House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was trade.

Topics

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments. Resuming debate. Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

The question is on the amendment. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the amendment?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those in favour of the amendment will please say yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Call in the members.

And the bells having rung:

Accordingly, the vote stands deferred until 3 p.m. this day.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was caught off guard because I thought there would be someone speaking before me.

Bill C-55 would implement the Free Trade Agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The Bloc Québécois will be in favour of Bill C-55 primarily because this agreement does not have the same flaws as some previous agreements. There is also the fact that it does not affect supply management in the agricultural sector.

Obviously, one important point has to do with shipyards, but another is the fact that what is really at stake is the European Union. I will provide some context for the Bloc's position on this agreement, or rather the supplementary opinion of the Bloc Québécois. I will conclude with a caution about free trade agreements throughout the world.

The international economy is currently in an era of globalization. Multinational companies and big businesses are practically in a mad dash to make money from situations all over the world. They are making profits from the working conditions, human rights conditions and environmental conditions in various countries.

A closer look reveals that there are plenty of multilateral agreements. The WTO has 152 member nations, while the UN has 192. In 1955, the WTO had 89 members and the UN had 76. Twenty years later, in 1975, 157 countries belonged to the WTO and 144 to the UN. Today, the UN has 192 member countries and the WTO has 152. It seems that a lot of countries have signed on to multilateral agreements.

In the current context, however, particularly in the context of WTO negotiations—the Doha round, to be precise—more and more countries are taking part in the headlong race to sign bilateral free trade agreements. Nearly 200 countries want to sign free trade agreements—bilateral ones, of course.

At some point, Canada wants to sign as many as possible. It is hoping to sign agreements with close to 200 countries, and each of those 200 countries wants to sign agreements that will benefit them. We all know that for an economic transaction to work, both parties have to win. That is not always the case, but most people try to win most of the time. In many cases, a country might have general considerations that are not industry-specific.

That is the spirit in which Canada has signed some agreements and is negotiating others. We find such agreements perplexing. For example, consider an agreement that is currently being negotiated and that Canada would like to sign as soon as possible: the agreement with Colombia, a country with a deplorable human rights record.

I would like to go back to the European Free Trade Association, which is an association of four countries: Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. We believe it is a good agreement because, for one thing, Quebec stands to benefit the most.

Take the example of Switzerland, which has a very vigorous pharmaceutical industry producing brand-name drugs. Prescription drugs account for 40% of Canadian exports to Switzerland and 50% of imports. To break into the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might think about manufacturing drugs here in Quebec, or rather on the other side of the river, to be more precise.

In addiction, the mecca of brand-name drugs, with its pool of skilled researchers and advantageous tax rules, is Quebec. So a free trade agreement to facilitate trade between a corporation and its subsidiaries would likely bring new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec.

As for Norway, nickel accounts for over 80% of what we export there. The biggest mine in Canada, ranking third in the world, is in Quebec, in Ungava, owned by the Swiss company Xstrata. Our leading export to Iceland is aluminum. There again, production is concentrated in Quebec.

I was saying earlier that we were also in favour of this agreement because it did not have the same flaws as other agreements Canada has signed in the past. For example, NAFTA, the agreement with Costa Rica and the agreement with Chile all contain a bad chapter on investments that gives corporations the right to bring proceedings directly against a government if it adopts measures that reduce their profits.

There are no such provisions in the agreement with the European Free Trade Association. The agreement with that association covers only goods, and not services. So there is nothing that will mean we have to open up competition in public services, whether they are delivered by the government or not, since they are not covered. Similarly, financial services and banks will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, which has a very solid and also very discreet banking system.

Liechtenstein is a veritable paradise for the financial world because of its tax system and bank secrecy. That country, with its population of 35,000, has no fewer than 74,000 corporations, primarily financial. In fact, the Prince of Liechtenstein himself owns the largest bank in the country.

The same thing is true for government procurement. The government will continue to be completely free to give preference to procurement here, subject to the WTO agreement on public procurement. Obviously it would be somewhat ridiculous for the government to negotiate latitude for itself and then decide not to use it actively. We fervently hope that the federal government, the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada, will give preference to suppliers here and think about the benefits that flow from its purchases.

