House of Commons Hansard #97 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was palestinian.


Government Response To PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8), I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to five petitions.

Committees Of The HouseRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if the House gives its consent, I move that the 28th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs, presented to the House on September 25, concerning the associate membership of various committees, be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to.)

PetitionsRoutine Proceedings

10 a.m.


Dan McTeague Liberal Ontario, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present today a petition which was signed by 1,825 individuals living in the Durham region of Canada, the fastest growing region of the country.

The petitioners call on Parliament to proceed immediately with amendments to the Criminal Code which will ensure that the sentence given to anyone convicted of impaired driving causing injury or death reflects both the severity of the crime and zero tolerance by Canada toward this crime.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Fundy Royal New Brunswick


Paul Zed LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I suggest that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions On The Order PaperRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

Some hon. members


Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.


Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, under Standing Order 52 of the House of Commons, I wish to request that an emergency debate be held regarding the reprehensible actions of Quebec's lieutenant-governor, Jean-Louis Roux.

Given the role conferred on him by section 65 of the Constitution Act, 1867, and in light of his unacceptable, unjustifiable, and unspeakable behaviour during the second world war, we in the Bloc Quebecois are of the firm opinion that Mr. Roux is not able to carry out his duties as lieutenant-governor of Quebec in a dignified manner.

We believe that, having worn the swastika and taken part in a demonstration whose stated purpose was to wreck the offices of The Gazette , during which endeavour damage was done to businesses belonging to members of the Jewish community, Quebec's lieutenant-governor, Jean-Louis Roux, cannot carry out his duties as representative of Her Majesty the Queen without prejudice to the people of Quebec.

In particular, the lieutenant-governor has expressed no regret for over 50 years, having made no public apology to Quebecers, Canadians and the Jewish community.

I would therefore ask that you consider favourably my request for an emergency debate.

Request For Emergency DebateRoutine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

The Speaker

My dear colleagues, I received a letter this morning from the hon. member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie asking that an emergency debate be held.

For now, it seems to me that the question raised by the member for Laurier-Sainte-Marie is part of an ongoing debate. The Chair therefore feels that additional consideration is not urgently required.

I must therefore deny the request of the Leader of the Official Opposition for the time being.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-61, an act to implement the Canada-Israel free trade agreement, as reported (with amendment) from the committee.

Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:10 a.m.

Dartmouth Nova Scotia


Ron MacDonald LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to debate Bill C-61, which is in keeping with our government's commitment to work with Canadian industry to ensure that we work on behalf of Canadian industry in removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade in markets that are of concern to Canada. Quite clearly this free trade deal with Israel is an area that Canada has worked on over the last number of years. It was with great anticipation in some industry sectors that Canada actually started the negotiations to remove the tariff barriers to trade. The Prime Minister initiated these discussions with the former prime minister of Israel in 1994. Some people have asked why Canada would want to conclude a free trade deal with Israel. Why is Israel an important state? At committee we were told that the trade figures are not so high as to make this an obvious priority.

The Canadian government proceeded in 1994 with the initial discussions with the Israeli government. A number of Canadian companies, many resident in the province of Quebec, were having great difficulty competing in the Israeli market. This was happening because the United States and the European Union had entered into free trade arrangements with the state of Israel.

In many cases Canadian businesses found their products were in a less competitive position than they would have been. They were not getting the preferential tariff treatment that goods provided from the United States and the European Union were getting because of the free trade deals that had been negotiated between those partners.

The Canadian government felt that this market, although small, was where Canadian companies could grow. It was a market in the Middle East where we are extremely interested in expanding trading and investment activity.

The House knows the importance of trade to Canada. Anyone who has been here or has worked in industry recognizes that the health of the Canadian economy, the jobs that must grow in this economy, are going to come by encouraging our incredibly competitive companies in the sectors in which they operate to look abroad for new markets. As most people in this House know, maybe some outside do not know, Canada is the leader in the G-7 countries with respect to our percentage of GDP that comes from trade.

The job creation record of this government since it came into power a few years ago shows that over 600,000 jobs have been created in the economy. Most jobs are related to trading activities, not just with the United States and Mexico but abroad. It is the fundamental belief of the government that if we want to see the economy grow, want to create jobs for Canadians from coast to coast to coast, then we must be outward looking, we must work with companies and other governments to ensure that those companies have an even footing when it comes to competing in foreign markets.

This was clearly the case with Israel. The agreement was signed in July 1996 after an almost unprecedented level of consultation with Canadian industry. I will refer to that very briefly.

We have in Canada what are called sectoral advisory groups and international trade. We also have groups with the provinces. Starting November 23, 1994 when the news release first came out literally dozens of meetings-I have pages of meetings-that took place with various sectoral advisory groups leading up to July 31, 1996 when it was announced that Canada and Israel had signed the free trade agreement.

Quite clearly this was not done on the back of a matchbook. It was a very complex set of negotiations. There were some areas which the Israeli government was very slow to move on but our negotiators were firm in their resolve. We were flexible in our approach but at the end of the day we knew that in order for Canadian companies to be competitive in the Israeli market Canadian companies had to be dealing on a level playing field.

With the special treatment afforded the United States and the European Union it meant that Canadian companies could not be as competitive as they had to be in order to get those contracts, service that market and create jobs in Canada.

