Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House for my first speech of 2014, and welcome all my colleagues back, to speak about the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.
This agreement represents yet another important step in the diversification of our trade relationships around the world and our efforts to find new markets and to grow markets for Canadian goods and services.
The priority of our government has been focused on opportunity and prosperity for Canadian families. This begins and ends with ensuring that our producers and firms have new markets to trade their wares. Trade leads to employment and prosperity for Canadian families. Whether in the towns of Bowmanville, Port Perry or Uxbridge in my riding or indeed in the cities and towns across the country, families are made stronger by the simple fact that mom or dad can find meaningful employment if they want to be engaged in the workplace.
Canadian exports already account for an astonishing one in five Canadian jobs. More than 40,000 Canadian companies are global exporters. Canadian companies and their innovative products are leaders in sectors ranging from aerospace, transportation and agriculture to information and communications technology.
With trade being critical to Canada's prosperity, Canada has long been a key architect of international trade rules at the World Trade Organization, through the free trade agreement with the United States and ultimately with NAFTA. Our country relies upon strong international agreements and treaties to counter protectionism and keep global markets open for our employers.
We remain very engaged and positive about our most important trade relationship with the United States. Trade with the United States has been a defining part of the Canadian story. From north-south mercantile trade before Confederation to the national policy of Sir John A. to the free trade agreement signed by the Conservative government in 1988, trade with our American friends has brought prosperity to generations of Canadian families.
The need to diversify Canadian trade relationships has been raised for decades because of a growing dependence on trade with the U.S., and this need to diversify came into sharp focus with the global recession in 2008.
In 2008, Canadian exports to the United States totalled $368 billion. The following year, amid the global economic crisis, these exports dropped to $270 billion. While there has been a recovery in the U.S. economy and exports have been rebounding, statistics from 2012 show that our exports to the U.S. still remain 10% below 2008 levels.
The strong economic leadership of our and this government has helped Canada weather the global turmoil better than most developed countries, but we cannot rest on our laurels when it comes to trade. We also must come up with a dual strategy that builds and strengthens our critical trade relationships now while also building new and growing markets to sell our goods and services.
The global economy is changing rapidly, and new markets are exploding around the world. Trade is helping lift millions out of poverty while also promoting peace and security through stronger international engagement.
Canada needs to pursue these new markets that are growing with gusto. We need not only to keep up with our global competitors but to leverage our natural advantages to penetrate new markets faster and deeper than our competitors. Standing still will not create jobs for Canadian families. Over time, inaction could erode our position in the world and our quality of life.
This is why our government has responded with an ambitious international trade agenda. Opening new markets for Canadian companies, large and small, is cornerstone to this plan, as we continue to grow the Canadian economy and the jobs in our economy created as a result of trade.
We have made significant progress on opening new markets for Canadian goods and services. Last October, the announced an agreement in principle on the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, the most ambitious trade agreement Canada has ever negotiated.
Our agreement with the European Union would give Canadian companies preferential access to an economy of more than 500 million consumers and a $17 trillion GDP. That is tremendous opportunity.
A joint study by Canada and the EU, as part of our negotiations, concluded that our agreement with the European Union could boost Canada's GDP by $12 billion annually and increase bilateral trade by 20%. Most importantly, the deal could result in the creation of 80,000 net new jobs once the benefits of the Canada-EU trade agreement are realized.
While the Canada-EU trade agreement represents the culmination of many years of work with a group of nations, with our provincial stakeholders, with industries and with municipalities who are eager to access the 500 million consumers of Europe, our government has also been tirelessly pursuing trade opportunities in markets of all sizes.
Since 2007, our government has concluded free trade agreements with Peru, Colombia, Jordan and Morocco. New agreements and relationships are being struck while existing ones are being expanded. We have also concluded or brought into force 22 new or updated foreign investment promotion and protection agreements to provide better access to growing global markets for Canadian exporters, while also providing more certainty in these markets through the secure framework that a foreign investment promotion and protection agreement offers. It gives me great pleasure to advise the House that Honduras will soon be yet another market that we have opened for Canadian employers through this Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.
While our EU deal represents Canadian opportunities across the pond for exporters, there are also tremendous opportunities here in the Americas. Total merchandise trade between Canada and the countries in the Americas stood at $56.2 billion in 2012. This has increased by 32% in the last six years alone. Canadian direct investment in the Americas totalled $168 billion in 2012 and has increased by 59% over the same period.
We are already engaged in South America and Central America, and our government knows that we need to do more in our own backyard. Canada's trade agenda is not just about the planes, trains and automobiles we manufacture in Canada—and great ones, to boot—nor does it only represent natural resources and agricultural products. We are increasingly pursuing markets for our intellectual property, academic excellence and delivery of professional services around the world.
Canada is very much engaged in negotiations surrounding the trade in services agreement, which would provide a secure legal framework and new market access for Canadian service suppliers in many of the world's most important and growing service markets. We also remain an active participant in multilateral negotiations at the World Trade Organization, where just a few weeks ago Canada helped conclude a trade facilitation agreement that will boost trade by cutting red tape for Canadian companies.
However, we are not just stopping there. Canada is also committed to advancing our ongoing free trade negotiations with other partners in the Caribbean, in Morocco and here in the Americas. We are also looking for new opportunities to grow Canada's international trade and are undertaking exploratory discussions with Thailand and Turkey to determine what benefits Canadians and Canadian employers could see from trade agreements with these partners in the future.
In addition, we continue to update our existing free trade agreements to ensure that Canada remains a global leader in trade and commerce. We recently announced the modernization of the Canada-Chile Free Trade Agreement. This expansion and modernization builds on an agreement that dates back to 1997 and a trade relationship that is now worth over $2.5 billion. The updated agreement with Chile includes the addition of a new financial services chapter, which will help world-class Canadian financial institutions develop new markets in the areas of banking, insurance and asset management in Chile. It also includes new roles on government procurement, customs procedures and dispute settlement.
As members are aware, the Prime Minister announced last week that we would also modernize our existing free trade agreement with Israel.
The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement really has been a cornerstone of a growing and important relationship for our country. While our countries enjoy a sophisticated trade relationship, an updated free trade agreement with Israel would enhance bilateral commercial flows by reducing technical barriers, enhancing co-operation, increasing transparency in regulatory matters and reducing transaction costs for exporters.
