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View Omar Alghabra Profile
Lib. (ON)
Madam Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak on the new NAFTA. Before I start, I would like to point out that I will be splitting my time with my colleague from Nanaimo—Ladysmith.
Let me take the time to highlight, first and foremost, our government's record on international trade. Consecutive governments have talked about trade diversification and trade expansion, but most governments have failed. I acknowledge that the previous government, under Mr. Harper, had started some negotiations, but unfortunately, it was not able to close the deals. When it came to the free trade agreement CETA, while the Conservatives started the negotiations, they could not close the deal. When it came to the CPTPP, the Conservatives negotiated the previous agreement known as TPP, but it failed. It took our government's leadership and our Prime Minister's leadership to renegotiate it to include progressive, inclusive elements and revive it, improve it and ratify it.
Canada is a trading nation. One out of six Canadian jobs is related to trade. Our government has recognized the value of trade. However, we also know that it is really important to make sure that when we sign trade agreements, they are inclusive. We keep in mind our middle class, we keep in mind small and medium-size enterprises and we keep in mind gender equality. Those issues are not virtue signalling. Those issues are economic issues. Those issues benefit all Canadians. They help lift many people out of poverty and invite them into our labour force to ensure that everyone is benefiting from those free trade agreements.
I want to talk about how we were able to close the deal on CETA, sign it and ratify it here in the House of Commons. We were able to renegotiate and improve the previous agreement known as the TPP, the CPTPP, sign it and ratify it here in the House of Commons. In fact, we were one of the first countries to ratify the CPTPP. We were also able to renegotiate NAFTA, and now we are in the midst of the ratification process.
If we add all that up, that is 1.5 billion new customers for Canadian businesses and Canadian workers. Today Canada is the only member of the G7 that has a free trade agreement with all other G7 nations. These are not just any free trade agreements. They are fair, inclusive trade agreements that keep in mind the interests of all Canadians, particularly our middle class.
I also want to highlight our investment in expanding trade. Our government has put the largest investment into trade infrastructure and trade support systems in Canada's history. We have invested over $1.2 billion in expanding our trade corridors, including ports, roads and rail. We have invested in the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service, which is our best asset. It is our Canadian businesses' and Canadian workers' best asset. It is Canada's global sales force. It is present in 160 countries around the world, promoting Canadian businesses and promoting Canadian interests, and we are proud to invest in it and to expand its presence around the world.
We are creating programs that support small and medium-sized businesses that are looking to expand and trade, because we know that small and medium-sized enterprises that trade pay better, are more resilient and are more profitable. It is in our best interest, if we want to continue to create more jobs, that we support small and medium-sized enterprises that export. Today only 14% of our SMEs trade, and we want to increase that number.
We have created programs such as CanExport that help small and medium-sized enterprises that are thinking about trade but are worried about the upfront costs. We are providing support to those SMEs all across our great country so that they are able to take advantage of those new markets that are available to them.
It does not end there. In 2018, foreign direct investment in Canada grew by 60%. Why? Canada is receiving an unprecedented level of foreign investment, because the rest of the world is noticing that Canada has access to an incredible array of markets. The U.S. market does not have the same access to foreign markets as Canada does.
International businesses are noticing. International investors are noticing. That is why we have seen a 60% increase in foreign trade investment. Direct investment from countries other than the U.S. has increased by 300%. Those investments bring jobs to our middle class. Those investments bring wealth to our businesses. This is good news for our country and good news for Canadians.
Let me take a moment to talk about NAFTA.
We had to renegotiate NAFTA when the current President of the United States campaigned on tearing up NAFTA. He told U.S. citizens that NAFTA needed to be torn up.
We started the negotiations with the new administration in good faith. We wanted to keep an open mind. NAFTA was over 20 years old, and it needed an overhaul. It was a tough negotiation process.
I want to take a moment to acknowledge how Canadians of all political stripes and Canadian businesses rallied around our government as we were in the midst of a tough negotiation with our partners.
However, many on the Conservative benches, and other Conservative voices, were asking us to capitulate. The Conservative Party loves to brag about Stephen Harper's record. Here is a direct quote from a memo written by Mr. Harper in 2017. He wrote, “it does not matter whether current American proposals are worse than what we have now.” He wanted us to capitulate, and he was encouraging people to put pressure on the Canadian government to capitulate.
My colleagues on the Conservative benches were asking questions in question period, and this is on the record. They were demanding that our government capitulate to U.S. demands. I am glad, and I am proud, that our Prime Minister, our Minister of Foreign Affairs, and our team did not capitulate. We stood firm for Canadian values. We stood firm for what made sense for Canadian businesses. We ended up with a great deal.
We did face a challenge with steel and aluminum tariffs, unjust and illegal steel and aluminum tariffs, but we hung in. We pushed and we advocated. At the time, my colleagues on the Conservative benches again asked us to drop our tariffs. They called them “dumb”. Our retaliatory tariffs worked, and we were able to negotiate the elimination of those tariffs with our partner, the United States.
My friends say that we were virtue-signalling. I would like to know from them what part of this new NAFTA is virtue-signalling. Is the new labour chapter virtue-signalling? Is the new chapter on the environment virtue-signalling? Is the new chapter on gender equity virtue-signalling? These inclusive chapters will benefit all Canadians and will raise their wages. They will make sure that we have more productive jobs for the middle class.
I am disappointed in the Conservatives. I am relieved that they will be voting for this agreement. It does not make sense to me, but still I am relieved that they will be voting for it. I ask them to join us and agree that those provisions and this deal are good for Canadians and good for middle-class Canadians.
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