Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House for the first time in 2020. On top of that, I do so as you preside over this august chamber. I am happy for you, and I thank you for giving me the floor.
I am very pleased to be here to present to the House of Commons an important result the government obtained for the cultural sector with the new NAFTA, also known as CUSMA.
Canada has managed to retain the general exemption for cultural industries, a key provision designed to preserve Canada's cultural sovereignty. This is an important aspect of the original NAFTA.
The general exemption for cultural industries fully preserves the latitude Canada has to adopt and maintain the programs and policies that support the creation and dissemination of Canadian artistic expression or content, including in the digital environment.
At the outset of the negotiations, our government made it clear that it wanted to preserve the cultural exemption and did not back down on that objective throughout the negotiation process, to get the result we have today. The cultural exemption is a matter of national interest that enjoys overwhelming support from Canada's cultural industries, and most certainly those of Quebec, all the provinces and territories, and several municipal and local governments.
Today I am very proud to say that Canada fought hard at the negotiating table to ultimately achieve our objectives in the cultural sector by retaining the cultural exemption.
Why is that so important? As countries' economies become increasingly integrated, different nations need a strong culture and national cultural expressions to preserve their sovereignty and their sense of identity.
Canada is proud of its cultural diversity. We are proud of our heritage, stories, culture and population. As a Quebecker, I can say that we have a very rich culture, a culture we export to just about every corner of the planet. That is also true for the entire country. We should be proud of this, and that is why the cultural exemption is essential. We must preserve the vitality of this important sector. I will speak a little later not only about Canada's fabric, but also about the very important economic benefits of culture.
We understand that culture is important at a number of levels. It helps build our societies, it strengthens social cohesion and pride, it supports economic prosperity, it is an integral part of who we are as Canadians and it enriches our lives.
Historically, culture has been treated differently in Canada's free trade agreements. Since the bilateral agreement we signed with the United States in 1988, Canada has chosen to exempt cultural industries from the obligations of free trade agreements.
The cultural exemption in the new agreement protects Canada's right to pursue its cultural policy goals. This enhances the benefits of the original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement and the original NAFTA.
The new CUSMA recognizes that Canada has a right to promote its cultural industries through incentives like grants, tax credits, regulations and other forms of support. This is why the cultural exemption is so important.
I should also point out that the cultural exemption is neutral on technology. This means that the exemption applies to both the physical world and the digital world. Because of its horizontal scope, this exemption takes precedence over the disciplines on trade associated with the cultural industries in all chapters of the new agreement, including the chapter on digital trade.
The definition of cultural industries in Canada takes into account the key role that both Canadian and non-Canadian online platforms now play in distributing Canadian cultural content. That is why we worked so hard to make sure the cultural exemption would fully apply to the online environment. During the negotiations, we stressed that our ability to take action to adopt measures aimed at promoting Canadian cultural expression in the digital realm needed to be recognized and preserved in the new agreement.
The digital environment is evolving at a fast pace, and it is in this country's interest to keep its strategic options open in the future, especially since we are in the process of reviewing the Broadcasting Act, the Telecommunications Act and the Radiocommunication Act.
Canada not only maintained its existing programs and policies, but it also ensured that it would have the flexibility to intervene strategically to support cultural industries in the future. Over the years, Canada's approach to culture when negotiating free trade agreements has played a decisive role in promoting Canada's national cultural industries and has therefore contributed to economic growth, job creation and prosperity. Since music, television shows, movies and books are not just entertaining, but also essential to our quality of life, as I mentioned earlier, they represent a major industry and a significant segment of our economy.
Together, Canada's cultural industries account for more than 660,000 jobs and contribute $53 billion to our economy. In 2017, our cultural industries accounted for about 3% of Canada's GDP and exports worth nearly $16 billion.
The cultural industries have much to offer the world. Just think of artists like Céline Dion, Drake and The Weeknd, who have propelled Canada onto the international stage. We are an exporter of culture, and we need to celebrate that. Quebec has some amazing filmmakers, such as Xavier Dolan, Denis Villeneuve and Jean-Marc Vallée, who are internationally renowned for their talent and their storytelling. The list goes on and on.
It is our collective responsibility as a government to support this industry, which is the foundation of our national identity, and to create the conditions needed to support the artists of today and help develop the talent of tomorrow.
I would also like to point out that Canada's vibrant cultural industries are ready to do business. In recent years, for example, Canada has become Hollywood North as a result of its welcoming film production environment, world-class production infrastructure—including skilled labour—and strategic tax credits. It is no surprise that over the past five years alone the number of foreign productions filmed in Canada has increased by 160%, more quickly than in the United States or the United Kingdom.
Our commitment to protect culture includes much more than free trade agreements. Canada is a global advocate of the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions, which was adopted by UNESCO in 2005. This convention recognizes both the economic and social value of cultural goods and services and reaffirms the right of governments to adopt their own cultural policies.
In addition, the government made the single largest reinvestment in Canadian arts and culture not only in over 30 years, but also in the entire G7, precisely to bring in the tools needed to support Canada's entire cultural ecosystem. That makes me very proud. It is one of the first things we did when we came to power in 2015, as early as budget 2016, after the cultural sector took such a hard hit during the previous decade under the Conservatives.
I believe it is important to show our support, especially when we see both the social and economic value of culture. We know that the money invested generates returns both for jobs and the GDP. This industry represents 3% of our GDP, which is huge. It is important that the government support our content creators, our artists, artisans and Canadian cultural industries, which are so vital.
I would like to reiterate that the cultural component of the new agreement represents a major victory for the Canadian cultural industry and for all Canadians. Indeed, Canadians will continue to have access to rich and diverse cultural expressions across all media and all formats.
In future, we will continue to tell our stories and express our culture in all its diversity and on every platform. I think that all members of the House should be pleased that in spite of tough negotiations, Canada succeeded in preserving our country's cultural exemption and ensuring that it applies in the digital age.