Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise virtually in the House of Commons today in support of Bill , an act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The United Kingdom is our largest trade market in Europe, and in 2019 it was the third-largest destination for Canadian merchandise exports worldwide. It was also a key source of innovation, science and technology partnerships. Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and the United Kingdom totalled $29 billion in 2019, making it our fifth-largest international trading partner. The U.K. is also Canada's second-largest services trade partner, behind only the United States, amounting to exports of nearly $7.1 billion last year. Finally, the U.K. is Canada's fourth-largest source of foreign direct investment, valued at $62.3 billion in 2019.
It is clear that the Trade Continuity Agreement with the U.K. is critical to Canadian jobs by preserving a key enabler of our strong economic partnership, which is CETA. Because it is based on CETA, this agreement provides familiarity, continuity, predictability and stability for Canadian businesses, exporters, workers and consumers, which is more important than ever today as we grapple with COVID-19.
Once the agreement is fully implemented, it will carry forward CETA's tariff elimination on 99% of Canadian products exported to the United Kingdom. It will fully protect Canadian producers of all supply-managed products. It will maintain priority market access for Canadian service suppliers, including access to the U.K. government's procurement market, which is estimated to be worth approximately $118 billion annually, and it will uphold and preserve CETA's high standard provisions on labour, dispute settlement and the protection of the environment.
Canada has a deep and historic relationship with the United Kingdom, one of our closest allies, from NATO, the G7 and the G20 to the ties of shared history, values and respect for the principles of democracy. When the United Kingdom held a referendum and, guided by the decision of its citizens, decided to leave the European Union, that decision not only affected the U.K.'s trade and economic relations with its largest partner, but it also meant that the United Kingdom would no longer be a part of CETA with Canada. Obviously, this had a potential effect on Canadian companies and businesses. That is why this trade continuity agreement is so important.
Canadian businesses and workers in many sectors rely on our interconnected trade relationship, from farmers and fish harvesters to financial service providers and innovators. They have told us that what they want most at this time is stability. This agreement provides exactly that. The TCA, Trade Continuity Agreement, ensures Canada and the U.K. can both sustain and build upon our important relationship by preserving the benefits of CETA on a bilateral basis while fully protecting our closely integrated supply chains and continued access for our exporters.
This continuity agreement is good for workers, it is good for business and it is good for both Canada and the United Kingdom. Without the TCA in place, Canadian businesses could have faced the uncertainty of new barriers and higher costs of doing business, particularly for our agriculture, fish and seafood industries. With this agreement, we can build a better future for both countries.
International trade is central to Canada's economic success and prosperity, and there is no doubt that trade will play a crucial role in our inclusive and sustainable recovery from COVID-19. It is important for Canada to not only develop new trading relationships, but to also maintain and strengthen our existing ties. The TCA is not just about maintaining the CETA agreement. In fact, it sets the stage for an exciting new chapter in our future trade relations with the United Kingdom.
With the TCA, we will ensure immediate certainty for Canada-U.K. trade by replicating CETA on a bilateral basis, as the U.K. has left the EU. However, Canada has always said that, for the longer term, we are interested in the negotiation of a new, modern and ambitious agreement that can best reflect the Canada-U.K. bilateral relationship going forward.
The TCA includes a commitment for subsequent negotiations to begin within a year of its entry into force. My U.K. counterpart, Secretary Truss, and I have publicly committed to these negotiations. We will see input of Canadians from coast to coast to coast through public consultations on their interests in a new bilateral discussion with the United Kingdom.
I look forward to returning to the negotiating table within one year of the TCA's ratification to work on a new, high-quality, modern, inclusive and comprehensive economic partnership that includes ambitious chapters for small businesses, the environment, labour, digital trade and women's economic empowerment. To those who have pointed out areas where improvements are needed, we hear them, and I am eager to get to work on those issues. We will return to the House when we are ready to table negotiating objectives for this new, ambitious effort.
While we work to ratify this agreement both in Canada and in the United Kingdom, we have signed a memorandum of understanding between both countries so that trade can continue to flow while this agreement makes its way through domestic approvals in both countries. As we have negotiated both through the MOU and the Canada-U.K. TCA, businesses will continue trading at the preferential tariff rates under CETA with no additional paperwork. The TCA will provide stability and remain in place until a new agreement, which we aim to reach within three years, is ready.
With the TCA, we are seeking to ensure continuity. The last thing Canada and the United Kingdom would want to do is create any uncertainty for businesses and workers, particularly as we respond to the pandemic, restart our economies and begin to build back better.
The year 2020 has been incredibly difficult for workers and businesses across the country. For so many sectors, this agreement is exactly the continuity and stability that they have asked for. It is what we need to support Canadian jobs and families, and to grow our economy through trade and export with one of our closest allies at an economically challenging time. While CETA will continue to govern Canada-EU trade, this agreement will provide similar predictability for Canadian businesses that trade with the U.K., ensuring trade between our two countries continues to flow uninterrupted.
I will conclude by saying, as I have said before, that the trade continuity agreement with the U.K. is good for Canadians, it is good for the people of the U.K., and it is good for the strong, mutually beneficial relationship our nations have built over more than 150 years.
Therefore, I urge all hon. members to support Bill so that Canada can bring the Canada-U.K. trade continuity agreement into force as soon as possible.
Mr. Speaker, it is indeed with great pleasure that I too rise virtually in the House of Commons today in support of our proposed legislation to ratify the agreement on trade continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom. Just as we welcomed the recent signing of this important agreement, the government is also very pleased to take the next step toward ratification so Canadian exporters can take full advantage of the agreement's benefits.
As we know, Canada and the United Kingdom have historically enjoyed advantageous commercial relations, which we have built together over more than 150 years. Two-way merchandise trade between us amounted to $29 billion in 2019, making the U.K. Canada's fifth largest trading partner after the United States, China, Mexico and Japan. In fact, Canadian exports to the U.K. have increased by over $2 billion since the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, as it is commonly known, was provisionally applied in 2017.
Preserving this trading relationship means businesses will continue to have unprecedented access to the U.K.'s 66 million consumers and $3.68-trillion market. It also means lower prices and more choices for Canadian consumers and either a reduction or complete elimination of customs duties. Because this agreement is based on CETA, an agreement Canadians are already very familiar with, it provides the predictability and stability our businesses have told us they need as they grapple with the uncertainty brought on by this global pandemic.
The agreement on trade continuity brings with it significant, tangible benefits for Canadians. Once the agreement is fully implemented, it will carry forward CETA's tariff elimination on 90% of Canadian products exported to the United Kingdom. It will fully protect Canadian producers of all supply-managed products. It will maintain priority market access for Canadian service suppliers, including access to the U.K. government's procurement market, which is estimated to be worth approximately $118 billion annually. It will continue to balance investor protection with Canada's prerogative to regulate in the public interest, and it will uphold and preserve CETA's high standard provisions on labour and the protection of the environment.
This agreement will also continue to give Canadian companies a leg up on competitors in countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the U.K.
Indeed, Canadians welcomed the news of this agreement and the successful work of our negotiating team. I would like to expand on how critical our successful negotiation of this agreement is for the Canadian agri-food and agriculture industry.
Quebec is the home of the most dairy farmers in the country. It is followed by Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia. We know that farmers working hard right across this country wanted and needed the stability that this agreement provides. This is also the case for our beef producers. The first thought that comes to mind for me is the incredible beef exported out of Alberta and Ontario. I had the opportunity to engage directly with our beef producers and cattle feeders prior to the conclusion of the negotiations to hear their needs and interests and make sure that they were taken into account.
I would also like to give much credit to the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, or CAFTA. As Claire Citeau of CAFTA said during her testimony before the international trade committee:
This is an important first step to ensuring that exporters preserve the existing access and benefits that are already in place. The temporary certainty and stability that a transitional agreement provides is welcome news for some of our members and the reason we call on parliamentarians to work together to pass this agreement....
I am urging all members to listen to the call of our agriculture sector to swiftly ratify this agreement. We have some incredible associations representing the interests of our Canadian farmers and producers. They are engaged. They are well informed. They are targeted, and they are in constant contact with us, as they should be. Their engagement has been critical, and I certainly look forward to continuing to work with them in the next phase of the negotiation process toward a comprehensive bilateral trade agreement.
I want to emphasize what a success this agreement is for our dairy farmers. Not one additional ounce of foreign cheese will enter the country under this free trade agreement.
As Daniel Gobeil, president of the Producteurs laitiers du Québec, so aptly said, “The government has granted no additional access to the United Kingdom, in keeping with the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture.... I therefore thank the government for keeping its commitment. This clearly shows that it is possible to enter into trade agreements without sacrificing supply management.
Canadian small and medium-sized businesses have also been very vocal. What they told us they needed most at this time, this turbulent time of crisis, is stability, stability in their trading relationships and stability in exporting their products, and this agreement fully delivers.
The agreement on trade continuity will enable many Canadian businesses that have come to depend on their U.K. clients avoid an unnecessary setback. Without this agreement, some Canadian businesses would come up against new obstacles and higher costs when doing business with the U.K.
Let me briefly paint a picture of what would have resulted if our government had not been as successful as it was, and if we had been unable to conclude a transitional trade agreement with the U.K. It is estimated over one billion dollars' worth of Canadian exports to the U.K. would have been subject to tariffs, and these tariffs would disproportionately affect our fish, seafood and agriculture exporters.
In addition to the tariffs placed on Canadian products being exported to the U.K., roughly 25% of all products imported from the U.K. would also be affected, with Canadian importers paying higher prices to bring in those goods, goods that our Canadian companies often need in order to operate, produce and grow.
Once ratified, the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement will continue to be in place as we work toward a new bilateral comprehensive free trade agreement with the U.K. Indeed, this continuity agreement stipulates explicitly that within one year of ratification by both countries, the U.K. and Canada must come back to the negotiating table in order to conclude a comprehensive, longer-term trade agreement.
I know the and I look forward to leading a broad consultation process with Canadians from right across the country and in different sectors of our economy to ensure these future negotiations are directed in the best interests of Canada and respond to any post-Brexit developments.
