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View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 19:33 [p.17281]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague on the other side just asked about the introduction of this piece of legislation. It actually started in 2008, with the rail freight service review. It was a two-year process. It was quite extensive and exhaustive, and there was enough guilt on the railway side as well as on the shippers' side when it comes to numbers to make it clear that something had to be done.
This measure was first introduced—in fact, I introduced it—in March in 2012, prior to the election, and then was picked up after the election, in December. This is a piece of legislation that has come a long way and has had lots of consultation.
My question for my hon. colleague is this. When the railway companies looked at this legislation initially, they fought against it, said they did not need it and said they would arrive at their service arrangements themselves. They said that it would drive negotiation away from the table. What I believe will happen is that it will drive both parties to the table, and if they cannot negotiate, it would be an arbitrated settlement. I wonder if my colleague would agree with me.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 21:55 [p.17299]
Mr. Speaker, I take great interest in the debate this evening, as well as a bit of pride, because this legislation is very close to me. I was in charge of the railways at the time when the rail freight service review was happening and on behalf of the government, I was able to introduce the announcement to initiate this legislation.
Here we are going into third reading, which is great not only for the House but for the country because all parties are indicating their support for the legislation. It is a great legislation for a lot of reasons.
I will start with why it is here and why we need the legislation. I would like to go back a bit and explain to the House and Canadians what the problem really was.
At the time when I was put in charge of railways, in western Canada the on-time delivery for CN's cars was about 52% to 55% for grain shipments. That is not a good performance. How could western Canadian farmers get their products from the combine to the port and off to international markets when they could only rely on the cars being there at the proper time 55% of the time?
As my hon. colleague from Wascana mentioned, during the review CN upped its game considerably. New management came into CN and really concentrated on trying to up its game at the time, and it did. It went from 55% to over 90% within about a year to a year and a half period. That was strictly because the spotlight was on it and it put full attention toward upping its service because the service review was taking place.
A lot of the shippers came to us and asked that we keep the review going and keep the spotlight on the industries and the railways so they would up the game. We encouraged them to continue to have service agreements with all their shippers. They committed to doing that and signed as many shipping service agreements as they possibly could. In fact, I know there were some in some of the industries, perhaps the coal industry, for over a decade, so there were some long-term agreements that were signed at that time.
This legislation does not really speak to the agreements. That is intentional because they are so diverse. Producers cars would have a completely different need and service agreement than would shipping of a coal, potash or forest industries. However, they all want service. Under this legislation, those agreements would be totally flexible because they could contain all kinds of penalties. We are not privy to what the agreements are. We do not need to know what they are. However, when the two parties come to an agreement, they need to have some kind of mechanism to do things.
The first is to ensure that whatever agreement they do reach is complied with. That is what this legislation does. It has penalties that would go to either a shipper or a railway depending on which one breaches the agreement.
The second is there for when an agreement cannot be reached. If negotiations between the shipper, the railway, and so forth are done to the best of their ability, whether in the forest, egg, coal or potash industry, whatever the commodity, yet they cannot come to an agreement, then they are really stuck. This legislation is a way for them to reach a final arbitrated settlement that would give them clarity as to what was fair in an agreement. That is what the industry and the shippers have asked for.
Instead of being held ransom and saying they cannot come up with an agreement because no one wants to negotiate, they are saying, with this legislation, that if they cannot come to an agreement, there will be an arbitrated settlement. It does not say who is going to win or lose in that arbitration. Rather it calls for that to happen. Because of that, there will be a better system all the way around. If we go through the rail service review data carefully, as did the committee and the government, there was a lot of blame on both the shipper and the railway sides.
Let us not pick winners or losers. Let us just fix it in the best interests of this country. That is what this House is all about. It is about designing a piece of legislation that will move the country along. We do not really care who wins or loses. We want it to be fair so that both win. Canada wins because we move product to shore and on to international markets, where the real win is for the railways, the shippers and the country. That is why this should be supported.
International trade is really our stimulus for the future. We just came through a tremendous economic recession that has challenged the world. It challenged North America. It challenged the United States, our largest trading partner. Last year we had $528 billion in trade. Three-way trade between Mexico, Canada and the United States is almost $1 trillion per year. That is a large number, when we start talking about trillions of dollars.
