Market DiversificationPublished on 16 May 2017 Hansard and Statements by Senator Paul Massicotte
Hon. Paul J. Massicotte:
Thank you, minister, for joining us today. We appreciate it very much.
Last week, the Senate passed Bill C-30 concerning the comprehensive economic and trade agreement between Canada and the European Union, and this is good news, as you noted. It is especially welcome in this climate of uncertainty with respect to free trade. As we know, the United States’ new protectionist policy is calling into question the North American Free Trade Agreement and the U.S. trade relationship with our country. Furthermore, the withdrawal of the United States from the trans-Pacific partnership also seriously undermines this agreement’s future. We know, of course, the extent to which our economy is dependent upon that of the United States; indeed, Canadian exports to the U.S., our most important trading partner, represent 32 per cent of our GDP. That is huge.
In this context, it is obvious that Canada must diversify its trading partners. We are now in a position to capitalize on the success of the free trade agreement with the European Union. We must take advantage of the momentum. For all these reasons, we cannot afford to miss the opportunities presented by a market of 460 million consumers in the ten other countries party to the trans-Pacific partnership, not including the United States.
Minister, to be more specific, in a few days you will be leaving for Vietnam where you will meet with the international trade ministers of this agreement’s member countries. I am wondering what specific goals Canada has set in order to face the challenges arising from the trans-Pacific partnership’s uncertain future. Are you going to try to save the agreement by initiating multilateral discussions with the other member countries, or are you instead considering negotiating bilateral agreements with them, Japan in particular, which, as you undoubtedly know, is among the countries that offer the most opportunities for Canada?
Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Trade: Thank you, senator. As you said yourself, the key word for Canadians is market diversification. We see this, for example, with the softwood lumber file. I recently led a trade mission to China to discuss market diversification for certain products. The softwood lumber issue is particularly relevant to Canadians across the country today. I will also have the opportunity to raise the issue of softwood lumber because, after Vietnam, I will be going to Japan, Korea and Singapore, after which I will be joining the Prime Minister in Italy. I am going to Japan in order to discuss market diversification, because, after the United States and China, Japan is our third largest market for softwood lumber exports.
I completely agree with the honourable senator regarding CETA. I believe that the Canada-Europe free trade agreement has the potential to be a game changer. That is why we developed a plan to include people who have been under-represented in trade. Women entrepreneurs and young people come to mind, for instance. We also organized round tables with First Nations representatives. These activities all stem from a simple request from the Prime Minister. He asked me to make trade real for people.
To that end, we plan to lead a national campaign to explain the advantages of the Canada-Europe free trade agreement. I am confident that that agreement will be an excellent tool for our small- and medium-sized businesses, whether they are located in Eastern Canada, the province of Quebec, Ontario or British Columbia.
Our goal is to have a strong Atlantic agreement. In a previous answer, I explained that we also want to have a mission and a free trade agreement focused on South American markets. As the honourable senator said, we are definitely hard at work in the Asia-Pacific region.
I mentioned China and also India earlier. However, we are also in talks with Japan to potentially reopen discussions on a bilateral agreement. I am pleased to remind this chamber that our relationship with Japan is very important. It just so happens that I met with the Japanese ambassador Friday evening; we discussed issues of common interest to Canada and Japan. What I would like to say to Canadians in this chamber is that we have a comprehensive, progressive plan for trade that includes the Asia-Pacific region, Europe, South America, and North America.