With the time I have remaining, I would like to turn to some of the broader implications of our work as a government on international trade. Our Canadian government has been a leader among nations globally in advocating for free trade and stemming the tide of protectionist leanings. Indeed, we believe the contrary. Strong global trade partnerships, like our new agreement with the United Kingdom, are increasingly necessary and important, especially in these uncertain times, especially as other countries are looking to turn inward.
I am therefore asking all members from all parties to support Bill 's timely ratification and passage, and in so doing carefully consider not only the importance of this particular agreement for our Canadian farmers and producers, Canadian SMEs and all our exporters big and small, but also the message it sends to the world about the importance of keeping trade open and keeping Canada at the forefront of the advocacy on free trade. History will thank us for it.
Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
I rise today to speak on Bill , which seeks to implement the Canada and United Kingdom trade continuity agreement.
The United Kingdom is Canada’s third-largest export market, our fifth-largest trading partner and our oldest ally, with which we have $29 billion worth of bilateral trade annually.
Businesses want stability right now. I look forward to hearing debate on the bill and to seeing it come to committee so there are no delays for businesses.
How did we get here today, debating this bill after the deadline, when its ratification should have coincided with the United Kingdom no longer being part of the CETA and the European Union?
Unfortunately, the failure of the and his minister to take trade negotiations with the United Kingdom seriously now means that instead of securing a modern trade deal that is even better for Canadian businesses and workers, we are left with an agreement that has few amendments from the previous one with respect to addressing emerging trade issues, has no end date and has no clear dispute resolution process.
The United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union on June 23, 2016, four and half years ago. The government should have reasonably expected that a new trade agreement would need to be negotiated.
Through international trade committee testimony, we learned that negotiations had begun at some point during that time. However, we also learned that in March of 2019, the signed off on a decision to leave those negotiations.
I remember being in the House on Friday, March 13, 2020, when Parliament recessed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As one would expect, the focus of this House and of all parliamentarians had to change on a dime. Now the entire focus was on health, the economic crisis and emergency legislation.
As the months progressed, there was still other work to do, and important deadlines were looming. After all, the clock was ticking toward the moment when the U.K. would no longer be part of the CETA, and a Canada-U.K. deal needed to be struck.
In May 2020, when we all met as part of the COVID-19 committee, members of the Conservative official opposition started to question the on the status of the trade agreement. Let us remember that this was not Parliament but a committee with no power that was asking questions.
In the May 21 sitting of the COVID committee, my hon. colleague, the member for , questioned the on what steps had been taken to engage with the U.K. on a free trade agreement. The minister replied, “...we will continue to work with the U.K. to secure our strong and stable trading relationship”. This relationship was so strong and so stable that with only seven months left to secure an agreement, Canada had still not returned to the negotiating table and was not working with the U.K.
At the COVID committee held on May 27, my colleague, the member for , asked the minister if the government would “commit to having a new trade agreement with the U.K. in place by January 1” of 2021. The minister's response was that they were “monitoring the situation very carefully.” She went on to say, ”They are in discussions right now”, when in fact we were not back at the negotiating table yet.
At the COVID committee meeting held on June 2, my hon. colleague from Regina—Wascana questioned the by asking, “The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Japan have all started free trade negotiations with the United Kingdom. Why hasn’t Canada?” The minister responded that “...we will always act in the interests of Canadian businesses” and that “we will make sure that our further work will always take into account the interests of Canadian businesses.”
With just mere months remaining before the U.K. would no longer be part of CETA, affecting $29 billion in bilateral trade, we were still not at the table. Where was the sense of urgency to act in the best interests of Canadian businesses?
The official opposition had been calling for the resumption of all parliamentary committees starting in May 2020. However, this did not occur. The international trade committee could have been doing important work, such as studies and consultations, just as other committees were doing all spring and summer, safely, productively and virtually. However, from March until September, the international trade committee only met once.
The government finally returned to the negotiating table in August 2020, leaving only five months to negotiate a deal, write the text of the legislation, bring it to Parliament for its processes and debate, send it to committee for study and witnesses' opinions, and then go through the Senate processes.
We finally returned to Parliament in late September, after the prorogation of Parliament. This political manoeuvre set all timelines back.
My first question in the House of Commons after prorogation was for the on her government’s promise to notify the House within 90 days of negotiations starting on trade agreements, a notification her government promised to provide to win the support of the NDP during the ratification of CUSMA, the new NAFTA. Her response left us with more questions than answers.
The then made patronizing comments about the United Kingdom's government by saying the United Kingdom lacked “the bandwidth” to negotiate a trade agreement and put blame for delays on the United Kingdom. This claim was strongly rejected by the United Kingdom government and its Secretary of State for International Trade. Further to this, one U.K. trade minister stated that the Prime Minister's claims should be taken with a pinch of salt.
These comments made by the about the United Kingdom, one of our oldest and most steadfast allies, certainly could not have been helpful during live negotiations on a trade deal of such importance to our country. After all, the United Kingdom had been able to negotiate secure and signed agreements with dozens of countries already. How is this taking into account the interests of Canadian businesses?
Stakeholders from across many business and labour sectors testified at the international trade committee that the government did not consult with them prior to withdrawing from negotiations to see how this decision might affect them, nor was there a formal or robust outreach process during negotiations. What a lost opportunity.
Conservative Party representatives expressed concerns about the lack of formal consultations as a whole for this trade agreement. I have heard from industries that were looking forward to an updated CETA, including major economic drivers in our country like the cattle industry, which wanted a U.K.-1 trade deal, not a CETA 2.0.
While officials have stated that the agreement ensures that Canada and the United Kingdom will get back to the negotiating table within a year, there are no penalties in the agreement if one side decides not to. The lack of an effective sunset clause makes this transitional agreement no different, really, from a comprehensive or permanent one. Wide-ranging consultations on the original CETA occurred about seven years ago. Situations and challenges evolve with time, especially in this fast-paced world that we now live in with emerging economies.
The government's failure to address concerns raised by stakeholder groups, especially by the agriculture and agri-food industry, such as non-tariff barriers, will unfortunately continue. Those are very concerning, and there is no clear dispute resolution process in the agreement. Supply-managed sectors were happy to hear that there were no concessions made for their industries, and industries overall just want stability, although they would have preferred that trade issues had been addressed.
Canadians expect the government to secure good trade agreements for our exporters, agreements that spur job growth for workers and grow our economy. Many businesses and families are searching for stability, and we need to do whatever we can to ensure that all sectors in our communities can survive and thrive going forward.
A trade deal was first announced with a splashy announcement on November 23. I had a call with the minister shortly afterward, in which I highlighted the importance of the Canada-U.K. trade agreement and the importance of ensuring that Canadians were not left worse off than they were under CETA. We wanted something even better. Canadian businesses needed clarity on the requirements resulting from the new agreement.
One thing that has been clear through this process is the mismanagement and undisciplined management of this file. Only when pressed up against time, at the 11th hour, do we come to a place where resolutions happen. British trade officials were more forthcoming on this 11th hour aspect. They expressed concerns and actually said that if we failed to ratify by the end of the year, this failure might create damage and disruption for businesses. However, we are pleased that a memorandum of understanding came on December 23 and arrived in time to prevent tariffs.
Over the past year, we have been relentless as Conservatives in our pursuit to shed light on what has been transpiring on this file. Really, this was left to the final week of the final month of the final year, and it will be critically important for the to work closely with her U.K. counterpart to begin formal negotiations on a truly new and comprehensive free trade agreement. We need agreements that involve and protect Canadian businesses and address non-tariff barriers and other emerging issues, have a clear and functioning dispute resolution system based on accountability, and are even better for our exporters in Canada.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to engage in another trade debate. As members know, trade is very close to my heart.
The United Kingdom and Canada have a long and common shared history. We have common values, we are trusted allies and we also have a long history of doing business with each other. In fact, today, the U.K. is Canada's fifth-largest trade partner and that drives prosperity and economic growth in our country and in the U.K. However, to be fair, our exports to the U.K. are primarily minerals, chiefly gold, while imports from the U.K. are comprised mainly of high-end manufactured goods.
The challenge for Canada is to increase the value of the goods we ship abroad, especially to the U.K. Our trade surplus with the U.K. is somewhere around $10 billion, but I would not crow too much about that. There is this imbalance between high-end manufactured goods and minerals, such as gold, that we ship to the U.K.
It would also be a mistake not to mention our services trade, which is very significant. A lot of Canadians do not understand that when we are talking about services trade, we are talking about things like engineering, some of the highest-paid jobs in Canada. When we do business with another country, when we sell engineering services to a place like the U.K., this is about Canada exporting high-value services and driving the growth of the economy in Canada.
Suffice it to say that trade is a key driver of economic growth and long-term prosperity in Canada, and the U.K., as one of our largest trade partners, is a country we have to engage with when it comes formalizing our trade relationship.
What is the challenge as we move forward?
We have always traded with each other, but for decades the U.K. negotiated trade agreements only as a part of the European Union, and much of its former negotiating expertise and power was ceded and vested in the EU's government in Brussels.
In 2009, former prime minister Stephen Harper had the foresight and vision to begin negotiations on a free trade agreement between Canada and the EU. This would take trade between Canada and the EU to a whole new level. I had the honour of leading that effort on behalf of Canada for some four and a half years.
On September 26, 2014, I joined European Commission President Barroso, European Council President Van Rompuy and Prime Minister Harper in Brussels to announce the end of those CETA negotiations, the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union.
One point of note is that our Liberal friends like to claim credit for all the trade successes of the previous Harper government. In the military, they call it stolen valour, something about which the Liberals know a little. They love to take credit for things that rightly were accomplished by others.
Let me be very clear that the CETA agreement with the then 27 countries of the EU was the brainchild of Stephen Harper. It was under his government that negotiations were commenced and substantively completed. Over the last few years, that CETA agreement has governed our relationship not only with the EU but with the U.K. As my colleague just mentioned, our trade with the U.K. is up by about $2 billion a year, again, driving economic growth in Canada.
