The House resumed from December 14, 2012, consideration of the motion that Bill , be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the motion that this question be now put.
Madam Speaker, I will pick up where I left off a few weeks ago. I talked about the value of signing bilateral free trade agreements with countries around the world. That consideration is all the more relevant when we have very limited trade relations with the country in question, as is the case with Jordan.
On Monday, in my speech on the free trade agreement with Panama bill, I pointed out that trade between Panama and Canada represented an insignificant fraction of Canada's total trade with the rest of the world. We have to ask ourselves whether associating ourselves with Panama is worth risking Canada's international reputation. We could ask ourselves the same question about Jordan.
I should mention that, in 2009, total trade between Jordan and Canada amounted to barely $86 million. As with Panama, trade between Jordan and Canada is growing quickly without a free trade agreement in place.
I would like to go back to the first part of the speech I made about Jordan. We have examples of high-achieving countries around the world. I spoke about China and Brazil. They are increasing their international trade enormously without signing free trade agreements. However, these countries are very active through other means. They are using much more powerful and much more worthwhile means to increase their foreign trade and support their economy.
It is very important to take that into consideration. Because the way I see it, signing free trade agreements in such a disorganized way, without reviewing them beforehand, without determining whether or not they are small in scope, raises many more religious issues or, at the very least, the question of a basic belief that is not supported by fact—let us think of progress that we could measure and that would enable us to provide benefits to all Canadians.
This is a governmental approach that I find very worrisome. We can even wonder about the possible interpretation: as I said on Monday, is the government not sort of running away to avoid facing growing domestic problems?
I am the critic for small business and tourism. I can see that, currently in the Canadian economy, we are having problems supporting start-up companies. Entrepreneurship is seriously lacking, and the government is not taking care of that. But what the government is doing is overloading officials assigned to reviewing and implementing free trade agreements by increasing the number of superficial, artificial agreements that do not meet the needs of Canadians as a whole, for peanuts, for insignificant things that will, however, have a significant impact.
I would like to point out to the House that, if Bill is approved, Canada—without any guarantee and without having properly reviewed what is involved—will end up with ties to a country that may still have serious problems with regard to labour law.
Previously, when the NDP had serious concerns about this, it had learned and understood that there were outrageous cases of exploitation of foreign workers. A concrete example would be what is happening in the textile mills in Jordan. People were working in atrocious conditions, were living in totally inhumane conditions and were practically treated like slaves.
Jordan wanted to achieve some progress in that regard. But is it enough so that Canada can associate with Jordan without causing serious harm to Canada's reputation, since it has such a strong influence on the international scene? That is the situation Canada is in. That is why the NDP does not necessarily oppose at all costs entering into a free trade agreement with Jordan or any other country in the world. However, the NDP insists that we must have sufficient guarantees before we will support it.
As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade—which is often dysfunctional and is too easily denied the basic tools needed to assess the work of officials and the minister in question, as well as free trade agreements under negotiation or already concluded—I am quite concerned.
The fact that the NDP agrees that this bill should be sent to committee for examination is in no way a blank cheque. This does not mean we fully support the bill as it currently stands. We still have questions and concerns. This does nothing to put an end to the attitude shown by this government, which is simply using one distraction after another to try to hide all the deficiencies in its management, not to mention all the scandals that keep emerging.
I have the honour of being part of a very young caucus; many NDP members are in their twenties. This agreement commits Canada for a long time, indeed, for a very long time. A parallel can be drawn here. A free trade agreement is almost like a marriage contract between two people. That is why we must examine it very carefully, in order to weigh the pros and cons and to know what we are committing to.
Unfortunately, sometimes in matters of the heart, a union between two people is entered into lightly and too quickly, which can be disastrous. The Government of Canada has adopted a rushed and reckless approach. I would encourage all hon. members of this House and all the members of the committee to participate in an open, clear and transparent review.
If the government wants the unanimous support of this House for this bill, then it should involve all the parties concerned, which it is not doing. At least, it has not so far. For the six years the Conservative Party has formed the government, it has shut everyone else out. It makes me wonder what that means for the interests of our country and for our future. It is not a healthy approach.
That is why the NDP is showing openness so that the government can share with us, in good faith, the information it has and show us clearly, through cold hard facts, the value of this future free trade agreement.
I am going to keep an open mind even though I have been rather disappointed by the government's attitude in the past. We will, however, give a quick account of the problems with the existing agreement that the government is trying to push through the House.
We are willing to work with the government provided that it is willing to consider the problems with the current agreement. When the agreement was concluded and the NDP was able to speak to this matter during the previous Parliament, the NDP pointed out that a number of credible, independent international agencies had warned us about the general abuses endured by workers in Jordan, especially foreign workers.
Unfortunately, in some of the textile plants, there are cases of slavery. There have been some credible reports on that. Canada cannot condone this. When it comes to international agreements, our country is completely against such practices.
To sign this agreement without having a guarantee from the Jordanian government that it is addressing the problem, actively working on it and fighting the abuse of foreign workers would be an outright betrayal of our international commitments. I am sorry, but I am not prepared to put our excellent reputation on the line for the paltry amount of $85 million worth of trade in 2009.
This free trade agreement also refers to the protection of investments. Although we have not been negotiating a long time in the case of the European free trade agreement, I have worked on it a fair bit. I have said it before and I will say it again: provisions that protect investors who do business in Canada are an aberration. It makes no sense because the rule of law prevails in Canada. We have all the legal mechanisms and legal protections necessary to guarantee investors that they will be treated with respect and that their rights will not be violated. What effect can the government give to a provision to protect Jordanians, or even Europeans, who invest in Canada? Is Canada a banana republic? The government will have to account to the committee on that. The government will have to explain what this means and why it is going down that road.
The lessons of NAFTA have shown that the NDP was quite right to be cautious and to ask for guarantees. We will do so with this free trade agreement and with others.
Madam Speaker, it is my privilege to speak to this issue. I will be speaking in favour of sending this legislation to committee where I hope to see amendments welcomed to make this free trade agreement more humanitarian, more environmentally friendly, and definitely more beneficial for Jordan and Canada.
Many people probably are wondering how big Jordan is. Jordan is a small country. It is one of our trading partners but it is not one of our top trading partners. Out of our top 100 trading partners around the world, Jordan is ranked 88th. We do a fair bit of trade with Jordan. Our two-way trade amounts to $85.9 million. We export about $70.1 million and we import $18.7 million, mainly in clothing and textiles. If we compare that to Norway, which is ranked 10th out of all of our trading partners with exports to Norway of $2.5 billion, we can see that Jordan is important but it is not as large a contributor to our imports and exports. This begs the question: Why must there be a free trade agreement with Jordan?
We should be looking at facilitating trade around the world with many different countries. We are living in a global economy and we need to address many of the global issues.
I have been doing some research, although I must admit it has only been a very little amount because of the timing. It seems to make sense to me that this treaty with Jordan would be significant not only because we already have a good relationship with Jordan, but because it is also seen as a gateway to the rest of the Middle East and northern Africa. As such, it may not be significant on its own, but it would give us a foothold and open that gateway into other countries. We cannot ignore that.
I have also noticed that the diaspora from Jordan is very active. According to the last census, about two-thirds of them live in the Toronto area. Part of the diaspora lives in my community of Newton--North Delta as well. They are Canadians who contribute to our society but for very good reasons have kept strong links with their home country.
As we look at what is happening internationally, it is always good to explore markets around the world, big and small. At the same time, we have to look at what that means.
I want to refer to NAFTA. I was not in Parliament when NAFTA was negotiated, but I do know that some of the fallout from NAFTA has not been good for Canadians.
In my province of B.C., logs are being loaded on trucks to be shipped to the United States while towns in B.C. are turning into ghost towns and dormitory towns as the mills close down.
In British Columbia and other provinces, people see well-paying jobs that gave them some security with respect to health care and pensions going over the border. They are wondering what free trade really means. Does it mean that we give away Canadian jobs? That is the question that has to be asked every step of the way.
We always hear that there will be a review panel to review this and that. My experience with review panels has not been all that great.
Let us look, for example, at the administration to the south of Canada. After all, we did sign NAFTA with the Americans. Their government blatantly said in a speech to the nation that companies that bring jobs back into the United States will get greater tax benefits, and it will look favourably on companies that create jobs at home.
