Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for giving me the floor again so that I may continue to talk about the Bloc Québécois' observations of Bill .
We agree with Bill , but we have a few small comments to make that we hope will be considered by the government.
Considering that Canada has already entered into a trade agreement with Israel, signing a similar agreement with a neighbouring country, whose relations with Israel can be difficult, would help show a certain balance in our interests in the Middle East region. Such an agreement with Jordan would also send a positive message that Canada is open to cooperation.
Concluding this agreement would send a signal to other Middle Eastern countries wanting to develop better economic relations with the West.
The Bloc Québécois wants fair globalization. It is something to strive for and I hope the Conservatives will agree with us on this.
For the Bloc Québécois, it is out of the question to accept a free trade agreement that would be a race to the bottom and ignores human rights, workers' rights and the environment, not unlike Bill , which we have been debating for a long time: the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement. That agreement is a very bad example of fair globalization.
The absence of environmental or labour standards in trade agreements puts a great deal of pressure on our industries, mainly our traditional industries. It is difficult for them to compete when products are made with no regard for basic social rights. It is difficult to compete with that type of business.
It is therefore increasingly important, at a time when we are still trying to define globalization, to have fair and balanced trade agreements. Let us choose a multilateral approach and limit bilateral agreements that do not allow for standards to be set to civilize trade.
That is what the Bloc Québécois really does not like about the Conservative government's strategy and its approach to negotiating trade agreements. Bill is no exception.
Quebec is not in a position to implement protectionist measures and rely solely on our domestic market. We have to pursue fair trade opportunities in the context of multilateral agreements.
Someday, Quebec will be a fully independent country, and we will represent ourselves internationally. In the meantime, the Bloc Québécois would like to propose some changes to Canada's trade priorities. Canada has moved toward trade liberalization and must now concentrate on developing regulations that will promote fairer trade. The Bloc Québécois believes that our trade policy must focus on fair globalization, not the shameless pursuit of profit at the expense of people and the environment in certain countries that clearly need help.
If Canada wants to maintain its credibility on this front, it should immediately sign on to the International Labour Organization's principal conventions against various forms of discrimination, forced labour and child labour, as well as those in support of the right to organize and collective bargaining.
The Bloc Québécois is urging the federal government to change its position on trade agreement negotiations to include provisions ensuring respect for international standards with respect to labour law, human rights and the environment.
In their current form, side agreements on minimum labour standards and environmental protection lack a binding mechanism that would make them truly effective.
The Bloc Québécois also wishes to reiterate its full confidence in the multilateral process. We believe that this in the only forum in which countries can work toward adopting regulations that will foster fairer globalization.
In closing, I want to say that the Bloc Québécois will only support future bilateral free trade agreements if it believes that they will benefit Quebec's economy. We want to see future free trade agreements contain provisions ensuring respect for minimum standards with respect to human rights, labour law and the environment.
That is what the Bloc Québécois calls fair globalization.
Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to follow my colleague from , as associate of the trade committee, to talk about Bill .
As we know, this was tabled just this week. Therefore, within the space of a few hours, we have been able to take a look at the bill and at the many clauses, both of the free trade agreement itself and, more important, the issue around the investor state protections, which is part of the template that our international trade ministry brings to every trade agreement that we sign, and two other side agreements that have no real obligations contained within them.
It is a lot of material, but it is fair to say that, at a glance, this has the same approach we have seen from the Conservative government many times before, despite the fact the NDP, and I think most Canadians, has been very clear what we would prefer to see is a fair trade approach on trade. This is why the fair trade sector is booming in our country. Millions of Canadians are making the choice every day to buy fair trade products.
Despite the fact the NDP constructively continues to bring these amendments forward, the government just does not seem to understand that Canadians, and much of the world, have shifted in their approach to trade.
The most egregious part of the lack of a Conservative overall trade strategy is no evaluation is done. No evaluation is ever done on the impacts of these trade agreements. No evaluation is ever done as to the potential for trade with a particular country. No evaluation is ever done about the downsides of that trade agreement. No evaluation is ever done about the situation in the country as a whole.
There is never a due diligence, ever, done on these bilateral trade agreements. That is the tragedy because Canadians expect a lot more.
What is the result? If we look at the last 20 years and at all the trade agreements that were supposed to bring prosperity, starting with the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, and if we look at the analysis and data provided by Statistics Canada, and this data is open to every member of Parliament, we will see that two-thirds of Canadian families have seen their real income fall over the past 20 years.
