Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to speak to Bill C-8, currently before us. Like one of my colleagues who spoke earlier, I would like to begin by saying that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill, which is identical to Bill C-57 that was introduced before the House was prorogued.
There is no doubt that in the case of a bill to implement a free trade agreement, it is important to assess both the scope and the quality of the trade that already exists between the two countries. Of course Jordan's market is small. Canada exports to Jordan and vice versa, but those exports are relatively minimal. It is important to bear in mind, however, that although people may also object given that this is, once again, a bilateral agreement—and I will come back to that in a moment—concluding an agreement like this one does send a message to other Middle Eastern countries that want to improve their trade relations with western countries. Canada and Quebec will benefit from this agreement. This sends a clear message that entering into agreements can improve trade. This also means that products subject to the free trade agreement can be introduced into and produced in each country.
Jordan is in the process of modernizing its government apparatus and must rely on international trade to support its economic growth, especially since it has few natural resources.
From Quebec's point of view, since we already export a lot of pulp and paper products, I think that this is an excellent opportunity because this free trade agreement will further facilitate trade by eliminating tariff barriers on most products.
A free trade agreement with Canada may help this emerging economy. It will certainly help Canadian and Quebec businesses. The international relations aspect is also important. Establishing this relationship with Jordan will be beneficial.
I heard yesterday on Tout le monde en parle that Denis Villeneuve's film Incendies, which will represent Canada at the Oscars, was filmed mostly in Jordan. While that does not necessarily prove anything, it is a sign that Jordan is a country worth setting up long-term, balanced trade relations with.
Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. Signing an agreement with Jordan after signing one with Israel signals our interest in balancing our trade relations with countries experiencing political tension, such as that between Israel and its neighbours. Signing an agreement with another one of those countries after signing one with Israel balances power to an extent, or at least shows that we want to sign trade agreements and engage in trade with all Middle Eastern countries.
In free trade agreements, it is important to protect Canada's and Quebec's supply-managed agricultural production. Jordan's agriculture is not very well developed and poses no threat to Quebec producers. Jordan's forestry resources are also very limited. Therefore, this is a wonderful opportunity for our forestry industry, which is primarily located in Quebec. The pulp and paper industry is facing serious challenges because of the lack of support from the Conservative government, which did not want to provide the same support as it did to the automotive industry. Once again, had there been support for the forestry industry in Quebec, we could have avoided plant closures and maintained research and development in order to have the plants switch to new products. A free trade agreement with Jordan will make it possible, on a small scale initially, to increase our pulp and paper exports.
I was listening earlier to the question and speech by my NDP colleague, who stated that Canada is unfortunately focusing on bilateral agreements. I will repeat that overlooking multilateral agreements narrows the overall vision of Canada's foreign trade policy. We enter into agreements with different countries and try to get the most out of them while supporting the countries with which we have signed agreements. The failure to consider a multilateral agreement for a number of sectors makes it impossible to establish broader principles. In fact, it forces us to sign individual agreements with given countries, without any interrelationship. A multilateral agreement, however, would provide an overall vision and make it possible to establish broad principles that would apply to all agreements.
The free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan is a relatively small one. It could be divided into a few main parts, such as the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers. What is interesting here is that the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan is not integrated into the free trade agreement; it is not a separate chapter. There is an agreement on the environment and a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and Jordan. The fact that these agreements are not included as chapters in the main agreement is somewhat irritating. The government is negotiating side agreements instead, and we know from experience that these are never as strong as ones that are integrated into the main free trade agreement. In a way, they show that the Canadian government is not as willing to truly protect the things addressed in these side agreements. These things are not completely neglected, but not including them in the full agreement diminishes their importance.
I would like to speak a little more about different side agreements. With respect to the agreement on labour co-operation, which is a side agreement, we know that the structure and design of this agreement between Canada and Jordan are rather similar to those of the agreements on labour co-operation between Canada and Colombia and Canada and Peru. I will not get into the agreement signed with Colombia that the Bloc Québécois was completely opposed to, for other reasons. But we can still see the similarities between the agreement we have in front of us today and the agreements that have been signed in the past.