It would also create greater visibility for Canadian companies in the Israeli and Middle Eastern market and support closer ties with this dynamic economy and important democracy in the Middle East.
It is clear that the government is working hard to ensure that Canadians reap the economic benefits of global trade, which as I said at the outset, accounts for one in five jobs in Canada.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is part of our efforts to liberalize trade with our partners here in the Americas. It is also a realization of our global markets action plan, which will grow existing and important trade relationships while forging new ones around the world.
The Americas offer great potential. Trade has been growing dramatically in the last six years, as I said. We also need to promote increased mutual economic sharing of ideas and increase engagement.
Canada's strategy for engagement in the Americas focuses on intensifying trade promotion and relationship-building efforts, to ensure that the Canadian private sector can take full advantage of the trade and economic agreements, as well as helping to build the capacity of our trading partners to capitalize on the benefits of free trade with Canada and the benefits that come along with a growing and emerging middle class in many of these countries.
Canada is committed to a strong economic partnership with Honduras that would contribute to enhanced prosperity and sustainable economic growth for both our countries in the long term.
This Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is a key component in advancing the goals of Canada's strategy for engagement in the Americas and would support our growing commercial and social relationship with that country.
Canada's two-way merchandise trade with Honduras grew by 46% in the last six years. Canadian companies are active in Honduras in the areas of apparel production and mining. However, there are other sectors of huge potential opportunity, such as green building, clean technologies and information and communities technologies, to name just a few.
Once implemented, the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on 98% of the tariff lines going both ways. We would gain better access to a growing market in our hemisphere, with grain and oilseeds, beef, pork, potatoes and processed foods being some of the early and big winners and the potential for more industries and, particularly, service areas, as the relationship with Honduras develops over time.
Canada's Trade Commissioner Service already works with Canadian companies that are interested in doing business in Honduras. These are recognizable and important employers across Canada, such as Gildan Activewear, Aura Minerals and Canadian Bank Note, to name just a few.
Once the trade agreement is ratified, our trade commissioners would ensure that companies, in particular small and medium-sized enterprises, are aware of how they could benefit from this free trade agreement so that they could take full advantage of the greater transparency, stability and protection the agreement would provide in the Honduran market.
In addition to opening doors for Canadian companies and building our trade relationship, Canada is also committed to supporting Honduras in other ways.
Canada and Honduras first established diplomatic relations in 1961 and have a broad and diverse relationship, driven by a wide range of links and collaboration, from political dialogue and commercial exchange to people-to-people ties, as well as long-standing and substantial Canadian development co-operation.
We maintain an open dialogue with the Government of Honduras, as we believe that engagement is the best way for us to help Honduras meet its challenges, grow its economy and promote stability.
Engagement on all levels will grow prosperity and security for Hondurans.
As one of the 20 countries of focus for Canada's development assistance, Honduras is Canada's largest bilateral program in Central America and the fourth largest in the hemisphere. In 2011-2012, Canada provided over $39 million to the country through all development channels. This makes it the largest bilateral donor in all of Honduras and the sixth largest overall donor in the hemisphere.
Canada's development program will support and promote economic opportunities in Honduras in a way that will allow its trade with Honduras to grow steadily over time.
It is our view that prosperity, security, and democratic governance, including full respect for human rights, are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Increased prosperity through trade can contribute to the reduction of poverty and social exclusion by increasing economic opportunity for all Hondurans. Once ratified, this free trade agreement would be a cornerstone of our bilateral relationship with Honduras and would benefit both our countries.
This is a comprehensive trade deal that would give Canadian businesses a secure and predictable framework in a growing Honduran marketplace. The United States and the European Union already enjoy free trade with Honduras, so it is especially important that we ratify this agreement and put Canadian companies on a level playing field with our main competitors.
Let me turn to some specific examples of the benefits of the Canada-Honduras trade agreement. First and foremost, it would help make Canadian products more attractive in the Honduran market by eliminating tariffs. Today Canadian exports to Honduras face average tariffs in the 11% range for agriculture and the 5% range for non-agricultural goods. Once the agreement is in place, Honduras would immediately eliminate tariffs on almost 70% of its tariff lines in respect of goods imported from Canada.
This agreement represents an important component of our government's global markets action plan. This plan would coordinate the funding and expertise inherent in our foreign policy, trade, and development arms, and focus them in countries where we can make a difference, recognizing that benefiting the social and human rights of a country will also help benefit its local economy. Jobs for Hondurans will help promote stability in the country.
This government is on an unparalleled track for promoting the trade of our goods and services across the world. The Canada-E.U. trade agreement represents a huge leap in terms of global trade agreements in that it will provide opportunities for Canadian exporters in a market of 500 million people while it also allows penetration right down to services and mutual recognition of professions. It really is taking trade agreements into this new millennium.
In my riding of Durham, one in five jobs relates to trade. The communities of Uxbridge, Scugog, and Clarington need these new markets for their goods, particularly at a time when the American market is slowly rebounding from the 2008 world economic crisis.
Our government is firmly committed to building new markets for our goods and services to maintain the job creation that trade promotes. These deals are not just with mammoth markets of 500 million people, like the Canada-E.U. trade deal. They are also in other important areas of the world, such as Georgia and Morocco and now Honduras. There our trade, our prioritization of our services, and our engagement through our global markets action plan could not only promote trade in that country but could also promote stability and engagement in a range of labour, environmental, and other areas.
This is a pivotal part of our government's global markets action plan. It is a pivotal part of keeping Canadian families employed and engaged. I am truly hoping all members of the House will support this important agreement.
Mr. Speaker, New Democrats believe that Canadians recognize the importance of trade to our economy and want an effective, strategic trade policy that expands trade opportunities and supports Canadian exporters.
We believe that Canadians want a trade policy that produces good jobs in our communities and encourages the development of value-added production to our many resources here in Canada.
We believe that Canadians want a trade policy that strengthens our economic relationships with growing significant economics that add strategic value to the Canadian economy.
We believe that Canadians want trade agreements that preserve our ability to legislate in the public interest, protect our social programs, and promote local economic development.
We believe that Canadians want their government to pursue a balanced trade policy that builds trade and at the same time fosters positive democratic development, human rights, and environmental standards, both in Canada and in the nations with whom we trade.
New Democrats also know that Canadians care about the process by which we implement trade policy. Canadians want an open, transparent, and accountable process in all aspects of the development of trade policy and agreements.
