Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in the House to debate Bill at second reading. The quicker we can get this free trade agreement through the House, the quicker we can get it to committee and back to the House for third reading. This is excellent legislation that would benefit all Canadians and certainly all Jordanians.
These agreements are the latest examples of our government's strategy to open doors for Canadian businesses and investors in these challenging economic times. This agreement will be the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and related agreements on labour cooperation and the environment.
An aggressive free trade agenda will foster economic growth, encourage competition and provide more choice for Canadians, and it was highlighted in both the Speech from the Throne and budget 2010. As the global economy continues to recover, the one thing that is clear is that free trade, not protectionism, is the key to long-term prosperity for Canadian workers.
Expanding our market access and engaging in free trade partnerships rather than protectionism is part of the government's strategy to help create jobs, growth and opportunity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast. In particular, this free trade agreement would benefit a number of sectors across Canada's economy.
Today I would like to outline a few of these sectors and talk about why our trade relationship with Jordan is so critical at this time in our history.
The fact is that sectors across Canada's economy need the kind of competitive access provided by this free trade agreement. Our companies need to be able to compete and succeed in a global marketplace. The agreement would immediately eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan. To be more precise, the agreement would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade.
Farmers would benefit because the agreement would eliminate tariffs on pulse crops, including lentils, chickpeas and beans, frozen french fries, animal feed and various prepared foods. It would also expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, including forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts.
As I am sure the House is aware, our manufacturers and Canadians employed in all of these sectors need every competitive advantage they can get in these challenging times. Through tariff elimination, our free trade agreement with Jordan would open new doors for these sectors, create new opportunities for Canadians employed in them and help our businesses succeed in global markets. The free trade agreement would help to ensure a level playing field for Canadian exporters, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access to Jordan's markets.
I want to take a moment to also touch on the Canada-Jordan foreign investment promotion and protection agreement that came into force on December 14 of last year. Signed at the same time as the free trade agreement, it will help encourage two-way investment by providing investors in both countries with the clarity and the certainty they need when investing in each other's markets.
Canadian investors are discovering a wealth of opportunities in the Jordanian market. Sectors, like resource extraction, nuclear energy, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure, all hold much promise for Canadian investors. One need only look at the great success the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has found in Jordan. It is now the largest foreign investor in Jordan. We can all also look at the long list of other Canadian companies, like Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin for instance, that have made significant inroads in the Jordanian market.
That is why the free trade agreement and the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement are such important accomplishments. We are standing up for Canadian business and we are standing strong for Canadian workers. In the broader sense, it is only the beginning.
The Canada-Jordan FTA is Canada's first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country. The Middle East and the north Africa region are becoming more important to Canadian business.
This agreement with Jordan would give us access to a critical market in the region. We have opened a number of significant doorways into the region and set the stage for Canadian businesses to create even more commercial links throughout the Middle East and north Africa in the years ahead.
However, Canada also believes that deeper commercial engagement need not come at the expense of labour standards or the environment. We think trade and investment can be a positive force for communities worldwide. We are very pleased to include parallel labour and environment agreements as part of the larger package of agreements we have signed with Jordan.
I will start with the labour co-operation agreement. It commits both countries to respect the core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization, standards that help eliminate child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination, and that respect freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. The agreement also commits both countries in providing acceptable minimum employment standards and compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses. I should also add that under this agreement migrant workers would enjoy the same legal protections as nationals, when it comes to working conditions.
In a similar vein, the agreement on the environment commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and the development and improvement of policies that protect the natural environment. Domestic environmental laws must be respected and enforced. This agreement commits both countries to this goal.
It also commits both countries to ensure that the strong environmental assessment processes are in place, as well as remedies for violating environmental laws. Through the agreement on the environment, our governments are also encouraging businesses to adopt best practices of corporate social responsibility and promote public awareness and engagement. As with the labour agreement, these measures would help ensure that increased trade and investment does not come at the expense of the environment and that businesses can play a positive role in the life of each country.
This is a critical time for Canada's economy. The global economic downturn has hit all nations hard. Our bilateral trade with Jordan, for example, fell from $92 million in 2008 to $82 million in 2009, primarily due to a decline in Canadian exports to Jordan.
We must do the right things to get there. We must continue to take steps to sharpen Canada's competitive edge. The global economy is not going away and one in five Canadian jobs depend upon Canada trading with the rest of the world. We need to continue opening doors to opportunity for our businesses and investors to thrive and prosper today and beyond the current economic downturn. Our free trade agreement with Jordan is an important part of these efforts. So is the foreign investment protection agreement and the two agreements on labour and the environment. Canada needs these tools to be competitive in Jordan.
This free trade agreement resonates with many Canadians. It would eliminate tariffs on Canadian products into this expanding market. In doing so, it would create opportunities for Canadian industries still on the rebound from recent economic turbulence and complement the government's successful strategy to stimulate economic growth for Canadians on all fronts. It would benefit Canadian consumers by eliminating tariffs on virtually all imports from Jordan. In doing all of that, and this is the key, it would also protect the environment and workers' rights.
