The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, followed through on a commitment made in the June 2011 Speech from the Throne by introducing the Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act and the Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act to implement free trade agreements with Jordan and Panama.
Minister Fast was joined by the Honourable Maxime Bernier, Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism), and key industry representatives, as well as by Basheer Fawwaz Zoubi, Jordan’s Ambassador to Canada, and Francisco Carlo Escobar Pedreschi, Panama’s Ambassador to Canada.
“Strengthening the financial security of Canadians, creating new jobs and promoting economic growth through deepened trade are my top priorities,” said Minister Fast. “Free trade agreements with Jordan and Panama are a key part of our government’s job-creating, pro-trade plan to protect and increase the prosperity of hard-working Canadians. Our government will continue to defend and promote our specific interests in every sector of our economy, including supply management.”
“Free trade agreements help fuel small businesses which are the motor of the Canadian economy,” said Minister Bernier. “In fact, small businesses are responsible for 43 percent of all Canadian exports. These free trade agreements will help small business exporters do what they do best: create jobs and wealth for this country.”
“Free trade agreements also bring real benefits to Canadian farmers and our entire agriculture industry,” said the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board. “These trade agreements will open markets and create new opportunities for our farmers to boost their bottom lines.”
On implementation, the Canada-Jordan Economic Growth and Prosperity Act will eliminate tariffs on the vast majority of Canadian exports to Jordan, directly benefiting Canadian exporters and workers. Key sectors in Canada that will benefit from this immediate duty-free access to the Jordanian market include forestry and manufacturing, as well as agricultural products and agri-foods such as pulses, frozen potato products and beef.
“The economic possibilities for Canadian businesses engaged with Jordan should be dramatically increased,” said J. Hugh O’Donnell, Chairman of the Canadian-Arab Business Council. “In fact, this free trade agreement offers incredible potential for businesses to expand throughout the Arab peninsula with Jordan as the gateway.”
Implementation of the Canada-Panama Economic Growth and Prosperity Act will eliminate tariffs on over 99 percent of Canadian non-agriculture exports, again directly benefiting Canadian exporters and workers through duty-free access to Panama’s markets. Other benefits of the agreement include investment provisions, which will increase protection, transparency and security for Canadian investors in Panama. In addition, the agreement will secure access to the government procurement market, including the $5.4-billion expansion of the Panama Canal and other infrastructure projects.
“The implementation of these two agreements will improve access to two growth markets for Canadian goods, services and investment at a time when Canadian manufacturers and exporters are focusing on finding new customers and business opportunities around the world,” says Jayson Myers, President and CEO of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters. “We urge Parliament to pass this legislation quickly. This is especially critical in a context where our main trading partner, the United States, implemented its trade agreement with Jordan last year and ratified its agreement with Panama last month.”
Free trade agreements with Jordan and Panama were signed in June 2009 and May 2010 respectively. Once passed by the House of Commons and the Senate, both pieces of legislation must receive Royal Assent from the Governor General in order to become law.
In less than six years, the Harper government has concluded free trade agreements with nine countries—Colombia, Honduras, Jordan, Panama, Peru and the European Free Trade Association states of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
Canada has also launched negotiations on a number of trade agreements, including with India and the European Union, two of the largest markets in the world. These negotiations are part of the government’s ambitious pro-trade plan to increase opportunities for Canadian businesses and workers.