Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to share my comments on a bill that should have been passed two and a half years ago. We are in the eleventh hour of debate on this bill, which is certainly not being rammed through. It should have been passed long ago.
We are a trading nation, as most members of the House and Canadians know. It is something to see the magnitude of trade that we do in Canada as we look at what has happened over our history. Eighty-five per cent of our trade has been with our southern neighbour, the United States.
Here I want to take the opportunity to congratulate President Obama for his win last evening and the people of Michigan for their decision to allow the new bridge to be built between Windsor and Detroit. The existing bridge is the largest trading bridge anywhere in the world. At times there is $2 billion a day in trade going across that bridge, so it is very important that a new bridge be built.
As I said, about 85% of our international trade has been with the United States, whereas last year it was about 73%. We are becoming less dependent on the United States and more dependent on other markets, such as the one we are debating under this piece of legislation, Panama's.
It is impressive to see the number of jobs created because of our international trade. One in every five Canadian jobs is generated through exports and 63% of our country's annual GDP is created because of international trade. Therefore, it is very important that we get this piece of legislation through. Panama is the hub of the Americas and a very important logistical platform for us to trade with in Central America.
This is a continuation of an agenda that our government has had since coming into office. We have signed nine different free trade agreements, including with countries such as Colombia, Jordan, Peru and Honduras; and with the European Free Trade Association, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This is long overdue. We are very aggressively pursuing other countries with regard to free trade agreements, seen in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement, for example. We look forward to the final text perhaps being out before year end.
I was with the trade committee in Japan last week and was very encouraged by what we heard regarding a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, the world's third largest economy.
When we add all of these up and see exactly what we are doing, the possibilities of moving forward on our trade agenda are very encouraging.
Just to look at what we have done with NAFTA and the United States, since NAFTA was signed some 18 or so years ago, that agreement has created about 40 million jobs. The GDP of the three countries was a little over $7 trillion at the time of signing and is now over $17 trillion now. Between the three countries, we are now trading almost $1 trillion a year. It is very significant.
Canadians realize the importance of a trade agenda. What I cannot understand is where the opposition is at with regard to our trade agenda. Even today, opposition members say that they do not like and would get rid of the NAFTA agreement. They say they would never support it and never have supported it. It does not matter what kind of logic we use or what kind of math we put in front of them to show them the benefits of it, they disagree with it. This is something that I absolutely do not understand.
The opposition members have disagreed with all of the nine free trade agreements our government has signed, except maybe the one with Jordan, which they could not come to a decision on. They had to sit on their hands because they did not want to show that they were somewhat supportive of that agreement. When we look at the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, I would suggest that it is much more beneficial even than the agreement with Jordan. Yet the opposition filibusters and accuses the government of trying to ram it through.
There has been a lot of debate on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and it is amazing what is in that piece of legislation and what it will do for our agriculture sector. Agriculture is near and dear to my heart, as we farm about 3,000 acres of canola and wheat. It is important for us to understand the size of agriculture in Canada. The agrifood sector actually generates 8% of our GDP. It creates one in eight jobs in this country. That is 2.2 million jobs in Canada created because of agriculture. There is some $41 billion created because of trade in our agricultural products in international markets. Almost half of our total agricultural production in this country goes to international trade. Indeed, we are sixth largest exporter of agricultural products in the world.
It is very important that we make sure that we capture as many possible markets as we can for our agricultural products. Panama is the second largest market for agricultural products in Central America. This piece of legislation would allow agriculture not only to be enhanced but also for it to be done in a tariff-free way. How many tariffs are there? On the signing and implementation of this piece of legislation, 78% of Canadian agricultural exports to Panama would be tariff-free .
What are those products? The 20% tariff on frozen french fries, which help Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canadians, would be eliminated. How about the pulse crops of the Prairies? There is a 15% tariff on those that would be eliminated immediately upon signing of this agreement. How about malt exporters, the barley growers of this country? The 10% tariff applying to them would be eliminated upon signing of this agreement.
By the way, the opposition disagrees with our getting rid of these tariffs and has fought this for two and a half years in the House. That is absolutely ridiculous when we see the benefits to these areas.
How about our beef sector, which has been plagued by the BSE crisis and all kinds of problems, including its exports to different countries around the world being shut down as a result? The producers have gone through a very difficult time. The tariff they face in the Panamanian region is 25% to 30%. That would be eliminated.
I was in Japan last week with the trade committee, where we were excited about the opening up of the export of our beef, from beef aged 21 months to beef aged 30 months now. However, Japan is another market that has been hurt because of the delays by the opposition with regard to this piece of legislation.
The tariff that really bothers me the most is the 60% to 70% tariff on our hog industry. It is amazing to see that kind of tariff placed on our hogs. That so important to us because our largest competitor in that market is the United States, which signed a free trade agreement with Panama on October 31. If we do not get our free trade agreement with Panama through the House, we will lose our competitive edge and never get it back. It is absolutely critical that we make sure that we stop playing around in the House and start doing what is right for Canadians. The opposition should get onboard.
There has been two and half years of filibustering in the House, two and a half years of wasted time and opportunity for us to be able to capitalize on the great infrastructure of the Panama Canal, as well as the opportunities for our agriculture sector and many others. The opposition says we are fast-tracking this by bringing in time allocation. I understand the NDP, because that is just their ideological bent and where they are at. They are what they are. However, two days ago we had the Liberals opposing our closure motion on this legislation. I find that really hard to understand.
Not only has the United States signed an agreement with Panama, but the European Union is also expected to sign an agreement, perhaps by the end of this year. Then we will lose a competitive edge with Europe as well.
It is absolutely amazing when we see what the opposition is doing with regard to this piece of legislation and the free trade agreements we have reached with nine different countries around the world and have been promoting. I just do not understand it.
I will quote the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was the vice-chair of the trade committee at one time. He said that when it comes to trade agreements, they are “job-destroying”. I do not understand where he gets that math. How can he possibly get there?
There is only one thing that we heard with regard to trade in the NDP's platform and that was a $21 billion cap and trade carbon tax. That is what the opposition is promoting, instead of the positive trade we will experience when we pass this piece of legislation. I encourage the House to get on with this. The next two hours cannot go fast enough.