Declaration by Maxime Bernier
on Canada-China Free Trade
Ottawa, July 18, 2017
Good morning. As I’m sure you know, one of my leadership campaign’s fundamental principles is freedom.
Conservatives believe in the freedom of the marketplace as the basis for human prosperity. It is also the basis for technological and societal advancement.
There is no clearer demonstration of this principle than in the impact that free trade has had on the world. Both in terms of improving economic outcomes, and increasing freedom.
Conservatives have always had a strong record on free trade. Conservatives negotiated the historic North American Free Trade Agreement.
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper was first elected as Prime Minister, Canada had free trade deals with five countries. After his time in office, Canada had reached deals with 51 countries.
In order for Canada’s economy to be successful we must grow our trade relationships. We can no longer solely rely on our ties to the United States.
This is why our Government signed free trade deals with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Clearly, the Trudeau Government must stop delaying and ratify these agreements.
But more must be done to expand Canada’s global economic reach.
According to the International Monetary Fund, China has surpassed the United States as the world’s largest economy.
I was pleased to be part of a Conservative Government that recognized this trend and adopted several measures to deepen our relations with this market.
Our Conservative Government achieved:
The first Chinese currency trading hub in the Americas;
An agreement which forms the legal basis for protecting Canadian investments in the Chinese market;
The “Canada-China Economic Complementarities Study”, which is the initial roadmap for launching free trade negotiations;
Securing Saskatchewan uranium sales to the Chinese market;
Allowing Chinese nationals to travel to Canada for leisure and allowing Canadian tourism operators to advertise in China; and
Expanded market access for Canadian beef products.
Today, we face an open invitation from China to launch free trade negotiations. This is an opportunity.
Justin Trudeau has decided to take a “go-slow” approach to trade with China. This will not help build Canada’s economy.
Consistent engagement – not hesitant engagement – means launching free trade negotiations now.
Otherwise, Canadian exports to China will continue to face tariffs in all sectors. Our competitors will enter the Chinese market tariff free and push Canadians out.
The pork farmer from Quebec will continue to face a tariff wall, and will be priced out of the Chinese market by Australian pork.
The same story is true across all sectors, whether it is the beef farmer from Alberta, the technology producer from Ontario, or the mineral exporter from Yukon.
Canadian consumers will also face higher prices on goods imported from China.
This is particularly concerning for low income families who purchase a higher percentage of goods imported from China.
Competitively priced imports not only benefit consumers at the retail level, they also reduce the input costs for Canadian manufacturing and make our economy more competitive.
The advantages of free trade explain why countries like Australia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Iceland have concluded free trade agreements with China.
It is why countries like Israel and Norway are currently in free trade negotiations.
If I am elected Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada and ultimately Prime Minister of Canada, I will seek to expand trade.
First, I will take all necessary steps to ensure that the Trans Pacific Partnership and the Comprehensive Economic and Trade agreement with Europe are ratified immediately.
I will expedite the current negotiations for a Canada-India Free Trade Agreement, and ensure that free trade negotiations are launched with Britain.
And the cornerstone of my plan for trade will be to immediately launch formal negotiations with China to secure a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement.
It is estimated that a Canada-China Free Trade Agreement would expand Canadian exports by $7.7 billion annually, increase Canadian household income by $5.7 billion annually, and create 25,000 well paying Canadian jobs.
It would also pave the way for deeper people-to-people relations that is important for many Canadians, particularly for those of Sino-Canadian origin.
Of course, we would not be signing any deal. There must be strict rules to ensure that the Chinese government will not raise indirect barriers that contradict the spirit of free trade. Any deal must clearly be in Canada’s national interest.
Those negotiations will be tough – but Conservatives know how to negotiate free-trade agreements.
Many Canadians, and many Conservatives, myself included, remain concerned about China’s record on the rule-of-law, labour, the environment, relations with its Asian neighbours, and on human rights.
While there are no easy answers to fix these problems overnight, disengagement or hesitant engagement with China will not give Canadians a credible voice for reform and progress on these issues.
Consistent engagement will allow Canada to work more constructively with China to address these concerns.
Human rights will be better served by discussions with a partner that China takes seriously because their success is tied to our success.
We already trade for tens of billions of dollars every year with the Chinese. We can either deepen this relationship and benefit from it, or lose an opportunity and let the rest of the world exploit it.
Earlier this year, Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall took the strong position of supporting free trade with China – and he was supported by all the Premiers in Western Canada.
It is a principled position that is supported by principled Conservatives.
Because in the end, more free trade means more freedom and more prosperity.
Merci beaucoup. Thank you very much. I would be happy to take any questions.
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