Madam Speaker, as the minister was saying, it is indeed a pleasure to stand today and start to see the finalization of the Canada–Ukraine free trade agreement. Everyone is in agreement. I am not sure why we do not just do this on division and move on to something else after lunch. I am sure if we did put the question there would be a no from somewhere because that is the way things work around here.
It is unfortunate that there are so few issues like this that actually unite this House, in that there are so many more issues that tend to divide us. This is one where we have all come together. As the discussions have gone on over the years leading up to this point, certainly there has been growing appreciation of what this deal would represent, especially for the people of Ukraine as it would tend to draw them west as opposed to the eastern pole that we see chewing at their borders on a day-by-day basis.
I would like to congratulate the minister for getting this across the goal line. Of course it was in the red zone, if I use football vernacular. It was right there on the goal line, all she had to do was step over carrying the ball, but the minister has done it, and we welcome that. I congratulate her for that. I know the minister was a freelance writer in Ukraine over the years, and to be the person who actually signs this off is quite a kick. I felt that same thrill when we saw the end of the old monopoly of the Canadian Wheat Board on the Prairies. The minister will have to work with her colleague from Prince Edward Island to not bring that back. He will face the wrath of western farmers if and when that happens.
Of course, Ukraine is a large wheat-producing area as well. I have never had the opportunity to actually set foot on the ground, but I have seen the pictures and met with the ministers; I have done everything but set foot there. It just did not get into my schedule and that is unfortunate. I will fix that one issue on my bucket list at some point in the future. There are fantastic grasslands and farmlands all across Ukraine. I was at the world grain symposium in Sochi, Russia a couple of weeks ago, and met with a number of farmers who work that ground.
In fact, one guy I had lunch with one day, and he and his corporate entity cover some 100,000 hectares in Ukraine. He was ecstatic about the potential that this trade deal would now start to bring the agricultural technology that Canada is so famous for to those fields and those yards in Ukraine. The Ukrainians are very similar to us in that they have the potential to grow, and grow exponentially, but their constraint is logistics, very similar to what we face here in Canada. We had discussions around the handling system, the grading system, how they can continue to grow their operations, take use and make use of Canadian enterprise and expertise, and continue to show themselves as the breadbasket of Europe.
Certainly we cannot deny the minister's passion. She is dressed for success today. We welcome that. It is always good to see that passion on issues in this great country. We saw that same passion brought to bear by the folks at Global Affairs Canada. They have a fancy new title, and I am sure they all have new shirts as well. They are very proud of what they do.
At the end of the day, it was Marvin Hildebrand who carried this load across the line. We had the opportunity to talk to Marv at our trade committee. He is still the most gracious, unassuming gentleman one would ever want to meet, but when it comes to trade negotiations, he has a backbone of iron and a will of steel. He had that same steely-eyed glaze that our former prime minister Harper had when he took Mr. Putin to task for what he was doing on the Ukrainian frontier. Marv is certainly a class act. He worked diligently with his staff, with his communications team, and with two different governments to actually bring this to fruition. Being the professional that he is, he did not want to take any of the credit at all. He wanted the credit to go to the great people of Ukraine and the great people of Canada who embraced this.
The minister talked a bit about the Ukrainian heritage on the Prairies. Certainly that is a major part of the area that I represent. If my friend from Cariboo—Prince George talks about Vegreville being the Ukrainian capital of Canada, certainly North Battleford and that area running east is second to that if not a tie. They are very enterprising people with strong family ties and religious groups who make sure they celebrate the wealth they have enjoyed in Canada. We go back to those first few years when they were on the Prairies in sod shacks, isolated from their families and friends in Ukraine, but they have made all that work and they have built enterprises out there in my part of the world that are second to none. Certainly this helps them celebrate all the work that they have done to get us to that point.
We are seeing a second wave of pioneers coming from Ukraine into my area as the oil patch grew. It is hurting right now and we have heard different applications of why that is.
