IN THE HOUSE ~ Questions, comments, debate and speech on Bill C-57, Canada-Jordan Free Trade Agreement, 2nd Reading

40th Parliament, 2nd Session

***Context : Questions and Comments***
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Madam Speaker, I listened with interest to the member for Kings—Hants. I always listen to him with interest. Sometimes I agree and sometimes I profoundly disagree. I listened very attentively.

The reality is, as we well know, Jordan is not Colombia and we have to look at the Jordan issue of this trade agreement on its own merits. Of course there are concerns around human rights in Jordan, some of the actions of the Jordanian government and the rights particularly of women migrant workers who come to Jordan.

I want to ask the hon. member, when this goes to committee, which I assume at some point it may much before any other of the trade bills before the House, would he not agree that there needs to be effective hearings to hear from women's organizations, human rights organizations, environmental organizations, labour organizations, as well as the business community, so that the committee can ascertain the real impact of this trade agreement?

***Context : Debate***
Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to follow my colleague from Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, as associate of the trade committee to talk about Bill C-57.

As we know, this was tabled just this week. So within the space of a few hours we have been able to take a look at the bill and at the many clauses, both of the free trade agreement itself and more importantly the issue around the investor state protections that are part of the template that our international trade ministry brings to every single trade agreement that we sign, and also two other side agreements that have no real obligations contained within them.

It is a lot of material, but I think it is fair to say that at a glance this has the same approach that we have seen this Conservative government many times before, despite the fact that the NDP has been very clear, and I think most Canadians are, that what they would prefer to see is a fair trade approach on trade. That is why the fair trade sector is booming in this country, as we well know. Millions of Canadians are making the choice every day to buy fair trade products.

Despite the fact that the NDP constructively continues to bring these amendments forward, the government just does not seem to understand that Canadians, and much of the world, have shifted in their approach to trade.

I will start by saying that the most egregious part of the lack of a Conservative overall trade strategy is that there is no evaluation done. No evaluation is ever done of what the impacts are of these trade agreements. No evaluation is ever done as to what the potential is for trade with a particular country. No evaluation is ever done about the downsides of that trade agreement. No evaluation is ever done about the situation in the country as a whole.

There is never a due diligence, ever, done on these bilateral trade agreements. That is the tragedy, because Canadians expect a lot more.

What is the result? If we look at the last 20 years and we look at all these trade agreements that were supposed to bring prosperity, starting with the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement, and we actually do the analysis that Statistics Canada provides, Statistics Canada has the data and it is open to every member of Parliament, what we actually see is that two-thirds of Canadian families have seen their real income fall over the past 20 years.

We hear a lot of cheerleading about these agreements bringing massive prosperity, and the facts speak for themselves. Two-thirds of Canadians, the entire middle class has seen their income erode considerably, and poor Canadians have seen their income fall. This explains why the debt load of the average family has doubled over the past 20 years.

The debt load that the average Canadian family is carrying has doubled. That is a crushing debt burden. That is become real income has fallen. Expenses have not gone down, they have increased. Canadians are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet.

It gets worse when we go to the lower income categories. The poorest of Canadians have seen their income collapse, losing about a month and a half's income over the course of a year. That is why it is no surprise why tonight we will see, tragically, about 300,000 Canadians sleeping out in parks and along the main streets of our country.

It is because this so-called free trade regime, with all of the right-wing economic policies that go with it, and I am not just blaming the Conservatives, the Liberals brought these policies in, have led to most Canadians being much poorer. Free trade has come at an enormous cost when most people are earning far less than they were 20 years ago.

If any Conservative or Liberal MP had chosen to actually look at the facts and figures of an analysis done, they would have to say that this policy has not worked very well and there has to be adjustments.

That is what we have been saying in this corner of the House, and that is why our numbers keep growing. The fundamental reason why our numbers keep growing is that Canadians trust that we will actually do the due diligence and ask the tough questions when it comes to legislation brought before this House and when it comes to free trade agreements.

Context : Debate
We see increased poverty in this country so it is clear that the overall thrust of free trade agreements has failed. Let us look at the purported intention of stimulating exports. Here again, if we do the analysis and look at the facts, in a lot of cases after signing a bilateral trade agreement, Canada's exports to that particular market, the market that was targeted by the free trade agreement, actually fell.

