Mr. Speaker, do not think that earlier, when I went to get a glass of water, I did not want to bring you one. Quite the contrary. I intend to eventually offer you something with more flavour, like an apple juice, since Quebec is one of the main apple juice producers.
That being said, we are now at third reading of Bill C-57, an act to implement the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization, signed at Marrakesh on April 15, 1994, by some 125 trade partners. It took over eight years of negotiating to reach this historical compromise, which signing members can be proud of. As we have pointed out throughout the legislative process, the Bloc Quebecois and I support Bill C-57, in spite of a number of flaws which I will discuss later.
Why do we support Bill C-57? I have had a few opportunities to point out in this House that Quebec is fundamentally a free trader and is open to the world. Quebec was and still is a strong promoter of free trade between Canada, the United States, Mexico and, eventually, other trading partners. Quebec was and still is a promoter of NAFTA and, as I was saying, it is in favour of expanding this treaty to include other countries from the American continent.
Let me briefly mention the benefits, for Quebec and Canada, related to the signing of the agreement which followed the Uruguay Round of negotiations. First, our companies will have greater access to foreign markets, thanks to tariff reductions, for example on wood, pulp and paper, as well as pharmaceutical products. This will certainly result in increased exports, which is good and which is what we seek of course through this agreement.
Trade rules are also strengthened. In the past, GATT members often took advantage of the vagueness of some definitions to adopt protectionist measures. The new GATT, that is the agreements following the Uruguay Round of negotiations, clarifies a number of trade rules, particularly as regards the definition of a subsidy, the types of subsidies which are allowed, compensable or prohibited, as well as the use of countervailing duties, safeguard measures and anti-dumping duties, etc.
The new GATT also puts in place the foundations of a system based on the rule of law rather than on power plays. We like to hope that member states will make proper use of the rule of law set up in the new GATT. There will also be a new dispute settlement mechanism. The general council of the World Trade Organization will be responsible for this quicker and more efficient dispute settlement mechanism.
Again, with such a system based on the rule of law, smaller trade partners, like Canada for example, will be able to better defend themselves against the protectionism favoured by the economic superpowers, including Europe, Japan and the United States. It is also important to note that the World Trade Organization will be replacing the GATT secretariat. A new more modern structure will replace the old one, which was a bit outdated and unsuited to the increasingly popular protectionist strategies and to the new industries covered by these agreements, like the intellectual property and service industries. I will come back to these a little later on.
Export subsidies for agricultural products have also decreased. After some spirited discussions, the GATT members finally agreed to reduce export subsidies by 36 per cent in terms of total value of the exportations and by 21 per cent in terms of volumes. Of course, we are talking here in percentages and not real values.
The gap between countries that subsidize the least and the most will stay the same. So, there is something wrong here, since the developing countries and those, like Canada, which do not subsidize their industries a lot compared to a number of their trade partners, will continue to be at a disadvantage. This nonetheless constitutes a step forward, which reduces the upward pressure on what I would call less "subsidizing" countries and gives them a new hope.
The Uruguay Round agreements also clarify the rules governing intellectual property. It is the first time this issue is discussed at the GATT level. Creators and businesses benefit from a minimum protection or, as I would say, a bottom protection. These new provisions apply to royalties, trademarks, patents, etc. They limit industrial piracy and trade of counterfeit goods.
The Uruguay Round agreements also provide for an opening of government procurement contracting so that our businesses have an easier access to the competitive bidding system of our partners' government agencies and governments. These provisions are subject to prescribed limits on government procurement of goods and services and on building contracts.
Again, this will open new markets to our businesses, which, in return, will have to be more competitive and aggressive. Indeed, this is the challenge they have to face with free trade.
As I said earlier, service industries are now included in the GATT agreement pursuant to the new provisions, although free trade does not apply to services as much as to goods. It has to be understood that if, for the latter, years of experience and negotiations have brought about freer trade, this is only beginning in the service industries.
I want to point out that service industries represent 20 per cent of the world economy. Canadian and Quebec telecommunication companies, mentioned earlier by the parliamentary secretary, as well as the financial services sector will benefit from this liberalization.
There is still a long way to go because many differences of opinion remain concerning transportation, telecommunications, audiovisual material and financial services, in particular, among the main trade partners, including the United States, the European Union and Japan.