I remember hearing a member from Quebec tell us a real story. A lot of times the bureaucrats will tell us that this has to be done for this or that reason but this was a real story. It was about a company in Montreal that was exporting into the Israeli market. Its problem was that it could not compete with American produced goods because of the preferential tariff afforded under the U.S.-Israel free trade agreement. The company did as much processing of the product in Canada as it could and then shipped a semi-finished

product to the United States. In that way the value add could be done in the United States and those goods would then qualify under the rules of origin in the U.S.-Israel free trade deal. Those goods then could be shipped into the Israeli market as U.S. goods. That meant real jobs for Canadians.

We understand on our side of the House that the Montreal economy for a whole variety of reasons is not performing at the level at which we would like. However, for that one company and dozens of others which employ Canadians who live in and around the great city of Montreal, this bill gives them a level playing field. It means that they do not have to semi-finish their product and ship it to the United States where citizens of the United States gain the economic benefit and employment and the U.S. municipalities, states and federal government get the taxes that go with that type of economic activity. Under this deal that particular company and dozens of others like it can make sure that all of the product and all of the value add is done in Canada and that Canadians get 100 per cent of the net economic benefit for the competitiveness of the product and the entrepreneurship of the owners of those companies.

We went ahead and did that. In the free trade deal with Israel we made sure that it also applies to the Palestinian territories. This has been a concern of the Canadian government, of most members of the House and of most people who are observers of what is going on in the Middle East.

When these negotiations began we had great hopes that the peace process, which was going on in fits and starts, would gain some steam. Indeed, Canadians and most people around the world were very happy with what had happened as the peace process gained some steam and that the former administration in Israel had started to make some real progress toward eliminating some of the outstanding issues and solving some of the problems so that at long last the world there would be peace in the Middle East.

One of the things Canada said from the very beginning was that if a free trade deal was negotiated with Israel, it was absolutely fundamental that goods that were produced in the occupied territories should also benefit from the preferential tariff that free trade would bring. Indeed, it has been the government's intention from the first meetings that took place with the Israelis that the Palestinian authorities would also be consulted to ensure that any benefit that accrued to Israel would also accrue to goods produced in the Palestinian territories.

All through that peace, and most particularly starting on January 12, 1995, Canada's chief negotiator was speaking with senior Palestinian officials to ensure that they understood that we had negotiated the CITA, the Canada-Israeli trade agreement, in principle and that the benefits would be extended to goods produced in the West Bank and Gaza as was agreed to in the earlier meetings and teleconferences that senior overseas officials had with the Palestinian authorities.

Again, in July and August the head of the mission in Israel had met with senior ministers in the Palestinian authority to ensure that they knew full well the terms and conditions of the Canada-Israel free trade deal and reaffirmed Canada's commitment to enact the necessary regulations after this legislation was ratified through the House and Senate of Canada so that the Palestinian territory would be included in any benefit that was given.

Again in September a commercial counsellor from our embassy and our second secretariat met with senior Palestinian ministers of the economy and trade and deputy ministers to provide a hard copy of the Canada-Israel free trade agreement.

On October 20 Ambassador Berger, a former member of this place, made sure that if the Palestinian officials had any questions that the questions were properly couched so our officials could respond appropriately to any concerns that they had.

On October 27 meetings took place because the Canadian government was very concerned about some comments that had been made during the legislative process that somehow the Palestinians were excluded from the benefits of this deal.

Nothing could be further from the truth. As we speak meetings are going on in the occupied territories, in Palestine, which have been co-sponsored by the Palestinian ministry of trade and industry and the Canadian government via the Canadian embassy in Israel. The object of the meetings is to try to disseminate information to Palestinian businesses about the benefits of this free trade deal for goods that are produced in the occupied territories by Palestinian entrepreneurs.

All through this peace process the Canadian government has been extremely clear that it has always been its intention that any economic benefit that accrues to goods produced by entrepreneurs operating out of Israel proper would also be extended to entrepreneurs for goods produced in the occupied territories.

To ensure transparency I should tell the House about another thing we have done. At committee the other day, on behalf of the government, I gave the committee a number of undertakings with the assumption that the House passes this legislation, the Senate deals with it in an appropriately hasty fashion, it is proclaimed in law by the end of the year so we can live up to the timetable of the agreement and have it enacted on January 1, 1997.

In order to provide members of the standing committee with the assurance they needed that this deal will apply to the occupied

Palestinian territories, I have agreed on behalf of the government to do three things. First, I have agreed to put the draft regulations to the House committee, which is unusual because the regulations would normally be gazetted after the bill was passed at the end of December.

The committee has deliberated and added to our understanding and discussion of not only the economic circumstances surrounding this deal but also of the larger geopolitical circumstances within which this deal has been constructed. I would hope that by next week the members of the standing committee on foreign affairs would have at their disposal the draft regulations so they can satisfy themselves that after this bill is passed into law, the regulations will do what the officials said they would do, which is de facto extend the benefits of the Canada-Israeli free trade deal to the Palestinian territories.

Second, on behalf of the government I have undertaken to file the letters we have received to date from the Israeli authorities with the clerk of the committee thus making them public documents. These letters indicate that the Israelis understand and agree that this deal applies to the Palestinian territories and for the purposes of this deal they will treat any goods produced in the occupied territories the same and give them the same passage as if they were produced within the sovereign state of Israel.

