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View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to join my colleagues today as we deal with Bill C-4, which is extremely important for us. We call it the CUSMA, or the Canada-United States-Mexico agreement.
I am pleased with the work we did at committee on this particular issue. My committee colleagues from all parties showed their dedication to their constituents and their country while we did this study. Every member made it clear to me that it was their sincerest intent to collaborate, co-operate and come together as a committee to make sure that we did the job we were elected to do and worked in a non-partisan way on something that is critically important to Canada.
With our intensified schedule, our committee analyzed this bill for a total of 38.5 hours. The hard work that took place at committee ensured that Bill C-4 was returned in a timely fashion. Over 117 witnesses were invited, and we heard from a large range of individuals, organizations and businesses.
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the hard work of the staff of the House of Commons who were present during these extended meetings. None of this could have been possible without the work of our committee clerks, analysts, translators and the House of Commons staff, who carried out their duties with utmost professionalism. A huge thanks goes out to everyone involved.
This new agreement will help reinforce strong economic ties between Canada, the United States and Mexico. It will improve North America's ability to compete on the global stage. This agreement will also bring back predictability and stability to the economic relationship between Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, which we heard a lot about from various businesses and presenters.
We have seen several actions from the U.S. on trade that had contributed to economic instability for Canadian businesses and their workers, and they were clearly concerned. Canada was confronted with the option of either renegotiating NAFTA or facing the possibility of the United States withdrawing from the agreement. I am pleased that we now have a modern trilateral agreement that turns the page and focuses on the three pillars that make our economic relationship so successful: stability, economic integration and clear, transparent and enforceable rules.
From the start of the negotiations, Canada set out to achieve key priority outcomes: preserve important NAFTA provisions and market access into the U.S. and Mexico, modernize and improve the agreement, and reinforce the security and stability of market access into the U.S. and Mexico for Canadian businesses. We are proud of the fact that we have achieved all three of those objectives.
It is particularly important to note that the preferential tariff treatment under NAFTA is preserved in this new agreement. Canada's preferential access to the U.S. and Mexican markets is vital to the continuing prosperity of Canadian workers whose livelihoods rely on this trade. During consultations with stakeholders, we heard repeatedly about the importance of preserving the benefits of NAFTA and the integrity of North American supply chains. We understand how vital they are to Canadian companies and exporters.
As an annual average from 2016 to 2018, Canada exported 412.2 billion dollars' worth of goods to the United States, Canada's top export market. Over the same period, Canada exported an annual average of 9.2 billion dollars' worth of goods to Mexico, Canada's fifth-largest trading partner. These are very significant numbers, and the new NAFTA ensures continued preferential access to these key export destinations.
The new agreement preserves the market access outcomes that were achieved in the original NAFTA. This means that NAFTA's duty-free access for all non-agricultural goods will be maintained. For agricultural goods, Canadian exports will also continue to benefit from duty-free access for nearly 89% of U.S. agricultural tariff lines and 91% of Mexican tariff lines. The new NAFTA will help farmers to be more competitive and will make it easier for them to export their products and continue to feed North America and the rest of the world.
Maintaining these tariff outcomes provides Canadians with an advantage over those in countries without a preferential trade agreement with the United States and Mexico. It also ensures predictability and continued secure market access for Canadian exporters to our largest trading partners. The preserved tariff-free environment also safeguards the integrity of the integrated North American supply chains. Other key elements of the original NAFTA have also been preserved, including the chapter 19 binational panel dispute settlement, a state-to-state dispute settlement, the cultural exception and temporary entry for business persons.
The new NAFTA also helps open new market access opportunities in the U.S. for Canadian companies and improves existing market access. The new modernized agreement includes new customs and trade facilitation measures that will make it easier for companies to move goods across the border, including by eliminating paper processes and providing a single portal for traders to submit import documentation electronically. In particular, the new agreement moves away from the traditional certificate of origin to a new certificate of origin that allows companies to use existing documents in their business process to certify origin.
The new NAFTA includes a new stand-alone chapter on rules of origin and origin procedures for textiles and apparel goods that will support Canada's textile and apparel sector. The agreement preserves the existing market access that Canada has under NAFTA to the U.S. and Mexican markets in these sectors and ensures that the benefits of the agreement go primarily to producers located in North America. The new agreement provides greater flexibility for producers to use small amounts of materials from outside the region without losing their preference.
Furthermore, the agreement expands a provision from NAFTA to set out a special procedure to more easily establish the origin of the indigenous textiles and apparel. Under this provision, a textile or apparel item that the parties agree is an indigenous handcrafted good will be eligible for duty-free treatment, even if the good does not satisfy the applicable product-specific rule of origin.
Given the importance of predictability and transparency in international trade, the new NAFTA includes provisions that will provide added assurance for exporters that their goods will not be delayed by unjustified or unclear measures at the borders. Companies will have enough time to adjust to new regulations and other requirements. The agreement also ensures Canada's agricultural and processed food exports can rely on sanitary and phytosanitary measures that are risk-based and that increase predictability of market access so that products make it to market in a reasonable amount of time.
The section 232 side letter on autos and auto parts achieved as part of the overall outcome provides added security and stability for Canadian automotive and parts companies that export to the U.S. market. It will reaffirm Canada's attractiveness as an investment destination for this sector.
On trade and indigenous people, for the first time in a Canadian free trade agreement, the new NAFTA incorporates a general exception that clearly confirms that the government can adopt or maintain measures it deems necessary to fulfill its legal obligations to indigenous peoples. An indigenous working group was established to further the dialogue between the government and indigenous peoples, share ideas and work collaboratively on solutions.
We are pleased to have concluded an agreement that incorporates new and modernized provisions that seek to address 21st century trade issues and support opportunities for Canadian businesses and workers. This includes bringing obligations on labour and environment into the agreement and subjecting them to dispute settlement. It also includes important outcomes toward inclusive trade, including with respect to gender and the interests of indigenous peoples.
In particular, the new labour chapter includes commitments to protect and promote internationally recognized labour rights and principles in North America. It also includes unprecedented protections against violence and against gender-based discrimination with regard to sexual orientation, sexual harassment, gender identity, caregiving responsibilities and wage discrimination.
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