Mr. Speaker, I am so pleased to speak today on the motion before the House. It calls on the government to take the necessary legislative steps to ratify the modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, or CIFTA. I encourage the entire House to support it.
CIFTA is now a modern, forward-looking trade agreement that will better serve the sophisticated Canada-Israel trade relationship, while seeking to ensure that benefits are more widely shared by both Canadians and Israelis.
Our government has said from day one that trade and open markets are vital for Canada's economic prosperity. Earlier, the member for Sackville—Preston—Chezzetcook elaborated on that. Canada is a trading nation, and we know that increased trade means more and better-paying jobs for Canadians.
Why modernize CIFTA if we have already been doing so well? Canada and Israel already enjoy a rich and fruitful commercial relationship. Since CIFTA came into force over two decades ago, two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Israel has more than tripled, totalling $1.7 billion last year. However, as there was room to grow and deepen the commercial relationship, we made changes.
Israel's economy has significant potential and offers diverse commercial opportunities for Canadian businesses, given its well-educated population, solid industrial and scientific base and productive natural resources sectors. By providing expanded market access and more predictable trading conditions, the modernized CIFTA will enable Canadian companies to take meaningful advantage of these opportunities. This is why Bill C-85 is so important.
Israel is a good partner in trade, and we should capitalize on these additional opportunities for business. I will elaborate further on this point by turning to how this agreement will tangibly translate into real benefits for Canadian businesses.
Once the agreement is in force, close to 100% of all current Canadian agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports to Israel will benefit from some form of preferential tariff treatment. This is up from the current level of 90%. That is great for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians in the fishery, and also for people in the agri-food sector. This will generate benefits for Canadian companies in areas such as agriculture and agri-food, including products such as cranberries, baked goods, pet food, wine, fruit and fish and seafood.
Meaningful market access for Canadian agriculture and agri-food processors was a key interest in these negotiations, and the Government of Canada delivered by obtaining unlimited duty-free access for sweetened and dried cranberries, which currently have a 12% tariff; baked goods, which are currently tariffed up to 8%; and pet food, which currently has a tariff of 4%. These important tariff outcomes for the agriculture and agri-food sector place Canada on a more level playing field with exporters from the United States and the European Union, which are key competitors in this sector as we try to build our trading relationship with Israel.
This agreement will also give Canadian companies a leg up on competitors in other countries that do not have a free trade agreement with Israel. In exchange, Canada agreed to eliminate tariffs on certain targeted Israeli agriculture and agri-food imports, such as certain fish, certain nuts, some tropical fruits and certain oils.
I am pleased that the negotiated outcome has the support of key Canadian agricultural stakeholders, including Pulse Canada, the Canola Council of Canada, the Canadian Vintners Association and companies involved in the processing of potatoes, cranberries, soybeans and pet food. I am sure my colleagues from Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick will appreciate that as well.
In Newfoundland, there is a little-known winery in Whitbourne called Rodrigues Winery. It is in area of the province that is shared by the member for Avalon and the member for Bonavista—Burin—Trinity. There, kosher-certified berry wines are produced, and they appear on shelves in Israel. Agreements like these benefit companies like Rodrigues Winery by providing access to the market in Israel and by keeping the trade relationship between our countries strong.
This modernized agreement and the benefits it provides will be an important tool for a sector that makes a tremendous contribution to the Canadian economy from coast to coast. Successful trade provides for good employment opportunities, and with one in six Canadian jobs linked directly to exports, we are deeply committed to growing trade with this nation and expanding the pie for all Canadians.
Interestingly, for online retailers and service providers, including those in my riding, such as Eclipse Stores, the agreement also includes commitments by Canada and Israel not to levy customs duties or other charges on digital products that are transmitted electronically.
When I first saw this note, I had some concerns about the relevant paragraphs, so I sought some advice from the department regarding what this meant and how it might affect the playing field between local and foreign retailers. I was assured that paragraph 2 in article 9.2 outlines that the moratorium on customs duties applied to digital products transmitted electronically does not preclude a party from imposing internal taxes or other internal charges, such as value-added taxes. I know that is important to some of my constituents.
These are a few opportunities that the modernized CIFTA would provide.
I would like to speak on some of the more important aspects of the government's trade agenda, which aims to ensure that these opportunities are more widely shared among Canadians. This is our inclusive trade partnership agenda.
A priority for this government is our inclusive approach to trade. Simply put, we believe that everyone should benefit from and participate in the opportunities that come from increased trade and investment. We demonstrated that with the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement with the European Union and with the CPTPP, and we are also demonstrating it with this modernized agreement.
The modernized CIFTA incorporates several key inclusive trade elements. These features will help to ensure that economic gains complement important Canadian values and priorities, such as support for environmental protection and labour rights.
I appreciate some of the comments from members on the other side of the House from the New Democratic Party, who raised some issues about extending these benefits further. However, I believe we strike a good negotiated solution in the Canada-Israel relationship.
These trade elements also help to ensure everyone benefits from and can participate in the opportunities that flow from the agreement. The addition of these inclusive and forward-thinking trade elements signals a commitment from both Canada and Israel to create the right conditions for trade in our modern economies.
There are also additional resources for business. In order for the benefits of free trade agreements to be fully realized, Canadian businesses need to be aware of the agreements and the benefits they offer. Accordingly, the Prime Minister of Canada has mandated the Minister of International Trade Diversification to provide support to Canadian businesses to take advantage of the opportunities that flow after trade agreements are signed, including by drawing on resources from across government and from public and private sector partners. In this regard, Global Affairs Canada has mobilized a free trade agreement promotion task force that is undertaking a comprehensive outreach and training program within the business community. Work on these leading agreements is scheduled to take place across Canada in early 2019 so that the task force can focus on the CETA with the European Union, the CPTPP and the implementing legislation that is currently before Parliament.
In addition, Canadian companies can access the free services and export advice provided by the trade commissioner service, the TCS. The TCS helps Canadian companies export by preparing businesses for international markets. I encourage all members of Parliament to encourage businesses that are exporting to take advantage of this service.
Online resources, such as the step-by-step guide to exporting, have also been developed to ensure that Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises from across the country can benefit.
In conclusion, trade is, at the end of the day, about the relationships between people, the opportunity to share in our common prosperity and to work together to create larger, more interesting markets. Canada's strong friendship and partnership with Israel spans 70 years and stretches back even farther, 250 years, to the arrival of the first Jewish settlers to Canada, the first of successive waves of immigrants who would leave lasting and indelible impressions on the fabric of our Canadian society, economy and political landscape.
Today there are more than 350,000 Canadians of Jewish faith and heritage in Canada. They are an important source of information and support in the political and commercial spheres for both Canada and Israel, and they are also good friends. There are also approximately 20,000 Canadians currently living and working in Israel. Such deep ties are important for many reasons. Strong trade relationships depend on people-to-people relationships, which Canada and Israel have in abundance, and they also create peace.
In St. John's East, I grew up just five doors down from our synagogue. People might not realize St. John's has a synagogue, but it does. It once had a very strong and thriving Jewish community, and now it has a strong but smaller one, since, like many other Newfoundlanders, many people have moved away.
My grade nine French teacher, Ms. Frankel-Slama, was one of the best French teachers I ever had, and she is Jewish.
I also want to mention my roommate, Jono Kalles, who organized cultural exchanges between Canada and Israel for many years. I never had the opportunity to go to Israel or Palestine with him, but I have heard other MPs say they had a chance to go so they could make their own contribution to maintaining good relations between our countries.
I would encourage all members to support Bill C-85 to help us accomplish that and a great deal more in the years to come.