We have a letter from the Israelis on file, which we will reconfirm. It indicates quite clearly that they will do what they have to do with respect to rules of origin but they will do what they have to do under this deal to ensure the goods produced in the Palestinian territories flow seamlessly through Israel and into the Canadian market, and vice versa that goods which are covered under this deal from the Canadian market will flow seamlessly through Israel and into the occupied territories.

That is a very strong document which has legal force. It is an undertaking from one government to the other to not impede the goods that are produced in the occupied territories or that are produced in Canada and destined for the occupied territories.

It is also our hope that by that time we will have a letter back from the Palestinian authority with whom we are in almost daily contact. We hope the letter expresses agreement that the benefits and terms of the Canada-Israeli deal do indeed flow into the occupied territories.

All of those letters will be made public when they are deposited with the clerk of the committee. Then the members of the foreign affairs committee who have raised some very good suggestions and legitimate concerns will be able to examine in the light of day how everything we said would be done to extend this deal to the territories indeed will have been done.

We must not lose sight of the fact that this deal first and foremost has been done not to benefit the Israelis, not to benefit the Palestinians, but to benefit Canadian companies that are active in that region.

We must recognize that there are very major and disturbing issues which are yet to be settled in the Middle East with respect to the peace process in Israel, the status of the West Bank and Gaza. However, to date nobody on the Palestinian side has told us this is not a good deal, that it should not go forward and that they do not want the benefits of the Canada-Israel free trade deal to be equally applied to goods produced in the Palestinian territories.

We on the government side continue at the diplomatic level and government to government to encourage the Israeli government to put the peace process back on track. To date we have done everything we can in meetings and discussions between our foreign affairs minister and heads of state to indicate quite clearly it is Canada's desire that the peace process which was started and seems to have faltered of late be put back on track. It is the logic of the Canadian government that it is only through peace in the Middle East, no matter if they are Palestinians or Israelis, no matter who they are, that they will be able to live to their full potential. The region will be able to grow and stability will be long lasting when the outstanding issues with respect to the peace process are determined.

Canada continues to support a very strong effort by the international community. We are part of that community. We are part of the effort to see the peace process concluded properly.

At the same time we know that for the Palestinians, those individuals who seek to have their political situation defined properly in the international context, who seek peace and for the Israelis who seek peace and security, that once this is all done, peace and security will only be long lasting if the economic potential of the region is realized. Then the individuals, Palestinians, Israelis, or whoever they are will be able to live and to prosper in the region with the type of jobs and wealth that are required for internal and external stability.

This free trade deal is timely. We believe in spite of the fact that the peace process appears to have slowed, that the benefits which are in this deal are not one sided. The benefits, because they will apply equally to the goods produced in the occupied territories and Israeli goods, will be working on a parallel track to the peace process. As peace comes to the Middle East we will have a greater economic input in building the required economic stability for all the states concerned.

Those who have been critical have said that the timing is bad. The timing may not be the way we wanted it but it still is timely. For those individuals who are living in the occupied territories and find themselves cut off from international trade, even though we do

not do a great deal of trade, this is an opportunity for them to find new markets in Canada. For Canadian companies that are working in the Middle East, this gives them equal access. It gives them a level playing field so that their goods can compete on an equal footing with European goods and with goods from the United States in the Israeli market.

Further, as this free trade deal gets implemented, more and more Canadian companies will become involved in that market. It will open a window of opportunity for further trade in all of the European countries and further investment by Canadian companies in industries in Israel, in the occupied territories, in Egypt, in Jordan, in all the states in the Middle East.

In conclusion, it is my hope that the consensus we seemed to have in this House at second reading will continue at report stage and third reading of this bill. I hope we will be able to dispatch this bill to the other place. I hope when it does get to the other place that they recognize that this bill has been carefully crafted. It has taken over two years of negotiation. It is supported by over 20 different sectoral advisor groups on international trade which the government has put up.

First and foremost, the agreement will give Canadian companies operating in the region a level playing field. It will give them equal access to those markets with their American and European counterparts. In the long term it will assist in some small way in ensuring that once the peace process is concluded, that Canadian companies and Canadian investment will add to the stability of the Middle East.

Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his speech. You will, however, see in the next few minutes that the government has not earned an honourable mention for today's speech.

First of all, I must point out that the government added the bill to the order paper at the last minute yesterday evening, very likely on the assumption that, since all of the members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade were out of the country on committee business, discussion of the bill this morning would not pose too much of a problem.

I would point out to them, however, that we are here and are well informed on the issue, so we too will be able to contest the stuff and nonsense we have just been treated to.

Let me begin by stating that we are totally in agreement with the Canada-Israel free trade agreement. We in Quebec are part of a free trade Canada. We will not oppose the principle of a free trade agreement between Canada and Israel. However, contrary to what the parliamentary secretary has just admitted, we are in a position to ask some questions about its timing. He says this is the right time. We, on the other hand, believe that it could not be a worse time for the ratification or implementation of such an agreement.

On October 9, I rose in this House in support of Bill C-61, the purpose of which was to implement the Canada-Israel free trade agreement the Government of Canada rushed to sign on July 31 last with the government of the State of Israel.

In that speech, however, I regretted the fact that everything surrounding the agreement had been kept secret and that there had been an unacceptable lack of consultation in the matter. I also referred to the dissatisfaction of Quebec's top of the line women's swimwear industry.

While my views are the same concerning the reservations expressed during second reading, I still believe that having a free trade agreement may be beneficial to the Quebec and the Canadian economy, and that this agreement will no doubt increase trade between our two countries.

