Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Richmond Hill.
Our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. Canada's prosperity is directly linked to reaching beyond our borders for economic opportunities that serve to grow Canada's trade and investment.
Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy. It is even more important in the current global economic climate. Jobs and economic growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers and their families continue to be our focus.
Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. Export-related industries represent one out of every five jobs in Canada and account for nearly two-thirds of our country's annual income. Our Conservative government clearly understands that our standard of living and Canadians' future prosperity will be generated by deepening and broadening our trade relationships.
No government in Canada's history has been more committed to helping create jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers and their families. Deepening Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world is key to these efforts. Whereas during their 13 years in government, the Liberals completed only three trade deals, in less than six years under this Prime Minister's leadership, Canada has become partner in nine new free trade agreements, with Colombia, Jordan, Panama, Peru, Honduras and the European Free Trade Association, which includes Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. Sadly, the ideologically driven NDP has generally opposed these agreements.
Our government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness. Thanks to these actions and our government's free trade leadership, Canadian workers and businesses now have preferred access and a real competitive edge in more markets around the world than at any other time in our history.
However one cannot talk about dynamic and fast-growing markets without touching upon Canada's successes in promoting the interests of Canadian exporters in the Asia-Pacific.
In the past few years, our government has been aggressively expanding commercial relations with the Asia-Pacific region to create jobs and economic benefits here at home. The opportunities in this region are great. Asia-Pacific countries represent huge markets with economic growth rates two to three times the global average, and our efforts are yielding results.
For example, last year Canada joined the trans-Pacific partnership, a significant opportunity that serves as a key pathway for economic integration in the Asia-Pacific region. Once complete, the TPP will strengthen Canada's efforts to broaden and deepen its trading relationships with dynamic and fast-growing Asia-Pacific markets.
We launched negotiations with Japan toward an economic partnership agreement and announced exploratory discussions toward a bilateral free trade agreement with Thailand. Canada also achieved observer status with the Pacific alliance, a grouping of four fast-growing Pacific countries in Latin America.
In addition to all this, an important part of Canada's efforts in the Asia-Pacific pertains, of course, to our engagement with China. I would be remiss if I did not highlight that not only is China the world's second-largest economy but it has recently become Canada's number two export market, second only to the United States.
In fact, Canadian exports to China rose 15% last year to over $19 billion. This means that Canada's exports to China have nearly doubled under our Conservative government.
However, investment is also an important part of the Canada-China relationship, and so I would like to take a moment to refute some of these myths being repeated by the anti-trade NDP.
Fundamentally, the foreign investment protection agreement, or FIPA, is about protecting the interests of Canadians abroad. With this treaty, Canadian businesses wanting to invest in China cannot be treated less favourably than any other foreign company looking to do the same. The FIPA also ensures that all investment disputes are resolved under international arbitration, ensuring that adjudications are independent. Canadian investors in China will have an independent, international legal system where their disputes can be fairly resolved.
Ultimately, this agreement would give Canadian investors in China the same types of protection that foreign investors have long had in Canada. This begs the question of why any member opposite would deny Canadian investors the same benefits internationally that foreign investors have here.
Finally, I would emphasize that ours is the first bilateral investment agreement that China has signed that expressly includes language on transparency of dispute settlement proceedings. Let me be clear. It is Canada's long-standing policy that all dispute resolutions should be open to the public and that the submissions made by the parties are available to the public, period.
As our government has said time and time again, this agreement does not impair Canada's ability to regulate and legislate in areas such as the environment, culture and health, nor does it impair the ability of the provinces to do so.
Furthermore, restrictions in the agreement will preserve Canada's current ability to review foreign investments under the Investment Canada Act.
It is unfortunate that the NDP and its fellow anti-trade activists have continued to spread a great deal of misinformation about this agreement. Canadians should not be surprised at the anti-trade agenda of the NDP. After all, this is the same party whose leader travelled to Washington recently to argue against Canadian jobs, nor was that an isolated occurrence. In November 2011, the NDP dispatched its deputy leader to Washington with the same anti-Canadian message.
This is the same party that also opposed NAFTA and the same leader who called Canada's natural resources sector a disease. The NDP continues to oppose NAFTA, an agreement that sparked the creation of millions of Canadian jobs. To this day, the NDP platform commits its party to renegotiating NAFTA, if it ever has the opportunity.
This is the same party whose member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, called free trade agreements “job destroying”, and whose natural resources critic argued that free trade has cost Canadians dearly.
The NDP member for B.C. Southern Interior summarized the NDP's archaic views on trade when he argued that trade agreements “threaten the very existence of our nation”.
Thankfully, Canadian exporters know that our government, unlike the NDP, continues to stand up for trade, jobs and our economy.