I cannot mention this fact enough. This is not just a free trade agreement. It has a side agreement on labour co-operation and the environment. They were negotiated in parallel with the free trade agreement and link directly to environmental and labour provisions. Both the environment and the labour agreements contain what the negotiators call a non-derogation clause, meaning that neither Canada nor Jordan may waive or lessen existing environmental and labour laws to encourage trade or investment.
In effect, the parallel labour and environment agreements would help to ensure progress on labour rights and environment protection.
I will begin by elaborating on the agreement on the environment that is included in this agreement.
This agreement commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection and to continue to strive to develop and improve their environmental laws and policies.
Canada and Jordan are committed to complying with and effectively enforcing their domestic environmental laws, ensure that proceedings are available to remedy violations of environmental laws, promote public awareness of environmental laws and policies, put in place environmental impact assessment processes, and encourage the use of voluntary best practices of corporate social responsibility by enterprises.
The agreement on the environment also creates potential avenues for cooperation. Areas of activities would include cooperation on enforcement and compliance, corporate social responsibility and environmental technologies.
The agreement's dispute settlement provisions are forward-looking and progressive.
Members of the public would be able to submit questions to either party on any obligations or cooperative activities under the agreement. Canada and Jordan can undertake consultations to resolve any disagreements and, if need be, the matter can be referred to ministers for resolution.
As a final step, both Jordan and Canada would be able to ask for an independent review panel to investigate situations where they think the other party has failed to effectively enforce its environmental laws. In these circumstances, Canada and Jordan will work to develop an action plan to implement panel recommendations.
Environmental and labour protections are integral to the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement. We all know that the environmental and labour standards can go together and even benefit from free trade. Our free trade agreement with Jordan, along with the parallel agreements on the environment and labour cooperation, ensures that they do.
Finally, in summarizing this agreement, I just want to go over a couple more points.
We know that Canada and Jordan would eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs and most agricultural tariffs and have both committed to reducing non-tariff barriers to trade. Canadian exporters wold benefit from enhanced access to the Jordanian market. A Canada-Jordan free trade agreement would also help to level the playing field, vis-à-vis competitors who currently benefit from preferential access against our companies here in Canada.
Under tariff elimination, there would be an elimination of all Jordanian non-agricultural tariffs that currently average 11%. These include tariffs of 10% to 30% on many non-agricultural products of Canadian export interests, including industrial and electrical machinery, auto parts, construction equipment and forest products such as wood building materials and paper. The elimination of the vast majority of Jordan's agricultural tariffs, including key Canadian export interests, such as pulse crops, frozen french fries, various prepared foods and animal feeds, which face high tariffs of as much as 30%.
The vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan would benefit from the immediate duty-free access to the Jordanian market upon implementation of this free trade agreement. Upon implementation, Canada will immediately eliminate all non-agricultural tariffs on imports originating in Jordan, as well as most agricultural tariffs. As in all of our past free trade agreements, Canada has excluded over-quota supply managed dairy, poultry and ag products from any tariff reductions.
There are also reductions to non-tariff barriers to trade in this agreement, commitments to ensure non-discriminatory treatment of imported goods, provisions to affirm and build on obligations under the WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, and an agreement to apply the provisions of the WTO agreement on the application of sanitary and phytosanitary measures in bilateral trade.
A committee on trade in goods and rules of origin would l be created as a forum for Canada and Jordan to discuss any goods-related trade issues that arise, including technical barriers to trade.
There would be a bilateral goods trade overview. Canadian exports to Jordan totalled $65.8 million in 2009, up from $31 million in 2003. Our top exports to Jordan in 2009 included vehicles, forest products, machinery, pulse crops, such as lentils and chick peas, ships and boats and plastics. The top exports for the previous year included paper and paperboard, copper wire, pulse crops, machinery and wood pulp. Canadian merchandise imports from Jordan totalled $16.6 million in 2009, up from $6 million in 2003. Top imports included knit and woven apparel, precious stones and metals, mainly jewellery, vegetables and inorganic chemicals.
All our consultations and reviews of this very important agreement show us that trade will not just be expanded, but will be drastically expanded. It comes at a time when we need jobs and opportunities for Canadian workers. A couple of parties seem to totally reject the free trade agreement. They would take us back to the Great Depression again and work us through all kinds of technical trade barriers that Canadians simply cannot afford.
Finally, in the spirit of co-operation, I think there are a number of free traders in the House, certainly in the Liberal Party. They have been favourable to free trade agreements in the past. I would ask them to look at this agreement and to support it. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian traders. We cannot afford to close doors on Canadian exporters.
A very good example is my own riding, a very rural riding on the southwestern coast of Nova Scotia. Ninety-seven per cent of all the jobs created in my very small, very rural riding are trade related and manufacturing jobs, whether they are fish processing jobs or manufacturing, it is all value-added. There is an aeronautical sector and an aerospace sector. In the forest products everything is dimensional lumber. It is all manufactured again. Agriculture is all value-added.
If those people cannot sell their products, if they cannot move on to the world market that we have traditionally enjoyed in Atlantic Canada, especially in Nova Scotia, through the days of the schooner trade and before that, then we are taking not only a step backward, we would be taking a step backward to ancient history, where people lived in walled city states and fought one another instead of trading with one another. That would be a tremendous mistake.
