Canadian House of Commons Debates: Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act

40th Parliament, 2nd Session
Official Hansard, Number 065
Monday, June 1, 2009
[Excerpts: Read the entire debate here]

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Act

The House resumed from May 29 consideration of the motion that Bill C-24, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the Republic of Peru, the Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Peru and the Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Peru, be read the third time and passed.

Mr. Wayne Marston (Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, NDP):
There are critics around the world on trade issues and trade agreements. Mary Tharin, from the COHA, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, was talking about the U.S.-Peru free trade agreement, and she suggested the agreement has given the president of Peru the excuse to start dismantling labour rights and what regulations they do have on the environment in Peru.

From my perspective, the good news is that since the president started doing that, his approval rating has dropped or has almost vanished. However, we are not talking about a democracy like Canada when we are talking about the impact that would have on him and how that might sway him not to proceed to a greater degree of damaging those particular rights.

In the United States in 2007, there was a considerable debate and, as indicated, some compromise was made and it approved a free trade agreement with Peru designed to drastically reduce import-export tariffs, hypothetically putting an end to protectionism on both sides.

Ms. Megan Leslie (Halifax, NDP):
I have a great article by a woman named Mary Tharin. She is a research associate from the Council on Hemispheric Relations. She wrote an article in October 2008 entitled “Can Free Trade be Fair? Lessons from the Peru-U.S. Free Trade Agreement”.

I would encourage members to have a look at this article because it really does take the U.S. experience and draw out the lessons on this agreement. She notes that the United States has been complicit in Peru’s legal and economic deterioration. That is a fact that needs to be taken into account before any further FTAs can be signed. She said in her article:

The Peruvian government is beginning to unravel as corruption charges and scandals threaten to completely discredit the already unpopular leadership of President Alan Garcia.

She talks in this article about how Garcia’s minister of mines and energy as well as other top energy and state oil folks were fired in response to allegations of favouring a foreign energy company in exchange for bribes. Garcia also has a history of putting economic growth before the welfare of the population in Peru, before the welfare of the people. For years the Garcia administration has been manipulating Peruvian law in an attempt to draw foreign investment while at the same time completely failing to alleviate domestic poverty and therefore sacrificing the government’s legitimacy in the eyes of the people of Peru.

However, Ms. Tharin argues that the United States, instead of taking a stand against Garcia’s mishandling of the economy–because it could do that, it could stand up and say, “No, this is not the way we conduct business and we don’t want to do business with a country that behaves this way”–has actually contributed to the problem by signing trade agreements with this unpopular government.

An approval of this FTA in the U.S. had been delayed in both the senate and the house, due to concerns mostly on the part of congressional Democrats about how Peru’s environmental and labour protections would be affected by the agreement. Those are just a few of the problems with this agreement.

In closing, I think it would be incumbent upon all of us in this House to vote against this bill, considering the human rights violations that have been spoken about by my colleagues, the labour issues that have been spoken about and the environmental issues. We should be looking to what has happened in the U.S. and taking our cue from the failures there with this agreement. We should be looking to the successes that we can see with fair trade right here in Canada, right there in my home province of Nova Scotia.