I know politicians love to go before the cameras and cut ribbons, but the act of presenting a free trade agreement does not necessarily even lead to an increase in exports to that market, so there is something fundamentally wrong there. Why? What are the causes?

We have gotten some very clear indications from testimony, even in the last two weeks, before the international trade committee. We had the beef and cattle industry come forward and testify that they get pennies in product promotion support from the federal government compared to the tens of millions of dollars given by other countries. Australia was cited as an example, with $100 million in product promotion just for the beef and cattle and pork industries alone.

Now let us take all of the product promotion from all sources in Canada. Unfortunately, the federal government puts in less for all products in all markets in a larger economy than Australia invests just for its beef, cattle and pork industries.

I know you are surprised by this, Mr. Speaker. I see your surprised expression, but that is indeed the fact. Australia spends many times more for one sector than Canada spends in all sectors. That would explain why our exports fall in a lot of these cases where we sign bilateral trade deals.

The idea that these bilateral trade deals are part of a strong export policy is simply false. What we have are Scrooges on the other side of the House who have been nickel and diming our important industrial sectors to death. Not only do they not have any sort of industrial strategy, but they are not even willing to put the investments in that other countries are.

Just taking the wine sector, the European Union spends $125 million, about four to five times more than all Canadian product promotion put together. Australia spends half a billion. We spend a few million dollars.

If we look at the pork industry, it is the same thing. The pork industry came before the international trade committee. A few million dollars a year is what they get, when we have other countries such as the United States spending tens of millions of dollars.

The reason why these bilateral trade agreements do not even necessarily lead to an increase in exports to those markets is because there is no export strategy by the government. There is no trade strategy for the government. There is no evaluation ever about what the impacts are of the agreements it signs. The Conservative politicians simply show up for a photo op, cut the ribbon and then they go on and pretend that they are providing for some meaningful economic strategy. It is simply not true.

Mr. Ed Fast: No, you have it wrong.

Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, the truth of the powerful NDP words again is having some impact on the Conservative side of the House. Thank goodness. I just wish they would put more of what we say into action.

That is the fundamental reality. We see exports fall. We see a lack of support for important strategic sectors, and then we see deals being signed that actually undermine those key sectors.

We had the EFTA deal before this House. We had pleas from hundreds and hundreds of shipyard workers across this country, including from Quebec, Nova Scotia, Vancouver, Newfoundland and Labrador, and Ontario, all saying, “Look, this is going to have a profoundly negative impact on what should be a strategic industry. The EFTA deal is going to kill our industry”.

***Context : Questions and Comments***
M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, j'ai écouté avec beaucoup d'intérêt mon collègue, comme je le fais deux fois par semaine au Comité permanent du commerce international. Maintenant, c'est évident que lorsqu'on parle de cette entente avec la Jordanie, on sait bien sûr que la Jordanie n'est pas la Colombie. C'est une très bonne chose, parce qu'on sait à quel point la situation est épouvantable en Colombie.

Ceci dit, il y a tout de même des problèmes reliés aux droits humains en Jordanie, des problèmes qui ont été identifiés auprès des nombreux travailleurs et travailleuses qui viennent de l'extérieur de la Jordanie et qui sont maltraités: des cas d'abus sexuels et d'attaques contre ces travailleuses qui viennent de l'extérieur de la Jordanie.

Maintenant, il n'y a pas de protection à l'intérieur de l'entente. À côté, on a des ententes sur l'environnement et sur le travail, mais ces ententes n'ont pas de portée juridique, comme le député le sait très bien. Alors, ce ne sont pas des clauses qui obligent et qui forcent le gouvernement à agir. Heureusement, de plus en plus d'ententes commerciales viennent de l'Union européenne et de l'Amérique du Sud avec des clauses qui obligent les gouvernements à agir.

Puisque ces clauses n'ont pas de portée légale, il ne peut pas obliger l'État à prendre des mesures relativement à ces questions préoccupantes. Mon collègue peut-il me dire si, à son avis, cette entente a réellement une bonne portée ou si elle devrait être renforcée?