At the same time, we have had a number of shortages with respect to tradespeople throughout Saskatchewan. Part of the provincial nominee program was to identify the shortages. We are talking about machinists, welders, pipefitters, metalworkers, and all sorts of different trades. However, good, strong Ukrainian families have picked up that challenge and moved into the area to become part of the fabric of my constituency. These are fantastic people. They work hard, they play hard, and both their families and business expertise are growing at the same time. They continue to astound us with the work ethic they bring, and how diligent they are in making sure that their families get here as quickly as they can to reunite that strong family unit.
My friend from Selkirk—Interlake is nodding his head. He has a strong Ukrainian heritage as well. He has the tie on today, not the shirt, but we will forgive him for that. We know he has other meetings to attend.
At the end of the day, this is more than just geopolitical. I know I said this about Europe writ large, but with respect to the family reunification trade agreement, Ukraine has especially strong ties to the Canadian Prairies, and elsewhere in Canada as well, as their kids have gone on to be doctors, lawyers, and everything across Canada.
It has been a pleasure to work with former Prime Minister Harper and the trade ministers of the day, such as my good friend from Abbotsford, who carried this one across the line. That particular member is having some health issues right now. Strange things happen to us when we get ready for a CBC interview. He is a bit under the weather, but we know he will struggle back. We know he is watching today and helping us celebrate all the hard work that came into the fulfillment of this landmark trade agreement. It is a wonderful day when all parties agree to move forward with this. I have heard the NDP members get up and say that this is one of very few that they will support. Generally, when they talk about trade, they support every agreement but the one we are talking about. However, today we can all celebrate. We are all here today and we are all smiling. I know when we had that discussion around the Korean free trade agreement, I think they mistakenly thought it was North Korea, but we welcome their support for that deal as well. Here we are again with a third one, I think it is now, and that is a wonderful thing.
There is still quite a bit of work to be done in Ukraine. There are a lot of pockets of resistance to moving into a free market economy. There is still a lot of the old Soviet-type of enterprise there where people pay me and I make this happen, then I pay them and they make that happen. We are hopeful that this new deal will give them a different geopolitical base to work from. We have had people there over the last number of election cycles watching how things progress. It is better each time. I know the member for Selkirk has been there himself and has told us stories of how things are evolving, some of which are horror stories but others that are good stories.
We are now marking 25 years of independence in Ukraine. That is a short amount of time in a country's history. The Ukrainian people go back generations and centuries and have slowly and steadily plodded toward this free market economy and democracy, and they are winning. When we start to link arms with them, as we are doing with this free trade agreement, we start to see that win become almost palpable in the streets of the cities in Ukraine, and of course across the rural countryside, as they recognize the potential they have. Now that potential has doubled and tripled when they link arms with a strong democracy like this country we call home. We are happy to work with them, to bolster them, to bring them into the 21st century. When it comes to trade agreements, democracy, the rule of law, and standards for the environment and labour practices, these are all welcomed in Ukraine, and of course we take them for granted in Canada. We really do not understand how much they look forward to that.
Agricultural exports to Ukraine have been small from Canada's perspective. We export $60 billion and Ukraine is a $20-million item on that ledger sheet. However, this tremendous opportunity puts a lie to just that small number at this point. There is no reason to think that cannot go up by multiples of 10 when we look at the opportunity that is there to work with them at putting biotechnology to work, and all of the technology that we have now used over the last couple of decades in Canada, with zero till, and micronutrients going into the fertilizers, and different things like that, and the ability to grow a top quality product, not just a quantity product, as we have seen Ukraine produce.
Logistics is a major factor that Ukraine is working with as well. We do have the opportunity to step up and help it with that. We face the same criteria here. It is a long way from tidewater, just like we are, and it has to rely on other countries at some points in order to get that product to market, and of course there are costs from both a political as well as a practical sense.
We had EDC representatives at committee. The point I made was that Export Development Canada has identified that the lady who leads the charge in Ukraine does speak fluent Ukrainian, but she is based in London, England, which is a long way from Ukraine. She makes bi-weekly trips, or whatever it is, to make connections, which is not the same as when one is sitting there day by day, eye to eye, taking a coffee break with people and saying, “Here's how we can do it”. Therefore, we put that task to the minister, if it was at all possible that we could start to see people actually anchored in central Ukraine, and work with the country as a whole with Export Development Canada.
