moved that Bill C-88, an act to implement the agreement on internal trade, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Industry, I thank you for this opportunity to speak on the occasion of second reading of Bill C-88, an act to implement the agreement on internal trade.
The bill is another step in the process to create a new internal trade regime that has been under way in Canada for some time. Our objective is to reduce barriers to interprovincial trade and to remove restrictions on the movement of people and capital within the domestic marketplace.
Passage of Bill C-88 will be a necessary step for Parliament to take in order to implement the agreement on internal trade signed last year by all the provinces and territories along with the federal government.
At the invitation of the Prime Minister, first ministers met in Ottawa last July to formally accept and sign the agreement the committee of ministers of internal trade had finalized at the end of June. With this accord, we were committed to a target of July 1, 1995 to have the appropriate legislative and regulatory changes in place so the agreement could be legally implemented.
In this sense, in putting this legislation before the House we are meeting an obligation to provincial and territorial governments we incurred when we signed the agreement in June 1994. The agreement on internal trade was an important step in the quest to create an integrated domestic market in Canada.
In the 127 years or so since Confederation, we have seen a hodge-podge of protectionist measures and trade conventions develop, which have inhibited interprovincial trade and restricted the flow of goods and capital between provinces in Canada. These measures range from outright restrictions to bidding on government contracts to a patchwork of regulations and incompatible standards.
The government has felt strong and repeated pressure from the private sector to deal with the problems associated with internal barriers to trade and conflicting regulations on cross-border flows of people and capital. We have received representations from the Canadian Manufacturers' Association, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council on National Issues, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, the Canadian Bankers Association, the Canadian Construction Association, and so on. The list is long and the problems are deeply felt and broadly experienced.
Such barriers put Canadian businesses at a comparative disadvantage by restricting the size of the available marketplace and by making the markets open to Canadian businesses even smaller than they would be on an open national basis. In a time of increasing global competition and more open markets in other parts of the world, this can have the negative result of putting Canadian businesses at a disadvantage to international competitors, even in our own markets. In addition, there is an economic cost related to marketplace inefficiency. The Canadian Manufacturers' Association has estimated that barriers to trade cost Canadians about $7 billion annually in direct job and income loss.
In years past, when external trade barriers protected economies like ours from international competition the economic costs of internal trade barriers were tolerated. When Canadian industry was sheltered from international competition by tariff barriers of 10 per cent or even 20 per cent, the economic costs were not so obvious. But a marketplace sheltered from international competition is no longer the reality. International barriers and tariffs are down. The market is global and the competition is fierce.
We will not and cannot be successful in an open global market if we operate in a closed market here at home. So we need to adapt to the international reality in trade. Bill C-88 and the agreement it implements is an important aspect of this process and is part of the more open fundamental process of economic renewal that the government is following towards its strategic objectives for economic growth and job creation.
Last fall the Minister of Industry introduced in the House our government's plan to build a more innovative economy. We outlined our intentions for improving the economic climate of Canada in four ways: to build a positive entrepreneurial climate and to help small business grow; to expand markets for jobs and growth through trade; to create an efficient and modern infrastructure; and also to make technology work for Canada. These are the areas where the government can have the greatest impact on job creation.
While Bill C-88 will support all of these objectives, it has special relevance for the objective to expand markets. To grow and prosper, business needs an efficient and open marketplace, an environment that encourages innovation and expansion, free of unnecessary barriers.
With the agreement on internal trade and now with this bill we have the elements to establish a new internal trade regime in Canada, one that will allow us to make the most of our interprovincial domestic market by encouraging innovation and expansion and by removing unnecessary barriers to trade.
The Canadian economy is in a period of transition. There are fundamental changes taking place because of the globalization of trade and the rapid pace of technological change. Competitive advantage in today's world depends less on location and natural resources and more on innovation and ability to respond to changing market conditions and to achieve economies of scale.
As we continue the transition from a resource based economy to one where innovation, knowledge, and flexibility are the underpinnings of competitive advantage, we need to ensure that the domestic trading environment will accommodate and expedite the necessary changes.
Bill C-88 will provide a supportive environment for the economic transition process we are now experiencing. The legislation that is before the House now is the result of a long process of negotiations and consultation, which has involved many Canadians with many different perspectives, ministers of the federal government, ministers of all the provincial and territorial governments, officials of all these governments and representatives of the private sector. Also, it is interesting to note that political parties of all stripes have co-operated in negotiations leading to the agreement. There were different
perspectives, but a shared belief that a more open trading environment will be good for Canada.
In fact a striking feature of the process has been the high degree of co-operation and goodwill that has been demonstrated on all sides. Those Canadians who have been involved in the process understand the compelling need to open our internal markets and ensure that the Canadian marketplace works to the advantage of all Canadians.
Over the last two years the negotiations and background work were under the guiding hand of Mr. Arthur Mauro, a well known Canadian businessman. Mr. Mauro acted as chairman of the committee of chief negotiators and worked tirelessly to keep the process moving toward its objectives and produced the agreement that the ministers signed last year.
The work leading up to this bill has been exhaustive. It has been thorough and it will be ongoing. It is our duty to keep the process moving. The process began in June 1988, when federal and provincial agriculture ministers compiled a list of barriers to internal trade in agricultural food products. A federal-provincial committee of ministers of internal trade with a commitment to open market access within Canada was formed. The focus of this group was comparatively narrow. Topics of discussion included government procurement, wine, spirits, and beer, transportation, professional mobility, and standards.
The process had begun. Governments were now dealing with the problems of internal trade barriers in an organized way. Federal-provincial discussions continued and the focus widened. Ministers also began to consider the need for a dispute resolution mechanism as part of more comprehensive trading agreements between provinces and territories.