The CETA agreement that Stephen Harper negotiated was arguably the most comprehensive, progressive and forward-looking 21st century trade agreement in the world. It liberalizes trade through broad tariff elimination. It promotes and protects investments. It opens up government procurement and includes rigorous intellectual property protections, dispute resolution and disciplines on sanitary and phytosanitary standards. It protects culture and our cultural industries. It contains some of the strongest commitments ever included in a free trade agreement to promote labour rights, environmental protections and sustainable development. We had expected that agreement to govern our commercial relationship with the European Union for decades to come, including our relationship with the U.K. Then Brexit happened.
Without trying to divine the exact reasons for the U.K. deciding to leave the EU, the British people freely voted to leave the EU and regain their sovereignty over policy-making, and that included trade policy. In the short term, that meant the U.K. was left with no trade agreements with any of its closest trade partners, including Canada, and the British government had to scramble to find the people necessary to competently negotiate trade agreements. Its top priority was securing a new trade agreement with the European Union to assure its most favoured relationship with Europe. Then there was Canada, with which the U.K. no longer had a trade deal since the U.K. was no longer part of the CETA agreement.
Therefore, what was the fix going forward? The solution was to replace CETA with a bilateral trade agreement, Canada and the U.K., which would preserve its trade with Canada without either side incurring economic harm.
That brings us to the debate we are having today, the Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement. As its name implies, it is more about preserving and carrying over our CETA benefits and obligations than carving out new territory on trade liberalization. It was unfortunate that the Liberal government and its trade ministers inexplicably chose to delay these negotiations and refused to engage with the U.K. for over a year. That, in turn, meant there was a last-minute rush by the government to rush through the legislation before the new year. When that did not pan out, the , sadly, turned to blame shifting, as my colleague from mentioned. The Prime Minister claimed that the delays in finalizing this deal were because the U.K. did not have the bandwidth to negotiate.
The agreement was finally concluded, with really no substantive changes to the rights that each of our countries have under CETA.
What does this mean?
Someone recently referred to this new agreement with the U.K. as a “nothing burger”, suggesting that because there was nothing new in this agreement, there was little of value to praise. Although it is true that not much new policy ground was plowed, this trade agreement means absolutely everything when it comes to protecting our preferred bilateral relationship with the U.K.
The alternative would have been to leave us with no trade agreement at all, only with a much less advantageous benefits of the floundering World Trade Organization. Essentially, we would be returning to the wild, wild west of trade, and that is certainly not what either party wanted.
With this Canada-UK Trade Continuity Agreement presently before us, we are left with a status quo agreement that preserves our current trade and investment relationship under a clear set of liberalizing rules, and that is good news for the residents of Canada.
What does the future look like beyond this continuity agreement we are debating here today? Both parties have committed to pursuing an even more ambitious trade and investment agreement in the future. That negotiation would reflect the unique characteristics of the Canada-U.K. relationship, including our similar economies and social structures, our common approaches to foreign policy, security and defence and our common shared approach to freer and fairer trade around the world.
We have three options to further our relationship with the U.K. The first is to take this agreement further by negotiating a more ambitious bilateral trade agreement with the U.K., using these unique characteristics to further eliminate trade barriers and expand investment opportunities. This might perhaps include greater regulatory alignment and broader mutual recognition of credentials.
However, what a lot of people do not realize is that Canada is part of the CPTPP and the U.K. has applied, or is in the processing of applying, to join the CPTPP. The U.K. has signalled its intention to join CPTPP because it knows that in the CPTPP it would make common cause with Canada and the other TPP partners in the Asia-Pacific region as a counterweight to China's belligerence and hostility in the region.
The COVID pandemic and China's increasing belligerence on the world stage make it highly advisable for like-minded nations to make common cause to counteract China's efforts to control and manipulate our system of global rules-based trade, and CPTPP is the perfect vehicle for doing so.
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today as the Bloc Québécois critic for international trade and speak about the Canada-U.K. trade continuity agreement, or CUKTCA.
CUKTCA seeks to ensure that the flow of trade between Canada and the United Kingdom remains unimpeded. Let us remember that Canada and the European Union are bound by a free trade agreement, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, and that the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union put an end to the provisions that connected London and Ottawa.
I will divide my speech into three parts. First, I will address the serious problem with the transparency of the negotiation process. Next, I will talk about the agreement itself and, finally, I will close by talking about the real meaning of Brexit from a historical perspective and about the precedent it sets with respect to Quebec.
First, let us talk about transparency. Members of the Standing Committee on International Trade discussed the transitional trade agreement with the parties directly involved without any documents whatsoever. It was truly a theatre of the absurd. We were asked to study the agreement without access to its content. We received witnesses who offered comments and recommendations on the agreement, but we had no real information on the content of the agreement. We were only told that the deadline was fast approaching and that we had to adopt the agreement by December 31.
We might also say that we were asked to give the government carte blanche, even though it sacrificed supply management on three occasions and in the latest free trade negotiations it abandoned Quebec's key sectors, like aluminum and softwood lumber. That is why we are reluctant to blindly trust the government.
In fact, the committee had to submit its report on the transitional agreement on the very day we received the text of the agreement and before we even had a chance to read it. The Bloc Québécois was very clear on the fact that we would not just stamp an agreement without reading it or having the time to study and analyze it, in other words, without being able to do our job as parliamentarians.
The members of the House of Commons are responsible for defending the interests and values of their constituents, but they are being forced to approve agreements at the end of a process in which they have no real say, despite the efforts of the Bloc Québécois, which tabled a number of bills regarding this matter between 2000 and 2004.
Under the 2020 agreement between the Liberal Party and the NDP, the undertook to provide more information to MPs, and that is a step in the right direction. However, as the recent agreement showed, it is clearly inadequate.
We need mechanisms to involve parliamentarians and the provinces in the next round of talks. It is vital for the government to keep parliamentarians informed every step of the way. Requiring this would reduce the risk of parliamentarians having to voice their opinions on agreements without having all the necessary information to make an informed decision. This would make the negotiation process more transparent.
The Bloc Québécois is calling for Parliament to adopt procedures that would increase democratic control over agreements. The minister responsible for ratifying an agreement should be required to table it in Parliament together with an explanatory memorandum within a reasonable period of time. Parliament's approval should be required before any agreement can be ratified.
Quebec was allowed to send a representative to the negotiations with Europe in the lead-up to the ratification of CETA between Canada and the European Union in 2017. However, it was the European Union, not Canada, that wanted Quebec there. Quebec has not had this opportunity again, but it should.
We believe that Quebec and the provinces must be invited to the bargaining table, since they have official standing to block an agreement that would interfere with their jurisdictions. Quebec's jurisdictions extend beyond its borders, as the Privy Council in London acknowledged decades ago in a decision that led Quebec to adopt the Gérin-Lajoie doctrine.
Of course, it is not a perfect system.
During the CETA negotiations, Quebec's representative said that Quebec's delegation was there to be a cheerleader for the Canadian delegation and its actions essentially amounted to backroom diplomacy. In other words, Quebec's role mattered, but not at the table where decisions were being made.
The only way Quebec will be able to advocate for itself on the world stage is by gaining independence. The Canadian negotiator will always be predisposed to protect Canada's economic sectors at the expense of Quebec's.
Now I want to talk about the agreement. I remind members that international trade has played a huge part in modernizing Quebec's economy. We made a strategic choice that gave SMEs access to new markets, most importantly the U.S. market, of course, which allowed us to break our total dependence on Canada's trade and economic framework.
The Bloc Québécois fully subscribes to the idea that free trade is necessary, but we do not mistake politics for religion. If a free trade agreement threatens Quebec in any way, we will not hold back from pointing out its biggest flaws and speaking out against them. We believe that the environment, public health, agriculture, culture, first nations, workers and social services must never be treated like commercial goods. We also believe that nothing justifies giving up our sovereignty for the benefit of multinationals.
What does this mean for the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement, or CUKTCA? I will start with some background. There are already a number of trade agreements and treaties between Canada and the U.K., both with and without the European Union. The United Kingdom is Canada's biggest European trading partner, but let us put things in perspective. Investment and imports and exports of goods and services between Canada and the U.K. actually represent a relatively small percentage of each country's economy. Still, the United Kingdom is an important partner.
Ontario is the most affected province because it exports unwrought gold. That sector accounts for more than 80% of Ontario's exports to the United Kingdom. The U.K. imports a lot of cars and pharmaceuticals from Ontario, but their significance in the U.K. economy is fairly limited.
The United Kingdom is Quebec's second-largest trading partner. However, imports and exports of goods with the United Kingdom have been declining for the past 20 years. The U.K. now accounts for only 1% of Quebec's total exports and 3.5% of Quebec's total imports. In other words, Quebec has a trade deficit with the United Kingdom.
One sector that is really important is the aerospace industry, which provides the most stable trade between Quebec and the United Kingdom. Our aerospace sector is both a customer of and supplier to the United Kingdom, so maintaining that trade relationship is crucial for this strategic industry, which is struggling. Many research partnerships have been established, and the industry welcomes the idea of an agreement. Of course, the aerospace sector needs a proper aerospace policy, and we continue to fight for that in the House. This agreement is good for our aerospace sector, which in itself is a good enough reason for us to support it at this time.
Our personal financial services sector and our engineering firms may also benefit, since investments in infrastructure could explode in a post-Brexit United Kingdom.
Other reasons we welcome this agreement include the fact that the investor-state dispute settlement mechanism will not apply immediately. This mechanism allows a foreign multinational to take a country where it has invested to an arbitration tribunal if a policy or law made by that country impinges on its ability to make a profit. Any law intended to protect the environment or to enhance social justice or worker protections could be targeted. This upends democracy by giving multinationals sovereign powers. We are against that.
Under the CUKTCA, this mechanism would not come into force until at least three years after the agreement has been adopted, on condition that the mechanism is in effect under CETA, which is to say it will not happen. Since Canada and the United Kingdom are supposed to start negotiations this year to conclude a permanent agreement, we can say that it will likely not come into force.
Nevertheless, that should not be one of the items that Canada will defend when negotiating the permanent agreement. The Bloc opposes it and will stand firm against it. I moved a motion to study this mechanism at the Standing Committee on International Trade, and it was adopted. We should be studying it relatively soon. I truly hope that we will never again include this mechanism, which was removed from the the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement last year. In this case, Canada and the United Kingdom are western democracies with well-developed legal systems. There is therefore no reason why differences between a foreign investor and a host country cannot be decided within the existing legal system.
