Hon. Stockwell Day (Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, CPC)
moved that Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, it is very timely that our colleagues on all sides of the House are giving consideration to this important legislation. With regard to the actual work that has been done, people on all sides need to be congratulated for the extensive amount of work that was done to conclude the negotiations. That has taken place. The process now is it comes to Parliament for ratification.
The timing of this is really fortuitous because we are engaged right now, whether we like it or not, in a synchronized global downturn of economies and the world is gripped by this. We are looking for ways in which trade and commerce can move and sending signals that the opportunities for workers, producers and manufacturers are there. It is an important that we are seen to be pursuing this, and we are.
We understand that if we really want to protect industries within our country, if we really want to protect our workers, then what we do is we open up the doors and the opportunities for them to sell their products and services and manufacture those things which are wanted in other parts of the world.
As Canadians, as a country, we are as prosperous as we are because we are free traders. We believe in the importance and the power of doing that. As a nation, we cannot in and of ourselves consume everything we can produce. We must have ways to sell and to market not only our products but our services if we are to continue to be prosperous.
The backdrop to our discussion today is the fact that there are clouds on the horizon related to the whole issue of protectionism. Some countries possibly are reflecting that the best thing they can do is build protectionist trade walls. We know this would be a negative thing to see happen. We know history is very clear. When we look at the conglomeration of nations and how nations encourage and move along in terms of prosperity, we only have to look back to the horrific economic ramifications of the Great Depression.
In 1930, when that global economic downturn took place, some economic specialists speculated that they were facing probably a one or two year recession at the time. The United States came out famously with the Smoot-Hawley legislation that started to build a protectionist barrier. Other countries responded in kind and pretty soon around the world we had situations where countries could not sell or export the very things that were needed and that would have led to prosperity. In fact, the recession was deepened, leading to the Great Depression.
That is a 60 second summary of what took place. Therefore, it really is a backdrop of what we are talking about today and it shows the importance of moving on with this type of legislation.
Our competitors are many and are friendly allies, whether it is the United States, or Australia, or the U.K. or the EU. We are friendly nations, but we compete and do have things that we can sell back and forth and encourage our mutual prosperity.
We should be aware that in the pursuit of free trade agreements our competitors have been very busy and active. The United States just over the last short period of time has concluded some 17 free trade agreements. It is in the process of pursuing another eight. Mexico, our other partner in NAFTA, has concluded 12 free trade agreements. If we go further south in the Americas, Chile has concluded 13 free trade agreements with other countries. In fact, its 13 agreements cover 43 separate countries.
Therefore, if we look at a situation where we want to deal with a country that has a free trade agreement with somebody else, its goods and services will get into those countries tariff and barrier free. That puts our manufacturers at a serious disadvantage. We need to look at reducing those obstacles and increasing and expanding our doors of opportunity.
At what is now referred to as the Washington conference last fall, the G20 leaders made a declaration that countries should not fall back into or delve into areas of protectionism. It is called a stand still on any protectionist activity. I would suggest that a stand still is necessary, and that was endorsed by trade ministers around the world at the following discussions that took place in Peru at the Asia Pacific economic meetings. From our perspective, we are going even further than that. We are not saying stand still, we are saying move ahead and overcome the inertia that is gripping the world in terms of trade right now.
Therefore, we have before us the European free trade area agreement. When we talk about what those letters stand for, some people might think this is a deal that engages all the European community. In fact, it does not. We are talking about four very sophisticated entities: Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and tied in with that, Liechtenstein. These are modern, sophisticated entities. They say that they want to engage with us and we want to engage with them to reduce and eliminate trade barriers.
The numbers coming in at the end of 2007 for two-way trade and investment with Norway were $4.7 billion. In the summer of 2008, Norway added to that investment another $3 billion just in the areas of oil, gas and agriculture.
There is a broader platform and picture that needs to be taken into account, because we are talking about engaging these four entities. However, for us, this is an entry and lever into the broader EU community for an eventual and much hoped for Canada-EU free trade agreement. This is something we are zeroing in on, something we have been discussing for some time. The Czech Republic has the presidency of the EU for the next six months. I was in Prague last month and I talked to officials there. I made it clear that we were ambitious on that score. We made that point with the European Commission as well. On another free trade area, being the EU area, we are very ambitious and are working toward the conclusion of discussions to get a formal framework in place to start that process.