The Bloc Quebecois is in favour of free trade, free trade agreements in general and of course the free trade agreement with Israel, but always at the appropriate time.

Since our first debate on Bill C-61 on October 9, I have now realized that the government is trying to get this agreement through as Parliament quickly and discreetly as possible. This raises many questions. If this agreement is so wonderful, why is the government trying to implement it on the sly, as it were? Because this agreement is becoming increasingly controversial from the political point of view. That is why.

Hon. members will agree that this morning's third reading is foolishly being rushed through, at a time when all members of the Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, who heard a number of witnesses on Bill C-61 and are very well informed on this topic, are outside the country on committee business. Too bad for the minister and the parliamentary secretary: there are still a number of members in this House who know all about this issue and the protests that were heard before the committee.

These witnesses who came before us on October 29 told us, first of all, that the coming into force of the agreement on January 1, as proposed in Bill C-61, was a mistake. First, because it was not the right time to implement the agreement now that the peace process in the Middle East is in worse shape than ever before.

Arab groups also pointed out that this free trade agreement was perceived by many Arabs, in Canada and in the Middle East, as a sign that Canada supported the actions of Israel and the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. If this free trade

agreement were to come into force at this time, according to them it might even endanger the peace process in the Middle East.

As for the situation of Palestinians in the occupied territories-the agreement will automatically apply to the occupied territories as soon as it comes into effect-its stability is very fragile. Witnesses told us that the Palestinians do not even control their own territory, much less their economy, which means that today, to apply the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement to Palestinian territory would be to recognize the albeit illegal control the State of Israel has over the Palestinian people.

The occupied territories are at this very moment practically in a state of war. That is what professors, Arab representatives and entrepreneurs came to tell members of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Interestingly, these witnesses had never been consulted previously by the department. After listening to this testimony, which put a different light on the matter, we tried to move amendments to Bill C-61, but to no avail.

Our goal, which was shared by many, including Liberal members, was to defer the implementation of the agreement until two conditions had been met. First, the peace process had to be well under way. It seems to me this is commendable.

Second, the negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian authorities on the future of the occupied territories had to be completed. This amendment to clause 62 of Bill C-61 reads as follows. This is the text of the amendment presented by the Bloc Quebecois to the committee reviewing Bill C-61:

No order may be made by the Governor in Council under subsection (1) unless he has been advised by the committee of the House of Commons to which foreign affairs matters are normally referred that the committee is satisfied that

(a) the Government of the State of Israel has taken satisfactory steps to implement the agreement;

This is already in Bill C-61.

But we added the following:

(b) that the peace process between the State of Israel and the Palestinian authorities is well under way.

I will demonstrate in a moment that this amendment to the bill is completely consistent with the Canadian government's foreign policy. We are therefore justified in wondering why they voted against something that was consistent with their own policy.


(c) that the negotiations between the State of Israel and the Palestinian authorities on the political status and economic development of the West Bank and Gaza Strip indicate that these two territories are about to gain effective control over their economic and internal affairs.

The chairman of the Standing Committee on foreign Affairs and International Trade ruled this amendment out of order for procedural reasons, on the basis that the changes were outside the scope of the bill.

We would also have liked to amend the preamble to the bill. You realize that, with the agreement having already been signed by the government, no changes can be made to the wording of the agreement per se. This in itself is quite frustrating, in a parliamentary system that claims to be democratic, for an elected representative like myself who does not have a say until it is too late to make any changes and the agreement has been signed.

We would have liked to amend the preamble since that is the only part of Bill C-61 that we are entitled to change. But, again for reasons of lack of consistency with the spirit of this agreement entered into quietly by the parties, we were told changes could not be made.

A clause might have been added, as suggested by some witnesses, to deal with human rights and democratic principles. The Bloc Quebecois considers it is essential that fundamental rights be respected, and such a principle should be an integral part of any agreement like this Canada-Israel free trade agreement.

The Minister for International Trade felt and still feels that the protection of human rights has no place in a free trade agreement, even though the free trade agreement between Israel and the European Union contains an interesting clause in this regard: "The relations between the parties, as well as all the provisions in this agreement, are based on respect for human rights and the democratic principles that underlie their domestic and international policies and constitute an essential part of this agreement".

If such an amendment to the Canada-Israel free trade agreement had been proposed, we would have supported it right away, but we were prevented from putting it forward by the committee on foreign affairs and international trade.

A provision on the Canadian government's commitment to the Middle East peace process could have been included in the preamble. Our government could have used this provision as a moral benchmark for its future actions in that part of the world.

A clause on Canada's foreign policy regarding the occupied territories would have been quite appropriate. I will get back to this glaring contradiction in the agreement a little later, but for now I will just point out how the Canadian government has violated its own foreign policy by signing the free trade agreement with Israel, since it also applies to the occupied territories.

The Canadian government has always maintained that these territories are illegally occupied by the State of Israel and that the Palestinians should be the ones in charge.

I will now quote Canada's foreign policy on the situation in that part of the world: "As far as the occupied territories are concerned, Canada does not recognize the permanency of Israeli control over the territories occupied since 1967 (the Golan Heights, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip) and opposes any unilateral measure to determine in advance the results of negotiations, including the establishment of new settlements in the territories and unilateral measures to annex East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. In Canada's opinion, these measures contravene international law and undermine the peace process".