We hear a lot of cheerleading about these agreements bringing massive prosperity, but the facts speak for themselves. Two-thirds of Canadians have seen their real income fall. The entire middle class has seen their income erode considerably. This explains why the debt load of the average family has doubled over the past 20 years. This is a crushing debt burden because real income has fallen. Expenses have not gone down, they have increased. Canadians are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.
It gets worse when we go to the lower income categories. The poorest of Canadians have seen their income collapse, losing about a month and a half's income over the course of a year. That is why it is no surprise why tonight we will see, tragically, about 300,000 Canadians sleeping out in parks and along the main streets of our country. It is because this so-called free trade regime, with all of the right-wing economic policies that go with it, and I am not only blaming the Conservatives, the Liberals brought these policies in, have led to most Canadians being much poorer. Free trade has come at an enormous cost when most people are earning far less than they were 20 years ago.
If any Conservative or Liberal MP had chosen to look at the facts and figures of an analysis done, they would have to say that this policy has not worked very well and there has to be adjustments.
We in this corner of the House have been saying that. This is why our numbers keep growing. The fundamental reason why our numbers keep growing is Canadians trust we will actually do the due diligence and ask the tough questions when it comes to legislation brought before the House and when it comes to free trade agreements.
We see increased poverty in the country, so it is clear the overall thrust of free trade agreements has failed.
Let us look at the purported intention of stimulating exports. Here again, if we do the analysis and look at the facts, in a lot of cases, after signing a bilateral trade agreement, Canada's exports to that particular market, the market that was targeted by the free trade agreement, actually fell.
I know politicians love to go before the cameras and cut ribbons, but the act of presenting a free trade agreement does not necessarily even lead to an increase in exports to that market, so there is something fundamentally wrong there. Why? What are the causes?
We have some very clear indications from testimony, even in the last two weeks, before the international trade committee. We had the beef and cattle industry come forward and testify that it received pennies in product promotion support from the federal government compared to the tens of millions of dollars given by other countries. Australia was cited as an example, with $100 million in product promotion just for the beef, cattle and pork industries alone.
Now let us take all the product promotion from all sources in Canada. Unfortunately, the federal government puts in less for all products in all markets in a larger economy than Australia invests just for its beef, cattle and pork industries. I see your surprised expression, Mr. Speaker, but that is the fact. Australia spends many times more for one sector than Canada spends in all sectors. That would explain why our exports fall in a lot of these cases where we sign bilateral trade deals.
The idea that these bilateral trade deals are part of a strong export policy is simply false. What we have are Scrooges on the other side of the House who have been nickel and diming our important industrial sectors to death. Not only do they not have any sort of industrial strategy, but they are not even willing to put the investments in that other countries are.
Just taking the wine sector, the European Union spends $125 million, about four to five times more than all Canadian product promotion put together. Australia spends half a billion. We spend a few million dollars.
If we look at the pork industry, it is the same thing. The pork industry came before the international trade committee. A few million dollars a year is what it gets, when countries such as the United States spend tens of millions of dollars.
The reason why these bilateral trade agreements do not even necessarily lead to an increase in exports to those markets is here is no export strategy by the government. There is no trade strategy. There is no evaluation ever of the impacts of the agreements it signs. The Conservative politicians simply show up for a photo op, cut the ribbon and then they go on and pretend they have provided for some meaningful economic strategy. It is simply not true.
No, you have it wrong.
Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the truth of the powerful NDP words again is having some impact on the Conservative side of the House. Thank goodness. I just wish they would put more of what we say into action.
That is the fundamental reality. We see exports fall. We see a lack of support for important strategic sectors and then we see deals signed that actually undermine those key sectors.
We had the EFTA deal before the House. We had pleas from hundreds and hundreds of shipyard workers across the country, including from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario, all saying that it would have a profoundly negative impact on what should be a strategic industry. They said that the EFTA deal would kill their industry. That was the testimony before committee. A very clear message was delivered. Yet we had other parties vote to put that deal into place even though they had been told that essentially it would hit our shipyard industry hard.
Therefore, we have a fundamental problem about the approach in trade, the lack of evaluation. We have a fundamental problem with the fact that we simply do not do an evaluation on a market to market basis, that there is no export strategy overall and certainly not the resources allocated to our export industries that should be and that other countries do.