Canadians want and deserve to be consulted about their priorities and kept advised about the progress of trade negotiations. After all, they know that trade agreements are not negotiated on behalf of political parties or special interests but are negotiated on behalf of all Canadians and all sectors of our economy. This is particularly the case as trade agreements have become more comprehensive and increasingly deal with areas of policy that have historically been considered to be of purely domestic concern.
Since the Conservatives took office in 2006, by all objective measurements Canada's trade performance has been deplorable.
In 2006, the Conservatives inherited a current account surplus of some $18 billion. Today, after eight years in power, Canada has a current account deficit of $62 billion. That is a negative swing of some $80 billion, an average decline of $10 billion for every year the Conservatives have been in power.
Over the last two years, even as we have pulled slowly out of the global recession, Canada has experienced 23 consecutive months of merchandise trade deficits.
We have also seen an alarming shift in the quality of our exports. Under the Conservatives, there has been an increase in the percentage of our exports that are raw or barely processed, reversing a decades-long trend toward an increase in our value-added products. Nor can this poor performance be explained away by the recession that Canada experienced between 2008 and 2011.
A comparison by the Library of Parliament of Canada's trade performance to 17 other countries around the world between 2006 and 2012, countries that experienced the exact same global recession, collapse in commodity prices, and currency fluctuations, found that Canada came dead last in current account performance.
This poor trade record is consistent with the Conservatives’ poor performance economically, across the board. A look at major economic metrics provides comprehensive evidence of the government's economic failure since it took office in 2006.
I hear laughing on that side, but we will see if those members still laugh after hearing these statistics.
The national unemployment rate in 2006 was 6.6%; today it is 7.2%. The youth unemployment rate in 2006 was 12.2%; today it is 14%. Among the 34 OECD nations in employment creation since 2006, Canada ranks 20th. The number of governments since 1935, in the last 80 years, that presided over a slower rate of real economic growth per capita is zero. The per cent of our federal debt accumulated since 2006 is one fifth. The percentage increase in our real average manufacturing wage from 2006 to now is zero. The percentage drop in productivity since the Conservatives came to power is a negative 1.9%.
The conclusion is obvious. The Conservatives have had eight years to implement their trade and economic policies, and the unacceptable results are there for all to see.
The Bank of Canada has explicitly stated that a major contributing factor to Canada's stalled economic performance is due to our under-performance on the trade file.
Canada is a trading nation. Our economy is historically, and continues to be, substantially dependent on our export sector and increasingly, with global supply chains and integrated production, on our import experience as well.
It is therefore vital that Canada implement a smart, effective trade policy and pursue well-negotiated beneficial trade agreements with strategically important growing and significant economies that will help Canadian businesses and create good jobs for Canadians.
That brings us to the matter before the House: Bill .
With all the issues and deeply entrenched problems facing Canada's trade sector, what do the Conservatives bring to this Parliament today? They bring Canadians a free trade agreement with Honduras. Now, this is not surprising. Although the Conservatives like to brag about the trade agreements they have concluded in the last eight years, the facts, again, tell a different story. In truth, they have concluded a total of six trade agreements with the following countries: Jordan; Panama; Peru; Colombia; a goods-only agreement with four small European countries including Liechtenstein and Iceland; and now Honduras.
As is obvious, these are agreements with small economies of limited strategic interest to Canada. Trade agreements with major developed and developing economies like Japan, India, South Korea, Brazil, China, and South Africa—agreements that would have a material and positive benefit for the Canadian economy, if negotiated well—the Conservatives have been unable to conclude.
New Democrats believe that we should apply three important criteria to assess trade agreements.
First, is the proposed partner a democracy that respects human rights, adheres to acceptable environmental standards and Canadian values, and if there are challenges regarding these, can it fairly be said that they are on a positive trajectory toward these goals?
Second, is the proposed partner's economy of significant and strategic value to Canada?
Third, are the terms of the proposed agreement acceptable?
The proposed free trade agreement with Honduras fails this test. Again, let us look at the facts, and take a closer look at the country to which the current Conservative government wants Canadians to extend preferential trade benefits and closer economic relations.
Honduras is a country with a seriously flawed human rights record; weak institutions; corrupt police and army; and a history, both entrenched and recent, of repressive, undemocratic politics. The last democratically elected government, that of President Manuel Zelaya, was toppled by a military coup in June 2009. This coup was staged by the Honduran army under the pretext of a constitutional crisis that had developed between the supreme court and the president. Following the coup, the government suspended key civil liberties, including freedom of the press and assembly. In the ensuing days, security forces responded to peaceful demonstrations with excessive force and shut down opposition media outlets, causing deaths, scores of injuries, and thousands of arbitrary detentions. The coup was widely condemned around the world, including by all Latin American nations, the European Union, the United States, and the UN General Assembly.
In January 2010, Porfirio Lobo Sosa assumed the presidency through what has overwhelmingly been deemed undemocratic and illegitimate means. Of course, holding an election mere months after the violent military overthrow of the elected administration is hardly an acceptable context for a free and fair election. Indeed, most foreign governments and election-monitoring agencies refused even to send observers, and many countries rejected the results of the election. The recent election held in November 2013 has similarly been condemned by independent observers.
Since 2009, NGOs of all types have documented serious human rights abuses. Extra-judicial killings; kidnappings of political figures; intimidation of citizens; severe restrictions on public demonstrations, protest, and freedom of expression; and interference in the independence of the judiciary are well established in Honduras.
Here are some basic facts from independent sources about the situation in Honduras.
Honduras ranks 85th out of 167 on the Economist Intelligence Unit's 2012 democracy index. That is a slide from being 74th; in other words, it is getting worse.
Honduras is now classified as a “hybrid regime”, rather than its previous designation as a “flawed democracy”.
Transparency International ranks Honduras as the “most corrupt country in Central America”, which is no small feat. It is a major drug-smuggling centre, and it has the worst income equality in the region. The U.S. state department estimates that 79% of all cocaine shipments originating in South America land in Honduras. Drugs move from South America through countries like Honduras and other Central American states into Mexico and the United States and Canada.
Independent observers have noted the increasing levels of violence, as well as organized criminal and gang activity associated with the trade in illegal narcotics. According to The Economist, “the countries in 'the northern triangle' of the Central American isthmus”—and that includes Honduras—“form what is now the most violent region on earth”.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that in 2011 there were 92 murders per 100,000 people per year in Honduras, making it the most violent country in Latin America. In 2012, Honduras became the murder capital of the world, reaching a record high of 7,172 homicides in 2012, or 81 per 100,000 people.