Mr. Speaker, I rise today with great interest in and certainly initial support for this legislation, the free trade agreement that Canada has signed with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to go to committee where we can hear from witnesses and scrutinize the legislation as we ought to with any legislation.
This FTA ought to provide Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs greater access to the Jordanian market by eliminating tariffs on most of Canada's exports to Jordan. This includes tariffs on Canadian manufacturing and forest products, and in certain cases Canadian agriculture and agri-food. Once again, our supply managed sectors have been protected in this agreement.
In terms of the numbers, last year Canada and Jordan traded over $82 million worth of merchandise. Almost $66 million of that, or 80% of the trade, was in the form of Canadian exports to Jordan. It is a fairly small number. Certainly, the precedent set by the U.S.-Jordan free trade agreement is encouraging. It increased ten-fold over a relatively short period of time so we would hope that could occur here.
While I spoke in general support of sending this to committee, I have to question more broadly the Conservative government's trade focus. With China and India growing between 6% to 9% per year, massive markets, incredible investments in infrastructure, water, sewage treatment, public transit, and green investments, all the kinds of products and manufacturing that Canada has some level of expertise in, I believe that the government ought to be focusing more on some of those larger opportunities.
The question of Africa is an important one and the referred to North Africa and the Middle East, but for the Conservative government Africa has been largely off the map. I think there is a broad consensus emerging that the relationship between Canada and Africa has to go from being primarily one of aid provision to trade opportunity and the opportunity is significant.
I have spoken to people including David Rubenstein, head of The Carlyle Group, who believes that perhaps the best continent in the world to invest in over the next 10 years will be Africa. There is a great opportunity for us and there are tremendous historic ties that Canada has with Africa. We have some real advantages in terms of our relationship with Africa that I believe we ought to be focusing more on.
I would like to come back to this free trade agreement because notwithstanding my questioning of the government's overall macro trade policy focus, I believe that these kinds of agreements are helpful. I would like to see a lot more focus on some of the larger long-term opportunities for Canada.
The Jordanian economy is predicted to grow by 3% this year and 3.7% in 2011. It is a stable market, albeit a relatively small market for Canadian exporters. Like most of Canada's FTAs, this FTA includes agreements on the environment and labour cooperation that will help promote sustainability, and protect and ensure labour rights. More specifically, the Canada-Jordan labour cooperation agreement recognized both countries' obligations under the International Labour Organization, ILO, Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work including the protection of the following rights: the right to freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of discrimination.
Both the labour cooperation agreement and the agreement on the environment include complaints and dispute resolution processes that enable members of the public to request an investigation into perceived failures of Canada or Jordan to comply with these agreements.
Canada already has one free trade agreement in place in the region generally. That is the FTA with Israel that has been in place since 1997. This agreement, however, is the first Canada has signed with an Arab country. It is fitting that this agreement would be, and this precedent would be set, with Jordan. Canada and Jordan share a friendly and constructive relationship as exemplified by our recent agreement on cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
Jordan has shown considerable leadership in pursuit of peace in the Middle East and has had a peace treaty with Israel since October 1994. Jordan has also helped to foster deeper relations and a greater understanding between the west and the Arab world. On the trade front, Jordan already has free trade agreements with some of Canada's most important trading partners. The FTA with the U.S. went into effect in December 2001. Jordan's FTA with the European Union went into effect in May 2002 and its FTA with the European Free Trade Association went into effect in September 2002.
Canada and Jordan also signed a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, FIPA, at the same time as the free trade agreement on June 28, 2009. However, unlike the FTA, the FIPA is already in place. In fact, it went into effect on December 14, 2009. I am curious as to why the FIPA was kept as a separate agreement, even though the FTA and the FIPA were signed at the same time.
The FIPA is based on the principle of national treatment, from an investor's perspective that a Canadian investor in Jordan will be treated identically to a Jordanian investor in Jordan and vice versa. We have to treat Jordanian investors in Canada as we would treat our own investors. The principle of national treatment in the FIPA agreement is quite core to free trade agreements.
When considering the Bloc Québécois' public position against some measures within free trade agreements, it is curious that this FIPA includes measures that guarantee national treatment, often called investor-state provisions. We do welcome the support from Bloc members for this free trade agreement, but I would remind them that, if they are opposed to investor-state provisions and national treatment, the FIPA agreement has not been tabled in the House.
If that is an area that is of interest to the Bloc, in terms of investor-state provisions and the whole area of national treatment, the government has curiously chosen first, to separate the FIPA from this free trade agreement and second, to table only the free trade agreement in the House. In some ways, this contravenes the government's own policy on tabling treaties in Parliament. If one reads from the Conservative policy on tabling treaties in Parliament that went into effect on January 25, 2008, it says:
|| The objective of this policy is to ensure that all instruments governed by public international law, between Canada and other states or international organisations, are tabled in the House of Commons following their signature or adoption by other procedure and prior to Canada formally notifying that it is bound by the Instrument.
The FIPA with Jordan was signed in June 2009 and went into effect in December 2009, but it has never been tabled in the House. I can quote the member for , who was the foreign affairs minister at that time. He said:
|| As of today, all treaties between Canada and other states or entities, and which are considered to be governed by public international law, will be tabled in the House of Commons
He continued describing the government's commitment when he said:
|| This reflects our government's commitment to democracy and accountability. By submitting our international treaties to public scrutiny, we are delivering on our promise for a more open and transparent government.