Therefore, let us get to the template on the Jordan agreement. Canadians who are listening can download their own free trade agreement from the DFAIT website. It shows how appalling simple-minded the approach is on trade. We have a template that has existed for 20 years, while other countries are updating their trade model, improving their trade model to bring concrete results. We have the same model that has sat around for 20 years. People can download it and sign it with their neighbours. It is absurd.
These templates, of which Jordan unfortunately is part, are simply investor protection and investor state provisions coupled with some tariff reduction and then coupled with meaningless side agreements.
The side agreements unfortunately never impose any obligation. Other countries have moved way beyond that. They have binding obligations around human rights, social and labour standards, but not our template. Our 20-year-old Ford Pinto, which is the trade model Conservatives like to bring forward, does not do any of that. What it does is offer investor state protections.
This goes back to the NAFTA days and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement days. What happened after we signed this agreement? The House knows that provinces, municipalities and many Canadians have great difficulty with the chapter 11 provisions in NAFTA. They allow companies basically to rip off the public purse in order to get compensation for products that endanger the health, the environment for whatever reason, if the government acts to stop these companies from providing these horrible products. Then they get to sue taxpayers and they get a fancy cheque. They get to take the money right out of the wallets of taxpayer, even though Canadians want the government to intervene to stop the product from being put forward.
We have seen this with the domestic pesticide ban in Quebec. We now have a company that can use these investor state provisions to go after the Quebec government, a government that has taken a democratic decision, in the interest of its citizens. Now potentially taxpayers will have to pay for the government taking care of them. This is absolutely absurd.
After that clause was included in NAFTA, and this was only for the NAFTA agreement, the United States moved right away from it. The United States realized that this undermined the ability of parliaments and legislatures to take actions to protect their own populations.
The U.S. has never signed a similar agreement since. It has moved away from it. It has allowed for environmental, health and safety overrides. Canada, as I mentioned, has that old 20-year-old Ford Pinto that still allows for companies to gouge Canadian taxpayers if any action is taken and impinges on their profits.
Tragically that 20-year-old model is in the Jordan agreement. Therefore, we see the same kinds of problems that have come up in the past, problems about which so many people have spoken. The same people who have raised this issue right across Canadian society have not been heard.
The old Liberal Ford Pinto has been taken over by the Conservatives. They do the ribbon-cutting ceremony and then they move on. If it were about economic development, we would see some muscle, some investment behind a real export strategy, which is what the NDP has been calling for and has been pushing.
Just this week an NDP motion passed in the committee on international trade, calling on the government to address the historic underfunding to the beef and cattle industry and to really work for a level playing field with out competitors. Australia and the United States are investing many times more in product promotion for that sector.
Beef and cattle ranchers can now say that it is because of the NDP that there will be a push to finally get more money out of the Conservative government to really support the beef and cattle industry. That has been what we have been calling for historically.
So, we have an agreement with no strategy. We have investor state provisions within the Jordan agreement that simply are inappropriate. Now we need to look at the provisions, the so-called side agreements on labour and the environment, that are kind of thrown in as an afterthought. They do not impose any obligations on the country. There is a process. There are a lot of meetings and bureaucrats get to drink a lot of coffee, but in the end there is nothing binding in this agreement on labour rights, human rights or the environment.
Then we need to know what the situation is in Jordan if we are not pressing on any of these issues? If we just have this cosmetic paper that we killed a couple of trees to pretend there has been some action but there is nothing binding in those provisions, then we need to look at what is actually happening in Jordan.
Now Jordan is not Colombia. Colombia is outrageously bad. Paramilitary thugs and drug pushers are all connected to the government and all supported by the Conservatives. Jordan is not like that but there are some causes for concern. Obviously, the committee on international trade will need to take some time to look at the possible implications from the lack of any sort of binding obligations on the Jordanian government.
I will reference the U.S. Department of State's 2008 human rights report on Jordan. Some of the elements are positive but some are clearly negative.
The first is on arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life. As we know, in Colombia we are talking about hundreds of people massacred every year by right wing paramilitary thugs, the Colombian military, but in Jordan's case, it states:
In contrast with 2007, there were no reports during the year that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The government completed investigations of allegations made in two 2007 deaths....
So, we do see action from the Jordanian government there.
Second is on disappearances. In Colombia, that has been a horrible and constant tragedy. Disappearances In Colombia occur on a daily basis, but for Jordan, the 2008 human rights report states:
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances.
