Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act

An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation

This bill was last introduced in the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session, which ended in September 2008.


David Emerson  Conservative


Not active, as of May 28, 2008
(This bill did not become law.)


This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment implements the Free Trade Agreement and the bilateral agreements between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Principality of Liechtenstein, the Kingdom of Norway and the Swiss Confederation signed at Davos on January 26, 2008.

The general provisions of the enactment specify that no recourse may be taken on the basis of the provisions of Part 1 of the enactment or any order made under that Part, or the provisions of the Free Trade Agreement or the bilateral agreements themselves, without the consent of the Attorney General for Canada.

Part 1 of the enactment approves the Free Trade Agreement and the bilateral agreements and provides for the payment by Canada of its share of the expenditures associated with the operation of the institutional aspects of the Free Trade Agreement and the power of the Governor in Council to make regulations for carrying out the provisions of the enactment.

Part 2 of the enactment amends existing laws in order to bring them into conformity with Canada’s obligations under the Free Trade Agreement and the bilateral agreements.

Part 3 of the enactment provides for its coming into force.


All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.


May 28, 2008 Passed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2009 / 5:05 p.m.
See context


Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to speak to the issue before the House for a number of reasons. We are debating Bill C-2, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation. This bill has been reintroduced. It was formerly known as Bill C-55, enabling legislation of the Canada-EFTA agreement signed in January 2008 by the present government during the 39th Parliament.

One of the reasons I am pleased to speak to this issue is that the bill was initially introduced by my predecessor in the riding of Vancouver Kingsway, the former minister of international trade.

I would like to take a rather different approach to a proper trade policy for Canada, vis-à-vis the policy that was being pursued in the previous Parliament.

I would like to begin my remarks by talking about the opportunity this legislation gives us to analyze what would be an appropriate trade policy for Canada in 2009 and as we go forward.

In my view and the view of our party, the principles that ought to be attached to an intelligent policy on trade at the present moment and in the years ahead are based on the following:

We must base our policy on the concept of fair trade, not free trade. We must base our policy on the notion of having balanced and reciprocal agreements, that is, agreements that actually respect the principles enshrined in the agreements and which guarantee that both countries have equal and untrammelled access to each other's markets. I will speak about this a bit later and we will see that a number of our recent agreements have failed in this regard.

Our trade policy ought to be based upon a foundation of a strong Canadian industrial strategy; that is, we profit best on the world stage and in our trade relationships when we have strong industrial sectors in Canada and approach trade from a position of strength for our Canadian businesses and workers.

We also need to build our policy on a position of a sound agricultural sector and well-functioning professional and service sectors. In other words, we need to build our trade policy on a strong foundation of a well-functioning and healthy domestic economy.

Unfortunately, this trade agreement does not meet the test of the principles I have just outlined. It falls short in several key areas.

As has been pointed out by several of the eloquent speakers who have preceded me, the essential problem with this piece of legislation is that it would phase out tariffs. This would put at risk a couple of very key and pivotal sectors of the Canadian economy, including the shipbuilding and agricultural sectors.

To elaborate more upon the concept of free trade, and fair trade as a distinction, I want to explain what I mean when I say fair trade. What we in the New Democratic Party mean by that is that we must ensure that we enter into agreements with other nations that respect the principle of fair wages for their workers and respect the principle of avoiding unfair subsidies to their industries. I will speak about this particular aspect with respect to shipbuilding and what Norway has done in contrast to what the Canadian government has done over the last decade.

Any agreement must be based on the concept of true reciprocal access to each other's markets and enforce standards in environmental protection, safety and employment standards.

If we enter into trade agreements with countries that do not have respect for each and every one of these principles, then we put at risk Canadian domestic sectors and we do a disservice not only to Canadian businesses but also to the workers they employ.

Agriculture and shipbuilding are two pivotal key sectors that are put at risk by the provisions in the agreement. Both sectors are particularly important to British Columbia, the province from which I come.

Agriculture is a very important industry in the province of British Columbia. I see a number of MPs who joined me last night at an event put on by the dairy producers. Dairy production is a very important part of British Columbia's agricultural sector. British Columbia has the third largest production of dairy products in Canada. It employs thousands of families. It is a clean and renewable sector. It is an important part of our domestic food supply. We need to ensure that this sector remains healthy in Canada so that we have a stable food supply for our country not only today but in the years ahead.

Shipbuilding is an industry which my colleagues have spoken about. It has a long proud tradition in this country from the east coast to the west coast. On the west coast the shipbuilding industry has been under a severe strain for the last several decades. This bill, unfortunately, would do nothing to help in that regard.

Essentially, this legislation would reduce tariffs on ships from 25% to 0% over a period of 10 or 15 years, depending on the types of products. One category of ships would go down to 0% right away. This provision refers to very large ships in the category of post-Panamax, which are ships that are not able to go through the Panama Canal.

If this bill were to pass, the Canadian shipbuilding industry, which we want to encourage to build ships, would have to compete with shipbuilding industries in other countries that have been supported by their governments in a manner that the Canadian government has not done domestically. This would put our domestic shipbuilders at great risk. Specifically, our analysis has shown that Norway has had a great head start in terms of support for its domestic shipbuilding industry and with that head start, Norway is able to produce ships which, unfortunately, Canadian shipbuilders would have a difficult time competing against.

Andrew McArthur of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada has made a compelling case on behalf of Canadian shipbuilders to have this industry explicitly excluded from this bill, as it is from NAFTA, I would point out. He notes that Norway's world-class shipbuilding industry is not subsidized today, but it does owe its present competitiveness to generous government support in years past.

This is not just a position that is taken by our party. It is a position that has been validated by industrial sectors and business people in civil society in Canada.

It is precisely the type of policy that has allowed Norway to become the world-class player that it is today. This is precisely what the federal government, once again, has failed to do by not supporting Canada's shipbuilding industry.

In terms of British Columbia, recently the current federal government and the present Liberal government in British Columbia declined to stand up for our shipbuilding industry. The example is British Columbia ferries. Hundreds of jobs were lost by the shortsighted government investment in a German shipbuilding industry rather than supporting British Columbia jobs for building ferries in B.C. coastal waters. Our party has asked that the import duties on three super C-class B.C. ferries built in Germany be entirely sent to support the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia. This very reasonable request has been refused by the current government. It would go a long way to providing some much needed money to kick-start the shipbuilding industry in British Columbia.

Shipbuilding and agriculture, besides being two key industries, are industries that not only provide good jobs but they are the jobs of the future and are sustainable.

