House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

We are getting into a debate.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Gauthier Roberval, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have all agreed to do everything in our power to ensure that the House functions properly. I hope that the message also reached the Liberal side, so that we can speak freely here.

I just wanted to point out that the motion put forward is rather interesting. I believe that, under our standing orders, it is very likely that we would be able to split a bill. This would ensure that, whatever happens following Thursday's confidence vote, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and certain provinces and territories can enjoy the proposed benefits.

If the government objects, that will go against the interests of these people.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

This is not really a point of order.

The hon. member for St. John's South—Mount Pearl got a point of order to propose a motion.

The House did not give unanimous consent for the motion. The matter is closed. We cannot debate the issue at this time.

It being 11:13 a.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, on this point of order.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

I have indicated there is not a point of order.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a different point of order.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

On a different point of order, the hon. member for St. John's South--Mount Pearl.

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's South, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is common in this House that we not provide information which is incorrect. The member for Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte made--

Business of the House

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

This is clearly debate. I invite hon. members to get on with the debate after private members' hour is over. We will be on Bill C-48, I understand, which is the bill the hon. member wants to divide. I would suggest he get into a lively debate one hour from now.

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

May 16th, 2005 / 11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

moved that Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-357 is a private member's bill tabled by myself as member of Parliament for Kootenay—Columbia. There are members from all parties of the House who support this bill in principle and I expect that if it comes to a vote at second reading the bill will pass and be forwarded to committee for consideration.

In 1970, when Canada recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China and terminated its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Canada only took note of and neither endorsed nor challenged China's claims to sovereignty over Taiwan. Cabinet records show that the Canadian government policy intended to maintain a de facto relationship with Taiwan after de-recognition of the country.

The position of Prime Minister Trudeau was to leave flexibility in Canada's domestic or international relationships with Taiwan. This allows the various international jurisdictions and competing interests to work out their relationships without interference from Canada or Canadian interests.

In a letter dated May 9, 2005, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote:

Canada maintains a one-China policy under which we formally recognize the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate, representative of government of China. At the time of its recognition of the PRC in 1970, Canada “took note” of the position that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Peoples Republic of China”, but did not formally recognize this claim.

I am in complete agreement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and this bill is complementary to the position of the Government of Canada on the one China policy. If there is a difference of opinion, it lies in the government's interpretation of the minister's own phrase, “but did not formally recognize this claim”. I believe Canadian government practices are demonstrably contrary to its expressions.

Last year the House voted by a margin of 2:1 to have Canada lead action at the World Health Organization to include Taiwan as a health entity. The Canadian Senate passed a similar motion of instruction. In spite of this direction by both chambers of Canada's Parliament, the Canadian government chose to ignore that instruction at the 57th conference of the World Health Assembly. This morning the general committee of the 58th World Health Assembly decided Taiwan's WHO case will not be included on the conference's provisional agenda. This is a matter of extreme consequence to the world's health.

This bill is more than three decades overdue because of action taken by our mutual trading partner, the United States. Months after the U.S. recognition of the PRC, it enacted its Taiwan relations act. Canada and its interests are in a significant disadvantage to their U.S. competitors. The Canadian government gives advantages to the U.S. in Taiwan commercial, criminal and security regulations. It ignores the U.S. Taiwan relations act while condemning the tabling of this Canadian Taiwan affairs act.

For Canada to take its rightful place in influencing world affairs, our Canadian government should rationalize policy with the U.S. to help build democracy and democratic values. A unified voice with the U.S. in China affairs would bring Canada into this sphere as a player rather than a pretender.

Canada is Taiwan's 11th largest trading partner. Bilateral trade reached $5 billion Canadian in 2004. Taiwan is Canada's seventh largest source of foreign tourists and foreign students with more than 150,000 people visiting Canada each year and 150,000 additional affluent and highly educated Taiwanese live in Canada as landed immigrants.

