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View James Bezan Profile
CPC (MB)
Madam Speaker, I am glad to rise today on this debate. As an agricultural producer, and someone who had an export business that shipped to the States and to Mexico, the importance of free trade is something I am proud of as a Conservative. It is our legacy as the Conservative Party. It was a former Conservative prime minister, Mr. Mulroney, who negotiated the first NAFTA deal. Before that it was the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
Having that big vision and making sure that we have trade in this country are parts of a core value of being a Conservative and being a member of our party. I am also proud of our record under former prime minister Stephen Harper. Our former trade minister, the member for Abbotsford, did a phenomenal job in negotiating all sorts of free trade deals.
In particular, I look at the over 40 countries that we negotiated deals with, and at the Canada-European Union free trade agreement that is in place, which was negotiated by the member for Abbotsford. I am just glad that the Liberals showed up and actually signed on the bottom line at the end of the day.
We know that the trans-Pacific partnership was negotiated by the agriculture minister at the time, Gerry Ritz, as well as the member for Abbotsford when he was the trade minister. The terminology and articles of the agreement were all done under his leadership. Again, I just appreciate that the Liberals showed up and signed it. We take full credit for those two major agreements and the 40 countries that we now have free trade with.
The Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement is another one that we negotiated. Luckily, the Liberals showed up and signed it at the end of the day, so that agreement exists now.
However, I will say this. The first time that the Liberals had a chance to start the ball from a scrimmage and tried to carry it to the goal line, they fumbled over and over again.
When they were dealing with the White House administration and our colleagues down in Mexico and developed a new NAFTA, which a lot of people call NAFTA 0.5, the Liberals fumbled the ball on numerous occasions both by attacking President Trump in various venues and walking away from the table. We had to play catch-up time and time again.
We have some of the best trade negotiators in the world. Steve Verheul is world renowned and very competent, but with weak leadership he was put into a box that was tough for him to get out of. With Mexico and the United States sitting at the table, we took their deal. We did not take Canada's deal. That is what is really concerning. After talking to people in various industries who are getting the short end of the stick with this new NAFTA deal, we might as well call it “shafta”.
As we sit here and look at what has happened, we have softwood lumber mills across this country, particularly in B.C., that are shutting down left, right and centre. Did the Liberals put a softwood lumber agreement in this deal? Not at all, and jobs continue to bleed and communities suffer because of that lack of leadership.
Looking at various sectors, such as auto, dairy and poultry, the Liberals are actually restricting growth or giving away market access. I am going to go into more detail. I look at the aluminum sector, which the member for Thornhill was just speaking about, and how we have gone from having 100% control of the industry within the former NAFTA framework, to now only having 70% control.
This deal allows backdoor access to China through other aggregators who can bring in aluminum nuggets and remanufacture them, which will hurt our aluminum-producing mills, the greenest mills in the world. Again, the Liberals failed to stand up for them.
The biggest private employer in my riding is Gerdau steel. Although we like to talk about steel having control and protection within the framework of the auto industry, we do not talk about how it can get into the buy America protectionist measures.
The Liberals' inability to move on government contracts in the U.S. because of the buy American restrictions could have been negotiated away if we had stronger leadership from them. They failed to have the buy America policy removed in this new NAFTA deal.
I just met with the dairy industry, and farmers in my riding are upset. They understand the need for free trade. My grain and oilseed producers and my cattle and hog producers are all exporters. They know that what we grow leaves the country, and a lot of it goes south of the border.
However, when we start limiting or giving away market access, it hurts farm families. It is removing income potential and growth from those communities, as well as from those farms. Now over 18% of the domestic milk market, in particular, is already supplied by imports, and the Liberals are eroding that market even further.
The most egregious thing the Liberals did, and not just not negotiating in good faith and not consulting with the dairy industry, the chicken industry or our egg producers, is that they are actually allowing the United States to have a say over how much we can export in dairy products globally.
Currently Canada exports over 55,000 tonnes of dairy products around the world. Under the new NAFTA, or “shafta”, deal, exports are now being limited to 35,000 tonnes. The Liberals are giving up market access in Canada to the extent that 3.6% of the market is now accessible to U.S. dairy producers, and now the U.S. says we can only export 35,000 tonnes.
This is supposed to be a free trade deal. We should be able to access more. One would think that we would be able to go into the U.S. and sell more dairy, but no. The sad part is that it is not just that we are going down from 55,000 tonnes to 35,000 tonnes, a 20,000-tonne reduction, but it is global exports as well.
How can we go out there and sell our fine cheeses, our ice creams, our milk proteins and other products around the world when the Liberals are allowing the United States to say that we cannot export them anymore? That is ridiculous, and it is hurtful. It is something we have to talk about at committee and here in the House.
My colleague, the hon. member for Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, has been leading the charge on what is going to happen in the aluminum industry. I know he is extremely upset that the Liberals have failed to protect aluminum production in Quebec, in British Columbia and across this country. The Liberals are failing to recognize how China can use backdoor shell companies to move their cheap and government-controlled aluminum into our markets. They can use that back door through Mexico in particular. That is something we have to be incredibly concerned about.
The other thing we can look at is the auto sector. Free trade is supposed to help make us more prosperous and create more jobs. The Liberals have a terrible record in the auto industry. We have watched plant after plant shut down and production lines move south of the border. The Liberals have also put in place a cap on how much growth we can have in the automobile industry, a cap of 2.6 million cars and $32 billion in auto parts.
If we look at it, we see that it is only about $20 billion and that we are not producing anywhere near the 2.6 million, but where is the incentive for investors or car manufacturers to set up plants to grow their industry when there is a cap in place, especially when we look at the value of $32 billion? Inflationary pressure alone could eat up that cap within a decade.
Again, it is a disincentive to invest and to expand our manufacturing base, especially in southern Ontario but also right across the country. It is a disincentive for attracting that foreign investment. It is a disincentive to expansion and to an increase in high-paying jobs.
I am very disappointed in the way the Liberals have handled the negotiations. I am very disappointed in what they gave up and by the very little that we got. I am very disappointed that today we have to accept a flawed deal.
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