Whenever we look at free trade agreements, we often feel that we cannot raise those kinds of issues, or how often do our government negotiators do that. Other countries do not shy away from protecting their jobs at home. The Americans do not shy away from offering extra tax incentives to keep companies at home, growing jobs at home, instead of contracting out to call centres and manufacturing places all over the world.
That is one side of the free trade agreements that we always have to be aware of, the net effect on working people right across this country.
The other side of the coin is we always have to pay attention to what happens in the country that we have signed a bilateral agreement with. We have signed some bilateral agreements with countries to the south of us. In my previous life, as the president of the B.C. Teachers' Federation and then with the Canadian Teachers' Federation, I had the privilege to travel to many countries where I saw the sweatshops and the working conditions. I saw the beautiful roads that bring goods up to the north. However, once one leaves those main arterial routes, what one sees is abject poverty.
Canadians have to ask themselves if that is what they want for their future. Do they really want to see child labour? Do they want to see children in deplorable working conditions? Do they really want to save a few pennies while those kinds of working conditions occur in other countries?
Let us look at the labour situation in Jordan. From all accounts it is not that great. However, to give Jordan credit, it has signed agreements and protocols. Unfortunately, very little enforcement is taking place. As a trading partner, do we really want to finalize this trade agreement if we do not see some teeth given to enforcement?
The United Steelworkers Union supported this free trade agreement in the beginning. Then it began to see what the working conditions were like.
Charles Kernaghan, the U.S. National Labor Committee executive director, testified that after nine years of a U.S. trade agreement, thousands of foreign guest workers in the Middle East kingdom continued to be stripped of their passports, forced into 99-hour--let me stress that, 99-hour--workweeks and were denied their rightful wages while being housed in bedbug-infested dorms.
Even though the USW had supported the U.S.-Jordan trade deal when it was negotiated in the early days, it now says that it was a decision its union has come to deeply regret. It no longer supports it. The U.S.-Jordan trade deal immediately descended into the trafficking of tens of thousands of foreign workers to Jordanian factories.
We know that Jordan is very dependent on migrant domestic workers as well. Some of them are not just hired as domestics to work in people's homes, but to work in textile factories as well. Once migrant domestic workers are hired, there is very little mobility for them. They are at the mercy of their employers. It is not easy for them, even after years of service, to change employers. Therefore, though Jordan has committed in a side agreement to address labour laws, it behooves us to do due diligence and to make sure that we see some action on enforcement.
Human Rights Watch Canada, in October 2011, released a report called “Domestic Plight: How Jordanian Law Officials, Employers, and Recruiters Fail Abused Migrant Domestic Workers”. The report details the absolutely deplorable working conditions for domestic workers. Most of these workers come from countries where people are desperate to go somewhere to make a living. They come from Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Philippines and India. The report shows that very little has changed since these issues were first raised in 2010. That definitely should draw our attention and should push us. I am sure our negotiators will be pushing hard on that. We will be looking for some commitments to that at the committee stage.
When we do free trade with another nation, we have to look at not only what we gain out of that deal but what kind of an impact it has on development within that nation. For example, should foreign investors get a higher level of protection than investors from within Jordan? I would say absolutely not. It is so colonial in many ways to say, “We are coming in, we trade with you and therefore we should get better investment protections. Our companies, individuals from Canada who invest in Jordan, should have better, superior provisions for the protection of their investments than Jordanians themselves”.
I do not know how we could look at ourselves in the mirror if we were to sign such agreements. Certainly, I know that as a Canadian, it is very difficult when foreign corporations have better rights than Canadians. Therefore, why would I want to support something that would give such lack of protection to Jordanian investors? As part of the agreement we should absolutely ensure that no such two-tier system, one for foreign investors and one for native investors, is created.
It is very similar when we look at environmental issues. We live in a global economy. We live in a world that is shrinking every single day it seems. We can watch what is happening in our living rooms. I can turn on my TV and see what is happening in drought-ridden Africa. I can see the abject poverty and the need for humanitarian aid immediately. I can see the violence in Syria and experience it, sitting in my chair in my living room.
In the same way, our environment is not confined within different countries. Whenever we negotiate, it is absolutely imperative, not only for our generation but for the generations to come, that we pay special attention to ensuring that we build in environmental protections. Whatever happens in Jordan, whatever regulations it adopts, has a direct impact not only on Jordan and countries surrounding it but really on the whole globe, just we know that the clearing of the rain forests has a direct impact on our climate here. Therefore, it is imperative for our world's existence that we pay special attention to addressing environmental issues.
It is often easy to say that it can be a sidebar deal, we will deal with it later, or that we cannot really push for environmental issues until after we are a trading partner. One lesson I have learned is that we have a far better chance of getting somewhere when we still hold some chips in our hands. We do, so let us not put that one off.
It is the same with human rights. I have not changed my position in the House over the years. As a nation we have a very proud history not only for advocating for human rights around the world but for being champions of human rights around the world. Over the last few years, we have seen that reputation tarnished a bit. Yesterday in committee I heard about a comment made in South America that Canada no longer really cared about our reputation overseas and that we do not have the kind of reputation we used to have. I can tell the House that Canadians care very deeply about our reputation around the world.
When I was much younger, I travelled around Europe from England. I was always amazed at how many Americans had the Canadian flag attached to their backpacks. Those were the days when I could travel with a backpack. I do not think I could do that today. I often asked these young Americans why they were not wearing their American flag. They said that they got much better treatment when they wore the Canadian flag, that people treated them totally differently. Before leaving the U.S. they would try to acquire a Canadian flag to sew onto their backpacks or wear, to show that they were from Canada. They said they were welcomed and that people would want to speak to them and tell them about the amazing work we were doing on human rights issues, on addressing poverty and on working with developing countries. We were known as peacekeepers, as a nation that brokered peace and because of that they had a great deal of admiration.
However, in my opinion, we no longer have a seat on the United Nations Security Council, thanks to the actions of the government. Canada no longer has that untarnished image as peacekeepers. I would say that it behooves us, and I plead with the government, to make sure that as we are looking at signing free trade agreements, be it with China, Jordan or any country around the world, that we absolutely make human rights a central issue. We have to make sure that we are there not only as advocates but that we make it one of our conditions, and that we put some teeth into those negotiations to enforce human rights in those countries.
We have heard the argument that we can do that after we become a trading partner. We need to be doing that now. As I said at the beginning, I am supporting the bill going to committee, where New Democrats will be raising those concerns.
Madam Speaker, the new Bill on free trade between Jordan and Canada gives us an opportunity to consider the nature of such an agreement. A free trade agreement means opening doors. Canada is opening its door to Jordan, and Jordan is opening its door to Canada. But what is going to come in? That is a fundamental question. Our cultures are different in terms of human rights, labour law and environmental law. Is it possible to harmonize these two countries? Well, that is the entire question, and the entire problem.
We hope that this agreement will bring progress to Jordan in terms of human rights, environmental law and economic law, but that is not a foregone conclusion. At first blush, the problems are significant. When it comes to labour law, in some areas Jordan looks more like the Middle Ages than like a modern country.
Our steelworker colleagues have told us that on one visit they observed abuses in relation to migrant workers, there being many of them in the textile industry and in home support work. First, those workers very often have their passports taken away from them when they enter the country. They are required to work at a hellish pace, more than 90 hours a week. Very often, their wages are not paid or it is difficult for them to get their pay. When it comes to housing and nutrition, the least that can be said is that they are deficient. They live in cramped, dirty apartments or dormitories. Their food is nothing special; it is low in both calories and vitamins.
Working conditions like this are unacceptable, particularly when we will be competing with that country economically. Our entrepreneurs, who pay wages and make sure that our country’s social and humanitarian laws are obeyed with respect to all workers in Canada, will be facing competitors who have no such concerns and spend as little as possible on their workforce. This agreement, which might well be copied in numerous Middle Eastern countries, must not send our entrepreneurs into bankruptcy and Canadians into unemployment. This is a fairly basic question for the political representatives of the Canadian people. We want a trade agreement that benefits both countries and that is not going to lead to a reduction in Canadians’ economic and social rights.
That is not the only problem, although we have seen some encouraging initiatives. Jordan has taken some important steps. To begin with, there was a reform of the labour laws, which recognize the right to organize, the right to unionize, the right to speak and the right to negotiate collective agreements. These are important steps that must be considered. Jordan has also banned human trafficking. This is an important step in a country where recruiting people from Sri Lanka, the Philippines and India to work in Jordan was a flourishing industry. These foreigners were recruited and, once in Jordan, not paid. Jordan now wants to put an end to this practice.