In terms of shipbuilding, not only does it provide good, well-paying jobs upon which families can be raised, it also has multiplier effects and spin off jobs in a lot of areas in our economy, which I would think all members of the House would be interested in supporting, including research and technology, development, skilled trades, professional designing, engineering and other types of jobs that are not only the jobs of the future, but are jobs that our children will want to be trained for and occupy in the years ahead.

It is very important, when we talk about developing a trade policy that works in the years ahead, that we pay homage not only to the concept of having access to markets, but also one that promotes a strong national economy at the same time. I think I mentioned earlier that I would speak of an example where a previously poorly negotiated trade agreement resulted in us not getting the access that was promised. This example is illustrated by the softwood lumber agreement, where not only do our producers end up having to forfeit billions of dollars in duties to the United States, but at the end of the day we do not have the untrammelled access to the market we were promised by the agreement.

In my home province of British Columbia forestry is an incredibly important sector that at present is suffering in a terrible way. An almost record number of mills have shut down. I have been told by both trade unions and representatives of the business sector that they cannot remember the forestry sector being in such poor shape in living memory. Those who have studied the issue compare it to the worst state since the Depression. Tens of thousands of workers and their families have been laid off. We simply have a problem that is harming the economy of British Columbia and Canada, and part of its roots can be traced to poor trade agreements.

It is so critical, when we do negotiate trade agreements like the present one, that we ensure we get them right. In this case, we have to ensure that the interests of our domestic industries, like shipbuilding, agriculture and any other industrial sectors, affected by this are taken into account and taken care of so we do not subject them to further erosion, job loss and difficulties in terms of bringing their product to market, which is what this bill would do.

There are some good things in the bill. Entering into trade agreements with progressive countries that have respect for their workers and the environment, like the types of countries covered by this agreement do, is a good step. However, the legislation can be improved. In that respect, I would ask that the government listen to the remarks made by my colleagues and all members of the House, who seem to consistently point out the same problems, and ensure we develop and enforce policies that will ensure we have a strong shipbuilding industry, on both the west and east coasts, and a strong agricultural sector across the Prairies, Ontario, Quebec and wherever we have vibrant food production in this country.

We need to ensure we have a vibrant forestry sector and industrial and professional classes in our country, which will ensure we create the jobs that are not only so needed today in this time of economic crisis, but which will also form the basis for a strong economy in the days, weeks, months and years ahead.

There is some money in the budget for shipbuilding, and it is pleasing to see that. While that is a good start, as has been pointed out by my colleagues, it is far too little. There is a bit of money for some Coast Guard vessels. There is a bit of money to replace some aging infrastructure, including some wharves. However, in terms of a true Canadian policy that will kick-start and sustain our shipbuilding industry, the budget simply does not do that.

I would encourage the government and all members of the House to pay attention to this, because we all have an interest in developing a vibrant Canadian economy in this regard.

George MacPherson, the president of the Shipyard General Workers Federation of British Columbia has stated the following:

The Canadian shipbuilding industry is already operating at about one-third of its capacity. Canadian demand for ships over the next 15 years is estimated to be worth $9 billion in Canadian jobs. Under the FTAs with Norway, Iceland, and now planned with Korea and then Japan, these Canadian shipbuilding jobs are in serious jeopardy. In these terms, this government's plan is sheer folly and an outrage.

That is from someone who is involved intimately with the shipbuilding industry in our country. The House would do well to follow and listen to his warnings in this regard.

Again, Mr. Andrew McArthur from the Shipbuilding Association for the management side takes a similar view. He says, “We have to do something to ensure shipbuilding continues”.

The easiest thing is to carve it out from EFTA, the present legislation before the House, and if members do one thing, it is this. They should convince their colleagues in government to extend the ship financing facility, make it available to Canadian owners in combination with the accelerated capital cost allowance and we will have as vibrant an industry as exists.

When we have the unique situation of both the industry businesses as well as representatives of the workers joining and meeting minds on this issue, it would well behoove the members of the House to pay attention.

It would be my great hope that the members of the House would join together and urge the government to amend the legislation, which, once again, does go some distance in arriving at an agreement that may derive benefits for our country and improve the legislation.

In the case of the government, the previous minister has stated that the shipbuilding industry is of strategic importance to the sovereignty of this nation. Our defence minister , in a press release last summer stated that the “government recognizes the challenges being faced by the shipbuilding industry and is taking real action to help both in the short and longer term”. He said that as a marine nation, Canada needed a viable shipbuilding industry to support our sovereignty.

Those are good words and I hope the government backs up those good words with policies and actions that are consistent with that rhetoric.

It is vital in this legislation that we heed not only the comments made by members of the House, both within and outside the House, but that we pay heed to the comments of the industry and to the interests of the workers and that we continue to work toward a policy that will create the kind of economy that will serve us in the future.

My colleague from Halifax had an all party press conference in Halifax at a shipyard. Once again, this underlines the fact that all parties of the House ought to be interested, as is my party, in developing and reinvigorating a shipbuilding industry that can derive and produce benefits for this country.

Reference has been made to the Jones act in the United States. which has been in place since the 1920s and which the United States has studiously refused and resisted abolishing, including during the NAFTA negotiations. That act requires the United States to have American built, American registered, American staffed vessels operating on intracoastal waters in the United States. That is sound policy for the United States and it is a policy that we should be pursuing in Canada as well. Once again, it is a principle that, unfortunately, the legislation before the House does not respect.

I hope members of the House would join me in standing up for a strong, vibrant Canadian shipbuilding industry, a strong and vibrant agricultural industry and fair trade policies upon which we can continue Canada's proud tradition as a trading nation.

Those are my comments. I would be delighted to entertain any questions that any members of the House may have.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

February 4th, 2009 / 3:40 p.m.
See context


Claude Gravelle NDP Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-55 not only affects shipbuilding bit it also affects many other areas in Canada.

Destructive legacies, such as the softwood lumber sellout have eroded our confidence in the ability of the government to defend the best interests of Canada through trade agreements.

There is a lot of agriculture in Nickel Belt, especially in the Verner area. The NFU is concerned about this agreement because the provisions within the agreement concerning agriculture defer to the World Trade Organization dispute settlement mechanism which will have a very negative impact on supply management by weakening Canada's position.

What could the government do to improve this bill as it relates to agriculture?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2009 / 4:55 p.m.
See context


André Bellavance Bloc Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

I thank the minister for telling me where the minister is. I know we are not permitted to say he is not in the House. One thing for sure: he went to Davos and said he wanted to meet with the director general of the WTO himself to revive the Doha round. Reviving it for certain trade agreements is one thing, but putting that instrument back on the table, when it has been discussed and it would jeopardize the supply management system, is cause for concern. The Bloc Québécois will be even more vigilant in this regard.