While the Canadian government emphasizes the importance of trade with China, the government has given very little thought to the shape and substance of our relations and the legal framework necessary to carry it out. In the recent foreign policy white paper there was no mention made regarding Canada-Taiwan relations. Given the trade, political and security importance of Taiwan to Canada, Taiwan issues have become a multi-party concern in Parliament in recent years.

This is well illustrated by the example of the WHO, which I raised earlier, and by issues frequently raised in the House question period. There have been several additional resolutions passed in both Houses as well as the foreign affairs committee.

Taiwan is an economic and democratic success story with a population of 23 million people. Taiwan is a fully functioning democracy governed by rule of law. President Chen Shui-bian's electoral victory in 2000 was the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in the 5,000 year history of the Chinese peoples. His re-election in 2004 confirmed the solid democratic foundation that has been established in Taiwan.

Observers of China affairs noted that while President Chen was re-elected, the explicit will of the Taiwan electorate to move toward sovereignty softened. It was therefore distressing to see the PRC respond to the Taiwan peoples by enacting the PRC anti-secession law in mid-March of this year. This action was an intentional buildup of pressure by the PRC in response to Taiwan's citizens taking the steam out of the Taiwan Strait question.

China observers cannot help noting the PRC's growing military strength, with an estimated budget of $65 billion U.S. According to a U.S. defense department report, China now has 725 missiles positioned across Taiwan Strait aimed specifically at Taiwan.

I note that after China passed its anti-secession law, Canada's foreign affairs minister issued a statement saying that any unilateral action, including the use of force, to change Taiwan's status is unacceptable to Canada. In fact, in April 2004 in a public speech, Canada's then foreign affairs minister called on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue without preconditions and to resolve cross-strait issues peacefully.

Taiwan honours the rule of law, preserves the free market, protects the environment and respects human rights. The world community cannot afford to let Taiwan fail because it is a symbol of the success of democracy and human rights as a universal value. Taiwan is a living rebuttal to the theory that these values are incompatible with the Asian way of life.

In a telephone conversation with a representative of the People's Republic of China I was told that the PRC is firmly opposed to this bill. The PRC in Beijing has called the bill “a brazen interference in China's domestic affairs”. It states:

By proposing this so-called Taiwan Affairs Act, some individual members of Canada's parliament are preaching 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'.

Their assertions are simply not supported by the facts. In part, Bill C-357 states that this is “an act to provide for an approved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan”.

I ask members to note that the bill intentionally does not use words to describe state to state or nation to nation relationships. For greater clarity on this point, the first paragraph of the preamble states:

WHEREAS on October 13, 1970, the Government of Canada formally recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate Government of China and took note of its claim that Taiwan is part of China;....

In the absence of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and China, the best approach is to adopt this bill as domestic law of Canada and to spell out the specific manner in which relations with Taiwan would be conducted by Canada without trying to define Taiwan's international legal status.

Due to the lack of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and Taiwan, a host of specific matters have arisen, resulting in important legal and pragmatic problems in the interactions. Clauses 4 through 8 of the bill contain explicit provisions to create a workable mechanism to regulate de facto unofficial relations between Canada and the unrecognized entity of Taiwan.

These clauses are borrowed directly from the U.S. Taiwan relations act. The Taiwan relations act provides a strong, solid legal framework between the U.S. and Taiwan. It has been a success in strengthening U.S.-Taiwan commercial relations.

Canadians interests compete daily with their U.S. counterparts. As matters sit today, Canadians suffer a growing disadvantage in trade with Taiwan.

Clause 4 of the bill provides that the absence of diplomatic relations should not affect the application of any Canadian laws with respect to Taiwan, and the laws shall apply to Taiwan exactly as they do to other countries. Thus:

Whenever the laws of Canada refer to or relate in general terms to foreign countries...such laws are deemed to refer or relate also to Taiwan.

Clause 5 protects property rights of Taiwan and its citizens. Clause 6 provides for the capacity to sue and be sued in Canadian courts. Clause 7 enables the Canadian government to sign agreements with Taiwan, enabling the Canadian government to enter into agreements with Taiwan.