Jordan has also criminalized forced labour in its labour code. Forgive me for saying this, but it is some ways an acknowledgment of the existence of slavery. Forced labour includes compelling someone to work for an unreasonable number of hours. Jordan criminalized this practice in its criminal code. It is prohibited. In 2011, Jordan harmonized its relations with the International Labour Office and the International Labour Organization. These are very important steps and that is why we are not opposed to this agreement, however we do want to review it.
These are positive steps. If Jordan has taken a step towards integration with the global marketplace then, for goodness sake, why not? This is very encouraging. Seeing Jordan pass laws, however, is one thing, but making sure they are enforced is quite another. This is important and must be verified. We recommend, therefore, that this bill proceed to second reading, where it can be more closely considered, and where we can determine whether the promises made have been kept. This is to be expected.
We will keep a very open mind as we consider this bill in committee. We will review what Jordan has done. Having said that, we will be exceedingly inquisitive and prudent, and we will not take any statements as gospel truth. We will make sure that there has been progress, that these laws have brought about true change, and that domestic workers are no longer slaves, let alone sex slaves, as is sometimes the case. We will demand to see the change.
There is also the matter of the environment. Before the Conservative government came into power, Canada was truly determined to combat pollution and provide a safe environment for Canadians and workers. The guarantee was made that the workplace was not deadly. It was guaranteed that any environmental emissions would not be dangerous in both the short and long-term, for Canadians now and in the future. These are basic things. There are no illegal dumping grounds in Canada; there is no chemical soup in our waters. We will not tolerate having our environment sullied and our access to clean water jeopardized. All that seems quite basic and yet, when it comes to clean water, there are some shortcomings, particularly on first nations reserves. It is quite disturbing for a country like Canada, but it would appear that we have the willingness to change. I shall take that into account and hope that things do indeed change.
What is the situation in Jordan? The rules in this regard are not clear. It is simply indicated that neither of the two countries has the right to suppress the basic environmental rules. But does Jordan already comply with the basic minimum rules? Can Jordan be compared in this regard to Canada? All the indications are that it cannot. That means this constitutes an invitation to all the polluting industries of Canada to relocate to Jordan, where they will not have to make expensive investments to conform to Canadian standards, and where they will not have to pay the workforce as well as they do in Canada. This is an important question.
In certain countries, people have said that asbestos was safe if worked properly under acceptable health conditions. It seems that this is the case in Canada. However, we know that in countries to which we export asbestos, this is absolutely not the case. This question is relevant and deserves to be verified. We do not want to encourage a country to become a dump for the whole world because it has an agreement with Canada. That would be neither acceptable nor tolerable. Our public image all across Canada depends on this, as do our ethical standards as a community. Do we want to develop an economic and political culture in which profit prevails over respect?
In short, we shall certainly not sign a blank cheque. There are more problems in the area of economic rights. Expropriation is prohibited. Do we have the right not to be expropriated when we invest in a country? I am sorry, but no. To promote the economic rights of its citizens, a country may legitimately consider it necessary to expropriate a private enterprise, even if that enterprise is a foreign company from a country with which a free trade agreement is in place. An expropriation can be carried out for medical, economic development, educational or a multitude of other reasons within the context of a democratic government.
Expropriation does not mean theft. It is simply the forced purchase of a company which is regarded as essential to the country. This is a country’s sovereign economic right. It appears however that there is an intention to place a limit on this agreement. That limit is likely to affect Jordan more than Canada, for there are a great many Canadian multinational mining and manufacturing companies. There are few Jordanian companies liable to invest in Canada in key sectors of our economy. If that should happen, however, I do not see why Canada should require a barrier of this nature. Yes, a sovereign country, any sovereign country, has the right to protect the economic rights of its citizens by effecting an expropriation. Hydro-Québec was born of an expropriation; so was Ontario Hydro. Petro-Canada was established through expropriations. We are not complaining about this.
There is also the issue of repatriating profits, which can be a bone of contention. Repatriating profits, if they are excessive, could put a country in a difficult situation, leading to a deficit on balance of payments and a lack of investment. In Canada, we are currently experiencing what is known as Dutch disease. Our dollar is going up because of massive natural resource exports, especially in the energy sector. At the same time, we are experiencing a major deficit on our balance of payments. That is what is known as Dutch disease. And it comes on top of a loss of our industry.
A sovereign country can choose to tackle this problem by restricting the repatriation of profits through legislation that requires the profits to be partially or fully reinvested. It is not illegal for a country to want to make sure that its economic partner guarantees a financial return. A sovereign country does not need to limit its powers in a free trade agreement. The free trade agreement has to bring wealth to both countries. In the present situation, that does not seem to be the case. We are eroding the powers of a state in favour of private enterprise and capital. We are forgetting that we were elected by our constituents to defend them, not to sell or give up on their rights. We will have to think carefully before we pass this type of legislation.
We keep seeing the same types of problems. We negotiate agreements with small countries without asking any questions about the very nature of the rights in place in those countries. Panama is the perfect example. Some say that it is a problem because it is a tax haven. No, Panama is not a tax haven, it is a tax dump. Every drug trafficker goes through Panama. That is no recommendation. Will we be able to guarantee that there will be an end to those practices? No, and that is a problem. Now we have exactly the same type of problem. We are not saying no to what is unacceptable. We know about it and we put up with it.
In what has been proposed, the agreement is lacking when it comes to corrective measures. In an agreement between two countries, it is important to document what might cause problems and the action we will take to resolve those problems. There are major shortcomings in that respect as well, and we would like to put an end to them. In discussions in committee, we would like to hear opinions and proposals so that we can amend an agreement that is questionable at the moment. That does not mean that we are dismissing any possibility of an agreement with the Middle East, far from it. We appreciate it when a country agrees to negotiate agreements with us that may be highly profitable, that may lead to an increase in imports and exports and, especially, that may help a country improve its legislation.
It seems that Jordan would really like to become a country that is not at the low end when it comes to human rights, that is not a dumping ground for corporate polluters. It does not want to be a country where domestic work is almost associated with prostitution. We realize this. We are quite pleased to see the direction being taken by the Jordanian people and government. If it is true, this direction deserves to be encouraged. If this is the case, we will negotiate as equals with a country that has given us satisfactory guarantees with respect to basic human rights.
We will need to consider plenty of other factors, in addition to economic, labour and environmental rights, including religious rights and issues relating to family and matrimonial law. How are we going to align these agreements? All of that will be an essential part of the committee's discussions.
It is because of this very possibility of discussing these factors that we are going to support this bill on the trade agreement between Canada and Jordan at second reading.
Madam Speaker, it is with pleasure that I speak to the bill. I want to share some ideas in terms of the big picture and how important trade is to our country.
We appreciate the importance of labour legislation and labour laws. We recognize the value of our environment. We recognize how critically important it is that we advocate for strong, healthy, sustainable environments when economic development is taking place. We recognize how important it is to enshrine strong human rights, morals and mores not only in Canada but around the world.
As we become more and more part of a world economy, it is important that we deal with those very important social issues. I do not question that at all. In fact, I would encourage governments of whatever political stripe and whatever jurisdiction, whether it is a national government or a provincial government, to look at those social concerns and advocate where they can. It is safe to say that all constituents, including those who live in Winnipeg North, are concerned about those issues. We are all concerned about the exploitation of children and the damage to our environment. Some countries are far worse than others. Some countries have much higher standards.
It might come as a bit of a shock, but Canada is not the leader in every aspect. I like to believe that we play a very strong leadership role overall, but let us not fool ourselves as there is room for a lot of improvement within our borders. Having said that, it is important that we recognize there is much to be gained through trade and it is in our best interests to encourage it. Canada is a trading nation.
I did some research and came up with some numbers. In 2010, the province of Manitoba, which has a population of 1.25 million, had imports totalling $13.8 billion. That sum of money is the total GDP of many countries. Of that total, 81.4% came from the United States; $648 million came from China; $380 million came from Mexico; $210 million came from Germany; $203 million came from Denmark; and the balance came from other countries throughout the world.
Yesterday we were talking about a free trade agreement with Panama. Today we are talking about an agreement with Jordan. When we talk about other nations around the world, these are the countries we are talking about. Members of the New Democratic Party have said it is such a small amount and that Jordan is ranked 88th in terms of countries that we trade with, at somewhere around $86 million last year.