I think it is important to remind the House that that was a firm commitment by the government to table all international treaties in the House. While the government has tabled the FTA with Jordan, it has not tabled the FIPA, the agreement on investments. I believe it ought to have done that prior to final ratification. This is not the first time the Conservative government has contradicted its own policy or commitment to democracy and accountability.
We know what has happened with prorogation and the attack of the government on democratic values. The Conservative government failed to table the buy American deal. It could not table that agreement because it had prorogued the House, which seemed rather convenient because it held a press conference on the buy American deal and only a week later provided the actual agreement leaving opposition and Canadians asking questions as to where the beef is on this.
Ultimately, we found out that the deal was not only late in coming, almost too late to benefit Canadians in terms of access to the American stimulus package, but it was also very weak in terms of the kinds of protection it provided to Canadian workers.
In terms of trade, the Conservative government has broadly failed to defend our interest with our largest trading partner, the U.S., and it has failed to diversify our trade relations by aggressively pursuing trade deals with the world's largest emerging markets.
We are a trade dependent nation, 80% of our economy and millions of Canadian jobs depend on our ability to access foreign markets. History would tell us that from beaver pelts in the past to BlackBerries today, Canada's prosperity has been forged in the markets of the world. We prosper because we can and we must compete.
Canada is a world leader in efficient natural resource extraction, as an example. Our manufactured goods are known around the world for quality and innovation. It is because Canada has the ingenuity and expertise to benefit from free trade. Canada profited when we signed the Auto Pact with the U.S. We have prospered under NAFTA.
However, under this government, in 2009, Canada faced its first trade deficit in 30 years. Unless Canada takes real and meaningful action to diversify our trade relations, we run the risk of falling behind as other countries diversify theirs.
I would like to speak for a moment on the whole issue of climate change, not on the environment and climate change, not in terms of environmental responsibility but in terms of economic opportunities. The fact is, around the world, countries are putting a price on carbon. We have seen it in various countries in the EU, and we have seen the EU move broadly. We see today in the U.S. there are three pieces of legislation under debate, the Waxman-Markey bill, the Cantwell-Collins bill, and more recently the development of senator Lindsey Graham's initiative with senator Joe Lieberman and senator John Kerry.
We do not know what is going to happen in the U.S. Congress. We are familiar with the dysfunctionality of Congress from time to time. However, I believe at some point, and quite possibly in the next few months, we will see some form of carbon pricing come out of the U.S.
Whether it is in the next few months or the next few years, we know that the world is putting a price on carbon. We also know that even in China, according to Fan Gang, who is one of the pre-eminent economists in China and, in fact, one of the authors of the five year plan, it is actually considering a carbon pricing mechanism for its next five year plan.
As the world puts a price on carbon, particularly in the protectionist U.S., we expect carbon price border pricing mechanisms to be included in those carbon tariffs. What it means for Canada in the long-term, in our high carbon economy, is that we will become less competitive than we are right now.
The approach of the Conservative government is to wait and see what the U.S. is going to do in terms of carbon pricing. That is a high-risk approach because the fact is that when the U.S. comes to a legislative or an administrative conclusion in terms of what to do with pricing carbon and it imposes it on us through the form of a carbon tariff, that could potentially have a very deleterious effect on our economy.
Canada is the biggest energy provider to the U.S., which means that we have a vested interest in the decisions made now in the U.S. Congress and by the U.S. administration. We should not be sitting back waiting for them to conclude those discussions. We ought to be engaged as their biggest energy provider.
We ought to be working more closely with them to develop cleaner energy solutions, cleaner conventional energy and alternative energy. We ought to be working with them to modernize energy grids and strengthen transmission, and to go toward smart grid and smart meters.
We ought to be working more closely with them to build a Canada-U.S. energy strategy that could help insulate us against the potential risk of a carbon pricing mechanism that is reached in the U.S. without any consultation with Canada, but also more fundamentally, to render both our economies more competitive in the emerging green economy in a global carbon constrained world.
At the World Economic Forum this year in Davos, Canada's Conservative was alone among all foreign leaders when he insisted that measures to address climate change will hurt the economy with “real impacts on jobs and economic growth”. He went on further to say, “There are serious trade-offs with economic imperatives in the short term”. His view was completely out of step with global leaders, including in recent months, President Obama.
Around the world, the conversation about climate change has gone from one of environmental responsibility to one of economic opportunity. Canada, as a major energy producer, can build on our expertise within the traditional energy sector to become a green energy superpower. We can position Canada as a global leader. We can position Canada as a clean energy partner for China and India, but only if we have a federal strategy, a national strategy working with the provinces.
Other countries have used their stimulus packages to become more competitive, to build more competitiveness in the global carbon constrained economy. The U.S. invested six times more per capita than Canada in clean energy through its stimulus package. Canada was among the lowest in the OECD in terms of green stimulus spending.