In 2013, on average there have been 10 massacres per month, according to the investigative website InSight Crime, which defines “massacre” as an instance where three or more people are murdered at one time. In the previous four years, fewer than 20% of homicide cases have been investigated, let alone prosecuted.
As pointed out by the Americas Policy Group, this high level of impunity serves to mask political violence.
Since 2010, there have been more than 200 politically motivated killings and Honduras is now regarded as the world's most dangerous place for journalists. According to a 2013 Human Rights Watch report, Honduras has the region's highest rate of journalists killed per capita, with some 23 having been assassinated in the last three years alone. According to the Honduran national human rights commission, 36 journalists were killed between 2003 and mid-2013, and 29 have been killed since President Lobo took office.
Today, journalists in Honduras continue to suffer threats, attacks and killings, and authorities consistently fail to investigate these crimes effectively. Peasant activists and LGBT individuals are particularly vulnerable to attacks, yet the government routinely fails to prosecute those responsible.
In June 2013, 24 U.S. senators signed a letter expressing concern about the human rights situation in Honduras. Ninety-four members of Congress have called on the U.S. State Department to halt all military aid to Honduras in light of its violent repression of political activity.
At least 16 activists and candidates from the main opposition party, LIBRE, were assassinated since June of 2012, and 15 more have been attacked. On August 25, 2013, just months ago, three leaders of the indigenous Tolupan were shot and killed. There are extensively documented cases of police corruption, with 149 extrajudicial killings by police recorded between January 2011 and November 2012 alone.
In January 2013, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers called the dismissal of four Supreme Court justices by the Honduran government a violation of international norms and a grave threat to democracy.
This is what Mr. Neil Reeder, the director general of the Latin America and Caribbean bureau in DFAIT testified before committee:
...institutions...are...weak. Impunity is pervasive and corruption is a challenge.
Corruption within the Honduran police force is a particular problem, which the Government of Honduras...recognizes. Largely because Central America is situated between the drug-producing countries of South America and the drug-consuming countries to the north, Honduras...[has] been particularly affected by the growth of transnational drug trafficking, human trafficking, and the impact of organized crime.
Another element of the violence affecting Honduras is the presence of street gangs, known as maras, which rely on extortion and other forms of crime as...income. Honduras has more of these gangs than all other Central American countries combined, and their activities contribute to crime and insecurity in the country. Honduras now has...the highest homicide rates in the world, at 81 per 100,000, as compared with 1.8 per 100,000 in Canada.
This is the profile of the country that the Conservative government wants Canada to extend preferential trade access and closer economic relations to.
In terms of significance to the Canadian economy, the facts reveal the following.
Honduras ranks 120th out of 186 countries on the United Nations Human Development Index. The World Bank categorizes Honduras as a lower-middle income country, and Honduras suffers from extremely unequal income distribution, extreme social inequality, high unemployment, poor health and education. This is the country that the government wants Canadian businesses to compete with.
Honduras is currently Canada's 104th export market in terms of export value. In 2012 merchandise exports totalled a meagre $38 million and imports $218 million, marking a significant trade deficit. Internal DFAIT analyses confirm that only marginal benefits for the Canadian economy are expected from this deal.
Although Canada's extractive sector has interests in Honduras, Canadian mining companies have been ensnared in controversial local struggles with citizens and indigenous groups and face allegations of environmental contamination.
In terms of the process used by the Conservatives to arrive at this deal, there has been a complete lack of transparency in the negotiation process of this trade agreement. Despite repeated demands by civil society in Canada, the Government of Canada failed to make public the text of the agreement during the negotiation process, and further, the government's token environmental impact assessment of the free trade agreement, released in October, omitted any assessment of the impact of Canadian investments in Honduras because these figures are considered “confidential”.
Also, as is usually the case with the Conservatives, they have allowed no opportunity for either this Parliament or Canadians themselves to comment upon or influence the agreement before it is signed. We are left with a choice of only voting yes or no. The labour and environmental side agreements are inadequate, given that they are not accompanied by any real enforcement mechanism to ensure they are adhered to. Through the investment chapter of the Canada-Honduras trade agreement, corporations can sue the Canadian government in international tribunals, hindering Canada's ability to make decisions aimed at protecting the public good.
Considering that Honduras is an undemocratic country with weak institutions and low standards, and is of insignificant strategic interest and has a record of serious human rights abuses, New Democrats believe that the majority of Canadians would not agree that preferential trade terms be accorded such a nation.
What the New Democrat opposition wants is a strategic trade policy where we restart multinational negotiations, where we sign trade deals with developed countries that have high standards and developing countries that are on positive trajectories. These are countries like Japan, India, Brazil and South Africa. These are the countries we should be signing trade agreements with, not undemocratic countries like Honduras that are drug trafficking centres, human rights violators and have low standards that will hurt Canadian business.
I could do no better than to adopt the words spoken by two Canadians, Mr. Garry Neil and Ms. Stacey Gomez, who said:
...we really do not believe that it is good public policy for the government to be pursuing trade and investment agreements that are economically basically meaningless with volatile and undemocratic nations like Honduras....
We have long maintained that under the right conditions, trade can generate growth and support the realization of human rights. These conditions simply do not exist in Honduras. Canada should refrain from signing the FTA with Honduras until there is a verifiable improvement in the country’s democratic governance and human rights situation. Until these things are achieved, the Canada-Honduras FTA will do more harm than good.
I believe these are wise words. New Democrats will vote against the agreement accordingly, and I urge all members who want trade to be a positive force in the world economically, politically, socially and environmentally to join us in doing so as well.
Mr. Speaker, Liberals support Bill . The Liberal Party is strongly in support of the principle of free trade as an essential part of Canada's economic growth in the 21st century.
I would like to talk a bit about our broader vision of what we need to do with trade and how that fits into our overall economic vision, and then I would like to talk about this specific agreement and how we need to work hard in implementing it to live up to the principles of Canadian democracy and how Canada wants to conduct itself in the world.
On trade, 19.2% of Canadians work in jobs that are directly in the export sector, and up to 80% of the Canadian economy, depending on how one counts it, is dependent on exports. We are a small country in a vast globalized world economy, and without being open to that world economy, without being an active energetic participant, we have no chance of thriving and, crucially, no chance of creating middle-class jobs, which we need and which we are failing to create in sufficient number and quality right now.