With regard to the present agreement, we will look closely at what happens. Elimination of the 7% tariff, as provided in this agreement, makes it even more necessary that the government take a firm position at the WTO. Supply management is simply not negotiable. We have to say that and keep saying it. We believe that weakening supply management would justify renegotiating the agricultural agreement with Switzerland.

It should be noted that the part dealing with modified milk proteins, which were debated in the House of Commons not long ago, has also been properly examined. Switzerland is a major producer of modified milk proteins. At present, Swiss products are processed to the point that the tribunals have held that they are not agricultural products. They are therefore not covered by the agricultural accords referred to in Bill C-2. In any event, a schedule to the agreement excludes them completely. So milk proteins are excluded from the accord and tariff rate quotas and over-quota tariffs remain unchanged. In other words, products under supply management are still protected. That is what we currently see in practice and it is what we see in the bill. As I said, we will nonetheless be vigilant when it comes to agriculture, because that is our duty.

There is an interesting aspect to this agreement: it does not make the same mistakes that other Canadian agreements did. For example, NAFTA and the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile—two bilateral agreements—all have a bad chapter on investments, chapter 11, which gives corporations the right to bring proceedings directly against a government if it adopts measures that reduce their profits. The agreement before us, which we have been discussing for several hours, contains no such provisions.

I would like to point out that I worked with a member who was responsible for international trade. I was the deputy globalization critic. Some examples of chapter 11 action were absolutely ridiculous, and they must not be repeated. For example, in Mexico, an American company decided to take a municipality to court because it had adopted a bylaw prohibiting the development of a disposal site. Under chapter 11 of NAFTA, the company argued before the NAFTA tribunal that it would lose profits if not allowed to set up its disposal site at that location.

The municipality was taken to court under chapter 11 of NAFTA. I doubt that that is what the negotiators had in mind during NAFTA talks, but the pernicious effect of that part of chapter 11 led to that kind of completely unacceptable situation.

Fortunately, there is no chapter 11 in Bill C-2. The agreement with the European Free Trade Association covers only goods, not services. Therefore, we will not be forced to open public services to competition, whether provided by the government or not, because they are not included. Also, financial and banking services will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, which has a very well-known banking system, or Liechtenstein, which is a true haven for the financial world when it comes to taxation and anonymity. None of that is included in this bill.

As my colleague from Sherbrooke just explained during questions and comments, the same is true of government procurement. The government is perfectly free to prefer Canadian suppliers, except as provided in the WTO agreement on government procurement. It would obviously be pretty ridiculous for the government to give itself a certain amount of latitude and then decide not to use it. We therefore want the federal government, which is the largest purchaser of Canadian goods and services, to prefer Canadian suppliers and show some concern for the spinoff effects of its procurement.

There was some discussion of this today in question period. We have to comply with the rules of the World Trade Organization, but there is absolutely nothing to prevent us from favouring local suppliers. The Americans are a problem for us now with their steel, but that is because they are not complying with some of the WTO rules. In other cases, though, when we have an opportunity to prefer our own employers and companies, we should do it and we should not hesitate.

One of the government’s first announcements after the election was the purchase of 1,300 trucks for the Canadian Forces, and the contract was quickly awarded to an American company. In my view, the Quebec company Paccar du Canada Ltée could very easily have filled this kind of order. Under the national security rules, the government could have ensured that such a contract was awarded within Canada. That would not break the WTO rules. We have to be very vigilant about other countries adopting extremely protectionist measures, but at the same time we are perfectly entitled to take steps to favour local suppliers, especially in these times of economic crisis. I cannot see why we would fail to take advantage of this right, especially when we are not contravening the WTO rules.

I spoke a little earlier about our shipyards. We are very concerned about some aspects of them, but we can still agree on a government policy if only the Conservatives would open their eyes and make an effort to ensure that the shipbuilding industry is not penalized too heavily by this bill. We are still concerned, however, about the future of our shipyards.

At present, imported vessels are subject to a 25% tariff. This is a form of protection, of course. However, under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years and will be completely eliminated in 15 years. Nevertheless, the government still has the flexibility to avoid the rocks and reefs that this kind of agreement could present and keep our shipbuilding industry afloat.

Our shipyards are far less modern and in much worse condition than Norwegian shipyards, for example. Norway has made massive investments in modernizing its shipyards, whereas the federal government has completely abandoned ours. If our borders were opened wide tomorrow morning, our shipyards could be wiped off the map. Yet for economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we cannot let our shipyards disappear.

Imagine the risks to Quebec, for instance, if no shipyard could repair vessels that ran aground or broke down in the St. Lawrence, which, I would remind the House, is the world's foremost waterway.

For years the Bloc has been calling for a real marine policy, and for years the government, whether Liberal or Conservative, has been dragging its feet. Now that the agreement has been signed, time is of the essence. We cannot waste any more time, since, as we have already heard, in three years the tariffs will begin diminishing and in 15 years the existing tariffs will be completely eliminated. The Bloc Québécois made a specific recommendation in committee on the matter. The recommendation reads:

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.

That was the only recommendation made in the report on that bill, which at the time was numbered C-55, and is now known as Bill C-2.

The Conservative policy of leaving companies to fend for themselves could be disastrous for shipyards, and we expect the government to give up its bad policy. 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. We need a real policy that covers all aspects of the industry.

Those are our concerns. There will always be some. As I said, the pros and the cons of any agreement must be weighed. Of course, the four countries we are talking about are not the biggest European economies. However, what is interesting about this free trade agreement is that it could be a foot in the door for an agreement with the European Union. That is the real issue. The Quebec government is currently lobbying and having discussions about a free-trade agreement with the European Union. A free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein is all well and good, but we have to be aware that it is very limited. Together, these four countries represent 12 million people and about 1% of Canada's exports. So, we are not doing the majority of our business with these countries. The real issue is the European Union, with its 495 million inhabitants—that is a much different story—who generate 31% of the world's GDP. The European Union is the strongest economic power in the world.

Since we are very dependent on the United States in matters of trade, this openness to Europe might be a very important alternative for the economy of Quebec and Canada. Canada is altogether too dependent on the United States. We send over 85% of our exports there. The slowdown in the American economy together with the explosive rise of Canadian petrodollars in contrast to the greenback, brings home the fact that our dependency weakens our economy. Quebec has lost over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in five years, including over 80,000 since the arrival of the Conservatives and their laissez-faire doctrine. It is wake-up time. An agreement with the European Union could reduce this trade dependency on the United States.

