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View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
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
CPC (AB)
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.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, that is an interesting comment. Maybe the member is rather new here, but when the Liberals were in power for 13 long years, they signed zero agreements.
We signed nine and are heading to ten free trade agreements. It is very important that we not allow other countries to eat our lunch when it comes to trade. That is exactly what I said: when it comes to Panama, we have the United States, Singapore and other countries ahead of us with free trade agreements. The first one in usually has an opportunity ahead of the others. That is why we are pursuing, aggressively, free trade agreements with Japan and others. There is an advantage to making sure we do that.
It is very interesting, coming from the Liberal Party that agrees with free trade, because they did absolutely nothing. We have seen that as a trend by the Liberal Party for many years, so we are not really surprised.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
Mr. Speaker, the member is not opposed to trade; she is opposed to time allocation. This bill got to third reading with the last government. How much more debate does the member want on this thing?
Now we have started from scratch. This government has brought it up through committee and into the House, into third reading. That is a fairly extensive look at it. If the opposition has not made up its mind by now, it is never going to.
When it comes to tax havens, this is something that has been brought up before. In 2002 Panama committed to implementing the OECD's standards when it comes to exchange of tax information. In 2011, the OECD took another look at it and formally listed Panama as having substantial implementation and as having achieved international standards on exchange of information.
I believe Panama has come a long way. This is the right thing to do, and I encourage all members to consider that and vote for this piece of legislation.
View Rob Merrifield Profile
CPC (AB)
View Rob Merrifield Profile
2011-10-20 15:54 [p.2295]
Mr. Speaker, I would like to split my time with the hon. member for Medicine Hat.
This is an important issue that is near and dear to my heart, and the comments I am going to make this afternoon are biased, I admit. I am going to fess up right off the bat that I am a farmer. My son is actually the fourth generation on our farm so agriculture goes back a long way in our family. I have produced wheat and barley every year for the last 30 to 40 years, and my comments are biased because I will do and say anything I possibly can to support the farm family and agriculture in western Canada.
When my son wanted to take over the family farm, I tried to discourage him because I knew how difficult agriculture is. It is a very demanding occupation. So I told him to go and get a business education and I would teach him how to farm. So he got a business education and now he is teaching me how to farm. It is amazing what our young entrepreneurs in agriculture are doing and can accomplish. It is phenomenal to see how the industry has developed and is unbelievably engaging.
It is interesting to look at the trumped-up survey from this summer that the opposition members refer to so often. Believe me, farmers have been voting loud and clear and not just because of the 52 out of 56 seats that were won in the May election. They were voting with their seed drills and they have been doing it for a decade or more every spring when they grow products such as canola that are outside the Wheat Board.
Canola has outstripped wheat as the number one commodity in Canada and that is not an accident but it is because the farmers are getting the world price for their canola. They are not getting the world price for their wheat. Because of canola being outside the Wheat Board, farmers have the flexibility to manage and market and get those dollars into their pocket to handle the farm income in a way that enables them to handle the risks of their business. This is important.
The other thing about the survey and why I say it is trumped up is I have been farming for 40-plus years, all my life, growing barley or wheat every year and I never got a survey. I never had a chance to vote in this trumped-up survey. If farmers are missed like me in this survey and then those numbers are used to wail about what farmers really think, then the opposition has to soberly consider what it is doing and who it is representing.
It is not by accident that in the May election only four out of the fifty six seats in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta, provinces controlled by the Wheat Board, did not go to the Conservative government. Where were those four seats? Two of them were in downtown Winnipeg, one in downtown Regina and one in downtown Edmonton. I have not seen a combine or a kernel of wheat or barley in any one of those ridings ever.
So when members look at this piece of legislation, they should put aside ideology and do the right thing for agriculture and for farmers. Let us just for a second assume that the monopoly of the Wheat Board, if it is dual-marketed, is going to compromise the value at the farm gate. Then they would never have to worry about it because every farmer is astute enough to market their grain where they will get the best value for it. If that is the Wheat Board, that is where they will go. If that happens, nothing will change.
