Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand in the House to speak on the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.
At the onset, I should indicate that prior to entering politics, I had an opportunity to do a significant amount of business in South Korea. As a matter of fact, one of the subway systems that is used in a suburb of Seoul is a system that I introduced to them back in the mid-1980s.
However, what I would like to address today is the broader implications of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement being the first of our many agreements, hopefully, in the Asia-Pacific region.
Our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. The creation of jobs and economic growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers, and their families continues to be our focus. That is why we will continue to deliver pro-export leadership.
I would like to highlight the Canada-Korea free trade agreement in the broader context of Canada's foreign policy in the Asia-Pacific region.
This dynamic region accounts for half of the world's population and is expected to contain two-thirds of the world's middle class by 2030. By that point, it is further estimated that the region would account for one-half of global GDP. Canada and our competitors recognize the significant potential Asia-Pacific has to offer, in terms of productivity, investment and innovation.
In the last Speech from the Throne, we committed to expanding trade in the Asia-Pacific region to benefit hard-working Canadians and businesses, especially, our crucial small and medium-size enterprises and industries across the country.
In addition to the Canada-Korea free trade agreement that we are discussing today, Canada continues to pursue agreements with other Asia-Pacific nations. Earlier this month, we ratified a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement with China. We are also participating in the trans-Pacific partnership negotiations with 11 other countries in the region, and are negotiating an economic partnership agreement with Japan.
The tremendous economic momentum and potential of the Asia-Pacific has been accompanied by political and demographic shifts across the region. Amid this transformation, Canada has made our relations with Asia-Pacific a top foreign policy priority in order to contribute to regional and global security and prosperity.
In August, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced additional Canadian funding in the amount of $14 million to help address security issues of shared concern in Southeast Asia. The projects include those to mitigate biological and nuclear threats; disrupt illicit flows, while protecting legitimate trade; combat human smuggling activities; improve regional cybersecurity tools; and work with our Association of Southeast Asian Nations partners to prevent and respond to terrorism.
For example, we are helping states by providing training and equipment, and technical and legal assistance to address the foreign fighter phenomenon and radicalization. Canada committed $2.3 million to support efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to identify and detect foreign fighters, individuals who are returning to their countries from abroad having been further radicalized and with the training and experience to undertake terrorist activities at home.
Canada also provides bilateral development assistance to countries such as Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, and the Philippines, as well as other countries across Southeast Asia.
Furthermore, Canada provides development assistance through multilateral and global programs in Asia, as well as through partnerships between Canadian organizations and counterparts in Asia. In the fiscal year 2012-13, Canada provided approximately $1 billion in official development assistance to countries in Asia.
As an example, in September, our government announced funding for World Vision Canada and the Canadian Red Cross to support projects that are improving the health and well-being of vulnerable people in Afghanistan, as well as strengthening community resilience to natural disasters in Southeast Asia. Stability and security are vital to the prosperity of the region and that of Canada. We have a stake in attaining these objectives and we have made important contributions to supporting them in the Asia-Pacific region.
South Korea has witnessed rapid development, democratic evolution, and growing regional and international interests. It joined the United Nations in 1991 and in 2010 it was accepted into the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.
These milestones have facilitated and enhanced co-operation between Canada and Korea in a number of political and security dimensions such as arms control, disarmament, peacekeeping and development assistance. Canada and Korea are both active in multilateral fora and partners in promoting global peace and security. Both countries also co-operate on security issues in other fora, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum.
Additionally, we share important alliances with the United States and the Asia-Pacific and beyond. Canada supports efforts to maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula and in that region, and takes seriously the threat posed by North Korea to regional and indeed global security. We stand with South Korea in its efforts to ensure peace on the peninsula. North and South Korea technically remain at war as hostilities were concluded with an armistice, not a peace treaty.
Canada remains gravely concerned about North Korea's provocative and destabilizing actions such as nuclear and missile tests and related proliferation, as well as its egregious human rights abuses. Canada strongly supports the six-party talks as a framework for credible negotiation on the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Some of the great success stories of democratization in the last generation can be found in the Republic of Korea as well as Taiwan, Indonesia and Mongolia.
Canada now has more diplomatic staff in Asia than anywhere else in the world. Canada places great value on our relationships with the Asia-Pacific region and with Asian countries. We increased our presence on the ground with over 10 new offices in China and India since 2006. We will be establishing Canadian diplomatic presences in both Cambodia and Laos, and Canada is establishing a mission to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations headed by a new ambassador.
While in Burma in September, the Minister of Foreign Affairs opened Canada's newest diplomatic mission. Establishing a trade commissioner service in Burma is an integral component of the embassy as Canadian companies will have an important role to play in fostering sustainable economic growth while providing opportunities for Canada's private sector. No government in Canadian history has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families. Deepening Canada's trading relations in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world is key to these efforts.
Canada's network of missions across Asia will help us to promote Canadian values: freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law. People in the region seek a bright future, including freedom and opportunity. Canada is ready to help them and to invite Canada's private sector to expand our engagement. Economic opportunity, in Canada and elsewhere, rests on free, transparent and open markets, the rule of law and democratic governance. As like-minded partners, Canada and Korea share a strong commitment to these values. Canadian foreign policy, including our trade policy, will not only promote peace and prosperity, but will contribute to the development of the wider Asia-Pacific region. In this context, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is an important achievement that would advance our bilateral relations with Korea as well as Canada's broader objectives in this region.
We stand with Canadians incredibly disappointed that the New Democrats tried to completely gut the bill at the trade committee, where they made amendments to remove the investor protection provisions, cornerstones of modern trade and investment agreements. This is as harmful as the neglect of international trade under the Liberals who took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in this era of global markets.
Thanks to the leadership of our government, in less than seven years our government has reached free trade agreements with 38 countries, bringing Canada's total to 43 countries. By continuing to actively pursue broader market access to new investment opportunities, we are providing Canada's businesses and exporters with access on preferential terms to the largest, most dynamic and fastest-growing economies and regions around the world.