Madam Speaker, I would like to split my time with the member for Mégantic—L'Érable.
I want to make it clear that we Conservatives are strongly in favour of free trade. The removal of barriers to trade results in lower costs for consumers and expanded production for our exporters. That is why a Conservative prime minister signed the original NAFTA.
The Liberal government claims that CUSMA is a victory, calling it an updated NAFTA. In effect, what it is doing is attempting to claim victory for striking a deal almost as good as the one that Conservatives struck nearly a quarter-century ago.
Some of the areas in which this agreement falls short of the original include concessions on dairy, the non-market country FTA, which gives the U.S. oversight of Canada's trade negotiations with other countries, and the sunset clause requiring a formal review of the agreement every six years, to name a few.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario stated:
CUSMA will have three main impacts on the Canadian dairy sector:
(1) The United States is given market access through tariff-rate quotas on dairy;
(2) Milk classes 6 and 7 are eliminated;
(3) The setting of global export thresholds for the following three products: milk protein concentrate, infant formula and skim milk powder, above which export charges will be added on any additional exports at the global level.
Dairy Farmers of Ontario awaits ratification of the agreement to know how and when CUSMA will come into force, and the more specific impact it will have on the sector.
Pierre Lampron, president of Dairy Farmers of Canada, said the following:
The signing of the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement (CUSMA) is a sad chapter in Canada’s dairy industry and for Canadian exporters. The access to our country’s dairy market given to the U.S. represents a significant loss, the equivalent of the combined dairy production of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Market access is only the tip of the iceberg. Concessions include an oversight clause that gives the U.S. the ability to intervene in the administration of our domestic system. The concessions also give the U.S. the ability to impose the equivalent of a cap on global dairy exports, which will limit Canada’s ability to export dairy products. Would the U.S. ever accept such terms?
The Liberals failed to work with opposition parties during the negotiation and ratification process and are now rushing to push this deal through the House. The Deputy Prime Minister has stated over and over again in the House that the requirement for North American aluminum in autos will go from zero to 70% under the new NAFTA. Each time she avoids mentioning the fact that Mexico can import aluminum from China, process it and then have it qualify for preferential treatment. This was prevented in the case of steel by requiring it to be melted and poured in North America.
Why has this back door been left open for aluminum? Why did the government fail to include a definition for aluminum rules of origin for autos, requiring it to be poured and melted in North America?
Premier Legault and the Aluminum Association of Canada expressed their disappointment that such a definition is absent from the new NAFTA. What is this government's plan to protect Canada's aluminum workers from this problem?
The government has said it will monitor Mexico's imports of aluminum from China. What will it do if those imports are high? How long will it take for these actions to come into effect? What will be the net result to our aluminum industry? These questions and many more are all left unanswered.
Even under the best-case scenario where Mexico does not import large quantities of aluminum from China, which is wishful thinking to say the least, the failure of this agreement to stipulate it creates uncertainty. Uncertainty, as many know, always discourages investment and inevitably hurts the aluminum industry and negatively affects the lives of individuals who depend on it. As many as 60,000 jobs are at stake. These are not just numbers. They represent real people with families who depend on them.
What about the softwood lumber industry? The new NAFTA neglects communities that depend on this industry as well. The closure and restriction on softwood lumber mills have devastated communities from British Columbia to New Brunswick. The Canadian press went as far as to describe the situation as the “forest industry carnage”. Canada's sustainable forest industry has long been a key component of our economy, contributing over $24 billion to our GDP in 2017 and directly employing over 200,000 people. Roughly 29% of our forest export products are softwood lumber.
Since 2017, Canadian lumber entering the U.S. has been hit with a 20% tariff, whereas European softwood enters the American market tariff-free. Why? The government claims victory on the North American Free Trade Agreement, even with softwood lumber notably absent.
As I stated earlier, our Conservative Party is the party of free trade and there are certainly many aspects of this agreement we agree with. Almost all these provisions were part of the original NAFTA, which the Liberal government was so quick to open up and negotiate. However, they are still important provisions.
Here are some quotes from stakeholders that are particularly insightful.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance said, “We look forward to receiving confirmation that the changes don’t negatively impact our members.”
Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada, has said the signed new NAFTA is “good enough” for Canada, something that “gets us through this administration.”
It says a lot, however, that the only praise being levied on the new NAFTA is that it has managed to maintain several important parts of the original agreement.
It is the democratic obligation of all members of Parliament to analyze legislation that is brought before the House. This is especially true when it comes to a trade deal with Canada's largest and most important trade partner.
The Liberals have failed to provide documents outlining the impacts of the new trade deal despite numerous attempts from opposition members. It has been 49 days since we asked the government to provide an economic impact assessment on the new agreement. To date, it has not been made available to any members of the House.
Tuesday night I even attended a briefing by Global Affairs Canada in order to get some information on the specifics of this agreement. When questions were asked, the answers we received were very political, such as, “it hasn't really changed that much”, “very similar to the original”, “basically the same”, etc. I left the briefing with more questions than answers. Here we are debating the bill and still waiting for concrete answers.
The Liberals do not yet seem to recognize the realities of the new Parliament and are mistaken if they believe we will rubber-stamp the deal. That is why we need to have this debate, to finally get questions answered.
Let us be thankful that we had a Conservative government to negotiate the original NAFTA. I would hate to have seen what deal the Liberal government would have negotiated if it did not have the original to work from.