We heard a great deal of criticism of the country of Panama. We have to be very careful. Yes, Panama does have some issues, as does Jordan and many other countries. However, we do not undervalue the potential of those nations and the way in which trade can better the lives of everyone if it is dealt with in a fair fashion.
Some would argue that if we have a trade agreement with a country, we are endorsing what happens in that country in regard to labour and environmental laws, human rights issues and other concerns. Logically, we could say the same thing for international trade. Because we allow so much trade between Canada and other nations that have those types of social issues, does that mean we are endorsing that sort of behaviour in those countries? I would suggest that is not the case. As Canadians we have serious and genuine concerns in regard to those strong social issues. We have seen the value of economic development that has occurred between nations. Jordan is the country that happens to be the subject of the debate today.
I would like to highlight a country that I am passionate about, the Philippines, which I love dearly. The Philippines is the number one source for immigrants coming to Canada today. It has been the number one source of immigrants to the province of Manitoba for the last number of years. I like to think that the relationship between Canada and the Philippines involves more than just immigration. We need to develop and encourage our relationship. I challenge the Government of Canada and the to look at how we can extend beyond immigration. I would argue that Canada has a greater need for the Philippines than the Philippines has for Canada. We should be looking at how to expand that relationship.
My colleague from the New Democratic Party made reference to dating versus getting married. He said that dating means we allow trade and getting married means we have a free trade agreement. We need to look at getting married to countries like the Philippines because of the economic and social benefits for our two great nations.
We do not have to approach world trade or immigration or however we want to classify it as being a bad thing if it involves a free trade agreement. This is where it is confusing in terms of the message we are getting from the New Democrats.
Yesterday I asked the NDP finance critic to provide an example of a free trade agreement that the NDP had voted in favour of. He did not really answer the question, but I did get a chance to ask a follow-up question. The first thing that came to the member's mind was that the NDP supported the auto pact.
A lot of people supported the auto pact for a very good reason. The auto pact was an agreement that was achieved by Lester Pearson back in 1965. Canadians have benefited immensely under that agreement. Millions of jobs were created as a direct result of that agreement. It guaranteed a role for Canada in manufacturing vehicles. It was a great agreement. Lester Pearson happened to be a Liberal prime minister. The agreement was one of his greatest achievements. He set the stage in terms of the benefits we can achieve if we get good agreements. I am glad that the New Democrats supported that agreement.
We need to fast-forward to today and look at the valuable role we could play in terms of enhancing international trade, whereby all Canadians could benefit. To me, that is what this debate should be about.
The biggest criticism I would give the government on this particular bill is its attitude toward trade with some of our other larger trading partners. It seems to have been dropping the ball. It has not been successful at getting the guarantees that Canadians need in order to have access to some of those American and European markets for which we should be fighting.
A good example of that would be in Manitoba. Manitoba has a wonderful, vibrant pork industry. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to see first-hand the strength of Manitoba's pork industry. I visited a Hutterite colony that had a hog barn with about 10,000 pigs being brought to a certain stage. After they hit that stage, they were loaded on a truck and brought out to Brandon where they were being slaughtered. I was able to tour the different facilities, from the birth to the actual packaging that was being exported. It was very impressive.
The first thing I had to do when I walked into the barn was to sanitize. I had to take a shower, put on a certain smock and the first room I walked into was a computer room. Our farmers on the Prairies are very much high tech these days. The computer told us how much food each pig was actually eating. It was all done based on any given week and ensuring that each animal was receiving the right amount of protein and food. From there, the pigs go to Brandon. Hundreds of jobs are being created in communities like Brandon and Neepawa, and many rural communities, because of the developing pork industry. It has grown from an industry back in the early 1990s, which was, and I am guesstimating here, likely less than $500,000, to an industry of millions of dollars today.
The pork that is being produced in the province of Manitoba is being exported. Manitoba needs to be able to export that pork in order to have the jobs that is has today, some very valuable jobs that are putting bread and butter on the tables of hundreds of families in the province of Manitoba. We need to have that market. Therefore, when Korea was having discussions with the United States, it is understandable why many farmers in the province of Manitoba were asking about Canada in Korea.
We could talk about the BSE crisis and the panic among the cattle producers in the prairie provinces. Again, hundreds, if not thousands of jobs were being dealt with. Trade means a great deal to individuals like those.
It goes beyond that. It is not just our agri-industries. The garment industry has had its ups and downs in the province of Manitoba, and I think it would be similar across Canada. That is why I believe there is a vested interest in looking at ways in which we can secure markets. It does not always need to be bad news. There are plenty of good news stories.
Certain sectors of the manufacturing industry in Manitoba have exploded and are doing exceptionally well. Whether it relates to buses with New Flyer Industries, a wonderful success story for the province of Manitoba, to the smaller but very successful Carte on Logan Avenue. These are companies manufacturing everything from buses to hydro components. They are not just producing products for the local markets of Manitoba. If so, they would not survive. They are producing products that are being sold internationally. Therefore, when we look at free trade agreements in principle, we see the benefits of that for Canadians.
However, we do need to be careful when we sign off on agreements. An example of that would be the garment industry. During the nineties, we had somewhere in the neighbourhood of about 8,000 or 9,000 Manitobans who were directly employed in the garment industry working on sewing machines and so forth. Over the last number of years, between 1999 and 2007, in and around that time frame, our garment industry took quite a blow. It actually went down to under 1,000 people who were working in that industry.
I have had the opportunity to have some discussions with some companies, such as Peerless Garments and Freed & Freed, which are doing wonderful work. I understand that even now there is some growth in that industry but it is an industry that does concern me.
We have a very important aerospace industry in the province of Manitoba. When looking at free trade agreements, I believe that, if done properly, they could benefit many different industries in the province of Manitoba, in fact in all of Canada. When we look at freer trade among different nations and at where we can formalize agreements in general, I think that is a positive endeavour.
Having said that, there is concern with the government not moving in other areas that are having a profound impact on jobs and on our manufacturing industry as a whole across Canada. As economies tried to adjust through the last recession, it is borderline in terms of where it is that we are going over the next year or two. We are concerned that the government has not really been there to support the industries to the degree that it could have been, which has caused a great deal of concern. It has taken some actions, such as the killing of the Canadian Wheat Board, which will have a very profound impact on our western provinces.
Once again, we are pleased to see that this bill is here and to, ultimately, see it go to committee, but we really do believe that the government needs to put more emphasis on and give more attention to the whole issue of the trade file with some of our larger trading partners.
I made reference to exports. In terms of imports, from Manitoba's perspective, it is the United States at 81.4%. Canadians are genuinely concerned that tens of thousands of jobs in those markets will be affected when we get companies moving from Ontario to the U.S., as well as the role the government has played in terms of trying to protect our jobs. Those are the types of concerns that we have today. We need to see the government take a much more proactive approach on that front.
Mr. Speaker, we have seen the Liberals' slavish devotion to everything the Conservatives bring forward, which is a big reason why they are down in that corner of the House of Commons. Every time the Conservatives brought forward a bad deal, badly negotiated, something we could see would have a negative impact, the Liberals voted for it. The electorate has duly punished them for what has been a slavish devotion to voting in favour, regardless of the consequences, of every Conservative bill. We are not like that. We read the bills, we look at the analysis and we analyze what the impacts will be to our industries.
With the softwood lumber agreement, the testimony brought forward to the international trade committee showed clearly that we would lose tens of thousands of jobs. It was badly negotiated. We could have driven a truck through the anti-circumvention clause. Canadian taxpayers and the industry have had to pick up the tens of millions of dollars in fines that have been levied ever since the bad deal was signed, supported by the Liberals and the Conservatives.
We have seen the Colombian trade deal. We raised concerns about human rights in the House. We were told by Conservatives and their Liberal allies that it would resolve the human rights problems in Colombia. Let me read from the most recent Human Rights Watch. It says that the new paramilitaries connected with the regime:
||—have repeatedly targeted human rights defenders, Afro-Colombian and indigenous leaders, trade unionists, and victims’ groups seeking justice and recovery of land. [These] groups appear to be responsible for the 34 percent increase in cases of massacres registered in 2010 and the continued rise in cases reported during the first half of 2011.
We were told in the House by members from both the Conservative and Liberal Parties that signing the deal with Colombia would somehow reduce the ongoing massacres, rape, torture and the incredible human rights abuses taking place by paramilitaries connected with the Colombian government. However, exactly the opposite has occurred and there has been an increase.