I started out by saying we would support it because when it comes to agriculture, supply management is not affected. Bill C-55 also allows for implementation of the bilateral agricultural agreements in addition to the free trade agreement with the European association. Those agreements, which are no threat to supply management, will have no great impact on agriculture in Quebec. Milk proteins are excluded from the agreement. The tariff quotas and over-quota tariffs remain unchanged. In other words, products that are under supply management are still protected. In fact, it is mainly the west that will benefit from the agricultural agreements because they provide for freer trade in certain grains, but the impact will not be significant.

There is some concern in relation to shipyards. We know that a policy to provide for support and development in that industry is needed quickly. That is the main point on which concerns could be expressed.

Naturally, we have concerns about the future of our shipyards. At present, imported vessels are subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years and will be completely eliminated in 15 years.

However, our shipyards are far less modern and in much worse condition than Norwegian shipyards. Norway has made massive investments in modernizing its shipyards, whereas the federal government has completed abandoned ours. If our borders were opened wide tomorrow morning, our shipyards could disappear.

For economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we must have shipyards. Imagine the risks to Quebec if no shipyard could repair vessels that ran aground or broke down in the St. Lawrence, the world's foremost waterway?

For years the Bloc has been calling for a real marine policy, and for years the government has been dragging its feet. Now that the agreement has been signed, time is of the essence. A policy to support our shipyards is urgently needed. Moreover, this is the only recommendation in the report of the Standing Committee on International Trade on the free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association. The committee agreed to insert the recommendation proposed by the Bloc Québécois international trade critic and deputy critic. It reads as follows:

Therefore, the Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the industry, while ensuring that any such strategy is in conformity with Canada’s commitments at the WTO.

This is practically the only major recommendation in the report. The Conservative policy of leaving companies to fend for themselves could be disastrous for shipyards. We expect the government to give up its bad policy, and we call on it to table a real policy, by the end of the year, to support and develop the shipbuilding industry.

Given the urgency, we will not be content with fine talk, something the government specializes in. This time, we will not be content with rhetoric. We need a real policy that covers all aspects of the industry.

The four member countries of the association offer good opportunities for Canada and Quebec. They represent a total population of roughly 12 million inhabitants. These are economically sound countries. The GDP per capita is $60,000 in Switzerland, $82,000 in Norway, $62,214 in Liechtenstein and $60,000 in Iceland. Canada's is $44,389.

This is a good endeavour. Somewhere at the end of the tunnel, we can see a dim light. Does the Conservative government intend to drop the philosophy it might have had during previous negotiations? This is a good endeavour. The outlook is good, but there are far higher stakes for a number of industries in Quebec and Canada, namely the European Union.

We see the government putting its energy into free trade agreements, like the ones with the European association and Colombia. The agreement with Colombia has not been ratified by the U.S. Congress for human rights reasons, but Canada is proceeding with the negotiations. In fact, two weeks ago, we went to Colombia and Panama.

We have heard witnesses and met with government representatives, people from non governmental organizations, unions and businesspeople.

Of course there have been some improvements, but there is still a nagging doubt. Without prejudging the Bloc Québécois position in these negotiations, there are nonetheless some points that need to be considered. In today's context, as far as international agreements are concerned, whether they are multilateral or bilateral, there is a growing sense that certain elements need to be incorporated into various trade agreements.

In the context of the European Free Trade Association, there are no cases of exploitation of people or workers. As far as the environment is concerned, some countries are cited as models. Nevertheless, the international economic movement is expressing its will to include in trade agreements such elements as human rights, labour rights and environmental aspects. These elements will increasingly have to be incorporated into agreements and will have to be assessed according to the situation in each country.

A country is responsible for distributing wealth among its population. Canada has not set the best example because, in 1989, this House unanimously adopted a motion whereby Canada was committed to the elimination of poverty in 10 years. That was almost 20 years ago and we now have more poverty than at that time and the gap between rich and poor is widening. Yet, it is a governmental responsibility.