Third is torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Now on that there is some cause for concern. The report states:
Although torture is illegal in the country, an October report by the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW), "Torture and Impunity in Jordan's Prisons," concluded that torture remained a widespread practice. Interviews with 66 prisoners in seven of the country's 10 prisons produced allegations of ill-treatment, which HRW concluded often amounted to torture.
Next we move to arbitrary arrest or detention. The report states:
Some human rights groups continued to voice concern over the 2006 Prevention of Terrorism Act, complaining that its definition of terrorism might lead nonviolent critics of the government to be arrested or detained indefinitely under the provisions of the act. However, the government had yet to make use of the act at year's end
Section e, “Denial of Fair Public Trial” states:
The law provides for an independent judiciary. In practice the judiciary's independence was compromised due to allegations of nepotism and the influence of special interests.
There are also very clear concerns of abuse around women, domestic workers imported from outside Jordan. There have been calls within the United Nations and by human rights organizations about this.
It is clear that our work has begun on this. Real concerns have been expressed by our party and by many in civil society. If Parliament chooses to refer this for further study to the international trade committee, it will need to take a long look at the implications of this agreement and of the possible impacts having this agreement put into effect.
On that basis, of course, we have legitimate concerns. We will continue to push the government to bring in fair trade legislation and we will continue to work on this bill so that it becomes more fair trade in nature.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am very pleased to rise here in the House of Commons today to speak to the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement.
It is the most recent example of the Conservative government's dynamic strategy to generate more opportunities for Canadians in some of the world's largest markets.
Along with the bill to implement the free trade agreement, we also introduced a bill containing two agreements to protect labour and the environment, which clearly demonstrates our government's commitment to increasing business opportunities in a positive, responsible way.
I encourage all members of all parties in this House to support our government's efforts and pass this bill as soon as possible.
Canadian businesses are counting on us to create new opportunities in the Jordanian market, which is what we must do, without delay.
Markets like Jordan represent an important opportunity for Canadian and Quebec businesses.
Over the years our two countries have established a significant trade relationship in a number of areas: forestry, agri-food, machinery, communications technologies and clothing.
Companies and investors in both countries have been calling for closer commercial ties between our two countries for some time now. They see enormous potential and so does our government.
Today, I would like to focus on the advantages of this agreement for my province of Quebec.
Quebec has long been looking for opportunities beyond its borders, for its well-known companies like SNC-Lavalin and Bombardier and for the thousands of small and medium enterprises that export throughout the world. Quebec plays an important role in Canada's trade with the world. Jordan is no exception.
Quebec's exports to Jordan are significant. They account for 45% of Canada's total exports to Jordan, which ranks Quebec first among the Canadian provinces or territories in terms of exports to Jordan. We are in the lead; the statistics prove it.
In concrete numbers, exports from Quebec to Jordan were valued at $34.4 million in 2008, which represents an increase over the $19.5 million in 2006. There has been marked progress in four years.
The main exports were copper products, paper, wood pulp, cardboard and wood.
Jordan is a major growth market for Quebec in these key sectors.
That is why this free trade agreement will be such a crucial opportunity for Quebec exporters over the coming year.
This agreement will eliminate Jordanian tariffs on key exports and will contribute to making Quebec companies more competitive in the long term in certain essential sectors.
Take, for example, forestry products, which include paper and cardboard. They are a significant portion of Quebec's exports to Jordan for a total of $16.3 million in 2008, or roughly 60% of Canada's total forestry product exports to Jordan.
These goods are currently subject to a Jordanian tariff ranging between 10% and 30%. Under the free trade agreement, these tariff would be eliminated within five years. This is an exceptional opportunity to help our forestry industry, which was hit hard by the global economic downturn.
The machinery sector is another good example. Exports of Quebec machinery to Jordan totalled $700,000 last year, which represents approximately 9% of Canada's total machinery exports to Jordan. These exports are also subject to a Jordanian tariff of between 10% and 30%, which will also be eliminated within five years once the free trade agreement goes into effect.
Quebec's textile industry would also benefit from this agreement. Textile goods are currently subject to a tariff of between 5% and 25%, which would be eliminated within five years once the agreement is implemented.
Pharmaceuticals represent another growth sector in Quebec and an increasing share of our exports to Jordan. In fact, exports of Quebec pharmaceuticals to Jordan have increased considerably in recent years, rising by 164%, from $280,000 in 2006 to $750,000 last year. Therefore, it is not surprising that Canada's pharmaceutical companies would like to increase their access to the Jordanian market. When the free trade agreement is implemented, the present 5% tariff will be eliminated immediately.
