Mr. Speaker, today, it is my great pleasure to address this House about the benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement. Specifically, I would like to highlight how this agreement would benefit every single region of this country, thereby increasing prosperity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It is also my pleasure to share my time with the member for .
I would first like to emphasize that our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first agreement with an Asian market, would create thousands of new jobs in Canada and would provide Canadian business and workers with a gateway to Asia, enhancing our global competitiveness.
South Korea is Canada's seventh-largest trading partner. It is the world's 15th-largest economy. It is a priority market under our government's global market action plan.
In 2013 alone, Canada's South Korea two-way merchandise trade reached over $10.8 billion. Moreover, South Korea is a gateway to the vibrant Asia-Pacific region. As the fourth-largest economy in Asia, with a sophisticated market, it offers strategic access to a regional and global value chain that has become increasingly important for business to succeed.
Unfortunately, Canadian businesses are currently at a disadvantage in this very key Asian market compared to their main competitors in the U.S. and Europe. As a result of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the Korea-EU free trade agreement, which came into effect in 2012 and 2011 respectively, Canadian companies have in fact been losing ground to U.S. and EU companies that are already benefiting from their preferential access to the South Korean market.
In order to restore a level playing field for Canadian business, Canadian officials have worked tirelessly to negotiate the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, which is a state-of-the-art, ambitious, and comprehensive agreement that covers virtually every facet of modern commerce.
It is only this Conservative government that can deliver an agreement like this to Canadians. Every Canadian knows that the NDP have systematically and consistently voted against trade. This, in the face of the fact that it is clear that trade creates jobs, economic growth, and economic security for hard-working Canadian families.
Even worse is the shameful record the Liberals have on neglecting trade. The Liberals took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in this era of global markets.
Canadians remember the last time the Liberals tried to talk seriously about trade. That was when they campaigned to rip up the North American free trade agreement.
At the core of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is the elimination of tariffs on virtually all trade between Canada and South Korea. Immediately upon implementation, over 88% of Canada's current exports would be duty-free. Once the agreement is fully implemented, South Korea would remove duties on 100% of non-agricultural exports and 97% of agricultural exports.
This is a fantastic outcome for Canadians, especially given that Korea's current tariffs are, on average, three times higher.
I would now like to turn to key sectors and substantial regional benefits of the agreement. We have ensured that each region has something to gain from early implementation of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.
Let me start with agriculture and agri-food products, which have been heavily protected in South Korea. Once the agreement is fully implemented, tariffs would be eliminated on 97% of Canada's agricultural exports. This includes strong outcomes for key product groups such as beef, pork, canola oil, barley malt, pulses, animal feeds, fur skins, soya beans, fruit and vegetables, and many processed foods.
This is good news for farmers, ranchers, and agricultural workers across Canada, including the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec, and the Maritimes, as their products would become more competitive in the rapidly growing South Korean market. In the Prairies, for example, the agricultural and agri-food sector is a key driver of economic activity. Saskatchewan, Alberta, and my home province of Manitoba stand to benefit especially from enhanced market access for products such as beef, pork, grain, oilseeds, pulses, canola oil, barley malt, and forages.
I am happy to report that Canada also achieved an ambitious outcome for fish and seafood products. South Korea would eliminate all of its tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood products, some immediately. The overall outcome for fish and seafood companies compares favourably with KORUS, including lobster, which is Canada's top export in this sector along with hagfish, halibut, and certain Pacific salmon.
The list continues. With regard to forestry and value-added wood products, South Korea would eventually eliminate all of its tariffs on Canadian exports including softwood and hardwood lumber, particle board, and many others. Some 85% of Canadian exports would be duty-free upon entry into force. These products are of particular export interest to British Columbia, the Prairies, and Quebec. Through the elimination of tariffs, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would provide improved access and new opportunities in the South Korean market.
For other industrial goods, which include aerospace, autos and auto products, rail, information technology, chemicals, and pharmaceuticals, to name a few, over 96% of Canadian exports would be duty free immediately. That is 96%. Also, 99% would be duty-free within five years and the remaining 1% would be covered off in 10 years.
Manufacturers from Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia, and the Prairies are expected to enjoy notable benefits in this regard. For example in Quebec alone, some 295,000 hard-working Quebecers and their families depend on the industrial goods sector for their livelihood. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would bring additional opportunities for Quebec's industrial goods sectors such as aircraft parts, cosmetics, and metals.