About 40 million jobs have been created in our country because of NAFTA. I love the map at the Canadian embassy in the United States. The map shows for each state the number of dollars traded with Canada and the number of jobs created in that state because of that trade. It is very effective information that our American cousins need to understand more directly. Canadians also need to understand it. The number of dollars traded and the number of jobs created in each province is also on that map. I would recommend it to anyone.
Why do I mention that? It is because one of every five jobs in Canada is created because of trade, because of exports. Sixty per cent of our GDP is from that trade. Is it growing or is it shrinking? The last statistics I saw show a 73% increase in trade internationally between now and 2025. That is a large number. Those countries that capitalize on that growth in trade are the ones that are going to win. I like the way we are positioned to capitalize on that. We are about to sign a European free trade agreement, which I hope will work. That is 500 million people and $17 trillion in GDP in that market that we will be able to capitalize on. Not only that, but when we go to the west coast, with the trans-Pacific partnership, we will be talking about 110 million people and GDP of $17.6 trillion.
These are tremendous opportunities, not only with respect to China and India but with the trans-Pacific partners. It will depend on what we have to offer those markets. We are also working on a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. We are working on more trade with China. China is a big player, particularly when it comes to railways and moving products to the west coast.
What do they want? They want two things: food security and energy security. Canada can provide both, and railways are a major part of that. Before railways and shippers start saying negative things about each other, why do both groups not look at the opportunity before us? Why do we not look at the opportunity before Canada? Never has the opportunity been greater to create a winning situation for Canadian industries. It might be products manufactured and moved back and forth by rail, as we do with United States when we move automobiles back and forth by rail. We can actually supply for the United States products coming from China through the port of Prince Rupert two and a half days faster than any other port on the west coast. It is two and a half days faster, because it comes through Prince Rupert and goes right down to Chicago to supply the largest economy in the world: the United States. It is because of our railways and our system.
People have been criticizing this piece of legislation and asking why we did not include shipments to the United States in this rail service agreement. I can say that the United States is looking very closely at this piece of legislation. Americans are wondering how it is working, what kind of support it is getting and if it is going to actually do the job. I believe that it will do the job. The Americans are very keen to look at it and perhaps even use it as a model for their country. When that happens, there will be a continuous system between Canada and the United States, which is our largest trading partner and always will be.
This is a great piece of legislation for many reasons. When we look at the international markets, it is indeed amazing.
The railways carry a tremendous amount of freight, about 240 million tonnes of freight. About 70% of the surface freight in this country is moved by rail. That includes the bulk commodities such as grains, minerals, forestry products, energy products and so on.
I was talking to a representative of CN last night. He was telling me that the number of cars they are ordering to supply energy to markets by rail is off the charts. That is happening because of the resistance to pipelines. Whether or not the pipelines come, there is no question that rail will play a big part in moving our energy products to shore and beyond.
It is very important that this piece of legislation work not only for the agriculture sector, for grains and seeds, but for the energy sector, mining, potash and so on. It is a great piece of legislation that would go a long way in making certain that we level the playing field.
My hon. colleague said that CN used to be one of the worst as far as providing service. I would tend to agree with him. Perhaps now the reverse is happening, and CP is having more of a struggle providing service than CN. That is hard to argue with, and it is probably true.
We have heard arguments from the president of CN. He is asking why we are bringing in this legislation. He says that it will halt negotiations and drive people away from the negotiating table. It would do just the opposite. It would drive people to the negotiating table, because if they did not get a service agreement, there would be a very quick arbitration process in place through this legislation that would actually make sure they got a deal. That is what the legislation is designed to do. That is why it would work so well.
Would it be used an awful lot? Probably not. I hope not. I hope it is never used. If we bring it in, the jig is up. There should be an arbitrated settlement. If there is not, somebody will do it for them. They will do it quickly, and it will not cost a lot of money. Once the process has been challenged, a precedent will be set. The rest will fall in line with it, and the service agreements will comply.
