Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure and a privilege to rise today to speak to Bill C-30, an act to implement the Canada-European Union trade agreement.
I would first like to make some acknowledgements to our team members, the ones who made this possible. I speak, of course, of Mr. Steve Verheul and Kirsten Hillman, as well as their team, who worked long and hard and have proven to be some of the very best negotiators this globe has to offer. I speak, as well, of colleagues of mine. They are the member for Abbotsford, who was the former trade minister, and our thoughts and prayers are with him, as he has some health issues, and the former agriculture minister, who is the current trade critic and with whom I have the privilege to sit as deputy critic on the trade committee. We also want to congratulate the Liberals for doing the work that was necessary to bring this home. Today we are working toward signing the agreement and sending it on its way to make it a reality.
I want start off with a quick history of trade.
We have always traded. People have always known that it is important. It is not only important, it is impossible for us to acquire what we need without trade. Some of us are blessed with agriculture. Some of us are blessed with the ability to make things. Some of us have other abilities.
Throughout history, civilizations have moved with trade, but there has always been the issue of tariffs. There has always been protectionism that caused trade to slow down. There have been governments that, for their own selfish reasons and ambitions, have taken some of those hard earnings and the work of those who created the goods.
Throughout the history of the world, people and governments have worked toward freeing trade. I think we can begin with the 18th century. Adam Smith argued that we must more and more lower tariffs, eliminate tariffs, and make trade global. That continued in the 19th century and the 20th century. We saw two awful wars. We saw World War I, and the death and destruction it caused, and World War II, which seemed to accelerate the ability of people to wreak havoc on our lives.
There was a renewed call to make people work together and give them a reason to live in peace. Trade is a wonderful example of that. In 1949, the World Trade Organization was formed, and work went on to free up trade.
We saw what that led to. On our continent, it led to NAFTA, an amazing agreement that allowed us to work with the United States and Mexico to have a flow of goods continue to move back and forth, and that has resulted in some prosperity.
There have been some mishaps and some setbacks are happening in the United States at this point. However, here in Canada, we know that NAFTA has been a good thing.
We have also had a number of smaller agreements, but today we want to talk about CETA. CETA is amazing. It has been called the crown jewel of trade agreements.
Trade has lifted nations out of poverty. I read recently that the World Health Organization has stated that extreme poverty has been cut in half in the last 15 years. We know that these are things that work and benefit mankind.
Some hard work and coordination has taken place. The Conservative government's record is excellent on free trade. We understand the importance of free trade. I mentioned NAFTA earlier. There were some smaller agreements the Conservative government arranged, such as the free trade agreement with Korea, and then of course CETA.
We are a trading nation. The Conservatives believe in free trade that will generate increased economic activity, drive prosperity and job creation, and foster greater co-operation among our democratic allies.
In my home province of Ontario, we are quite excited about trade. It certainly has some great possibilities for us. My colleague likes to refer to it as the “reunification bill”, because most of us can trace our ancestry to Europe. Some of us can trace a very recent development with respect to that as well. My parents came from the Netherlands. I know, Mr. Speaker, that your parents came from Italy. I think we could go on and on in this House. There is no question that we have some great roots and ethnic abilities.
There are four things I want to talk about.
First, when CETA comes into force, nearly 100% of all EU tariffs on non-agriculture products will be duty free, along with close to 94% of EU tariff lines for agricultural products. Why does that make a difference to southwestern Ontario? In southwestern Ontario, we are blessed to have incredible land and a beautiful climate. We produce some of the highest outputs of corn, soybeans, and wheat. We also have an incredible greenhouse industry. It was started by Italian immigrants. This industry has spread and grown. My riding of Chatham-Kent—Leamington has the largest collection of greenhouses in North America.
There are possibilities and opportunities to move forward and present them to people who have direct roots in Europe.
Second, the Canada-EU trade agreement will also give Canadians service suppliers. Service suppliers employ more than 13.8 million Canadians and account for 70% of total Canadian GDP. The best market access to the EU has been granted through this free trade agreement. The agreement will establish greater transparency in the EU service markets, resulting in better, more secure, and more predictable market access. We will have that opportunity as well, oftentimes with people we know, people we are accustomed to, and customs that we know. It will provide access to 500 million people and the largest GDP on the planet.
Third, the Canada-EU trade agreement will provide Canadian and EU investors with greater certainty, stability, transparency, and protection for their investments. Preferential access to the EU will attract investments in Canada from our largest trading partner, the U.S. Conversely, EU investors will look to Canada as a gateway to NAFTA. If that is true, then it is certainly true for southwestern Ontario and my riding, because we are right at the doorstep of the United States. We have the opportunity to trade with the United States, which will be looking to us to access Europe, because it is not participating in this EU agreement. As well, Europe will be looking to us for access to the United States. It offers us an amazing number of possibilities.
Fourth, the Canada-EU trade agreement gives Canadian suppliers of goods and services secure, preferential access to the world's largest procurement market. What does that mean? There are a number of countries in the EU that are in constant need of services and supplies for their governments. This gives us an opportunity to tap into those.
I want to close with the government's responsibility. I want to talk about the responsibility of government, which is to keep us competitive. We do that by lowering red tape, lowering taxes, and reducing debt. I wish I had more time to talk about that. I implore the current government to not make the mistake it is making by going further into debt, which will cause higher taxes and result in making us less competitive.
I will close by saying that the government's responsibility is to make sure that this agreement works. It is the people's responsibility to be creative and to offer products at reasonable rates that will be attractive to their clients, but it is the government's responsibility to make sure that it will work. It is its responsibility to do that by keeping taxes low and regulations low. I am looking forward to this agreement being signed.