However, what we need is not just a number of piecemeal agreements with small countries like Honduras. What Canada needs to be successful is an economic and trade vision that is much more ambitious, wider reaching, and which fully and ambitiously integrates Canada into the global economy. Therefore, while Liberals support this trade deal with Honduras, we believe our country needs to be more energetically engaged with other emerging market economies that are growing strongly and where we see the rest of the world competing now for a position.
In particular, I would like to draw everyone's attention to what is happening right now in Africa. A lot of us are accustomed to seeing Africa as a development story, a poverty story. The reality of the new Africa today is that it is one of the world's hottest emerging markets. Some of the leading countries in Africa have had, for more than five years, 5% economic growth year on year. This is real; this is huge. We are seeing investors pouring in, and we are seeing a competition between the big and ambitious countries in the world, notably China and the U.S., for a strategic position in Africa. Where is Canada? Africa is a continent to which we urgently need to turn our attention when it comes to trade deals, and what a great way for us to have a positive impact on the world.
The other part of an ambitious global economic agenda and global trade agenda for Canada is thinking about where we want to position our country in the world economy. Right now we are living in a winner-take-all global economy. That applies to countries, and it applies to individuals and companies. Frankly, we are not seeing from today's government a sufficiently ambitious and forward-looking economic agenda for our country.
One of my favourite books at the moment is a book by economist Tyler Cowen called Average is Over. His central contention is that we are living in a moment when if a company is the best in a space, the top talent in a space, the top city or top country, it will succeed. However, if one is in the middle and just average, there is no future. That is a lesson that Canada desperately needs to learn and that the Canadian government needs to make as the centre of its policies.
We need to be building an overall trade agenda, an overall economic vision in which we are creating in Canada a platform for being fully engaged in the world economy, but also a platform for which we have companies headquartered in Canada doing business around the world, rather than the old branch plant economy. That is not going to work. It is not going to create enough great jobs for the 21st century. This reality of an ambitious trade agenda, an economic agenda fit for the 21st century, we believe, is going to become ever more apparent in 2014.
Already this week, the first week of our new session, we have heard a lot of assertions from the Conservative benches about Canada's economic excellence, how we are better than anyone else in the G7 and so on. That is going to be less true in 2014, as the other G7 economies, which suffered so greatly from the financial crisis and from which Canada was spared thanks to the wise bank regulation policies of the Liberal government in the 1990s, have now healed. We are going to see that in 2014. We are already seeing a very strong comeback in the U.S. and the U.K., but our relative performance is looking much worse already, and we are not even through the first month of 2014.
That says that we have coasted. We have coasted on the fact that we did not have a financial crisis and we have not put in place a powerful, forward-looking economic agenda that is going to build prosperity for the middle class in the 21st century, and that includes trade. Piecemeal agreements with small countries are a good start. However, we need to be a lot more ambitious and have a much broader vision.
When it comes to the Honduras deal in particular, my hon. colleagues in the NDP have raised the important point that this is a trade deal with a country that has a very troubled record and very troubled reality on many political labour and environmental issues. We in the Liberal Party believe that it is important for us to do this deal. Not every country in the world is perfect, and we have to trade in the global economy. We believe that having a strong trading relationship can and must be a way to be a positive force in those economies. However, it will only work if it is more than words.
In implementing this trade deal, we have to be very aware of what is going on in Honduras and to the possibility that by having a trade deal with this country and having our companies engaged with it we could be complicit in political, environmental and labour violations. We do not just sign a deal and walk away; we have to watch closely and be absolutely certain that we and Canada are behaving well.
I would like to point to the fact that rather than having a binding mechanism for labour and environmental standards in the side agreements, article 816 of the free trade agreement states:
Each Party should encourage enterprises operating within its territory or subject to its jurisdiction to voluntarily incorporate internationally recognized standards of corporate social responsibility in their internal policies....
That puts a great onus on us to be aware, to watch and to be absolutely careful that those political, environmental and labour standards are watched and observed.
As the MP for Toronto Centre, I would like to draw particular attention to the tremendous abuse and repression that the LGBT community faces in Honduras. Even as we broaden and deepen our economic relationship with Honduras, this is something that we have to be absolutely aware of and watchful about. We have to take great care that the Canadian companies that will be working and trading there, and will have a relationship with Honduras, are not party to that and are in fact acting against it through their example.
Regarding the environmental standards, we have to be watchful about this. If, as the Labour Party believes, we are to use our trade agreements with troubled countries to be a force for moving those countries in a positive direction, we have to take incredible care. We have to take incredible care about the labour and environmental standards as well. This is how we ensure that free trade is a great deal for the Canadian middle class. Without watching those labour and environmental standards, trade with a country which is poorer than Canada, like Honduras, can be dangerous for the middle class.
Again, we cannot simply sign a piece of paper and walk away. This trade deal has potential. That is why we support it, but we have to be extremely vigilant. We must also move toward a broader vision, something much more than one single deal.
Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with my colleague from .
I would first like to add my voice to the chorus of introduction and welcome to the hon. member for to the international trade file. I look forward to working with her and all of our colleagues to foster job opportunities, growth and prosperity for Canadians from coast to coast to coast.
It is a pleasure to rise in the House to speak in regard to our Conservative government's commitment to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. That is why on November 5, 2013, my hon. colleague, the Minister of International Trade, signed the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.
Trade has long been a powerful engine for Canada's economy, as we have heard from previous speakers. It is even more so in what remain challenging times for the global economy. With this agreement, we can celebrate yet another milestone in the achievement of our government's vision for engagement in the Americas.
The Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is an important part of Canada's commitment to the Americas. For Canada to remain competitive, our government is pursuing new strategic partnerships with emerging economies, especially those in the Americas.
Honduras has its own active program of bilateral and regional trade and investment agreements. Specifically, it is a signatory to active free trade agreements with eight partners, including the United States and the European Union.
Our government is helping Canadian exporters and investors compete on a level playing field. As we know, the United States, our biggest trading partner, has a trade agreement and so has a trade advantage, and the signing of this free trade agreement and its coming into effect would help level the playing field.
Economically, Canada and Honduras have a bilateral trade and investment relationship that has potential for long-term growth, as we heard earlier from our colleague across the way from . We already have a healthy and growing commercial relationship with Honduras.
