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

3:45 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-33 this afternoon as we are nearing the end of debate at third reading and final passage.

The bill has received fairly normal treatment through its early stages, through committee and then reported back to the House, but then something interesting happened. The spotlight of the world was turned on food commodity prices. It looked like we had a very significant spike in the pricing of many world food commodities.

Some of the people looking at those spikes in prices speculated that it was possible that the new market for biofuels, which requires the production of some agricultural commodities, was part of the reason that the prices of the commodities were being bid up.

It is certainly possible that is and was the case and it may be the case in the future, but, in my view, there is a very tenuous line between that circumstance and the need for passage of this legislation.

I will say right off the bat that while the bill deals with the regulation of biofuels in the sense that it defines them and purports to give over to the government, from Parliament, regulatory authority to manage and regulate biofuels as a new commodity in the marketplace, which needs some regulation, there are very few standards in the industry. I will note that ethanol has already found its way into our fuel supply. I can think of at least one gasoline refinery and retailer who have up to 10% of their fuel as ethanol. At the present time these standards are being managed by the fuel companies.

The bill indicates a need to have the regulatory tools and instruments to define and regulate the industry, where needed, in the public interest.

The real issue being raised by the hon. member for British Columbia Southern Interior is the whole issue of a biofuels policy, not the regulation of whatever component of the industry may need regulation. At root is his suggestion, although he did not put it this way, and perhaps his party's position on the bill, that we have a clash in public policy terms between food for humanity or killing the planet with greenhouse gases, or something in between.

I suggest to the House that we are not there yet. I suggest that we can grow lots of food for humanity, while, at the same time, deal with our greenhouse gas challenges. We also may be able to use some biofuels to offset the need for fossil fuels in some sectors in some countries, as is already happening.

The real issue for the House and in the bill is the ability of the government to regulate biofuels policy, not necessarily to push biofuels nor to do it in a way that bids up the price of food commodities on world markets or even Canadian markets, but simply to regulate it as a consumer and industrial commodity in the public interest.

If we were to have half a dozen different types of ethanol and half a dozen different types of fuel, the consumers with a car or the truckers with a truck may not know what fuel that would be putting in the fuel tank. In order to get maximum efficiency, we need to match the fuel with the engine that is being used.

In the absence of regulatory tools, the government will not be able to refine what those things are. It may not be able to say that it is 5%, 7% or 10% or that it is called such and such and only goes into a certain type of engine.

I read last week that some truckers in some places were running around buying cooking grease from restaurants for their trucks. Maybe it works but I would not use it in my car. I can just imagine what it does to the truck engines or the environment when it is being burned. I am sure everyone will accept that there is a need for the government to have the tools it reasonably requires to regulate this particular market price.

I must say a few words about food commodity prices because it is that circumstance that has caused many environmentalists, observers around the world and people in this Parliament to pause, have a look at this bill and perhaps even reconsider positions. I do not know whether the party of the hon. member who spoke earlier is changing its position or not but it is clear that this globe that has six to seven billion people on it needs a lot of food every day.

The recent interest in food commodity pricing was not displaced. There were huge increases and still are increased pricing for rice, corn, wheat, barley, oats, vegetables, fruit, fish and pork. Somebody approached me last week looking for pork in Canada for a region of China that has a shortage of pork. The individual was interested in developing a supply chain for that purpose.

What is happening is that countries that we used to think of as lesser developed countries are now developing very rapidly in Asia. They are consumer nations. They are out there bidding on all commodities and they have every right to do that because they have billions of people to feed and they need to get food at the best prices. However, if there are too many bidders for a limited food supply, the price will go up. This is a concern around the world for people of limited means, poor people or people who might go hungry because they cannot afford food. We need to keep our eye on that.

It is probably a fact that there is absolutely nothing in this bill that would bid up the price of food or cause the price of food to be bid up. The bill does not mandate that there be any biofuels produced. It will, in a sense, follow the marketplace if biofuels are produced and if the market needs biofuels. If the government wishes to encourage biofuels, it will have the tools to regulate it but the bill itself does not encourage, promote or trigger biofuel production in any direct or visible way.