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Mr. Peter Julian: That was a great question, Mr. Speaker. It was a great question because the NDP is the one advocate in this House for a very strong export strategy based on what works.

Australia spends half a billion dollars promoting its products. The Australian government invests in its products right around the world. Canada spends $1 million here, $1 million there. It is very obvious that what we are doing is a severe disadvantage to our export industries.

It is not a question of ribbon cutting. I know Conservative politicians love to cut ribbons. It is really about having a centred export strategy that would invest the kind of amounts that our competitors are investing.

The European Union invests $125 million into its wine industry, five times more than Canada spends on everything. The United States spends twice as much on just its beef industry than we spend on everything. We are nickel-and-diming our export industries to death. We are not providing the supports that they need at all.

Then the government brings in what are often very crude free trade agreements. Like I said, we can download the template and sign our own free trade agreement. The government brings in trade agreements with no real negotiations, no real sense of what we are going to lose and what we are going to gain because it never even does an evaluation or an analysis. Not a single time has the Conservatives even tried to analyze what they are signing, and that is a tragedy.

***Context : Debate***
That was the testimony before committee. That was the very clear message delivered. Yet we had other parties voting to put that deal into place even though they had been told that essentially it was going to hit our shipyard industry hard.

Therefore we have a fundamental problem about the approach in trade, the lack of evaluation. We have a fundamental problem with the fact that we simply do not do an evaluation on the market to market basis, that there is no export strategy overall and certainly not the resources allocated to our export industries that should be and that other countries do.

Therefore let us get to the template on the Jordan agreement. Canadians were listening and actually can download their own free trade agreement from the DFA website.

It is just there but it shows how appalling simple minded the approach is on trade. We have this template, a template that has existed for 20 years while other countries are updating their trade model, improving their trade model that really does bring concrete results. We have the same model that has been sitting around for 20 years and one can download it and sign it with one's neighbour. It is absurd.

These templates of which Jordan unfortunately is part are simply investor protection and investor state provisions coupled with some tariff reduction and then coupled with meaningless side agreements.

The side agreements unfortunately never impose any obligation. Other countries have moved way beyond that. They have binding obligations around human rights, social standards and labour standards but not our template. Our 20 year old Ford Pinto that is the trade model that Conservatives like to bring forward does not do any of that. What it does is offer investor state protections.

This goes back to the NAFTA days and the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement days and what happened after we signed this agreement? The House knows there are provinces, municipalities and many Canadians who have great difficulty with the chapter 11 provisions that were in NAFTA that allow companies basically to rip off the public purse in order to get compensation for products that endanger the health, endanger the environment for whatever reason if the government acts to actually stop these companies from providing these horrible products. Then they get to sue taxpayers and they get a fancy cheque. They get to take the money right out of the taxpayer's wallet, even though Canadians want the government to intervene to stop that product from being put forward.

We have seen this with the domestic pesticide ban in Quebec. We now have a company that can use these investor state provisions to actually go after the Quebec government, a government that has taken a democratic decision in the interest of its citizens and now potentially taxpayers are going to have to pay for the government actually taking care of them. This is absolutely absurd.

After that clause was included in NAFTA, and this was only for the NAFTA agreement, the United States moved right away from it. The United States realized that what this does is undermine the ability of parliaments and legislatures to take actions to protect their own populations.

The U.S. has never signed a similar agreement since. It has moved away from it. It has allowed for environmental overrides and health and safety overrides. Canada as I mentioned has that old 20 year old Ford Pinto that still allows for companies to gouge Canadian taxpayers if any action is taken and impinges on their profits.

Tragically that old model, that 20 year old model is in the Jordan agreement. Therefore we see the same kind of problems that have come up in the past, that so many people have spoken out on. The same people who have raised this issue right across Canadian society have not been heard.

The old Liberal Ford Pinto has been taken over by the Conservatives. They do the ribbon-cutting ceremony and then they move on. If it was about economic development we would see actually some muscle, some investment behind a real export strategy which is what the NDP has been calling for and what the NDP has been pushing. Just this week an NDP motion passed in the committee on international trade calling on the government to address the historic underfunding to the beef and cattle industry and to really work for a level playing field with out competitors: Australia and the United States investing many times more in product promotion for that sector.