These agreements commit both countries to ensuring that their laws respect the International Labour Organization's 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work. Regarding the agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and Jordan in particular, according to the assessment that was done, each party commits to respecting and enforcing internationally recognized labour principles and rights. The Bloc Québécois will be very vigilant in watching that Canada ensures that the principles of these agreements are respected.
As I said earlier, the fact that these agreements are side agreements undermines their power. It is therefore especially important that we look at them through a very critical lens and analyze such side agreements regularly in order to ensure that they are being respected. When we speak of rights and principles, we mean the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, the elimination of forced labour, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of discrimination in the workplace, and minimum acceptable employment standards including workplace safety and compensation for workers who are sick or are injured in accidents.
Thus, as in the case of other labour co-operation agreements Canada has entered into, this agreement with Jordan contains a non-derogation clause whereby neither country may waive or lessen existing labour standards in the hope of attracting foreign investments. As I said earlier, we plan to be extremely vigilant in that regard, in order to ensure that these principles are respected from the very beginning, if this agreement is approved by Parliament.
In addition, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement also includes a dispute resolution process that includes monetary penalties similar to the process included in the Canada-Peru and Canada-Colombia labour cooperation agreements. If a special review panel established through the dispute settlement mechanism determines that either of the parties is not complying with the labour co-operation agreement and the parties cannot agree on the correct course of action, or if the non-compliant country fails to implement the agreed-upon course of action, a monetary penalty can be imposed.
According to our analysis, the text of the agreement provides that these financial penalties can be deposited in an interest-bearing fund, the profits of which will be earmarked for implementing the action plan or any appropriate compliance-related measure. The size of the financial penalty is one of the major differences between the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation and Canada's agreements with Colombia and Peru. The latter two agreements provide for a fine of up to $15 million U.S. per violation, but there is no maximum in the Canada-Jordan agreement. We think that this is still a good measure because the fact that there is no maximum penalty will provide an even greater incentive to respect this agreement on labour cooperation to the letter. We will keep an eye on how this plays out.
There is also a Canada-Jordan environment agreement. Once again, this is a side agreement, just like the Canada-Jordan agreement on labour cooperation. Its scope of application and content with respect to the environment are largely similar to what was in the agreements signed with Peru and Colombia.
Under this agreement, both countries commit to ensuring a high level of environmental protection and to enforcing their environmental laws effectively. There are several provisions, but I will mention just a few of them.
The countries, Canada and Jordan, cannot violate their federal environmental laws to encourage investment. According to the agreement—and we hope that both countries will comply—Canada and Jordan may not lower their standards to encourage foreign investment. For example, a company that wants to invest in Jordan may say that environmental standards prevent it from doing so. This provides good protection. The same would apply to a Jordanian company wishing to do something similar in Canada or Quebec.
Information on environmental laws, rules and administrative decisions must be made available to the public. All information on the tools for monitoring environmental protection, in relation to the various investments, must be made public.
Appropriate environmental assessment procedures must be implemented and must allow public involvement. We will not go so far as to say that there needs to be public consultation or a public hearing. We are saying that there must be public involvement. In other words, the environment ministry in each country or whosever is going to manage these agreements, whether in Canada or in Jordan, will find an appropriate way to ensure that the public is consulted and can have a say.
Another important aspect of the agreement on the environment is that the parties have to ensure that procedures are in place to sanction or rectify environmental law violations. It is all well and good to say that we do not want to lower environmental standards to encourage new investment, but the appropriate measures need to be in place to oversee such regulations. Penalties also need to be in place. The parties are committing to implementing strict measures. The parties should also encourage the voluntary use of exemplary practices with regard to corporate social responsibility by the corporations in their respective countries.
Earlier, a comparison was made of the free trade agreement between Canada and Peru and the one between Canada and Colombia. The Bloc Québécois completely disagreed with the free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia because of the lack of monitoring over corporate social responsibility, leaving the corporations to set strict standards to monitor and reduce the number of abuses of power that occur in Colombia. We expect the agreement on the environment between Canada and Jordan to respect the workers and the environment of both countries. There is no need to follow the bad example of the agreement with Colombia.
I have a lot more to say about this, but I will stop here.