I do not believe that this piece of legislation will be used terribly much, but it needs to be there, because the manager of CN or CP may not always be the most friendly guy who always wants to do the right thing. When we bring in legislation, it is for a long period and it is in the best interests of the country. It has nothing to do with the personalities of the people who were there.
I remember the forest industry. We were within hours of finalizing an agreement with the forest sector of this country. We brought them to the table. We did everything we possibly could to get them over the line. We could not quite get there. We would get there now, because we would have a piece of legislation that would arbitrate it. I will not say who would win or lose in that arbitration, because I do not know, but I do know that there would be an arbitrated settlement and they would move on.
It is really important that cars are placed in yards at the appropriate time for product to move from where it is produced to the market. That is the number one thing we can do to create the kind of economy, jobs and prosperity this country needs to move forward.
A lot has been said about the penalties that would go to the government. That is because we do not want winners or losers to use this piece of legislation other than as a tool to make certain that services are provided at the appropriate time.
There could be all kinds of penalties within their service agreements if the parties agreed to them. If the agreements were not recognized and not realized, the penalties would be a tool to make sure the service agreement was complied with.
It is a very great day for me. This has been a long process. It is a process that has had a lot of consultation.
I have quotes here from the agricultural, forestry, coal, potash and mining industries that say that this is a very big step in changing the dynamic between the railways and the shippers. They feel that they have a government that will back them in an arbitrated settlement process that does not play one against the other. It is truly there to try to make certain that an agreement works for both and that the service is provided in an appropriate way. Predictable service is something we cannot talk enough about. Unpredictable service is the number one thing that will retard the opportunity for shippers to be prosperous and get their products to market.
I want to commend the standing committee on transport. It worked very hard over a number of years to make this happen. The Minister of Transport has picked this ball up and has pushed it very hard. He has worked very hard to bring this to where it is tonight.
Tonight is a wonderful evening. Think about it. When was the last time we had a substantive piece of legislation such as this that was agreed upon by everyone in the House? I can think back a long time. I know that there have been frivolous pieces of legislation that perhaps have had unanimous consent, but there have not been major pieces of legislation like this that are paradigm shifters that would change the dynamic. It is probably the most significant piece of legislation to come between shippers and railways in 50 years or more, so this is a very significant evening. It is a significant piece of legislation.
I am very proud to be lending my voice to it, and I look forward to the vote, which I hope will happen tomorrow. We will move it into the Senate and on to royal assent very quickly.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:13 [p.17301]
Mr. Speaker, he is asking if the penalties are large enough to force compliance. It is $100,000 for every car that is not there on time, which is a fairly significant penalty. If it is not, we might have to go back and raise it.
I believe that it is significant enough. There is no one I know in the railway industry who would say that they would just pay the $100,000 and forget to bring the cars. I do not believe the railways will play that card. If that happens, there is an opportunity to go back and address it, but I would not do it at this stage of the game.
What is done for one is the same for the other. The penalty can be for the shipper as well as the railway. It is fair to say that it is a fairly significant penalty for every violation under this act. I do not expect that it is going to happen, but there are all kinds of tools to address it if it does happen.
There is an opening up of the entire railway act coming in 2015-16, so I do not believe that the railways are going to play silly with this piece of legislation. They will try to comply, because it is in their best interests to do so. It is in their best interest to make certain that they have the cars there appropriately and that the service agreements are fair for both. The shippers have to win for the railways to win, and the railways have to win for the shippers to win. If both win—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:16 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, the bill is not designed to get into the service agreement.
It used to be that when a shipper ordered a car from CN and it did not show up, it was no big deal. There was no penalty, nothing. If a shipper had trouble with weather or unforeseen circumstances and the car could not be loaded fast enough and moved out, then CN or CP could ding the shipper significantly, without any recourse.
This piece of legislation does not talk about what is in the service agreement, so if someone wants compensation for lack of service then it should be put in the agreement. All we are saying is that if the agreement is not complied with, the penalties will apply. There needs to be a tool to make sure that whatever is agreed upon is actually complied with, and that is what this legislation would do. Complying with the agreement should not be a winner or loser within the agreement to use as a tool. If someone wants compensation, it should be put in the agreement.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:18 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, our trade with the United States is a great success story. I always say that we do not really trade with the United States; we build things together with the United States. Our supply chains are intricately linked. It does not matter if it is the forestry sector, the beef sector, the auto sector, or many other sectors, we do things together.
