Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I am here to discuss the benefits that the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement will bring to Canadians.
Over the last few weeks, my colleagues and I on the international trade committee had the opportunity to hear from over 100 witnesses from across industries and from across the country as part of our study on Bill C-4. We presented the report back to the House on February 27 without amendments.
The new NAFTA, or CUSMA as it is also called, marks a new milestone in the mutually beneficial trade relationship between Canada, the United States and Mexico. We understood from the start that this achievement would not have been possible without the support, contribution and dedication of Canadians across the country.
Before the negotiations started, we began speaking with Canadians across the country. We listened to their views on the original agreement's benefits and challenges, and what could be done to improve Canada's trading relationship with the United States and Mexico.
Guided by Canada's inclusive approach to trade, we worked very hard from the beginning of the negotiations to secure outcomes that would advance the interests of provinces and territories, indigenous peoples, business and business associations, labour organizations, civil society organizations, women and youth, among others.
From February 2017 to December 2019, the government engaged with over 1,300 stakeholders through nearly 1,100 interactions on NAFTA modernization. Over the same period, we received over 47,000 submissions from Canadians on NAFTA modernization. Canadian stakeholders have been largely supportive of the new agreement and have underlined the importance of securing stability and predictability in our commercial relationship with the United States and Mexico. Their views informed Canada's negotiating positions in this modernization process.
From the outset, the government worked closely with the provincial and territorial governments. Their representatives were invited to travel to the location of each negotiation round and received daily debriefs from the chief negotiator and the members of the negotiating team. We also worked very closely with representatives of indigenous people. In fact, an indigenous working group was formed to work collaboratively on elements of importance to indigenous people in the NAFTA modernization process. In total, the Government of Canada met with representatives of 49 different indigenous groups, including self-governing nations, tribal organizations, national organizations, development corporations, business and lending organizations, legal advisers and policy experts.
We sought and received input and insight from across party lines. We reached out to current and former politicians, premiers, mayors, and community and indigenous leaders for help not only in shaping Canada's priorities, but in championing them. We created a NAFTA advisory council that included representatives of other political parties, as well as business, labour and indigenous leaders. All contributions and advice helped guide our way forward.
Since early 2017, fellow federal, provincial and territorial ministerial colleagues and their teams have cumulatively undertaken over 530 visits to the United States, including parliamentarians here who engaged on similar bilaterals with congressmen and governors in the United States. Others, including many members, have contributed to these efforts. Together, team Canada has collectively engaged with over 750 influencers and decision-makers across the United States.
The new agreement was made possible because we acted together and we acted with resolve at the negotiating table to uphold the interests and values of Canadians in seeking a workable and progressive trade agreement. We sought and obtained consensus on the key issues at home. That helped us prioritize Canada's interests and develop Canada's negotiating positions. In spite of the many hurdles, we worked tirelessly and remained steadfast in our principles and objectives in reaching agreement with the United States and Mexico.
The benefits of the new agreement for Canadians are concrete and considerable. They reflect Canadians' views expressed in the engagement process. Most Canadians viewed the modernization process as an opportunity to preserve key elements of the original NAFTA, modernize and improve the agreement where possible, and ensure the stability and predictability of the North American market. We delivered on these key priorities.
The new agreement preserves key elements of the original NAFTA, allowing for our continued regional prosperity and stability. It reinforces the strong economic ties between Canada, Mexico and the United States, while also recognizing the importance of progressive and inclusive trade by including key components in areas such as labour and environment, as well as language on gender and the rights of indigenous peoples.
In particular, Canada was successful in preserving the NAFTA chapter 19 binational panel dispute settlement mechanism for anti-dumping and countervailing duties, the cultural exemption, NAFTA duty-free access into the U.S. and Mexican markets, and the provision of temporary entry of business persons.
We preserved Canada's system of supply management, despite U.S. attempts to dismantle it.
We modernized and improved the agreement to address the modern-day trade realities and enhanced business opportunities in North America.
CUSMA has nine chapters, including chapters on digital trade, anti-corruption, and small and medium-sized enterprises.
We eliminated the investor-state dispute settlement and the energy proportionality clause. We brought the labour and environmental chapters into the agreement and subjected them to a more effective and efficient dispute settlement procedure.
CUSMA improves the dispute settlement mechanism in a manner that strengthens enforcement, including the areas of labour and environment. This is an outstanding achievement for Canada.
The agreement streamlines customs procedures to facilitate trade, reduce red tape and lessen the administrative burden for Canadian exporters and investors. It also includes outcomes that advance the interests of small and medium-sized enterprises, women and indigenous peoples in line with Canada's inclusive approach to trade.
Overall, CUSMA provides key outcomes for Canadian workers, businesses, communities and families.
In the new agreement, Canada was successful in achieving priority outcomes with respect to indigenous peoples, in line with the government's efforts to advance indigenous rights, prosperity and sustainable development in Canada and around the world.
There are also outcomes that reflect the important role of indigenous peoples regarding the environment, including the conservation of biodiversity.
Canada has made gender equality and women's economic empowerment a key priority in recent trade negotiations, including playing a leadership role to integrate gender-related provisions in the agreement. This is the first international trade deal to recognize the discrimination of gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination. This includes labour obligations regarding the elimination of employment discrimination based on gender, as well as other provisions related to corporate social responsibility and small and medium-sized enterprises.
The inclusion of language on indigenous peoples and gender rights is an important step in our government's commitment to reconciliation and gender equality. What we learned throughout the consultation and negotiation period of this agreement will be beneficial to apply to negotiations for future trade agreements.
With the stability CUSMA brings to Canadian producers and industries, we hope it will help Canada take advantage of our unique position of having free trade agreements with so many other regions around the world, including CETA with Europe and CPTPP with Asia and the Pacific. While the United States is our largest trading partner, Canada has the opportunity to become a hub for trade, being the only North American nation with free trade agreements in so many regions that reach over 1.5 billion people around the world.
It is amusing to hear members from across the aisle critique Prime Minister Trudeau or our government's handling of CUSMA and NAFTA, but what the most experienced expert on this issue said is in stark contrast. To quote someone who is considered the architect or originator of the first free trade deal and the second one with the U.S., former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney said this about our government, “I told Trudeau he did a really good job with this renegotiation—”