Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have this opportunity to speak today about the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, or CKFTA. This agreement is Canada's first FTA in Asia. It is a landmark agreement for Canada that would create thousands of jobs for hard-working Canadians.
The CKFTA also represents a watershed for the Canada-Korea bilateral relationship.
No government in Canada's history has been more committed to creating jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. Deepening Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world, like South Korea, is key to these efforts.
Trade between Canada and South Korea is already significant, with two-way merchandise goods of just under $11 billion last year and two-way investment approaching $6 billion.
The agreement is expected to significantly boost bilateral commerce and, in turn, economic growth in both countries. On our side, the projection is that the CKFTA would increase Canada's GDP by $1.7 billion annually and our exports by about one-third over current levels. Those are significant numbers.
Most importantly, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would restore a level playing field for Canadian companies in the South Korean market, where foreign competitors including the U.S. and the EU are already enjoying preferential access due to their respective FTAs with South Korea. For Canada this was a crucial consideration as we have seen our exports to South Korea fall sharply, particularly in the wake of the Korea-U.S. deal that was implemented in 2012.
The enhanced market access and regulatory commitments would be on par with the best treatment provided to any foreign companies, including from the U.S. and the EU.
Turning to investment, while Canada and South Korea enjoy a well-established relationship, there is considerable scope for expansion above current levels—about $5 billion in South Korean investment in Canada and $534 million in Canadian investment in South Korea.
Canada benefits from greater foreign direct investment. Canadian foreign direct investment in South Korea would improve our access to South Korean markets, technology, and expertise and enhance the competitiveness of Canadian firms in Asia.
Greater South Korean investment in Canada would stimulate economic growth and job creation here at home, providing new technologies and increased competition in the Canadian marketplace, ultimately benefiting Canadian consumers. In addition to financial services, which I mentioned, key sectors that stand to benefit from the agreement include automotive parts, transportation, and telecommunications.
Yet despite all the evidence that trade creates jobs, economic growth, and economic security for hard-working Canadian families, the NDP, together with its activist-group allies, is and always will be ideologically opposed to trade.
Just as bad are the Liberals who, during 13 years in power, 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. The last time the Liberals tried to talk seriously about trade, they campaigned to rip up the North American Free Trade Agreement.
The investment chapter of the CKFTA provides strong disciplines against discriminatory treatment as well as protection from expropriation and access to independent investor-state dispute settlement.
These and other provisions would put Canadian investors on a level playing field with their competitors in South Korea and provide investors from both countries with greater certainty and transparency and protection for their investments, while preserving the full right of governments to regulate in the public interest.
Canada has also maintained its ability to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act, and decisions made under the ICA could not be challenged under the agreement's dispute settlement provisions.
In the area of government procurement, now a $100 billion-plus market in South Korea, the FTA would give Canadian suppliers access to procurement by South Korean central government entities for contracts valued above $100,000. This would put Canadian suppliers on an equal footing with U.S. competitors and in a more advantageous position relative to key competitors like Japan and the EU.
Strong intellectual property rights provided for in this agreement would complement access to the South Korean market for Canadians who develop and market innovative and creative products. New protection for geographical indications “Canadian whiskey” and “Canadian rye whiskey” would secure the national brand recognition for Canadian distillers in the South Korean market.
The intellectual property outcomes would also be also covered by the FTA's dispute settlement procedure, which would give Canadian copyright, patent, and trademark owners an additional layer of protection in the South Korean market.
Our Conservative government understands the importance of trade to our economy. It represents one out of every five jobs in Canada and accounts for 64% of our country's annual income. We are proud of our record on trade because of the benefits trade brings to Canadians in all regions of our country and in all industries.
To put it simply, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is a historic initiative that would strengthen our trade and investment ties across the Pacific, increase the prosperity of both countries, and result in job creation and enhanced opportunities for Canadian and Korean businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises, as well as investors, workers, and consumers.
Canadian stakeholders from across Canada have called for the CKFTA to enter into force without delay to secure Canada's competitive position in the South Korean market. We must pass this legislation to implement the CKFTA so that Canadians can access the benefits and opportunities of this agreement as soon as possible.