These are just a few of the many Quebec sectors that will benefit from lower Jordanian tariffs.
We could also talk about the shipbuilding, agriculture, cosmetics, furniture and aerospace industries. All these are vital to the prosperity of Canada and Quebec. They help sustain employment and communities throughout the country. And I believe that companies in all these sectors can compete and succeed in the Jordanian market. To do so, they must have equal opportunities.
This free trade agreement would give them the access they need to compete, to get into one of the most interesting markets and to develop new market opportunities to make Canada and Quebec more prosperous. That is why I urge all members to support the bill in order to implement this free trade agreement as quickly as possible. Our businesses need our help now. I am asking all members to help us support them.
But the advantages of strengthening our relationship with Jordan go beyond economics and trade. As we know, our government is also committed to ensuring that we do not expand market opportunities at the expense of labour and environmental rights. We must focus on both of these things at the same time.
That is why Quebeckers can also be pleased that we have introduced a bill to implement two other agreements with Jordan: an agreement on labour cooperation, and an agreement on the environment. These agreements require the two countries to enforce and protect labour principles and rights, and to enforce high standards of environmental protection.
These agreements are further proof of our government's commitment to ensuring that we do not expand market opportunities at the expense of the environment and workers.
As we know, Canada has had a record year when it comes to the creation of market opportunities for our businesses and investors throughout the world. The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement is another step in our efforts to help Canadians seize these opportunities.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for sharing his time, for his great intervention and for providing his words of wisdom, not only on behalf of members from Quebec but across the country. This is great news for all Canadians.
As a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, it is a pleasure to rise in the House today to add my support to the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement and accompanying agreements on labour cooperation and the environment. These agreements are the latest examples of our government's strategy to open doors for Canadian businesses and investors in these challenging economic times.
In particular, the free trade agreement will benefit a number of sectors all across Canada. In the next 10 minutes, I will outline this fact to show Canadians how this agreement benefits all sectors, including the riding of Kelowna—Lake Country, which I have the privilege of representing. In 2008 British Columbia had over 10 million dollars' worth of trade with Jordan in paper, paper board, wood and machinery. Creating jobs is definitely what we are all about in these challenging economic times.
As we move forward in these sectors, we will talk about why our trade relationship with Jordan is so very critical at this time in our history. The fact is that sectors across Canada's economy need the kind of competitive access provided by this free trade agreement. The agreement immediately eliminates tariffs on the vast majority of current Canadian exports to Jordan. To be more precise, the agreement will eliminate all non-agricultural benefits and the vast majority of agricultural tariffs on our two-way trade. That is great news for farmers, who will benefit from this agreement.
The agreement eliminates tariffs on pulse crops, including lentils, peas and beans, frozen french fries, animal feed and various prepared foods. It will also expand opportunities for Canadians in other sectors, too, including forest products, industrial and electrical machinery, construction equipment and auto parts. Our manufacturers and Canadian employers in all these sectors need every competitive advantage they can get in the globalized competitive marketplace in which they are competing.
We are trying to have a level playing field and a rules-based trading agreement. We are developing new trading partners, not increasing protectionism, which we have heard other parties opposite advocating. We are increasing partnerships, not protectionism. Through tariff elimination, our free trade agreement with Jordan will open new doors for these sectors, create new opportunities for Canadians employed in them and help our businesses succeed in the global marketplace.
Permit me to take a moment to also touch on the foreign investment promotion and protection agreement, also known as FIPPA. Signed at the same time as a free trade agreement, this FIPPA will help encourage two-way investment by providing investors in both countries with the clarity and certainty they need when investing in each other's markets. There is a mechanism in place to ensure certainty, clarity and stability in that agreement and give Canadians confidence that they are going to invest in Jordan and vice versa.
Canadian investors are discovering a wealth of opportunities in the Jordanian market. Sectors such as resource extraction, nuclear energy, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure all hold much promise for Canadian investors. Just look at the great success the Potash Corporation of Saskatchewan has found in Jordan. It is now the largest foreign investor in Jordan. There is a long list of other Canadian companies. Earlier, my hon. colleague mentioned Bombardier and SNC-Lavalin. They have made significant inroads into the Jordanian market.