I will give the example of corn, which the hon. member mentioned earlier. It is a good one. Corn is a major crop in the western hemisphere. Our American neighbours produce a whole lot of corn. I think at some point the American government is or was paying its producers to not produce corn because there was so much of it. It is likely that a corn producer will not grow a crop if he or she cannot sell it. However, that may vary in the United States. If there is a subsidy to produce and it is produced because there is a subsidy, the country may end up with a whole supply of surplus corn. In Canada, however, I do not think a farmer will produce corn if he or she is not able to sell it. Right now, for the most part, it is sold for food in various ways or for components in food. However, there is a biofuel industry here now and some of our corn does go into that.

I could perhaps say it best this way. If we had a growing biofuel industry and a particular farmer wished to produce a corn crop for that, why would we want to do anything to prevent that? Surely nobody in here is saying that there is anything wrong with growing corn. If there were to be an additional corn supply grown here and put into the marketplace, at whatever price, including higher prices, induced by higher prices even, that would not be a bad thing.

What might be bad are two things. First, if the promotion of biofuels were to cause the diversion of human food into a biofuel production and take food off the marketplace that would otherwise have gone into somebody's mouth, that would not be a good thing.

The second thing that would be bad is if the biofuel manufacturing caused the food pricing for the food supply to increase and put it out of people's reach. We have seen the news reports of a number of countries that have had to take special measures to ensure a supply to its population. I suppose we must keep our eye on this.

Canada is a rich and well-fed country. I think we are even a bit overweight these days. However, we are a well-fed country and we have a moral obligation to ensure we do not do anything to impair food supplies for other countries. We must do what we can to assist in feeding them and to assist them in growing food on their own. Those are things I know all Canadians would want us to do.

I want to come back to the bill and point out a couple of things.

First, the government in this case has not taken any steps to deal with ethanol as a fuel component. At this point, I believe the government sets the fuel standard for ethanol at 5% or encourages it go to 5%, but some countries have gone beyond and gone to 10%. There may arguably be a need for government to become a leader in this, in consultation with industry and with automobile manufacturers, in pegging certain standards that involve the use of ethanol. This particular bill might open the door to that but it would not, as I say, actually make that happen.

The second thing I want to comment on relates to ethanol. For reasons that have not really been adequately explained in the House, the government decided that it would remove the excise tax exemption from ethanol that had previously existed to stimulate the production of ethanol. It removed that exemption in the last or the second last budget and it did it without really explaining why. I suppose it could say that it wanted to create a level playing field, but if we are in the business of stimulating alternate fuel sources or fuel supplies to offset the greenhouse gas emissions and the carbon reduction targets we have, then it seems illogical that the government would remove the exemption. However, that has been done. It seems rather contrarian but, as I say, I have not heard an adequate explanation.

However, now that the exemption is not there, it leaves room for the government to do something else to stimulate biofuel production. I have said many times that the government hates the policies of previous governments, particularly mine, which is why so many times it has terminated an existing program and then brought it back rebranded with a new name and perhaps with less money.

This rebranding has been going on since the Conservatives took power a couple of years ago. Maybe that is what will happen here, that the government has gotten rid of the exemption and in the next budget it will come forward and tell us that it has a brand new tax exemption, rebranded with their name on it, to stimulate ethanol production. I would not be shocked to see that at all.

Last, the government, with its apparent lack of interest in ethanol, has failed to note that cellulosic ethanol can reduce greenhouse gas emissions, currently measured, by up to 64%. That is a major reduction in greenhouse gas emissions if they can be attained by the use of the average automobile engine. I do not understand why the government is not pursuing that a bit more aggressively.

All of that having been said, Bill C-33 provides appropriate administrative tools to the government to regulate the biofuels field as it evolves in the marketplace. For that reason, and because we are very certain that what is in the bill does not cause the price of food commodities to go up around the world, at least not at this time it does not, my party is prepared to support the bill.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I was listening to my colleague and I must say, I do not share his optimism.

Today we are at the end of the debate on Bill C-33. I find this target—if it is not an obligation then to me it is a target—of 5% biofuels in the composition of gasoline to be rather disconcerting. To many people this will become a type of panacea. We are quickly getting caught up in this.