We talked yesterday about the Panamanian agreement. The member for and a whole variety of other NDP MPs spoke to this yesterday. It is absolutely inconceivable for me that, despite the findings of the OECD, the U.S. State Department and the IRS in the United States that Panama works as a money laundering sector for drug trafficking, the government would not even bring in a tax information exchange agreement before it threw the Panama agreement on the floor of the House. This is irresponsible action that does not lead to the kind of job creation we want to see in the country. The NDP is the only party that seems to be evaluating the impacts of these agreements, making comments and fighting in the House of Commons to defend Canadian values and ensuring that we get a trade system in keeping with profound Canadian values.
The argument used in the House, from the PMO talking points we have heard from the Conservatives over the last couple of days, is that the agreements have contributed to our economic prosperity. Again, the NDP MPs, who are strong, learned and hard-working, coming from a wide variety of backgrounds, are the only ones who have looked at the statistics to find out how we have done. There is no evaluation from the Conservative government before these agreements are brought into the House and there is absolutely no due diligence from any member of the Conservative Party to see how we have done when we sign these agreements.
As I mentioned yesterday, we are not doing very well. We have a record merchandise deficit. Increasingly, as our manufacturing facilities shut down, as plants close, such White Birch and Electro-Motive, we lose thousands of jobs. Now Canada is increasingly not keeping up and there is a merchandise deficit. Those manufactured goods are being imported now. Those jobs have gone to other countries.
The current account deficit on balance of payments is also at a record level. Even the raw resources the Conservatives love to ship out of the country simply do not keep up with what we need to import. Record levels of deficit in those two areas show a significant failure by the government in putting into place a trade strategy that works.
If we look at the job losses, it is even more horrendous. I know Conservatives like to throw out a different number every day, but they like to say that they have created a lot of jobs. Since May 2008, about 200,000 jobs were created. The problem is the labour force grew by 450,000. The government was a quarter of a million jobs short even before we hit the recession, the slow-down that took place in the fall. From September right through to the month of February, 60,000 full-time jobs were lost. That has been combined with the closure of factories that we have seen in various parts of our country.
Conservatives will say that it is okay that jobs are being lost, that the job market is simply not keeping up with the growth in the labour market, that they are a quarter of a million jobs behind and have lost 60,000 jobs, but they are creating good jobs. That is another line that comes from the Conservatives, but they have never offered any proof at all. In looking at the numbers from Statistics Canada, we can see quite a different record. In fact, the jobs that have been created tend to be part-time and temporary, the kinds of jobs that cannot sustain a family.
The net result is that any jobs the Conservatives manage to create pay $10,000 a year less than the jobs they have lost on their watch over the last six years. They have lost, as we know, 400,000 manufacturing jobs. The few jobs that the Conservatives have created pay $10,000 a year less. That is a statistical reality. It does not come from my gut; it comes from Statistics Canada. These are poor quality jobs, the few jobs that have been created. These jobs tend to be precarious, part-time or temporary.
What has been the net result of the Conservative economic management? We have seen a decline in real wages of the average Canadian family over the past year. If members talk to folks in their ridings, they will find that most Canadian families are having a very difficult time making ends meet. It is because in real terms, after-inflation dollars, people are earning less and less.
It has often been said that Tory times are tough times. Conservative times have been particularly difficult for Canadian families because they are earning less and less. Canadian families, and this is an undeniable fact, are poorer under the Conservative government.
What has been the result? Conservatives are now waking up and saying that they should have looked at these economic statistics, that they should have done their homework. I encourage them to look at the economic statements and look at what Canadian families are going through. They will learn a lot. I know some of them are in touch with their constituents and their constituents will tell them that a 2% reduction in real wages is not a happy time for Canadian families.
The result is Canadian families are now suffering under a record debt load, a yoke that has never been seen to this extent in our country. There are record debt levels. Canadian families are earning less and less. Good jobs are being lost. Poorer jobs are being created, part-time and temporary jobs, the jobs that pay less. That is the Conservative economic record.
When Conservatives come to the floor of the House and say that all the other stuff they have done has not worked, that they will throw another trade agreement at us and maybe that will work, maybe that will create the kind of prosperity we want to see, maybe that will pass the test of the NDP, we go beyond the fluff and the political spin. We go to reality. We look at whether there has been an economic evaluation of these trade agreements. There never has been and never will be, because with an economic evaluation, these agreements often cause difficulty. Now what happens? The government is bringing forward this trade agreement.
As I said yesterday in the House about the Panama agreement, we have severe concerns with that agreement as well. We raised concerns in the House about the Colombia agreement and the softwood lumber sellout. In the case of Jordan, it is a country that is making some progress on human rights, but the problems we have with what Conservatives bring forward is the actual structure or template of the agreements.
They call them free trade agreements. We talk about fair trade and the reality is that the difference between the two concepts is like that between driving a modern Ferrari and Fred Flintstone's automobile with the stones that rolled around. That is the difference between Conservative trade policy and what the NDP has moving forward.
The old antiquated template of the Conservatives dates back to the 1980s. Ronald Reagan was president when this trade template was put together. It includes things like investor-state provisions, which are an override of democratically elected governments. We have seen a number of cases where governments who make decisions in the public interest, who make decisions responding to the democratic involvement of their citizens, have had to pay significant fines, not because what they did was wrong and not because the process was somehow undermining democracy. In fact, they did exactly what a prudent government should do: they made decisions that were in the public interest such as removing neurotoxins that have profound negative health impacts. They did that but because of investor-state provisions, the citizens or taxpayers, once a government makes that decision, have to pay compensation to the company. Investor-state provisions are a right-wing ideal thrown out in the 1980s under Reagan, and today in 2012, we still these provisions reflected in the trade template used by the Conservatives.
Conservatives will defend themselves by saying that the Liberals did the same thing and that is true. However, the reality now around the world is that the modern, progressive fair trade agreements are what we favour, like we see with Mercosur where there are social objectives and anti-poverty measures. Those are the kinds of things that we want to see.
We talk about the European Union and its binding human rights obligations. The Conservative government signed a trade agreement with Colombia. We have seen the results in the latter government's increased links to paramilitary violence and from the increased number of massacres, as there are no binding human rights obligations in the Colombia agreement. In the deal with Colombia we have a commitment to maybe produce some kind of whitewashed report at some point. I have never seen one tabled in the House of Commons, but the reality is that there are other progressive administrations that have put in binding human rights obligations. This is the kind of fundamental value that Canadians share. This is the kind of progressive fair trade approach to trade agreements that Canadians want to see.
We talk about Australian model and the Labour government there that said it was not going to go ahead with investor-state provisions. This was in the 1980s when the right-wing was pushing back on government and democracy and everything else. We are seeing some shades of that coming back, unfortunately, but the reality is that progressive fair trade agreements do not include measures such as investor-state provisions.
Those are some of the agreements that we support. Those are the kinds of amendments that we offer. That is why we are in the House of Commons. We bring forward these kinds of intelligent, progressive and modern ideas. We have done this for each of the deals and each time Conservatives have said, no, they do not want to update their approach. They want to keep their hidebound, right-wing ideology and do not care about the consequences. They are really more concerned about ideology than the kinds of objectives of a trade agreement that would actually reflect Canadian values and would be effective.
Before I move on to the next point I want to take one further step. We have offered this kind of progressive, modern fair trade infrastructure to the government. We have consistently been refused. We proposed a dozen amendments to the last agreement, but all of them were rejected.
With this agreement we will endeavour again, because even those who are the most hidebound in their ideology can eventually learn. We are going to continue to offer these kinds of positive alternatives. We will certainly be doing that.
I want to point out what happens after a trade agreement is signed. Regardless of whether a trade agreement is well written or not, whether it contains Fred Flintstonian aspects or a modern, progressive fair trade agenda, like we favour on this side of the House, the question is how do we then implement the kind of export supports that would contribute to the growth of the Canadian economy?
We in the NDP do our homework and actually had to get the following statistics ourselves. I had asked DFAIT for a year for the export market development figures in real terms—
The no development party, the NDP.
Mr. Peter Julian: I can see the Conservatives are waking up again, Mr. Speaker. That is good. I am happy to hear that. This is the type of information exchange that will hopefully lead to progress in our country.
