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Jordan Trade Pact On Table, Colombia On Deck

Legislation to approve a free trade deal with Jordan was presented to the Commons by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz Nov. 17, with hopes it will get smoother passage than a bill authorizing a trade deal with Colombia.

Two-way merchandise trade between Canada and Jordan totalled $92 million in 2008. The deal would eliminate 90 per cent of the Middle Eastern country’s agricultural tariffs, which will benefit exports of pulses, frozen french fries, beef, animal feed and some prepared foods, Ritz told reporters before tabling the bill.

Ritz described Jordan as “a quiet kid in a very troubled neighbourhood. It wants to set an example for the development of emerging markets.”

The trade deal opens the doors for the private sector to take advantage of, he added. “Once implemented, the deal will open doors to this growing economy and give Canada a foothold in the broader Middle East and North African market.”

And to try to head off the type of complaints the NDP and Bloc Quebecois used to filibuster the Colombia FTA, the Jordan deal comes with related agreements on labour co-operation and the environment.

The agreement on labour co-operation commits both Canada and Jordan to respect the core principles and rights of the International Labour Organization’s 1998 Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work.

The agreement on the environment also commits the two parties to pursuing high levels of environmental protection, enforcing their domestic environmental laws effectively and ensuring that they do not relax these laws to encourage trade or investment.

NORMALCY

The government has introduced time allocation to try to bring the debate on the Colombia trade deal to a vote. Free trade negotiations with Colombia are complete but the agreement can’t come into force without Parliament’s ratification.

The Canadian Wheat Board, Grain Growers of Canada and many other farm organizations have called on Parliament to pass the agreement because Colombia is a promising market for Canadian food products.

The opposition parties, however, say the Colombian government violates basic human rights, permits political violence and doesn’t protect that country’s environment.

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe visited Ottawa in June to encourage passage of the bill, to help his strike-torn country achieve normalcy.

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