When I talk to my colleagues in the United States Congress, I tell them it does not matter whether they go after international markets and sell products to China or Japan, or that we do. The United States ambassador says that for every dollar that Canada trades with Japan, 25¢ of that goes to America because our supply system is intricately linked. We need to collectively go after those international markets because of the productivity gain that we will create. Both the United States and Canada will capitalize on those growing international markets in a much better way.
By 2050, there are supposed to be an extra three billion people in the world, and two billion of them will move from poverty to middle class during that time period. They will need energy, food and all of the things we produce in Canada and the United States. Those are the markets we need to go after.
Thinning the border, creating the productivity gains by having a good railway system between Canada and the United States, is absolutely essential in ensuring that we capitalize on those markets. We are the most productive in the world. Canada has great systems. We have some of the best food. We produce some of the best things, whether it is our automobiles and so on.
Canada and the United States are great allies and partners. We do a lot of back and forth trade—
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:20 [p.17302]
Mr. Speaker, if the president of CN, Claude Mongeau, had impact on the minister, the bill would not be here. I have sat down with him a number of times, and he said we should not do it. He gave me all kinds of reasons why it would be a terrible piece of legislation. The railways are not really excited about this.
My argument to him was that if the railways do not want the bill, then they should have service agreements, and if they do not want service agreements, then they need the bill to be able to get them over the line. I would suggest that there is no impact there.
This is not a piece of legislation that either of the railways is excited about or interested in. They see the rationale behind the legislation. They are not supportive of the bill, but they are not saying anything very negative about it either.
Any time that both sides do not agree 100% on a bill, then that bill is usually striking the right note and balance. I think we have that here.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-05-29 22:22 [p.17303]
Mr. Speaker, my colleague is absolutely right. The creation of jobs and the growing of our economy is absolutely critical, and the railways play a major role in that.
As a government, we have been able to put a significant number of dollars into infrastructure to make certain that the gateway project on the west coast, the corridor project to the south, and the eastern project corridor to the east capitalize on those international markets. The infrastructure that is built there would not only creates jobs, but it would also create an infrastructure that would create jobs because of the kind of trade we are expecting.
We are a blessed country in so many ways and have so much opportunity, especially as we see this massively growing international trading relationship around the world. Healthy railways lend themselves to the success of our country and the kinds of job opportunities we will have for the future.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-04-18 13:09 [p.15587]
Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my hon. colleague, who is a member of the trade committee, and I listen to him quite often at trade committee. His position on this issue and the position of the NDP is really quite astounding.
The position of the New Democrats on trade is really quite anti-trade, but when it comes to China, they are prepared to go against an agreement that would actually protect Canada's interests in China and not compromise Canada's interests. How they bend and twist it is really ideological.
When it comes to our colleagues in the Liberal Party, they too have an interesting perspective when it comes to trade. The Liberals seem to want to subsidize China. China can get along very well without subsidies, thanks very much, when it comes to taking them off the list with regard to tariff compromisation.
Getting back to the issue at hand, I ask my hon. colleague a question with regard to his comments. When we have signed 24 of these agreements with other countries around the world and when we are actually doing more trade with China than ever before—in fact, 24% more just in forestry alone in the last few years—why is it so wrong to have a deal with China that we have signed with 24 other countries when it is okay with these other 24 countries?
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-04-18 13:34 [p.15592]
Mr. Speaker, I listened to my hon. colleague and I listened to the comments of my colleagues across the way with regard to this FIPA, which really does protect and level the playing field between China and Canada.
It is interesting. When we were in Japan as a committee, and the last two colleagues who spoke were there, we asked Japan if it had a FIPA with China. Japan is China's largest trading partner, much larger than Canada, much larger than America. It said that it did not. We asked if it would sign a FIPA and it said it would love to, which would level the playing field and give protection for the Japanese in China and for Japanese investment. Has Japan been compromised with some of the investments in China? Yes, it has but it continues to work. Japan would love to have a FIPA that would allow it that protection that China has offered through this FIPA with Canada.
