Mr. Speaker, before I begin, I would like to join my colleagues in saying how honoured and privileged I am to stand here, particularly on D-Day, when those who went before us paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our democracy so that we could have this important discussion today. There are a few vets left. One is tail gunner Dick Brown, from Sault Ste. Marie, whom I had the privilege and honour of speaking with on Friday, before he left on Sunday, to hear about his remarkable service. I want to thank him and all veterans, those who are living and those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for what they did.
Today I stand to talk about the important proposed legislative changes that would amend the Customs Tariff and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act. The goal of this legislation is simple. It would temporarily remove the two-year moratorium on the imposition of safeguard measures for products that were recently subject to safeguards.
Before I go on, I would like to indicate that I will be sharing my time with my esteemed colleague from Hamilton East—Stoney Creek.
The legislation would give the government the flexibility it needs to respond quickly and appropriately to situations where a substantial surge of imports could do harm to Canadian producers and workers. Together, these measures would give the government the tools it needs to stabilize Canada's steel market and, if needed, to further protect Canadian steelworkers and producers from global instability and surges in imports that could be harmful to Canada's economy.
Canada's steel and aluminum sector is an important part of our economy. It provides thousands of good middle-class jobs to people and communities across the country, including those in Sault Ste. Marie. Members have heard about its importance. It accounts for over 41% of Sault Ste. Marie's GDP. That is why, for those workers and those communities, our government has always taken strong action to stand up for these industries.
I remind people that in budget 2016, in black and white, we made changes to strengthen Canada's trade responses to dumped steel. Further, we consulted, and in 2017, we made more changes on market distortion, scoping, duty circumvention and union participation.
In 2018, we put more dollars into fighting dumped steel, and it is working. We put more money into our borders. We have specialized agents who work for the Canada Border Services Agency. They are forensic people who can fight and stop the dumping. We made changes that created one of the greatest strengthened trade regimes in the world.
During one of our meetings, either at the trade committee, the industry committee or the all-party steel caucus, I asked one of the people from the Canadian Steel Producers Association what would have happened if we had not put those in place, with what was happening with the section 232 tariffs. His remark was that, quite simply, the steel industry would have been devastated.
I am glad that from day one, just a couple of months after we were elected, we had the steelworkers' backs. Further strengthening happened when we stood firm and did not back down. I am proud to say that on May 17, when Canada and the U.S. announced that they would eliminate their tariffs and countermeasures within two days, it was the culmination of a lot of work we had undertaken over those years, in particular in the year before, when we announced dollar for dollar trade retaliation, not only on steel and aluminum but on a number of items.
I was in Washington recently with the trade committee. We took a team Canada approach. We had Conservatives, New Democrats and Liberals with us. We met with many people, and we could see in their body language how it was affecting them. Although we had a NAFTA in principle, we were not going to sign it until those tariffs were lifted. It worked quite well. Part of what we did to protect the steel market at the time, when the Americans announced their tariffs, was announce that we were imposing provisional steel safeguards for a period of 200 days to help stabilize the market and protect against surges of foreign steel into Canada.
On April 26, 2019, after the Canadian International Trade Tribunal found that final safeguards were warranted for heavy plate and stainless steel wire, the government announced its intent to enact safeguards on these products.
While we have been working hard, and continue to, to make our steel and aluminum industries even more successful, because they create good, well-paying middle-class jobs, we have also been focused on making sure that Canada has a solid system in place for addressing unfair trade. Therefore, we have effected a very important trade remedy system that provides recourse for Canadian producers harmed by unfair trade imports. Under this system, Canadian producers can request that duties be applied on dumped or subsidized goods sold in the Canadian marketplace.
I reiterate that since 2016, our government has taken several steps to modernize and strengthen Canada's trade remedy system to ensure that Canadian companies can compete on a level playing field with foreign exporters. This was informed by public consultation. Our government implemented a package of measures, which I have referred to, to strengthen the trade remedy system. It has been extremely effective.
Our government made legislative and regulatory changes to improve the trade remedy measures addressing the circumvention of duties, to better account for market and price distortions and to provide unions with the ability to participate in trade remedy proceedings. In fact, the president of Tenaris was here with Evraz steelworkers to provide testimony in a case. It was so effective that we won, and I thank the United Steelworkers for participating in that particular case.
We have been speaking today about the importance of the steel and aluminum industries. We have a very integrated market between the United States and Canada. It is perfect. We create steel and aluminum on both sides of the border that are put into the supply chain downstream for the auto, manufacturing and energy sectors. That is why we continue to look at how to diversify to new markets.
Last year, our government launched the export diversification strategy, which has the ambitious goal of growing Canada's overseas exports by 50% by 2025. We are investing more than $1 billion over the next six years to make this happen.
The strategy will focus on three components: investing in infrastructure to support trade; providing Canadian businesses with resources to execute their export plans; and enhancing trade services for Canadian exporters.
Let me very quickly touch on one component of the export diversification strategy: how we are helping Canadian businesses export and grow. While Canada has had success in gaining preferential access to key markets via trade deals, more needs to be done to ensure that Canadian firms take full advantage of international growth opportunities.
Last year, to put more resources directly in the hands of Canadian businesses seeking to develop export plans, build global partnerships or gain skills and training for global trade, the government announced investments of $198 million over six years. This includes $50 million over five years to support businesses, including in the steel, aluminum and manufacturing industries, in diversifying their exports, including with new export readiness grants. This funding is going to support CanExport and related funding programs. These are tools that are absolutely critical as we penetrate the new European and Asian markets. Our new agreements have created this opportunity.
In conclusion, the measures I have been speaking about clearly show that our government has been listening closely to the industries and unions most affected by trade disputes and global market distortions. It is clear that we need the flexibility to take necessary actions to protect Canadian industries and workers. Today's amendments would help do just that. Canadian workers and industries deserve a level playing field, and we have an opportunity before us today to make sure it gets done.
We will continue to stand up for our workers and our industries and do what is needed to preserve the fair and open trading environment they depend on. I urge all members to support this important legislation expeditiously. The steelworkers are counting on us.