In and of itself, the so-called EFTA agreement before us today is important for the prosperity of our citizens and the four entities named. However, there is the broader context which is important to keep in mind. Clearly, consultation between us and the provinces is very important when we look at these types of agreements. The consultation process involved in the EFTA agreement was extensive, and will continue to be. We want provinces to come forward with their areas of concern and sensitivity. That has been done in this process and those have been thoroughly fleshed out and addressed to the point where we could sign the agreement.
As an example, we had concerns from the shipbuilding industry in Canada. What happens when we take away the tariffs related to shipbuilding, we open ourselves up to global competition. We believe we can rise to that competition and meet any of the challenges the world has to offer, but we looked at those sensitivities, particularly those in Quebec and other provinces with shipbuilding industries. In a spirit of co-operation and understanding, as we discussed this with our four partners on the other side of the EFTA agreement, we agreed we to look at the removal of those tariff barriers, but do it over an extended period of time, 15 years in this case related to the shipbuilding industry. Therefore, the sensitivities we hear from around our country and from various industries are taken into account as we move along this road.
It also fits with our government's global commerce strategy, as we have talked about in our comprehensive action plan in which $60 million has been committed just to the area of doing what we can in terms of our global strategy to assist manufacturers, exporters, entrepreneurs and innovators to get not just the message but the products out there in a way that gets worldwide attention and shows that Canada has something to offer, which then increases our ability to manufacture, export and to be prosperous.
We are not stopping with this agreement. We have been very clear that we have agreements now concluded with Peru and Colombia. These will eventually come to the House. We had an earlier agreement with Jordan, and there are others in process. Our officials are in discussion with South Korea, Panama, the Dominican Republic, the CARICOM nations in the Caribbean, Singapore and the group of nations called the Central American Four, being Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. We are actively engaged to ensure we do everything globally in our commerce strategy to keep the doors open and the opportunities very much alive for Canadians.
It is not strictly on a trade side. There are other areas that have to be pursued, and we do that in concert with the trade discussions. For instance, if we are going to invest in another country, our investors and business people have to be assured that there is a platform, a framework, that offers the benefits of rule of law, respect for contract law and other similar areas. We call these our foreign investment protection agreements. It is necessary to strike these with other countries. We will never guarantee that somebody's product will sell, but we can work with another country to ensure that the investment itself is subject to certain standardized rules and certain rules of contract law and investment law, banking law and credit, so at least our investors and business people know they have a level playing field and a platform when they go into those countries.
Along with that are science and technology agreements. We have put in place these very important initiatives with a number of countries, and I signed one not long ago with Brazil, where industry and the academic communities will know we have science and technology agreements, where both governments would pool an agreed upon amount of funds and then send out a message inviting the universities or scientific communities to bid for procurement of those funds to mutually pursue areas of science and technology.
Along with those, we look at a variety of other agreements that affect our economies. Air service agreements are very important when we are talking about giving choice to consumers, but also keeping costs down in terms of transporting and shipping product.
I might add we have in our budget considerable funds, into the billions of dollars, for our great gateways in our nation for shipping, such as the Asia-Pacific gateway. We have a gateway proposal and the funds to back it up for the Atlantic region.
We are doing everything we can, on a variety of levels, to build the platforms and construct the frameworks for Canadian entrepreneurs, innovators, manufacturers and exporters in virtually any area of endeavour who feel they have something worth selling. We will never guarantee they will be able to sell that, but we can guarantee we will smooth the way as evenly as possible within the context of the various trade agreements that are signed onto globally so their products can be established and Canada can continue to be prosperous.
I arrived in Switzerland for meetings on Friday and met with the vice-president. Literally moments before my arrival the upper house had in fact passed its portion of the agreement before us today. I am certainly not saying it was my arrival that moved that along. I would not even suggest that. However, it gave me great encouragement that the Switzerland legislators were dealing with it, that they saw this as positive and that they were moving it along. I assured them that we would be going through a similar process here and that, respectfully, with the input of colleagues here, we hoped for a successful conclusion of the discussions, the ratification of the agreement in our Parliament and the ongoing prosperity of Canadians, especially in this era of global concern.
Subtopic: Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act