Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak this morning in support of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement, Bill C-4.
I want to start by acknowledging that we are gathered here on the traditional lands of the Algonquin peoples.
Let me take this opportunity to thank our Deputy Prime Minister and her outstanding team for their efforts in securing this deal for Canada. There were many moments of angst, but our minister was diligent and focused on getting not just any deal, but the best deal for all Canadians.
The new CUSMA is a big win for Canadian businesses, Canadian jobs and Canada as a whole. The agreement solidifies our government's resolve to expand trade around the world through agreements such as CETA, CPTPP and a renewed NAFTA. It will help our middle class grow and allow more jobs to be created right here in Canada. The agreement has wins for all parts of the country and in many sectors.
Trade is more important today than at any other time. Access to other markets, free of tariffs, allows us to compete around the world. It also gives our businesses certainty and predictability.
The agreement allows over 500 million people in North America to trade freely, move freely and build an area of trade that is unprecedented in the world. Last Friday, we saw our good friends in the United Kingdom exit the European Union after 47 years. We know that many parts of the world are contracting, in terms of trade. This is an opportunity for Canada and North America to shine as we solidify and reaffirm our interconnectedness, the people-to-people ties and the enormous economic benefits we have seen over the last 24 years through NAFTA.
This bill is about NAFTA and advances it in many significant ways. I want to outline a few key points in the agreement.
First, there is a lot of conversation on agriculture and the very important issue of supply management. This was central to our negotiations in this agreement. As we can see, supply management is secured in this agreement. It allows our farmers to benefit from existing policies. Of course, it opens up a bit of market share to others, but fundamentally for all farmers it secures the supply management system that we have.
It is important because, in 2017, Canada-U.S. bilateral agricultural trade was $63 billion and Canada-Mexico bilateral agricultural trade was $4.6 billion. Together, that represents close to $70 billion in trade. This allows our farmers to be secure in the work they do. Of course we will compensate those who are affected, with cheques going to them as early as this month.
The auto sector is very important to our economy. It affects us across the country, but particularly in Ontario and Scarborough, where we have a lot of auto workers and auto-related jobs.
Over the last 25 years, we have lost many jobs. I grew up in a place called the golden mile, which is within walking distance of my apartment. In the golden mile area, we had Ford, GM and many auto manufacturers and suppliers. Over the years, we saw many of those jobs move.
What is critical is there is still a very strong auto industry in Canada. We see the pressures in Europe. We see Germany, France and the United Kingdom struggling to maintain a strong auto industry. I believe this agreement will ensure that the Canadian auto industry remains strong and vibrant, and will ensure high-paying jobs for Canadians going forward.
As members know, on November 30 our government signed a side agreement that essentially ensures us against possible 232 tariffs on cars and car parts. This is critical for the protection of auto jobs. Canada is, in fact, the only G7 country to have such a protection, and it really does allow us to advance the auto industry.
I will speak briefly on the cultural exemption that was negotiated in this agreement.
Previously, I was the parliamentary secretary to the minister of Canadian Heritage, and in that role I met with many stakeholders in the cultural sector. There are over 650,000 quality jobs for the middle class as a result of our cultural industries, with 75,000 just in Quebec, and it is a $53.8-billion industry.
This is an important part of our economy and an important part of who we are as a people. The cultural exemption provisions allow our cultural industries to continue without diluting their ability to create content. It is such an important part of this agreement.
There was a great deal of skepticism when the minister and our government spoke about protection for the environment, gender equality and labour. There was a great deal of criticism from others saying that this is a trade agreement and we should not bring issues that may appear to be ancillary to trade into these discussions. I am very proud to say that we did not give in to that.
We knew, and we know, that we can have good trade and good social policies at the same time, and we can advance many important values that Canada espouses through these trade agreements. This particular agreement is an example of how we were able to do that.
On the environment, for the first time we are ensuring that we are upholding air quality in flights and addressing marine pollution. We believe that commitments to high levels of environmental protection are an important part of not just this trade agreement but all trade agreements. They protect our workers and they protect our planet.
On gender equality, we worked hard to achieve a good deal that benefits everyone, but particularly to ensure that provisions that protect women's, minority and indigenous rights and environmental protections are the strongest in any of the agreements that we currently have. We also included protection for labour to ensure that there are minimum standards across our three countries.
I believe this is why, for a variety of reasons, we have Canadians from many different backgrounds supporting this agreement. For example, Premier Moe of Saskatchewan has said that a signed USMCA trade deal is good news for Saskatchewan and for Canada. Also, Hassan Yussuff, the president of the Canadian Labour Congress, said, “The USMCA gets it right on labour provisions, including provisions to protect workers against employment discrimination on the basis of gender.”
I will conclude by saying that this is a very important step in protecting our economy, creating middle-class jobs, ensuring our businesses are able to compete and ensuring that Canadians have secured access to this market of 500 million. It is an important step forward in advancing our economy.
I look forward to all parties coming together to support this agreement. No agreement is perfect, but there are sufficient benefits here for many sectors and across the country that warrant the support of all parties.