Madam Speaker, while we are figuring that out, I will speak to the bill.
It is an absolute pleasure for me to be speaking, on behalf of the residents of my riding of Davenport, to Bill C-100, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States. Indeed, this will be my last speech in this 42nd Parliament, and I am delighted to be speaking on such an important topic.
Before I speak to Bill C-100, I want to marvel at the accomplishments of our federal government over the last few years. We signed not one, not two, but three trade agreements since we came into office in late 2015. I am very proud that we signed the Canada-Europe trade agreement, the CPTPP and the USMCA, which we are now debating. These three agreements give Canada tariff-free access to 1.5 billion customers around the world. It is absolutely amazing. I would also like to point out that Canada is the only country to have a free trade agreement with each of the G7 countries.
I think both of these things are remarkable to note. We should be very congratulatory about the fact that we have been able to accomplish them over the last few years. I think it will truly be beneficial for Canada's economy moving forward.
As members know, we are a trading nation. Geographically, we are a massive country, but we are small in terms of people. Indeed, for our economy to be strong, both now and moving forward, we need these trade agreements.
I want to point out two other trade agreements that I follow in particular, because they have a direct impact on key groups in my riding. The first relates to the Hispanic and Brazilian communities.
In March 2018, our Minister of International Trade Diversification launched negotiations on Mercosur, which is a trading bloc that includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. These are really important markets for us and are very important for many members of my particular community. I am delighted that we have embarked on this. I hope to hear about its conclusions by the end of this year or early next year.
The other agreement I want to mention, as it is important to a group I am very proud to be a part of, relates to the Turkish community. Very recently, on June 8, the JETCO was signed between the hon. Ruhsar Pekcan, Turkey's Minister of Trade, and our Minister of International Trade Diversification at the G20 summit in Japan. We signed this JETCO because we want to further trade and investment between our two countries. We want to put a specific emphasis on small and medium-sized enterprises, strategic venture initiatives and technical and scientific co-operation. I am delighted with this. I currently serve as the chair of the Canada-Turkey Friendship Group, and I know this is exciting for both countries. I think it will be a benefit for both of us as well.
In my downtown west riding of Davenport, people are very supportive of trade agreements. This is partly because over 52% of them were born outside of Canada. For them, increasing trade between countries not only is beneficial for Canada overall but is also a way for many of the diasporas in my community to build closer relationships with their home countries or the home countries of their parents or grandparents. I find this particularly endearing. They are very positive toward trade agreements and are absolutely delighted with the CUSMA.
I will provide a few facts and figures. I do not think I will say anything that members have not heard many times before, but it is important for me to reiterate them.
The North American free trade zone is the biggest economic region in the world, worth $22 trillion U.S. in our regional market, and it encompasses more than 480 million consumers. This new updated agreement preserves Canada's market access to the United States and Mexico, securing our most important trading relationship.
I am delighted that this deal would increase trade between all three countries. I also like that it strengthens relations between Canada and the U.S. and between Canada and Mexico. Canada's preferential access to these markets is vital to the continued prosperity of Canadian workers, whose livelihoods rely on trade.
We did have some concerns after we signed the original agreement, which I believe was on November 30, 2018. The reason we had some concern is that the U.S. had imposed some steel and aluminum tariffs.
I am very glad to say that, after months of hard work and effort from our government, particularly our Minister of Foreign Affairs, our Minister of Finance and our Prime Minister, Canadians are now in a very different situation. We have secured a full lifting of the steel and aluminum tariffs and, despite the Conservatives' call to drop our retaliatory measures, we held firm. We have stuck to our principles and there are no longer tariffs on our steel and aluminum, about which I am absolutely delighted.
In terms of benefits, the new agreement preserves NAFTA's chapter 19, which is the binational panel that will settle disputes between our countries on any trade issues. Chapter 19 provides Canada with recourse to an independent and impartial process to challenge U.S. or Mexican anti-dumping and countervailing duties. This is particularly important for our country's softwood lumber industry, which exported product worth billions of dollars to the United States in 2017.
Another benefit is the ease of trade going across our borders. We all know what it is like to wait in a lineup to cross the Canada-U.S. border, and the new NAFTA has new customs and trade facilitation measures that will make it easier for companies to move goods across the border. It will also eliminate paper processes and provide a single portal for traders to submit documentation electronically. Then, of course, there is enhanced regulatory transparency and predictability, which will provide additional assurance for exporters that their goods will make it to new markets.
The other benefit of the agreement is that there is a new chapter on small and medium-sized enterprises, which I believe is going to foster greater co-operation among all three countries in terms of small businesses. It is also going to increase trade investment opportunities. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy here in Canada, and I think they are delighted at this particular addition.
We have talked quite a bit today about the progressive elements of the deal. In particular, I want to mention a couple of them. The first is the agreement's labour chapter. Its key aim is to level the playing field on labour standards and working conditions in North America. It also contains commitments to ensure that national laws and policies provide protections for fundamental principles and rights at work.
The chapter also includes unprecedented protections against gender-based discrimination that are subject to dispute settlement, and there are also specific provisions around sexual orientation, sexual harassment, gender identity, caregiving responsibilities and wage discrimination. Gender equality and women's economic empowerment are important priorities for our government. They are also important priorities in spurring economic development and in making sure that trade works for everyone.
This new agreement is also very strong on the environment. I think that is top of mind for all Canadians right now, particularly since we have now officially declared a national climate emergency. The environment will be top of mind for not only our government but for all governments right around the world. The new and comprehensive environment chapter includes ambitious environmental provisions with core obligations for countries to maintain high levels of environmental protection and robust environmental governance.