However, DFAIT could not produce the figures in real terms. A dollar is not a dollar when it diminishes over time due to inflation. Therefore, if we are comparing exports from Canada to a market that Canada has signed a trade agreement with, we really have to use inflation adjusted dollars to compare apples with apples. Is that not right? My NDP colleagues all agree. Looking over at the Conservatives, maybe they agree less. It does not matter. The point is this: we could not get those figures from DFAIT but had to produce them ourselves.
The interesting result up to 2009 is that in virtually all cases where an agreement was signed, and this is similar to what happened under the Liberals and what the Conservatives are continuing, exports from Canada to those markets declined after the agreements were signed. Here I am not just talking about manufacturing exports but about all exports. Imports from those countries increased, contributing to the factor I just talked about and going far beyond the Dutch disease, where we have seen an artificially inflated dollar hurting our manufacturing capacity. It is something that many people are talking about. Many have raised these concerns.
What we are talking about with our trade agreements is a type of disease where our exports decline and imports go up after we have signed an agreement. Members know what that means: more lost jobs and less prosperity for Canadians. Yet in virtually every case, with the singular exception of Mexico, which I will come back to it in a moment, our exports declined. In some cases they have recovered over time, but in some cases they have not. With Costa Rica, for example, our exports are still below their initial levels.
What we see here is a lack of will, the view that signature of an agreement is sufficient for the government to move forward without walking the talk afterwards. Other major industrialized economies, such as the European Union, the United States and Australia, have very robust export promotion. They have regimes in place and great supports for product promotion and product publicity, to get those goods to market.
I have met with trade commissioners of ours outside of Canada who do not even have the money to buy a cup of coffee for a potential client of Canada. The figure that DFAIT has given us is that about $13 million is spent on trade promotion worldwide. This is for export product promotion. Australia spends half a billion dollars. The European Union spends $125 million just to promote its wine products. In the United States, we are talking upwards of $80 million just for the beef industry. It is about walking the talk as well. It simply is not happening with the current government.
As far as the trade agreement with Jordan is concerned, we will be putting forward amendments at committee. We will be doing the due diligence that New Democrats have always done in the House on trade issues. We will be scouring the bill that we have seen and offering amendments. Our critic, the member for , and other members of trade committee will be putting forward those amendments at committee.
What we hope to see is a sea change in attitude on the Conservative side, that Conservative members will accept the kind of progressive fair trade amendments that we will offer. Why? It is because it is in Canada's interests to have a modernized trade template for the agreements we bring forward. It is in Canada's interests to build an export strategy that will lead to job creation. In short, it is in Canada and Canadians' interests to have the kind of progressive fair trade agreements that New Democrats bring forward in the House.
I hope that we will get support for those amendments at committee.
Mr. Speaker, when things heat up, I am always happy to step in. I intend to calm the waters. I am not saying that my speech will be boring; I am sure it will not be. As the hon. member for knows very well, and as he has just said, we in the Bloc Québécois always have interesting things to say, particularly when it comes to free trade agreements.
It is my pleasure to rise on this issue, particularly because with all the time allocation motions the Conservative government has imposed on us recently—and I certainly do not want to put ideas in their heads for the bills that are currently before the House—our turn does not come quickly or often.
So I am going to take full advantage of it to talk about the Conservative government’s free trade policy since it came to power and more specifically about Bill , the free trade agreement between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. I had the opportunity to address this issue several times in previous Parliaments. The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of the bill. Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Israel. We are familiar with the unique sensitivity of that region and the conflicts that go on there. The message to be sent would be positive, in fact: it would be about signing a free trade agreement with a country like Jordan.
Obviously, if you look at things through Quebec’s eyes, you can understand the reason why we support this bill. Obviously, we will always weigh all the factors to determine whether this free trade agreement is good or bad for the Quebec economy. We are not opposed to all free trade agreements, nor are we in favour of all such agreements. Obviously, the pros and cons have to be weighed in relation to the Quebec economy.
In the case of Jordan, we are not going to argue that this is going to be an extremely fruitful free trade agreement, but it may be worthwhile, particularly for the agricultural sector. There is not a lot of water in Jordan; not a lot of crops are grown or livestock raised. So this is a door that may be worthwhile for the agricultural sector. I will offer some statistics in a moment about our trade with that country. They will prove that it is not enormous at the moment, but every door that is opened in this respect may be worthwhile.
Lumber might also be a worthwhile avenue for Quebec; certainly pulp and paper would be. This affects me specifically, as does agriculture, because companies like Cascades and Domtar are well established in my riding. These are possibilities for the pulp and paper industry, the Quebec industry that already exports the most to Jordan, in fact.
I have statistics dating from 2008. I have not found any that are more recent. At that time, trade between Canada and Jordan totalled $92 million, which is a long way from the numbers we are currently hearing in relation to the free trade agreement being negotiated with the European Union. Of that $92 million, $35 million came from Quebec and $25 million came from the pulp and paper industry. So that is why I was saying that this avenue was worth exploring. In fact, Quebec is the Canadian province that has the most trade with Jordan: 45% of current trade originates in Quebec. As I said, Canadian exports total $92 million, and that will undoubtedly improve somewhat, thanks to this free trade agreement. So we can conclude that it will also improve for Quebec.
Reports suggest that Jordan is currently in the process of modernizing its government and economy. It is a country where education is very important. As I mentioned at the beginning of my speech, promoting trade with this country could send a clear message of support to other Middle Eastern countries in this regard. As I was also saying, Canada has already signed a free trade agreement with Jordan's neighbour, Israel. By signing this agreement with Jordan, Canada would demonstrate a degree of balance in our interests in that part of the world, given the strained political relationship between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, including Jordan.
What currently concerns us about the Conservative's approach to these free trade agreements is that they have chosen to sign bilateral agreements. Everything we are hearing right now about the development of international trade involves opportunities for bilateral free trade agreements. They recently signed such agreements with Colombia and Panama. They are holding discussions with the European Union, which is not, of course, one country.
The Conservatives have basically abandoned the Doha round. All multilateral agreements have been put on hold and other free trade agreements are being discussed, including a very significant one with China.
This is obviously a problem for us because this approach is much less effective than a multilateral approach for the development of fairer trade that respects the interests of all nations. For example, in the Doha round, developing countries placed considerable hope on a multilateral agreement. However, the richest countries in the world are not listening at all and are not interested in changing things, which means that multilateral free trade agreements are constantly being blocked. Canada is clearly not helping this cause.
We want to see a change in trade priorities. Canada should now shift its focus from trade liberalization to creating a more level playing field. The Bloc Québécois believes that our trade policy must focus on fair globalization, not just on the pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment. We want the new free trade agreements to include enforceable provisions that require respect for minimum standards related to human rights, labour laws and respect for the environment.
Some will say that such is not the case with all bilateral free trade agreements. Of course, we had evidence of that this week when we again discussed the free trade agreement between Canada and Panama. Panama is a tax haven. How can we accept, in 2012, that a country like Canada would enter into a free trade agreement with a country where it is still possible for banks and big companies to take advantage of tax havens? Moreover, in Canada, there is still nothing in place to prevent such practices. There are some provisions, but they contain loopholes that make such practices still possible. What message are we sending to big companies, banks and not exactly right-thinking people—not right-wingers—who see that Canada has decided to enter into a free trade agreement with Panama? The message is obviously to step right up: the door is open and tax havens are ready for business.
We cannot agree to this kind of free trade agreement. Another quite recent free trade agreement was the one with Columbia, a country where human rights are violated, journalists are murdered or imprisoned, and unions are completely banned.
I cannot understand why free trade agreements are still being entered into with these nations in the belief that the situation in these countries is going to improve, perhaps magically, as a result of signing a trade agreement. Rather, we are sending the opposite message: that it is not a problem; that in these countries abuses of power are okay; that the people in these countries can be treated in ways we would not do here, in our country, to our people. These countries are given the impression that our concerns are not serious because we will trade with them regardless, and everything will be fine and dandy. That approach is not at all credible. That is why multilateral agreements fundamentally improve the situation.
In their current form, side agreements that deal with minimal labour and environmental protection standards lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective. That is what we want to see in future free trade agreements.
In order to be credible on this issue, there must be swift compliance with the major conventions of the International Labour Organization against discrimination, forced labour, which still exists in countries with which we trade, child labour, which unfortunately still exist today, and also conventions regarding the rights of union associations and free negotiation.
