Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-282.
Seven years ago, U.S. President Barack Obama visited Ottawa and addressed parliamentarians in the House of Commons. There was one line from his speech that received a standing ovation and was in all the news stories that night. He said, “the world needs more Canada.”
The reason President Obama words received a standing ovation was because he was right; the world does need more Canada. The world needs more softwood lumber from B.C., more cod from Newfoundland and Labrador and more of everything from everywhere in between.
Unfortunately, Bill C-282 marks a significant departure from President Obama's positive outlook for Canada and instead represents a much more inward-looking and isolationist future.
Canada has always been a trading nation. Over the past 40 years, Canadian governments had negotiated 15 free trade agreements with 51 different countries. It is important to note that these free trade negotiations were signed, ratified and implemented under both Liberal and Conservative governments. This team Canada approach has served Canadians well by giving our free trade negotiators the flexibility they need to negotiate a deal that is in the best interest of Canada.
Unfortunately, Bill C-282 proposes to take supply management off the table in future free trade negotiations. It will handcuff our free trade negotiators and limit their ability to negotiate a deal that is in the best interest of all Canadians.
This is exactly the warning that was made to parliamentarians at the international trade committee when its members heard from our lead trade negotiators, both when the bill was being studied at committee as well as an identical bill in the previous Parliament.
Doug Forsyth, director general at Global Affairs Canada in charge of market access and trade development, said the following:
If we were to start from the position that we would not be dealing with 100% of the items that we would negotiate on, it does risk having an agreement that's not necessarily completely beneficial to Canadian exporters and producers and it does risk being an agreement that does not necessarily provide the full economic benefits to Canada that one might have expected.
Mr. Forsyth's concerns were echoed by his colleague, Mr. Aaron Fowler, the chief agriculture negotiator. Mr. Fowler actually went a step further and added, “In some cases, the country may determine that they do not want to go forward with an FTA with Canada in the absence of Canada's being able to make commitments in this sector.”
Given that these warnings are coming from Canada's actual free trade negotiators, it is incumbent upon parliamentarians to take them seriously and to not go down the path of handcuffing our negotiators in future negotiations.
Take, for example, the government's lndo-Pacific strategy, which it announced last fall. In this document, the government outlines its plans to negotiate free trade agreements with both India and the ASEAN nations of South-East Asia. India has a population of 1.4 billion people, and the ASEAN nations have a combined population of over 600 million people. That represents a combined total of over two billion potential customers for Canadian exporters. That sounds like a great opportunity for Canada. However, I cannot help but wonder if Canada's negotiators have to take supply management off the table, then what sectors will India and the ASEAN countries take off the table as well? What opportunities in these markets of two billion people will be lost to Canadian exporters?
One also has to consider our trade relationship with our two closest neighbours in North America, the United States and Mexico. One may be tempted to say that because Bill C-282 would apply to new free trade agreements only, and since Canada already has a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, then there is nothing to worry about. However, it is important to remember that the current NAFTA agreement has a sunset clause, which any of the three countries could invoke if they were unhappy with the current deal and would like to renegotiate it from scratch. If this sunset clause were invoked, Canada could be left without a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico as early the year 2036.
Again, that raises the question. If we sit down with the Americans and the Mexicans 13 years from now to renegotiate NAFTA, and if Canada’s supply managed sectors are off the table from the outset, then what sectors will the U.S. and Mexico take off the table as well? Which Canadians will no longer be able to export to the United States and Mexico because of Bill C-282? Will it be New Brunswick lobster fishermen? Will it be assembly line workers in Ontario’s electric car factories? Who?
I know that I would not want to go home to Saskatchewan and tell farmers and ranchers, potash and uranium miners that their jobs no longer exist because they can no longer export to the United States. I am sure there is not a single parliamentarian in this chamber who would like to have that sort of conversation with exporters in their ridings either.
Therefore, what do we do about supply management when it comes to future free trade negotiations? If a farmer works in one of the supply-managed sectors, and owns quota, and has played by the rules, and if a future free trade agreement reduces the value of that asset, then that farmer should be compensated for his or her loss. That compensation should be clear, complete, spelled out in black and white, and it should be paid out in a timely manner.
While every country has sectors that it seeks to protect in free trade negotiations, no country has enshrined into law what its negotiators can and cannot talk about with other countries. With an open economy that is largely based on exports, we should not be making Canada an outlier on the world stage.
Just about all of the speakers to the bill have extolled the virtues of supply management and the people who work in those sectors. I have no doubt that workers in these sectors are good people who deserve a fair shake in free trade agreements. However, sooner or later someone has to ask about the 99% of Canadians who do not work in a supply-managed sector.
What about other farmers and ranchers whose livelihoods depend on exports? What about Canadian workers who work in export-based industries other than agriculture? What about all the Canadian consumers who drive a car that was built in Germany, or use a smart phone that was built in South Korea or who just enjoy a bottle of French wine with their dinner? All of these Canadians benefit from free trade agreements that are the result of countless hours of work by our free trade negotiators, without having their efforts hindered by Bill C-282.
I would like to conclude with another quote from President Obama’s 2016 address to Parliament. He said, “the benefits of trade and economic integration are sometimes hard to see or easy to take for granted, and the very specific dislocations are obvious and real. There’s just one problem: Restricting trade or giving in to protectionism in this 21st century economy will not work.” That statement also received a standing ovation.
The world does need more Canada, not less. Bill C-282 is a step in the wrong direction and I encourage all parliamentarians to vote against it.