That is why the free trade agreement and the FIPPA are such great accomplishments. In a broader sense, it is only the beginning. This agreement is Canada's first ever free trade agreement with an Arab country.
A couple of years ago the trade committee had a chance to go to the Middle East. This is going to open the door to expansion for trade to the Middle East and north Africa, which is a great opportunity and very important for Canadian businesses.
This free trade agreement with Jordan gives us access to a critical market in the region. We have opened a number of significant doorways into the region and set the stage for Canadian businesses to create even more commercial links throughout the Middle East and north Africa in the years ahead.
Canada also believes that deeper commercial engagement need not come at the expense of labour standards or the environment. We think trade and investment can be a positive force for communities worldwide, which is why this government is very pleased to include parallel labour and environmental agreements as part of the larger package of agreements we have signed with Jordan.
Let us start with the labour cooperation agreement. It commits both countries to respect the core labour standards set out by the International Labour Organization. These are standards that help eliminate child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination and that respect freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. The agreement also commits both countries to providing acceptable minimum employment standards and compensation for occupational injuries and illnesses.
I should also add that under this agreement migrant workers will enjoy the same legal protections as nationals when it comes to working conditions. Also significant is the agreement on the environment which commits both countries to pursue high levels of environmental protection in the development and improvement of policies that protect the natural environment, a concern for all of us in the House.
Domestic environmental laws must be respected and enforced. This agreement commits both countries to this goal. It also commits both countries to ensure that strong environmental assessment processes are in place as well as remedies for violating environmental laws. This is very, very important.
Through the agreement on the environment, our government is also encouraging businesses to adopt best practices of corporate social responsibility and promote public awareness and engagement. I know Canadian businesses that are doing business around the world are leaders in CSR, corporate social responsibility, and are leading by example. These measures will help ensure that increased trade and investment does not come at the expense of the environment and that business can play a positive role in the life of each country.
This is a critical time for Canada's economy. The global economic downturn has hit all nations. We must take steps to sharpen Canada's competitive edge and prepare for the recovery. The global economy is not going away. One in five Canadian jobs depends on Canada trading in the world. That is why we have the global commerce strategy, which was embarked on with the previous international trade minister, Mr. Emerson, whom I highly respect. He is working in the private sector continuing to expand business around the world.
Now my colleague from is the . He and the were just at APEC, a major Asia-Pacific economic conference. They were in India and are going to China next month. We continue to expand and open doors for Canadian businesses. This is what it is all about, opportunities for our businesses and investors to thrive and prosper today and beyond the current economic downturn.
Our free trade agreement with Jordan is an important part of these efforts. Through the FIPPA and the two agreements on labour and environment, Canada needs those tools to be competitive in Jordan and continue making the links in the expanding markets of the Middle East and north Africa.
In summary, Canadians can count on our government to impose protectionism and defend free and open trade on the world stage. In less than four years our government has opened doors to Canadian businesses by concluding new free trade agreements with Colombia, Peru, Jordan, Panama and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein. Upon implementation, this free trade agreement with Jordan will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of Canadian exports to Jordan, directly benefiting Canadian exports.
Key Canadian sectors that will immediately benefit include forestry, manufacturing and agriculture and agri-food. These are sectors in which Canadian companies are global leaders. I have a strong component of agriculture and horticulture in the Okanagan and we look forward in British Columbia, the Prairies and across Canada to opening new doors.
By eliminating tariffs on imports from Jordan, this also means better prices for consumers. That is what we are here for, to give our consumers the dollar value and continue to create jobs as well. It is a win-win all around. The labour cooperation agreement commits Canada and Jordan to respect and enforce internationally recognized labour principles and rights, such as the elimination of child labour, forced labour and workplace discrimination and the respect of freedom of association and the right to bargain collectively. Canada and Jordan have negotiated an agreement on the environment that commits the parties to maintain high levels of environmental protection to effectively enforce domestic environmental laws and to not relax or derogate from such laws to attract trader investment.
I ask all members of the House to support this agreement and our government's efforts to create jobs and opportunities for all Canadians, not only for today but for the years ahead.
Madam Speaker, I am delighted to rise and speak in favour of Bill .
As has been said in this House during debate, this is the first trade agreement that Canada has signed with an Arab country, and it is only appropriate that Jordan be that country.
First, the Jordanian industry and trade minister, Amer Al-Hadidi, said, after the agreement was signed:
The signing is a testimony to the excellent relations between the two countries. We finished...negotiations...in record time.
