Business of Supply

Madam Speaker, I will be dividing my time today with the hard-working MP for Foothills.

I have to respond to the previous speaker’s final soliloquy, when he was desperately trying to paint a rosy picture of the Liberal government’s past support for trade. In fact, that entire soliloquy was incorrect. All of those deals that the member talked about were negotiated and confirmed by Conservative governments, whether it was the Mulroney government or the previous Conservative government that was in power until last October.

I would invite the member and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade to look into that. In fact, 98% of the trade access that Canadian exporters enjoy was secured by Conservative governments.

There is an irony that is worth pointing out to the House and the small collection of people who may be watching at home. The iconic Liberal leader, Laurier, was defeated on the issue of free trade, but two generations later, Conservatives became champions for free trade. If we look at the time from former prime minister Mulroney through to the previous Conservative government, well governed by the MP for Calgary Heritage, trade was a priority. Market access was a priority.

For a brief period of time, I had the privilege of serving as the parliamentary secretary for international trade, at a time when Canada probably had the most ambitious trade agenda in its history. There was the CETA agreement, reaching the final stages of negotiation; the final stage negotiation and conclusion of the free trade agreement with the Republic of South Korea; and the final few rounds of meetings that led to the agreement last summer with the trans-Pacific partnership. Conservatives also ensured that old agreements, like the stand-alone free trade agreement with Israel brought in by the Chrétien government, were improved and made broader with that important ally. There were even smaller countries like Honduras that we were signing trade agreements with, trying to allow more people in that country to have access to good job opportunities and turn away from the narco-trafficking and some of the challenges that country was facing.

It was a key priority for the previous government, and that has to be put on the record at the outset. Some members may like to think that NAFTA is a Chrétien achievement, and it is certainly not. The U.S. FTA, which then led to NAFTA, was entirely the work of former prime minister Mulroney. In fact, he had the vision of taking that question to the Canadian people, and it was the 1988 federal election that affirmed Canada as a nation of free traders.

We should be free traders, because in the global economy today, we cannot survive by just selling our goods to 35 million consumers. We have some of the most sophisticated and best consumers in Canada, and products, from agricultural products to wines, to spirits, to manufactured goods, to services, but we will not remain competitive if we just sell to ourselves. Former prime minister Mulroney saw that, and the last prime minister, now the member for Calgary Heritage, saw that. It was a critical element of the economic strategy of Conservative governments.

We are speaking today on the trans-Pacific partnership, and that was a key part of the agenda in the previous Parliament. Why? There are really two reasons why Canada needed to be a strong voice at the table in the 11-nation deal that the trans-Pacific partnership represents. The first reason is the tremendous economic opportunity that 800-million consumers means for Canada’s exporters. By 2050, the 11-member nations of the trans-Pacific partnership will represent 50% of the global economy.

I speak sometimes with folks from Unifor, even folks in my riding and some of the unions that are very opposed to trade, and I say this. With regard to automobiles, could anyone imagine if Canada was not at the table, but the United States and Mexico, our NAFTA trading partners, were at the table on TPP? That would be terrible for our auto sector.

In fact, there would be zero new capital investment by both North American or global manufacturers and assemblers in Canada, because we would be less competitive. Why build a plant in Canada when one could build or expand in the U.S. and Mexico and have access on tariff preference to the 800-million consumers of the TPP? Actually, the TPP is a no-brainer. If we were not at the table, it would be bad economic leadership for our country.

What is ironic, and I will remind most of the Liberal caucus, including the parliamentary secretary who was not part of the 41st Parliament, that the Minister of International Trade, my friend, the MP for University—Rosedale, in her maiden speech in January 2014, accused the previous government of lacking ambition on trade. Yet, even today in question period, we could not get a clear confirmation from the current government if it thinks that TPP is in our national interest. That is crazy.

In opposition, as a third-party member, the minister was saying Honduras, South Korea, TPP, CETA, but that the government was lacking ambition. Now the Liberals will not even show steadfast support for the largest trade agreement that Canada has been a part of negotiating over the last five years.

It is ironic, but it is also troubling, because this is our economic future. In fact, one in five jobs in Canada across our entire economy, coast to coast to coast, is attributable to trade.

Trade represents 60% of our GDP, and it is not just the vehicles made in Oshawa, which have always been exported. We have always exported over 80% of our vehicles, because our country is smaller. Efficiency means that those production facilities needed to make more products than just for our market. However, it is not just the vehicles, not just Bombardier aircraft in Montreal, not just beef, pork, grain, and oilseeds; it is also services.

In fact, over half of our economy is in services, whether we are looking at architectural design, accountancy, consulting, legal services, or educational consulting. Our economy and our information economy is incredible. When we combine that with IT and communications, the ICT sector, with companies like OpenText, BlackBerry, and our legacy with Nortel Networks, Canada has always been a leader.

From timber and minerals in our early days, through to the top-of-the-heap consulting services from global executives today, Canada has never been an inward-looking country. We have always forged relationships and sold our goods and services abroad. Therefore, it troubles me greatly that the minister, who said we lacked ambition in the last Parliament, will not even affirm her position that TPP is a critical part of our economic success.

The second reason that TPP is so critical and strategic is the geopolitical counterbalance that the TPP nations will provide for China. The impact of the growing Chinese economy has allowed it to create a sort of gravity well in global trade. The 11-member countries of the TPP will be able to counterbalance that large impact by lowering tariffs and working together.

I was planning on speaking on other elements, but I wanted to make sure that many of the new members of the 42nd Parliament understood what brought us to agreements like this. It is that Canadians are free traders. We sell the best-in-the-world products around the world. We must forge forward on this deal, the TPP, because it is critical to our economic success to have preferential access to well over 50% of the global GDP economy.

When we look at CETA, once it is in effect, NAFTA, South Korea, ultimately the TPP with, as I said, billions of consumers, they all started with an ambitious Conservative government behind it. I am worried now that this same ambition that the trade minister once called for is lacking in the current government, and I certainly hope that changes in the coming weeks and months.

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