There is also the thorny issue of supply management. We support the pure and simple, iron-clad protection of supply management, and therefore the preliminary exclusion of agriculture from the negotiating table, except for the sectors that would find it advantageous and would specifically ask to be included. CETA, the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, was detrimental to our agricultural model, and it caused real losses to our farmers. We would not have agreed to give up additional market share in the CUKTCA, the Canada-U.K. trade continuity agreement.
Fortunately CUKTCA does not include such provisions. The United Kingdom was not granted additional market access for cheese or other supply-managed products. However, some testimony during meetings of the Standing Committee on International Trade suggested that British cheese producers were pushing for more exports to Canada. In all likelihood, this problem will be put off until next year, new breaches in our agricultural model will be on the table in final negotiations, and London will put those demands at the top of the list. This is timely, because the Bloc introduced a bill to prohibit any future breaches in supply management. The House needs to walk the talk, so I hope it will pass the bill.
I now want to talk about local products. From the beginning of the pandemic, for several months now, people have been singing the praises of buying local, which is great. We need to practise some degree of economic nationalism, which comes more naturally for Quebec than it does for Canada.
Under CETA, Quebec lost a large share of the Canadian content requirement in the procurement of public transit vehicles. In the past, an agreement between the Government of Quebec and the Société de transport de Montréal required that 60% of the content in the city's subways and buses be Canadian. CETA now stipulates a local content requirement of no more than 25% in Quebec and Ontario, simply because of a grandfather clause. What is more, Quebec can also require that the final assembly take place in Canada. The other provinces are not included in that provision because they do not have any provincial legislation to that effect. The local content requirement of 25% under the grandfather clause is a step backward, but it could have been much worse had Quebec not been at the CETA discussion table.
The same provision is included in CUKTCA simply because it was copied and pasted from CETA. It is pretty clear that this will not be one of Canada's priorities in future rounds of negotiations for the permanent agreement, which once again shows the fundamental importance of inviting Quebec to the negotiating table.
The agreement aside, Quebec and its plan for independence can learn some lessons from the process itself. Of course, the United Kingdom and Quebec are in very different situations. Every U.K. citizen is free to praise or condemn Brexit. They are free to vote as they wish. The fact remains that Brexit is a historical first. We are talking about a state that left a customs union to which it belonged and is therefore no longer part of certain trade agreements. In that regard, the U.K.'s situation is similar to that of Quebec. Opponents to the plan, who have always played on economic fears, say that Quebec would not have enough public funds and that it is better off giving its money to Ottawa or spending it on the monarchy.
As for trade, we were told that Quebec would not automatically be a member of agreements signed by Canada, which would mean a blank slate and starting from scratch with trading partners. However, those trading partners would have no desire to cut ties with Quebec.
What guarantees are there with respect to treaties? Some time ago, a constitutional expert named Daniel Turp, a former member of the House of Commons and the National Assembly of Quebec, explained that countries would presume continuity if the new country expressed its desire to maintain the relationship in a given treaty. Mr. Turp's thesis focused on multilateral agreements, however. The jury was still out on trade agreements.
The only precedent for trade agreements dates back to 1973, when Bangladesh seceded from Pakistan and became independent. Pakistan was bound by the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, better known as GATT, and Bangladesh automatically became a member from one day to the next. However, GATT was a multilateral treaty that did not need to be renegotiated to admit a new member. What would happen with a bilateral treaty? That is the question the British are answering now.
To sum up, Canada has already signed an agreement with the European Union, namely CETA. To ensure that the U.K.'s departure from the EU does not leave a void in relations between London and Ottawa, an interim agreement is being reached very quickly between the two countries, one that incorporates the content of CETA and will remain in force in the short term until both partners renegotiate a permanent agreement, thereby ensuring stability until then.
Brexit is showing Quebec the way forward when a trading nation achieves or reclaims its sovereignty. A newly independent Quebec would of course emulate this approach and quickly reach interim agreements to ensure that our businesses have access to markets while waiting for permanent agreements to be renegotiated with our partners.
Far from being caught off guard, the United Kingdom has already signed trade deals with 60 of the 70 countries the EU had deals with. One could say, then, that the U.K. was definitely not caught with its pants down, if you pardon me the expression. It even has an agreement with Japan now, where the EU had no such agreement.
Because they are provisional, transitional arrangements do not preclude newly independent countries from going back to the negotiating table, preferably sooner rather than later. Is there a fundamental problem in renegotiating what someone else has already negotiated for us? That is what the United Kingdom is going to do with Canada this year. If we did that too, we could support sectors that are important to Quebec, such as agriculture, aluminum and lumber. Indeed, there are many more advantages than disadvantages to defending only one's own interests at the negotiating table.
The Brits and Canadians are therefore quite unwittingly overlooking an argument that is often repeated to argue against Quebec independence. When it comes to trade sovereignty, if Brexit has given us a sneak preview of “Québexit”, why not go for it?
Mr. Speaker, I rise today in the virtual Parliament to speak to the agreement that was signed between Canada and the United Kingdom, what they are calling a “trade continuity agreement”, and the legislation that would implement that here in Canada.
It has been a bit of a rocky road to get here, and there are a number of problems with the way this has unfolded and that do bear description here in the House. However, I want to start by talking a bit about the nature of trade.
This is another agreement in the vein of corporate globalized trade that we in the NDP recognize has not been good for workers. Canada has signed a number of these free trade agreements, whether the original NAFTA or CETA or the TPP, and various reforms at the WTO. All of these have coincided with a period when a lot of well-paying jobs that fed families and provided the kinds of benefits that Canadians expect as part of a good quality of living, whether that is a decent pension, health benefits or other things that come with a good job, left the country. It is not a coincidence that this happened as these agreements were signed which made it easier for big corporations and some of the biggest economic players to move their capital and operations around to find places with the lowest standards for how they treat their workers and the planet. All of that was done in a context where the taxes these folks pay were continually being reduced as well. Therefore, what was saw was a period when working Canadians lost a lot of their good employment that provided them with a good livelihood, while the people at the top were able to move their assets around and keep more and more of the economic pie for themselves.
It has not worked out well for everyday Canadian workers, and it is why we do not like the model. That does not mean we do not like trade.
The NDP is very well aware of all of the opportunities that exist for Canadian businesses, including some of our small businesses, when trade is done right, for them to be able to expand their reach. We just want to see agreements that allow those opportunities to translate not into gross profits for a few Canadians at the top, but into more good-quality jobs for Canadian workers who will produce the things that get traded with other countries. However, if it just means that all of the value-added work goes somewhere else, that is not in the ultimate interests of Canadians, and there is a fair bit of evidence to suggest that that has been the trend over the last 30 years or so.
Why am I talking about that? Trade between Canada and the United King is as old as Canada, and at least with Europeans. We have had a long-standing trade relationship; it is an important one. A lot of the similarities and affinities between Canada and the United Kingdom provide for creating a real gold-standard trade agreement. If we listen even to the conservatives in the United Kingdom, they talk more about climate change and have put more emphasis on putting climate change at the forefront of their new trade agenda than even the Liberals here have done. There is a real opportunity to work with them and others in the United Kingdom to create a gold-standard deal that takes seriously the impacts of globalized trade for climate change and seeks to control and reduce those impacts.
We have an opportunity to create a gold-standard deal that takes seriously the rights of workers and human rights and seeks to actually incorporate those into the deal, not in a side letter that is not enforceable but actually into the core of the deal, to ensure that workers will be fairly treated and that if there is additional wealth created by an increase of trade between our two countries, it will find its way to workers and not just to the people at the top.
I would also hope that our good relationship with the United Kingdom will allow for an agreement that recognizes and takes seriously the rights and role of indigenous people in Canada, so that we do not run roughshod over those in the way that an agreement is concluded.
However, we do not have that here with this agreement. What we have, after knowing this was coming for a long, long time, is effectively a carbon copy of CETA, which was agreement in the corporate model that I just described and that we do not agree with. We did not agree with it at the time because we knew that an agreement like CETA and its intellectual property provisions was going to put upward costs on the price of pharmaceutical drugs in Canada when we already pay among the highest price for prescription drugs in the western world.
Why would we conclude an agreement that makes those drugs more expensive? Why then would we carbon copy that agreement when we have an opportunity to do something different with our largest trading partner in the European Union, representing about 40% of our trade with Europe? That does not make sense to New Democrats, who have been elected to Parliament on a mission to reduce the price of prescription drugs for Canadians.
It does not make sense when we think about the integrity of our democratic institutions. These same corporate trade deals have also put serious limits and inhibitions on democratically elected governments to regulate in the public interest. That was also a part of the reasons for our initial opposition to CETA, the investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms. Now, I recognize that those would not coming into force immediately upon the passage of this legislation, but I find it shocking, frankly, that they are even in there at all, because we have not heard the British government talk about the need for investor-state dispute settlement clauses.
Those are the clauses that have allowed foreign corporations to sue the Canadian government for hundreds of millions of dollars over the last 30 years. Those are the same clauses the herself said in the House last June were one of the biggest achievements she was most proud of from the CUSMA negotiations. In her words, "the investor-state dispute resolution system, which in the past allowed foreign companies to sue Canada, will be gone.”
Here they are again, not because our trading partner was asking for them. How did they even get into the agreement? If Britain does not want them and Canada does not want them, why are they there and why is possible for them come into effect, which is the default incidentally, after three years if another decision is not taken in the meantime?
We object to these being present at all, and I am interested to know who at the table was concerned to put them in there, given that our government was trying to take credit for having signed an agreement with the United States and Mexico that finally got rid of them, which we thought was a good thing.
The other thing CETA did that we oppose was further attack the supply-managed sectors in Canada. We heard comments earlier that I agree with completely. The way we procure our food and supply our food is not as if it were commodity like any other, and so we want to make sure that our agricultural producers are compensated fairly for what they produce and that we can support those local producers and that our food supply chain is secure.
All of these agreements tend toward a more globalized food supply chain. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that when it comes to the things that really matter and that we cannot do without, we should not be depending on international supply chains. Supply management in Canada is a great tool to ensure that our local producers are paid fairly for the work they do, can stay in business and that Canadian consumers can get the products they need to eat at a fair price reliably.
