Elizabeth May: Mr. Speaker, I rise, I suppose I should say this morning. It is still June 11 on the calendar in front of the Speaker, but we know that it is June 12, at 12:16 a.m.
I am pursuing a question that I initially asked in question period on March 21. The question relates to the Canada-China investment treaty and its quite extraordinary measures which stand in quite sharp contrast, not only to other treaties in which Canada has become involved, but other investment treaties as well. On March 21, I contrasted some of the provisions of the treaty that had been tabled in the House in February with the small African nation of Benin. For this treaty, we have very low levels of trade compared to the $7 billion with the People’s Republic of China.
I want to highlight one of the aspects of the Benin treaty versus the Canada-China investment treaty tonight. It is very difficult to get a proper debate on this issue. As you know, Mr. Speaker, we have not have had a proper debate on the Canada-China investment treaty, although it stands poised for ratification by the cabinet alone.
I should pause to thank the Hupacasath First Nation, near Port Alberni on Vancouver Island, for having the courage to take the matter to court. For three days of the last week, they were in court in Vancouver. We all await the decision of the judge in that matter, adjudicating as to whether first nations’ rights have been violated. No first nations across Canada, whether treaty nations or otherwise, were consulted before the treaty was signed between the current Prime Minister and President Hu of China.
The specific matter I want to concentrate on in the remaining two and a half minutes that I have is the question of exit provisions. The first investment treaty in which Canada became involved was NAFTA, chapter 11, which allows exit by Canada, the U.S. or Mexico on 6 months’ notice. The provisions of the treaty with Benin, to which I referred on March 21, are certainly much longer than that. There is a one-year notice period, and after one year’s notice, any existing investments between Canada and Benin are protected for a further 15 years under the terms of the treaty which Canada and Benin at that point would have exited.
The extraordinary thing about the treaty with the People’s Republic of China is that there is not six months as under NAFTA, or 16 years as under the treaty with Benin, which is bad enough; under the treaty with the People’s Republic of China, Canada is bound for the first 15 years before notice can be given, followed by one year’s written notice and then a further 15 years in which any investments made by the People’s Republic of China are protected.
In other words, once ratified, this treaty will bind any Canadian government in the future for 31 years from the point at which the treaty is ratified. It is quite extraordinary.
I want to comment on a common misconception. Because the current Prime Minister has seen fit to withdraw Canada from a number of treaties, namely the Kyoto protocol and the convention on drought desertification, it has created some sense in the land that a future prime minister can just rip up a treaty.
Let us be clear. The current Prime Minister executed withdrawal from Kyoto under the terms of the Kyoto protocol. One year’s written notice was required. Canada exited the treaty on drought desertification on the terms of that convention. A notice of 90 days was required.
The Canada-China investment treaty would bind any future prime minister and government for 31 years. There is no way out, and if Canada were to unilaterally leave the treaty, it would be subject to damages and damage claims in 100 countries around the world.
In other words, the only way to stop this convention is to prevent ratification.
Shelly Glover: Mr. Speaker, although I have tremendous respect for that member of Parliament and know she works hard and whatnot, I am quite surprised at the lack of knowledge the member has on some of the information regarding this exact treaty. Let me take a moment to refresh my colleague’s memory about why Canada is involved in this specific treaty.
Our government understands the importance of trade to our economy. It represents one out of every five jobs in Canada and accounts for 62% of our country’s GDP. That is why our government moves forward with ambitious pro-trade plans. They are really the most vigorous in our country’s history.
Our plan is to open new markets for Canadian exporters. That includes in the fastest-growing Asia-Pacific region. The opportunities for Canadian exporters in the Asia-Pacific are absolutely phenomenal. Countries in the region include those with economic growth rates of two to three times the global average.
However, before I speak further about the opportunities for Canada in the Asia-Pacific, and particularly with Canada’s second-largest export destination, China, I would like to comment on a reference the member opposite made in her original question to our FIPA with Benin.
The FIPA with Benin is just one example of our government’s engagement in Africa. In fact, in addition to Benin, Canada has concluded FIPA negotiations with Cameroon, Zambia, Madagascar, Mali, Senegal and Tanzania. These investment treaties will strengthen economic ties between Canada and these partner countries and help Canadian companies invest with greater confidence in these markets. At the same time, facilitating two-way investment helps generate jobs, growth and long-term prosperity that we all hope for in Canada.
Our government is proud of the steps we have taken to strengthen ties with our partners in Africa, but we help Canadian exporters and investors capture new opportunities in other fast growing markets around the world, including in Asia.
An important part of our commercial relationship is ensuring that not only two-way trade occurs, but also investment between Canada and other countries can take place in a stable and secure manner. That is why Canada has over 24 foreign investment promotion and protection agreements with key trade and investment partners, including with China, the world’s second largest economy and now Canada’s second largest export destination. This is only second to the United States of America.
Canada’s trade relationship with China continues to grow. In fact, Canadian goods exports to China rose 15% last year, to over $19 billion. Not only that, but Canada’s exports to China have nearly doubled under our Conservative government.
This is a favourable agreement that lends to create the opportunities that Canadian exporters need. It also provides opportunities in China, so Canadians can be present on the ground. That will lead to growth, economic prosperity and job creation.
Along with this trade agreement, there are many other good things to come. I sincerely hope the member opposite will give a second look to the agreement, because there are some wonderful opportunities for Canadians. I hope she will side with us in allowing us to provide those opportunities as have been indicated.