Mr. Speaker, today, it is my great pleasure to address this House about the benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement. Specifically, I would like to highlight how this agreement would benefit every single region of this country, thereby increasing prosperity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It is also my pleasure to share my time with the member for Calgary Northeast.
I would first like to emphasize that our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first agreement with an Asian market, would create thousands of new jobs in Canada and would provide Canadian business and workers with a gateway to Asia, enhancing our global competitiveness.
South Korea is Canada's seventh-largest trading partner. It is the world's 15th-largest economy. It is a priority market under our government's global market action plan.
In 2013 alone, Canada's South Korea two-way merchandise trade reached over $10.8 billion. Moreover, South Korea is a gateway to the vibrant Asia-Pacific region. As the fourth-largest economy in Asia, with a sophisticated market, it offers strategic access to a regional and global value chain that has become increasingly important for business to succeed.
Unfortunately, Canadian businesses are currently at a disadvantage in this very key Asian market compared to their main competitors in the U.S. and Europe. As a result of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the Korea-EU free trade agreement, which came into effect in 2012 and 2011 respectively, Canadian companies have in fact been losing ground to U.S. and EU companies that are already benefiting from their preferential access to the South Korean market.
In order to restore a level playing field for Canadian business, Canadian officials have worked tirelessly to negotiate the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, which is a state-of-the-art, ambitious, and comprehensive agreement that covers virtually every facet of modern commerce.
It is only this Conservative government that can deliver an agreement like this to Canadians. Every Canadian knows that the NDP have systematically and consistently voted against trade. This, in the face of the fact that it is clear that trade creates jobs, economic growth, and economic security for hard-working Canadian families.
Even worse is the shameful record the Liberals have on neglecting trade. The Liberals 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.
Canadians remember the last time the Liberals tried to talk seriously about trade. That was when they campaigned to rip up the North American free trade agreement.
At the core of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is the elimination of tariffs on virtually all trade between Canada and South Korea. Immediately upon implementation, over 88% of Canada's current exports would be duty-free. Once the agreement is fully implemented, South Korea would remove duties on 100% of non-agricultural exports and 97% of agricultural exports.
This is a fantastic outcome for Canadians, especially given that Korea's current tariffs are, on average, three times higher.
I would now like to turn to key sectors and substantial regional benefits of the agreement. We have ensured that each region has something to gain from early implementation of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.
Let me start with agriculture and agri-food products, which have been heavily protected in South Korea. Once the agreement is fully implemented, tariffs would be eliminated on 97% of Canada's agricultural exports. This includes strong outcomes for key product groups such as beef, pork, canola oil, barley malt, pulses, animal feeds, fur skins, soya beans, fruit and vegetables, and many processed foods.
This is good news for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers across Canada, including the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, as their products would become more competitive in the rapidly growing South Korean market. In the Prairies, for example, the agricultural and agri-food sector is a key driver of economic activity. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and my home province of Manitoba stand to benefit especially from enhanced market access for products such as beef, pork, grain, oilseeds, pulses, canola oil, barley malt, and forages.
I am happy to report that Canada also achieved an ambitious outcome for fish and seafood products. South Korea would eliminate all of its tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products, some immediately. The overall outcome for fish and seafood companies compares favourably with KORUS, including lobster, which is Canada's top export in this sector along with hagfish, halibut, and certain Pacific salmon.
The list continues. With regard to forestry and value-added wood products, South Korea would eventually eliminate all of its tariffs on Canadian exports including softwood and hardwood lumber, particle board, and many others. Some 85% of Canadian exports would be duty-free upon entry into force. These products are of particular export interest to British Columbia, the Prairies, and Quebec. Through the elimination of tariffs, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would provide improved access and new opportunities in the South Korean market.
For other industrial goods, which include aerospace, autos and auto products, rail, information technology, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, to name a few, over 96% of Canadian exports would be duty free immediately. That is 96%. Also, 99% would be duty-free within five years and the remaining 1% would be covered off in 10 years.
Manufacturers from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and the Prairies are expected to enjoy notable benefits in this regard. For example in Quebec alone, some 295,000 hard-working Quebecers and their families depend on the industrial goods sector for their livelihood. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would bring additional opportunities for Quebec's industrial goods sectors such as aircraft parts, cosmetics, and metals.
The benefits do not stop here. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would also achieve strong outcomes in services, business mobility, investment, and government procurement, all of which are on par or better than what was achieved with South Korea in either the U.S. or the EU agreement.
The agreement would provide enhanced market access for Canadian service providers in such areas as the professional environment and business services. With regard to business mobility, Canada obtained the most ambitious provisions from South Korea in any of its free trade agreements, which would allow for freer movement of highly skilled professionals between the two countries by providing Canadian professionals with preferential access to the South Korean market. As a chartered accountant, soon to become a CPA, I think it is important to note that in my profession alone there are almost 190,000 CPAs who would now have access to this bigger market.
In addition, the investment chapter, which includes extensive protection for investors, would provide a more transparent and predictable framework of rules. The investment chapter would facilitate the continuation of South Korean foreign direct investment into Canada's provinces and territories, including in the energy sectors, thereby contributing to their continued growth.
In conclusion, this free trade agreement with Korea would enhance market access and level the playing field for Canada vis-à-vis its competitors across the board, benefiting Canadians in every province and every territory. This would lead to more Canadian exports, more jobs for Canadian families, and more prosperity for our economy and for our children.
Stakeholders have given us clear signals that early entry into force of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is vital to ensuring Canada's competitive position in South Korea. This desire to have the agreement enter into force as quickly as possible has been echoed by many key industry stakeholders.
Our government is moving quickly to answer the call of Canadian business and workers. We are here to create jobs, to create growth, and to achieve long-term prosperity for all our children.