Earlier, when we were voting on the amendment by the New Democratic Party, I was talking to a colleague about canola oil, the use of our fine land, and our food products. To my great surprise, the colleague in question—who shall remain nameless—thought canola was not edible.

When we are on the verge of adopting a bill, the least we can do, despite our many and diverse activities, is to be well informed. Most of the time that is what we all try to do.

If this bill is passed, it will allow the government to regulate the composition of gasoline to achieve certain objectives. In energy and agriculture, in light of our recent experiences, we should recognize that the time has come to prepare for the future and that the future is now. The planet needs us to take care of it, not abuse it.

The government's target to include 5% ethanol in gasoline is not the best approach. Instead, the government could concern itself with funding research into new technologies that would allow us to use substances other than foodstuffs for this purpose.

Currently, as we know, grain based ethanol constitutes a major part of this production. Why? Because that is the simplest way to produce this ethanol and the other technologies are underdeveloped. These biofuels are raising vital questions that absolutely must be answered before we dive head first into mass production, blinded as we often are by this market economy instead of being driven by values that promote an economy of solidarity and respect for our environment.

In my humble opinion, this is not a viable option considering the world crisis. I have heard many colleagues in this House say that funding and encouraging the production of ethanol has nothing to do with rising food prices. I disagree. In fact, the International Monetary Fund estimates that the use of biofuels and the subsidies granted to producers account for 70% of the increase in corn prices. So I find it rather odd to hear members claim that there is no connection.

I see some other potential problems and I am not alone. For example, this morning when we were debating the amendment, I spoke about the massive use of water, a very important natural resource that is becoming scarcer. The massive use of water will considerably detract from the supposed environmental advantages of grain-based ethanol. As a resource, water is often referred to as blue gold. Wasting blue gold to produce black gold is a paradox created only by our commercial appetite and our very short-term environmental vision.

On the weekend, like many others who have read his writings, I suppose, I listened to Hubert Reeves speak. As members know, he is an authority on the matter, and he said that if we continue to use our planet this way, we will not need one planet Earth; we will need four or five.

We are talking about the not-too-distant future. This is not science fiction. This is not about something that will happen in 3,000 years. This is reality. Every time we encounter situations like the one we are talking about today, we should all take an interest.

The wholesale use of grains and other products—such as canola, which I mentioned earlier—in ethanol production will create other problems. Our producers will not work as hard to keep our grain crops safe because they will be destined not for human consumption but for processing and ultimately, for gas tanks. Crop safety will not be a priority because the crops will not be for human consumption.

Could this have an impact on the use of insecticides, pesticides and GMOs? People will want to produce as much as possible and achieve ever-increasing yields. Given the extraordinary yields that producers want to achieve to process corn into ethanol, I was trying to imagine what an ear of corn might look like a few years from now. Quite honestly, I would rather not contemplate it, but I did so anyway.

Soon, technical and technological efforts will no longer be directed at meeting human needs and producing better-quality foods with more nutrients that cause the least possible environmental damage. The Monsantos of the world will develop new genetically modified crop varieties not to do a better job of feeding people, but to produce more energy with each kernel of corn, for example.

Producers who want to be part of the system will benefit from this new application. Certainly, it will take less effort to earn more money. Who could blame producers for wanting to make money? These people go through crises regularly, and they have a hard time making a decent living because of the problems associated with their work. Who could blame them for looking to energy production?

What is shocking is that all this goes against a philosophy that is developing more and more, little by little, in Quebec. I am repeating myself, since I talked about it this morning, but I would like to mention it again. I am talking about food sovereignty.

The goal of food sovereignty is to feed our population using foods produced as close to home as possible by our own producers. This is done in an environmentally-friendly manner. It means less transportation, since we are buying our food at local markets. All the market garden production comes to mind, for example. Everyone knows how great it feels to find fresh fruits and vegetables available close to home.

We are working to develop this new social contract, especially in Quebec. The Pronovost commission comes to mind. Many people have already accepted paying a little more for food that has been grown and harvested close to home, the quality of which they do not have to question. We know that the production safety standards respect the environment and that this food comes from where we live.

Farmers are encouraged to produce for humans, on a human scale. In Quebec, all UPA members gladly advocate for this production on a human dimension. The men and women involved in this initiative have good reason to be proud.