In December, China and the Obama administration in the U.S. signed an agreement on carbon capture and storage technology. Canada was not even at the table. This is an area where Canada has a comparative advantage. Forty per cent of the carbon stored in the world is sequestered in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Weyburn resulted from the federal government's investment, at that time the Martin Liberal government, and the private sector to make that happen. It is a world-class facility in Weyburn with world-class technology.
Yet we were not at the table when China signed a deal with our largest trading partner, the U.S., on CO2 sequestration. This year, according to energy secretary Chu in the U.S., the U.S. is investing $3 billion in CO2 sequestration technology, and that is being partnered with $7 billion of private sector investment.
We have a narrow window of opportunity to maintain our advancement in terms of CO2 sequestration, but we are going to lose that very quickly as China and the U.S. move forward more quickly than we are doing in terms of investment and in terms of innovation.
The competition for leadership in the new green economy is fierce. China in 2008 became the largest producer of solar panels in the world. In 2009 China became the largest producer of wind turbines in the world.
We cannot wait while other countries act. If there was a first talker advantage, Canada would probably get it, but there is only a first mover advantage and other countries are moving. Canada is just sitting back and waiting.
At Davos this year, U.S. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham said:
|| Six months ago my biggest worry was that an emissions deal would make American business less competitive compared to China. Now my concern is that every day that we delay trying to find a price for carbon is a day that China uses to dominate the green economy. China has made a long-term strategic decision and they are going gang-busters.
We need to deepen our energy relationship with the U.S. We must focus on coordinated carbon pricing mechanisms, integrated smart energy grid corridors and green technology research, development and partnerships. We must build on the Canada-U.S. relationship but at the same time, we need to become China's and India's clean energy partner.
We need a long-term strategic approach to ensuring that not only do we defend our interests in the U.S. against American protectionism, but also in the 21st century that Canada has diversified trading relationships around the world in the area where we have our strongest comparative advantage, and that is clean energy and clean energy solutions.
Mr. Speaker, before I begin speaking about Bill , I would like to congratulate the wonderful initiative of those who organized Earth Hour. On Saturday, more than 10 million Canadians and nearly a billion people throughout the world symbolically turned out their lights for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30 p.m. In Montreal, Hydro-Québec turned off the logo on its head office. Even the Canadian Parliament participated. In all, more than 3,400 cities in more than 125 countries took part in Earth Hour.
Since we know how important the fight against climate change is to the Conservatives, we do not need to talk about the importance of rallying together to send a clear message to our representatives. We need to be giving this issue more attention. I would also like to take a moment to mention the exceptional work of my colleague from in the fight against climate change.
Having said that, let us return to today's topic of debate, the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. The Bloc Québécois generally supports this bill. However, we believe certain aspects should be revisited. The Bloc Québécois has come to this conclusion because, as always, it methodically studied this agreement and concluded that, for the most part, it respected the values of our party, and hence those of Quebeckers.
Last week, I rose in the House to denounce the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement because it does not in the least respect the principles defended by the Bloc Québécois—fundamental principles such as human rights and workers' rights, as well as respect for the environment. I can assure the House that we will rise and speak out as long as a treaty or government decision does not respect this moral standard.
In this case, there is no indication of a transgression of these principles and we even salute the efforts that may be undertaken. However, we must ask ourselves why sign an agreement with Jordan when our trade with this country only represents $92 million in goods? More importantly, trade with Quebec only represents a meagre $32 million.
Nevertheless, we believe that this agreement is necessary to balance our support in this part of the world. Knowing full well that Canada has already approved a free trade agreement with Israel, it is important, considering the tense political situation in the Middle East, to send a clear message to this region that we are open to fair trade and agreements with all nations in the region. This could even promote better relations between the East and the West and open doors to certain eastern countries that wish to cultivate better economic relations with the West.
Nor should we ignore the considerable efforts made by Jordan to modernize its government and its economy. These efforts will help deal with the difficulties created by the incredible gap between rich and poor. We should herald these efforts. Implementing this agreement would send, once more, a clear message to other Middle Eastern countries that it is important that they modernize their governments and economies.
A moment ago I said that Jordan is not a major player in terms of trade with Canada and Quebec. Despite that, the Bloc Québécois nevertheless believes that this agreement would be beneficial for Quebec. As the private woodlot critic for the Bloc Québécois, I am extremely troubled by the forestry crisis, which affects so many Canadian workers and especially Quebec workers. It is especially troubling knowing that nearly $10 billion was invested in the Ontario auto industry, while next to nothing has been invested in Quebec.
For some time now, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for loans and loan guarantees at the market rate for the Quebec forestry industry, as well as a comprehensive policy to support and modernize the forestry industry, including a policy to use wood in the construction of federal buildings. Bill , introduced by my colleague from , will help with that.
Furthermore, private woodlot owners in Quebec have been the forgotten ones in this forestry crisis. They need to be taken care of as well, perhaps through some sort of tax measures. Accordingly, the creation of a registered silvicultural savings plan would be a very important tool for these private woodlot owners. This could also one day, I hope, make it possible for them to export pulp and paper around the world, particularly to Jordan, the subject of our debate here today.
Despite everything I just said, the Bloc Québécois sees this agreement as a positive step for the Quebec forestry industry. Let us not be idealistic: this agreement is in no way a concrete solution to the Conservatives' inaction when it comes to the forestry industry, particularly in Quebec. However, the fact remains that this agreement would mean significant gains for this industry, one that has been in crisis for far too long.
