Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour for me to rise and speak today on the free trade agreement between Canada and South Korea.
This trade agreement has been a very long journey. It started under a Liberal government, but the Liberals had a record of not doing much about trade. During the Liberals' tenure, they just talked about it. After 10 years, they had only three free trade agreements.
There has been persistence by this government. The Prime Minister, the Minister of International Trade, and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade have been consistent in trying to reach an agreement with South Korea.
As a matter of fact, at this stage I would like to acknowledge others who have also been working extremely hard to come to a fruitful conclusion for this free trade agreement. They include my colleague from Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, Senator Yonah Martin, and colleagues who have been going to South Korea as part of the South Korea-Canada association. Here I include myself: I have made four visits to Korea, the last one being a state visit with the Governor General. During this visit we again raised this issue.
All of these officials consistently put pressure that both sides should continue to negotiate, because this free trade agreement is of immense benefit to both countries. When the Prime Minister met with the President of South Korea at Bali at a conference, both of them agreed that the agreement should be concluded very quickly. When the President of South Korea visited Canada, we were able to say that the free trade negotiations begun in 2005 had finally reached a conclusion. That is what we are debating in Parliament today. It will be ratified as well by the South Korean parliament.
When we look at the history of North and South Korea, we see that there has been tremendous advancement made by the people of South Korea in building their economy, which is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world today. It is a tribute to the people of South Korea. We are very grateful that Canada has over 200,000 people from South Korea living in this country and contributing to our prosperity.
In Canada, everyone knows about the Kia cars and the televisions being built in Korea. Korea's high technology is a tribute to that great country. It is natural for Canada, a country with a small population and vast natural resources, to look for markets overseas to continue to build on our prosperity by building free trade agreements bilaterally with other countries. I am pleased to say that since 2006, when this government came into power, as has been mentioned many times, we have signed 36 agreements. Before that, the Conservative government signed two more, bringing the total under the Conservative government to 38 free trade agreements around the world.
Let us just imagine the business that free trade agreements open up in the market for Canadian goods around the world. We have full confidence in Canadian businesses. We are one of the best in mining, engineering, and agriculture. We have a vast variety of businesses and products and we need markets where we can grow.
The NAFTA agreement we reached with the U.S.A. and Mexico is a clear example of why a free trade agreement is very beneficial. It has benefited all three countries. To say that a free trade agreement benefits one country over another is wrong. New Democrats have said at times that we are giving ground to other countries; we are not. What we are doing is opening markets for us as well as for them. It is mutually beneficial. That is why South Korea is now one of the strongest economies in Asia, and that is why Canada is also a strong economy. Let us not kid about it: Canada is one of the strongest economies in the world and is able to share with others.
Businesses need this market, and the market is growing. The Liberal critic talked about TPP. Indeed, we have TPP negotiations going on, and they are very extensive. These negotiations are going on. We see that the WTO talks have collapsed, but the problem is that we cannot wait for a global situation on a free trade agreement. Therefore, this government took upon itself a very robust agenda of free trade and went out, as I mentioned, to 36 countries. Imagine the market we have opened up for our Canadian businesses to take advantage of.
Of course, because we have the experience that comes with signing so many agreements, we know exactly how an agreement will impact the economy. We have taken into account every sector of the economy. We have talked to the provinces. We have talked to businesses. We have their input, and we have come up with a game plan or template on how free trade agreements should be done.
We are currently in negotiations with India on this same template, but we have also successfully done negotiations with the European Union. If we think about the markets of the European Union and NAFTA, we see that Canadian businesses are poised to take advantage.
From the other perspective, opportunities are opened up for Canadians to go overseas to work and gain experience and become first class in their businesses. That is happening around the world. Canada is welcomed anywhere in the world. We have a very robust corporate social responsibility. We hold Canadian companies to a high standard, and that is why we are welcomed wherever we go. They want Canadian expertise. In this situation, it works best to have a free trade agreement.
This agreement would be beneficial both for Korea and for Canada. There is no downsizing to this thing, contrary to what New Democrats will say, because experience has shown to us, as in NAFTA, that this is not a downsizing but an important and beneficial thing for Canada.
Koreans have already signed free trade agreements with the U.S. and with the European Union, so these countries are far ahead of us. Because of that, we started losing ground in South Korea. Our exports have fallen, and if we do not sign this agreement, how will we catch up? It had become an unlevel playing field, and the Europeans and Americans were far ahead of us. Now we are catching up, and we should be there.
That is why it is important for the other side to understand that we live in a global world. Other people are signing free trade agreements, as I just mentioned. The European Union, the U.S., and other countries are in TPP negotiations. We are in negotiations with Japan, with India, and with other countries, but at the end of the day, other countries are doing the same thing. If we are not up in the forefront in doing those things, we will lose ground, and we, with the smaller population, will suffer the financial consequences if we lose ground.