This vital diversification should not be undertaken first with China or India—countries from which we import eight times and six times respectively what we export to them. The first priority should be the European Union. This is the only way we will be able to diversify our markets and lessen our dependence on the United States. In addition, the fact that Canada has no free trade agreement with the European Union significantly reduces our business competitiveness in the European market.

In conclusion, this is a most important undertaking. The bill has shortcomings, specifically with regard to shipyards, but this can be resolved. There is no reason to ignore all the benefits that might accrue from an agreement with these four European countries, especially since, as I was saying, it could potentially lead to a free trade agreement with the European Union.

Canada–EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

February 2nd, 2009 / 1:50 p.m.
See context


Guy André Bloc Berthier—Maskinongé, QC

Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-2, an act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. The association is made up of four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

As some of my colleagues mentioned this morning, this is the second time that Parliament is considering the bill to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. During the second session of the 39th Parliament, Bill C-55 was passed at second reading, but could not be finalized before the 39th Parliament ended on September 7, 2008.

Bill C-2, which is before us today, and Bill C-55 are identical. I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill because we believe that it will provide good trade opportunities for Quebec. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that this economic initiative, while very positive for Quebec, raises some concerns that I will explore later in my remarks.

As we all know, many Quebec businesses depend on exports to ensure growth. However, 85% of our exports are to the United States. That means that we have to diversify free trade.

International exports represent almost one-third of Quebec's GDP. Every day we are painfully becoming more aware that our economy is far too dependent on that of the United States. When there is a recession or a downturn in consumerism as is now happening with the Americans, coupled with the obvious aggression of emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil, we can see that it is getting more and more difficult to keep our place in the American market and to encourage growth in our manufacturing businesses. The results have been significant for Quebec. We have lost over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the past five years, more than 80,00 of those since the Conservatives came to power.

The riding that I represent, Berthier—Maskinongé, has been severely affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the furniture and textile industries. If we were less dependent on the American market and our trading relationships were more diversified, I am convinced that our manufacturing sector would not be so hard hit.

And this is what makes the agreement that we are looking at today such an interesting initiative. It also offers new opportunities for Quebec business. For example, like Quebec, Switzerland has a large pharmaceutical industry, vigorous and innovative, especially with respect to brand name drugs. It is not surprising that Quebec is the Canadian leader in the field of brand name drugs because of its pool of skilled researchers and its favourable tax system. We could therefore easily imagine that in order to more easily break into the American market—

I think that I will stop there and continue after question period.

June 10th, 2008 / 11:40 a.m.
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The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

We'll come to order. This is meeting 35 of the Standing Committee on International Trade.

Today the scheduled topic is Bill C-55, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway, and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation.

We're to hear witnesses today.

We have, from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, David Plunkett, director general, bilateral and regional trade policy; Marvin Hildebrand, director, bilateral market access; and Ton Zuijdwijk, general counsel, trade law bureau. From the Department of Finance, we have Christine Wiecek, senior economist, tariffs and market access; and from the Department of Industry, Chummer Farina, director general, aerospace, defence and marine branch. And from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, we have Chantal Sicotte, senior trade policy analyst (Europe), eastern hemisphere trade policy, market and industry services branch.

It would be my suggestion that we hear from the witnesses. Should there be any other business or points of order, we wouldn't keep our witnesses here.

It looks like we're going to have a point of order, in any event.

Mr. Bains.

Extension of Sitting HoursRoutine Proceedings

June 9th, 2008 / 3:10 p.m.
See context

York—Simcoe Ontario


Peter Van Loan ConservativeLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I would like at this time to move the standard motion that can be made only today. I move:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 27(1), commencing on Monday, June 9, 2008, and concluding on Thursday, June 19, 2008, the House shall continue to sit until 11:00 p.m.

Mr. Speaker, as I indicated last week in answer to the Thursday statement, this is we have work to do week. To kick off the week, we are introducing the customary motion to extend the daily sitting hours of the House for the final two weeks of the spring session. This is a motion which is so significant there is actually a specific Standing Order contemplating it, because it is the normal practice of this House, come this point in the parliamentary cycle, that we work additional hours and sit late to conduct business.

In fact, since 1982, when the House adopted a fixed calendar, such a motion has never been defeated. I underline that since a fixed calendar was adopted, such a motion has never been defeated. As a consequence, we know that today when we deal with this motion, we will discover whether the opposition parties are interested in doing the work that they have been sent here to do, or whether they are simply here to collect paycheques, take it easy and head off on a three month vacation.

On 11 of those occasions, sitting hours were extended using this motion. On six other occasions, the House used a different motion to extend the sitting hours in June. This includes the last three years of minority government.

This is not surprising. Canadians expect their members of Parliament to work hard to advance their priorities. They would not look kindly on any party that was too lazy to work a few extra hours to get as much done as possible before the three month summer break. There is a lot to get done.

In the October 2007 Speech from the Throne, we laid out our legislative agenda. It set out an agenda of clear goals focusing on five priorities to: rigorously defend Canada's sovereignty and place in the world; strengthen the federation and modernize our democratic institutions; provide effective, competitive economic leadership to maintain a competitive economy; tackle crime and strengthen the security of Canadians; and improve the environment and the health of Canadians. In the subsequent months, we made substantial progress on these priorities.

We passed the Speech from the Throne which laid out our legislative agenda including our environmental policy. Parliament passed Bill C-2, the Tackling Violent Crime Act, to make our streets and communities safer by tackling violent crime. Parliament passed Bill C-28, which implemented the 2007 economic statement. That bill reduced taxes for all Canadians, including reductions in personal income and business taxes, and the reduction of the GST to 5%.

I would like to point out that since coming into office, this government has reduced the overall tax burden for Canadians and businesses by about $190 billion, bringing taxes to their lowest level in 50 years.

We have moved forward on our food and consumer safety action plan by introducing a new Canada consumer product safety act and amendments to the Food and Drugs Act.

We have taken important steps to improve the living conditions of first nations. For example, first nations will hopefully soon have long overdue protection under the Canadian Human Rights Act, and Bill C-30 has been passed by the House to accelerate the resolution of specific land claims.

Parliament also passed the 2008 budget. This was a balanced, focused and prudent budget to strengthen Canada amid global economic uncertainty. Budget 2008 continues to reduce debt, focuses government spending and provides additional support for sectors of the economy that are struggling in this period of uncertainty.

As well, the House adopted a motion to endorse the extension of Canada's mission in Afghanistan, with a renewed focus on reconstruction and development to help the people of Afghanistan rebuild their country.

These are significant achievements and they illustrate a record of real results. All parliamentarians should be proud of the work we have accomplished so far in this session. However, there is a lot of work that still needs to be done.

As I have stated in previous weekly statements, our top priority is to secure passage of Bill C-50, the 2008 budget implementation bill.