Those were things we did not like about CETA. We had lots of time, and, frankly, when it came to signing CETA in the first place, it was a mystery to us in the NDP that the government rushed ahead with it. The Conservatives had negotiated this deal, the Liberals came to power, and in the meantime Britain decided to hold a referendum on whether to remain in the European Union. New Democrats thought it might be significant to the nature of trade between Europe and Canada whether the United Kingdom was a part of Europe or not, considering that it represented about 40% of our trade with Europe.
It still strikes me as totally ridiculous that the government decided to go ahead and pen a deal with Europe when we did not know if the United Kingdom was leaving the European Union, which we subsequently found out it was, and that 40% of trade with Europe was not going to be captured by that deal. It does raise problems. We will see what happens as we try to negotiate a successor agreement and what that will mean for the supply-managed sector. New Democrats are very concerned that there are further concessions in the offing. We will believe it when we see that that it is not really on the table for the Liberals, because we have seen them break that promise before.
The other thing that bears mentioning when it comes to CETA is the following quote from a report called “Taking Stock of CETA: Early Impacts of the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement”. It states:
Between September 2017 and May 2019, total Canadian exports to the EU, measured monthly, were essentially flat. Meanwhile, over the same period, total imports from the EU increased by over a third (33.8 per cent). This imbalance has resulted in a doubling of the monthly Canadian trade deficit with the EU, from –1.51 billion dollars in September 2017 to –3.43 billion dollars in May 2019.
In recent decades, the United Kingdom is the only major European country with which Canada has consistently run a trade surplus. But since September 2017, the Canadian merchandise trade surplus with the U.K. has shrunk significantly (falling by two-thirds), with exports declining by 32 per cent while imports rose 14 per cent.
That is an assessment of the deal on whether it is working for Canada. The government did not bother to negotiate a different agreement. It is asking for a carbon copy of an agreement that has seen Canada's trade deficit with Europe increase. Even the empirical evidence on the deal so far suggests that this has not been a wondrous deal for Canada.
I have a lot of sympathy for Canadian businesses that want certainty in an uncertain time. I think the government really let them down in terms of the process, but it did not just let them down in November and December when it failed to get this legislation before the House and passed before December 31. The government let them down a long time ago, when it walked away from the negotiating table and was not even trying to negotiate the kind of gold-standard deal that I spoke about earlier, or any kind of different deal at all.
Here we find ourselves, past the deadline. These businesses have already gone through that jarring uncertainty and what it means for their business models, so I understand their disappointment. I think the government ought to have behaved in a way to try to provide a lot more certainty about what was coming, but I think it is a disappointment that, in addition, all we are getting is the same as we had in CETA with all of the problems that were there, and with all the evidence that shows that this has not been a deal that is working out very well for Canada.
I would say perhaps one of the only redeeming aspects of this entire farce of a process around negotiating our post-Brexit trade relationship with the United Kingdom is that it afforded an opportunity for certain committees of the House to reaffirm our commitment to the Good Friday Agreement, which Canada played an important role in brokering. New Democrats, my colleague from Saint John—Rothesay at the foreign affairs committee and I, presented a motion at the international trade committee and the foreign affairs committee that passed, I am glad to say unanimously, affirming Canada's support for [Technical difficulty—Editor] wants to be part of a trade relationship with the United Kingdom that in no way jeopardizes the Good Friday Agreement and, in fact, seeks to reinforce that peace, which was hard won in the nineties.
That is maybe one of the only silver linings to what otherwise was a terrible process. There was no real meaningful consultation with businesses, with unions or with Canadian civil society on what this trade relationship ought to look like. I stress this again, because the government likes to talk as if the deadline snuck up on us or as if we did not know it was coming. We have known for years that Britain was leaving the EU, and it was incumbent upon the government of the day to do the work so that whenever that deadline came there was actually something in place, yet there was no meaningful public consultation process on this.
The trade committee, on its own initiative, held some hearings in Parliament but, of course, like many things due to the pandemic, these were severely interrupted. It does not explain why there was not some effort by the government, in the years leading up to that, to try to engage people meaningfully on the question of the Canada-U.K. trade agreement or to try to involve Parliament, for that matter.
I would like to add that while we are talking about the abomination of process that is this deal, it bears mentioning that the government will talk about this as a transitional deal. I think that is misleading.
I get that our partner in the United Kingdom and the Canadian government perhaps committed in good faith, and it is in the agreement for all to read that they are going to start negotiating toward a successor deal within a year. I think there is some expectation that within three years the deal will be concluded. A couple of things will get more difficult after that three-year time horizon if a successor deal has not been concluded.
The fact remains that a transitional deal implies a temporary deal. The fact that it is a transitional deal, and the fact that it is essentially a carbon copy of CETA, are the reasons the government is saying that we should not be too concerned that there has not been a great process around it all: “Do not worry, we are going to negotiate another deal and it is really just like what we had.”
However, there were problems with what we had. The NDP is not satisfied with CETA. The NDP does not agree that CETA is the be-all and end-all of a trade agreement anyway, and I can tell members that a lot of Canadian workers across the country feel the same way. That fact notwithstanding, when we talk about a transitional deal it implies a temporary deal, and there is nothing temporary about this deal.
This deal has already been signed. The government has done the deed and the legislation, I gather from the debate today, is going to pass. New Democrats will be voting against it, but it is going to pass, and in a timely way. We all know, after what we just went through with Donald Trump, the pandemic and everything else, that three years is a long time in politics. A lot can change, and good intentions sometimes do not bear the fruit that people thought they would.
If, in three year's time, Canada and the U.K. do not conclude a successor agreement, this is what we are stuck with, and we will have been stuck with it after no meaningful engagement with the Canadian public or the Canadian Parliament except for this debate and whatever process will ensue at committee, which is something we are being asked to hurry up with and rush. The government has created a context where there is a legitimate need to act with some swiftness, because Canadian businesses have not had an opportunity to plan for an alternative, even though I think an alternative could have served Canadians better.
There is no sunset clause in the deal. There is no sunset clause in the legislation before us. In other words, there is nothing that compels Canada and the U.K. in any strong sense to conclude a successor agreement that might realize the potential for that gold standard in trade rather than repeating the same old corporate model that has not been serving Canadians well over the last 30 years. To me, that is a real disappointment, and I caution Canadians that this is not just some kind of transitional thing that is going away any time soon. It will only go away any time soon if it becomes a priority of our government and the government of the U.K., and political circumstances allow them to conclude a deal.
If we think back to where we were three years ago, nobody would have predicted what has happened in the interim. It would be a shame if this is the deal that Canada gets stuck with to define our trading relationship with the United Kingdom, because I think we can do a heck of a lot better.
I think we can do better when it comes to not having any provisions at all, like the investor-state dispute settlement provisions that cost Canadian taxpayers money and limit the ability of their democratically elected governments to regulate in the public interest.
I think it would be a shame if we did not get an agreement with the U.K. that takes climate change seriously and tries to mitigate the effects of globalized trade.
I think it would be a shame if we did not get an agreement with the U.K. that recognizes, in some kind of meaningful and enforceable way, the rights of indigenous people in Canada.
I think it would be a shame if we did not get an agreement that took upward pressure on prescription drug costs seriously. At the very least, if the Liberals are going to continue to sign deals like this, they could get a national pharmacare plan in place and help to do something that would bring those pharmaceutical drug prices down for Canadians, both their out-of-pocket costs and the incredible costs on provincial government ledgers for those pharmacare programs that do not benefit from the purchasing power of the entire country.
I hope we are going to get there, and that is certainly where our emphasis is going to be, but in the meantime, it is hard to say yes to a deal that is unimaginative and part of a broken international trade culture.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Vaughan—Woodbridge.
It is great to have an opportunity to speak to Bill . As the chair of the international trade committee, I think we have a great group of colleagues to continue working on a variety of things. Of course, Bill is one of them.
For the information of my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona, I had the pleasure of tabling the report yesterday on the Good Friday Agreement, which I know was so important to him. In case he missed it, I wanted to make sure he and the other committee members know that we got that done yesterday. I agree with it totally. It is very important.
Now we are dealing with this transitional continuity agreement between Canada and the United Kingdom and export promotion efforts behind Canada's free trade agreement. As we all know, Canada is very much a trading nation. As a medium-sized economy competing internationally, Canada relies on free trade and a transparent rules-based system to take advantage of global commercial opportunities and create economic prosperity at home.
Canada is one of the most open G7 countries, ranking second for both trade and foreign direct investment as shares of GDP, so members can appreciate how vital trade is to Canada's economy. The negotiation and ratification of free trade agreements reflect this government's commitment to international trade and to levelling the playing field for Canadian businesses, especially our small and medium-sized businesses, so they are able to compete and succeed in markets abroad. Allow me to elaborate a bit on this point.
Under the rules and protections of free trade agreements, Canadian goods and services benefit from a reduction or elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, such as quotas or other protectionist obstacles. These barriers make exporting to another country costlier and time consuming for businesses.
If we take the trade continuity agreement before us today as an example, without this agreement in place, some of our Canadian businesses would face new barriers and higher costs of doing business, because the U.K. is no longer covered by the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, the CETA. Overall, after Brexit, it is estimated that 1.04 billion dollars' worth of Canadian exports to the U.K. would have been subject to tariffs. These tariffs would disproportionately affect fish, seafood and agricultural exporters. In addition to the tariffs placed on Canadian products being exported to the U.K., roughly 25% of all products imported from the U.K. would also be affected, with Canadian importers paying higher prices to bring in these goods.
While each trade agreement reflects a specific set of Canadian interests, their primary objective is to create a more open and competitive marketplace that improves access to foreign markets for the vast majority of Canadian exports, thereby supporting economic growth and creating opportunities and new jobs for Canadians. These objectives were top of mind when we signed CETA in 2016 with the European Union, when we brought into force the CPTPP with 10 Asia-Pacific partners in 2018 and of course when the new NAFTA came into force last year. We can add to that the trade continuity agreement with the U.K. once it comes into force.
