Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to this private members' bill brought forward by my friend, the member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca.
Bill C-364 is about giving compensation to Canadian companies that incur financial losses as a result of unjustified and restrictive trade actions by foreign governments that are signatories to trade agreements involving Canadian products.
We all know that Canada is a trading nation. Close to half of our GDP is from international trade. It is very important for us to have a rules based system to ensure that we, with a smaller population, do have access to world markets, but under a fair trade system.
For that reason, the Canadian government, including the opposition, have always been fighting to ensure we have what we call fair trading rules. Therefore we give a high level of support to the WTO and to other trade agreements. It is our desire to carry on with these free trade agreements which we are now conducting with Japan and which we hope in the future to conduct with India as well.
I have attended the WTO meetings in Seattle and Doha in the past to ensure that Canada was well represented and to ensure we received a fair rules based system for our Canadian exporters and for our markets.
Hopefully, my colleague from Macleod will be going to Hong Kong for the next WTO meeting, even if the election is on the horizon. It is important for Canada's voice to be heard there. My colleague from Macleod has done a tremendous job in ensuring Canada is heard. I hope he does go there and brings Canada's voice to the WTO meeting.
There is no question that protectionism is growing around the world and it keeps growing. Even with the WTO meeting, we can see that the agricultural subsidies that are being given by the European Union and the U.S.A. are under scrutiny and attack by everyone because it distorts the market.
Canada is trying to get a rules based system. What about the Third World countries that cannot get a rules based system? These countries rely on the WTO. Henceforth, they are demanding at the WTO to have agricultural subsidies removed in order to have fair trade.
Canada has announced that it will be forgiving debt to Third World countries. Canada has announced that it is giving foreign aid and that it is raising its foreign aid commitment, but at the same time it is not opening up the market. I am happy to say that Canada has opened up that market but other countries in the European Union have not opened up their markets.
I watched a documentary recently on Lake Victoria in East Africa, the country from which I come, and the huge amount of fish that is caught that cannot be exported to the European Union due to restrictive measures. Just imagine what would happen if all this fish could be exported to the European Union. We could see the whole economic condition change. These people would not then be needing any foreign aid because they would be able to compete on the world market and go on with their business.
As a member of Parliament I have sat for eight years on the foreign affairs committee. I have seen countries not open up their markets. It is very difficult to get countries to open up their market because of national interests and the domestic markets.
When NAFTA was signed we thought we had a great agreement. We went around the world saying that NAFTA was the kind of agreement countries should have for a free trade agreement. We touted NAFTA as one of those excellent trade agreements that a country could have. Lo and behold, the ruling on the softwood lumber that the U.S.A. is ignoring now has come as a deep shock to everyone here who has been fighting for free trade.
Mr. Bush himself has been saying that he loves free trade. Everybody has been saying they love free trade. It is quite interesting that he was in Buenos Aires recently talking about the free trade of the Americas and yet we have a free trade agreement with him and he is having difficulty even fulfilling that portion of the agreement.
One may ask why we would extend more free trade agreements, why anybody would put credence into the U.S.A. opening up its markets when it cannot even fulfill the NAFTA agreement, which was unanimous on softwood lumber. Today speakers have all identified what has happened with softwood lumber and all the duties that the U.S. is getting.
That leads us to the main point, which is where does the burden fall? The burden should fall on the Government of Canada. The Government of Canada should be fighting for these trade agreements that we sign and stand up for them. Unfortunately, it falls on Canadian companies to take up the legal challenges. It falls on Canadian companies to pay these duties which are now under dispute.
Today, on the eve of the election, an announcement was made that the federal Liberals are going to do something about softwood lumber. We are talking about the duties. It is amazing that an announcement is made on the eve of a general election. It is also after pressure was applied by the three opposition parties. They said that they wanted a definite response from the government and wanted to see what it has done. As we know, all three of them agreed on that.
Nevertheless, there is this business of making promises at election time, getting elected and then not keeping the promises, which is what the Liberal Party has been doing for many years. We see a repetition of the same thing. It is making promises.
What we need is legislation not promises. We need legislation that will address this deficiency that exists, which is how long Canadian companies can carry the burden of what we sign with the U.S. Once we sign these free trade agreements we come across these restrictive practices, which will keep coming no matter what.
This is something we will always fight in domestic markets to international markets. These disputes are going to keep coming so we need a mechanism in place so that industry, government, everybody involved has a cohesive approach to address this issue when these things arise. We should never be caught again with what happened with softwood lumber. We sat down and agreed to NAFTA. Now we find that one partner of NAFTA is not adhering to the decision that it agreed to sign.
I was in Calgary when the President of Mexico was there and he agreed with us too. However, combining Mexico and Canada, we still do not have the huge power that the U.S.A. has, which is the reason NAFTA was established.
What do we do? We are bringing in legislation to ensure that Canadian companies do not suffer unnecessarily or do not go under while these wars are taking place, while we are fighting these things through tribunals, court actions and all the mechanisms that we are establishing in the international market to ensure there is a good rules based system that is applicable to everyone so that we are not bullied by a larger economy, which is always the case.
I just came back from a trade mission in Central Europe, which has just joined the European Union which has again become a large economic block. On one side we have the U.S. market, which is a large economic block, and on the other we have the European Union, which is a large economic block. Therefore we need to ensure that we have mechanisms to help us fight.
In conclusion, I am very happy that my friend brought the bill forward and that the matter can be resolved and sent to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.