Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand before the House today to speak about the benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement.
This free trade agreement, Canada's first with an Asian market, would create thousands of new jobs in Canada and provide Canadian businesses and workers with a gateway to Asia, enhancing their global competitiveness.
No government in Canada's history has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses and workers and their families than this government. Deepening Canada's trade relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world is a key to these efforts.
I would like to focus on the benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement in relation specifically to small and medium-sized enterprises. Small and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, make up the backbone of the Canadian economy. This importance is highlighted in our Conservative government's global markets action plan. In fact, a key part of this government's pro-trade plans is to provide SMEs with new and improved market access so that they can expand and win in the global marketplace.
The reality is that many barriers exist that prevent SMEs from accessing new market opportunities and taking advantage of global and regional value chains, and one of the most significant barriers for SMEs is high tariffs. High tariffs pose a significant barrier for any business trying to break into a new market, but this is especially true for SMEs, which tend to have fewer resources and a smaller market share. As we know, tariff reductions are at the core of the Canada-Korea free trade outcome.
Our Conservative government understands that when SMEs sell more of their goods, they create jobs, so when our free trade agreements bring tariffs down, helping our SMEs compete and win, those free trade agreements create jobs for Canadians.
I am happy to report that the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would eliminate tariffs on virtually all current exports from Canada to South Korea. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement would result in the elimination of 100% of South Korean tariffs on industrial goods, forestry and wood products, and fish and seafood products, as well as the elimination of the vast majority of South Korea's agricultural tariffs. In all, once the agreement is fully implemented, South Korea will remove duties on 100% of non-agricultural exports and on 97% of current agricultural exports. This would significantly improve South Korean market access for Canadian SMEs.
To help business owners, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement contains simple and clear rules of origin that would make it easier and less costly for Canadian SMEs to do business in the South Korean market. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement also contains clear and transparent origin procedures that would ensure the effective and consistent administration of the rules of origin so that they do not represent costly barriers to trade.
Non-tariff barriers are a growing concern in international trade. Non-tariff barriers, whether in the form of unjustified trade restrictions or lack of transparency, could seriously undermine gains made in market access. The effects of non-tariff restriction barriers tend to be magnified for SMEs that do not have the level of resources of a large national or multinational corporation. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement contains strong disciplines on non-tariff measures that would help SMEs reap the benefits of this agreement.
For instance, the agreement promotes and requires the use of internationally accepted standards to minimize duplicative certification and testing of products. Moreover, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would improve transparency with respect to standards and regulatory development by ensuring that SMEs and other companies have access to information such as laws, regulations, and administrative rulings that can affect trade.
I would like to note that these strong disciplines on non-tariff measures are backed up by the Canada-Korea free trade agreement's fast and effective dispute settlement provisions.
The benefits of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement do not end there. In addition, through tariff elimination, user-friendly rules of origin, transparent origin procedures, and reduced non-tariff barriers, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement contains strong provisions that would improve access for services and facilitate business mobility.
With regard to services, Canadian SMEs would benefit from preferential market access in key areas of export interest, including research and development services, professional services, environmental services, and business services, among many others.
In addition, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would enhance business mobility by giving Canadian business people new and preferential access to the South Korean market by removing barriers to entry, such as economic needs tests. It would also ensure that new barriers in this area, such as quotas and proportionality tests, will not be introduced in the future.
Some of these provisions are the most ambitious that South Korea has ever agreed to in its free trade agreements, and they would allow Canadian SMEs to compete with key competitors in the U.S. and the EU on a level playing field.
Lastly, I want to speak briefly on investment.
Canada already has significant foreign investment in South Korea, including in the automotive, transportation, financial services, and life sciences sectors. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement includes a robust framework of rules that will result in an environment characterized by greater predictability and stability for Canadian firms that already have investments in the South Korean market and for companies that wish to expand their investments or make new investments. This is relevant to Canadian SMEs whether they exist on their own or are looking to partner with larger Canadian firms.
These are just a few examples of how the Canada-Korea free trade agreement would enhance market access for SMEs and make them more competitive in the global market. As we can see, the Canada-Korea free trade agreement is a much needed, high-quality agreement that would bring significant benefits to Canada's small and medium-sized enterprises as well as to Canadian consumers and other businesses.
Our government understands the importance of trade and exports to our economy. Exports are responsible for one out of every five jobs in Canada. The prosperity of Canadians depends on the continued expansion beyond our borders into new markets that serve to grow Canada's exports and investment.
However, this past summer the NDP's critic protested alongside well-known radical anti-trade activists, like The Council of Canadians and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives at an anti-trade protest.
The NDP's record is just as bad and shameful as the Liberal record. During 13 long years in government, the Liberals completely neglected trade. When our government was elected in 2006, Canada only had trade agreements with five countries, the most important two being the United States and Mexico, and that agreement was signed by another Conservative government.
The Liberals took Canada virtually out of the game of trade negotiations, putting Canadian workers and businesses at severe risk of falling behind in the era of global markets. With the free trade agreement with Korea and the historic agreement between Canada and the European Union, Canada will have ratified free trade agreements with 43 countries.
Only our government is focused on what matters to Canadians: jobs, growth, and long-term prosperity. The Canada-Korea free trade agreement is just another example of how this Conservative government is getting the job done.