On the international scene, governments will also have to give greater consideration to this international responsibility towards countries with much bleaker economic situations than ours. This responsibility must be reflected in agreements by including provisions covering human rights, labour law and the environment, of course.

Let us return to the main issue, that is the European Union. A free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein is quite positive but we must be aware of the limits of this agreement. The total population of these countries is about 12 million and they account for 1% of Canadian exports.

The real opportunity lies with the European Union. With a population of 495 million generating 31% of global GDP, the European Union is the global economic powerhouse.

Canada is far too dependent on the United States, which has accounted for more than 85% of our exports; today, that figure stands at 79%.

That is the warning I wanted to convey. We should remember the committee's recommendations contained in the Bloc Québécois Supplementary Report. I would advise the Conservative government to truly realize that it must now follow the new direction being laid out—and it is unfolding quickly—and which consists of including employment rights, human rights, environmental considerations and even, in the near future, food sovereignty in bilateral agreements. This should also be adopted by the WTO.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am quite happy to engage in the debate today on Bill C-55. It is actually a happy event. It is a trade agreement and my party, the Liberal Party, is in the normal flow of events very supportive of trade and has been for all 140-some odd years of our country's existence.

Before I get into remarks on this actual trade bill, a related matter has to do with what we can call ratification. I recall when the current government took office there was some talk, in fact I believe there was a statement, that the government would be submitting international treaties to the House for some informal ratification. It certainly was not a formal statutory required ratification, but I am not too sure whether the government has forgotten about that or whether it is going to live up to its commitment or not.

However, in this particular case, the treaty that has been entered into by Canada requires legislation that has to come to the House in any event, so there certainly is not a practical need for any kind of an informal or specific ratification. I wanted to put on the record that the announcement by the government that it would embark on this ratification mechanism was quite a significant change in the parliamentary process.

I will give credit to the government for that. We have not yet seen the fruits of that announcement. It has not played out the way we believed it would, however, I want to remind the government that it did make the commitment and while government officials in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade are probably squirming with that commitment, that is the way I believe the House is headed and the government has certainly reflected that in its announcement. I encourage the government to live up to its commitment.

Now, I will revert to this trade bill. As previous speakers have said, this is a new trade agreement which Canada has entered into with four European countries. It is a happy event with the trading stars of five countries coming into alignment with all of the countries potentially benefiting from the freer trade and access provided for in this treaty.

There is something actually quite grand happening in Europe which most of us and the world are aware of. But after some thousand years of conflict and fighting, killing, burning, looting, shifting of borders, and tribal inter-tribal conflicts, Europe, after the last war, came together and decided to form a union, and to adopt mechanisms which would pre-empt and get rid of this sordid history of war and conflict. It is succeeding beyond the dreams of most people who lived through the horrors of the first half of the 20th century.

The European Union has adopted models for trade, international relations, monetary and fiscal matters, criminal law, the environment, and certainly succeeding in making the EU a new focus for global presence. I was going to use the word “power”, but there is more going here than just that. The EU is certainly a focal point for economic and political leadership in the world. Recently, at a meeting Europe of course is grappling with what we sometimes call multiculturalism. We can see dozens and dozens of cultures and languages in Europe, not so much coming together, but living together, interspersing, accommodating and flowering, and that is all happening in Europe now, as much as it is happening in Canada. In fact, I heard the Europeans refer to the Canadian model of multiculturalism when they were looking for a kind of a road map as to how to handle many of their internal issues involving culture, language, religion, heritage and preserving these things.

The European Union has approximately 20 to 30 countries and it is a market of about half a billion people. The EU and the countries we are dealing with here is a part of the world that is highly educated and very well off. The point I want to make is that the four countries we are dealing with are not in the EU. They are interspersed throughout the geography of the European Union but they are not actually members. For their own reasons they are not a part of the European Union. Those four countries are Norway, Liechtenstein, Switzerland and Iceland.

Those particular countries, while they may each individually seem small, are actually a fairly significant group of traders with Canada. As I said, my party is usually very keen to endorse, support and promote improved trading relationships around the world, and I know the current government is following a similar policy.

