Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Sydney—Victoria for sharing his time, for his very hard work and certainly for the flavour he adds to the Standing Committee on International Trade. The committee has truly been team Canada. Committee members have stood together and really understand the significance of trade. It is not as much a partisan issue as an issue that is real to every Canadian.
I am pleased to rise today to discuss the importance of this piece of legislation. As the member for New Brunswick Southwest, a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade, a certified international trade practitioner and a former professor of international trade, I truly understand the importance of creating trade opportunities. I have been proud to work with our government to secure trade agreements such as CIFTA, CPTPP and CETA.
Securing these trade agreements is vital to our Canadian economy. Exports and imports make up 60% of our economy. Our competitiveness depends on diversification and opening up new, emerging markets as well as on ensuring the continuation of free and fair trade with our current partners. We know that when we are able to make markets more accessible, especially for small and medium-sized businesses, we are able to grow our economy.
We have worked hard over the last three years to diligently diversify Canadian markets abroad, and the results speak for themselves: 14 new trade agreements, with 51 different countries, and a market of 1.5 billion consumers. Canadians now have preferred access to two-thirds of the global market, but our work is not done yet.
Our government has also launched the export diversification strategy, which will increase Canada's exports by 50%. The strategy will directly support Canadian businesses by investing in infrastructure to support trade, by providing Canadian businesses with more resources to reach overseas markets and by enhancing trade services for Canadian exporters.
We have also worked with Canadian companies to ensure that they are able to take full advantage of the trade agreements secured by our government. I was pleased when the Standing Committee on International Trade accepted my motion and studied supports for small to medium-sized businesses. One of the things we heard many times was how important free trade agreements and export readiness support are to small and medium-sized businesses. Without support, many, if not the majority, of small first-time exporters are not exporting in their second year.
Under the previous government, export readiness available through the Trade Commissioner Service was cut back to serve only companies already established overseas. This left small businesses unable to access foreign markets with ease and ensured that big businesses were the only ones able to profit from free trade.
Our government has reversed those cuts, ensuring that small businesses are able to benefit from free trade. We are increasing our exports and ensuring that any Canadians with global ambitions are able to access the support they need to create wealth and jobs.
Removing regulatory barriers to trade is essential for small and medium-sized businesses to be able to export. CUSMA would do exactly that, ensuring that Canadian businesses will be able to trade freely in North America.
I represent the riding of New Brunswick Southwest. We are, as my colleague from Sydney—Victoria mentioned, a border riding. In fact, we have five international border crossings. In New Brunswick Southwest, we understand the importance of ensuring free trade in North America. Our jobs and our economy depend on it. Many of my constituents cross the border multiple times a week for their jobs or groceries or to visit family and friends. Without the close co-operation as a result of free trade agreements and border alliance agreements, this would not be possible.
When the United States imposed illegal tariffs on our steel and aluminum, people in my riding were concerned about an escalating trade war. This is something they had never experienced. St. Stephen, a border town where my office is located, is closely connected to Calais, Maine, and its residents were particularly worried about these tariffs. These two towns share more than just a border. They also share fire services, and residents cross that border daily. Both mayors were concerned about the tariffs that were put in place, but I am happy to say that our government has reached a deal to end those illegal tariffs.
There was great uncertainty in my riding during the NAFTA renegotiations. Workers and their families were concerned for their jobs, their businesses and their clients.
In my province of New Brunswick, 90% of our foreign exports go to the United States. Ensuring that New Brunswickers maintained access to that market was critical, and we have delivered. CUSMA would ensure that New Brunswick would be able to trade freely for decades to come.
Canada is now the only G7 country to have free trade agreements with every other G7 country. Canada's unprecedented access to the global market has allowed us to act as a springboard between trading partners.
By securing both CETA and CUSMA, Canada would now be able to facilitate trade between Europe and the United States. This would be an excellent opportunity for Canadian companies to expand to broader markets and become part of the global supply chain. In fact, where my riding is located, on the coast of Maine, is actually a springboard between the United States and Europe.
Modernizing NAFTA has been a welcome opportunity for Canada. We were able to gain protections for Canadian workers, create opportunities for Canadian business and protect the environment and labour.
While many across the aisle called for us to back down, we held firm. Our government fought for a new NAFTA and got a deal that was good for Canadians. We did everything in our power to protect jobs, create more opportunities for Canadian workers and their families and ensure the growth of our economy. It has paid off.
By modernizing NAFTA, our government was able to deal with new challenges that were not present when the deal was originally signed. Issues like e-commerce and intellectual property rights in the digital age would now been addressed.
In CUSMA, we were able to obtain labour guarantees in Mexico that would ensure the fairer treatment of workers. CUSMA would see labour standards and working conditions in all three countries improve and would protect those who are vulnerable from being denied work based on gender, pregnancy or sexual orientation.
CUSMA would also ensure that workers' rights were protected. It includes commitments from all three countries to protect the right to freedom of association and collective bargaining, including specific legislative actions that would be taken by Mexico to recognize the right to collective bargaining.
We did not stop at labour rights. We also ensured that CUSMA included a robust chapter on the environment to ensure that it would be protected. CUSMA includes commitments to enforce environmental protection laws and to address marine pollution. We included obligations for all three countries to combat illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging and illegal unreported and unregulated fishing.
CUSMA would also promote sustainable forestry and fisheries management, including a commitment to prohibit subsidies that negatively affect fish stocks.
Our government also secured innovative fisheries commitments to prevent the use of explosives and poisons and a binding commitment to prohibit the practice of shark finning, a first for Canada.
These are important issues in my riding. My constituents care deeply about the well-being of the environment, and many of our industries rely on it. I am proud to see that our government has fought for strong environmental protections.
I was proud to be part of the team that secured a new and better deal for the future, a deal that would protect middle-class jobs, allow small businesses to grow and protect labour and the environment.