I emphasize that this bill explicitly recognizes Canada's one China policy--this is the fifth time I have tried to make that point--but at the same time it brings order to continuing discord.

Clause 8 imposes provisions to protect reciprocal legal rights for Taiwan and Canada when they do business and interact with each other.

Taiwan and Canada have very close relations. As mentioned earlier, every year approximately 150,000 tourists from Taiwan travel to Canada. From 1990 to the present, more than 150,000 high quality immigrants have settled in Canada. Two-way trade between Taiwan and Canada reached $5 billion in 2004.

Taiwan is already Canada's fourth largest trading partner in Asia and is Canada's 11th largest trading partner overall. However, Foreign Affairs Canada claims that “as Canada does not recognize Taiwan as a state, it is not possible to negotiate a binding agreement with Taiwan”. Foreign Affairs Canada boasts of administering 2,267 treaties, yet none of them is listed as with Taiwan.

Taiwan and Canada share the same social values, including respect for human rights, freedom and rule of law. Taiwan's justice system is comparable to that of Canada. We can cooperate with Taiwan in many fields, including the judicial and economic areas.

For combating transborder criminals, in March 2002 Taiwan and the United States signed the agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which has been implemented smoothly during the past three years.

With the growing concern about security, international cooperation is imperative. However, Foreign Affairs Canada has refused to sign any kind of agreements with Taiwan. The issue is this: the U.S. Taiwan relations act enables its government to sign international agreements with Taiwan but we have no such agreement.

Between Canada and Taiwan, there is only a handful of exchanges of letters or memoranda of understanding and arrangements concerning some minor technical matters in the commercial and scientific fields. How can Canada promote trade and investment with such an important trading partner like Taiwan without the ability to sign any legal binding agreement?

Clause 9 of the act deals with issues around international cooperation. The purpose of the bill is to help to brighten the prospects for stronger Canada-Taiwan economic, cultural and other relations. The 25 year old U.S.Taiwan relations act, which is the model for this bill, has been a tremendous success in helping the U.S. to build a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan.

Canada's interactions with Taiwan are to our mutual benefit. Taiwan is a good friend and close partner of Canada, as Canada is of Taiwan. As such, Taiwan counts on sustained Canadian support as it addresses many important challenges. This very much includes Taiwan's efforts to develop its democracy.

I acknowledge protests from the PRC and certain Canadian business interests. They have said great harm will be done to the relationship between Canada and China and serious consequences will ensue after adoption of the bill. The Chinese took the same position against the U.S. on the adoption of the Taiwan relations act 25 years ago. With the Taiwan relations act in effect for two and a half decades, Canada's competitive position has continued to weaken.

For all the right reasons I am calling on members of Parliament to do what is in the best interests of Canada and the world. I am asking for support in principle for Bill C-357 to move to committee for consideration.

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wajid Khan Mississauga—Streetsville, ON

Mr. Speaker, my colleague mentioned the United States policy toward Taiwan in 1979 and so on. Why would he want Canada to follow a 26 year old foreign policy of the United States? A lot of the policies of the U.S. do not necessarily reflect Canadian interests. Could my colleague comment on that, please?

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, this gives me an excellent opportunity to further expand on what I was trying to say earlier.

Canada does not currently have any formal relationship with Taiwan as an entity of any type. As a consequence, we cannot have any normal relationships in terms of legal relationships for trade, for criminal matters or even for security issues. That is the problem.

In contrast, the U.S. has the Taiwan relations act, which permits it to do so. Therefore, Canadian individuals and Canadian businesses are put at the disadvantage of not being able to have the same relationship with their Taiwanese counterparts as their U.S. competitors. We are at a disadvantage.

Although the U.S. does not recognize Taiwan as a country or a separate entity and goes with the same policy as Canada says it goes with, which is a one China policy, it has still managed to get into a position where, whether with respect to security issues or criminal matters or legal matters, it can have a relationship with Taiwan. We are lacking that relationship. We are falling behind. Quite frankly, we are putting ourselves at a significant disadvantage to our most significant trading partner.

