Albas: International trade top of mind

Liberals were critical of (sale of LAVs to Saudi Arabia) when in opposition now…have indicated the deal will not be cancelled.

For a variety of different reasons the subject of international trade has been prominent in federal politics over this past week.

One issue frequently raised of late is a deal between General Dynamics Land Systems, located in Ontario, to sell light armoured vehicles (LAVs) to Saudi Arabia. This deal was supported by the former Conservative government, is valued at $15 billion, and will sustain 3,000 jobs over the next decade.

The controversy over this deal has been re-ignited given the government of Saudi Arabia recently and publicly executed a large number of individuals provoking international condemnation (including from Canada) in the process.

Some have suggested this deal should be cancelled on account of the poor human rights record of the Saudi Arabian government. To further complicate this subject, while the Liberals were also very critical of this sale when in opposition now as government they have indicated the deal will not be cancelled.

In a related political twist the official opposition critic has now called for the Liberal government to justify the reasons for the sale. On a similar theme the subject of human rights records has so far not dominated the discussion that the Liberal government may seek to complete a free trade agreement with the government of China. Currently, Canada has a trade imbalance with China as we export roughly $17 billion in largely resource products and in turn import just under $60 billion of mostly manufactured goods.

That said, a recent report from the Canada China business council estimates a free trade deal with China could see Canada increase our exports by close to $8 billion over the next 15 years and also create upwards of 25,000 new jobs (as was reported by the National Post). It is expected the subject of a possible trade deal with China is one we will hear more about in the months ahead. Finally this week, Canada’s Minister of International Trade, the Hon. Chrystia Freeland, has been making the rounds including a visit to Vancouver, to consult on the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement that has not been formally ratified in Parliament. To date the Liberal government has not indicated if it will support the TPP agreement although President Obama publicly stated after meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau that Canada will be signing onto the TPP agreement.

On a more local note I contemplated crashing the Trade Minister’s Vancouver meetings to raise the importance of a new Canada/USA softwood lumber agreement (a subject I have also raised in Ottawa), however with the House returning in a few weeks I will again raise the issue in the months ahead. Trade is not a subject I have heard much feedback on in our new riding of Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola and as such I welcome your comments, questions and concerns. I can be reached at Dan.Albas@parl.gc.ca or toll free at 1-800-665-8711.