According to Statistics Canada, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Honduras has been steadily growing, which is very encouraging, reaching nearly $257.2 million in 2012, an increase of almost 9.3% compared to 2011. In 2012, Canadian exports to Honduras totalled $38.6 million and Canadian imports from Honduras totalled $218.6 million, up 17.4% from 2011.
How will that growth happen and what does this free trade agreement with Honduras entail specifically for Canada? For Canadian firms and communities that depend on continued and growing business activities for their livelihood, it is an excellent question. I know from my constituents of Kelowna—Lake Country that one in five jobs are based on trade.
I want to expand a little more over the next few minutes on some of the concrete benefits of this free trade agreement with Honduras. We have signed this FTA, which includes provisions for market access for goods and cross-border trade in services, investment and government procurement.
On goods market access, once the free trade agreement is in place, Honduras would immediately eliminate tariffs on almost 70% of its tariff lines in respect to goods from Canada. Most of the remaining tariffs would be phased out over periods of five to fifteen years. The range of products that would benefit from enhanced market access opportunities is wide and includes agriculture and agrifood products, forestry products, plastics, chemical products, vehicles and auto parts, and industrial machinery, just to name a few.
For Canada and Honduras, a free trade agreement would play an integral part in strengthening and growing our economic relations and lead to growing economic opportunities and prosperity in both countries.
One example is in our agriculture and agrifood sector. My colleague from , who will be following me, is no stranger to the agricultural file in Saskatchewan and will expand on the benefits for agriculture. However, one of the big aspects is restored access for beef and pork, which is estimated by industry experts to have a combined market value of approximately $5 million to $7 million annually with the majority of exports expected to be pork. We know that pork producers need all the help they can get. It is a difficult industry and in expanding I know they would welcome this new market as well.
This access would open up new opportunities for Canadian farmers, especially those producing pork and beef products, and thus contribute to the continued maintenance of Canada's agriculture sector as a strong driver of the Canadian economy and Canadian exports.
Under this free trade agreement, Canadian companies in diverse sectors would benefit, not only from the elimination of tariffs and from better and more secure access to service markets but also from the greater certainty provided by the investment rules contained within it. As we all know, certainty, stability and predictability are characteristics that our Canadian businesses are always requesting, especially that these trade agreements provide that stability and predictability.
Some Canadian companies have already demonstrated an interest in Honduras as an investment destination. Clothing and textile manufacturer Gildan Activewear of Montreal, for example, is the largest private-sector employer in Honduras with over 20,000 employees. That is amazing: 20,000 employees employed by a Montreal-based company, and that being the largest private-sector employer in Honduras. The Ottawa-based Canadian Bank Note Company, one of the world's foremost security printing companies, has met success in selling its electronic lottery system to Honduras. Aura Minerals of Toronto, a mid-tier gold and copper mining company, operates a gold mine in Honduras.
These companies, in order to ensure the sustainability and effectiveness of their investments abroad, are making real contributions to the communities in which they operate, thus fostering more diversified and sustainable economic co-operation and development in Honduras. That is CSR, as we heard before, corporate social responsibility in working together for Canadians and Hondurans.
Moreover, there is our government's commitment to ensuring that the responsible business practices of our firms operating abroad, particularly in the extractive sector, go beyond words. In the specific case of Honduras, for example, our government, through its development co-operation program, has provided assistance to that country under the democratic development initiative, to improve governance in the Honduran mining sector. An important part of this initiative includes the provision of technical assistance and thus local training in capacity building in their sector. We heard before that a rising tide lifts all boats. We are using Canadian technology and training to increase their capacity building so they can help grow their economy as well.
As a country of focus for Canada's development assistance, Honduras benefits from initiatives that promote sustainable economic growth, food security and access to social services. These initiatives are designed to create a sound, predictable and safe environment for its citizens and for businesses. Indeed, in its commitment to helping Canadians compete and succeed in the global economy, this government has adopted a comprehensive approach to free trade agreements that often includes provisions for investment, trade in services, intellectual property, government procurement, technical barriers to trade, and temporary entry. They are also accompanied by parallel agreements setting out obligations on the environment and labour, which are very important because our Conservative government firmly believes that trade liberalization goes hand in hand with workers' rights and sound environmental practices.
Now more than ever, Honduras, a small and growing market for Canada, can be a valuable trade and investment partner for Canada. Going forward, the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is a firm commitment from both sides to grow and expand this important strategic relationship. It is also emblematic of our government's confidence in and support of continued democratic, social and economic development in Honduras. As we have heard from previous speakers, this is consistent with Canada's objective of building dynamic economies and promoting responsible investment and open markets to create new opportunities in jobs in the Americas. The twin engines of growth, investment and trade, are the keys to sustainable prosperity; so investment and trade are the two pillars and foundation we need to help grow our economy.
As part of our Conservative government's ambitious pro-trade plan for jobs and growth, we have been proactive in fostering increased integration of Canadian firms and global value chains, and engaging with a greater number and wider variety of international trade and investment partners. We have been doing so to foster Canada's competitiveness in the global market and to ensure that our firms are on a level playing field in as many arenas as possible, so that they and the communities from which they stem, which we all represent, can stay competitive, innovative and prosperous.
In closing, I therefore urge all hon. members of the House to support this free trade agreement as part of our collective efforts to help Canada thrive in the world economy.
Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure to rise in the House today to talk about the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement.
As we know, our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians. The creation of jobs and economic growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers, and their families continues to be our focus. That is why we will continue to deliver pro-export leadership.
In 2012, Canada exported almost $39 million worth of merchandise to Honduras. Trade with Honduras creates jobs and economic growth for Canadians. This is a high-quality, comprehensive agreement that would increase trade and investment between our two countries. Canadian exporters have an excellent opportunity to expand as Honduras markets grow, with GDP growth reaching almost 4% in 2012. The government is steadfastly committed to promote free trade in order to support economic growth and to create jobs for Canadians. To this end, our government has embarked on one of the most ambitious pro-trade plans in Canadian history, and this agreement is an important part of that plan.
Today I would like to spend a few minutes talking about the new export opportunities this trade agreement would provide to Canadian producers, processors, and manufacturers. Once implemented, the agreement would improve market access for Canadian goods into Honduran markets by lowering trade barriers, such as tariffs, which would increase Canadian exports to Honduras. Soon Canadian businesses will enjoy the same access to Honduran markets as those in the United States and the EU, which already have trade agreements with Honduras in force.