We are a big exporting country. We would like to have access to as many world markets as we can gain access to. I should say that in this particular set of circumstances as we enter into this trade agreement and change our domestic laws to align with the treaty, and they are minor adjustments, not major ones, but as we do this, one of the issues we do not have in this particular trade agreement is the potential problem of having a trade agreement with a country that has a labour force that is very inexpensive and has low labour wage rates. We do not have that issue here because these European countries all have fairly standard European level wage rate structures.

If we were doing a trade agreement with a country that had very low labour wage rates, organized labour and labour generally here in Canada would have some concerns. Those types of arrangements often involve significant adjustments in the marketplace with one country making use of the relatively valuable low wage labour rates in the other party to the treaty. In this case, those adjustments are not present. The labour wage rates are pretty typical and similar to those in Canada.

Some people will wonder what we are really dealing with here. We are talking theory; we are talking some money, but what are we talking about when we are talking about trade with these countries.

In this particular case Canada exports to these four countries which call themselves the European Free Trade Association. This is what we in Canada sell to them: pharmaceuticals, copper, nickel, machinery, precious stones, metals, medical devices, aluminum, aerospace products, pulp and paper, organic chemicals, autos and auto parts, art and antiques. That is a pretty eclectic list. What do we buy from them? Not the same type of things. We buy specific types of mineral fuels, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, machinery, medical and optical instruments, clocks and all those expensive watches that we see in the jewellery stores at the malls. A lot of those come from these countries in Europe.

We have a great trading relationship. In 2007 we sold to them about $5.1 billion worth of merchandise trade and they sold to us approximately $7.4 billion of merchandise trade. There is lots of other trade going on as well in agricultural goods and in services.

There is investment moving around. In 2006 Canada invested $8.4 billion in these countries and the four of them invested $15.6 billion in Canada. There is a fairly healthy foreign direct investment movement going on here. I think Canadians should be aware of that. Our entrepreneurs and our investors do not only invest in Canada, but Canada now is a capital exporting nation. We invest in businesses, places and countries all over the world. That may scare some people, but many of us have pension plans and I think it should be reassuring that Canada's investments now span the world, at least the investments of individuals and of our pension plans, and on a global scale, our pension plans are looking rather large.

There are some highlights that I want to mention for the record. There are special provisions in this trade agreement. Do not forget that this agreement has been negotiated and there were some Canadian interests that needed to be recognized in the agreement, just as there were interests of these four countries that had to be recognized.

The first one has to do with agriculture. As we all know, Canada has a fairly robust system of supply management for many agricultural products. We think this has served our country well, domestically and internationally. There is some debate about some components of our supply management system here in Canada, but generally, I think the agricultural community believes that it has served us well.

When we enter into a trade agreement such as this, it is necessary to take some steps to protect the supply management system we have here, because supply management is not total unrestricted free internal trade; it is a supply managed pricing and supply. The countries with which we trade want to know, are we really free traders with the market governing freely or do we have a supply management system. In this particular treaty, for those countries themselves that have some supply management mechanisms as well, we have recognized the Canadian supply management system in agriculture and it will carry on unimpaired by the provisions of this trade agreement. That should be good news that makes entering into the treaty a lot easier.

The second is in terms of shipbuilding. Canada's shipbuilding industry has been under pressure economically for many years now. Many members of the House ensure that their remarks and their work in Parliament are calculated to support and sustain the shipbuilding industry where it carries on in Canada.

This treaty, therefore, had to be adapted to ensure that our Canadian shipbuilding industry was reasonably protected. The means chosen for that involves tariffication, putting tariffs on ships that would come into Canada from these countries. I am sure that Liechtenstein does not have much of a shipbuilding industry, being landlocked in the European Alps, but I know that Norway does and I think Iceland does.

We have created a very long period of tariffication for different types of ships, which runs 10 to 15 years. For 10 to 15 years after this treaty is put in place there will be protective tariffs for the Canadian shipbuilding industry. At the end of 10 or 15 years, however, those tariffs must come to an end. They will be tapered off. Our Canadian shipbuilding industry must compete with these other countries, but there is 10 to 15 years of adjustment. That is good news for our shipbuilding industry.