When I think about this mass production for our cars, I think we are moving in the wrong direction. This bill really needs to be carefully defined and must incorporate certain elements. My NDP colleague alluded to this earlier when he talked about checks and balances. I think this is very important.

In conclusion, we do not need to reject biofuels. I think that innovation is the road to take when it comes to energy. We have to commit ourselves and use the smallest possible amount of arable land and environmental resources to meet our energy needs, which we know are sometimes excessive.

When we can convert waste and residues—be they food, vegetable or artificial—into energy without using food products that would feed humans or animals, when we have that guarantee, then things will change.

The government is currently encouraging pilot projects. That is excellent, but it is not enough. I think about my area, given that we are obviously affected by this forestry crisis, particularly in the Lower St. Lawrence region. We could be thinking about these future techniques that would use forestry residues. Obviously it is a promising idea.

As I just said, we know the state of our forestry industry, and it would be good to encourage the development and study of this type of energy. I would go so far as to say that it is urgent because it could help some of our businesses and forestry workers, including those in private woodlots whom we know have been completely ignored in the Conservative government's trust fund.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that this is not a good time to be aiming for that 5% target. Residual material technology is not ready yet, the world markets are fragile and, as we know, the world's population is starving. I think we need to be responsible and act accordingly.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for her speech and for her concern about the environment. I could tell from her remarks that it is something she cares very deeply about.

I know there are many companies in Canada and around the world that are getting very innovative, creating new products out of fibres, out of grain, out of forest product waste. They are doing so because they are concerned about the environment. Unfortunately some of the things that we are using, such as food products for fibre, remove something from the food production market and thereby increase the value of that food. People who need to buy that food cannot afford it or have a hard time affording it and are put at risk because it brings up the price of food.

I am glad the member mentioned some of those things. I note she also understands that biofuels as a concept is a good idea, but the government's bill, in the way it has been put forward, is not supportable because of what it entails and what it will do to food prices. It does not stop anyone from introducing genetically modified grains and it does not limit the amount of arable land that can be used to produce food for ethanol and for fuel.

Did the member see anything in the bill that would lead to conservation or limit our use of fuel? What I see in the bill is that it allows us to continue a lifestyle based on the high use of fuel for our vehicles, our homes and so on. It does not teach us at all how to conserve and to change our lifestyle so that we use less. I wonder if the member could speak to that.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:15 p.m.

Independent

Louise Thibault Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. I am going to speak my mind. I am exceedingly worried that this bill is truly flawed. That is one of the reasons that led me to vote, earlier today, in favour of the amendment proposed by my colleague's party. That would have allowed us—there was nothing to fear because we could still support it—to return to committee and further study the issue.

It is quite normal to be worried when we are dealing with our environment, our food source, our nourishing earth. People often accuse us of not thinking about future generations.

That is exactly why we have parliamentary committees on such occasions. It is to improve things, to change them and to work together. Thus, I supported it.

I said that the bill is flawed. I am concerned about not imposing a limit on the percentage of our beautiful agricultural land that can be used solely for this purpose. Because at some point, someone will say that they want to be like their neighbour, that they want to make money and that is how they will do it. And why would we penalize that farmer?

Thus, we have to set limits. There must be a standard. We must be even more respectful of our environment because we know the price we will pay if we are not. We have to prepare for the future. We could wait for better methods rather than simply saying that we have discovered the grain corn that will be used to produce ethanol, or another product that serves as food,

In my opinion, crops that are as close as possible to the people and will nourish them should be set aside as a food source. We should also develop other means of satisfying our outrageous energy cravings. We should become less dependent on these things and help each other to become more responsible.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is the House ready for the question?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The question is on the motion that this question be now put. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

The vote will take place tomorrow at 3 o'clock, after question period.

Order, please. Pursuant to Standing Order 38, it is my duty to inform the House that the questions to be raised tonight at the time of adjournment are as follows: the hon. member for Mont-Royal, Justice; the hon. member for Welland, Government Policies.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Government Orders

4:20 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak today on the Canada-European Free Trade Association free trade agreement implementation act.