This bill proposes a balanced budget, controlled spending, investments in priority areas and lower taxes, all without forcing Canadian families to pay a tax on carbon, gas and heating. Furthermore, the budget implementation bill proposes much-needed changes to the immigration system.

These measures will help keep our economy competitive.

Through the budget implementation bill, we are investing in the priorities of Canadians.

These priorities include: $500 million to help improve public transit, $400 million to help recruit front line police officers, nearly $250 million for carbon capture and storage projects in Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia, and $100 million for the Mental Health Commission of Canada to help Canadians facing mental health and homelessness challenges.

These investments, however, could be threatened if the bill does not pass before the summer. That is why I am hopeful that the bill will be passed by the House later today.

The budget bill is not our only priority. Today the House completed debate at report stage on Bill C-29, which would create a modern, transparent, accountable process for the reporting of political loans. We will vote on this bill tomorrow and debate at third reading will begin shortly thereafter.

We also wish to pass Bill C-55, which implements our free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

This free trade agreement, the first in six years, reflects our desire to find new markets for Canadian products and services.

Given that the international trade committee endorsed the agreement earlier this year, I am optimistic that the House will be able to pass this bill before we adjourn.

On Friday we introduced Bill C-60, which responds to recent decisions relating to courts martial. That is an important bill that must be passed on a time line. Quick passage is necessary to ensure the effectiveness of our military justice system.

Last week the aboriginal affairs committee reported Bill C-34, which implements the Tsawwassen First Nation final agreement. This bill has all-party support in the House. Passage of the bill this week would complement our other achievements for first nations, including the apology on Wednesday to the survivors of residential schools.

These are important bills that we think should be given an opportunity to pass. That is why we need to continue to work hard, as our rules contemplate.

The government would also like to take advantage of extended hours to advance important crime and security measures. Important justice measures are still before the House, such as: Bill S-3, the anti-terrorism act; Bill C-53, the auto theft bill; Bill C-45 to modernize the military justice system; and Bill C-60, which responds to recent court martial decisions.

There are a number of other bills that we would like to see advanced in order to improve the management of the economy. There are other economic bills we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-7, to modernize our aeronautics sector, Bill C-5, dealing with nuclear liability, Bill C-43, to modernize our customs rules, Bill C-39, to modernize the Canada Grain Act for farmers, Bill C-46, to give farmers more choice in marketing grain, Bill C-57, to modernize the election process for the Canadian Wheat Board, Bill C-14, to allow enterprises choice for communicating with customers, and Bill C-32, to modernize our fisheries sector.

If time permits, there are numerous other bills that we would like to advance.

These include Bill C-51, to ensure that food and products available in Canada are safe for consumers, Bill C-54, to ensure safety and security with respect to pathogens and toxins, Bill C-56, to ensure public protection with respect to the transportation of dangerous goods, Bill C-19, to limit the terms of senators to 8 years from a current maximum of 45, and Bill C-22, to provide fairness in representation in the House of Commons.

It is clear a lot of work remains before the House. Unfortunately, a number of bills have been delayed by the opposition through hoist amendments. Given these delays, it is only fair that the House extend its sitting hours to complete the bills on the order paper. As I have indicated, we still have to deal with a lot of bills.

We have seen a pattern in this Parliament where the opposition parties have decided to tie up committees to prevent the work of the people being done. They have done delay and obstruction as they did most dramatically on our crime agenda. They do not bother to come and vote one-third of time in the House of Commons. Their voting records has shown that. All of this is part of a pattern of people who are reluctant to work hard.

The government is prepared to work hard and the rules contemplate that it work hard. In fact, on every occasion, when permission has been sought at this point in the parliamentary calendar to sit extended hours, the House has granted permission, including in minority Parliaments.

If that does not happen, it will be clear to Canadians that the opposition parties do not want to work hard and are not interested in debating the important policy issues facing our country. Is it any wonder that we have had a question period dominated not by public policy questions, but dominated entirely by trivia and issues that do not matter to ordinary Canadians.

The government has been working hard to advance its agenda, to advance the agenda that we talked about with Canadians in the last election, to work on the priorities that matter to ordinary Canadians, and we are seeking the consent of the House to do this.

Before concluding, I point out, once again, that extending the daily sitting hours for the last two weeks of June is a common practice. Marleau and Montpetit, at page 346, state this is:

—a long-standing practice whereby, prior to the prorogation of the Parliament or the start of the summer recess, the House would arrange for longer hours of sitting in order to complete or advance its business.

As I stated earlier, it was first formalized in the Standing Orders in 1982 when the House adopted a fixed calendar. Before then, the House often met on the weekend or continued its sittings into July to complete its work. Since 1982, the House has agreed on 11 occasions to extend the hours of sitting in the last two weeks of June.

Therefore, the motion is a routine motion designed to facilitate the business of the House and I expect it will be supported by all members. We are sent here to engage in very important business for the people of Canada. Frankly, the members in the House are paid very generously to do that work. Canadians expect them to do that work and expect them to put in the time that the rules contemplate.

All member of the House, if they seek that privilege from Canadian voters, should be prepared to do the work the rules contemplate. They should be prepared to come here to vote, to come here to debate the issues, to come here for the hours that the rules contemplate. If they are not prepared to do that work, they should step aside and turnover their obligations to people who are willing to do that work.

There is important work to be done on the commitments we made in the Speech from the Throne. I am therefore seeking the support of all members to extend our sitting hours, so we can complete work on our priorities before we adjourn for the summer. This will allow members to demonstrate results to Canadians when we return to our constituencies in two weeks.

Not very many Canadians have the privilege of the time that we have at home in our ridings, away from our work. People do not begrudge us those privileges. They think it is important for us to connect with them. However, what they expect in return is for us to work hard. They expect us to put in the hours. They expect us to carry on business in a professional fashion. The motion is all about that. It is about doing what the rules have contemplated, what has always been authorized by the House any time it has been asked, since the rule was instituted in 1982. That is why I would ask the House to support the motion to extend the hours.

June 4th, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
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Ron Cannan Conservative Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

I'd like to move that we have additional meetings next week, the necessary meetings to hear the witnesses for Colombia as requested, and we can complete and consider Bill C-55 next week.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 28th, 2008 / 5:40 p.m.
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The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

It being 5:40 p.m., the House will now proceed to the taking of the deferred recorded division on the motion at second reading of Bill C-55.

Call in the members.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2008 / 5:15 p.m.
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John Maloney Liberal Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very happy to speak to Bill C-55.

I am a member of the Standing Committee on International Trade. The free trade agreement between Canada and the states of the European Free Trade Association, which are Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland, was considered by our committee and I would like to make some comments on our findings.

