Mr. Speaker, there seems to be some confusion about exactly what we are debating here today. The title of Bill C-29 is to regulate the interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese based substances.
This is not about protecting the environment. It is not about members of Parliament making technical decisions beyond their
competency and it is not about this House acting as refereebetween two extremely powerful lobby groups.
This bill is related strictly to international and interprovincial trade, what can be traded and what cannot. Why, therefore, is this bill being brought forward by the Minister of the Environment? This makes no sense at all.
The Liberals have been opposed to the North American Free Trade Agreement in the past but now they are its strongest supporters. If Bill C-29 is passed, there is going to be trouble with our trade partners in the NAFTA agreement. There will be a dispute. This government could save itself embarrassment. It could save the country embarrassment by dropping this whole bill completely.
The Minister for International Trade agrees with what I have said. He is very concerned about the possible passage of this bill. He fears for the reputation of Canada in the international trading community.
I wish to read for the record a letter that the Minister for International Trade wrote to the Minister of the Environment on February 23, 1996:
I understand that you are considering the reintroduction of Bill C-94 in the upcoming session. My department continues to have certain reservations concerning this measure, which I wish to draw to your attention.
One of the original arguments favouring the ban on MMT was that the United States already prohibited its use as a petroleum additive. Recently the U.S. Court of Appeal overturned the U.S. ban. This has effectively removed harmonization arguments in support of Bill C-94. Indeed, since adding MMT to petroleum products is now permissible in the U.S., harmonization would now be promoted by introducing no new Canadian regulations.
An import prohibition on MMT would be inconsistent with Canada's obligations under the WTO and NAFTA: (1) it would constitute an impermissible prohibition on imports, particularly if domestic production, sale and use is not similarly prohibited, and (2) it could not be justified on health or environmental grounds given current scientific evidence.
The United States trade representative-is monitoring the situation closely. There is the possibility that the United States could mount a challenge, either on USTR's own initiative or pursuant to a Section 301 petition; Ethyl Corp., the American producer of MMT, has indicated that it most certainly intends to file such a petition. Also, Ethyl Corp. may try to advance an argument that such a ban would be a measure tantamount to expropriation of Ethyl's investment in Canada. Thus, Canada may also be susceptible to an investor-state challenge under Chapter 11 of the NAFTA.
There has been heated debate surrounding the exact effects of banning MMT. The claims of the automotive and petroleum industries conflict markedly, with little common ground between them. Testing is only now starting in the United States, with unambiguous results some years away.
In view of the Presidential and Congressional elections this year, American politicians are particularly sensitive to any foreign initiative which might injure their domestic industries.
In conclusion, let me stress my department's belief that Bill C-94 should not be re-introduced as it could have many adverse implications for Canadian trade, without compensating environmental benefits.
It is signed by the Minister for International Trade.
I am sure the House is aware that Bill C-94, to which this letter refers, is the precise equivalent of Bill C-29 which we are debating here today.
In view of this, I move:
That all the words after the word "that" be deleted, and the following substituted therefor:
This House declines to give third reading to Bill C-29, An act to regulate interprovincial trade in and the importation for commercial purposes of certain manganese based substances, since the bill fails to address the impact of the import prohibition on certain manganese based substances on international trade.