Mr. Speaker, at the onset, I would like to inform you that I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for Red Deer.
Mr. Speaker, today I would like to speak about what our government is doing to support prosperity for all Canadians and how the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would be part of the bigger picture.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would be another step in fulfilling our Conservative government's ambitious pro-trade plan. International trade is critical to the Canadian economy. We need to ensure open borders for our exporters. One in five Canadian jobs is related to exports. Freer, more open trade would ensure that we could support domestic economic growth and new jobs. Our Conservative government has always been a supporter of free and open trade. For this reason, our government made it a priority to diversify our international trade negotiations agenda and place increased focus on concluding regional and bilateral trade agreements, such as the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement we are discussing today. These agreements would be complementary and, in fact, would strengthen the important work of the WTO.
It may surprise many Canadians to learn that, in 2006, Canada only had free trade agreements with five countries. Our government recognized the situation was not good for Canadian companies, especially small and medium-sized enterprises, which depend more and more on international markets for their success. Lack of competitive access to global markets was putting Canadian exporters, investors, and service providers at a competitive disadvantage. This was especially apparent when key competitors from the U.S. and the EU were already enjoying preferential market access.
It was clear that the Government of Canada needed to act. That is why we introduced the global commerce strategy in 2007. The global commerce strategy was focused upon expanding our global trade network, strengthening Canada's competitiveness in established markets, while also expanding into fast-moving, emerging economies. The strategy supported Canadian company participation in international markets; in particular, helping them to seize opportunities as part of global value chains. It has also identified markets in which Canada should focus its trade negotiating capacity.
Our Conservative government has concluded new free trade agreements with nine countries, which is something to celebrate, beginning with the European Free Trade Association member states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland, followed by Colombia, Jordan, Peru, Panama, and of course, most recently, Honduras, which we are debating today.
Of course, there is the landmark Canada-European Union comprehensive economic trade agreement, which once ratified, would mean that Canada would have free trade agreements with 42 nations.
The CETA with the EU took some time to negotiate. The Europeans, having brought together 27 countries—now 28 with the addition of Croatia less than a year ago—have extensive experience in negotiating agreements, as they brought this coalition of 28 countries together. Therefore, for Canada, it is a tremendous credit to our Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade and our own minister, the hon. member for Abbotsford, that we have developed tremendous capacity and experience in advancing trade agreements.
This is a major achievement, but we will not rest on our laurels. We recognize the success of the 2007 global commerce strategy, and in the 2012 economic action plan, we confirmed our intention to build upon success.
It is important to us that we respond to the evolving needs of Canadian companies. We do not deliver strategies in a vacuum. We get out there and talk to business. That is one of the reasons why our low tax regime is so important to Canadian businesses.
The hon. Minister of Finance is reported by some to be the best finance minister in the world. We give him credit for helping to keep taxes low in Canada, which creates an environment for business to prosper and for Canadians to do well. I am sure members will remember that, because of the more than 160 tax cuts we have brought in since forming government, the average Canadian family is now saving $3,400 every year. That is a tremendous accomplishment.
Bloomberg business magazine recently said that Canada is the second best country in the world with which to do business. That is something to brag about.
The work is not done. There is a lot more to do. It is a competitive world. These agreements are about creating opportunities for our small and medium-size businesses, as well as large enterprises, to engage with the world and for countries like Honduras to engage with Canada to expand and strengthen the family of nations through trade.
We have conducted consultations right across Canada. We have engaged with around 400 business and industry stakeholders. They were not just large corporations but also small and medium-size businesses, which are the lifeblood of the Canadian economy. That is why we are proud of the global markets action plan we launched in November 2013. It is not some bureaucratic exercise. It is a concrete plan for Canadian businesses, developed with Canadian businesses.
The global markets action plan focuses on our international economic engagement by identifying priority sectors and markets. It also underscores the importance of economic diplomacy. It aims to help Canadian small and medium-size companies expand their global reach.
Through this government's initiatives, we want to support Canadian companies, whether they export goods or services or want to invest to be competitive in new markets.
Speaking of new markets, our government has long recognized the growing importance of the Americas. The Prime Minister confirmed this when he made the region a foreign policy priority in 2007. Increased trade and commercial engagement are part of the Prime Minister's vision for a more prosperous, secure, and democratic hemisphere. It makes economic sense to Canadian businesses too. Total trade between countries in the Americas and Canada increased 32% from 2007 to 2012, not to mention that Canadian direct investment was up 58.6% over the same period. That is why we want to deepen trade relations with countries in the region, such as Honduras. Our government realized that we needed to get results faster for Canadian companies, so we moved to bilateral negotiations with our most ambitious partner, which is Honduras.
In August 2011, the Prime Minister was able to announce the successful conclusion of our free trade talks. The Prime Minister recognized the importance of this agreement. He confirmed that the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement was a key part of our government's agenda to open new markets for Canadian business, to create new opportunities for our workers, and to contribute to Canada's future prosperity.
This free trade agreement would provide numerous benefits to Canadian companies that are active or interested in Honduras. Not only would it eliminate the vast majority of Honduran tariffs, but it would help raise the profile of Canadian businesses in the country, and further deepen and strengthen Canada's commercial and economic relationship with Honduras.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would also make us competitive with players from the U.S. and the EU, which already enjoy free trade with Honduras, not to mention giving Canadian companies a secure and predictable framework for business.
In responding to a question earlier, the minister commented on one Canadian company with 20,000 employees that is employing Hondurans and helping to raise the standard of living for them.
In my remarks, I have highlighted how this Conservative government is proactively addressing the needs of Canadian business, both globally and in the dynamic region of the Americas. It is also clear that the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would create new opportunities for Canadian companies in the Honduran market. Moving this agreement forward would respond to the needs of Canadian companies. It would be yet another step in support of our growth and prosperity agenda.
For these reasons, I hope all hon. colleagues will support the ratification of this free trade agreement with Honduras.