Further on in this policy, the Canadian government addresses the rights of Palestinians, and I quote: "Canada recognizes that the legitimate rights of Palestinians that must be exercised in the context of peace negotiations, including the right to self-determination, must be respected".

This is not interference. It is simply consistency in foreign policy. We are in agreement with it, but when we asked the Liberal government to observe its foreign policy, we met with a categorical refusal.

We are in favour of establishing trade ties with the State of Israel and the Palestinian people. But we do not feel this is the right time to implement the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, given the present very worrisome situation in the Middle East.

We are aware of the commitment the Canadian government made to the State of Israel by signing the free trade agreement last July 31. But we feel that the political and social context is no longer the same as when the Canadian government began its negotiations with the State of Israel. Nor is it the same as when the agreement was finalized and signed.

Furthermore, even the Israeli government in power has changed. We cannot deny the negative impact on the peace process of the death of former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, almost exactly one year ago.

For some months now, the Middle East peace process has been taking a turn for the worse. Negotiations have practically come to a standstill. Exchanges of violence have continued since the opening of the Jerusalem tunnel last September. Recently, the Israeli government approved an increase in its budget, apparently in order to bump up the number of troops at the border with Syria in the event of war.

Spending related to Jewish settlement went up by 90 per cent recently, although it is known for a fact that the principal source of disagreement between Israelis and Palestinians has to do with Jewish settlements. The situation is far from ideal and the implementation of the agreement in this context is far from appropriate. It is true that the government feels that this agreement can help the peace process by increasing trade.

That is what we thought also, but some very well informed witnesses have explained that, on the contrary, the timing of the agreement will be harmful instead, and will convince the Palestinians that Canada is siding with the Israelis, contrary to its foreign policy. Let me repeat, we are not against the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, but we do question its timing. The worrisome situation in that part of the world is obvious to anyone who watches the news.

What are we to do if the peace process is not successful in the medium term? This is a legitimate question, and my answer is that, for once, we must question the type of economic partner Canada wants to have.

What is more, it is our opinion, as it was the opinion of the Canadian government in its foreign policy statement from which I have already quoted, that the government of Israel is occupying the Gaza Strip and the West Bank illegally, in flagrant violation of international law.

How, then, can we approve having the agreement apply automatically to these territories, without the Palestinian authorities' accepting the Agreement, and particularly without the Palestinian people's having total control over its territory and its economy, so as to reap the full benefit of this free trade agreement?

The government tells us, as the parliamentary secretary did in his speech, that it is pursuing negotiations and exchanging letters with Palestinian leaders. It seems to me that instead of ratifying so quickly the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement we could wait for the completion of these processes. We will be able to study the letters and regulations and adopt a more enlightened position on the issue.

During the last committee hearing, the parliamentary secretary came in with a new card in hand, saying: "The official opposition members of the foreign affairs committee have brought forward very good arguments in the last few hearings, so there is something we forgot to tell you. It is true that we have now been in negotiation for more than a year. It is also true that we forgot to consult several groups, so some of them came to see me. We forgot to inform you that we had an exchange of correspondence with the Palestinians that we will make public after the vote on Bill C-61".

He also said: "It is also true that we forgot to tell you about some regulations but we intend to make them public after the debate on Bill C-61 in the House. Do not worry, you will see that we did some good work. Have no fear, you will see the documents but we cannot show them to you immediately because we have not had time to

prepare them. We forgot to tell you about them, but we are informing you now".

This took place no later that one week ago. Why did the Liberals bring forward new arguments just a few days before the debate on Bill C-61 in this House? They knew very well that the present situation would not help them and that the lack of consistency of their foreign affairs policy would not help them either.

Therefore, they had to use some pretty "bright" subterfuge in order to get us to say: "Listen, support this agreement, support Bill C-61, then we will make public the letters exchanged between the Palestinian authorities and the Canadian government. Then, we will make public the regulations designed to include the Palestinian people, or at least to ensure they fully benefit from this free trade agreement. Do not worry."

But, given what we have seen for three years, for those who have known the Liberal Party over the years, there is reason to be somewhat concerned, at least a little concerned when we are told after a few months, a few years of negotiation: "Afterwards, you will see all the documents, all the papers." Why were we told that the first time only last week? This also is a little strange.

As I said, if we are given those letters, we will be able to analyze them and to have a more informed discussion. It is true that, until now, Palestinians have not opposed the application of the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement in their territory.

They probably feel that this agreement is an unexpected opening onto a foreign country and therefore can help them. It is exactly for this reason that Palestinian authorities must be part of the negotiations and that their situation should not be dealt in their absence with the Israeli government, as the Canadian government is trying to do now.

This is such a current issue that this very morning, the French and English dailies contained articles dealing with the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement. I quote a report from Associated Press entitled "Call to Israel's Boycott as the Cairo Summit approaches", from which I will read some brief excerpts. It is a very relevant report that appeared this morning in La Presse .

It reads as follows:

The Egyptian Union of Chambers of Commerce has called on its members to boycott Israel and to refrain from all bilateral or multilateral co-operation with it, including with the State of Israel.

Further on, it reads:

We reject any economic co-operation with Israel so long as a global political settlement has not been reached in the Near East.

That was said by the representative of the Egyptian Chambers of Commerce.

Later on, the article stated:

Palestinian manufacturers decided to boycott the economic summit by way of protest against Israel's sealing off their territories, which is choking their economy.