First, I want to inform the House that I support this bill, because in my mind it improves access for Canadian businesses and strengthens our future in the European market. Right now, as I think everyone is aware, the vast majority of our exports go to the United States. It is not a major issue, but it serves as a platform in that the total bilateral trade between our country and the four countries represented by the European Free Trade Association, I believe, is approximately $12 billion. Larger than that, in my view at least, it represents a platform to provide us possible access into the European Union with future dialogue and discussions in the months and years to come. I certainly will be supporting this bill when it comes to a vote.

The agreement places Canada on an equal footing with competitors that already have free trade agreements with the European Free Trade Association. These countries include Mexico, Chile, South Korea and of course the European Union. These countries, the names of which are very familiar to us, are trade competitors of ours. Going forward it puts the country of Canada on an equal footing with these other countries, among others, in trading with this bloc of four northern European countries.

Although I support the bill and will be voting in favour of it, it is my position that the bill should be referred to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade so that the committee can review the agreement again to ensure that the bill complies with the committee's report, which was tabled earlier this year in the House. The free trade agreement went to committee first. In my view, it is the right agreement and one which, in the long run, is a must for the Canadian economy.

There are concerns. I have listened to some of the debate regarding this particular legislation. The concerns raised have to do with shipbuilding and supply management. If we look at the provisions of the legislation, these are not totally taken into consideration but they are certainly considered. That is why it is so important for the legislation to go to the standing committee, so that these concerns can be taken into consideration before the bill comes back to the House for final adjudication.

This is a long-standing matter. It did not start last month. I believe it was 10 years ago that the negotiations got under way with this bloc of four countries, with the hope that a free trade agreement would be reached. For different reasons, I suppose, things did not go as quickly or as smoothly as first thought and the negotiations have been ongoing. However, I am glad to see that 10 years after negotiations started, we have in the House legislation which approves the free trade agreement.

I would suggest the majority of members in the House appreciate and understand the value of trade partners such as these four countries. It is my understanding that this bloc of four countries, if not the highest, has one of the highest GDP per capita in the entire world. It is a bloc of countries that this country should be trading with and trading with more often. It is a natural fit and I look forward to its implementation.

When we enter into these free trade agreements, I can appreciate the work, effort, time and energy that goes into them on behalf of all the players involved because a lot of different sectors have to be taken into consideration. In cases such as this, not everyone gets the same advantages and we have to look at all the sectors. The sector of biggest concern and the one which has been raised with all members of Parliament is the shipbuilding sector. The second sector that warrants special consideration is the agricultural sector.

On the shipbuilding sector, I have read over the agreement. It certainly provides what I consider to be fairly equitable terms. It provides a 15 year phase-in of the quotas for the sensitive sectors and 10 years in other sectors, which I think is equitable. I believe it is fair.

On the agricultural sector, from my reading and my understanding of the agreement, Canada's agricultural sector, insofar as this bloc of countries is concerned, will certainly be a winner. This agreement does protect the supply management regime in Canada. I have not read anything in the materials which would lead me to believe that the dairy farmers of Canada have any concerns with this free trade agreement.

The agreement would eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest export destination. As I said, right now bilateral trade is approximately $12 billion. I believe the four northern European countries involved in this association have a surplus. Canada imports approximately $7 billion from that particular bloc of countries and we export to them approximately $5 billion.

On the other hand, the direct foreign investment from the European Free Trade Association is quite substantially more. Those countries have invested substantially more in this country than we have in them. I believe that in the long run the agreement should increase trade in all five countries and it also should enhance direct foreign investment going both ways.

At the end of the day I see this as a win-win situation, although we certainly have to be very careful in negotiating these agreements and certainly as parliamentarians we have to be careful in approving them. I do see it being beneficial to our primary and our manufacturing industries.

The agreement would eliminate all European Free Trade Association tariffs on Canadian industrial exports. Some of the key ones that are included, and these are areas that are so important, are forest products, pulp and paper products, manufactured housing, aluminum, cosmetics, and motor vehicles. Forest products is one that I see has tremendous potential.

There is a substantial amount of trade right now in these sectors. I hope with the signing of this agreement that these sectors will increase the amount of trade going from Canada to these four countries involved, especially our forest industry.