The benefits do not stop here. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would also achieve strong outcomes in services, business mobility, investment, and government procurement, all of which are on par or better than what was achieved with South Korea in either the U.S. or the EU agreement.
The agreement would provide enhanced market access for Canadian service providers in such areas as the professional environment and business services. With regard to business mobility, Canada obtained the most ambitious provisions from South Korea in any of its free trade agreements, which would allow for freer movement of highly skilled professionals between the two countries by providing Canadian professionals with preferential access to the South Korean market. As a chartered accountant, soon to become a CPA, I think it is important to note that in my profession alone there are almost 190,000 CPAs who would now have access to this bigger market.
In addition, the investment chapter, which includes extensive protection for investors, would provide a more transparent and predictable framework of rules. The investment chapter would facilitate the continuation of South Korean foreign direct investment into Canada's provinces and territories, including in the energy sectors, thereby contributing to their continued growth.
In conclusion, this free trade agreement with Korea would enhance market access and level the playing field for Canada vis-à-vis its competitors across the board, benefiting Canadians in every province and every territory. This would lead to more Canadian exports, more jobs for Canadian families, and more prosperity for our economy and for our children.
Stakeholders have given us clear signals that early entry into force of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is vital to ensuring Canada's competitive position in South Korea. This desire to have the agreement enter into force as quickly as possible has been echoed by many key industry stakeholders.
Our government is moving quickly to answer the call of Canadian business and workers. We are here to create jobs, to create growth, and to achieve long-term prosperity for all our children.
Mr. Speaker, our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. We know that trade is responsible for one out of every five jobs in Canada and accounts for 64% of our country's annual income.
Trade is the cornerstone of the Canadian economy, and Canada's prosperity requires expansion beyond our borders and into new markets for economic opportunities that grow Canada's exports and investments. This is why our Conservative government is delivering on its commitment in the Speech from the Throne to expand trade with Asia.
I am pleased to speak today on the importance of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement, or CKFTA. This landmark achievement, Canada's first free trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific region, is a game changer. It will provide new access for Canadian businesses and workers to South Korea, which is the fourth largest economy in Asia with an annual GDP of $1.3 trillion and a high-growth market of 50 million potential customers.
South Korea is a major economic player in its own right and a key market for Canada. It is Canada's seventh largest overall merchandise trading partner, and third largest in Asia after China and Japan. Two-way trade between Canada and South Korea totalled more than $10.8 billion in 2013.
Canadians recognize Asia's growing economic strength and believe that closer economic ties with Asia are necessary for Canada's future prosperity. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement is projected to add thousands of Canadian jobs to the economy, increase Canadian exports to South Korea by 32% and boost Canada's economy by $1.7 billion.
South Korea also serves as a gateway for Canadian businesses and workers to the Asia-Pacific region. As a result of this agreement, Canadian companies will be able to use South Korea as a key base for expanding their presence in Asia and to access its regional and global supply chains. This Canada-Korea free trade agreement creates a mechanism to increase the already substantial people-to-people connections shared by South Koreans and Canadians.
I would like to discuss in some detail the concrete and real benefits that will be available to Canadian businesses, from coast to coast to coast, after the implementation of this agreement. Unlike the NDP who loves to oppose our trade agreements, our Conservative government recognizes that protectionist restrictions stifle our exporters and undermine Canada's competitiveness, which in turn adversely affects middle-class Canadian families.
The CKFTA will cover virtually all aspects of commercial activities between Canada and South Korea, including trade in goods and services, investment, government procurement, non-tariff barriers, environment and labour co-operation, and other areas of economic activity. The agreement increases potential market access for Canadian exporters and investors from every province and territory, and it would remove non-tariff barriers that hinder trade.
Additionally, under this agreement, Canada has secured greater opportunities related to temporary entry for business persons than those enjoyed by South Korea's other free trade agreement partners. This will provide an advantage to Canadian business persons needing to move between the two countries to conduct business.
Investment is a key component of the bilateral economic relationship between Canada and South Korea. It is an area that has great potential for growth, which is assisted by the increased certainty and transparency created by the CKFTA. Canada will be able to attract more investments, such as the 2013 opening of Samsung's first Canadian research and development centre in Vancouver, which focuses on the development of Samsung's enterprise security solutions and provides technical support for the company's diverse customer base. This centre already employs 60 people and more employment is expected.