My hon. colleague was on the trip with us to Japan. Would he see this as a good thing not only for Canada but also for Japan?
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2013-04-18 15:47 [p.15614]
Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate my hon. colleague's position about Canada's interests in investment in China. It is well thought out.
I find it a little rich when my hon. colleagues from across, particularly the NDP members, look at trade surpluses or deficits in the sense of whether we bring in more imports than we export. We are in a global world. He has heard witness after witness, at committee, testifying as to how integrated we all are. Just because we, for a certain period of time, bring more in than we export, that does not necessarily mean that is bad for Canada. In fact, that is actually a good sign, because we have to bring products in to manufacture them and create them to have greater exports.
I really find it a little rich when the opposition, actually both parties, take the position that it is a really negative thing. It is actually a very good thing, and we will continue to promote trade, as a government.
I want my hon. colleague to answer the question with regard to the position we take on trade, as a government, compared with the opposition, because I think that needs a little more explanation, obviously.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-11-07 16:04 [p.12066]
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to share my comments on a bill that should have been passed two and a half years ago. We are in the eleventh hour of debate on this bill, which is certainly not being rammed through. It should have been passed long ago.
We are a trading nation, as most members of the House and Canadians know. It is something to see the magnitude of trade that we do in Canada as we look at what has happened over our history. Eighty-five per cent of our trade has been with our southern neighbour, the United States.
Here I want to take the opportunity to congratulate President Obama for his win last evening and the people of Michigan for their decision to allow the new bridge to be built between Windsor and Detroit. The existing bridge is the largest trading bridge anywhere in the world. At times there is $2 billion a day in trade going across that bridge, so it is very important that a new bridge be built.
As I said, about 85% of our international trade has been with the United States, whereas last year it was about 73%. We are becoming less dependent on the United States and more dependent on other markets, such as the one we are debating under this piece of legislation, Panama's.
It is impressive to see the number of jobs created because of our international trade. One in every five Canadian jobs is generated through exports and 63% of our country's annual GDP is created because of international trade. Therefore, it is very important that we get this piece of legislation through. Panama is the hub of the Americas and a very important logistical platform for us to trade with in Central America.
This is a continuation of an agenda that our government has had since coming into office. We have signed nine different free trade agreements, including with countries such as Colombia, Jordan, Peru and Honduras; and with the European Free Trade Association, including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This is long overdue. We are very aggressively pursuing other countries with regard to free trade agreements, seen in the Canada-European Union free trade agreement, for example. We look forward to the final text perhaps being out before year end.
I was with the trade committee in Japan last week and was very encouraged by what we heard regarding a bilateral trade agreement with Japan, the world's third largest economy.
When we add all of these up and see exactly what we are doing, the possibilities of moving forward on our trade agenda are very encouraging.
Just to look at what we have done with NAFTA and the United States, since NAFTA was signed some 18 or so years ago, that agreement has created about 40 million jobs. The GDP of the three countries was a little over $7 trillion at the time of signing and is now over $17 trillion now. Between the three countries, we are now trading almost $1 trillion a year. It is very significant.
Canadians realize the importance of a trade agenda. What I cannot understand is where the opposition is at with regard to our trade agenda. Even today, opposition members say that they do not like and would get rid of the NAFTA agreement. They say they would never support it and never have supported it. It does not matter what kind of logic we use or what kind of math we put in front of them to show them the benefits of it, they disagree with it. This is something that I absolutely do not understand.
The opposition members have disagreed with all of the nine free trade agreements our government has signed, except maybe the one with Jordan, which they could not come to a decision on. They had to sit on their hands because they did not want to show that they were somewhat supportive of that agreement. When we look at the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, I would suggest that it is much more beneficial even than the agreement with Jordan. Yet the opposition filibusters and accuses the government of trying to ram it through.
There has been a lot of debate on the Canada-Panama free trade agreement, and it is amazing what is in that piece of legislation and what it will do for our agriculture sector. Agriculture is near and dear to my heart, as we farm about 3,000 acres of canola and wheat. It is important for us to understand the size of agriculture in Canada. The agrifood sector actually generates 8% of our GDP. It creates one in eight jobs in this country. That is 2.2 million jobs in Canada created because of agriculture. There is some $41 billion created because of trade in our agricultural products in international markets. Almost half of our total agricultural production in this country goes to international trade. Indeed, we are sixth largest exporter of agricultural products in the world.