This agreement would help level the playing field and maintain the competitiveness of Canadian companies doing business in Honduras. Today Canadian exports to Honduras face an average tariff of 10.5% for agricultural products and 4.5% for non-agricultural products. Once the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement is in place, Honduras would immediately eliminate tariffs on almost 70% of its tariff lines covering goods imported from Canada, with most of the remaining tariffs to be phased out over a period of five to 15 years. The elimination of the vast majority of Honduran tariffs would benefit numerous sectors of the Canadian economy across many regions of the country.
Let us look at the impact of the agreement in detail. One sector that would see the benefits is the agriculture and agrifood sector. In 2012, Canada exported close to $3.3 million worth of agricultural products to Honduras. Canada's agriculture and agribusiness sector is innovative and competitive and is becoming increasingly focused on international markets. Trade agreements like this one help create new opportunities for Canadian producers and processors to export their high-quality products around the world.
The elimination of Honduran tariffs on agricultural products under this agreement would help Canadian exporters gain new market access in Honduras. This would mean more jobs and economic opportunities for Canadians. Since the range of products produced throughout Canada that would benefit from this agreement is so wide, allow me to mention just a few examples.
This agreement would eliminate the Honduran tariffs of up to 15% on pork. This is outstanding news for our hard-working farmers in Ontario and Quebec. Likewise, the removal of tariffs of 15% on beef would benefit producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, while the elimination of tariffs of up to 15% on processed potato products, including french fries, would bring positive impacts to growers and processors in Manitoba, New Brunswick, and even Prince Edward Island. Saskatchewan producers also stand to gain from this agreement with the elimination of the 5% tariff on linseed oil.
Companies producing plastics and chemical products are employing Canadians throughout our country. Companies located in Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan are already exporting Canadian products to Honduras. In 2012, Canada exported $9.1 million worth of chemical products and almost $937,000 of plastics to Honduras. With tariffs of up to 15%, it is not hard to imagine how the complete elimination of Honduran tariffs in these two sectors could allow Canadian companies to enjoy enhanced market opportunities to export a diverse range of products.
Canada is a renowned worldwide manufacturer of high-quality wood and pulp and paper products. Our country is blessed with vast and abundant forest land, and our companies and workers possess the expertise to transform the natural resource into value-added products. In 2012, Canada exported $1.2 million worth of forestry products to Honduras. Again, considering that Honduras maintains a tariff as high as 15% for these products, Canada's past exports in this sector are only the tip of the iceberg of what could possibly be exported in the future. The elimination of all tariffs by Honduras in this sector would unleash important gains for Canadian forestry products.
Other products that would benefit from this agreement are vehicles and auto parts. Manufacturers in Ontario, for instance, could seize new export opportunities that would be created by this agreement.
Canada has exported products such as specialty vehicles, including tractors, buses, and construction vehicles, and automotive parts to Honduras. While some automotive parts and certain types of vehicles already enjoy duty-free access to Honduras, there are tariffs ranging from 5% to 15% that are applicable. With this agreement, they would be completely eliminated.
Canada has one of the world's most valuable commercial fishing industries. While Canada's exports of fish and seafood to Honduras have historically been low, Honduras' high tariffs of up to 15% for these products are certainly a factor that has contributed to this situation. The complete elimination of Honduran tariffs under the agreement would allow Canadian fishers and fish and seafood processors from Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, for instance, to fully capture the export opportunities the Honduran market has to offer.
This agreement is about creating future opportunities for our exporters and producers to grow and diversify their markets. Our government is creating the right conditions for this to happen. Knowing the ingenuity of our companies and how innovative and hard working Canadians are, we know that removing trade barriers, including tariffs, stimulates job creation and achieves economic prosperity for all Canadians.
Allow me to touch briefly on the various sectors that comprise our advanced manufacturing industry. I am talking here of sectors as varied as aerospace, industrial machinery, and information and communication technology. Again, Honduras applies a high 15% tariff on imports of products in these sectors, which can certainly hinder Canadian competitiveness in that market.
The agreement would completely eliminate all Honduran tariffs on these products, which would allow Canadian companies to take advantage of these new possibilities. Manufacturers in British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec can expect to enjoy these positive benefits.
There are many more examples I could cite, but the fundamental point is that comprehensive tariff elimination under the Canada-Honduras free trade agreement would create the potential for increased Canadian exports to Honduras. This would mean more jobs for Canadian families and more prosperity for our economy, and it would benefit every part of our country.
Throughout the negotiations for this agreement, government officials consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, and the message was clear: Canadian companies and exporters look forward to the implementation of this agreement and the benefits it will create.
Canadians value the real and tangible benefits that free trade brings to our country, and that is why Canadian companies support our government's initiative to forge new trade opportunities around the world. Our businesses deserve the right to compete on a level playing field with their U.S. and E.U. counterparts as they market around the world.
I had the opportunity to be in Honduras. I went to see a manufacturing company called Gildan, which manufactures clothing in Honduras. It is a Canadian company that has done very well there. As we toured the plant and facilities there, we could see that it was a first-class, very well-run facility that Canadians could be proud of. It was something we might see in downtown Montreal, downtown Toronto, or any other place in Canada, because the company was allowed to use the codes and the regulations used in Canada.
The workers from Honduras would travel for miles to apply for work there, because it provided economic benefits for them and their families. We talked to some of the employees. They really understood the importance of trade and what it meant to them personally and to their families. It allowed them to provide a good quality of life and a good income for their families. Those are some of the benefits we will see in Honduras as we do more trade with that country.
I also have beef producers in my riding who bring in workers from Honduras. They are some of the best workers they have.
As we look at the connections between Canada and Honduras and Canada and other Central American countries, they are getting closer all the time, and we are learning from each other. They are learning from us what is acceptable and what is not acceptable as far as human rights and things like that, and we are learning about their needs and requirements and how we could help them become better individuals. Not only that, but their country could become one of the more outstanding countries. Somewhere down the road, they can look back at their history and say that they were there, and look where they are today. Canada can help them get there.
Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the time to speak on this agreement, and I look forward to the questions.
Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by saying that I will be splitting my time with the next sitting at which we discuss this bill.
We are in the House to discuss a bill concerning another free trade agreement, this time with Honduras.