There will also be many exciting opportunities in agriculture, fish and seafood, forestry products and the industrial goods sector. South Korea imports 70% of its food, representing a $20 billion market per year. However, Canadian agricultural exports to South Korea currently face high tariffs, which average over 50%. This places Canadian exporters at a serious disadvantage with their competitors, notably the United States, when trying to access the lucrative South Korean market.
With this agreement, Canadian businesses like Conestoga Meat Packers, a co-operative of 150 southern Ontario family farmers who have been producing premium-quality fresh pork for more than 30 years, will have the opportunity to be on equal footing with their competitors in the South Korean market. The elimination of tariffs on fresh, chilled, and frozen pork will give companies like Conestoga the opportunity for continued company growth, an integral component of their business plans. The CKFTA would provide Prince Edward Island-based Cavendish Farms with a golden opportunity to grow their presence in the South Korean market and to expand in the Asia-Pacific region as a whole.
While current South Korean duties range from 18% to a staggering 304% for potato products, the CKFTA would provide tariff elimination on most potato products, thereby helping to level the playing field with South Korea's other FTA partners. This means jobs and opportunities for Canadians.
On fish and seafood products, which are the economic mainstay of approximately 1,500 communities in rural and coastal Canada, the CKFTA contains an ambitious outcome that would eliminate 100% of South Korean tariffs once the agreement is fully implemented. Companies like Nova Scotia-based Clearwater Seafoods, North America's largest vertically integrated harvester, processor, and distributor of premium shellfish, will benefit from this strong CKFTA outcome.
In fact, we are already getting a taste of what increased seafood trade with South Korea will look like. Shortly after the announcement of the conclusion of negotiations on the CKFTA, Korean Air Cargo launched weekly service to South Korea from Halifax and is expected to transport a minimum of 40,000 kilograms of live lobster over the course of the summer. This would benefit Atlantic Canadians, as it would help to develop the South Korean market for fresh Canadian lobsters and provide a gateway for exports to other Asian markets.
South Korea imports $500 billion worth of industrial goods every year, including aerospace products. Canada's aerospace industry, which consistently ranks as one of Canada's top manufacturing sectors, will benefit from the immediate elimination of tariffs on turbo propellers, turbojet and propeller parts, and ground-flying training equipment. Tariffs on all aerospace goods would be eliminated upon implementation.
For Montreal-based CAE, a global leader in modelling, simulation, and training for civil aviation and defence, this agreement is very welcome news. CAE employs approximately 8,000 people in close to 30 countries and offers civil aviation and military and helicopter training services worldwide, including in South Korea. CAE is a prime example of Canadian companies that have recognized the value of South Korea as a regional base to serve clients in the Asian market. This type of investment would only increase once the CKFTA is implemented.
As we can see, the benefits to Canada and Canadians from this agreement are robust, multi-sectoral, and significant. Being well positioned in the Asia-Pacific region is critical to Canada's prosperity, and this agreement is a major step in realizing the untapped potential in Asia.
Of course, it is shameful that this past summer the NDP trade critic protested alongside well-known radical anti-trade activists, such as The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, at an anti-trade protest. Despite all the evidence that trade creates jobs, economic growth, and economic security for hard-working Canadian families, the NDP, together with its professional activist group allies, is ideologically opposed to trade.
Just as bad are the Liberals, who, during their 13 long years in government, completely neglected trade and completed only three free trade agreements, compared to our 43 free trade agreements. The Liberals took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in this era of global markets.
To close, I am happy to hear that both parties have now decided to support this bill. I am very optimistic that they have learned from the past and that they will continue to support our trade agenda.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Canada-Korea free trade agreement. I will have the opportunity to speak at length about why the NDP believes, all things considered, that it can support this agreement with a democratic country whose economy has high standards. I am not saying that everything is perfect, because that is not the case. If the members on this side of the House had been at the negotiating table, we could have done things differently.
Before I get into the compliments, I want to start with some criticism. Our colleagues opposite like claiming that they are the champions of all things trade. However, the data on this topic shows a different story. Since 2000, Canada's trade balance has experienced a sharp decline and it has been consistently declining since 2004. To be more specific, we went from 5.75% of the GDP to a deficit of 0.61% of the GDP. I do not understand how the government can seriously claim that it is effective and committed to trade when it gets such poor results for our exporters.
I am getting off topic. Let me get back to Korea. I remind members that Canada is lagging behind compared to other countries and major economies in terms of trade with Asia Pacific countries, and in particular Korea. While Canadian companies had to wait for the never-ending negotiations to come to a close, the United States and the European Union had already signed free trade agreements with South Korea in 2012.