As a result of the problems that are being experienced in the United States, these sectors are experiencing considerable difficulty right across Canada from coast to coast. For us to allow our products to go to Europe rather than to the United States provides more flexibility and more opportunities for our Canadian forestry industry. In that regard, it is a good situation.

The agreement would also provide improved access for specific Canadian agricultural products, including frozen foods, selected beverages, durum wheat, canola oil, honey, and various fruits and vegetables.

This whole agricultural free trade issue is an issue that is debated in the House every week and almost every day. We see the subsidies that other countries are involved with and sometimes we just have to shake our heads.

Last week, the U.S. farm bill was passed both in Congress and in the Senate. I know it was vetoed by President Bush, but I understand the votes are there for an override of that veto, if it has not been done already. I believe the total budget for that bill is $317 billion and a lot of that goes into subsidies for U.S. agricultural sectors.

Again, we have to wonder where free trade in agricultural products is going. When we hear what is going on in France and other European countries not covered by this agreement, we have to wonder whether free trade in agricultural products will ever be reached in our lifetime. We do not seem to be making any progress. In fact, I would suggest that we are taking steps backwards in this regard. However, this agreement is a step forward and I think it will certainly help our agricultural industry.

That leads to another issue on why it is important for Canada to perhaps be more aggressive in some of these bilateral trade agreements. We went through a period after the North American Free Trade Agreement when perhaps the country was not as aggressive as it should have been in pursuing these opportunities. At the same time, we had the negotiations going on with the Doha round of the World Trade Organization. That went on for four to six years.

We were all at somewhat different stages of the negotiations. We were optimistic that something would come out of those negotiations, but I think that at this stage of the game we are all just shaking our heads. We may not like to say it, but it looks as if the Doha round is dead. I do not see anything positive.

I have not heard anything positive coming out of those negotiations over the last 18 months which would assure me that there would be an agreement in the immediate future. I may be wrong on that statement, but certainly I have not heard, read or seen anything that would lead me to have any sort of a confidence that things are proceedings in a direction that would be beneficial to Canada in those negotiations.

For that reason, it is so important for this country to pursue other bilateral free trade agreements with other countries, especially this bloc of four northern European countries. There are some negotiations at the advanced stages.

I know that an agreement has been or is almost concluded with Colombia and also one with the country of Panama. Some of these issues are a little more controversial. In the Colombian agreement, an issue has been raised concerning human rights in that particular country. Our committee has been to Colombia on that particular issue. That has not come to the House yet.

However, this agreement is free from any of that discussion at all. As I say, there are no distortions with these European countries and it should be a clean agreement going forward. The biggest issue, of course, is the one I raised previously and that is the shipbuilding industry vis-à-vis the country of Norway.

That sets out some of the reasons why I am supporting the legislation. Again, it is important for another reason, which I mentioned briefly earlier in my comments. I believe it is so important to start the platform, the dialogue and the discussions with the European Union. That is going to be much more complicated. We are into some pretty heavy sectors there, especially in the agricultural sector where there are subsidies. That certainly will not be a one-month negotiation. It will be a long term negotiation, but it is a negotiation and a discussion that I think should start sooner rather than later.

It is important for our economy to build relationships with other countries if a deal can be done. If a deal can be done, a deal should be worked out and concluded. Again, sometimes we are not as big as we think we are. We are a big country but we have a small population and we have to pursue other markets. We have a very strong relationship with the United States of America and the vast majority of our trade heads south, but we always have to be pursuing other opportunities on the world stage, especially for our agricultural producers.

This agreement recognizes Canada's unique position as an agricultural leader, as it provides specific rules dealing with processed agricultural products. For items in that grouping, such as cocoa and confectionery sugar, the tariff rate will be reduced from 6% to 0% immediately upon the entering into force of the agreement.

This is good for the economy. As everyone in the House is aware, Canada has a strong agricultural industry and these new markets will present a reinvigoration of opportunities and partnerships for many of these particular sectors.

As I said previously, protected under this agreement are the supply management regime that we enjoy in Canada and the buy Canada government procurement programs as well.

To conclude, it is my submission that this is excellent for Canada's interests in Europe and a further step in our partnership with the four countries. However, as I said, it should be re-examined by the Standing Committee on International Trade to ensure that the bill and the previous agreement are in sync and that Canada's best interests are included in this agreement.