The same kind of report can be found in English newspapers in Canada today and probably everywhere in the world. This is no secret. Liberals tried to keep the negotiations secret for a lot of things, but this is no secret. The Palestinian situation is now well known.

Moreover, as mentioned in these articles, one must keep in mind the situation in the occupied territories. For the time being, the Israelis are controlling the territories and their economy. Since February 1996, the territories have been sealed off almost permanently, preventing Palestinians from harvesting their crops and even working.

According to an American study, Israel is using this border-closing policy to prevent the influx of competitive Palestinian farm products and manufactured goods on the Israeli market, thus hampering all attempts of the Palestinian economy to take off, and increasing its dependency on Israel's economy.

We can only presume that the free trade agreement will make the situation worse, increasing Israel's control over the Palestinian economy. On the other hand, it should be noted that the economic life in the occupied territories is nearly at a standstill. Foreign trade has just about disappeared. The economy is working at only 3 or 4 per cent of its capacity and, this spring, the unemployment rate was between 60 and 70 per cent in the Gaza Strip and between 40 and 50 per cent on the West Bank, not to mention a very tense climate and numerous violent flare-ups.

The same article went on to say, and I quote:

According to a report published last week by the UN, as a result of the repeated sealing off of the territories, the Palestinian GDP has dropped by 23 per cent over the past four years, and the per capita income has declined by 39 per cent over the same period.

To conclude, we are questioning the coming into force in the occupied territories of the free trade agreement signed by Israel, as long as the Palestinians have not agreed to it and the Palestinian people are not in full control of their territory and economy.

We believe that this is not the time to implement such an agreement now that the peace process has been stopped and is in very bad shape indeed. As long as we are not convinced, as we mentioned in our amendments, that the explosive situation in the Middle East has been defused, we believe that the coming into force of Bill C-61-and consequently of the free trade agreement-should be at least delayed. We believe that the coming into force of this agreement on January 1st, 1997, and the passing now

of Bill C-61 send the wrong message to Canadians, the world in general and the Arab world in particular.

Given the evidence we heard on October 29 and the new developments, and since Israel is preparing for war by releasing new funds for this purpose, we would think that, on the contrary, our intervention at this critical point in time could have a negative impact on the peace process.

It would be much better to encourage the Israeli and the Palestinians to seriously negotiate the restoration of peace in the Middle East and, meanwhile, to suspend this agreement, which could favour one of the two parties involved.

We must put pressure on the Israeli government to respect international law and therefore the Palestinian people. The Canadian government must have the political courage to put the agreement on hold. The Bloc Quebecois, and probably the Reform Party, would support such an action. The Bloc Quebecois totally disagrees with the approach chosen by the Liberal government for the signing of free trade agreements. The secrecy, the lack of consultation are totally unacceptable and contrary to what we are being told.

It is unacceptable that the Canadian government would negotiate and sign free trade agreements by itself and without any transparency. This is what the federal government did in the case of the Canada-Israel agreement and it is doing the same thing for the Canada-Chile agreement, which is now being negotiated.

Once the text of the agreement is published, it will be too late to change it because the agreement will already have been signed. What a remarkable democracy! Then they will ask this House to discuss the Canada-Chile free trade agreement, as they are doing now for Israel, saying: "The only element you have the power to change is the date of coming into force". And even on that point, the Liberal majority in committee will decide if the date should be modified or not.

Even if the Liberal majority decides, according to its convictions and just as it did at the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, to postpone the date the agreement comes into force, it will be very simple, they will only change the players. The government takes the knowledgeable players and puts them on the bench, puts them aside, then sends in people who have not heard about this free trade agreement because, as hard working as they are, as sharp as they are, they are part of other committees and have other issues to examine. The government sends them to raise their hands in committee and say: "Agreed".

They were not present at previous committee meetings. They did not hear witnesses, they have only influenced the government party's decision, as opposed to the beliefs of men and women who were sitting on the foreign affairs committee and who had to be replaced at the last minute so that the international trade minister could have his bill passed clause by clause.

Even the clerk had to be replaced so that another one could come and tell us that our amendments were out of order, even though our amendments were totally compatible with clause 62 of the bill.

It is relatively simple. What we were supposed to put forward dealt with the coming into force of the Canada-Israel free trade agreement, that is: Is the timing appropriate, given the current situation in Israel and the occupied territories? We are sending a signal to that part of the world that Canada is going against its foreign policy as defined by the government, not by us, as this is not the position of the official opposition here but the position of the Canadian government.

Does the Canadian government want to send a signal to the rest of the world that it believes everything is well with the Palestinians, everything is well with the Israelis, everything is well in that part of the world, and that now we can sign a free trade agreement, do business with everybody involved, even though Palestinians have no control over their economy, even though Palestinians have no control over their territory, even though the peace process has been significantly disrupted? No.

According to the Canadian government, this position is a figment of the imagination of the official opposition, this position is unrealistic. News bulletins, newspaper articles must have been made up, they must not be true. And we, the Canadian government, they say, are prepared to send this signal to the entire world, that is, that we can do business, no matter what the situation is, with that part of the world. That is what the Bloc Quebecois wonders about.

We will continue to ask questions to the government party before supporting Bill C-61. I want to repeat that we totally agree with a Canada-Israel free trade agreement, but only at the appropriate time.