Second, as they themselves have affirmed both on the occasion of the signing of the free trade agreement and in discussions that I have had with them when visiting the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, they have made great strides toward economic and trade liberalization, including developing an ambitious agenda which they hope will combat poverty and unemployment while seeking to protect the environment, promote economic growth and ensure an equitable distribution of goods and services consequent upon that economic growth.
Third, the trade agreement between Canada and Jordan will not only contribute to increasing bilateral trade ties, it will create new export opportunities for Jordanian products in foreign markets through the aggregate rules of origin with the countries that have already signed trade agreements with both Canada and Jordan, such as the United States and Israel.
Fourth, as His Majesty King Abdullah himself said on the occasion of the signing of the trade agreement, “It will help increase the volume of commercial exchange and expand economic cooperation between the two countries”, as “under the [trade agreement], Jordanian products will enter the Canadian market tariff and customs free as of the date the agreement goes into effect, expected to be at the end of 2009”.
At the same time, “Canadian products will benefit from a gradual decrease in tariffs and customs over a span of three to four years”.
As well, this free trade agreement will presage further cooperation between Canada and Jordan, and indeed again, His Majesty King Abdullah appreciated and expressed, as he put it, his appreciation for Canada's support for Jordan in implementing Jordan's development program, especially in the field of education, while expressing the hope that the two countries will further cooperate in the fields of alternative energy, water and nuclear progress.
This brings me to yet another perspective and reason for signing this agreement with Jordan, which will be the first Arab country for that purpose. The two countries, and it is important to factor this into the free trade agreement, also signed agreements to protect the environment, investments and labour rights.
I recall the representations made in this debate by the member for , the cautionary note that he sounded with respect to the human rights issues, and the references he made with respect to the U.S. State Department report on matters relating to human rights. I expect that these will be issues that will be addressed in the testimony and submissions before committee as well.
Finally, as Jordan has signed a peace treaty with Israel, indeed we are speaking in this debate on the occasion of the 15th anniversary of that peace treaty between Jordan and Israel, and as Canada has now signed a free trade treaty with Jordan as it has with Israel, and has close cooperation with Israel as well as an excellent relationship with Jordan, this free trade agreement will, in that regard, help create a peace dividend as well as an economic, environmental and labour rights dividend for the reasons that I mentioned.
The value of this first ever free trade agreement between Canada and Jordan finds expression in the preamble and purposes of the free trade agreement to which I will turn at this point. Although I could reference the preamble, for reasons of time I will excerpt only clause 7 of the bill, which speaks to the purpose of the agreement and which says:
The purpose of this Act is to implement the Agreement and the related agreements, the objectives of which, as elaborated more specifically through their provisions--
That is why I am dealing now with summary form as is given in clause 7. The purposes of the agreement include:
(a) establish a free trade area in accordance with the Agreement;
(b) promote, through the expansion of reciprocal trade, the harmonious development of the economic relations between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in order to foster, in both countries, the advancement of economic activity;
(c) contribute, by the removal of barriers to trade, to the harmonious development and expansion of world trade;
(d) enhance and enforce environmental laws and regulations and strengthen cooperation on environmental matters;
(e) protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights, strengthen cooperation on labour matters and build on the respective international commitments of Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on labour matters; and
(f) promote sustainable development.
The Canada-Jordan free trade agreement can be expected to provide important economic, environmental, labour, geopolitical, bilateral and multilateral benefits. It will of course require the oversight that is appropriate to these kinds of agreements, as will, in particular, the side agreements that relate to matters pertaining to environmental protection, workers' rights, and the issue of human rights as a whole.
Let me now try to identify in summary form the benefits that may arguably accrue from this Canada-Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan free trade agreement in a number of sectors. I will refer sequentially to the economic, environmental, labour, geopolitical, bilateral and multilateral sectors.
On the economic front, the free trade agreement would help promote bilateral economic trade as I referenced earlier. This bilateral economic trade between Canada and Jordan stood at $92 million in 2008, but as a result of this agreement, it can be expected to increase exponentially while enhancing competitiveness and establishing mutually advantageous rules to govern trade and reduce distortions through trade. This should accrue thereby to the benefit of both Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in the sectors that have been referenced in the course of this debate and in which some of our provinces, including my own province of Quebec, have a particular interest and concern.
