moved that Bill C-4, An Act to implement the Agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by acknowledging that we are gathered on the traditional territory of the Algonquin people.
I am truly honoured to speak here today in support of Bill C-4, an act to implement the new NAFTA. Canadians have come a long way since 2017, when Canada's most important trading relationship, indeed our national prosperity itself, was put at serious risk. The years that followed were among the more turbulent in our history. We have emerged not only with the essential elements of the North American Free Trade Agreement intact, but with a better, more effective and fairer agreement than before.
This agreement is better for steel and aluminum workers, better for auto manufacturers and factory workers, better for farmers, forestry workers and energy workers. This agreements is better for the thousands of people working hard in our service industries. It is better for Canadian artists, singer-songwriters and filmmakers and better for the companies that hire them.
Canada has always been a trading nation. We have trade agreements with Europe and the Pacific in place, and we are about to have a modernized NAFTA. That means free trade with 1.5 billion people around the world and makes us one of the world's greatest trading nations.
That we achieved this at a time of considerable uncertainty in global trade, with the rules-based international order itself under strain, is something of which all Canadians can be rightly proud. It is a testament to the unrelenting work of thousands of patriotic Canadians from all walks of life, representing every political view from all orders of government and from all regions of our great country. This truly has been team Canada at work.
A little more than 25 years ago, the North American Free Trade Agreement created the world's largest economic trading zone, but let us remember that it did not come about easily or without controversy. In fact, a federal election was fought over free trade in 1988, and my own mother ran against NAFTA for the New Democrats in the riding of Edmonton Strathcona. These were intense debates as many in the House will remember, yet today the Canadian consensus for free trade is overwhelming.
That consensus is a testament to NAFTA's long-term effectiveness as a vehicle for economic growth. More broadly speaking, it is also a testament to the fact that rules-based trade advances personal freedom, fosters entrepreneurial spirit and generates prosperity.
Today, Canada, the United States and Mexico account for nearly one-third of global GDP despite having just 7% of the global population. Every day, transactions worth about $2 billion Canadian and 400,000 people cross the Canada-U.S. border. Those are impressive numbers.
When we were first asked to renegotiate NAFTA, we were determined to improve the agreement, update it, refine it and modernize it for the 21st century. That is exactly what we did.
I would like to stress two points. Under the new NAFTA, 99.9% of our exports to the United States can be exported tariff-free, and when it comes into force, this agreement will be the most progressive trade deal our country has ever negotiated. Indeed, I believe it will be the most progressive trade deal in the world.
“Growth that works for everyone” is not just a slogan. It has been the animating, driving idea in our negotiations from the start.
Let us be honest: The negotiations that got us here were not always easy. There were some twists and turns along the way. There were, as I predicted at the outset, moments of drama. There were times when the prospect of success seemed distant, but we hung in there. Faced with a series of unconventional negotiating positions from the United States, a protectionist flurry unlike any this country has encountered before, we did not escalate and we also did not back down. We stayed focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs, economic growth, security and opportunity. That is how we stayed the course.
It was clear from the start that, in order to be successful, Canada as a whole had to come together and work as a team.
We began by consulting stakeholders across the country. We heard from Canadians in industry, agriculture, the service sector and labour. We sought and received advice and insight from across party lines. We reached out to current and former politicians, including provincial and territorial premiers, mayors, community leaders and indigenous leaders. We asked Canadians for their input and gathered over 400,000 submissions on the modernization of NAFTA.
We established the NAFTA council with people from different political parties, as well as business, labour and indigenous leaders.
I would like to thank every member of the NAFTA council for their wisdom, hard work and collegiality. Their insight helped guide our way forward at every step of the way, right up to the present moment.
I would also like to thank current and past members of the House for their contributions. With politics, there is always partisanship, but there can also be collaboration in the national interest. I know, from the many conversations I have had with colleagues across the aisle and across Canada, that every single one of us here shares the goal of working for Canada and Canadians. This negotiation has not been a political project. It has been a national one.
There have been many hurdles. During the negotiations, we were hit with unfair and arbitrary tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum. We defended ourselves without rancour, but with firmness, imposing perfectly reciprocal, dollar-for-dollar tariffs on the United States even as team Canada fanned out across the U.S., reminding our friends, allies and neighbours that they rely on us for trade, too.
We were consistent. We were persistent. We never gave up. We just kept digging in the corners, if I may be allowed one NAFTA hockey metaphor.
The new NAFTA is a great agreement for Canada because we acted with resolve at the negotiating table to uphold the interests and values of Canadians. Our professional trade negotiators are, without exaggeration, the very best in the world. They are a group of true hard-working patriots, led by the inimitable Steve Verheul. I would like to thank them on behalf of all Canadians.
I would also like to thank Ambassador Bob Lighthizer. I found him to be a reliable and trustworthy counterpart, even though there were many times when we did not agree. He is someone who has become a friend. I would like to acknowledge his hard work, his professionalism and his willingness to find win-win compromises for our great continent. That made this agreement possible.