Over these two years, our exporters lost 30% of their share of the South Korean market. What is worse is that the government dragged its feet and chose to sign bad agreements with trade partners that have questionable human rights records, such as Honduras, which we have already talked about. I am bringing this up today because this very issue came up in internal memos at the international trade department.
It is rather absurd to see that the government insists on negotiating agreements that legitimize bad working-condition and human rights practices, when doing a better job with Korea would have helped our exporters much more quickly. Our exports to Honduras in 2013 were just over $43 million. With Korea, we are talking about $3 billion a year in potential exports.
I have some serious questions about the government's priorities. Why wait 10 years to negotiate with South Korea? Why give priority to less developed economies and smaller trading partners?
I have other questions as well. What did our exporters lose because of this delay? How many jobs could have been created or maintained? We will not get a trade policy that works and helps our economy, our companies and, especially, our workers by signing any old agreement and then bragging about how many of them there are afterwards. Instead, we should be signing good agreements and supporting our exporters.
This government likes to paint the NDP as a party that is fundamentally against trade and supports blind protectionism. Therefore, I will once again try to explain to the Conservatives the criteria that the NDP has developed and that shape its position on international trade. Perhaps it will clarify things.
Unlike the other major parties in the House, we carefully analyze each agreement, then we support or reject it based on its merit. The criteria we use are completely logical and legitimate and reflect our social responsibilities as a developed country.
The first criterion concerns respect for democracy, human rights, environmental values and labour condition standards. Based on this criterion, South Korea has made significant progress since the dictatorship fell in 1987. It is now a democratic and multi-party political regime that supports freedom of expression in a relatively diverse society. In terms of labour standards, sweatshops are not common practice, far from it. Wages are adequate, and labour movements and unions are not openly suppressed or delegitimized.
I believe that my colleague said it before me, but for information purposes, South Korea rates 15th on the United Nations human development index. Social programs are also being developed in South Korea, particularly access to post-secondary education and energy strategies, while corruption is at a minimum. Therefore, this agreement meets this first criterion, which covers human rights.
Our second criterion relates to the overall economic and strategic value of this alliance for Canada. We could talk about this criterion in terms that the government could understand by looking at the Investment Canada Act, for instance. We are asking the same questions. Is this agreement in the best interests of Canada? However, instead of relying on the arbitrary opinion of just one minister, we are assessing and quantifying this criterion in light of the global economy and trade figures.
The answer to the question about the objective meaning of the partnership is clearly positive. South Korea is Canada's seventh largest partner and the third largest economy in the Asian market. Canada's trade exports with South Korea are essentially the same as those with France or with Germany. We are talking about $3.4 billion in 2013.
In economic terms, this agreement could be fruitful for Canada, given that Korea is an attractive gateway to other Asian economies. In addition, our two economies are quite complementary, which means that not many of our industries will be in direct competition. That is an important point.
In addition, virtually all the economic sectors in Canada welcome the agreement and will very likely derive substantial benefits from it. These sectors include the aerospace industry, the high tech sector, the shipping industry, the forestry sector, the mining sector, the agricultural sectors—namely the hog, beef, wine and grain industries—and the seafood industry. We therefore recognize that this agreement has strategic value and meets the second criterion.
The final criterion relates to the practical terms of the agreement. We need to read an agreement before we can approve it. It is a signed contract between two nations. The details of the agreement are very important, and that is why it is inconceivable for us to support or reject an agreement without having even read it. We therefore took the time to read the terms of the trade agreement between Canada and South Korea.
Are the specific terms of the agreement satisfactory? Will they be advantageous for Canada or not? As was mentioned earlier, the two countries will essentially be on equal footing thanks to our complementary economies and South Korea's improvements in the areas of human rights, environmental standards and treatment of workers.
Speaking of workers, we are not the first country to sign a free-trade agreement with South Korea. Many countries have done so before us, including the United States. Earlier, I mentioned the fact that our economies complement one another and that work conditions are good. Many large union groups, such as the UFCW, have thrown their support behind the agreement between Korea and the United States because it has the potential to create thousands of jobs. What is more, those jobs will be local, well-paying jobs in sectors of the economy where the jobs are often unionized. They support the agreement between Canada and South Korea.