First of all, I think we should look at the trade statistics between our countries which suggest that an agreement with the EFTA countries is of key importance to Canada.

We should note that the EFTA countries are the world's 14th largest merchandise traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. They are key players. Two-way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade amounts to $5.6 billion. Canadian exports to EFTA totalled $5.1 billion in 2007 and include nickel, copper, pharmaceuticals, machinery, precious stones and metals, medical devices, aluminum, aerospace products, pulp and paper, organic chemicals, autos and parts, art and antiques. It covers a wide range of exports affecting many different areas of our country and affecting many different sectors of our economy.

Canadian imports from EFTA totalled $7.4 billion in 2007 and include mineral fuels, pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, machinery, medical and optical instruments, and clocks and watches.

Canadian foreign direct investment in EFTA was $8.4 billion in 2006. EFTA foreign direct investment in Canada amounted to $15.6 billion in 2006.

This is certainly an agreement to be reckoned with.

I would like to go back to the considerations of our committee in our study of the agreement. I will give some of the history on this agreement.

In January 2008 Canada signed a free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. The group is collectively called EFTA, the European Free Trade Association.

The Canada-EFTA agreement is the first agreement to be tabled in the House of Commons under the federal government's new policy of allowing members of Parliament the opportunity to review and debate international treaties by tabling those treaties in the House of Commons for 21 sitting days.

The House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade took this opportunity to conduct its hearings on Canada-EFTA in order to contribute to these discussions.

It has been actually 10 years since a Canada-EFTA trade agreement was first proposed with formal negotiations beginning in 1998. Unfortunately they hit an impasse in 2000 on the issue of treatment of ships and industrial marine products. These issues are still of concern to some in this country.

Concerns were expressed then over the possibility that free trade with EFTA would require Canada to remove its 25% tariff on ships and expose the Canadian industry, which was already struggling with excess capacity to increase competition from subsidized Norwegian producers.

It should be noted, however, that in the time since those concerns were expressed, Norway reported that it has stopped subsidizing its shipbuilders. In fact, His Excellency Markús Örn Antonsson, who is the ambassador of Iceland to Canada, noted that several attempts were made to break this impasse but negotiations did not resume until 2006.

In June 2007 the two sides announced that negotiations were completed. In January 2008 the agreement was formally signed in Davos, Switzerland.

The Canada-EFTA free trade agreement is rather modest in scope. It is a first generation free trade agreement focusing on tariff elimination and trade in goods. Unlike NAFTA, for example, CEFTA does not include any substantial new commitments to investment services or intellectual property. These issues, as well as most safeguards, anti-dumping and countervailing duties will continue to be addressed by the World Trade Organization. However, as the committee heard, there are provisions within the agreement to allow for these issues to be revisited after three years, should the two sides wish to do so. As a consequence, it is not as controversial as some of the other free trade agreements we have dealt with.

The CEFTA is comprised of four linked agreements: a main trade agreement and three bilateral agreements on agriculture between Canada and Norway, Iceland and Switzerland, respectively. Liechtenstein is covered in the Canada-Switzerland agreement. Under the terms of the main agreement, tariffs on all non-agriculture products will be eliminated immediately upon entry into force of the agreement. The only exception is Canadian ship tariffs. Tariff reductions in agriculture are country-specific, as will be discussed later.

With respect to ships, boats and floating structures, the committee heard that the Canada European free trade agreement provides the Canadian shipbuilding industry with one-way protection by which Canadian shipbuilders gain immediate and full access to the EFTA market, while certain protections are maintained in Canada. It is not an unusual type of provision.

For Canada's most sensitive shipbuilding products, there will be a 15 year phase-out of Canada's existing 25% tariff. For less sensitive products, the total phase-out period is 10 years. In all cases, however, there will be no reduction in the import tariff for the first three years of the agreement.

The sole exception is for post-Panamax sized cargo ships, so named because they are too large to navigate the Panama Canal. According to officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, no Canadian shipyard claims to be able to lay down a hull of this size. The Canadian tariff on ships of this size will fall to zero immediately upon entry into force of the agreement, which makes common sense.

Moreover, the CEFTA also includes a safeguard mechanism which offers additional protection to the Canadian shipbuilding industry. If imports from EFTA are found to be causing injury to Canadian shipbuilders within the 10 to 15 year phase-out period, then the tariff rate can revert to the pre-free trade rate of 25% for up to three years. The committee also heard that the CEFTA does not oblige Canada to modify its buy Canada procurement policy for ships.

Addressing the issue of agriculture and agri-food products, which is another area of concern, certainly the content of the three bilateral agreements on trade and agriculture differ from one another, reflecting the unique sensitivities and priorities of Canada and the individual EFTA countries. Under all three agreements, most agriculture and agri-food products will be traded tariff-free. However, each country gained and/or limited concessions on certain key agricultural and agri-food industries.

For example, the committee heard that Canada did not make any over-quota tariff concessions on supply-managed agricultural products, but did grant to Switzerland tariff-free in-quota access to the Canadian cheese market. Canada also gained improved, but not tariff-free, market access to certain sensitive sectors in EFTA countries. These include frozen french fries in Iceland, frozen blueberries and durum wheat in Norway, and durum wheat and horse meat in Switzerland.

The committee heard that the expected economic gains from tariff reductions under this trade agreement will be modest. Tariffs on many non-agriculture products are at perhaps what I would say are nuisance levels, 2% or less, and many other products are already traded tariff-free.

Nevertheless, several witnesses anticipated an increase in trade to result from this agreement. Certain Canadian industries are expected to benefit from improved market access, particularly in agriculture where most of the major tariff reductions are found. Some industrial sectors are expected to benefit as well. These include wood and metal products in Iceland, apparel products in Norway, and cosmetics in Switzerland.

Witnesses also observed that the benefits of the CEFTA may not be limited to lower tariffs. Other potential gains include opportunities for trade diversification, enhanced industrial cooperation, and through increased interaction with the European business active in the EFTA countries, closer economic ties with the European Union.

The agreement will also put Canada on an equal footing with EFTA's other free trade partners, and will give Canada an advantage over countries like the United States, which do not have a trade agreement with EFTA.

The committee also heard that trade agreements have an important symbolic impact.

The vice-president of government relations for Bombardier, George Haynal, when he appeared before the committee, stated that trade deals create a level of confidence among investors, even if, as in the case of CEFTA, investment is not included in the agreement.

Per Øystein Vatne, first secretary to the Embassy of the Kingdom of Norway, when he appeared before us, observed that the very presence of a free trade agreement creates interest in the business community; the appetite for trade missions to Canada from EFTA countries has increased markedly since the CEFTA was announced.

