Bill C-85: Speech at Third Reading
Honourable senators, I rise to speak to Bill C-85, An Act to amend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
As I noted in my second reading speech, the negotiations that led to this agreement were initiated in 2014 under the former government, with the aim of broadening our bilateral trade agreement with Israel. They were completed in July 2015 with four chapters in the original agreement having been updated and with an expansion of the free trade agreement to include seven new chapters.
These discussions with undertaken to build on the significant success of the original Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement which has permitted two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Israel to triple over the past 20 years. It was more than $1.9 billion last year.
I appreciate the fact that the current government worked to finalize the details of this important expanded agreement.
What we have in the bill represents a genuinely bipartisan approach on the issue of Canada-Israel relations.
I believe that such an approach on any foreign policy or trade issue is always beneficial for Canada since it ensures policy consistency and certainty. Such consistency strengthens Canada’s hand internationally, and it ultimately benefits all Canadians.
Certainty is one of the most important things any government can provide to business.
It is ironic that the government appears to have partially understood that principle when it comes to international trade initiatives, but yet has not brought a similar understanding to the need for a stable legal and regulatory environment in Canada that can attract foreign investment.
When it comes to Canada’s economic prosperity, these are really two sides of the same coin. We cannot expect to fully benefit from trade agreements, such as the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, if we do not have a complementary and equally attractive investment regime.
I hope that very soon we will have a government in Canada that recognizes this. In the meantime, we can at least all agree that Bill C-85, and an expanded Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, deserves support.
I would like to address some of Senator Saint-Germain’s observations in her speech the other day. She suggested that Bill C-85 should have employed language similar to the EU‑Israel trade agreement as it pertains to Israeli goods that originate beyond the Green Line.
I would like to draw to her attention that in 1997, the original CIFTA was specifically drafted to reflect the fact that Israel and the territories are treated as a single economic unit under the Protocol on Economic Relations between Israel and the P.L.O., known as Paris Protocol, signed in 1994 as part of the Gaza-Jericho Agreement and later incorporated into the Oslo II Accords.
It makes sense that Israeli and Palestinian leaders have established a customs union, given the wide-ranging integration of the Israeli and Palestinian economies. Israel is a primary market for Palestinian goods. More than 100,000 Palestinians are employed in Israeli businesses. The Paris Protocol has contributed to significant investment, economic cooperation and growth in the West Bank economy.
Under CIFTA, and consistent with the Paris Protocol, Palestinian exports to Canada benefit from preferential treatment. Shortly after CIFTA was first signed, Canada and the PLO established a Joint Canadian-Palestinian Framework for Economic Cooperation and Trade, under which the Palestinian leadership approved the extension of preferential tariffs, including future trade benefits through CIFTA to the West Bank and Gaza.
Requiring different labels for products originating in the West Bank and Gaza could endanger those gains for Palestinian business. In my opinion, that would be regrettable.
Also, I would note that it is the hateful BDS Movement which would like to see Israel isolated within the international community and which has advocated in favour of applying labels to goods originating in the disputed territories. I don’t believe that this chamber or the Canadian government should be supporting the BDS Movement, which is why I support adopting Bill C-85 in its current form.