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11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

It is the turn of the Reform Party, but the hon. member for Esquimalt-Juan de Fuca is not here. Perhaps Reform members might indicate who is intending to speak for their party on this issue.

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11:05 a.m.

An hon. member


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11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I hear a call for the question. I think there is normally a courtesy that, speaking on debate, we might give a moment or so to the other party to come. I have a point of order. We will hear it while we wait to see if someone is coming from the Reform Party.

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11:05 a.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to speak on debate. I wanted to speak to the question, with your permission.

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The Deputy Speaker

As the parliamentary secretary and others will know, there is a provision for a speaker from each party to speak at length on a matter.

I wonder if somebody from the Reform Party might indicate to the Chair whether somebody is intending to speak.

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11:05 a.m.


Elwin Hermanson Reform Kindersley—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is someone intending to speak. He is not here yet. I understand the Bloc has another speaker who is prepared to speak to the bill.

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11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance has the floor.

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11:05 a.m.

St. Paul's Ontario


Barry Campbell LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise to speak in support of the Canada-Israel free trade agreement.

As members know, trade is extremely important to this country. One third of the jobs in this country are dependent on exports. As members may know, every $1 billion in trade translates into 11,000 jobs.

We should never underestimate the importance of trade to this country. This government, recognizing that, has made several efforts to enhance trade opportunities for Canadian businesses.

First, members will be aware of the several trade missions that the Prime Minister has lead to various parts of the world which have resulted in billions of dollars in contracts translating into tens of thousands of jobs in this country.

Those trade missions and the success of those trade missions help to explain why Canada has led the OECD in job growth. This government has also taken other steps in the trade area, notably, promoting trade liberalization through the GATT or the WTO as it is known. Canada has led the multilateral effort for trade liberalization.

This government has taken the initiative in promoting freer trade bilaterally in the NAFTA, adding Mexico to the negotiations that are ongoing with Chile which may well in time lead to a bilateral free trade agreement with that country and South America, and lately the bill we are speaking on to implement the Canada-Israel free trade agreement.

With respect to Israel, Canadian businesses have been at a distinct disadvantage. Israel and the European Community have a free trade agreement, and so does Israel and the United States. That means Canadian businesses wishing to export products to Israel are at a competitive disadvantage.

This trade initiative will level the playing field, leading to enhanced trade and investment opportunities for Canadians doing business with Israel. This deal will also give Canada a foothold in the Middle East, maintaining us as a player in fostering freer trade in that region and enhancing economic relations with an important part of the world. Canada, through negotiating this treaty with Israel, shows its readiness to embrace new and emerging economies in this trade liberalization effort. Members should not lose sight of the fact that the Canada-Israel treaty will be a model for other treaties with other countries in that region.

Members opposite have raised a number of questions and a number of questions are out there that we should respond to. One of those questions is why free trade with Israel, why at this time. Let me remind members that when we are talking about the Middle East we must not lose sight of the fact that the State of Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, a vigorous democracy at that. We need only reflect on the very hotly contested Israeli elections this past spring to recognize what a vigorous and vibrant democracy is the State of Israel today.

While others may wonder why not free trade right now with other countries in the Middle East, we must remember that Canada would not enter into free trade arrangements with countries which are not members of the WTO, the World Trade Organization, and it is only Israel in that region of the world which qualifies.

I repeat that free trade with Israel will provide a level playing field and respond to the disadvantage that Canadian business has been under in not having free trade access which its American and European competitors have in that area. The free trade agreement with Israel can certainly be a model for free trade agreements with other countries of that region when they join the WTO.

There are members in this House and people in this country who ask whether it is wise to benefit Israel at this time. They are concerned about events there, as we all are, and they ask that question. I want to respond with a couple of points.

First, I want to point out that the initiative, the impetus, the genesis of this agreement is Canadian business. It is not the State of Israel that has come to Canada and asked for the advantage of free trade. It is Canadian businesses that have come to the Canadian government and said that in the efforts to liberalize trade, let us do something in an important area of the world, the Middle East, the gateway to enormous business opportunities for Canadians. Let us end this comparative disadvantage they have vis-à-vis their American and European counterparts by negotiating a free trade agreement. The initiative is from Canadian businesses and the primary benefit is to Canadian businesses.

Second, I would like to focus on the fact that this treaty is remarkably important not only for the trade and investment opportunities it provides but for the fact that the benefits of this treaty will extent to the Gaza and the West Bank. This initiative of extending the free trade agreement to the Gaza and West Bank was a development that the Canadian government undertook and is

indeed one that caught our American friends by surprise, so much so that they have now very recently extended their free trade agreement also to Gaza and the West Bank. Canada has been a trailblazer in this aspect of the treaty which I think will provide real economic benefit to people not only in the State of Israel but in the West Bank and Gaza.

I point out that the Government of Israel has taken all steps required under the treaty to extend the benefit of the treaty to the West Bank and Gaza. I have seen the letter and members will have undoubtedly heard about it. If not, I draw their attention to a letter from Natan Sharansky, the minister of industry and trade, the Government of Israel, to the Minister for International Trade, our minister responsible for this treaty.

The letter confirms that the Government of Israel supports the principle of the extension of this treaty both inbound and outbound to the Gaza and West Bank territories. That is extremely important. For those who wonder if the benefit of this treaty will ever extend to those regions, they need only look at this document. It illustrates that Israel is doing everything it undertook to do in the treaty as negotiated.