I would also like to recognize the efforts of my Mexican counterparts, who showed tremendous commitment, through a change in government, in renewing our trilateral relationship and in reaching a progressive outcome that raises working standards for workers across our shared continent.
Muchas gracias, amigos.
The benefits of this agreement for Canadians are concrete and considerable. The new NAFTA preserves Canada's tariff-free access to our most important market: 99.9% of our exports to the U.S. will be tariff-free. The agreement preserves the dispute settlement mechanism known as the famous chapter 19 in the original NAFTA, which provides an independent and impartial process for challenging anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
Critically, this mechanism is how we Canadians ensure a level playing field with a much larger trading partner. This mechanism is more valuable today than ever, with the WTO effectively paralyzed.
The new NAFTA preserves the general exception for cultural industries, which employ some 650,000 people across the country. These industries are an integral part of Canada's bilingual nature and our linguistic and cultural identity. This was a crucial factor, because those industries ensure that we can tell our own stories, as Canadians, in both official languages.
Our farmers are more crucial than ever to our collective prosperity. Canada and the United States have the largest bilateral trading relationship in the world in the area of agriculture, which is worth about $48 billon annually.
At one point in the negotiations, the United States demanded that we abolish supply management. We refused that demand. This agreement secures the future of Canada's supply management system for this generation and generations to come.
The new agreement strengthens labour standards and working conditions in all three countries. This is a historic milestone with, for the first time, truly muscular and enforceable labour standards. This agreement, for the first time, levels the playing field in North America for Canadian workers.
It supports the advancement of fair and inclusive trade. It addresses issues related to migrant workers, forced or compulsory labour, and violence against union members, including gender violence. It enshrines obligations related to discrimination, including discrimination based on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
This agreement modernizes our trade for the 21st century. Critically, it reduces cross-border red tape and simplifies procedures for Canadian exporters. It promotes increased trade and investment through new chapters dedicated to small and medium-sized businesses.
As well, the agreement preserves the provisions on temporary entry for business people. These provisions are essential to supporting cross-border trade and investments. Temporary entry ensures that investors can see their investments first-hand, and that service suppliers can enter the market to fulfill their contracts on-site.
At a time when walls are being built, temporary entry is a critical advantage for Canadians.
Crucially, the new NAFTA also shields Canada from arbitrary and unfair trade actions. For instance, our auto sector employs 125,000 people directly and another 400,000 indirectly through a network of dealers and after-market services. The side letter we signed with the new NAFTA protects this vital industry from any potential U.S. tariffs on automobile and auto parts.
The new NAFTA is great for Canadian auto workers. We see this in new, higher requirements for levels of North American content in the production of cars and trucks. We see it in the labour chapter, which includes key provisions to strengthen and improve labour standards in the NAFTA space.
One of our government's main objectives is to ensure that women have the opportunity to participate fully and equitably in the Canadian economy. The new NAFTA is no exception. The labour chapter includes a non-discrimination clause and addresses obstacles to the full participation of women.
Environmental stewardship is essential to our collective future. The new NAFTA includes a chapter on the environment that will help ensure that our trade partners do not receive unfair economic advantages because they failed to respect the environment.
The environment chapter requires that all the NAFTA partners maintain strong environmental protection and robust environmental governance. It introduces new commitments to address challenges like illegal wildlife trade, illegal fishing and the depletion of fish stocks, species at risk, conservation of biodiversity, ozone-depleting substances and marine pollution.
It also recognizes the unique role of indigenous peoples in the conservation of our shared biodiversity and in sustainable fisheries and forest management. This is a first. For the first time in a Canadian trade agreement, the new NAFTA confirms that the government can adopt or maintain measures it deems necessary to fulfill its legal obligations to indigenous peoples.
We should note that the obligations on labour and environment in the new NAFTA are subject to dispute settlement. This is a major accomplishment. This means any laggard can be held accountable.
In his speech to the U.S. National Governors Association in 2017, the Prime Minister referred to his father's famous metaphor about Canada, of our experience of sleeping next to an elephant. He said that, contrary to his father's phrase, Canada today is no mouse, more like a moose. This negotiation and its conclusion have shown how right he was.
Throughout the formal negotiations and in the months that followed, the Government of Canada has been intent on upholding the national interest. This work continued last year, culminating in a protocol of amendments signed by Canada, the United States and Mexico that strengthen state-to-state dispute settlements, labour protection, environmental protection and rules of origin.
Our government is committed to ensuring that the benefits of trade are widely and fairly shared.
The new NAFTA helps us accomplish that. It promotes progressive, free and fair economic growth. More generally, it strengthens rules-based trade at a time when those rules are in great need of strengthening. It brings back stability to the trade relationship between Canada, the United States and Mexico. Above all, this agreement provides stability and predictability for companies that employ hundreds of thousands of Canadians.
Our focus in bringing the new NAFTA to Parliament has always been on preserving and fostering opportunity for Canadian workers, businesses, families and communities across the country. That is what we achieved, and this is what all Canadians have achieved together. It is something that all Canadians and every member of the House can be proud of. We are all here to serve Canadians.
I encourage all members in the House and Senate to work co-operatively with us to swiftly pass this legislation.