Let me expand on how provinces will benefit from this agreement. We have a vast country, from British Columbia all the way to P.E.I., and every region has its own strength in natural resources, which it can leverage on the world market. There is agriculture and potash; in the north there are diamonds, forestry, oil; and potatoes in P.E.I. We need this vast country, as I have stated, to move out and do it.
The Canadian trade delegation, led by the Minister of International Trade and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, is robust. I just came back from my visit to India, where the premier of British Columbia brought in a strong trade delegation to build up markets with India. I accompanied the Governor General to Brazil, which is an emerging market. It is a market where we can sell and expand our trade with Latin America. I was with the Governor General in Southeast Asia looking for markets to expand in.
All countries are doing the same thing. There is a global competition. It is not as if Canada is doing something different from others. There is a global competition to enter into other markets. Our good friends in Australia have successfully concluded a free trade agreement with Korea. They are good friends, but they are now our competition. They are there ahead of us. If we do not do these things, then we will lose ground. That is why I find it quite strange that New Democrats use any kind of excuse to say they do not want a free trade agreement and they feel we must live within our boundaries. They have never approved any free trade agreement. I have been here for a long time.
New Democrats need to understand that Canada is a trading nation. We market goods; we sell goods to markets. Think of the market in the U.S. that has over 300 million people, the market in the European Union that has 600 million people, the market in India that has 1.2 billion people, or the market in China that has 1 billion people. Canadian companies are robustly present in all of these areas. We have a global presence.
Canada is recognized around the world. As I travel, I see that we have a global presence. We have a global presence because, as I have stated, we have a great reputation, but we are also traders. When we trade around the world, we do it fairly and we have a good corporate socially responsible system here, contrary to what the NDP says. I will not mention the Liberals because with them there is only talk on trade and no action.
I am delighted to say that I have been to Korea and it is a country that I thoroughly admire, as well as the people. This free trade agreement would be of benefit not only to the world but Canada and everyone else, and I ask my colleagues on the other side to support this great agreement.
Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this important free trade agreement and to share my time with the hard-working member for Don Valley West.
I will start off by reconfirming that there is no government in Canada's history that has been more committed to the creation of jobs and prosperity for Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. The Minister of International Trade has been spending many days away from home trying to secure new markets and to deepen Canada's trading relationships in dynamic and high-growth markets around the world. I think it is key to these efforts.
The Canada-Korea free trade agreement, Canada's first FTA with an Asia-Pacific nation, is an ambitious, state-of-the-art agreement covering virtually all sectors and aspects of free trade.
Today I will speak specifically to the foundation of the agreement, which is the extensive and profound people-to-people ties that bind Canada and South Korea. I think that is a very important aspect that has not really been talked about.
It is an increasingly interconnected world. People-to-people ties are crucial to ensuring long-term success in the competitive global economy. It is all about relationships, and this free trade agreement is a classic example. It is a landmark achievement that would result in mutual benefits and prosperity for both of our countries and that would lay the foundation to unlock the full potential of our political, economic, and secure relations.
Canada can leverage its rich history and flourishing people-to-people ties with South Korea to build on this free trade agreement and pave the pathway to jobs and prosperity for generations to come.
Canada and South Korea have had formal diplomatic relations for over 50 years, yet the connections between our two peoples extend back more than a century. Prior to the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1963, Canada came to South Korea's aid in the Korean War, contributing the third-largest contingent of troops to UN forces. More than 26,000 Canadian soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder with their Korean brothers and sisters against the spread of tyranny. Unfortunately, more than 500 individuals ultimately gave their lives. George Barr, from the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 26 in my riding, and others across Canada, have been incredible ambassadors for the Canada-Korea relationship. The memories of helping folks in Korea and Canada continue to strengthen that bond.
Korean President Park was here last month for her official state visit, and she laid a wreath in memory at the National War Memorial. It was one of the highlights of her visit and was a testament to the importance of the shared history of our two nations.
When I had the honour of travelling with the Prime Minister and the delegation in March for the initial signing of the agreement in Seoul, the Prime Minister and the delegation laid a wreath at the Seoul National Cemetery, as well.
I would like to take a moment to think about Corporal Cirillo. His funeral procession is taking place in Hamilton right now. I am thinking about soldiers, the men and women who sacrifice their lives, and our thoughts and prayers go out to their families as well.
After the Korean War, almost 7,000 additional Canadian soldiers served as peacekeepers in South Korea between 1953 and 1957. Canada also participated in supervising South Korea's first elections in 1948 as part of the United Nations temporary commission on Korea. Aside from the United States, Canada is the only other state that has permanent military representation, with the United Nations Command, otherwise known as the UNC, in Korea.