It is very important that we make sure that we capture as many possible markets as we can for our agricultural products. Panama is the second largest market for agricultural products in Central America. This piece of legislation would allow agriculture not only to be enhanced but also for it to be done in a tariff-free way. How many tariffs are there? On the signing and implementation of this piece of legislation, 78% of Canadian agricultural exports to Panama would be tariff-free .
What are those products? The 20% tariff on frozen french fries, which help Prince Edward Island and Atlantic Canadians, would be eliminated. How about the pulse crops of the Prairies? There is a 15% tariff on those that would be eliminated immediately upon signing of this agreement. How about malt exporters, the barley growers of this country? The 10% tariff applying to them would be eliminated upon signing of this agreement.
By the way, the opposition disagrees with our getting rid of these tariffs and has fought this for two and a half years in the House. That is absolutely ridiculous when we see the benefits to these areas.
How about our beef sector, which has been plagued by the BSE crisis and all kinds of problems, including its exports to different countries around the world being shut down as a result? The producers have gone through a very difficult time. The tariff they face in the Panamanian region is 25% to 30%. That would be eliminated.
I was in Japan last week with the trade committee, where we were excited about the opening up of the export of our beef, from beef aged 21 months to beef aged 30 months now. However, Japan is another market that has been hurt because of the delays by the opposition with regard to this piece of legislation.
The tariff that really bothers me the most is the 60% to 70% tariff on our hog industry. It is amazing to see that kind of tariff placed on our hogs. That so important to us because our largest competitor in that market is the United States, which signed a free trade agreement with Panama on October 31. If we do not get our free trade agreement with Panama through the House, we will lose our competitive edge and never get it back. It is absolutely critical that we make sure that we stop playing around in the House and start doing what is right for Canadians. The opposition should get onboard.
There has been two and half years of filibustering in the House, two and a half years of wasted time and opportunity for us to be able to capitalize on the great infrastructure of the Panama Canal, as well as the opportunities for our agriculture sector and many others. The opposition says we are fast-tracking this by bringing in time allocation. I understand the NDP, because that is just their ideological bent and where they are at. They are what they are. However, two days ago we had the Liberals opposing our closure motion on this legislation. I find that really hard to understand.
Not only has the United States signed an agreement with Panama, but the European Union is also expected to sign an agreement, perhaps by the end of this year. Then we will lose a competitive edge with Europe as well.
It is absolutely amazing when we see what the opposition is doing with regard to this piece of legislation and the free trade agreements we have reached with nine different countries around the world and have been promoting. I just do not understand it.
I will quote the member for Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, who was the vice-chair of the trade committee at one time. He said that when it comes to trade agreements, they are “job-destroying”. I do not understand where he gets that math. How can he possibly get there?
There is only one thing that we heard with regard to trade in the NDP's platform and that was a $21 billion cap and trade carbon tax. That is what the opposition is promoting, instead of the positive trade we will experience when we pass this piece of legislation. I encourage the House to get on with this. The next two hours cannot go fast enough.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-11-07 16:15 [p.12067]
We have heard for two and a half years that the reason the New Democrats are saying no to this is because of a tax haven in Panama. It was on a grey list, and it has moved from a grey list to a white list. My hon. colleague knows this. We heard it in testimony at the committee. He heard from the finance department that this is working and that there is a change with Panama. Panama has come a long way.
We could take two approaches. One approach is as we did with Jordan, where we sign an agreement to try to improve the labour situation and some of the corruption we potentially see in some of these countries. Or, we could just step aside and wait until they have their house completely in order. Our approach is to go in, engage and be able to bring them into a place that is much more positive. That is exactly where Panama is. It has gone from a grey list to a white list, and it is improving.