In December 1989 a memorandum of understanding on internal trade in agricultural products was signed by seven of the provinces. The process was beginning to move. Federal-provincial negotiators continued to meet. Agreement was reached and memoranda of understanding were signed on a number of individual issues, such as transportation and government procurement.
By December 1992 the committee of ministers of internal trade recommended that the process be accelerated and that all parties commit to the goal of reaching a broad and comprehensive internal trade agreement by June 30, 1994.
By March 1993 the negotiators agreed to three specific principles as basic to an agreement. They were that governments treat people, goods, services, and capital equally, irrespective of where they originate in Canada; that government reconcile standards and regulations to provide for the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within Canada; and that governments ensure that their administrative policies operate to provide for the free movement of people, goods, services, and capital within Canada.
In August 1993 Mr. Mauro took charge of the negotiations. In December 1993 our government reaffirmed its commitment to the process, and in January 1994 chief negotiators were given specific instructions to prepare a draft agreement for the consideration of the committee of ministers of internal trade. Ministers were looking for an agreement that would improve three main elements: trade rules to apply to specific sectors or issue areas; an elaboration on how the rules would apply in these specific areas; and also a dispute resolution mechanism that would encourage parties to negotiate settlements but not to involve the courts.
Now the process was in high gear. An intensive series of meetings was held during the period from January to June last year. These meetings culminated in ministers agreeing to the text of an internal trade agreement at the end of June. Following that, the Prime Minister and all other first ministers signified their acceptance of the agreement with a formal signing on July 18. The final legal text was put in place and accepted by all parties by last October.
All governments agreed to make necessary legislative and regulatory changes to bring the agreement into effect by July 1, 1995. Bill C-88 fulfils the commitment of the federal government in this regard. Last year's agreement on internal trade was a major step in a long process. It has demonstrated that all governments can work together to achieve a common objective that will benefit all Canadians.
What are we putting in place? The agreement on internal trade gives a set of general rules that prohibits any new barriers to trade and eliminates old ones in ten specific sectors or areas and establishes a formal mechanism for the resolution of disputes that may arise.
The agreement provides for the following objectives. It will open the $50 billion annual government purchasing market to competitive bidding throughout Canada. It will reduce restriction on investment, including a code of conduct to forbid incentives that lure firms to relocate from one province to another. It will improve the ability of Canadians to work anywhere they wish. It commits government to work on harmonization of environmental protection, transportation standards, and consumer protection. It will set up an impartial publicly accessible process for resolving trade disputes between governments and between individuals and governments.
The dispute settlement mechanism is based on the principle that it is preferable to solve problems informally and at an early stage. It reflects the desire of governments to cooperate rather than to confront or to litigate.
Therefore, it sets out a methodical, step by step process of information exchange followed by consultations. Questions not settled in that way may be brought to an impartial panel that would make recommendations for solving the issue. Only as a last resort, when a party has failed to change a measure found to have violated the agreement, might retaliation be acceptable. Even then, action would be limited both in effect and scope to areas especially covered by the agreement.
Also important is the fact that the agreement has the potential to grow and evolve. It deals directly with a large number of current issues and it provides the framework for negotiations to continue on others. Also, the agreement and this bill are parts of a broad set of activities now under way to create a more open trading environment throughout Canada.
The provinces and territories have obligations to implement the terms of the agreement by July 1, 1995. Work is under way on many fronts to make necessary legislative and regulatory changes at the provincial and territorial levels. At the federal level we have both an obligation to make the necessary changes, as Bill C-88 does, as well as a duty to show leadership in order to advance the process. It is fair to say this bill does not solve all the interprovincial trade problems that have built up over the last 127 years. However, it has moved us a considerable way along the track.
We see the process as one of forward movement. Some issues are dealt with. Systems and procedures are in place for dealing with others and new ones may yet come forward for our attention. For example, in the energy sector a separate set of negotiations is under way toward a similar deadline of July 1.
A process is in place to deal with the outstanding issues in the agricultural sector. Issues related to interprovincial trade in alcoholic beverages are not resolved either, but a consultative mechanism is set up and deadlines for resolutions are in place.
In summary, for the first time in our history, we will have a rules based system, a mechanism for settling disputes and a work plan for the future. In the future other issues may come up, for example, interprovincial regulations relating to financial services or standards for environmental protection. There is the further possibility of using the framework to consider streamlining and harmonizing "non-standards" regulations.
Whatever new issues come forward, we will want to deal with them in the same spirit of co-operation, shared objectives and mutual interests that has now been established within the agreement on internal free trade that this bill will implement. With this legislation we are ensuring the framework is in place and we are confirming our belief that the fundamental principles of free trade will work.
When first ministers signed the agreement last summer they committed to having the necessary legislative and regulatory changes in place by July 1, 1995. Passage of this bill by the House will ensure we meet our obligations to our provincial and territorial colleagues as discussed at the recent meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers in Calgary. It will also demonstrate our continued leadership in the move toward a more open domestic trading environment and it will reinforce our other activities to create a more innovative economy.
I want to emphasize that passing this bill is not the end of the process. It is part of a continuing one. This legislation builds the foundation and establishes the framework within which we will continue to build an effective domestic trading environment over time. Look at how the GATT and the European Union have evolved over time. The important thing is to establish the base and create the mechanism to allow for flexibility to meet changing economic conditions as they occur.
Trade agreements deepen and broaden with use and experience and this one will too. Bill C-88 will provide the foundation for moving toward a domestic trading environment that will allow for the free flow of goods, services, people and capital within Canada. The Prime Minister and other ministers, including first ministers, have been actively involved in broadening the marketplace for Canadian goods and services in export markets. The Team Canada approach has been highly successful in doing that.
Now we must bring the same spirit to improving the domestic market for our businesses and our workers. Bill C-88 is an important step in that direction and that is why we support it.