In fact, many of their parliamentarians appeared here in Ottawa before our committee as the negotiations were going on.

Some witnesses, however, expressed reservations about the deal. There is no question about that. Representatives from Canada's shipbuilding industry, in particular, were concerned about the potential impact of CEFTA on their sector.

Mr. Andrew McArthur, of the Shipbuilding Association of Canada, noted that Norway's world-class shipbuilding industry is not subsidized today, but owes its present competitiveness to generous government support in years past.

For this reason, Canadian shipbuilders wanted their industry to be explicitly excluded from the CEFTA, as it is from the NAFTA. They eventually agreed to accept a long term phase-out of tariffs, but their support was contingent upon a new Canadian shipbuilding policy that included a buy Canada policy for government procurement, and the combination of two existing support mechanisms that are currently mutually exclusive: the structured financing facility, SFF as it is known, and provisions for accelerated capital cost allowances, ACCA.

The CEFTA includes a long term phase-out of tariffs and preserves a buy Canada procurement policy, but no action has been taken on the SFF or capital cost allowances as of yet. As per their submissions to the government, representatives of Canadian shipbuilders and marine workers were adamant that without combined access to the SFF and ACCA, the impact of the agreement would be devastating to the industry and would lead to job losses. In their view, this additional government support was critical if the Canadian industry was to survive increased competition from Norwegian producers.

It was noted, however, that the tariff phase-out schedule, and safeguard provisions, for marine industrial goods was particularly generous. According to the counsel for the International Trade Group, Cyndee Todgham Cherniak, a lawyer who specifically deals with international trade, the 15 year phase-out on sensitive ship products is the second longest phase-out she has ever encountered in her study of 100 free trade agreements. However, Ms. Cherniak also cautioned the committee that this abnormally long phase-out period could meet some resistance at the WTO from other major shipbuilding countries, like China and South Korea.

In addition to shipbuilding, some concern was expressed about the impact of CEFTA on supply management in agriculture. Terry Pugh, executive secretary of the National Farmers Union, suggested that the in-quota tariff cut for supply managed products might weaken the foundation of the supply management program.

Finally, several witnesses noted that no economic impact studies had been conducted to estimate the effect of the CEFTA on the Canadian economy. It was suggested that without such studies, it was difficult to judge whether or not the deal would be good for Canada.

Certainly, we are an open committee and we collaborate very well. I would like to draw to members' attention the considerations of the Bloc Québécois, who were certainly very concerned about supply management and preserving it.

Since the elimination of the 7% tariff provided for in the agricultural agreement with Switzerland will affect only the market segment that is already covered by imports, the impact on our producers would be minimal.

However, this will make it all the more important to vigorously defend supply management at the WTO. A quota increase, coupled with the elimination of the within-quota tariff would expose our dairy farmers to increased competition from countries that, unlike Canada, subsidize their dairy production. Certainly, this is a point that the current government must take into consideration.

The Bloc were also concerned about shipbuilding. It felt that the adjustment period provided in the agreement is quite long, as it is, but it will be helpful only if accompanied by adjustment and upgrading programs for our shipyards. Otherwise, it will slow their decline, but nothing more.

Of course, that hits the concerns of possible subsidization and Norway understood this very well. It began a vigorous industrial policy and built up a health industry--

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2008 / 4:40 p.m.
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David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Charlottetown, for his insightful remarks on Bill C-55, sponsored by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

For Canadians who are watching or following it is an important outcome for the amount of investment, energy and time that has been invested in negotiating an agreement between Canada and what is called the European Free Trade Association. We are not talking here about the European Union, the 26 or 27 member states that form the EU. We are talking about a much smaller conglomeration of states in Europe: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It is a move forward for Canada to be able to move to ratify yet another bilateral trading agreement like so many others we have ratified in the past and others that we are presently negotiating.

We support initiatives on this side of the House in the official opposition that improve market access for Canadian businesses. We are a profoundly steeped in trading tradition nation. On balance we support the European free trade agreement deal and the bill that implements it.

Having said that, as we just heard in the previous exchange, there are some legitimate concerns surrounding Canada's shipbuilding industry and not inconsequential concerns. In large part, as we have just heard from my colleague from Charlottetown, it was the negotiating of those provisions that deal with shipbuilding that in part accounted for the 10 years it took to negotiate the deal.

We believe that there are some profound concerns around shipbuilding. We share these concerns, but we also believe that the unusually long tariff phase-outs and what are called the snap back provisions address these issues, and I will come back to that in a few moments.

We are anxious to send Bill C-55 to committee to ensure that the bill implements the agreement as has been described by the committee report dated April 7. So again, what is this all about?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

May 27th, 2008 / 1:30 p.m.
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Francine Lalonde Bloc La Pointe-de-l'Île, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill and to say that the Bloc Québécois supports the free trade agreement with EFTA, the European Free Trade Association. This association refers to Europe but EFTA does not represent the Europe we know. It represents four small countries—Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland—with a total population of just over 12 million and a small percentage, about 1%, of Europe's GDP.

However, we support this agreement because it has significant benefits for Quebec. The free trade agreement will liberalize trade between Canada and these four European countries. I am referring to trade in non-agricultural goods. In fact, this agreement covers only goods and not investments or services.

Why do we support it? Why are we saying that it benefits Quebec? For example, Switzerland is known for its pharmaceutical industry which is very active in the area of brand name drugs. Drugs represent 40% of Canadian exports to Switzerland and 50% of imports. That is a great deal of trade. To penetrate the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might be tempted to manufacture drugs here. Quebec is the home of the brand name drug industry because of its pool of skilled researchers and its tax breaks. Given that a free trade agreement facilitates trade between a company and its subsidiaries, it is likely to mean new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. That is fortuitous.

As for Norway, nickel accounts for over 80% of our exports to that country.The largest mine in Canada and the third largest in the world is owned by the Swiss company Xstrata and is located in Ungava.

Aluminum is our main export to Iceland. Aluminum production is also concentrated in Quebec.

Thus, we have a de facto agreement with respect to production in Switzerland and in Quebec.

One of the extremely important factors, in the Bloc Québécois's opinion, is that this agreement does not include the same condition as previous agreements, which we did not approve of. I am referring to the agreements with Costa Rica, Chile and Colombia. I am talking about the infamous chapter on investments that gave companies the right to directly sue any government that adopted measures that caused a reduction in their profits.

We fought against those provisions, which are contained in several bilateral agreements between Canada and the countries I named. There are no such provisions in the agreement with the EFTA, no doubt because this is not a situation where Canada can impose such provisions, which it can do when dealing with underdeveloped countries. We will come back to that at another point.