Finally, the Uruguay Round agreement contains provisions allowing each country to exclude cultural industries and co-production works from the list of subjects covered by GATT. I believe that we owe that exclusion to France. As it did with NAFTA, Canada excluded cultural industries and co-production agreements from its list of concessions.
This ends my enumeration of what could be considered the gains made under the Uruguay Round agreement and, if you allow me, I will now turn to the less positive side of that agreement, and therefore of Bill C-57.
Throughout the negotiation process leading to the agreement and a little later, when Bill C-57 was drafted, the federal government boasted about its desire to consult the provinces. Undoubtedly, there was an effort made in this regard with the preparation of a draft bill which was submitted to the provincial governments. I would add that the federal government did it only because it cannot implement the agreement without the co-operation of the provinces in their particular fields of jurisdiction. Nonetheless, the federal government has not acted on three basic demands of Quebec.
For one thing, we wanted to ensure that the bill contained a federal clause providing for consultation with the provinces concerning the application of the agreement in areas under provincial jurisdiction. The provinces, particularly Quebec, have agreed to adapt their respective legislation and regulations to the international agreement signed by Canada.
Quebec was hoping to be better protected by the Canadian government. The federal clause included in the Marrakech agreement is indeed too threatening and too restrictive in that it gives the federal government full responsibility for the implementation of the final agreement. At the very least, Quebec was hoping that this clause would not be changed from what it was in the former agreement. At best, it was hoping that the federal government would better protect the interests of the provinces in negotiating with its GATT partners a federal clause that would better reflect Canada's constitutional reality.
Section 24.12 of the final agreement stipulates that the Government of Canada is fully responsible for compliance with GATT provisions and will take all reasonable measures to ensure that this obligation is fulfilled by local governments. So this means that, according to what is provided for in the agreement, the federal government will not consult with the provinces, but it will make decisions for them.
Not only is Quebec opposed to this wording, but it would have liked to see in Bill C-57 provisions establishing a federal-provincial consultation process for important decisions and for decisions regarding matters under provincial jurisdiction.
Again, Mr. Speaker, allow me to point out that the federal system has proven its inability to produce agreements that are satisfactory to all the parties concerned.
I will come back to the federal-provincial dispute settlement mechanism later on. Of course, we were also hoping that the bill would provide for a number of adjustment programs for workers and businesses in soft sectors like textile and clothing, which are very important in Quebec. A promise to that effect appeared in the red book, a promise that apparently will not be kept. I will get back to this later on.
As I pointed out earlier, Bill C-57 is deficient in a number of ways, and we have tried to deal with that by proposing a number of amendments in committee and at the report stage. The government decided, on I would say philosophical grounds which are questionable, to say the least, to reject the whole package "en bloc". No pun intended. We hope that the government's failure to give these amendments serious consideration will not prove to be an obstacle to proper implementation of the Uruguay Round agreement.
The government must realize that by rejecting these amendments which, I should point out, had been toned down and modified to make them palatable to the government majority, it went against the wishes of several groups directly concerned by Bill C-57.
Mr. Speaker, perhaps I may recall the various amendments we proposed and our reasons for proposing them, and then comment briefly on the disastrous impact of the government's rejection of these amendments.
First, we had the amendment proposed by the hon. member for Laval-Est, whose purpose was to establish a process for consultation with the provinces. Of course, this process would have applied specifically to matters within provincial jurisdiction. The consultation process could also have been extended to any matter relating to trade dispute resolution and any economic matter of major international significance.
I may also recall that this type of consultation process exists in the legislation now before the U.S. Congress, where it concerns both economic matters of major significance, according to section 102, part B of the U.S. bill, and also matters relating to trade dispute resolution, section 102, part C, paragraph 3 (i) .
In a context where trade disputes are frequent and increasingly concern matters within provincial jurisdiction, the government could have been expected to provide a mechanism for consultations with the provinces. I think that in a federal state like the one Canada claims to be, a state that claims to respect the jurisdictions of the provinces, it is necessary to provide a mechanism for dispute settlement as well as a mechanism for federal-provincial consultations.
The parliamentary secretary said earlier that the federal government and the provinces were co-operating well on trade issues. He mentioned Team Canada. Nevertheless the Government of Quebec has expressed the wish, and it still does, that a process for consultations be included in the bill. If the government is so anxious to consult the provinces, why does it persist in its refusal to provide specifically for such consultations in the bill? I cannot understand this attitude.