We have already heard from a number of industry stakeholders, as well as the provinces and territories, about the importance of maintaining a preferential trading relationship with the U.K. However, this agreement is not just about maintaining the status quo, although that is important enough for our businesses and most Canadians. It is also about setting the stage for our future bilateral relations with the U.K.
Having said that, all the benefits of free trade agreements do not matter if Canadian businesses are not aware of how to take advantage of them. For these agreements to be fully realized, Canadian businesses need to be made fully aware of them and the benefits they offer, which is a job that I think falls upon all committee members and in particular those of the international trade committee.
As hon. members present know, most Canadian exporters are small and medium enterprises, or SMEs, as we call them. Many do not have the luxury of time or the resources to remain fully informed of game-changing international business developments like free trade agreements, much less fully digest their implications. As a result, many have not been in a position to take full advantage of the access provided by these agreements to increase their presence in international markets.
The government recognizes the need to encourage SMEs to pursue free trade opportunities and to support them in their efforts to do so, which the minister has been very aggressive in doing. Accordingly, the has prioritized export promotion and development, particularly for small businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that flow from trade.
In this regard, our ambitious export diversification strategy seeks to maximize opportunities for Canadians created by our existing trade agreements while pursuing new ones. That means continuing to attract and support Canadian companies doing business with the U.K. through the team Canada approach that we often talk about. This includes the trade commissioner service network; Export Development Canada, or EDC; the Business Development Bank of Canada; the Canadian Commercial Corporation; and Invest in Canada. These organizations are all working together, along with our provincial and territorial partners, to help Canadian businesses navigate the implications of Brexit. They remain committed to continuing to assist Canadian companies doing business with and in the U.K. and the E.U.
These relationships are critical in supporting prosperity through the economic recovery from COVID-19 and beyond. For all of us, the economic recovery from COVID-19 cannot come quickly enough.
I urge all hon. members to support Bill , which would allow the government to implement the trade continuity agreement, without undue delay, to support Canadian companies as they seek to take advantage of the benefits of this agreement.
Madam Speaker, thank you for that intervention.
Soon thereafter, our government undertook a trade dialogue to substantively replicate CETA on a bilateral basis as an interim measure in response to Brexit. I am happy to say the agreement before all hon. members today, including the member for , meets the commitment made by the Prime Minister in 2017.
Brexit posed a unique challenge for partners, such as Canada, that already had trade agreements in place with the European Union. Canada has shown adaptability and resilience in this unique challenge by achieving an agreement that mitigates potential disruptions for businesses due to the U.K.'s decision to leave the EU and CETA.
The agreement before us today ensures that Canada and the U.K. can sustain and build upon our very important relationship. This means businesses will continue to have an unprecedented access to the U.K.'s vibrant economy, which includes 66 million consumers and a $3.68-trillion market. It also means the continuation of lower prices, more choices for Canadian consumers, and a reduction or elimination of customs duties.
Since this agreement is based on CETA, an agreement Canadians are already familiar with, it provides the predictability and stability our businesses need, and have told us they need, as they grapple with the economic effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Once the trade continuity agreement is fully implemented, it will carry forward CETA's tariff elimination on 99% of Canadian products exported to the U.K.; maintain priority market access for Canadian service suppliers, including access to the U.K. government's procurement market, which is estimated to be worth approximately $118 billion Canadian annually; and uphold and preserve CETA's high standard provisions on labour, the protection of the environment and dispute settlement.
I am proud to say that this agreement fully protects our supply management system. In other words, there will be no additional foreign cheeses entering this country if this agreement is ratified.
Critically, this agreement will also continue to give Canadian companies a leg-up on competitors in countries that do not have a free trade agreement with the U.K. These are crucial advantages we can look forward to preserving with one of our most important trading partners once this agreement is in place.
This government knows that Canada's trade relationships are critical in supporting our prosperity through the economic recovery in a post-COVID global landscape. It is important for the government to remain engaged with Canadians throughout the negotiation to understand and address specific interests.
I will reassure my colleagues that the government maintained an open dialogue with businesses over the course of the negotiation of this trade continuity agreement. Prior to and throughout the negotiation process officials engaged with interested businesses through direct consultations. Furthermore, as the trade continuity agreement replicates CETA, it also relies upon the extensive consultations with Canadians that took place throughout the CETA negotiations. Throughout those consultations we received valuable feedback that enabled the government to negotiate with a comprehensive knowledge of Canadian interests and seek an agreement that was of benefit to Canada.
Once ratified, the trade continuity agreement will continue to be in place as we work toward a new bilateral comprehensive free trade agreement with the U.K., which can be best tailored to meet our mutual interests at that time. Input from Canadians will help to ensure those future negotiations are in the best interests of Canada, our future trade agreement is tailored to our relationship with the U.K. and that it will be able to respond to any post-Brexit developments.
This government recognizes the need to encourage businesses to pursue free trade opportunities and to support them in their efforts to do so. This trade continuity agreement maintains crucial ties and preferential trade terms with one of Canada's key trade partners and ensures that Canadian businesses will not face yet another disruption or challenge at this time. Indeed, if this agreement were not put in place, this would be another setback that Canadian businesses frankly cannot afford.
For these agreements to be fully realized, Canadian businesses need to be made aware of them and the benefits they offer. The goal of our ambitious export diversification strategy is to maximize opportunities for Canadians created by our existing trade agreements while pursuing new ones. That means continuing to attract and support Canadian companies doing business with the U.K. through a team Canada approach to trade.
This approach includes Canada's trade toolbox, which is made up of the Trade Commissioner Service network, Export Development Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada, the Canadian Commercial Corporation and the investing in Canada plan. These organizations are all working together, alongside our provincial and territorial partners, to help Canadian businesses navigate the aftermath of Brexit. They remain committed to continuing to assist Canadian companies, doing business with, and in, the U.K. and the European Union.
Finally, we have heard over and over again from Canadian stakeholders about the importance of maintaining a preferential trading relationship with the U.K. This government wants to ensure that Canadian businesses have the confidence and stability they need to continue to do business with the U.K. We can do that by ensuring that the crucial commercial relationship we have with the U.K. continues to flourish unimpeded. Our government looks to working with all members of Parliament to ratify Bill in the interest of our economy and Canadian businesses.
I believe I have about a minute or so left, but I do wish to thank our trade negotiators, who, over the last several years, have dealt with very intense negotiations, whether it was completing CETA when we first came into office in 2015; the renegotiation of NAFTA into CUSMA, where our negotiators faced long and intense negotiations with much uncertainty, but were steadfast and came out with a great deal and a great free trade relationship, maintaining stability and predictability with our largest trading partner; or the trade continuity agreement with the United Kingdom. I do wish to thank all those trade negotiators. They are unsung heroes for our country, our businesses and our workers.
Madam Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the hon. member for .
Just before Christmas, we finally saw the text of the Canada-UK transitional trade agreement. This deal has the goal of implementing a copy and paste of CETA until a comprehensive agreement can be implemented. This is happening as the government said it needs more time to negotiate a full deal that reflects on Canada and on the United Kingdom.
My question is this. Why did we not aim for a comprehensive agreement from the get-go? It is a question we always ask ourselves. Japan, for example, already has a full deal with the United Kingdom, and had the same amount of time to accomplish this as our negotiators. Just like USMCA, this is another last-minute attempt by the government to save face after insulting one of our oldest and closest allies with some “bandwidth talk”. We need long-term goals and targets for the sake of business continuity and stability.
Stakeholders are thankful for the current arrangement of a transitional agreement, but also signal the concern this deal may turn into a permanent one that will not reflect economic realities. Throughout the international trade committee’s study of this deal, many stakeholders had serious concerns on the status of consultations or that it would be done at the very last minute.
While at committee, the hon. could not even say how many pages were in the final document. I personally asked that question and the minister was unable to tell us how many pages the agreement was. That is of course a concern coming from the top negotiator on behalf of Canada and the government.
That was also after much fanfare from an announcement through Zoom that the deal was finished. We need to get this right. In the age of pandemic disruption, we need our small businesses to be able to survive through the storm for which a predictable market is the only lighthouse left.
To make matters worse, the Liberals kept being dead set on the deal being implemented by December 31, which means being passed through the House by the deadline. Here we are on January 26, 27 and 28 and the deal is not in the House of Commons. The deal is not implemented. At committee, we were told that it would be passed and that mitigation measures could be in place. Once again, here we are on January 28 and there are no details from the government on this last-minute trade deal.
It almost seems like Liberals cannot multi-task and get more than one thing done at a time. We just need to look at the vaccine rollout, for example, on that front. After popping out the confetti on hoarding the most vaccine orders, we are now drastically falling behind. Provincial health care systems are now scraping the bottom of the freezer for more vaccines. Second doses are being cancelled for nurses and seniors. All this after Canadians were told we were ahead of the game.
On the other side, how can businesses feel safe with their investments in trade when the government over-promises and under-delivers? Could there be more scenarios as examples of the government’s failures on trade? We can just look south of the border with buy American. Ever since the Liberal government came into office, it has been crisis after crisis on securing exports to our neighbour and closest ally. It always hits the snooze button on trade until it is too late for a reasonable outcome. Whether a Democrat or a Republican, the cannot even secure assurances for our industries.
For example, where is Keystone now? The simply said that he was disappointed and walked away from my constituents, from Albertans and from western Canada. This is not acceptable. Now the government is asking us to trust it on a last-minute trade deal.
When will the Prime Minister stop defending the government’s incompetence and reset its trade policy? It is either simply not working or the wrong people are in charge and delays are causing us to overlook key issues that stakeholders have been voicing concerns about even before negotiations began. It is time to stop these last-minute trade deal and get stability for Canada’s businesses. We all need stability as we recover from the pandemic.
At this time, after seeing this agreement, or not seeing the agreement and the absence of information, we must ask the government and ourselves as parliamentarians the following: How can we continue debating the implementation of this trade agreement and how can we respond to stakeholders and Canadians?
First, how much will delaying this implementation cost the federal treasury in mitigation measures? We are still looking for that number. We hope that by the end of this debate we will be able to get to the bottom of it. It is very important to know what the cost will be in mitigation measures. That question was put to the minister directly at committee and in the House of Commons.