On the environmental front, this agreement has an environmental protection agreement which commits the parties to comprehensive and high-level sustained environmental protection. I might add that in matters of this kind, the environmental assessments will be particularly important as well as the panoply of remedies with respect to--
Madam Speaker, I am just concluding on the matter of the environmental sector. As I said, there is provision in the side environmental agreement for prospective environmental protection, and it is detailed in the side agreement, but that will require as well ongoing oversight in order to ensure that the protective framework, the remedial framework, the objective sought by way of economic protection comport not only with the understandings and undertakings in that side agreement but indeed with respect to the international economic and environmental protections to which Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan respectively have committed themselves to.
This brings me now to the labour front. With respect to the labour front and again the side labour agreement, and I may spend a little more time on this one, the labour agreement commits both parties to protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights, to strengthen cooperation on labour matters, and to build on their respective international labour commitments.
In particular in that regard the labour agreement requires both parties to ensure that their laws respect the 1998 ILO declaration on fundamental principles and rights at work, which covers freedom of association, the right to collective bargaining, the abolition of child labour, the elimination of forced or compulsory labour, and the elimination of occupational discrimination as well as the International Labour Organization's decent work agenda.
I mention this because earlier the member for addressed some of those concerns that fall within the area of labour rights that again will require our own oversight and accountability in that regard.
I might add that similarly oversight will be required with respect to this particular frame of understandings and undertakings where under the heading of obligations with respect to the memorandum of agreement on labour cooperation between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the obligations include providing protections for occupational health and safety, acceptable minimum employment standards such as minimum wage and overtime pay, compensation for occupational illnesses or injuries and non-discrimination in respect of working conditions for migrant workers.
The labour agreement also provides for an open and robust complaint and dispute resolution process. As well, the labour agreement, if in fact the understanding and undertakings will be appropriately adhered to and with the necessary accountability that must be involved, could serve to enhance and maintain Canada's good reputation in Jordan at the same time as Canada promotes a high standard for the protection of workers' rights, and parenthetically I would add women's rights as well.
I would like to say, because sometimes reference has been made to the provincial and territorial implications or obligations in this regard, that it should be pointed out that the provinces and territories are not bound by the obligations of the labour agreement unless they choose to implement the agreement within their territory. Provinces and territories will be subject to dispute settlement including the imposition of monetary assessments only if they sign a declaration indicating their acceptance of these obligations.
Admittedly the labour agreement does commit Canada to use its efforts to persuade provinces and territories to agree to be added to the declaration, but in fact the provinces and territories do not themselves have to agree to do this.
Let me move more quickly now to a close and speak to the issue of the geopolitical front. Such a free trade agreement can promote and enhance better relations not only between Canada and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in their bilateral economic relationship but also with Israel and the Palestinian authority.
There is, and it is not always appreciated, an intersecting and interlocking framework of agreement and set of economic relations in this regard among Canada, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Palestinian Authority and Israel.
It may well be that those kinds of intersecting, interlocking relationships, which can include as well provisions for joint industrial parks and the like, can help presage the development of more mutually amicable political relationships, so that we do not only have a formal treaty with respect to the participating countries but we do enhance matters of the political, diplomatic and juridical as well as economic relationships.
On the bilateral front, this can enhance the development of Canada-Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan relationships which are deemed at this point to be excellent, but hopefully, as has been indicated by those involved in this and in my own discussions with the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan leadership, this can presage developing cooperation in areas such as technology, law, education, nuclear, economic development and the like. These are areas that they have indicated to us are things where Canada can play a role in the enhancement of an overall bilateral relationship of which the Canada-Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan bilateral free trade agreement will be an important component, but it will be a kind of standing invitation for the enhancement of the relationship in a multiplicity of sectors such as I have referenced.
Finally, on the multilateral front, the preamble speaks also to the promotion and protection of democracy, human rights and cultural diversity, as well as of course for the protection of the environment and workers' rights in the side agreements.
We have an excellent agreement on paper. The question is, how does this agreement actually operate in practice? There is always a distinction between law on the books and law in action. There is a distinction between an agreement on the books and an agreement in action. What happens in fact to environmental protection on the ground? What happens in fact to workers' rights on the ground?
We can have comprehensive side agreements in matters of the environment, in matters of workers' rights, but what will be needed will be the necessary cooperation, involvement, oversight and accountability in that regard to ensure that that which is expected of this agreement, particularly in the areas of human rights and all its configurations, will in fact be secured, enhanced and protected by this agreement.