The hon. colleague knows full well that this is going to be worked out in this legislation, and that is the fact. The hon. colleague, if he were absolutely true to himself and to this House, would admit it.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2012-11-07 16:18 [p.12068]
Mr. Speaker, not only would their carbon tax be an absolute blowout, estimated at $21 billion, but with their anti-trade thing, now we are getting into serious money. If we got rid of NAFTA and all trade agreements, not only would it be an unbelievable black eye and message to the international community that our agricultural products are not the best in the world, which they are—the safest in the world and coveted by most of the world, along with our energy supply and on and on—but the amount of dollars that would be compromised would actually cripple this country. Canadians are too smart to buy this nonsense.
The opposition members are driven by ideology, based mainly on unions that are a little out of touch and self-serving. This is absolutely ridiculous. We cannot build the nation under that ideology. It is unfortunate that we have an opposition that is driven by ideology rather than actual facts and the reality that we are a trading nation and we have great optimistic opportunities as we move forward. We need to enhance and accelerate trade, not hamper it.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and a pleasure for me to stand and speak to this important piece of legislation.
I just came from chairing the international trade committee. It is a pleasure for me to serve in that capacity. When it comes to trade, it is absolutely imperative that I explain to Canadians just how important trade is to Canada.
One out of every five jobs is created because of trade. Sixty-three per cent of our GDP is represented by trade, and we have accomplished that because of trade agreements.
The trade file started with NAFTA. NAFTA has been in existence for almost 17 years. What has happened in that time period? Jobs have gone up by 23%, meaning there are 40 million net new jobs in North America because of NAFTA. Trade has tripled, and has quadrupled with one of our partners.
Opposition members argue against free trade agreements. It really puzzles me that they let the Jordan free trade agreement go through on a voice vote; it was as if their union people were not watching. It is absolutely amazing to me that they could agree with the Jordan free trade agreement and then stand in the House and give some of the arguments that I have heard recently against the Panama free trade agreement. I will talk about that in a few minutes.
I want to give one quick example about NAFTA. We heard arguments that when NAFTA came in, the wine industry in Canada would be absolutely destroyed. It would cease to exist. All those arguments were presented on the floor of the House, and they were argued vigorously.
Can members guess what happened? Canada's wine exports amounted to $1.8 billion. From all the various countries—Argentina, Australia, France, Italy, Spain—we imported $800 million in wine, so our exports doubled our imports. What a great success story, and all because of international trade. That is something my hon. colleagues should keep in mind.
What have we been doing as a country? We have signed nine different free trade agreements: Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Peru, the European Free Trade Association members, and Panama, the one we are dealing with today.
What are we pursuing? We are pursuing an economic free trade agreement with Europe. We just heard testimony less than an hour ago in committee from our chief negotiator, who indicated how well that is going. We expect to have the final draft by the end of the year.
Why is that important? It is important because it is the most comprehensive free trade agreement between any two nations anywhere in the world. It will supposedly be at end of text by the end of the year. It is exciting to see how well that is going, and I compliment the negotiators on that free trade agreement.
What does that agreement mean to Canada? It means $1,000 per family per year. That is a fair amount. That is $12 billion coming into Canada every year because of the economic free trade agreement with Europe.
We are also working aggressively on another free trade agreement, in this case with Japan. The benefits to Canada would be $9 billion. As well, there is India, Brazil, Thailand.
Just a few minutes ago we heard that we are in the TPP, which, as of yesterday, is a group of 10 countries on the Pacific rim that will work on a comprehensive free trade agreement in that group.
What about China? Last year we imported $44.5 billion from China. It imported $13.2 billion from us. To equalize the trade benefit from China and to balance the trade would be a $30 billion benefit. It could be just an act of goodwill by China.
We are very excited about accelerating trade and about our opportunities with these growing countries that are in need of the products we produce and the resources, industries and intelligence we have here in Canada to offer them.
What are the elements of the Canada-Panama agreement? We trade cross-border services, telecommunications, investment, financial services, government procurement and so on.
It is important to sign this agreement and get on with it. The bill reached third reading in the last Parliament. It is important because the United States, Chile, Taiwan and Singapore already have an agreement with Panama.
What would bilateral trade with Panama mean? In 2011, trade was $235 million. We imported about $144 million in products such as metals, gold, fruit, machinery, fish and seafood products. We exported about $111 million in products such as machinery, meat, aerospace products, vegetables and so. Signing this kind of agreement would provide a great opportunity for our corporations and our country.