Second, how much would the global tariffs enacted by the U.K. government cost Canadian businesses as we continue to give this legislation a full review? As we know, time costs money. Until we get to those numbers and the full ratification of the agreement, we will still be paying money from the treasury, taxpayer money, to bridge those gaps. That is the wrong way to do it.
Third, what is the overall value in economic disruption after December 31, the deadline? It is a logical and reasonable question. Again, any interruption in trade due to the lack of availability of a trade agreement will cause disruption and that disruption, again, costs money.
Fourth, what will be the effects of a transitional agreement on our economy and trade with the United Kingdom? Does the government already feel there are any shortcomings from the CETA that need to be addressed? We all understand that this agreement was cut and pasted from the CETA, but there are certain specifics regarding a certain market within Europe. The United Kingdom is one of those specific markets, which we may imagine could be the full cut and paste. Again, we need that clarity.
Fifth, can the government still pass the ratification in time before the end of the memorandum of understanding with full parliamentary scrutiny?
Sixth, had the government and hon. minister paid more attention and initiative, we could have probably had an agreement that included a comprehensive trade deal and avoided the mess we are going through.
I strongly believe we need to give this bill full scrutiny, especially given the nature in which it was prepared at the very last minute. This is in the interest of Canadians.
I wish we had a full agreement in front of us today, but, nevertheless, I look forward to seeing the bill in the House and at committee.
Madam Speaker, today we have a rare opportunity in this parliamentary session to advance freer trade between age-old friends, two democratic nations, two advanced societies, that share so much history, culture, legal and parliamentary structures, and also language.
Some years ago, President Kennedy said this with respect to another great friendship, the one between Canada and the U.S.:
Geography has made us neighbours. History has made us friends. Economics has made us partners. And necessity has made us allies. Those whom nature hath so joined together, let no man put asunder.
That is a great quote from a great president about the relationship between the two greatest free trading partners the modern world has known.
However, today we are talking about Canada's trade with the U.K., another nation with whom we have a shared history, economic partnership and an alliance borne of necessity. Until recently, we also had a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, not directly, but through their partnership in the European Union. I might add that free trade agreement was brought about by a vision of Canada's previous Conservative government. I am proud to be associated with a vision that brought Canada into a position of being an equal partner with the great trading nations of the European continent, nations with whom we share values, history and institutions.
Compare that with a much more complicated trading relationship we have with the Communist Party in China. Our government would be much further ahead if we remembered these three rules for doing business in that country, as cited by an academic: one, never impose our own values; two, never interpret acknowledgement during a meeting as agreement; and, three, never assume the people we are meeting with have the authority to do the deal.
I am happy to say that in dealing with the United Kingdom, there is no such ambiguity. First, there is no incongruity in values between our two nations. Both countries value fundamental human rights and the rule of law. Second, our negotiating styles and contract-formation rules are similar, having their roots in the centuries-old English common-law tradition. Third, in English contract law, a person's word is his or her bond. Of course, any commercial lawyer would advise those involved to get it in writing, but at least during the negotiations if they feel like they are making progress they probably are.
I like doing business with people who understand the common law and the rules about contract formation. We need to do more trading with people like that. We want to trade more with countries that understand and respect our values, values that are intuitive among western nations. I am talking about the protection of intellectual property rights, physical and economic protections for workers, protection of children against forced labour, protection of the environment and protection against discrimination of all sorts. These values are as fundamental to the U.K. as they are to Canada. These are exactly the people with whom we should be doing business. Let us get on with it.
What is taking us so long? There has been a lot of debate about that. The government has known about Brexit for a long time. The only surprise is that we did not have a deal before the end of December last year. It is not as if we needed to start at square one; we already had the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, CETA, with the U.K. by virtue of its being a member of the European Union trading block. The template was already there in the form of that international agreement. We just needed to make some tweaks and to make it U.K.-specific, making it bilateral instead of multilateral. That is what is happening, but later than it should have and could have been done. However, trade, commerce and standing up for small business has never been the current government's strong suit.
Canada is a trading nation. There is no stronger champion in Canada of free trade than the Conservative party. We have always known that lower tariffs lead to healthier competition among businesses and nations, and ultimately lead to better products and services to consumers at lower costs. What is good for consumers must be good for the nation.
World trade has increased by an average of 7% annually since the end of the Second World War, bringing much prosperity to the world, and Canada needs to be part of that economic growth and prosperity.
I am going to take the principle of free trade a step further. If free trade brings wealth to trading nations, then surely it must also bring wealth to trading provinces within a nation. We preach free trade, but we do not always practise it. There is too much senseless, myopic and harmful protectionism going on inside Canada, and the federal government has a central role to play in bringing the parties together. There was a free trade agreement of sorts initiated by the former Conservative government that did not go far enough and, unfortunately, very little progress has been made during the now five intervening years.
Eliminating interprovincial trade barriers will improve Canada's competitiveness internationally, putting us on a better footing to deal with the United States and countries like the U.K. and the European nations. It will boost our economy internally by tens of billions of dollars. The government was late to the show on free trade agreement negotiations with the United Kingdom. Will it now pick up the challenge of facilitating a broader free trade agreement among the provinces?
When I was first elected to Parliament in the fall of 2019 and came to Ottawa to check things out, I was surprised that people living in Ottawa have the distinct disadvantage of not being able to purchase Okanagan Valley wine in their LCBO stores. That needs to be corrected. British Columbians are a caring and sharing people and want all Canadians to experience great wine. Bring on free trade.
Madam Speaker, it is always a pleasure to address the House of Commons either on the floor or virtually.
I want to pick up on something the member said in one of his answers. He said that free trade was not a strong suit of this party or this government. The member needs a strong reality check. I would challenge that member to indicate another prime minister who has signed off on more trade agreements with countries than the current . The Prime Minister and the government has signed off on more agreements than Stephen Harper did, and any other prime minister, from what I can recall.
Members of the Conservative Party talk about the importance of trade and try to give that false impression that theirs is the party that negotiates and is capable of getting trade agreements when history does not necessarily reflect that.
The Liberal Party has always recognized the importance of international trade. Trade does matter. It means good, solid middle-class jobs for Canadians. We will continue to look at ways to build that relationship between Canada and other countries around the world in order to continue to strengthen Canada's economy and our middle class. It has been about that virtually since day one.
When we took government in 2015, initiatives that might have been started by the Conservative government were picked up and carried over the goal line. It is all about trying to recognize how important and valuable it is to have policies directed at Canada's middle class and those aspiring to be a part of it, whether it is budget actions, legislative actions or agreements such as the debate we are having today on Bill .
When we talk about trade, I like to try to put it in a way that most people can relate to. I am very proud of one of the industries in the province of Manitoba, the pork industry. It is symbolic and embodies so many reasons why it is important the government pursue international trade.
Manitoba's pork industry would not be what it is today, by a long shot, without trade. If I were to guess, 90% of it would disappear if we did not have trade, whether within Canada or internationally. Manitoba has a population of 1.3 million people. At any point in time, we have double that number of hogs in our province. We are not consuming them. Those hogs are up for trade. We sell them.
The community of Neepawa in rural Manitoba is thriving today, in good part, because of the hog industry. HyLife is a healthy, growing company today because of international exports. Over 90% of what is being processed there is being exported.
Let us think of the ramifications of that. Each one of those hundreds of employees working out of Neepawa now require a place to live, a place to do their grocery shopping. They have vehicles. There are indirect spinoff jobs, not to mention the hundreds of jobs that are there today because of that.
That is just one aspect of the pork industry in the province of Manitoba.
We could go to Burns Meats in Brandon. My colleague from Brandon would be tell us how that plant adds so much value to Brandon's economy and society as a whole. That industry processes over 10,000 hogs every day, which is one number I heard, and this is somewhat dated. There are well over 1,000 jobs, good rural Manitoba jobs. We could go to the city of Winnipeg and see the same industry. I think Burns there employs over 1,500 people. The best pork in the world comes from the province of Manitoba.
Let us think about the farming communities and the impact that has for our farmers, not to mention the others who feed into our farms, to have those hogs produced.
When we think of trade, we can quickly understand the value of that trade when we look at an example of an industry.
I just finished talking glowingly about the hog industry. I could go on forever talking about Manitoba's bus manufacturing industry or other manufacturing industries, in the City of Winnipeg in particular. We might have one of the largest bus manufacturers located in the city of Winnipeg, which exports all over the place. Again, it is providing those valuable jobs
The government and the understand the value of those jobs. That is why a mandate has come from the Prime Minister to pursue these agreements. Even though the Conservatives did not sign off on CETA, they like to take credit for it. The Conservatives might have started it, but they did not sign off on it.
I remember travelling to Europe. People were saying that the deal was on the rocks, that it looked like was falling off the tracks. It was not because of Canada. All sorts of things were happening in Europe. It took a concentrated effort by this government in particular and today's Deputy Prime Minister, the minister of trade back then, to put it back on track. On behalf of Canadians, they were able to get it across the goal line so we would have that CETA agreement. Hundreds of millions of additional dollars have been realized through trade, generated in part because of that agreement.
That is not the only agreement we have had to deal with in a very short period of time. We could talk about Asia or our neighbours to the south, whether it is Mexico or the United States. The United States is our biggest trading partner. We need to trade. I would remind my neighbours in the south that many of their states' exports come to Canada. Both countries benefit.
It is absolutely critical that Canada has trading relations with countries around the world. In fact, Canada is probably further ahead on trade agreements than any other G20 country. In good part it is because of the mandate Canadians gave the Liberal government five years ago. The driving force has been that we want to build Canada's middle class and those aspiring to become a part of the middle class. One of the ways we do that is by looking beyond our borders.
Let us think about the last year and the economic cost and impact the coronavirus has had on our country. It has been devastating. As a government, we have done whatever we can to support businesses, whether with the wage subsidy program or the rent assistance program or helping Canadians directly through the CERB program. Why are we doing this? In part, because we recognize how important it is for small and medium-sized businesses so that once we have fully dealt with this, we will be up and running.
It is a lot easier for us to recover in a better way if we have fewer bankruptcies and have more companies that did not have to lay off employees because of the pandemic. We want the population, as a whole, to have a larger disposable income as a direct result of not being able to work in order to protect and keep our society safer or because of demands for their services or products.