As I have said, the agreement does not deal with goods or services. Accordingly, there is nothing to open public services to competition, whether or not they are provided by the state, because they are not covered. In the same way, banks and financial services will not be exposed to competition from Switzerland, or from the very solid and very discreet banking system in Liechtenstein, a veritable paradise—we will say it a whisper—for the financial world, because of its tax regime and its banking secrecy.

It is a similar situation for government purchasing. The government retains complete freedom to promote buying at home, subject to the World Trade Organization's agreement on government procurement. Obviously, it would make no sense for the government to negotiate some room to manoeuvre and later to decide not to make use of that option. Let us fervently hope that the federal government, the largest buyer of goods and services in Canada, will favour domestic suppliers and consider the spinoffs from its purchases.

I am sure that many people are concerned about the provisions on agriculture. What is important for us and for Quebec producers is that supply management is not affected. Bill C-55 allows for the implementation of bilateral agricultural agreements, which would be added on to the free trade agreement with the EFTA. There are bilateral agreements that in no way threaten supply management and will not have a great impact on Quebec agriculture. I should mention that milk protein, for example, is excluded from the agreement.

The agricultural agreements will primarily benefit the west, since they liberalize trade in some grains. But even there, the impact will not be huge. Where there are problems, however, and it must be said—I heard my NDP colleague speak about this as well because he is familiar with the problems facing shipyard workers in Canada—is in the area of shipyards.

We will try to fix these problems by calling for a shipyard support and development policy, and I am sure many members in this House will join us in doing so. We also have some concerns about the future of our shipyards.

Imported vessels are currently subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years, and will be completely eliminated in 15 years. Our shipyards are far less modern than Norwegian shipyards and in worse condition. Norway has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards, while the federal government completely abandoned ours long ago.

If the borders all had to be wide open tomorrow morning, our shipyards could end up whisked away like straw in the wind, or swept away with the tide, I should say. But, for economic, strategic and environmental reasons, we cannot give up our shipyards.

Imagine the risks to Quebec if no shipyard could repair vessels that ran aground or broke down in the St. Lawrence, the largest waterway in the world? It is unthinkable, and we will not give up on our belief—this is more than just a flighty idea—that we need shipyards that are equipped with the latest technology, robust and able to stand up to competition. A little later we will see that there are several conditions that need to be met for shipyards to truly be able to develop.

For years, the Bloc Québécois has been calling for a real policy.

For years, the government has been dragging its feet. Now that the agreement has been signed, time is of the essence.

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:

—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 the only recommendation in the report. The Conservative policy of leaving companies to fend for themselves is deadly for shipyards. We expect the government to give up its bad policy, and we ask that, by the end of the year, it table a real policy to support and develop the shipbuilding industry. Given the urgency, we will not be content with fine talk. We need a real policy that covers all aspects of the industry. I will come back to this at the end of my speech.

I want to say that when it comes to free trade, the real issue is the European Union. A free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein is nice, but we have to realize—and everyone does—that it is limited. As I mentioned, it represents just over 12 million people and roughly 1% of Canadian exports.

The real issue is the European Union, with its 495 million inhabitants who generate 31% of global gross domestic product. The European Union is the world's leading economic power.

Canada is far too dependent on the United States, where we send over 85% of our exports. The American economic slowdown, coupled with the surge in value of Canada's petrodollar against the U.S. dollar, reminds us that that dependence undermines our economy. Quebec has lost more than 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the past five years, including more than 80,000 since the Conservatives came to power, with their laissez-faire doctrine.

To diversify as we must do, we should not look to China or India, countries from which we import, respectively, eight and six times more than what we export to them. The European Union is an essential trading partner if we want to diversify our markets and reduce our dependence on the United States.

The fact that Canada has not concluded a free trade agreement with the European Union considerably diminishes how competitive our companies are on the European market. With the rising value of the petrodollar, European companies tend to skip over Canada and open subsidiaries directly in the United States. The Canadian share in direct European investments in the United States went from 3% in 1992 to 1% in 2004.

Add to that a free trade agreement between the European Union and Mexico since 2000. The Europeans are saying that they can negotiate a real tariff reduction with Mexico, while that is not really possible with Canada. They are saying that there needs to be a reduction in non-tariff barriers with Canada.

When Pierre Pettigrew was Minister of International Trade, Pascal Lamy, European Commissioner for External Trade, said he would negotiate another type of agreement.

No such negotiation is known to be taking place. I think it will not happen because it is too difficult. Just consider the fact that Europe requires GMOs in products to be identified, while in Canada, as we know, the government just recently refused to accept this measure.

The European Union has a free trade agreement with Mexico. That is an advantage for Mexico, an advantage that is prompting companies in Quebec to invest more in their own operations in Mexico since this gives them access to the European market as well as the U.S. market.

Again, Quebec would benefit from a free trade agreement with Europe. In fact, it would probably be the primary beneficiary. For example, 77% of the people who work for French companies in Canada are from Quebec, as are 37% of those who work for U.K. companies here and 35% of those who work for German companies here. In contrast, just 20% of people working for U.S. companies in Canada are Quebeckers, hence the great interest for Quebec of having a free trade agreement with Europe.

The Government of Quebec has been working with companies since the Quiet Revolution, and that is a major advantage when it comes time to seek out European investment. We have everything we need to become the bridgehead for European investment in North America.

I will use my last few minutes to appeal for a real marine transportation policy. It would include several factors, because otherwise, it will be impossible to revive this complex industry. I would remind the House that the federal government has been ignoring it since 1988. The industry needs funding, assurances and loan guarantees linked to sales contracts. In this case, access to credit at a reasonable rate is an important determining factor for the buyer. It needs loans and loan guarantees intended for shipbuilders who must invest or deposit a financial guarantee to bid for new contracts. It needs better fiscal regulations for leasing and a refundable tax credit for shipowners. Those are some measures that would help the industry.

We also need measures specifically for marine transportation in Canada. For example, we must eliminate the fees charged to marine transportation companies that practice cabotage. Truckers' employers do not pay for the damage caused to highways—and Lord knows it is extensive—although those who practice cabotage pay ice breaking fees, among others. It makes no sense.

Second, the government must implement a plan for major investments in port infrastructure. It must also bring up to standard all the ports that have been left to crumble and it must strengthen the Coastal Trading Act. It must also do something to fight against flags of convenience and poison ships. It is the federal government's responsibility to do something. It must negotiate an agreement like the Auto Pact and, lastly, eliminate all subsidies to shipyards. This House owes it to shipyard workers to pass real legislation that will allow shipyards to prosper once again.