Canada continues to participate in the UNC Military Armistice Commission that supervises the armistice. Last year, a delegation of Canadian veterans, led by the current Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse, travelled to South Korea to mark the 60th anniversary of the Korean War armistice on July 27, 2013.
Building on our proud and shared history, our bilateral relationship is further championed and advanced by our strong, growing, people-to-people ties. Canada is home to some 200,000 people who identify themselves as being of Korean origin. It is the fourth-largest Korean diaspora in the world. Over 23,000 Canadians are currently residing in South Korea, including around 3,200 language teachers.
Last year, our government designated the year 2013 the Year of Korea in Canada. It marked the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Canada and Korea and celebrated the contributions of the Korean diaspora to Canadian society.
The Year of Korea in Canada featured a number of cultural and artistic events. I am sure many members had the opportunity to take them in. There were great festivities across the country that gave Canadians the opportunity to learn more about Korean culture, tradition, and diversity.
The Canada-Korea Interparliamentary Friendship Group is co-chaired by Senator Yonah Martin, Canada's first and only Korean senator, an incredible, hard-working individual. She shares that responsibility with our acting Speaker, the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock, who has held three successful Canada-Korea dialogue series on the Hill, the last of which was held in June this year. It was attended by more than 100 participants.
Senator Martin, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade, and the member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock also travelled to Seoul, Korea, in September to meet with senior government officials, Korean national assembly members, and business officials to discuss the wide-ranging benefits of the trade agreement to continue to move this agreement forward.
Some Canadians were a bit disappointed with the NDP at committee recently when members tried to remove what I believe is one of the cornerstones of a modern trade agreement, the investor protection provisions. The Liberals talked about this trade agreement in 2003, but it was our Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade who were actually able to get this over the goal line.
The opposition had taken us virtually out of the game of international trade. It was not a priority for them, and I understand their reasons. However, our government wants to create jobs and open doors and opportunities to put Canadian workers and businesses first. The opposition put us at severe risk of falling behind in the era of global markets, but that has changed in a positive manner. Fortunately for Canadians, our Conservative government is committed to protecting and strengthening the long-term financial security of hard-working Canadians.
Last month, during President Park's visit to Canada, our government announced its intent to develop a science, technology, and innovation agreement with South Korea, providing Canada with the opportunity to further strengthen the people-to-people ties and to build a lasting strategic framework with one of the world's most innovative economies and top funders of research and development.
The agreement would provide Canadian stakeholders with opportunities to create new partnerships and enhance business-to-business linkages through a mechanism that would directly support bilateral, industry-led research and development funding projects in strategic areas.
As well, I am proud to say that our education ties are extensive and growing. I am sure members from all parties have constituents who have gone to South Korea. It is Canada's third-largest source of international students. We have had constituents going there to teach, and we have had more than 19,000 young and talented students choose Canada as the destination of choice to pursue their education. Based on the average estimated expenditure by international students in Canada per year, that would translate to Korean students contributing over $500 million to the Canadian economy. Many high-calibre international students choose to stay in Canada post-graduation, leading to the enrichment of human capital in Canada. Those who go back to Korea are some of Canada's best ambassadors.
There are over 100 active agreements among institutions in Canada and South Korea facilitating the exchange of students, faculty, staff, and curricula and providing joint research and degree programs. That is very important. The Government of Canada has a number of memoranda of understanding with South Korea, including in the areas of industrial science, engineering and technology, research, co-operation, clean technologies, energy, and Arctic research and development.
On tourism, over 140,000 Korean tourists visited Canada in 2013. It is the eighth-largest source of tourists to Canada, which is very important to my riding of Kelowna—Lake Country. They spent almost $250 million in the Canadian economy. South Korea is one of the Canadian Tourism Commission's top-ten priority leisure markets. In 2013, the annual growth in the number of Korean tourists to Canada stood at 3.3%. An estimated four million Korean travellers are actively considering a Canadian holiday in the next two years.
On September 22, the Prime Minister and Korean President Park witnessed the signing of an open-skies air transport agreement between Canada and Korea, another significant milestone moving forward.
Ultimately our goal is to create jobs and growth for the benefit of Canadian businesses, workers, and their families. That is why we will continue to deliver pro-export leadership.
The hon. member for Haliburton—Kawartha Lakes—Brock will indeed have additional time to address the House and debate on this particular question. In fact, he will have seven and a half minutes to do so when the House next resumes debate on the question.
The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.
The electoral district of Haliburton--Kawartha Lakes--Brock (Ontario) has a population of 119,141 with 90,680 registered voters and 243 polling divisions.
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