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to pose a supplementary question on what the member just said in his response.

It is my understanding that the 1979 United States Taiwan relations act was enacted by America really to establish a diplomatic relationship with China. Canada had already established one decades ago. I wonder if my colleague could explain how that difference helps.

I also have a question with respect to clause 5 of his bill, which talks about claims that Taiwan can make on assets. I have a concern about that. In the Taiwanese constitution, Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China, Taiwan's official name, and it claims that it owns Mongolia as well. Canada is currently the largest single investor in Mongolia. How will this affect our interests in Mongolia?

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

Jim Abbott Kootenay—Columbia, BC

Mr. Speaker, in the case of the U.S., the information that the member has I believe is incorrect. The Taiwan relations act was established fully six months after the recognition by the U.S. of the PRC as the entity that is legitimate government of China. The Taiwan relations act was constructed, and under much protest by the PRC, fully six months after that actually took place. I think the member and I have a significant difference of opinion on that particular question.

The question raised about clause 5 is a good one, which is why I am hoping to get it to committee so that we could sort it out and put in the necessary stopgap. The point of clause 5 is that it is reciprocal. In other words, right now individuals or corporations do not have in commercial law any way of suing and being sued back and forth between the two entities. There is nothing we can do to enforce the commercial arrangements that we make one on one with Taiwanese interests or vice versa.

This is different from the relationships we have with every other entity that would be called a nation. We are not out to call Taiwan a nation. We are simply out to establish standard commercial relationships to protect the interests of Canadians and Taiwanese people.

Taiwan Affairs Act
Private Members' Business

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

David Anderson Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate the bill put forward by my hon. friend from the Kootenays.

I would like to preface my remarks by saying, as the hon. member has indicated, that I am sure everyone in the House regards the development of democracy in Taiwan as extremely important. My first visit was in 1967 and enormous strides have been made since that time. That said, it is a part of the world where democracy has been achieved and where an essentially Leninist dictatorship has disappeared.

In that same timeframe, Canada and Taiwan's relationship has been transformed dramatically. It began with trade and immigration, but it now takes into account many areas. As indicated by the hon. member, health, education, science, technology and the environment are many of the areas of relationship between our two peoples. In fact, one of our largest trade missions in the world is located in Taipei.

That is where we are today and as we can expect in any bilateral relationship, there will be occasional times of stress, but we do not expect to always have all issues settled all the time with all countries. However, we should bear in mind the contrasts where those areas of Canadian and Taiwanese priorities differ and consider also the big picture, dealing essentially with the subject which is paramount, and should be paramount in the interests of all parliamentarians, and that is the interests of the Canadian people. Our job is to serve our Canadian constituents in a manner that contributes to their overall well-being and prosperity. I am looking at the proposed legislation from that point of view, from that Canadian perspective.

Back in the 1970s, when we switched our recognition from Taipei to Beijing, we did so in a way which provided for flexibility to remain substantially engaged with Taiwan and, at the same time, leaving the door open for a growing and important relationship with mainland China. In short, we created a deal whereby we did not need to choose entirely between one and the other as the choice had been presented at that time. We chose to engage with both and the results of this balanced approach speak for themselves.

Since then our relations with Taiwan have expanded dramatically, as I indicated. We now have a variety of memoranda of understanding between the Canadian government departments and agencies and their Taiwanese counterparts. We have had a large number of high level trips to China by Canadian ministers, one of whom was myself.

I believe I was the first western minister to go to Taipei after the missile rattling event of some seven or eight years ago. We have had frequent interaction between officials and between 2002 and 2004, Canada received 18 visits by cabinet level Taiwanese officials, including the vice-minister of economic affairs, the minister of justice, who came twice, the chairman of the council of aboriginal affairs and the minister of transport and communications.

Economically, Taiwan is one of Canada's top ten trading partners and is our 14th largest export market worldwide. We have a large number of Canadian corporations operating in Taiwan which have had significant success. Of course, the same is true that Taiwanese companies have entered Canada and we have good relationships and transportation links through aircraft companies that link our two areas.

