Madam Speaker, I rise in the House today to speak to the new NAFTA agreement and the repercussions of this important agreement. Of course, it is always a pleasure, and indeed my duty, to rise in this place and defend the interests of my constituents and those across Canada.
I want to thank all those involved on both sides of the House and all our neighbours and friends in the United States and Mexico for working on this agreement. As we all know, there was an incredible effort to get a deal on the table and that effort was a testament to how everybody understood how important this deal really was.
The Conservatives are in support of a trade agreement with the United States and with Mexico. It is good for business and it will provide the certainty for which all are looking.
The Conservatives, of course, are the party of trade. Our party is responsible for negotiating some of the largest and most important trade agreements in Canadian history. It was also under the previous Conservative government that we signed 40 trade agreements with countries all over the world. It was also under a Conservative government that NAFTA was first created. It was a historic agreement that propelled the Canadian economy into the future and provided unequalled opportunities for Canadian manufacturing, industry, energy, agriculture and other sectors.
The previous Conservative government was very forthcoming with information on the free trade negotiations that were taking place. The member for Abbotsford, as the then minister of international trade, provided many opportunities for parliamentarians to ask questions, take part in briefings and see documents. Unfortunately, we have not seen the same from the Liberal government. It prefers that the opposition just trust the government and not worry, that it got the best deal possible.
Over the past few weeks, the Liberal Party has claimed that it is the Conservatives who have delayed the implementation of the new NAFTA deal. Conservative members on the Standing Committee on International Trade sent a letter to the Deputy Prime Minister, outlining the concerns the Conservative Party had heard with a new NAFTA deal and to correct the record that outlined how it was, in fact, the Liberal Party who had been delaying the implementation of this new NAFTA deal.
Knowing that the federal election was coming up in October of 2019, the Conservatives offered to begin a prestudy on the original trade deal. It was originally called Bill C-100. That happened in May of last year. When the government was ready to move the legislation through the House of Commons, the work would already have been done in committee. However, the Liberals declined.
When the revised agreement was signed in December 2019, the Conservatives offered to come back early from the Christmas break to begin work on that bill. The Liberals declined that as well.
The Liberal government waited until January 29 to introduce the implementation legislation in the House of Commons, even though the revised agreement was signed in December. The Conservatives moved that legislation through the House of Commons in just six sitting days compared to the 16 days it took to move the original implementation legislation, Bill C-100, through the House of Commons and to committee.
The international trade committee had approximately 200 requests to appear on that new trade deal. The amount of work to do on the legislation had not changed and the Conservatives consistently offered to commence that work earlier. The Liberals declined.
The Conservatives ultimately offered to complete a clause-by-clause examination by no later than March 5, under the assumption that the government would not be recalling the House of Commons during the constituency break week to conduct report stage and third reading of Bill C-4. The Liberals declined that too.
The Liberals released their economic impact analysis for that trade deal only one day before the international trade committee had to conduct its clause-by-clause review and the first formal briefing that parliamentarians actually received on the new agreement was on December 11, 2019.
Canada's Conservatives sought a unanimous consent motion in the House of Commons to speed up the ratification of that new trade deal. The Liberals declined that too.
Those are the facts.
I want to turn now to the substance of that agreement. The deal is not perfect. We have said that many times on this side of the House and so have some of our other opposition colleagues. There are a number of shortcomings that I would like to put on record.
The Liberal government has left our great aluminum industry vulnerable to backdoor imports from China. While steel was protected with rules that steel must be melted and poured by primary steelmakers in North America in order to receive preferential tariff treatment, no such provision was added for aluminum.
Jean Simard, president and CEO of the Aluminum Association of Canada, said the following:
The advantage thus conferred to Mexico makes it more or less China's North American backyard to dispose of the products of its overcapacity, thereby generating the gradual relocation of North American transformers to Mexico.
The Liberal government also failed to secure a new ISDS, leaving Canadians and their businesses unprotected by unfair laws, tariffs or trade practices of our partners. This will leave many Canadian industries open to abuse, with little to no recourse.
In the early 2000s, the softwood lumber industry was devastated by unfair trade practices and it was only because of arbitration panels ruling against the U.S. that we eventually worked out a settlement.
In a statement, the president of the BC Lumber Trade Council said:
Having a robust and fair dispute resolution mechanism is absolutely critical to maintaining a rules-based trading system and providing an avenue for Canada and Canadian companies to appeal unwarranted duties.
The CUSMA deal, the new NAFTA, fails to include a fair dispute resolution process.
Another huge problem is CUSMA's sunset clause. The sunset clause sets out formal reviews every six years and a termination clause in 16 years unless it is renegotiated. I, among many other Canadians, would like to know why we are not protecting long-term stability for our Canadian business.
Dennis Darby, chief executive of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, said, “With a five-year potential sword hanging over your head, I think what it's going to do is cause manufacturers to not invest and be really, really risk-averse."
I would like to have on the record the shortcomings we see in the dairy section of this agreement. It would reduce Canadian dairy producers' access to the U.S. market at the same time opening the Canadian market to more U.S. milk products. This agreement dictates specific thresholds for Canadian exports of milk protein concentrates, skim milk powder and infant formula. If export thresholds are exceeded, Canada would add duties to the exports in excess to make them more expensive. It would also eliminate milk class 6 and milk class 7, which would affect dairy farms across Ontario and the country.
Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said, “[T]he message sent to our passionate, proud and quality-conscious farmers and all the people who work in the dairy sector is clear: they are nothing more than a bargaining chip to satisfy President Trump.”
I would like to take a minute to express my concerns with how the government is also handling the coronavirus crisis.
When is the Liberal government going to start to outlining its plan to Canadians in the case of a possible pandemic? Expecting Canadians to stockpile supplies is simply not enough. All Canadians deserve to be reassured that the government is prepared to assist and support those affected by the virus. We need much more vigorous screening processes upon entry, mandatory quarantine for those who do enter from high-risk countries or potentially stopping incoming and outgoing flights from high-risk areas. The health and safety of all Canadians needs to be a top priority.
Canada's Conservatives have offered repeatedly to expedite the new NAFTA deal in order to ensure swift ratification, but again, at every stage, the Liberals have chosen to play politics.
The committee heard from a number of sectors that would be negatively impacted by CUSMA, and it is important the government is aware of those negative impacts so it can work to mitigate them.
I want to reiterate for my friends on all sides of the House that the Conservatives support this legislation. We are the party of trade and we hope to see that continue.