Madam Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise this afternoon and speak to the tripartite agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States. I will be sharing my speaking time on this important issue with my colleague from Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock.
It is always a privilege to rise in the House in support of trade with our partners, as trade is one of the pillars of our economy. This afternoon, we are not talking about just any partner. We are talking about our American partner. As members know, our shared relationship and border go back a long way.
I will start by saying that I plan on supporting Bill C-4 because this agreement is in keeping with a long tradition that we established. In 1994, Brian Mulroney signed the first agreement, NAFTA, with the United States and Mexico.
This fundamental agreement helped Canada triple its exports to the U.S. and Mexico and also helped stimulate our economy. As a proud representative of a vibrant manufacturing region, I can see first-hand how this free trade agreement benefits our manufacturers in Bellechasse—Les Etchemins, such as Rotobec, and in Lévis.
I just want to remind my colleague that, like him, I plan to support this important bill to maintain our trade relationship with our most important partner. The United States takes in three-quarters of Canada's exports, a significant amount considering that Canadian exports totalled nearly $400 billion U.S. in 2016.
However, we are less pleased about the fact that the current government did a poor job of negotiating this agreement, as it does with most things. The Liberal government does not know how to negotiate agreements for Canada, and that has a negative impact on businesses such as those in the dairy industry in my riding. Nevertheless, we are better off with a bad agreement than with no agreement, which is why I have already voted in favour of this bill and why we hope it passes quickly.
For some time now, the Conservatives have been telling the government to hurry up and approve the deal. I worked in consulting engineering, where people say that a deal is not done until it is signed. It is not a good deal, but we need to get it approved ASAP.
That is why, in spring 2019, before the October federal election, we proposed a preliminary study of the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement so that it could be passed as soon as the government introduced it in the House, but the Liberals refused.
The day after the election, we asked the Liberals to consider the possibility of sitting in December between Christmas and New Year's because we thought it was important to ratify this agreement. Once again, the Liberals ignored our request.
We had to wait until the end of January before they finally bothered to table the agreement here in the House so that we could begin the legislative process. Once again, we asked for things to be done more quickly because people wanted to have their say about the problems with this important agreement. The Liberals refused.
That brings us to where we are today. We are making progress, and I can say that we intend to support the ratification of this agreement every step of the way. The relationship between Canada and the United States is one of the closest and most solid relationships that can exist between two countries. It plays an important role in our manufacturing jobs. A number of agreements and several billion dollars are at stake.
I want to take this opportunity to remind members that there is a border between Canada and the United States. Of course, it is important to ensure the free flow of goods between the two countries, but it is also important to ensure that our borders remain secure. I am referring to the beyond the border action plan announced in December 2011 by then U.S. president Barack Obama and then Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper. We recognize the importance of maintaining a strong trade relationship while keeping our borders secure.
Unfortunately, as I mentioned, the Liberals did not negotiate a good deal in this case. As we have seen, many groups were left out in the cold. Overall, the agreement that was signed and that we are going to approve is not as good as the previous agreement that was negotiated by the Conservatives. That is unfortunate, but, as I said, we would rather have a bad deal than no deal at all.
Why are the Liberals such bad negotiators? When we look at their record on negotiating, we have to remember that the agreements collectively provide the big picture.
Take the dairy sector. This sector plays a very important role in the Chaudière-Appalaches region, especially in Bellechasse and Les Etchemins, where businesses are handed down from one generation to the next and are an economic mainstay in our region. These businesses have had to deal with not one, not two, but three agreements.
The first agreement, which was negotiated by our government, is the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. That agreement made some accommodations with regard to supply management to allow European products to enter our market. On October 18, 2013, an agreement in principle was signed with the European Union, and the agreement came into force in September 2017.
The trans-Pacific partnership is now known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. This happened during the transition from the Conservative government to the current government.
At the time, when we were in negotiations on the trans-Pacific partnership, the U.S. was involved, but it withdrew from the agreement in January 2017. The other members of the initial agreement picked up where they left off and renamed the agreement. However, the concessions that were made in the Canada-Europe free trade agreement and then in the trans-Pacific partnership were renewed. This left the dairy sector vulnerable, because there was no agreement with the U.S. when it came time to renegotiate the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement. In a way, we had already made two concessions. Even more damaging was the fact that the concessions were cumulative. The Liberals made more bad decisions on cheese imports.
Under the Canada-Europe free trade agreement, 16,000 tonnes of imported cheese from Europe was to enter our markets. The Liberals made the mistake of granting the power to import these cheeses not to those who were affected, namely manufacturers and processors, but to distributors, who received half of the import quota. This was even more detrimental than a simple reduction in volume because Quebec's entire cheese sector was undermined.
Mr. Letendre, the chairman of Les Producteurs de lait du Québec, stated that it made no sense to allocate 50% of the quota to distributors. He said that it is expensive to develop new products in order to compete and that this would hurt Quebec's industry.
I wanted to cite the example of the three agreements that were negotiated. Every time the Liberals were involved in the negotiations, it hurt the dairy industry and Canadian industries. Ultimately, our businesses are being penalized, and we have yet to see any compensation. That is unfortunate, because had Canada's interests been considered in the negotiations, we would not have had to make concessions.
I had many things to say, but I realize that my time is running out. I made my point at the outset. We intend to support the agreement despite its weaknesses because it is important to maintain the relationship with our most important partner, the United States.