There was $32 million worth of trade between Quebec and Jordan in 2008. Of this amount, $25 million was for our pulp and paper industry, which is a significant amount. Since Jordan has an obvious lack of forestry resources, because of its climate, and since the Quebec pulp and paper industry has been ignored by the Conservative government for a long time, the agreement being debated right now is an interesting solution to compensate for the lack of resources in Jordan and the Conservatives' passive attitude towards this industry.
As I mentioned earlier, the Bloc Québécois and I think that there are some points that will have to be reviewed and debated in order to justify an agreement of this nature.
As deputy natural resources critic for the Bloc Québécois, I, along with my Bloc Québécois colleagues, think that we absolutely must ensure that Quebec's significant water resources are clearly excluded from the agreement, to ensure that Quebec remains in control of its water resources. Although this is not mentioned in the agreement itself, this condition absolutely must be included in the agreement.
We will have the opportunity to examine the agreement more closely in committee over the next few weeks.
Although the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement is unacceptable in terms of agriculture, that is not the case with this agreement with Jordan. In contrast to Bill concerning Canada and Colombia, because of the small size of Jordan's market and the type of agriculture practised there, there is not likely to be a negative impact on either our Quebec agricultural producers or agricultural producers in Jordan. It is very important for us to respect our own agricultural producers, as well as those in the countries with which we are signing or trying to sign an agreement.
I am a farmer, and it is important to farmers to consider the particular agricultural situation in countries and help them develop. In Quebec, the Union des producteurs agricoles approved this agreement and said that it did not pose any problems. We could talk about farming for a long time in the House.
It is alarming to see what the Conservatives are doing about such a crucial issue. The government is definitely showing its ignorance and incompetence. Farming as it is practised here could be improved with some practical, low-cost, workable measures. There is no shortage of ideas; the Bloc Québécois has presented a whole list of practical solutions. There is a shortage of political will, though, especially among the Conservatives.
Knowing the government's intentions and where farming figures on its priority list, we find it hard not to be worried about the future of farming in Canada and especially in Quebec.
But let us come back to the free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan. The Bloc Québécois also condemns the Conservative strategy of signing bilateral agreements with other governments instead of the multilateral agreements we have long been suggesting.
The Bloc Québécois firmly believes that a multilateral approach is a better way to develop fairer trade and respect the interests of all the countries of the world.
In order for trade to be mutually beneficial, it must first be fair. The free trade agreement between Canada and Colombia is hardly fair, but the Conservatives, like the Liberals, do not seem too concerned about that.
A trading system that leads to the exploitation of poor countries and dumping in rich countries is not viable. The Bloc Québécois cannot accept a system of free trade that would be based on the lowest common denominator. We also cannot accept free trade agreements where the absence of environmental or labour standards puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, especially our traditional industries. It is very difficult for them to compete with products that are manufactured with no regard for basic social rights.
To make trade agreements fairer, the Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to revise its positions in trade negotiations in order to ensure that trade agreements include clauses ensuring compliance with international labour standards as well as respect for human rights and the environment.
The Bloc Québécois believes that if Canada wants to maintain its credibility on this front, it should immediately sign on to the International Labour Organization's principal conventions against various forms of discrimination, forced labour and child labour, as well as those in support of the right to organize and collective bargaining.
Those are the issues we should focus on in our trade agreements. It is clear that the Conservatives—and lately, the Liberals, with their obvious complicity concerning the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement bill—have no desire to consider these issues.
The Bloc Québécois' support for Bill is a one-time-only offer. We will continue to keep a close eye on agreements signed between Canada and other countries. If Canada fails to respect the fundamental principles that our party stands for and the interests of the Quebec nation, we, the members of the Bloc Québécois, will stand up to criticize such agreements and do everything in our power to cancel or change them.
We will never ignore such legitimate issues, and we will never support such injustices, as the Liberal members have done with the Colombia free trade agreement.
I hope that the federal government will consider these principles in future agreements. That should go without saying, but the members opposite seem to have forgotten these humanitarian ideas.
All the same, every time the Conservative Party or any other party in power chooses to ignore these issues, the Bloc Québécois can be counted on to call them on it and defend these principles. This is about respect for human rights, for workers' rights, for the environment and for Quebec's interests.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill , which is the implementing law for the trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
I will start by referencing the delay the government has put on. We have heard a lot of rhetoric around this deal as we have heard from previous deals the government has put forward. However, it is important to do a reality check. The government had a green light from all four corners of the House from the very beginning to bring it to committee. There are some major concerns that I will raise and reference a little later on.
I think it is fair to say that the controversy around Bill and the Colombia agreement is very clear and palpable on the floor of the House. With the Jordan agreement, all four corners of the House wanted to bring it forward, have it debated and sent to committee where we could have heard from the many witnesses who have an interest in this. The committee could then have made the necessary amendments.
However, for eight months the government has refused to bring it forward. For eight months it has hidden behind the Colombia deal and stalled on this bill. Far from agreeing with the rhetoric that this is another important step forward in trade policy for the government, we need to ask why the government stalled for eight months on this when it was given the green light to at least bring it to committee within a few days. All four corners of the House asked for it to be brought forward and the government said no, that it would not do that.