***Context : Questions and Comments***
M. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NPD): Monsieur le Président, c'est la difficulté qui existe présentement. Comme le député a si bien dit, l'entente sur le travail et l'entente sur l'environnement ne sont pas des ententes qui obligent les gouvernements de Jordanie ou du Canada à établir des standards plus élevés.

Le député trouve-t-il que c'est une faiblesse dans ces ententes bilatérales souvent faites par les conservateurs qui ne croient pas vraiment à l'approche du commerce équitable?

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On that basis, of course, we have legitimate concerns. We will continue to push the government to bring in fair trade legislation and work on this bill so that it involves more fair trade in nature.

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Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member has at least looked at the talking notes from the Prime Minister's office. She will have to look at page 3, under “Promotion and Protection of Investments”, where it talks about “damage as a result of a breach of agreement and monetary compensation”, and says, “Furthermore, where it is pursuant to investor state, arbitrations are enforceable in Canada”. There are about 70 pages in all and later on in that section she will see further reference to the type of investor state provisions that we believe are inappropriate.

Many other countries, the United States primary among them, are moving away from the model. In fact, the United States moved immediately away from that model after it signed NAFTA. Canada is pretty well alone in going out with this old, outdated Ford Pinto model of trade agreements.

Since I have the floor as the member has given me a few more minutes to speak and I appreciate her concerns, Amnesty International called on the government of Jordan to officially and publicly condemn all acts of torture and other ill-treatment, establish a system of regular, unannounced and unrestricted visits by independent national bodies to all places of detention, make public the names of individuals transferred into Jordanian custody from U.S. custody and a series of measures to end violence and discrimination against women.

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Mr. Peter Julian: Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have never brought any elements of fair trade into any of their agreements, never once, and previously, even with the Liberal government, never scrutinized or amended any of the amendments brought forward.

Conservative members seem to rubber stamp whatever is brought forward and this is unfortunate because the NDP has been very clear. It brought forward anti-sweatshop legislation that is before the House and buy Canadian legislation that is before the House. The anti-sweatshop legislation is very important because it is not only good for workers to have higher labour standards set, it is also makes companies more competitive.

I met with representatives of the mining sector yesterday and they admitted that it is tough to compete when we have lower and lower standards. There are companies that want to slash health and safety standards, defy any environmental guidelines and pay their workers sweatshop wages, which make it tough for the good companies to compete.

In this corner of the House we have always said and will continue to say, until we take over the government direction and are able to put in place fair trade legislation, that we have to go to a higher standard. We are saying a higher standard with fair trade legislation makes it an obligation to maintain those higher standards, not an option or some sort of voluntary agreement but an obligation. That is what fair trade is all about and most Canadians support a fair trade agenda.

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M. Peter Julian: Monsieur le Président, tout d'abord, le fait est qu'on n'a pas le même niveau de disparitions ou de tuerie qui existe en Colombie. Comme on le sait très bien, des douzaines de gens qui travaillent dans le milieu syndical ont été tués parce qu'ils veulent aider les travailleurs à avoir un meilleur standard de vie. Plusieurs centaines de gens disparaissent tous les jours, et malheureusement, cette épidémie de tueries et de disparitions continue d'augmenter depuis quelques années.

Quand on regarde la Jordanie, il n'y en a pas ou très peu. En 2008, on n'a pas une seule tuerie faite par les agences liées au gouvernement et on n'a pas un seul rapport de disparition.

Le député de Sherbrooke le sait très bien, l'ensemble des rapports qui provient de toutes les organisations des droits humains vis-à-vis de la Colombie est absolument dégueulasse. Cette semaine — j'ai partagé cela avec plusieurs de mes collègues libéraux —, on a vu une augmentation de 80 p. 100 des cas de tortures commis par l'armée colombienne, plusieurs centaines de personnes sont torturées par l'armée colombienne et je sais que cela fait beaucoup réfléchir les libéraux qui se demandent ce qu'on fait en donnant ce lien de commerce privilégié avec un régime qui a les mains tellement tachées de sang.