Our involvement with Taiwan has been successful and our policy has produced win-win outcomes for both Canada and Taiwan, but now we have a bill which indicates, as some members believe, that the best way to preserve this situation is to revise it in a manner which does away with the flexibility that we have benefited from in the past.

Bill C-357, the bill we are discussing at this time, would put us in that very situation by providing Taiwan with the benefits of a state under Canadian law, and therefore de jure recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign entity in Canada. That is clear.

The fact is that there is no country in the world which officially recognizes both Taiwan and China and we, therefore, as a result of this legislation would be forced to choose and reverse the successful policies of the last 35 years. With this bill, we cannot have our cake and eat it. I believe that we, therefore, have a very clear choice before us at the present time.

As had been indicated by indeed the proposer of the legislation when he referred to his conversations with the embassy of China here in Ottawa, support for this legislation would seriously damage our longstanding and growing relationship with China. When we are considering that fact, I think it would be useful to highlight the inadequacy of the legislation because it spells out clearly what Canada is obliged to do for Taiwan and not what Taiwan's obligation to Canada might be.

To give an example to the hon. member, there is the issue of beef exports where the Taiwanese have opened their market to the American beef but not to Canadian beef. They have rejected the science information we have put forward. That is an example of a trade dispute to which the Taiwanese have not responded as we would have liked and where a change, as indicated by this legislation, would make no difference at all.

We know on both sides of the House that there are other issues, other motivations, and other factors which underline this legislation.

We know full well that the issues on which Taipei and Beijing differ are real and important. In fact, they have created the risk of war on many occasions over the last few decades. Those differences between Taipei and Beijing will not be resolved by legislative efforts in other countries such as Canada.

Canadian foreign policy is formulated not in Beijing or in Taipei, but here in Ottawa. It is in the interests of the Canadian people. That is paramount when we are considering such legislation.

There is an old Chinese proverb which says that even the wisest official cannot judge a family dispute. The dispute between Taipei and Beijing is essentially a family dispute. It is not one where we should be intervening with legislation such as this which so clearly takes sides in that family dispute.

Canada has been supporting Taiwan's democracy and should continue to do so. That does not mean that the Canadian government must support unconditionally any particularly policy of any particular political party in Taiwan. This legislation would appear to support those who would favour a permanent separation of Taiwan from China, which we all know will likely result in instability in east Asia and possibly even war.

It is incumbent upon those who propose this change in our policy to indicate why the warnings from Beijing should be ignored on this particular piece of legislation. It is after all an issue which is of supreme importance to the security of the Asia-Pacific region.

Recently, the leaders of the opposition parties in Taiwan which represent, as in this House, approximately 50% of the population, visited Beijing only in the last few weeks. The leaders had a very different message, which is a message of reconciliation between the two parts of China, mainland China and the province of Taiwan.

It is particularly important to recognize that since 1949, at the end of the outbreak of hostilities, the first meeting of the Kuomintang officials and officials of the Chinese communist party recently took place. This was the first meeting at that level of the top representatives of the two governments. At the time of rapprochement, which we have at the present time, why would any parliamentarian in Canada who values peace and prosperity be seen as supporting anything except that reconciliation process?

The legislation that we have before us today will not aid that reconciliation process. In fact, given Canada's importance in trade with both countries and our importance as an Asia-Pacific power, it would very seriously destabilize the reconciliation process that is taking place.

Let me repeat that only Beijing and Taipei can resolve their complicated and longstanding issues that go right back to the twenties. We will not be playing a helpful role by enacting this bill in the process of reconciliation and rapprochement, which we all hope will continue successfully. Our willingness to facilitate rapprochement is well known by both sides, but involvement in this piece of legislation would be a serious mistake in those efforts.

While we trust the two sides are working together, we should continue, in the meantime, our utmost efforts to develop good relations with both Beijing and Taipei which is in the best interests of Canadians and the Government of Canada.