Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to take part in the debate on Bill C-31, an act to implement the free trade agreement between Canada and Ukraine.
I want to take a moment to talk about the history of humanity, which will hopefully yield some insight into the notion of free trade. What is trade, essentially? According to the Canadian Oxford, a well-respected dictionary, trade is the exchange of goods between peoples.
That is an interesting first take on what free trade is. When two individuals meet to trade something, no matter the period in history, whether they barter or anything else, they exchange one commodity for another. That is trade.
I consulted the dictionary again to look up the meaning of free trade. It says that free trade is a theory, an economic doctrine whereby exchanges are free from obstacles and international transactions are free from protectionist intervention.
The free trade doctrine was formulated in the eighth century. It was also discussed by physiocrats such as David Hume and Adam Smith and in the writings of Mr. Ricardo and John Stuart Mill, where it is explored in greater detail. To those authors, the freedom of nations to trade is founded on the international division of labour, where each nation specializes in the production for which its aptitudes are greatest and where production is most cost effective. This theory underscores the positive effects of competition, which allows consumers to get products of the best quality at the lowest price.
Here is what we know about free trade. Theorists apply this concept more to international relations, but I would like to apply it to any form of trade without restrictions, whether at a national, international, or community level, or between two individuals. My colleagues will understand my logic.
I asked myself what we, human beings, have been doing for thousands of years, if not trading freely. If we look back at the Neolithic age, it seems to me that any men who ever met would know right away that they were going to trade products.
Even this spontaneous trade between tribes or individuals involved a certain degree of expertise, similar to the definition used by philosophers which states that free trade seeks to divide work sectors between different countries based on their skills and expertise, as well as their resources, of course. I am sure we can all agree that Canada will never have much expertise in growing bananas, for example, because we do not have the right climate to do so.
It seems to me that free trade has always happened. That is my argument. Being an evolutionist, I believe that we have been trading freely for millions of years. Long before we had countries and borders, humans traded with one another. In short, free trade is definitely not a modern or post-modern construct.
Nevertheless, I went and had a look at protectionism. The definition in the Canadian Oxford Dictionary is this: the theory or practice of protecting domestic industries. Trade tariffs are imposed in order to protect the local economy from foreign competition.
That is exactly what we are worried about right now, for example, with the hon. President of the United States, Mr. Trump, who is talking about potentially imposing tariffs and thus moving forward with a form of protectionism.
Protectionism has always been around. The Conservative Party of Canada was once in favour of protectionism. It depends on which way the wind is blowing. It is a matter of historical and political circumstance.
That being said, for the past 30 years, the Conservative Party has been the ultimate champion of free trade. I think that is a good thing because, as I demonstrated earlier, free trade has always existed from a philosophical perspective.
However, protectionism can be dangerous when it is fully applied because then the market is controlled by the government. In its milder form, this state is referred to as socialism, and in its more extreme form, it is referred to as communism.
The implementation of any type of trade system that is not free trade takes us in a rather dangerous direction. What is the best way to control populations? As I already mentioned, people have been trading with each other for millions of years. When governments were formed and kingdoms established, they quickly discovered that the best way of controlling people was to control the trade they were doing with each other.
What I am trying to say is that free trade has always existed, it is part of the very ontology of humanity, and we therefore should not be afraid of it; quite the contrary, we should celebrate free trade as a form of absolute liberty and an inalienable human right.
To come back to the bill, it is absolutely impossible to oppose, because it implements the free trade agreement between Ukraine and Canada. In fact, just a few years ago and under our government, Canada signed 45 free trade deals, for instance with Peru, South Korea, and the European Union. I could go on and on, but I cannot remember all the countries off the top of my head.
Furthermore, under the incredible leadership of the Right Hon. Brian Mulroney, we also created the largest free trade platform in the history of humanity, namely, NAFTA, an agreement between Canada, the United States, and Mexico.
We believe that the Canada-Ukraine free trade agreement is certainly a very positive way for us to show support for that great country, which is home to Kiev, the cradle of Russian civilization. That probably explains the tension between Russia and Ukraine, and that is why our support for Ukraine is so important. After all, history is such that Ukraine is now an independent country.
Let us explore why it is good for us to trade with Ukraine. I will speak from a monetary perspective, never mind international relations. Ukraine's GDP, its purchasing power, is $339.2 billion U.S. annually. The per capita GDP is a little more bleak at $7,900 U.S. That is why Ukrainians are certainly going to benefit from our free trade agreement with them. We are certainly going to contribute to increasing GDP to the benefit of every inhabitant of Ukraine, which will be excellent for them, their families, and their quality of life.
The population of Ukraine is 45.2 million, which is 10 million more than Canada's. By all accounts, we have similar population profiles. Their exports and imports account for 82% of the GDP, at the exchange rate.
Finally, Ukraine is a large exporting country like Canada and that may be because it is a bread basket nation, just like Canada is. Ukraine has always supplied wheat, oats, and other grains to the Soviet Union, or modern-day Russia, and to many other countries in the European Union, I imagine.
Ukraine is Canada's 75th largest merchandise trading partner out of 200 countries in the world. That is not bad, but I imagine that it could reach 50th or 40th place with this agreement, which will also help increase its per capita GDP. That was Ukraine's profile.