They mentioned Team Canada, but when people work as a team, all players should have a chance to get on the ice. The parliamentary secretary mentioned the glorious trip of Team Canada to Asia. Well, for technical reasons, the federal government steadfastly refused to let one of the players on to the ice. From the very start, Team Canada has not been running very smoothly.
The proposed amendment was also aimed at forcing the federal government to obtain the provinces' agreement before taking important steps which would ultimately have an impact on the provincial jurisdictions, for instance, a change in the allocation mechanisms for tariff quotas. As things now stand, the Minister of International Trade has full discretionary powers regarding the allocation of tariff quotas. It would have been desirable for the provinces to be consulted on the allocation of such quotas, and on the establishment or implementation of policies for selecting trade partners who would have access to the Canadian market.
If you will permit, Mr. Speaker, I will spend a few minutes on the issue of tariff quotas because I believe that it is an area of great concern. The purpose of this amendment was to ensure that the minister, when making decisions in respect of prices and quantities of subsidized exports, considers actions taken in the relevant areas by foreign competitors.
Getting back to the issue of tariff quotas, I just want to say that the federal government will impose nearly no duties on a certain number of agricultural products entering Canada. Beyond established quantities, tariffs will increase significantly, up to 200 or 300 per cent. It is the minister, acting on behalf of the federal government, who will have the authority to decide which importers will be allowed to import under these preferential tariffs.
The federal government, under more or less formal agreements, will determine from which country certain agricultural products will be imported into Canada under these preferential tariffs. We believed that it was essential to ensure that the provinces could voice their opinion regarding the choice of importers who will benefit from these low tariffs.
It is all the more important because the provinces may often have competing interests; therefore, the process should be as open as possible, in order to avoid scheming and conflicts of interest. We know, for example, that the federal government has already entered into agreements with some countries -including New Zealand which was granted a significant butter tariff quota, probably in exchange for a similar quota for Canadian beef exports to New Zealand; under such agreements, the government guarantees a country access to the Canadian market for certain of its products in exchange for access to its market.
On the one hand, this kind of agreement can have serious consequences for local producers and can antagonize our other trade partners. On the other hand, developing countries-I think it is important to recognize it-are the big losers with this type of agreement, because they have nothing to offer in exchange for access to our markets. We have to take that into account, Mr. Speaker.
Our amendment was intended to avoid the possibility of haggling over the granting of tariff quotas and the risk of conflicts of interest for the minister. We wanted to avoid putting the minister in a situation where he would have to set tariff quotas while taking into consideration the conflicting interests of the various provinces.
This amendment was also intended to prevent the minister from allowing products imported outside tariff quotas, in case of shortages on the domestic market, to be sold more cheaply than the same goods produced on the domestic market.
I will now move to the amendment to clause 3 proposed by the hon. member for Longueuil. Its goal was to ensure minimal follow-up by Parliament which would have forced the government to make a public evaluation of the implementation of the agreement. This was, in my opinion, the least we could ask as a safety measure. That amendment had been suggested to us by the Union des producteurs agricoles du Québec and the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, when they came before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
There again, the government decided that this amendment was not worthy of consideration, and it was rejected late yesterday.
This amendment would have also required that we examine the implementation of the agreement by our main trading partners, most notably the United States. I might add that the American legislation presently before Congress contains such
provisions in its section 424. That section of the American bill states that, no later than six months after the day the agreement has come into force, the President shall report on Canada's performance fulfilling its commitments respecting dairy products and poultry.
Such a clause is not overly aggressive. It does not violate the scheme of the Uruguay Round agreements. It simply keeps us on our toes regarding our major trading partners, who may at times be aggressive towards us.
The amendment was also designed to ensure that the government table an annual report on the impact of the agreement on workers and companies, as I said earlier.
The Liberal government made promises in that respect during the election campaign. We know that many workers and companies will be affected by the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements. There is no doubt that they are prepared to take up the challenge of the Uruguay Round agreements, but they could use a little boost to face this new reality.
I now move on to the amendment to Clause 58 brought forth by the hon. member for Louis-Hébert, to ensure that the protection would apply not only in the present but also in the future. The intention was to make the clause technologically neutral, that is to say not to limit its application to today's or yesterday's technologies, because the clause actually provides for the protection of recordings made on perforated rolls. Imagine that, Mr. Speaker, perforated rolls!