The third component that was added is a component one finds often in trade agreements like this. It is called a snap back provision. I believe that in most treaties it is invoked unilaterally. It is there to protect areas of the domestic market where there is a serious threat by the import of a foreign product.

Where there is a threat, perhaps by very low predatory pricing or dumping of a product from outside Canada in Canada, Canada would have the ability under this agreement to adopt the snap back provision which would reimpose a tariff. We have to keep in mind that this is a free trade agreement where there are no tariffs. If there were a dumping situation and a serious threat to a Canadian industry, Canada could reimpose a tariff up to the level of what is called most favoured nation. That tariff would be reimposed to protect, for a period of time, against the unanticipated threat from this offshore dumped product, merchandise, whatever it might be.

Those are the three specific provisions. In retrospect, it looks like this trade agreement was actually quite easily reached. However, let the record show that it took 10 years to put it together. Negotiations on this trade agreement began in 1998 and were completed in 2007, and we are now moving to implement the completed treaty.

In the view of this particular member and my party, on balance this trade agreement is a keeper. It is a good one. It will serve our country well. It will serve the four countries of the European Free Trade Association well. Our trade showing will undoubtedly increase and improve. Exports, jobs, and prosperity in all the countries will undoubtedly improve.

We are planning to vote in favour of the bill.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, as a member of Parliament who represents a coastal city, I am keenly aware that Canada has the largest coastline in the world and yet has no strategy for its shipbuilding sector. This sector is very important in my riding.

I listened carefully to the hon. member and he seems satisfied with the tariffication system that is being proposed in this agreement over a 15 year period. Given that the United States has managed to carve out shipbuilding from NAFTA through the Jones Act, I am wondering why he thinks that what we have managed to negotiate is adequate, given what the Americans have insisted on to protect their shipbuilding industry. It seems to me that after that period of time there would be absolutely no protection. In the meantime, there seems to be no strategy to develop and support our shipbuilding industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is quite right. The protection in this trade agreement would only last for 10 or 15 years, depending on the type of ships involved in the shipbuilding. However, there is no solution. If one is going to have a free trade agreement, that means we need to have free trade. This particular provision is an exception. The 15-year adjustment period is quite a lot longer than would be normal in a treaty scenario.

The member's offering as a solution is the Jones act, which the Americans adopted many years ago. The solution for her and her party may be to join the U.S.A. and live under the auspices of the Jones act. The Jones act solution would not be available to Canada in this scenario. She has reflected on the need for a strategy. Either we are going to build ships in Canada or we are not. She is quite right when she says that the government will need to ensure it has some kind of a strategy as we move through the next 10 or 15 years.

We must keep in mind that these provisions only apply to these four countries. The Canadian shipbuilding industry currently is having to compete globally with shipbuilding nations around the world. It is a fact that while our people build very high quality ships, it is very difficult for them to compete with some of the low wage labour scenarios in many of the countries around the world.

There is not a simple solution. It does require government leadership and government-led strategy in relation to the several parts of Canada where ships are built. However, I do not believe we can piggyback that issue and look to this particular agreement to solve that broader problem.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. member a question about the shipbuilding industry.

The negotiations started in 1998 and finished ten years later, that is to say, early this year. The Liberals were around for eight of these ten years. It is well known that Norway provided huge subsidies to its shipbuilding industry. Now we know that all duties and tariffs will be eliminated over a period of 10 to 15 years.

If we do not want the shipbuilding industry to disappear along with the tariffs that are currently imposed, the government will have to adopt a strategy to re-invigorate and modernize the shipbuilding sector and give it the capacity to face the competition that will increase as duties and tariffs decline.

Since we are in a political situation where the government could change after the next election, would a future Liberal government be prepared to promise that the shipbuilding sector will get the support it needs to strengthen its infrastructure and ensure it will remain competitive in 15 years?

The Bloc Québécois wants to see a formal shipbuilding policy in accordance, of course, with what the WTO allows. There is room for things to be done. Can we expect a possible Liberal government over the next few months to make promises in this regard?