Of course, they then quarterback that by bringing in business-to-business connections and all of the bridges that need to be built to actually take advantage of the framework agreement that we see here in this CUFTA. We are hopeful that can happen. I know it takes dollars, but there is a tremendous opportunity for our livestock genetics, our crop genetics, and a lot of the infrastructure people we have developed here in Canada handling systems, and all of those different things, and we will see a huge potential there.
We have seen a number of trade agreements come and go out of this place over the years when we were government. Of course, there was a tremendous number. We have seen CETA start to inch its way towards the finish line. We are still dealing with it at committee. Hopefully we will have a vote on it later tonight and move that forward as well.
I was really happy to see that the minister did not tinker around the edges with this one as she did with CETA, and we actually lost some pretty important clauses at the very end in the negotiation trying to make it more progressive. Somehow, it tended to go backwards as opposed to ahead.
The stability that is required for business-to-business investment is going to be shaken a little bit when we do not have an adjudication process for ISDS claims. Every country in the world has hundreds of bilateral agreements with other countries when it comes to FIPA, financial investment protection acts, ISDS-type resolutions, and other tools in the tool kit to help business-to-business make investments; and be assured and secure that in making those investments, they cannot be taken away with a change of governance and so on. Of course, we see a lot of push-back on that from certain sectors here as well, but we will have to wait and see how that is.
We also have the Magnitsky Act, which is very important when we see how these things are brought into the court system. Why Canada is a laggard in implementing that, I am not sure. I am sure that my colleague will have words to say about that when he makes his presentation later today.
This is a tremendous opportunity for Canadian industry, for the services industry as well, which is very robust and very mature. There are a number of things that we can move forward on, and start to enhance and strengthen Ukraine's stance on the world stage working with us.
I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to thank the trade negotiation team for doing what it is doing. I thank the minister for the job that she did getting it across the final line and stepping over it.
I also want to take time to mention the great work that Prime Minister Harper did on this file. He was there in 2010, which was a very contentious time, as we all know, in Ukraine. He made three or four trips over that two-year period in order to make sure Ukraine was looking west and not east. He had met with all of the major players over there, as have I on the edges of other meetings. Of course, my good friend, the then minister of trade, the member for Abbotsford, spent a lot of political capital in bringing this one to fruition.
However, it was Stephen Harper who actually had the wherewithal, at a meeting in Australia of all places, to look President Putin in the eye, and say, “I guess I'll shake your hand...but...You need to get out of Ukraine.” He put the marker down that these types of incursions are not acceptable in today's geopolitical systems in the world.
I am thankful that Canada has a footprint and a presence there along those lines, but at the end of the day, we are also hearing that we pulled back on the satellite imaging that the Ukrainian forces need to know exactly what they are up against on a moment-by-moment issue. Hopefully, the government will rethink that and start to realize that underpinning this is our ability to make sure that Ukraine has a strong coastline, and a strong ability to push back the Russians should that ever happen.
Hopefully, it will, but at the end of the day, it was the great work done by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to actually start this, to push Ukraine to keep thinking about this as opposed to the incursions it was facing on several fronts. Therefore, kudos to him. He has gone on to work in the private sector, and I am sure a lot of his future work will be based on the great job that he did working on these types of trade agreements.
We also have other trade agreements sitting in the wings, like the trans-Pacific partnership. For some ridiculous reason, we seem to be holding back. The Japanese, the crown jewel in that whole agreement, in the 12 countries that were involved in that, have ratified it. They are good to go. They have moved it through their parliamentary system. It was finalized on December 6 or 7. They are waiting for a partner to dance with, and we are not on the floor. We are not even in the hall. It is unconscionable to me why we would walk away from that.
We will celebrate this one today, but we could have a bigger celebration and a lot bigger win, if we started to get past the “Americans have to lead this” ideology. We know they are going to step away. They may take the full two years. There is no reason we have to. With Japan already done, they are going to find some willing partners in Australia, New Zealand, Chile, or Mexico, and they will start trading. This means we will be coming from behind, trying to get market share in that valuable market.
If anything, let us get this one done so we can bring TPP to the floor and get it moving forward expeditiously as well.