This speaks to a larger problem, which is the complete incoherence of the government's trade policy and industrial policy in general. For four years we have seen the kind of legislation the government brings forward. It is fair to say that the NDP has been front and centre in standing up to what the government has brought forward, but the delay around the Jordan bill just shows the dilettantism of the government when it comes to trade policy.
This is no small issue. When we look at the last 20 years, since the implementation of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the real income of most Canadian families has gone down not up. The real incomes of the two-thirds of Canadian families who comprise the middle-class and poor Canadians have gone down right across the country.
The only ones who have actually profited and seen an increase in their real income over the past 20 years, since the first implementation of these agreements, have been the wealthiest of Canadians. The wealthy 10% have seen their incomes skyrocket. One-fifth of Canadians, the wealthiest 20%, now take most of the real income in this country.
To say that the free trade agreements that have been brought in by the Liberals and Conservatives have led to instant prosperity is simply false. Statistics Canada puts the lie to those pretensions that this is somehow a coherent and smart industrial and economic strategy. There has been no economic strategy, no real focused trade strategy and the result has been that most Canadians are poor.
We need to ask about the actual record of the government since it came to power. We saw the softwood lumber sellout, which killed jobs right across this country, including 2,000 in the two communities in my riding of . We have seen the shipbuilding sellout, which was opposed by the NDP because we heard from hundreds of shipyard workers from across the country, including Quebec, Atlantic Canada and British Columbia, who said that this wold have a huge negative impact on their industry.
The government did no impact studies. It was just flying by the seat of its pants. It was out-maneuvered by Liechtenstein. I hesitate to say it, but it is true that Liechtenstein, a tiny country in Europe, actually out-maneuvered the Conservative government.
We saw the softwood sellout, the shipbuilding sellout and the Colombia trade deal, which we can discuss another day because I know we should stick to Jordan, but the government's record is extremely poor.
What are our competitors doing? Our competitors are investing in export promotion support. The United States, Australia and the European Union are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year in providing support for their export industries and export promotion supports. What are we doing? If the government actually wants to go beyond its dilettante approach on trade issues, what is it doing?
I was in Argentina last week with a number of hon. members, including my colleague from , and we found out, astoundingly, that the Conservative government's total budget in export product promotion support for the emerging market of Argentina, a country of 40 million people and the wealthiest market in South America, is $400 a week. That is less than the average dépanneur in Quebec and the average corner store in Burnaby—New Westminster will spend for a marketing radius that is a few blocks on either side.
That is repeated across the board. In the United States we spend paltry cents on the dollar compared to other countries, like Australia. Its total budget for export promotion support is half a billion dollars. Our total budget is a few million dollars. This is what is wrong with the government's approach. It simply does not provide the kinds of supports that other major industrialized countries, our competitors, do.
What the NDP has been saying ever since the Conservative government came to power is that it needs to change that approach. The government simply cannot go to these trade agreement ribbon cuttings and expect that the job is done or will be done. Most Canadians are the poorer for it. Canada is making less and less as a result. We had our first export deficit in 20 years a few months ago. Obviously, there is something wrong with this approach.
Even if these trade agreements were fair trade based as opposed to the old NAFTA template model, do the trade agreements themselves make a difference? Obviously not, because with a number of these bilateral agreements our exports have actually gone down in those markets after being signed. In every case, imports from the countries that we have signed with have gone up. In other words, those countries have managed to profit from the agreements signed with Canada but in Canada's case, exports have actually gone down. How can we sign an agreement and not have the follow-up or strategy to bolster our exports? That is, indeed, what has happened.
The problem with the government's overall approach is that it not only has no industrial strategy but it also does not have an export-oriented focus and it is not willing to invest Canadian government funds in the way that other countries do to bolster their industries.
As there has been some rhetoric flying around the House this morning on this agreement, I should note that this whole idea that Canada should not be trying to protect and sustain certain key industries is something that every other industrialized economy has adopted and put forward as part of their industrial strategy. The Conservative government is seemingly selling out every industry in our country, but France, the United States and every other country are focused on investing in their key industries.
The NDP gets criticized by the Liberals and Conservatives for bringing forward buy Canada strategies but that is where the rest of the world is. It is ensuring it has a strong foundation.
Far from making things together, which is sort of the spin, the buzzwords that we hear from the Conservatives, Canadians are making less and less, exporting more and more raw materials, whether it is raw logs or raw bitumen, across the line, and those jobs end up elsewhere. That is the fundamental problem with how the government approaches economic issues generally and trade policy in particular.
Now we can talk about the more specific aspects of the Jordan agreement. As I mentioned earlier, this agreement needs to have a thorough vetting at the committee stage and amendments need to be brought forward for reasons that I will mention in a few moments. What we are endeavouring to do is to get this to committee so we can hear from labour activists, human rights advocates and from those who are concerned about women's equality because those are all issues that have been cited in some of the many reports that have come up about problems with Jordan.
It is fair to say that Jordan has made progress in a number of different areas. Jordan is certainly not Colombia with the horrific death toll, disappearances and killings of labour activists that are a tragic daily reality in Colombia with paramilitaries tied to the government and the Colombian military. In a very real sense, Jordan has tried to make progress and I will mention some of that progress later on.