As I indicated in the debate at report stage, I would probably have had less of a problem with this aspect if I had been debating the bill to implement the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization as a member of this House immediately after the Second World War. Then, I would have told myself that the days of the perforated roll, as a recording medium, were not so long gone after all. But in 1994, in the age of the laser and the optic fibre, I think that we should come up with a technologically neutral clause, that is to say a clause that does not apply only to technologies that existed in the old days or exist today, but that also allows for the development of new technologies, new means of fixing information.
It was a purely technical amendment, simple but fundamentally important. Today, as noted in the Union des artistes' brief to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade: "The perforated roll makes us laugh because it is so obsolete as a way to reproduce sounds. Tomorrow it may well be digital tapes or laser disks that make us smile because they will seem like technologies from another age".
The government's approach of limiting comments to the perforated roll appears timorous and hesitant. It does not augur well for the review of the Copyright Act. Just because we proposed only one amendment in this regard does not mean that we agree with the position of the current government, which is unduly delaying the introduction of a bill to amend the Copyright Act.
As we clearly pointed out last week, the government must not use trade treaties as an excuse to review the Copyright Act in an haphazard and incidental way. Again, as suggested in the report of the Liberal majority on the Special Joint Committee Reviewing Canada's Foreign Policy, the government is taking over areas of shared jurisdiction under the pretext that it is the only one entitled to deal with their extension on the international scene.
The amendment to clause 185, which I had the honour to put forward, was simply aimed at clarifying the guidelines used by the trade tribunal to rule on dumping cases. Clause 185 in Bill C-57 outlines how the Canadian International Trade Tribunal must deal with dumping complaints. Complainants had to prove to the tribunal not only that dumping effectively took place but also that it had caused injury to Canadian industry.
The bill also provides that the tribunal can recognize injury only if the circumstances causing the said injury are clearly planned and imminent. As you can see, Mr. Speaker, this "planned and imminent" provision is much too vague and restrictive. What we wanted to achieve through this amendment was simply to clarify a little bit the circumstances that can cause injury, which are now quite vague.
This bill also provides that the Governor in Council can, on the finance minister's recommendation and if he feels like it, set regulatory guidelines that will give the Canadian International Trade Tribunal more specific directives on acceptable evidence as well as the general interpretation of new dumping conditions.
Canadian steel producers submitted to us that the U.S. legislation was much more precise and, as I just said, gave their courts much clearer and more precise indications as to how these new conditions should be interpreted and what evidence could be presented to a court.
Given this state of affairs, Canadian producers are clearly at a disadvantage compared to their American competitors, since they have absolutely no indication of how they will have to prove that they are victims of dumping by their U.S. counterparts. I mentioned how important the steel industry is for Canada's economy. I will not cover the same ground again, but we should understand how urgent such an amendment to the bill was, not only for the steel industry but also for very many industries and sectors of the Canadian economy.
The purpose of the amendment was to require rather than to simply permit the Governor in Council to establish regulations to guide businesses and the court in its decisions; it was also intended to specify the kinds of evidence which should be included in the regulation and also suggested that the Minister of Industry be involved in the operation since obviously he is
probably the one who is best able to judge how various sectors of the Canadian economy are doing.
At this point, I would like to mention the important contribution of my colleague from The Battlefords-Meadow Lake, who presented some amendments to this House. In most cases, these were similar to amendments proposed by the Bloc Quebecois and, unfortunately, were also rejected. In his statements, he too clearly pointed out the difference between U.S. legislation, which provides some defence for American industries, and Canadian legislation, which leaves it up to the good will of the World Trade Organization and the strict application of the rules of law. This is a dangerously narrow approach and with all my heart I hope it will turn out to be a viable strategy that will benefit the Canadian economy.
It is important to say a few words about the progress of legislation in the U.S. Congress. Over the last few days we learned that the situation had changed and that a majority of American senators now intended to support the bill on the Uruguay Round agreements, even though, as Lloyd Bentson, the U.S. Secretary of Treasury, put it, the GATT vote was not a done deal. We have every reason to be very optimistic at this moment.