It is very important to understand the opportunities that lay themselves before us under this agreement on the procurement side. In Panama it is projected there will be $28.9 billion U.S. worth of infrastructure projects over the coming years. One of the largest is the Panama Canal, which is a $5.3 billion expansion and a great opportunity for Canadian corporations with regard to not only that but also ports, roads, bridges and airports, with respect to procurement.
It is important to understand that the tariffs on our agricultural products are rather intense. They go from 13.4% right up to 260% for some of our agricultural products. Imagine what the elimination of those could do with respect to exporting frozen potatoes, pulses, pork, malt barley and other products such as beef, hogs and so on. When it comes to the non-agricultural goods, the tariffs are anywhere from 6.2% right up to 81% on many of those, such as materials, equipment, industrial and electrical machinery, paper products, vehicles and so on. We can see that the potential for this is great.
The resistance I hear from the opposition members is rather interesting because they have talked about labour problems, human rights problems and environmental concerns. There is a corporate social responsibility that has been agreed to by Canadian corporations when we get into this piece of legislation. It very much encompasses environmental protection, human rights, labour relations, corporate governance, transparency, community relations, peace and security, and anti-corruption measures. Therefore, the opposition members are really blowing smoke when they say that the legislation does not include any of this. It is very important that it is there and that we sign this agreement so that Canadian companies would be able to capitalize on these kinds of opportunities.
The corporate social responsibility part of this agreement is very important. It is something that has not been talked about an awful lot here but is something that is very important. With respect to the side agreements on labour and the environment, I have heard opposition members ask why they are not encompassed within the body of the agreement. It is no different than with Jordan, for which they had no problem with standing in this House. Well, actually they did not stand; they just sat there on a voice vote and let it go unanimously at third reading. It is off to the Senate and will be passed very soon we hope. There is no difference here with respect to that, so I do not know how, in their own thinking, they can support one and not the other.
In testimony at committee we heard the most outrageous circumstances on human rights happening in some of the factories in Jordan. The members of the opposition who are on the committee heard the same testimony. There are two approaches that can be taken when we look at a free trade agreement. We can either say that unless that country comes up to Canadian standards we will disengage or just check out because there is no point, which will send a message that we would not do business with anyone who does not come up to our standards. The other approach is to engage that country as much as possible, improve its standard of living and give Canadian businesses as well as the corporations in those other countries opportunities that would help them along, so that we both win. That is the approach this government is using.
The most hypocritical position I have ever seen in this House on the trade file is the opposition members supporting Jordan but not supporting Panama, Colombia and others. It is really beyond anything I have seen. Clearly, it is something that has to be addressed when we challenge the opposition members to come on side and sign the agreement. If they say they are pro-trade then they should do it. The excuses I have heard are absolutely not excuses but rather blind ideology that hurts Canadian businesses and Canada as a country.
Canada is a wonderful country. It is the greatest country in the world, according to the IMF, the OECD and Forbes magazine. We have created 760,000 net new jobs since the bottom of the recession. We have done that by lowering taxes and giving Canadian corporations the opportunity to actually develop and move their goods and services into international trade opportunities around the world. As a government, we will continue to do that. Why? That is what Canadians expect us to do.
The NDP would like to raise taxes to get out of this recession. We believe we should grow our country. That is the way to win, and we will continue to do that.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
Mr. Speaker, I addressed that question in my deliberations, but nonetheless I would like to repeat it.
It is absolutely no different from the agreement with Jordan that the opposition sat in this House and agreed with 100%. The most horrendous testimony we have heard in our committee came from the factories in Jordan, of the misuse of human rights, yet the side agreements on human rights and on the environment are the very same.
I am saying to my hon. colleague that it is ridiculous to say that the side agreements on human rights and environment say we are going to go soft on it. We are going to go as hard as we possibly can and make sure we do what we can, in this agreement and other agreements, to be able to respect human rights wherever we can. We understand very well that in Jordan and in Panama there may be problems.
I would say the opportunity to have more intense problems, when it comes to human rights, is in Jordan rather than in Panama.
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