Mr. Speaker, this seems to be a busy week for bills dealing with trade issues, unlike the normal situation where about one bill in trade comes forward per year. We happen to have had two this very week.
We are now debating Bill C-61 which implements Canada's free trade agreement with Israel. I have to admit to being a little surprised at seeing this bill because there certainly was not much fanfare heralding its arrival. The Minister for International Trade signed the free trade agreement with Israel in the dead of summer, on July 31, when most people are about as far removed from what is happening federally as they can get.
Other than a brief announcement, I do not recall any signs that the free trade agreement was in the works. I do not recall any news releases, any articles in the press or any calls for consultations with industry groups that might have wanted some input in the process.
Let me be clear that we are not opposed to this bill. We believe that each step made in the direction of trade liberalization is a good one. I am only surprised at the low key, behind closed doors way in which the deal was struck. There should have been more opportunity for input from industry groups.
We are in favour of trade liberalization. I understand the Liberals are now in favour of free trade as well. I compare them to a born again crusade; all of a sudden they have discovered the virtues of free trade and have embraced it with vigour. I do welcome that.
I recall in 1988 they were very much against free trade and campaigned against free trade in the 1993 election, but here we have the Liberals doing their famous flip-flop. They are becoming free traders with all the will and might they can muster. I do think we are going in the right direction and I am glad the Liberals finally saw the light.
One out of three jobs in Canada is created as a result of our exports. Thirty-seven per cent of our GDP is derived from trade. Growth in the economy has virtually only occurred in the area of exports in the last three years. The domestic side of our economy has been very flat and we do have to credit the growth in our exports as being one way we have been able to grow out of the recession we were in in the early 1990s. I think we are on the right track and I would like to see that continue.
As a matter of fact, I would like to see the next round of the World Trade Organization talks concentrate on further trade liberalization because Canada is in a good position to take advantage of that. We can compete with the best in the world but we have to have the trade rules that back us up and give us the clout in case we have trade harassment.
We have heard a lot about the proposal for the free trade agreement with Chile. There has been a lot of discussion about that agreement being closely patterned after the NAFTA agreement and the potential for that country to eventually enter NAFTA. I welcome that. There has also been talk about the eventual enlargement of NAFTA to join the Mercosur countries of the southern hemisphere to form a free trade area of the Americas. However, with Israel of course we did not hear a word until it happened.
Officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade were kind enough to give us a briefing last Tuesday regarding the free trade deal. They explained that this trade agreement is fairly simple. There is really no point in building an elaborate structure for dealing with a relatively small amount of trade.
Our trade with Israel is really a drop in the bucket when compared to our trade flows with other countries; nonetheless it is important. Exports to Israel totalled $216 million last year, while imports from Israel amounted to $240 million.
Although we are enjoying a big trade surplus now, essentially it is only with one country, the United States, which is of course our largest trading partner. It disturbs me that we continue to run trade deficits with almost all of our other trading partners. The amount we are talking about is almost the same amount as our trade with Cuba.
It is my understanding that the benefits in this agreement will also be extended to the Palestinians. Under normal circumstances trade flows freely between the West Bank, Gaza and Israel. Even with the present closure between Israel and the occupied territories, one would hope this trade agreement would be extended to the people living in the occupied territories as soon as possible.
I find this agreement interesting because it eliminates all tariffs on almost all industrial goods immediately upon implementation on January 1, 1997. Our free trade agreement with the United
States called for a fairly lengthy phase out period, 10 years on some goods. Fortunately we were going to be there by 1998. But with this agreement we are going to zero tariffs overnight, which is absolutely great.
There are only a couple of exceptions and I am not exactly sure why. Ladies swimsuits at the request of a Canadian swimsuit manufacturer and certain cotton fabrics at the request of Israeli manufacturers will have tariffs for another two and a half years. This will allow the affected companies to adjust to the competition over that period of time.