Notwithstanding that, there are members in the House who say this is not good for the Palestinians or it is not good at this time. I find it ironic that Canadian politicians can be so presumptuous in telling the Palestinian authority what is good for it. The Palestinian authority and the Palestinian people in the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere are in a position to tell us whether or not this agreement is in the interests of the people who live in the West Bank and Gaza. There has been no official comment to the Canadian government that this treaty is not appropriate at this time, that it is not desirable. Quite to the contrary. We should take note of that.

Members should recognize this treaty for free trade between Canada and Israel provides remarkable opportunities not just for Canadian business but also for Canadians to continue to be significant participants in economic and other developments in an important region of the world.

There would be no other way for the people of Gaza and the West Bank to have the benefit of free trade, as there is no Palestinian state and there is no other state in the Middle East that could qualify for free trade with Canada at this time. This additional provision of the agreement, its extension to Gaza and the West Bank, is a remarkable opportunity to enhance economic opportunities for people in those regions.

I urge members on all sides of the House to wholeheartedly support this free trade agreement for the benefits it provides, for the opportunities it provides to Canadians including Canadian exporters, for the opportunities it provides for Canada to maintain an important role in an extremely important part of the world. I urge hon. members to support this bill.

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11:15 a.m.

Dartmouth Nova Scotia


Ron MacDonald LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague has spoken about the benefits of the free trade deal, both for Israel and for Palestinians in the occupied territories.

I know he was probably listening in the lobby. The spokesperson for the official opposition indicated many times during his speech that somehow the government should stop this process because it was not in the best interests of the Palestinians. The member who just spoke mentioned some documents which clearly indicate that the Canadian government has been in constant dialogue with Palestinian authorities.

I would like the hon. member's comments about what I said in committee the other day. I said that sometimes some of us in public office believe we have to speak for everyone as if no one other than us has a voice. In this case, is it his belief that the Palestinian authorities have had ample opportunity to express their viewpoint particularly if they were opposed to this deal because it was not in their best economic or political interests?

I would like to hear his comments with respect to the seminars, which are apparently being held this week jointly sponsored by the minister of industry for the Palestinian authority and the Canadian embassy officials from Israel.

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11:20 a.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to elaborate on what I said. Numerous contacts have been made, as I understand it, with the Palestinian authority. The Palestinian authority has been briefed and informed by our ambassador as to the free trade agreement and is well aware of the fact that it is now being debated before this House.

I do not think any of us should doubt the capacity of the Palestinian authority to weigh in, as it does from time to time, on issues that are of concern and importance to it. That is why it is so ironic to find some members of this House concerned about the impact of this particular initiative at this time on the Palestinians or the Palestinian authority. We should afford them the respect they deserve in their ability to speak in their own self-interests.

There are ongoing discussions as the parliamentary secretary mentioned. Continuous economic consultations between our embassy and Palestinian representatives are ongoing notwithstanding the fact that we are in the midst of debate and hopefully in very short order will be passing this important trade agreement.

I thank the parliamentary secretary for his comment and the opportunity to elaborate.

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11:20 a.m.


Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask a few questions to the hon. member who spoke after me. Questions which, I believe, are fairly simple and to which I hope to receive simple and clear answers.

First of all, I would like to make a comment. Through its parliamentary secretary, the government said that seminars would be held this week between the Department of International Trade and Palestinian authorities, when we are expected to deal with Bill C-61 today. Would it not be better to have these seminars or meetings before instead of after?

Now, here is my simple question: Could the hon. member tell us whether, according to him and his government, Palestinians control their economy and their territory?

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11:20 a.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, there have been numerous meetings between the Palestinian minister of economy and trade and various others with respect to this agreement. We are not just starting that process; this has been ongoing. The Canadian ambassador to Israel, who is also responsible for the West Bank and Gaza, has had numerous contacts over the last year with Palestinian authorities on this trade agreement. This is not something we are just starting right now.

The second issue again raises the question of who should speak for the interests of the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. I assert emphatically that it is the Palestinian authority and it can tell us how it feels about this. The Palestinian authority's actions speak volumes about the importance it sees in this treaty for the West Bank and Gaza.

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11:20 a.m.


Osvaldo Nunez Bloc Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the hon. member and I agree with him that one third of the jobs in Canada depend on international trade. However, I do deplore the lack of information. Hon. members were not kept abreast of the negotiations leading to this agreement, and unfortunately we now have the same problem with respect to the negotiations between Canada and Chile.

I asked the Minister of International Trade for a progress report, but all we got was one briefing with a public servant, who did not answer all of our questions. As hon. members, we should be better informed about such negotiations.

I also deplore the fact that this Canada-Israel agreement does not include any social provisions to protect workers, as is the case in NAFTA or the Canada-Chile agreement. These two agreements provide for parallel agreements on labour and on the environment, which are missing from the Canada-Israel agreement. In my opinion, such social provisions are needed to protect Israeli, Palestinian and Canadian workers. I would like to hear your reaction in this regard.

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11:25 a.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is the nature of the negotiations that members are briefed as soon as a deal is arrived at. It would be pointless to brief people on a deal that had not been concluded. Once that took place there were several meetings and debriefings for the opposition caucus. There have been hearings before the committee. There have been discussions at length and questions which have been responded to.

With regard to the other social charter type issues, there are ongoing negotiations within the WTO of which Israel is a member. I point out that no other country in the Middle East is a member of the WTO.