However, should the American Senate or Congress reject the GATT agreement, and should the U.S. close its markets, a return to protectionism at the international level would be a distinct possibility and would have disastrous consequences for the economy world-wide. Consequently, the signal which will be sent by our major trading partner is vital. We will follow the proceedings in Congress with great interest. We hope that the Canadian Minister for International Trade will use every available means to convince our trading partner to pass its bill on the Uruguay Round agreements as quickly as possible, and also to make stubborn American legislators aware of what is at stake here.
I want to conclude by making some criticisms regarding the process to which we were subjected over the last few weeks. There is no doubt now, and in fact that was the case from the very beginning, that the Bloc Quebecois supports this legislation to implement the Uruguay Round agreements. We know that the Reform Party also supports the bill.
Consequently, why did the government wait for so long before tabling its legislation? It did so at the last minute and then it put all kinds of pressure to rush the bill through every stage of the process, including in committee. The government thus kept us from conducting a thorough review of Bill C-57 which, as you know, includes over 200 clauses.
Given the scope and the volume of this legislation, the government should at least have consulted us, as it did regarding other bills. A draft bill was distributed to various sectors of the Canadian economy, as well as to the provinces, and that is certainly a good thing.
Considering the consensus that prevailed in this House, we would have hoped that the government would at least have had the decency to provide other parliamentarians with a copy of its draft bill, so that we could have looked at it and even made suggestions before the bill was studied in the House and in committee. But now the government is stuck. In an attempt to ensure transparency and to protect its image, it is rejecting every compromise and every amendment to its bill.
The committee heard a limited number of witnesses, who had very little time to get ready. In any case, none of their presentations was taken into account and, with the way the committee's business was organized, it was impossible to take into consideration their requests. Public hearings ended two weeks ago, on a Wednesday, and the following day we were already studying the bill clause by clause.
How could we have taken into account the proposals, comments and suggestions made by the witnesses when right the following day we were asked to railroad the almost 200 clauses of this bill?
To conclude, I just want to say that we will, of course, support this bill to implement the trade agreements reached during the Uruguay Round. I stressed the importance of this bill for Quebec and I mentioned the consensus that prevailed in this House on this issue.
We give our support to this bill in the hope that the government remembers the reservations we have had ever since this bill was introduced, most of which have been expressed by the witnesses before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, the Union des producteurs agricoles, the Union des artistes, and the Canadian Steel Producers Association. I just want to remind members that several concerns and several suggestions came up, but the government chose not to take them into account. We hope that the government will at least take these various reservations into consideration when it prepares the regulations.
Obviously, we hope that these flaws in Bill C-57 will not have regrettable impacts on already frail areas of our economy and that these flaws will not place businesses in Quebec and in Canada at a disadvantage in relation to our major trade partners.
As for the implementation of the Uruguay Round agreements, we hope, since that is all we can do, that the federal government will keep its word and will be so kind as to consult with the provinces before making major decisions on matters of concern to them.
We also hope that the government will do a proper follow-up, that it will monitor the conduct of our major trade partners, and
that it will keep its promise in the red book with respect to adjustment programs for workers and businesses. In that regard, it is important to quote the following excerpt from the red book: "Governments must assist individuals and firms to deal with the restructuring that is occurring as a result of trade liberalization. Such assistance is critical to building acceptance of structural reforms in the Canadian economy".
We know very well that given the current state of government finances, the Liberal government could be tempted to disregard the promise to set up restructuring programs for those businesses most heavily affected by the Uruguay Round agreements and NAFTA.
Of course, the Bloc Quebecois and I readily recognize the need to reduce the monstrous Canadian deficit in an intelligent manner. However, we are also aware of the fact that workers in some sectors of the economy will have to make an extra effort to adjust to new market realities.
While I am absolutely sure that workers and businesses in Quebec and in Canada will be able to show the innovation and energy needed to deal with these new realities, I also know that government intervention is absolutely necessary in some cases.
Before I conclude, I too would like to thank all members who took part in proceedings on Bill C-57 in this House, including my colleagues from Louis-Hébert, Laval East and Longueuil, and my colleagues on the government side and in the Reform Party, and more particularly organizations and individuals who, despite the inconvenience of the process, came to Ottawa at taxpayers' expense to appear before the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, even if their concerns and suggestions have not been taken into consideration.
The parliamentary secretary mentioned the positive approach taken by members on both sides of the House. I have to say that I cannot give the government such high marks, because it did not co-operate as much as we would have liked.
That being said, we will certainly support this bill.