Regardless of the rhetoric that is flying back and forth between both sides of the House regarding trade agreements, I have many friends on the other side of the House—which is not that surprising—who are very familiar with my point of view as an economist. I support free trade agreements in general as well as the principle of trade agreements between countries. However, there must be conditions in place.
We in the official opposition examine every trade agreement and free trade agreement based on three considerations, and I should even say that we examine them under three lenses, to determine whether we can support them or not.
The first lens allows us to determine whether the trade partner that Canada is seeking under such an agreement respects fundamental principles such as human rights, democracy, environmental rights and workers' rights. If that is not the case, we must determine whether the partner in question wants to achieve those objectives. The second lens helps us determine whether the potential partner's economy has any strategic value for Canada. The third lens allows us to examine the terms and conditions of the agreement itself.
When we examined the trade agreement with Europe, for example, it was quite clear that the first two conditions are being met. First of all, Europe is a very strategic partner. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Europe recognizes democratic rights and has very high standards in terms of the environment and workers' rights. The reason we are withholding judgment is that we need to determine whether the terms of the agreement itself are satisfactory. That is why we want to see the text of the agreement.
In the case of the agreement with Honduras that we are discussing right now, it is quite clear that this trade agreement does not measure up to the lenses we use when examining agreements, particularly concerning the issue of democratic rights and human rights.
We can have a discussion to determine whether Honduras is a key strategic partner. As my colleague mentioned, Honduras is currently Canada's 104th largest trade partner. There is indeed economic potential that can be developed. However, compared to other trade partners we might pursue, this is on the whole a minor agreement.
The member for , our international trade critic, raised some interesting points in committee. On December 10, I attended the meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade. That meeting was extremely important for determining the future of agreements with countries with questionable track records on democratic rights and human rights. The government seems to be completely disregarding that aspect.
What is more, to hear the speech by the hon. Liberal member for —whom I wish to welcome to the House of Commons—I think that the Liberals also do not fully understand the extent to which we can leverage trade negotiations to make progress on the issue of human rights, environmental rights, and respecting labour rights. The hon. member mentioned, in a sentence or a paragraph, that it was very important to ensure that this is not just an agreement on paper and that we must do a follow-up to see if indeed it has contributed to advancing democratic rights. She already supports the agreement.
The committee meeting on December 10, 2013, was very enlightening, because not too long ago, we signed an agreement with another country with a very similar track record: Colombia. Annual reports were produced so we could see the progress achieved by Colombia, in particular with respect to environmental rights, but also with respect to human rights and the protection of workers' rights. On a number of occasions, we raised the issue that unionists and people who advocate for better working conditions were regularly threatened or even killed.
The reports are produced, but they cannot be studied in committee, because when we point out that we need to study reports that appear to be incomplete and often raise questions, the government refuses. We print the reports, but we never get a chance to look at the real effects that trade agreements with countries such as Colombia have had on human rights and workers' rights.
That is why I am surprised to see the Liberal Party rushing to support the free trade agreement with Honduras. It is saying that this could help advance human rights. However, there are no mechanisms there that would allow us to see how these agreements affect progress.
We think that is a reason to strongly oppose such an agreement. We have not opposed the agreement with Europe; we have reserved judgment. However, it is clear that the government did not use its power during the negotiations on an agreement like this one.
Honduras obviously wants Canada to be its trade partner, since Canada is an ideal trade partner. However, we are missing a golden opportunity if we do not use the negotiations as leverage to help the country move in the right direction. At the end of the day, the government is considering only the economic aspect, without taking into account the other aspects that directly affect the people of Honduras.
If we are talking about human rights, we need to talk about the overall situation in Honduras. The World Bank makes regular reports on the economy, among other things. These reports indicate that the Honduran economy is growing significantly. In 2010, the economy grew by 3.7% and the projection for 2013 was 3.5%. The economy is therefore experiencing significant growth. Nevertheless, there are many other problems that continue to plague primarily the local population, as well as investors.
I would like to quote what the World Bank had to say on this issue:
High levels of crime and violence are the preeminent development challenge for Honduras, as it is the country with the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2005 and 2011, the homicide rate in Honduras more than doubled from 37 to 91.6 murders per 100,000 inhabitants. Most violence is concentrated in urban areas [...] and most victims of homicides are males [...], particularly those between 15 and 34 years of age....
The security of the person is therefore a thorny issue in Honduras. While we are on the subject, we must also consider the environment in which Canadian companies considering doing business in Honduras and businesses associated with Canadian businesses in that country will operate.
The costs are enormous. According to the World Bank, the annual economic costs of violent crime are estimated to be about 10% of Honduras' GDP, which is equivalent to nearly $900 million U.S. per year. The economic argument may therefore be valid. However, we have some serious doubts about Canada's investment in and involvement with Honduras.
It is clear that human rights and the economy are related. Louise Arbour, president of the International Crisis Group, has said that not only is Honduras the world's murder capital, but its justice and law enforcement systems are so weak that most crimes are never prosecuted. Imagine what that would mean for the economic issues on which we may have differing positions.
My colleague spoke very eloquently about human rights. Unfortunately, I will not have time to give many examples. However, I would like to quote what he had to say about the relationship between economic rights, economic agreements and the possibility of moving forward with free trade.
I really liked the speech he gave before the Standing Committee on Finance, in which he quoted Nelson Mandela. In South Africa, a trade action known as an embargo played an important role in ending apartheid. My colleague referred to an interview held with Nelson Mandela when he came to Canada in the 1990s.
I would like to quote what my colleague said before the Standing Committee on Finance with regard to a question Mr. Mandela was asked about the relationship between globalization, free trade and human rights. My colleague said: “[Mr. Mandela] pointed out that human rights and labour rights are inseparable from commercial and trading rights.”
In my opinion, the Standing Committee on International Trade and Parliament felt the same way and therefore included reporting requirements in the free trade agreement with Colombia. The free trade agreement with Honduras could contain reporting requirements as well. If Parliament and the parties in power or in opposition refuse to follow through and consider the fundamental implications for human rights before signing agreements with countries such as Honduras or Colombia, we as parliamentarians are failing to do our part to promote democracy and human rights in the world.
We are calling on the government to account for the absence of this negotiation tool and are asking the same of the Liberal Party, which seems content to blindly support the government in any trade agreement it likes, regardless of the consequences. Those of us on this side of the House will shoulder our responsibilities and will push for answers from the government, since this will likely go to committee.