Since I have 11 minutes, I will continue with all the benefits of the new NAFTA. I am delighted to be speaking longer on this, and I will continue with the benefits to the environment.
In terms of additional benefits, the updated NAFTA, or the USMCA, also introduces its new commitments to address global environmental challenges such as illegal wildlife trade, illegal fishing and the depletion of fish stocks, species at risk, conservation of biological diversity, ozone-depleting substances and marine pollution. Canadians care about the environment and are delighted that we have these additional provisions.
I always like hearing from third parties in terms of what they think about the agreement, so I want to highlight some of the key third parties and what they have said about the benefits of this agreement. Then I am going to go on as to its benefits for the cultural industry, which is really also very important for my riding of Davenport.
The Business Council of Canada stated:
We applaud your government’s success in negotiating a comprehensive and high-standard agreement on North American trade. The [new NAFTA] maintains our country’s preferential access to the United States and Mexico—Canada’s largest and third-largest trading partners respectively—while modernizing long-outdated elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Also, I have a wonderful quote from one of our former prime ministers, the Right Honourable Brian Mulroney, who was the chief negotiator of the original NAFTA. He said that NAFTA got what it wanted and that it was a good deal. Therefore, he wholeheartedly endorsed this as well.
Because we talked a bit about labour provisions, I also have a wonderful quote from Hassan Yussuff, who is head of the Canadian Labour Congress, who said this new agreement, “gets it right on labour provisions, including provisions to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of gender.”
Therefore, as members can tell, there is quite a bit of support for the new NAFTA, and there are a number of third-party groups who provided these wonderful quotes.
What I would like to spend a couple of minutes on now is the positive impacts of this new updated agreement on cultural industries in Canada. As members may know, Davenport is home to one of the largest communities of artists, creators and those working in the cultural industries. Therefore, whenever I see any new agreements or announcements, I am always looking to see how they are going to benefit artists not only in my community but right across this country. Indeed, there are many benefits.
The USMCA will help strengthen Canada's unique cultural identity, including the French language and the independent Canadian media. The agreement will preserve the Canadian cultural exception that was demanded by Canada, especially in the digital world. It protects our cultural industries and more than 650,000 jobs across Canada. The cultural exception is essential for preserving identity and continuing to showcase our vibrant francophone culture, which is unique in North America.
I want to point out, because I am always proud of it, that I have a really wonderful growing francophone community in my downtown west riding of Davenport. We have a wonderful group called CHOQ-FM, which promotes really wonderful radio programs and really promotes the French language and francophone culture not only across Toronto but beyond.
I want to talk about some additional benefits without a cultural exception, federal and provincial tax credits and program funds to support our newspapers and magazines.
The cultural exception also protects Canada's broadcasting system, ensuring sustained investment in content created and produced by fellow Canadians.
I have some quotes from various leaders within the cultural industry who support the new USMCA and say it is beneficial for the industry.
I will provide a quote from Eric Baptiste of SOCAN, who stated:
Today is a great day for Canadian creators. SOCAN would like to thank the Canadian government for its efforts to defend the interests of the Canadian cultural sector and to provide greater protection for our creators.
I have a great quote from the Canadian Media Producers Association, which stated:
Throughout the NAFTA negotiations, the federal government consistently identified cultural exemption as a key priority. In securing this exemption in the new agreement, [the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs], and the entire negotiating team have stood tall for Canada and defended our cultural sovereignty. We applaud their successful efforts, and congratulate the government on this new deal.
Then I also have a great quote from Margaret McGuffin, who is with the Canadian Music Publishers Association, who stated:
Canada's music publishers and their songwriting partners welcomed the trade agreement reached between the governments of the United States, Canada and Mexico.
Finally, I have a wonderful quote from Melanie Rutledge of Magazines Canada, who said, “Magazines Canada's nearly 400 members across the country congratulate” the Prime Minister, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and all the other players within the Canadian government who played a role in negotiating this updated free trade agreement. She also said:
We are especially pleased that the cultural exemption applies in both the analogue and digital spaces. This digital inclusion will be critical to Canadian magazines and other cultural industries in the years to come.
As we can see, there is lots of support from artists and those in the cultural industry.
I will also mention a couple of areas where I think it will be very supportive. Canadians are very proud of our health care system and see it as part of our identity. One of the key things we have done is that this agreement continues to support our health care system.
The new agreement is a renewed understanding among Canada, the United States and Mexico on the significance of our mutual trade agreement. It preserves key elements of our trading relationship and incorporates new and updated provisions that seek to address 21st century trade issues to the benefit of all of Canada's provinces and territories.
I did not expect to speak for more than 10 minutes and I have spoken for about 17 minutes now, but it has been a pleasure. This really is a key and fundamental agreement among Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. As I mentioned, our economy greatly depends on trade. Canadians were worried for a while whether or not we would finally have an updated agreement. I think they can now set aside that worry.
We now have that updated agreement in place. We have charted a course moving forward. It gives us a wonderful foundation from which to continue to build our businesses between Canada and the U.S.; Canada, the U.S. and Mexico; and Canada and Mexico. It will serve us well as we develop closer business relations and as we all seek to improve our economies moving forward.
With that, I am going to wrap up my comments. On behalf of the residents of Davenport, I am grateful for this wonderful opportunity to speak to this very important bill. I encourage everyone in the House to support it.