It is interesting to note that non-tariff barriers for the most part will not be allowed. This is following the lead that has been established at the World Trade Organization.
The agriculture sector, because of sensitivities from both sides, has been somewhat excluded from tariff elimination, although Canada has gained an increase in market access for certain commodities. These include grains, grain products, oilseeds, pulse crops, beef and various processed fish products. I have not had a chance to analyse what this might mean for farmers like myself who grow canola, but I think that any opportunity for access into these countries is a good one for us.
It disturbs me a little that Canada continues to protect our supply management industries with tariffs that are as high as 350 per cent. These tariffs are known around the world as Canada's dirty tariffs. We simply must get into the 21st century and realize that it is not in our best interest to continue to support these. A reasonable phase out time to allow for that to happen is acceptable. We have to start that process. I would like to see it done at the next round of the World Trade Organization talks.
Further trade liberalization is good for Canada. We have been one of the main proponents of trade liberalization. Yet right here at home we continue to restrict access to part of our economy. On the other side of the coin, the United States is using similar tactics to restrict access to Canadian supply management producers that compete head-on with the United States.
I understand that the impetus for concluding a trade agreement with Israel at this time is that our largest competitors in that country, the United States and Europe, have had free trade agreements in place for some time. This will put us on a level playing field.
The dispute settlement process in the agreement is fairly straightforward and it is binding. One of my colleagues who will speak later is quite interested in the whole dispute settlement process and will be examining that in some detail. He is concerned that dispute settlement procedures for international agreements are much better than the procedure we have for disputes between the provinces and Canada. It is very interesting that the Liberal government, once it realized the benefits of free trade, aggressively worked toward signing international agreements on trade.
Where the government has fallen down is that it has not been able to put the same processes in place for trade between our provinces. That continues to cost Canadians somewhere in the area of $8 billion a year. The fact that we are not able to trade freely within our own country is a real contradiction. We have better trade agreements with our international partners than we have at home. My colleague from Vegreville will be speaking on this subject later today.
Another colleague who is a well respected economist in his own right will talk about bilateral agreements versus multilateral agreements. I know there is a bit of controversy among trade economists whether countries should enter into bilateral agreements. The argument has to do with efficiency and production. The concern is that the most efficient producer, given a situation in which all tariffs are equal, loses business when his competitor in another country moves to a zero tariff with a buyer. Trade is then diverted from the most efficient producer who, unfortunately, still has to add a tariff to his price. When he sells the product to a foreign country he becomes a less efficient producer.
The industrialized world is moving toward free trade with the World Trade Organization. The next round of trade talks will be held in 1998-99. The process is fairly slow, but we are getting there.
The last Uruguay round of the GATT declared there would be an average 36 per cent drop in tariffs over a six-year period. We are now halfway through that period. That is nothing compared to the 100 per cent drop in tariffs which has been achieved through the signing of the Canada-Israel free trade agreement.
Even though these bilateral deals may divert trade from efficient companies to less efficient ones, they also create new trade which did not exist previously.
I believe that bilateral deals are useful in trying out different rules and in testing different approaches. I suggest that the next bilateral agreement which Canada signs should try to up the ante beyond what we have been able to achieve at the World Trade Organization. We should try to get a proper definition for subsidies, countervail and some other things which were not achieved at the last round of World Trade Organization talks.
We in the Reform Party welcome the bill. We believe that trade liberalization is good for Canada. We are a trading country. We have a relatively small population. Only about 10 per cent of the GDP in the United States is derived from exports. In Canada, 37 per cent of our GDP is derived from exports. We need trade very badly. We need further trade liberalization in order for us to compete.
Canada should be a bit more proactive in the bilateral agreements and at the next round of the World Trade Organization talks. We could have used the opportunity with Israel to get an agreement on subsidies. That is what we should be looking at in our next move. Overall I support the bill. I am pleased that in just two
months manufactured goods will travel between our countries on a daily basis duty free.