To continue, I will now explain why this agreement meets our criteria and why we will be supporting it at second reading. For a while now, it has been recognized and often stated that Canada must diversify its trade partners and try to reduce the percentage of trade that it conducts with the United States and the European Union, its traditional partners.
In light of that, it makes sense to strengthen ties with South Korea, which is our seventh-largest trading partner. In fact, when it comes to Asia, we need to be talking about the entire region, not just Korea. South Korea is our third-largest trading partner in Asia, and it is important to expand trade with the country. The NDP recognizes that increasing trade with Asia is a crucial step towards ensuring prosperity, economic growth and dependable jobs in Canada in the 21st century.
Korea is also a gateway to the rest of the Asian market. Under this agreement our exporters will have more and better opportunities in the Asian market. This will be good for our economy and for diversifying Canada's international trade.
Unlike other countries that Canada has signed agreements with despite the NDP's objections, such as Honduras, South Korea is a well-established, globally recognized democracy. Supporting a toxic, authoritarian regime that violates its citizens' rights is not even an issue in this case. In other words, this is exactly the kind of developed economy that we should be developing a deeper, more sustainable trade relationship with. It has high labour and human rights standards, and it is the kind of partner we should be looking for.
When we trade with other nations, we have to think about the goods that will be traded, that will travel from one country to the other, but we also have to think about what we are supporting with that trade. In the case of Honduras, I spoke at length in the House about how the agreement would support a country that is heading the wrong way in terms of human rights, a country where, in most cases, workers struggle with terrible working conditions.
Those concerns do not apply to Korea. Instead, this is a partner that shares our values of democracy and justice. By doing business with Korean companies, Canadian exporters will be working with partners who understand their obligations in terms of working conditions and how employees should be treated.
Consider how easy it is for a Honduran company to lower its labour costs and provide a dangerous working environment for its employees. How can we ask Canadian companies to accept that a foreign competitor can be subject to domestic regulations that are so radically different from our own? With South Korea, our companies will be dealing with partners and competitors who are subject to very similar regulations and whose reality is the same.
That is really good, because even by purchasing Korean products here, our consumers will be giving their money to responsible businesses that have good practices.
That is not the case in some other agreements. It is also important to remember the environmental aspect. Korea has high environmental standards and is a world leader in that regard. It leads the world in renewable energy and green technology, and it is in our interest to boost our trade with these sectors, which are so important for the future. The Koreans are offering us this opportunity, and it just seems logical to me that we should take it in order to increase the portion of our economy that depends on greener power. This will be quite a change from what we are doing now.
We are definitely not the only ones who think this agreement could be good for the Canadian economy. A number of industry associations in sectors including aerospace, agriculture and agri-food, fish and seafood, chemicals, energy, forestry and financial services also think so.
This agreement is good news for our agriculture sector, because it will enable our pork and beef producers not to expand their presence on Korean markets, but actually recover lost ground. For instance, Canadian beef exports to South Korea dropped from $96 million in 2011 to just $8 million in 2013. Canadian pork experts dropped from first place on the South Korean market to fourth place between 2011 and 2013. The free trade agreement with South Korea will eliminate nearly 87% of agricultural tariff lines and finally allow Canadian exporters to play on a level playing field.
It is becoming increasingly urgent to conclude this agreement before Australia's trade deal with South Korea is implemented, because Australia is one of our major competitors in agriculture.
As for seafood, fishers on both coasts will benefit. Current tariffs are 47%, and most of them will be eliminated. Fishers and processors on the west coast can barely keep up with their competitors in Alaska because of the trade agreement that already exists between the United States and Korea.
Some 230,000 jobs in the country depend on forestry. It is also important to my riding, Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, where the sector has gone through some tough times. Canadian exporters currently face tariffs of 10%, which will disappear with the agreement.
In light of all these facts, it seems that the free trade agreement with South Korea satisfies our three criteria. I am quite proud that we took the time to do this analysis instead of just sticking to a purely ideological approach like some parties that are prepared to sign any agreement no matter what or other parties that approve these agreements without even reading them. Only the NDP has a sensible, balanced approach to trade. We are the only ones who want to ensure that trade agreements with other countries will truly benefit Canadians.
Now that I have gone over the positive aspects of the agreement, I want to be clear that it is not perfect. The agreement in its current form is not something we as a government would have signed. Let us talk about the automotive sector. There are some positive aspects, of course, such as the elimination of the 6.1% tariffs on imports and the 8% tariffs on exports. This will be good for consumers here, and also for our exports to Korea. Other positives include the rules of origin provisions that recognize Canadian-U.S. integrated products, which is vital to our manufacturers. The same goes for the accelerated dispute resolution mechanism, which will make it easier to lift non-tariff barriers.