That being the case, all the free trade agreements need to be reviewed to ensure that we are dealing with countries that are, at the very least, on the right track, countries that are prepared to make the changes needed to be able to trade. I have always thought that, before approving a free trade agreement like the one we are planning to sign with China, we should put our cards on the table and be satisfied that such countries will comply with our minimum standards, that there are no children working and no union leaders in prison, and that sound environmental practices are being followed.
I am not sure that in the early stages of discussions with China we will succeed in having that country adopt basic environmental standards. Take agriculture, for example. When products are imported from China, we do not know how they were grown, or what water and pesticides have been used. Even today, products enter Canada even though in some instances their quality is clearly dubious. There have been scandals. There was the scandal in China over melamine in milk. There were scandals over toys in which the concentration of lead was much too high. It is therefore important to ensure that changes have been made before any bilateral agreements are signed with countries like China.
For some years now, Jordan has been demonstrating that it can conduct trade operations in a manner that Quebec finds acceptable. Jordan can be trusted and trade relations with that country would be beneficial to both parties. The figures I gave just now make it clear that these free trade agreements are not on the same scale as the one that is currently being negotiated with the European Union.
There is another way the government negotiates free trade agreements that is open to serious criticism. For the free trade agreement with the European Union, the issue of supply management was left on the table for the first time. Historically, all governments and parties have always excluded supply management for our farmers—poultry, milk and egg producers, an approach that has been very beneficial for both producers and consumers. We have always excluded supply management so that countries could not interfere with our tariffs and try to sell more products to us. Unfortunately, with the European Union, we left the supply management system on the table. This is extremely worrisome, even though the Conservatives are telling us not to worry about it, and that they will comply with the motion I moved and sponsored in 2005 to tie the hands of Canadian negotiators with respect to international supply management.
The fact remains that there is no transparency in the discussions between the European Union and Canada, nor in any free trade agreement. The time has come for Parliament to do what other countries do, so that the details of these agreements can be discussed while negotiations are underway, in order to remain informed about the substance of the discussions and be able to comment on the nuts and bolts of free trade agreements.
As for Canada and the European Union, we have no idea whether there have been discussions on supply management. We can sometimes learn things from leaks—for example that the French would like to send us more cheese. If the French sent us more cheese, Quebec, which is a major producer of cheese, might suffer the consequences. It is essential to remain extremely cautious.
I have been speaking about agriculture, but the same arguments hold for Quebec culture. It is important to pay careful attention with this kind of free trade agreement. Although transparency is the norm today, it is unfortunately not the case with the Conservative government.
The bilateral agreement approach is not the right one. When we are presented with bills like the one we are discussing today, Bill between Canada and Jordan, they have to be treated on a case-by-case basis. This particular bill needs to be examined in light of what is stated in the free trade agreement. Frankly, it is impossible to say that it is not a good agreement. We will therefore agree to vote in favour of it.
A small word of warning about water exports. I spoke about them in one of my speeches during the previous Parliament. I know that in the bill to implement the agreement between Canada and Jordan the issue of water, whether in liquid or gaseous form, is excluded, but this is not explicit in the free trade agreement itself.
Perhaps the negotiators could take note of this information; it could also be discussed in committee. Just now, I was speaking about the possibilities of agricultural trade. One of the reasons Jordan does not grow many crops is that it does not have a lot of water. It would be highly undesirable, for any current or future agreements, if we were to begin to think we could use water—particularly water from Quebec, which is very well endowed in this respect—to encourage other countries to import a lot of water. Our view is that trade in water should be completely excluded. Hence it would perhaps be a good idea not only to specify this prohibition in the implementing legislation, but to do the same in the agreement itself.
In spite of everything, it is possible to have productive dealings with Jordan for all those reasons. As I was saying earlier, in that part of the world, it is important as a symbol to show that we are open to trade not only with Israel, but also with other countries such as Jordan. It is a good example to hold up. Because we know that, at the moment, the Conservative government tends to have blinkers on and to take the side of one country only—not to mention any names, but it is Israel. This message that we are sending seems to me to be much more a message of openness, and the result will be that everyone will benefit.
In terms of future agreements, we must also make sure that we do not negotiate free trade agreements blindly, with no regard for human, environmental and labour rights. If we do, we will end up with free trade agreements like the one with Colombia. I can hardly wait to see if there will be any improvements because of that free trade agreement. I am sure there will not be, because we are sending the opposite message.
We are telling them to carry on, that there will be no problem, that they are going to make money and do business without anyone even rapping them on the knuckles or warning them that there will be no trade until they have improved their situation. That is a bad example. There are good examples, such as when it is possible to trade with countries that have good intentions, though they may not necessarily be at the level of Canada or Quebec. In that context, Jordan is a really interesting case.
From Quebec's point of view, looked at through our eyes, we do not have the luxury of saying no to all attempts at free trade, given all the small and medium-size businesses we have everywhere. I call on all Quebec members to bring themselves to accept that we can negotiate free trade agreements with certain countries. This is one of them. Panama is not a good example, and neither is Colombia. But in this case, given the figures, while there is not necessarily any money to be made, there is an interesting opportunity certainly for agriculture and forestry, both of which need opportunities badly, and why not also for pulp and paper, as I mentioned.
Perhaps I am being a little self-serving in this because, in my constituency, it will be very attractive for companies like Cascades and Domtar. We also have Kruger in the area. The opening of these opportunities is the reason that the Bloc Québécois has decided to support the principle of this bill.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the subject of free trade, particularly in the context of globalization. Now, after the creation of the World Trade Organization, we have a situation that is completely different from what it was before the creation of the WTO.
As always, the models for free trade are based on the NAFTA principles and not on the principles of other agreements that would, in my opinion, produce more benefits for the environment and for all societies.
There are specific issues relating to Jordan with this trade agreement. I would like to preface that with a review of how we came to where we are in terms of where Canada's interests lie as a society, not merely our trade in goods. All of these debates usually rest on the notion that if members have questions about new trade agreements, they are against trade with another nation. I remember a venerable senator who had been minister of agriculture for many years commented that trade is not new, what was Marco Polo doing. We certainly have had trade for a very long time. No one is against trade.
In the context of global trade, we have seen a remarkable transition. We used to live in a world of tariff barriers that allowed the Canadian economy to grow to be as strong as it is now. After the Second World War tariff barriers were targeted and we began to see them coming down. The efforts to say that one country must not discriminate against another began to swing the pendulum in the opposite direction to what we had seen before the Second World War.
These efforts led to the creation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade. In the first instance, the GATT was quite restrictive in terms of focusing on trade in goods, which is what most Canadians understand we mean when we talk about trade agreements: trade in goods, our ability to buy and sell, the ability of our neighbours to buy and sell to us. This trade in goods is something that has been handled by the GATT for a very long time.
Things changed substantially in the 1990s. It took nine years of negotiations, the Uruguay round, to bring forward an updated version of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and within that new agreement to do some things that had not been done before. It was the advent of looking beyond goods to look at trade in services, to look beyond those things that were completely commercial and make changes that had implications for culture, for society overall, for the environment and for labour. In other words, the approach of the trade world began to impinge on other aspects of society. They became not just trade agreements, but agreements that actually changed the very fundamental relationship between citizens and their government versus the relationship of corporations and those governments.
If there was a time when we had too many tariff barriers, if there was a time when we were too protectionist, that time is long past. We have now seen the pendulum swing so far that the so-called liberalization of trade is not just advancing the flow of goods but to advance the interests of a dogma of globalization, which allows more and more multinational corporations to dictate policies, to have a greater role and arguably a greater role than the citizens.
I will back up and look at the model to which I referred earlier, the NAFTA model. It has dictated a great deal since we entered into that agreement. Probably the most egregious part of the NAFTA model is the investor state provisions which allow a corporation based in a country that is part of the trade agreement, in the case of NAFTA corporations based in the U.S. or Mexico, to have the ability to sue the Canadian government if it passes a law that they do not like.
Chapter 11 of NAFTA, the investor state provisions, allows a foreign corporation from the U.S. or Mexico to sue the Canadian government at the federal level. It allows a foreign corporation to have rights which are superior to those of a domestic corporation. A domestic corporation does not have the right to sue our government. This provision actually gives preferential treatment to foreign corporations to sue Canada if there is a regulation passed by the House of Commons. In a democratic house of assembly we can pass a law which is untouchable by a Canadian corporation, but a foreign corporation can sue us for damages.