However, the agreement itself is a NAFTA template style agreement, with investor state provisions that we have raised concerns about before, and labour and environment cooperation agreements that are toothless, which is the overall problem and the reason we will need to bring strong amendments to this bill at the committee stage.
There is no doubt that Canadian values are betrayed when we have toothless components around labour rights and environmental stewardship. Most Canadians want to see very robust protections there. We also undermine our own Canadian values when we subject the kind of democratic decision-making with an override, which is the investor state provisions of NAFTA. We have raised this issue before in the House. This is simply, in our minds, not the appropriate route to go.
Given the framework of the agreement, which is inadequate and is a template from which other countries have moved away and are looking at more fair trade approaches to their trading relationships, what is happening in Jordan? What are the issues?
I would like to cite three reports. The first report is from the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor which was released a couple of weeks ago on March 11. It is the 2009 country reports on human rights practices in which it cites Jordan and states:
|| Restrictive legislation and regulations limited freedom of speech and press, and government interference in the media and threats of fines and detention led to self-censorship, according to journalists and human rights organizations. The government also continued to restrict freedoms of assembly and association. Religious activists and opposition political party members reported a decline in government harassment; however, legal and societal discrimination remained a problem for women, religious minorities, converts from Islam, and some persons of Palestinian origin. Local human rights organizations reported widespread violence against women and children. The government restricted labor rights, and local and international human rights organizations reported high levels of abuse of foreign domestic workers.
The report goes on to cite some of the specific areas of concern around respect for human rights. I think it is important to mention those reports and to flag some of the comparisons with other countries.
|| Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life
|| There were reports during the year that the government or its agents committed unlawful killings.
|| On November 8, Saddam Al Saoud died of injuries allegedly sustained in police custody at the Al Hussein Police Station. On October 17, police arrested Al Saoud during a fight between street vendors in Amman. On October 18, authorities transferred an unconscious Al Saoud to a private hospital. Al Saoud's family said police caused Al Saoud's injuries when they hit him on the head with a gun. The Public Security Department (PSD) investigated the case, arrested six police officers, and charged them with two felonies: death caused by hitting and abuse of PSD regulations. At year's end cases against the officers were ongoing.
They also cite one other case, that of Fakhri Kreishan, who died of injuries sustained during an altercation with police in the southern city of Ma'an. Again police prosecutors investigated the case, arrested the police officer and charged him with two felonies. The case before the police court was ongoing.
In terms of unlawful deprivation of life, we have two incidences. It is fair to say that, in both cases, the police officers have been charged. That is important and it contrasts with other countries, most particularly Colombia, where the ongoing slaughter, and there is no other way of putting it, of human rights activists and labour activists was treated with impunity, where 95% of the cases did not lead to any sort of prosecution at all. In Jordan's case, the two cases have been followed up with charges.
Disappearances is category B. There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances, and that is welcome. Again it contrasts with other countries. I will take Colombia as an example, where there have been widespread disappearances, hundreds of people who have simply disappeared in politically motivated kidnappings or killings done by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government and the Colombian military. In Jordan's case, there were no reports of politically motivated disappearances in 2009.
Category C is torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The report continues:
|| The law prohibits such practices; however international NGOs continued to allege that torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centers remained widespread. Nevertheless, some domestic NGOs claimed that recent reform efforts had reduced cases of torture and mistreatment in police and security detention centers.
The fact that NGOs are reporting that is welcome, and of course we contrast that with other countries. I will take Colombia, for example, where the Colombian Commission of Jurists has pointed out widespread cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Colombian military and by paramilitaries tied to the Colombian government.
For the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, there are obviously some concerns; however there are some indications of improvement.
I would like to move on to Human Rights Watch. Its “World Report 2010: Harsher Climate for Human Rights” cites concerns around migrant domestic workers and the abuse of women in Jordan. It states:
|| Strike clauses from the law that allow for punishment-reducing mitigating circumstances for “honor” killers.
|| Ease restrictions in the law governing the operation of nongovernmental organizations to bring it into compliance with international standards on freedom of association.
|| Revise regulations governing migrant domestic workers to comply with international labor and human rights standards, and set up a mechanism to investigate allegations of abuses against workers.
—again, a concern about domestic workers—
|| Strengthen accountability for torture by moving jurisdiction over acts of torture by police agents from the Police Court to civilian courts.
|| Stop withdrawing the nationality of Jordanian citizens of Palestinian origin.
These are concerns raised by Human Rights Watch.
The final report I would like to cite is done by Lubna Dawany Nimry, who is an attorney at law in Jordan, raising concerns about the treatment of women. She states that the number of so-called crimes of honour, and there is no other way of describing it except as abuse of women, averages about 25 a year.
She does reference the fact that civil rights activists were speaking out loudly and fighting this phenomenon and mentions that some members of the royal family have participated in demonstrations against article 98 and article 340 of the penal code. She sites that in some areas of Jordan, a woman's life is at risk if she talks to a man who is not a relative. She says very clearly that there is a need for substantial revisions to the code in Jordan to assure women's equality.
For those reasons, we raise concerns about this agreement.