As much as the government was there for Canadians and continues to be there for them during this pandemic to ensure we minimize the negative damages of the coronavirus, we are also there to ensure we continue to grow. This means Bill , the agreement with the U.K.
When the U.K. decided to leave the European Union, we had a responsibility and we took that responsibility very seriously. That is the reason we have this legislation right now. We want to ensure that a trading partner we have valued for over a century will always have a strong, healthy relationship with Canada. In good part, this legislation is all about that. At the end of the day, Canadian companies, businesses and Canadians as a whole, in all regions of our country, will be better served by the passage of the legislation.
I want to remind my Conservative friends of something. Other countries have acknowledged that we have some incredible civil servants on the trade file. One of the reasons for that is we have been so successful at negotiating agreements and working on these types of deals for a long time now.
The bureaucrats and civil servants are diligently putting in the effort to ensure our ministers and government as a whole, parliamentarians and politicians, have details we can go into the deals with, negotiate and try to bargain back and forth.
We listen to New Democrats and to the Bloc also. When I listen to the Bloc members speak, everything is what about this or that, or we did not get this or that. What do people think a negotiation is all about? For the NDP and the Bloc, they need a better appreciation for the fact that when we hit an agreement, it means there have been give and take.
The NDP traditionally does not support trade agreements. When I posed a question, a member mentioned “goldfish” memory and said that the NDP had supported CUSMA. However, the New Democrats did not support previous trade agreements with the U.S. and Mexico, but they were shamed into supporting this one.
Let us look at the number of trade agreements with the dozens of countries on which the New Democrats voted. They will say that it is because we did not get this or that, and they will have their list of things we did not get.
When we sit down and negotiate, we cannot expect to have everything. It is not like we ask for everything we want, put it on the table and then walk away and ask to be told when it is agreed to. It does not work that way.
When my New Democrat friends told me, as they did earlier today, that they are not supporting this legislation, I was not surprised. I was a little disappointed, but not surprised. I want to challenge the New Democrat members of the House of Commons to really think through the issue of trade. Earlier, I commented on why trade is so critically important to us as a nation. If members agree in principle with trade, I would suggest that the NDP members need to be more open-minded, and if they are not prepared to be more open-minded on it, then we could question how consistent they are with regard to the ethics of it.
They say that because of human rights not being protected in a trade agreement, we should not sign off on that trade agreement. We have had this discussion in the past. There are human rights issues in other nations with whom we have a considerable amount of trade. I do not see the NDP saying that we should stop all trade with China, though we have issues with China. I think that the NDP members do need to look at ways they can support progressive agreements. That is what this is, a progressive agreement, and they will have other opportunities to do so.
Members say that in this debate today, we do not have enough time or that there was not enough consultation. They should remember what the bill itself says. It is Bill . That is actually what the bill says. It is not a permanent agreement. In fact, within a year after royal assent, from what i understand, we will be meeting our partners across the ocean, having ongoing dialogue and looking at ways we could even improve upon this agreement.
There is the opportunity for members to make speeches, now or into the future, or to write letters when they have opposition days. There are many opposition days coming up. They should have one of their opposition days about the content of trade agreements. They can say that they would like to see X, Y or Z as a part of a trade agreement and discuss that as part of an opposition day motion. There are all sorts of ways that members on all sides of the House, even members of the government, can do that. Many of my Liberal colleagues have continuing discussions with ministers or within caucus about issues that are important, including the issue of trade. I must say that the issue of the coronavirus is dominating these discussions, as it should, but there are many different avenues for people to have direct input on trade agreements.
I want to focus some thoughts on my friends in the Bloc. I have said in the past that I, for one, am a very proud Canadian. I think that we live in the best country in the world. All of our regions that make up our great nation are so critically important to how we evolve as a nation. For instance, I care about the aerospace industry in Quebec and the forestry industry. There are some things that we have in common, such as hydro as green energy—
Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for .
I am pleased to rise today to speak to the Canada–United Kingdom trade continuity agreement.
While I support this agreement for the purpose of guaranteeing Canadian producers access to a critical market, it is unquestionable that the strength of this agreement has been impacted significantly by the government's dithering during the process.
Throughout the Liberals' time in power, they have repeatedly shown their lack of competence on issues of international trade and in relations with key allies, and this is no exception. From the 's well-documented screw-up of the trans-Pacific partnership to being largely left out of the renegotiation of NAFTA, it should come as no surprise that the government has managed to dither away yet another opportunity to form a permanent and lasting relationship with the now fully independent United Kingdom.
Since the Brexit vote almost five years ago, the government has had every opportunity to be a world leader in the effort to form permanent and close trade relations with the United Kingdom. As a member of the Commonwealth and a close ally, the U.K. should have been one of the government's top priorities since Brexit, along with the renegotiation of NAFTA.
Over the years, the government has had a horrendous track record of misleading Canadians about the economic impacts of its trade deals, hoping no one would check its work. This has created doubt within Canadian industry and especially within my community. This has been best exemplified by the government's promise that a Canada-United States-Mexico agreement would be a win for the Canadian auto industry.
The Liberals promised the people of Oshawa and other automotive manufacturing communities across the country before the 2019 election that the agreement would benefit the auto industry even more than NAFTA did. After months of stalling the release of Global Affairs Canada's economic impact study, we came to find out the willingly misled many in my community.
Page 61 of Global Affairs Canada's impact assessment of the CUSMA deal states:
...the economic model projects that Canada’s exports of motor vehicles to the United States would decline by US$1.5 billion relative to the current trade regime under NAFTA, and imports from the United States would decrease by US$1.2 billion. At the same time, automotive imports from non-North American countries could increase, resulting in a decline of the Canadian automobile production of 1.7%.
As well, an economic impact study of CUSMA by the C.D. Howe Institute released even before the government discovered that fact states that “Canada’s real GDP stands to shrink by -0.4 percent and economic welfare to fall by over US$10 billion.”
The government over-promised and under-delivered, to put it politely. Needless to say, this has given workers in my community every reason to doubt the sincerity of the government. When the Liberals say to trust them, that they are securing a good trade agreement and that we need not worry about accountability or transparency, and then come back with a significantly weakened trade agreement, workers in my community take that to mean the government's word means absolutely nothing. Why would they trust the Liberals?
It is obviously critically important we make sure our producers have access to our third-largest customer for Canadian goods, but the government has a tremendous knack for instilling a sense of fear instead of a sense of confidence in those directly affected by the government's actions. Not only has the government once again given people in my community anything but confidence, but the managed to simultaneously alienate one of our closest allies again.
In March 2019, after months of negotiations and reports of a deal close to being struck with the U.K., the government walked away from the negotiating table. While continuing to negotiate would have been preferred, even a short break would have been better than waiting over a year to re-engage with the U.K. By waiting so long, the government has now hamstrung our domestic producers with the uncertainty of not knowing what the future trade agreement will actually look like.
Under the previous Conservative government, Canadian producers had the certainty that their government would work with them and consult them. We proved this by signing trade deals with 51 countries while we were in government, while before the 2006 election, there were only five. Canadian producers and workers knew that when it came to accessing new international markets, their Conservative government was going to be there every step of the way, using the influence of a strong, powerful country like Canada to make sure they had every opportunity to grow and succeed.
In a competitive global economy, a government working to open new markets is critical to the competitive advantage of our private industry and critical for job creation right here at home. However, it seems as though the government has put Canada in a situation of taking two steps forward under the previous Conservative government just to take three steps back with the current Liberal government. Now we are here today debating an agreement that has had very limited consultation from stakeholders, which the government promised would never happen again after rushing the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement through the House.
Because the government chose to watch the clock tick instead of negotiating a deal for over a year, we are now in the position of debating an agreement that has very little industry and labour consultation and still does not provide the long-term certainty producers are looking for in the post-Brexit era.
However, let us be honest here: Consultation has never been the government's strong suit. Take the example of when the government first stepped away from the negotiating table in March of 2019. Even if the government tries to justify doing so, what cannot be justified is the complete bombshell it dropped on our producers here in Canada. In fact, following the pullout from negotiations, the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters Inc. stated that it was not consulted whatsoever on the decision. How could a government be so incompetent and lazy as to not even think about consulting with such an important stakeholder?
Our producers expected their government to stop negotiating when a deal had been reached. Instead, without notice, they were blindsided with the government's sudden decision. Perhaps just as disturbing is the agreement's lack of a sunset clause. While the deal does provide a goal of reaching a new permanent agreement by the end of the year, how are Canadians supposed to trust the government when the Liberals have done nothing but repeatedly drop the ball over and over again on the issue of trade? Are they going to wait for over a year again to re-engage? Are we just supposed to accept that this is a new permanent trade agreement?
How are Canadians and our producers supposed to trust that the government will work on their behalf when it spent years insisting that the Canada-U.K. deal was getting done, only to step away from the table and come back a year later, when it was already too late? The government procrastinated and instead of achieving a head start, it dithered away all its time. Instead of debating a bill ringing in a new era between Canada and the United Kingdom, we are forced to debate a temporary agreement that just kicks the can way down the road. Our producers need access to markets, but they also need certainty. The deal provides the access, but again there is no certainty here.
Throwing another wrench into the entire process, the proved once again why the most important foreign leaders in the world and our key strategic allies have little respect for his abilities. In November, only a couple of months ago, he declared that the U.K. lacked “the bandwidth” to finalize the agreement, yet in the time between when his government stepped away from the negotiating table in March of 2019 and the time when the Prime Minister made this uneducated statement, the U.K. signed trade agreements with over a dozen countries, including one with Japan that was signed literally 17 days before the Prime Minister made that uneducated remark. It is another example of the Prime Minister alienating our trade allies. If he is not careful, he is going to have another world leader publicly criticizing him on how he acts when he is supposed to be representing our great country.
The former Australian prime minister, Malcolm Turnbull, tore off this 's mask of respectability when he criticized him for being “flaky” for humiliating other world leaders during the trans-Pacific partnership talks and being more focused on his colourful socks than on securing a trade deal. In fact, Turnbull said that the world leaders negotiating TPP were even ready to leave Canada out of the deal—