong leadership of this Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. When the United States applied tariffs to Canadian steel and aluminum products, we responded quickly with our own dollar-for-dollar tariffs. Despite calls from the Conservatives to drop our retaliatory measures, we held firm and secured the full lifting of steel and aluminum tariffs.
It was the NDP that wanted us to hold off on signing the side letters that protected our auto industry from tariffs. This agreement is going to help the auto industry in Ontario. Despite the all-or-nothing calls from the NDP, we know that Canadians' economic prosperity is too important to sacrifice for political gains.
This modernized and upgraded NAFTA agreement is going to make sure that our economy continues to grow, Canadians continue to work in good-paying jobs and our interests as a country are protected for many years to come.