However, all this bill would do is allow farmers the opportunity to market their grain where they feel they can get better value for that dollar. If they can get a better value for the bushel of wheat or barley in an independent way by another avenue, then the question has to be asked how that can possibly be when the Wheat Board has a monopoly and has the inside track on getting the best value for farmers.
As I said a few minutes ago, if it were true that farmers were getting the best value for their wheat and barley, American farmers would be bringing their wheat here to capitalize on that marketing opportunity. That is not the case. The opposite is the case and there is a reason for it and it is that farmers are astute enough to understand their business plan and understand what is in their best interests as they move forward.
It is very important to say that this has to happen in conjunction with what was announced by our government on rail freight and transportation. The success of our country is really going to depend upon how well we can access international markets, how well and how fast we can get our canolas, wheats and barleys, our products and commodities to markets overseas. That is really where the growth lies.
As a government we put $3.6 billion-plus into the Asia-Pacific gateway so that we can streamline that transportation system. We have seen in our a government a change in the way that railways have actually treated agriculture. Their on-car deliveries this last year was up to over 90% compared to the year before, where it was down to about 50%.
Why is that changing? It is because of the rail freight service review. We have actually forced the railways to have a service agreement with those industries and farmers who have producer cars and so on, and who are shipping their products.
It has to go hand in glove because the railways win when shippers win, and when shippers and railways both win then Canada wins. It is very important that we make certain to streamline that system, so that the system will be able to handle the kinds of demands and opportunities that are there.
It is interesting, when we look at agriculture, just how big it is. It has changed so much. Since the 1950s it has gone up 300%, the productivity level in agriculture. That is what we are actually doing on the farm.
Seventy six per cent of those young farmers, in this survey that is being referred to, said that they wanted to break the monopoly. They wanted to have the opportunity to capitalize on markets other than the monopoly of the Wheat Board. Even using this survey, when we start looking into the future of where we are going to go, that is really the question, where do we go from here? What is it going to look like after we have dual marketing?
We have lost productivity or opportunity for our world share in wheat. It has fallen 42% in the last 50 years. We have lost 42% in the ability to capture those markets. When it comes to barley, the numbers are even worse. It is two-thirds, 66% since the 1980s that we have lost in the ability to capitalize on those international markets.
Where does the future lie? The population of the world right now is about 6.9 billion, 7 billion. What is it going to be in 2020? It is expected to be 7.6 billion. That is 68 million more people to feed, every year in this world. Where is agriculture going to be? It is not the same today as it was in the 1930s, when the Wheat Board was first brought in by a Conservative government, and it was voluntary, not forced, not a monopoly.
We are saying we should break the monopoly and allow the opportunity to see if the Wheat Board actually can do the job for the farmers or not.
We are saying that we have grown in opportunity for agricultural exports, but not because of the Wheat Board. It is in spite of the Wheat Board. It was $39 billion that was traded in 2010. We are in the top five agricultural exporters in the world. That is something to be proud of. It is because of the quality of the product that it is in such demand around the world.
The price is not realized. We are not getting world prices for wheat. We are here to protect our farmers. We have to actually ensure we have the farmers' interests in mind as we stand and speak on this piece of legislation. This is a very important piece of legislation that we are committed to for our electorate.
Speaking of that, I get this all the time. The opposition is saying that farmers think this and farmers think that. Well, I happen to be one of those farmers. So I have to ask, is it just me or do I represent my riding? I have yet to have a piece of mail or a phone call from anyone in my riding, although I am sure there are some people out there, that supports the monopoly.
I have yet to have one of those people call my office and say, “Can you phone me back and explain why you are doing what you are doing?” All of them are saying, “We want freedom. We want choice”.
That is where we need to go with this piece of legislation. It is an unbelievable opportunity that we have before us for agriculture in this country, for the family farm in this country, but more than that as we grow this country and capitalize on those international markets that are ripe for the taking.
We look forward to this bill passing. We encourage everyone in this House to consider their support as we come down to the vote on this.
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