Not only under the investor-state provisions within NAFTA can a U.S. or Mexican corporation sue us, it can sue the federal level, a province and a municipal government. We have seen the examples under chapter 11 of NAFTA for quite some time. Laws passed by this House had to be repealed because of a chapter 11 challenge. I refer specifically to Ethyl Corporation of Richmond, Virginia, which sued the Canadian government for costs and damages when this House chose to restrict access to a manganese-based gasoline additive that the health community warned was neurotoxic and the environment community warned was a danger to the environment. The car manufacturers said that they did want it in their cars because it compromised the catalytic converters, hurt their warranties and they needed action on it.
Even when the factual basis for governmental action is not in question and there is no notion that the action taken was in any way motivated by trade discrimination, in other words, we were not trying to give preferential treatment to a Canadian industry or product, the agreement is sufficient. The lawyer who represented Ethyl Corporation at the time, Barry Appleton from Toronto, said, “it would not matter if one added liquid plutonium to children's breakfast cereal, if the government banned it and the people who made it said that they lost profit through that action, they could sue”.
I may have taken too long on that specific example but I wanted to make the point that trade agreements have gone too far. We are no longer talking about access to goods and services. We are talking about changing the fundamentals of the relationship. The primary relationship between a government should be to the citizens who elect the members of Parliament to serve in that government. There should be no superior rights of redress to a foreign corporation but we have seen that happen time and time again.
The most recent and egregious example was when the chose to pre-empt a complaint by a forest company against actions taken by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. In that case, AbitibiBowater was the holder of what had been a 99 year lease that allowed it, at bargain basement prices, to have access to a large area of forest on the condition that it ran a pulp mill. Into the bargain, believe it or not, in this 99 year lease, had been thrown water rights and other ancillary benefits.
When the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador said that it would not let AbitibiBowater close its mill and sell off everything it had under the lease, which would include water rights and the forest itself, as Newfoundland and Labrador said that it did not have access to those, the foreign corporation sued. In that instance, the chose to castigate the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to pay out tens of millions of dollars to AbitibiBowater and said that it did not want something like that to ever happen again.
These investor-state provisions are creeping into all of these so-called bilateral investment agreements, or BITs. The just returned from Beijing and was very thrilled to have a new proposed trade agreement with China that would include these very provisions that would allow a foreign government to sue us.
In this instance, we are looking at a proposed agreement with Jordan. There are many good and substantial reasons to improve relationships with Jordan. Jordan has a reputation and a long-standing role as one of the most stable and least xenophobic Arab states and is certainly the most supportive of the existence of the state of Israel compared to most of the nations in that region.
Jordan has many things to recommend it but democracy is not among them. It is a monarchy. However, the late King Hussein of Jordan was always seen as someone of enormous wisdom. I must say that I was always impressed by his sense of wisdom and by his wife, Queen Noor, who was a strong advocate for the environment.
I had the great honour of serving on the earth charter commission, which was co-chaired by Mikhail Gorbachev and Maurice Strong. I had the good fortune to get to know Princess Basma of Jordan, who was King Hussein's sister. As I approach this, I have a sense of Jordan's place in the world and a sense of, albeit small, personal connection.
However, when we look at the implications of this trade agreement with Jordan, I do not think we should rush into it without having much better and more substantial answers for a couple of key points. We have heard numerous commentators point out that the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement could create free licence to greater human smuggling, that there would be an increased flow of foreign workers into Jordanian factories and that this could undermine labour rights in Jordan.
When we enter into a negotiation such as this, I would suggest a couple of steps that we tend to miss. The first step would be how to build a stronger relationship with a country. We can fill in the blank for the country, although in this case it would be Jordan. Yesterday we were talking about Panama. How do we build good links? Canada, traditionally, has been able to build good links through a robust Department of Foreign Affairs. There were skilled and qualified diplomats working in these countries. There were people who spoke local languages, spent time getting to know the local NGO community and were able to provide a context with which we dealt with nations. The importance of our foreign affairs outreach in recent years has been quite diminished. We have closed embassies and consulates around the world, which means that our reach is reduced.
When we have a relationship with a country, whether it is Panama, Jordan or China, it is important that the relationship be built on many pillars. One is, of course, the diplomatic one to which I referred. Another is greater social interaction and cultural exchanges. The government has shut down all the programs that dealt with allowing Canadian artists to perform overseas, which was building stronger relationships through our culture.
We also need relationships to be built on, not on the model of the NAFTA but more like the model from the European Union. In that model, all nations within the EU, when they undertook to become part of that shared common market, had to accept the toughest levels of environmental and labour standards of any one of the member countries. This is a key principle that is completely lacking in NAFTA. Under NAFTA, there are no requirements to meet higher standards. The most we got out of the language of NAFTA was that it would be unacceptable for a country to lower its environmental standards in order to advance trade.
There is a very large difference between NAFTA saying that countries are not allowed to lower their environmental standards to attract more trade and the completely different approach of the EU, which is that countries must raise their standards. Generally speaking, Germany has the highest environmental standards and therefore other countries had to raise themselves up to equal the German standards. Some of those countries were poor and so there was a transfer of resources to help them do that.
If one were looking at models around the world to find ways to use the trade pillar to advance other issues, then one would never follow the NAFTA model. It would be the worst possible way to go. One would look at the best examples around the world and follow those. If we have relationships on the basis of trade, those relationships should include raising the bar and telling foreign corporations that they need to look at a code of conduct enshrined in law internationally in the same way that we protect intellectual property rights. We know how to design regimes, such as the TRIPS Agreement, which requires that all nations proactively pass legislation to protect intellectual property rights and give all countries the ability to search and seize goods crossing a border if they do not meet the qualifications for intellectual property rights. We know how to do these things.
What if we were to say, for instance, that no goods at a border are allowed to pass if they have involved child labour? We could say that we will not allow goods to cross a border if they involve the destruction of precious ecosystems. Instead, our trade mantra is that we do not interfere with PPMs, process and production methods. What is an intellectual property infringement other than a process and production method? It means the product was produced by stealing someone else's intellectual property. Why is it a greater offence under the trade regime to steal intellectual property than to exploit children, destroy forests or increase greenhouse gas emissions?
If we look at the global governance of trade, there is tremendous potential there for good. There is tremendous potential to harness the ability that has been used to protect intellectual property rights and use those kinds of agreements to protect labour standards, to protect children, to protect ecosystems and to advance a low carbon economy. All of these things could be done but they are not being done.
To ensure that Canadian corporations, U.S. corporations, Dutch, Chinese or whatever corporations participate in the GATT, we should have a global agreement on corporate behaviour stating that all corporations operating within this trade zone, which is basically every country except Cuba, need to meet minimum standards, such as proper labour standards and environmental standards. In that way, no corporation would be disadvantaged by having to take these standards on because all corporations would have a level playing field. It would be quite progressive coming from the lessons learned through the development of the GATT, the WTO, the TRIPS Agreement, the General Agreement on Trade in Services and so on. We have not done that here.
We have before us an agreement that follows the traditional typical model. It would give investment rights. It has a few nice words. There would be more of an environmental assessment review. We have had a review of what the Canada-Jordan free trade negotiations would mean. There is some agreement to work together on environmental issues. However, we still have the looming problems of reduced labour standards within Jordan, the risk of human trafficking and the fact that we have skewed the relationship that we have with other nations to the effect that it appears that nothing matters other than trade.
I suppose the House can now sense that there is a theme to what I am saying. We are not against trade and we are not against new trade agreements but a balance must be achieved so that our relationship with other countries in the world is based on multilateralism and internationalism. It must always recognizes the priority of citizens in a country to make decisions and have them binding. It must not give superior rights to corporations over citizens. It must rebalance the importance of diplomacy, of exchange and of fair trade in goods. It must insist that the rules that govern our trade agreements constantly reinforce and elevate the nature of our relationships, not put us in a situation where the populace of various countries push back.
We will see come before the House before too long the comprehensive economic trade agreement with the European Union. As I have been talking about EU trade agreements, how ironic is it that we are not seeing in the draft of that agreement a replication of the EU model but one that looks more like the NAFTA model with the benefits that will largely accrue to European pharmaceutical companies and so on? However, that agreement is not before us yet.
I do not oppose the bill going to committee where it can be improved. Our relationship with Jordan is important but it must be much richer, more complex and more nuanced than advancing agreements and relationships with Jordan through a trade agreement that fails to live up to its potential. We must revisit this. We must protect the rights of workers and protect the environment.