En Jordanie, il y a quand même des essais et quelques aspects qui sont positifs. Il reste qu'au niveau de la situation des femmes et de la torture dans les prisons, il reste beaucoup à faire.

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Beef ranchers, cattle ranchers can now say it is because of the NDP that there will be a push to finally get more money out of the Conservative government to really support the beef and cattle industry. That has been what we have been calling for, historically.

So, we have an agreement with no strategy. We have investor state provisions within the Jordan agreement that simply are inappropriate. Now we have to look at the provisions, the so-called side agreements on labour and the environment, that are kind of thrown in as an afterthought. They do not impose any obligations to the country. There is a process. There are a lot of meetings and bureaucrats get to drink a lot of coffee, but in the end, there is nothing binding in this agreement to force on labour rights, to force on human rights, to force on the environment.

Then we have say, what is the situation in Jordan if we are not pressing on any of these? If we just had this cosmetic paper, we have killed a couple of trees to pretend that there has been some action, but there is nothing binding in those provisions. Then we have to look at what is actually happening in Jordan.

Now, Jordan is not Colombia. Colombia is outrageously bad. Paramilitary thugs, drug pushers, all connected to the government, all supported by these Conservatives.

Jordan is not like that, but there are some causes for concern. Obviously, the committee on international trade is going to take some time to look at what the possible implications are of the lack of any sort of binding obligations on the Jordanian government.

I am going to reference the U.S. Department of State 2008 human rights report on Jordan. Some of the elements I think are positive. Some of them are clearly negative.

First, arbitrary or unlawful deprivation of life.
As we know, in Colombia, we are talking about hundreds of people massacred every year by right-wing paramilitary thugs, the Colombian military. However, in Jordan's case, it states: In contrast with 2007, there were no reports during the year that the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. The government completed investigations of allegations made in two 2007 deaths.

So, we do see action from the Jordanian government there.

Second, disappearances.
In Colombia, that has been a horrible and constant tragedy. In Colombia, disappearance occurs on a daily basis. B However, for Jordan, it states in this 2008 human rights report: There were no reports of politically-motivated disappearances.

Third, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Now, there is some cause for concern. The report states: Although torture is illegal in the country, an October report by the NGO Human Rights Watch said, “Torture and impugnity in Jordan's presence concluded that torture remains a widespread practice”. Interviews with 66 prisoners in 7 of the country's 10 prisons produced allegations of ill-treatment which Human Rights Watch concluded often amounted to torture.

So, there is cause for concern in that third category from the U.S. Department of State.

Next, we move to arbitrary arrest or detention.
There it states that: Some human rights groups continue to voice concern over the 2006 prevention of terrorism act, complaining that its definition of terrorism might lead non-violent critics of the government to be arrested or detained indefinitely under the provisions of the act. However, the government had yet to make use of the act at year's end.

Section E , denial of fair public trial, states: The law provides for an independent judiciary. In practice, the judiciary's independence was compromised due to allegations of nepotism and the influence of special interest.

There are also very clear concerns of abuse around women, domestic workers imported from outside Jordan. There have been calls within the united Nations and by human rights organizations about this.

So, very clearly, our work has begun on this. There are real concerns that have been expressed by our party and by many in civil society. The committee on international trade, if Parliament chooses to refer this for further study to the committee, will have to take a long look at the implications of this agreement and what the possible impacts are of having this agreement put into effect.

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Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby—New Westminster, NDP): Madam Speaker, I always like listening to my colleague from Kelowna.

The question here is pretty simple. We had the disastrous miscalculation by the Conservative government around Colombia, where the push-back from the public has been phenomenal. Canadians have simply said “We do not want to have a privileged trade regime with drug lords and paramilitary thugs.” The Conservatives have felt that.

However in this case, Jordan is very clearly not Colombia. There are very clear weaknesses in the approach that the government takes on trade issues generally, which I outlined a few minutes ago.

The issue is this, since the bill has just come before the House, would the member not agree that the international trade committee has the obligation to hear from women's groups, human rights organizations, business organizations and labour organizations, from all of those who are interested in coming forward to the committee to talk about the possible impacts of this agreement, since the government has done no studies to evaluate what the impact of this agreement would be on its own?