Brison speaks on Canada- Jordan Free Trade Act
Thursday, November 19, 2009
House of Commons Debates
OFFICIAL REPORT (HANSARD)
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Hon. Scott Brison (Kings—Hants, Lib.):
Madam Speaker, Canada has a small, open economy. We depend on external trade for our prosperity and for our jobs.
That is why it is ominous that under the current Conservative government we have the first trade deficit that we have had in 30 years. To put that in plainer terms, we are buying more as a country than we are selling. That is a very bad sign for Canadians, because we do not have the robust domestic market that, for instance, the Americans have.
This has been caused by the failure of the Conservatives to defend our interests with our largest trading partner, the United States, and the failure of the Conservatives to diversify Canada's trade relations, particularly their failure to engage India and to engage China. The Prime Minister went to India this week, finally, after four years of neglecting India. In December the Prime Minister is planning to go to China, after four years of showing contempt for China. It is not good enough to show contempt for the world's fastest growing economy at a time when Canadians need jobs and opportunities, and then after four years of contempt, go on a mea culpa tour.
Specific to the Canada-Jordan FTA, we believe that there are tremendous opportunities for Canada and Jordan in this agreement. In fact, the member for Toronto Centre, as premier of Ontario, initiated discussions with Jordan on deepening trade relations between Canada's largest province and Jordan many years ago.
We need to focus on deepening our relationship with Jordan. At the same time, it is important to recognize that Jordan is a country of five million people. It is the 85th most important destination for Canadian exports. Its economy is ranked 95th in the world by GDP.
Contrast that with China. China is expected to grow by 8.7% in 2010 and about 8.4% in 2011. India is expected to grow by 6.5% in 2010 and 7.8% in 2011. At the same time, Jordan is expected to grow by 3% next year and 3.7% in 2011.
It is a good idea to diversify our trade relations, particularly when we face such protectionism in the U.S., our biggest market, particularly during a time when the U.S. economy has been hit the hardest.
At the same time, we cannot understand why the Conservative government has taken such an ideological position relative to China. It is almost as if the Prime Minister has been fighting the cold war that ended a long time ago with China at a time when other countries are engaging China to build relations and to deepen trade opportunities.
This year Canadian exports to the U.S. have plummeted by 30%. We have seen rising protectionism from the Americans. We have seen a protectionist sentiment at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Whether it is the western hemisphere travel initiative, the new passport requirement that came into effect in June that has reduced cross-border same-day travel by 29%, which has had a devastating impact on border cities and communities, or the country of origin labelling that is hurting Canada's livestock industry, and more recently and perhaps most important, the buy American provisions, in every single case, the Conservative government has failed to effectively engage the Obama administration and Congress to defend Canadian interests.
The fact is that over their first three years in government, the Conservatives focused so much on the Bush Republicans that they completely ignored the Democrats. Now with the Democrats in charge at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue, Canada is at a disadvantage.
We are too dependent on the U.S. market, and the Conservatives have failed to defend Canada's interests in that big and important market. At the same time, we have to diversify and deepen our trade relations with countries like China and India.
Perhaps the greatest advantage and opportunity we have as a country is our head start in clean conventional energy technology. In fact, it was a Liberal government that initially invested massively in CO2 sequestration research and development in places likeWeyburn,Saskatchewan.
Those investments led to Canada having an advantage in clean conventional energy. In fact, Canada has the best technology in the world in carbon sequestration technology.
This summer, China signed a memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration to cooperate on the research and development of CO2 sequestration technology. The question we have to ask ourselves is: Why did China go to the U.S. for CO2 sequestration technology when in fact Canada has the best CO2 sequestration technology?
There are only two answers that make any sense. It is one of two things. Either the Conservative government's contempt for China over the last four years has damaged the relationship to such a point that China does not want to come to Canada for anything, or perhaps it is that the Conservatives have refused to promote Canada's clean energy solutions to the world. Either way it is damning because the Conservatives do not recognize the important comparative advantage Canada has in the research and development and export of clean energy technologies and solutions.
Perhaps the fastest growing area of the 21st century economy is going to be in clean energy and clean energy solutions. It is an area where Canada has a natural advantage as a traditional conventional energy producer. It is an area wherein the previous Liberal government invested to develop a global advantage in the area of clean conventional energy. It is an advantage that the Conservatives are frittering away in their ideological fight with China, their naive treatment of the fastest growing economies in the world, and their absolute incompetence in managing trade relations with those important economies that provide Canadians with the opportunities and the jobs of the future.
We do believe that there are opportunities for Canada in Jordan and there are opportunities for Jordan in Canada. The opportunities for us to trade and deepen the relationship is welcome, but we have real challenges with the fact that the Conservatives have so neglected the greatest opportunities.
In 1993 Prime Minister Chrétien went to China with the Team Canada mission. He took 300 senior executives of Canadian companies and all Canadian premiers, except Lucien Bouchard, with him. They signed billions of dollars' worth of agreements with China at that time, deepening the relationship, creating jobs for Canadians.
Mr. Chrétien at that time also led trade missions to India. Again he took with him hundreds of Canadian business people and the Canadian premiers. He engaged Indian government leaders and business leaders in business, not in photo ops.
This week the Prime Minister has gone to India. In his mea culpa tour to India and China, he has a handful of Canadian business people in India, but not enough to sign the kinds of deals that were signed when Mr. Chrétien was prime minister. That is because of the fact that the Conservative Prime Minister is more interested in photo ops and his mea culpa tour than he is in developing real business opportunities and jobs for Canadians.
The Prime Minister does not recognize Canada's multicultural policy not just as a successful social policy but as an economic advantage. The Liberal Party developed the multicultural policy and believes it is not only a social advantage but an economic advantage. We should be engaging our multicultural entrepreneurs to build natural bridges to the fastest growing economies in the world, economies like India and China.
Next month when the Prime Minister goes to China, he will have a lot of explaining to do. The Prime Minister has spent four years treating China with contempt. He failed to go to the opening of the Beijing Olympics. When I was in China in September, there were meetings with Canadian business people doing business in China, meetings with Chinese officials, and in every meeting the no-show of the Conservative Prime Minister at the opening of the Beijing Olympics was raised. It is a real issue. This is not a construct. It has cost Canadian business; it has cost Canadian deals. It has shown a Prime Minister who does not understand the importance of relationships in China.
The fact is that the Conservative government and members of the Conservative Party have attacked the Liberal leader for being too worldly when they should in fact be apologizing for their leader not being worldly enough. We have a Prime Minister of Canada today who does not understand the opportunities presented to Canada by the world. Canada, the most multicultural and diverse country anywhere in the world, has tremendous opportunities as we see the emergence of economies like China and India. He is a Prime Minister who does not understand Canada's responsibility to the world, to develop and promote the clean energy solutions that the world needs.
The Prime Minister, when it came to trade relations with places like India, started on third base. Four years later, he hit a single and he thinks he is hitting a home run. The fact is he has hurt our relations with China. He has damaged our relationship with India. Four years later, he is indulging himself in a photo op tour which, at best, can repair some of the damage that his rigid ideological perspective has created for Canadian companies, business leaders and workers in those important economies.
We in the Liberal Party believe there are opportunities in a Canada-Jordan trade agreement but we also believe that the Conservative management of Canada's historically important relations with places like China and India have been an abject failure. The Conservatives' treatment of those relationships has hurt Canadian competitiveness, has damaged our capacity to protect the jobs of today and has hurt the capacity for us to create the jobs of tomorrow.
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