There are also some legitimate concerns about the automotive sector. That is why an NDP government would do everything in its power to allay those fears and mitigate the potential consequences by encouraging Korean automakers to set up plants here in Canada and helping Canadian automotive products access the Korean market more easily. We should monitor non-tariff barriers closely, act swiftly and effectively to resolve disputes, and conduct frequent trade missions to Korea. That is why I would like the government to explain how it plans to mitigate the consequences for the automotive sector, especially since the conditions it obtained are less favourable than what is in the American agreement.
Yesterday, when we announced our support for this agreement, my colleague, the member for , clearly said what I mentioned earlier: this is not the agreement that we would have negotiated. The biggest problem with this agreement is obviously the investor state dispute resolution mechanism. An NDP government—just like the main opposition party in Korea—would not have included this mechanism in the agreement. When the NDP is in power after 2015, we could perhaps negotiate with the government of Korea to remove this provision.
The principle of these investor state mechanisms is cause for concern and rightly so in many cases.
Consider the Canada-China foreign investment promotion and protection agreement. It took the government a long time to negotiate the agreement and then to ratify it after it was announced. My colleague from just mentioned that in a question.
This investment protection agreement has a number of flaws. First, it is not a reciprocal agreement and it clearly favours China. We mentioned that in several speeches. Even if the agreement had to be cancelled, Chinese firms could sue the Canadian government before secret tribunals for 31 years. That is another major flaw of the agreement.
Furthermore, China could continue to impose conditions concerning local preferences, such as suppliers and jobs, whereas Canada could not. The fundamental issue of reciprocity is involved here.
Finally, the Conservative government was not even able to negotiate national treatment for any new Canadian investment in China—not for companies already in China, but for all new investment made after the agreement is signed.
The investor state dispute resolution mechanism in the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is different. It is 100% reciprocal, as is the rest of the agreement. What is more, if the agreement is cancelled, it ceases to apply after only six months, not after 31 years, as is the case with the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement between Canada and China.
Furthermore, this free trade agreement with Korea contains transparency measures. Some hearings will be public and teams of experts may even allow third parties who are not directly involved in the dispute to make presentations or submit written briefs. Civil society and non-governmental organizations can therefore get involved. There are no such measures in agreements such as NAFTA or previous versions of this type of investor state provision.
The dispute resolution mechanism in the agreement with Korea is also faster. For example, chapter 11 of NAFTA provides for a period of 90 days between the date that the claim is submitted and arbitration. The disputed measure must be in effect for at least six months. The technical summaries that we received for the Canada-Korea free trade agreement indicate that the timeframe will be shorter and that things will move faster in cases involving fresh produce or motor vehicles.
That is why, despite this negative aspect, there are advantages to the Canada-Korea free trade agreement that outweigh the disadvantages.
After conducting a complete and comprehensive assessment of this agreement, we decided to support it. It is not the agreement an NDP government would have negotiated. However, we find it acceptable.
Ultimately, we believe that this agreement will be good for Canada and our exporters. It will have a positive effect on the forestry and agricultural industries in my riding and those of many other members on this side of the House.
However, I want to emphasize that the government should tell us about its plan for one of the industries that will be the hardest hit, the automobile industry. We still have not heard any answers from the government in this regard.
The NDP's prudent and balanced approach is the right approach, and it should be used so that trade agreements benefit our exporters, our economy and our workers.
It is imperative that we have a healthy debate in the House. However, when I listen to the Conservative members' speeches, and particularly their answers to our criticisms of the agreement, I can see that they do not feel they should have done anything differently.
In internal memos, officials with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade were critical of the fact that the department's resources were focused on less strategically important agreements than the one with Korea, for example. That prevented us from concluding the agreement as quickly as we could have.
The United States and the European Union have had trade agreements with Korea since 2012. We lost considerable ground because of the government's strategic choice, which I do not understand. In all honesty, the government has not managed to explain this choice to me.
For example, beef and pork exporters who had extremely well-established niches in Korea lost that initial advantage because the government was slow to act.
I will soon take questions from Conservative members, I hope, and probably from other members of the House.
I would like them to keep in mind that no party in the House is perfect, the process itself was flawed and the government should learn from its mistakes so that it can be much more effective in future trade agreement negotiations.