Mr. Speaker, thank you for this second opportunity to talk about the multilateral agreement on investment.
Any international agreement on investment, once achieved, will take us another step further down the road toward globalization of all economic activity. Some people view this as a positive step but I do not perceive either a broad knowledge of this agreement or a broad consensus on its value.
While among the business elite it is politically correct to see free trade of any kind as a good thing, some Canadians remain unconvinced. For example, those who lost their good manufacturing jobs south of the border feel bruised by the free trade agreement of 1989 and the NAFTA of 1994. Naturally they are worried about further steps toward globalization.
Beyond that group there is a larger group of Canadians. This group feels that all the repercussions of NAFTA have not yet been felt and that the collection and analysis of data on its effects have not been presented to them. They remember what was promised if they took the leap of faith and went for free trade on this continent. They were promised free access to the large market to the south. That access and the resulting increase in business was supposed to give us economies of scale, improve our productivity and thereby make us more competitive in the new global economy.
Leaders in the steel industry tell me that the promised access on a level playing field to U.S. markets is still blocked by irritants based on American law. So certainly in one of our primary industries the current agreement with the U.S. and Mexico did not deliver the promised access.
We all agree that the key to competitiveness and success in the global marketplace is productivity. Has Canadian productivity increased as a result of NAFTA? Two respected columnists in two different newspapers have said no. Before free trade, Canadian productivity was under 10% less than American productivity, but today Canadian productivity is 20% less than American productivity. I am aware that exports and investment are both up but most economists agree that it is due to our low Canadian dollar and our low interest rates, not free trade.
The MAI is supposed to bring in one set of rules to replace the multitude of agreements in place today. As a medium sized economy, a rules based system should work to Canada's advantage. But that is only true if the rules represent our values, our mixed economy and our business culture, not the cutthroat values of the unregulated marketplace held up by some as the best environment for business.
I believe Canadians are worried about the impact of the further globalization represented by the MAI. Canadians agreed to the free trade agreement as a leap of faith. They agreed to NAFTA accompanied by definitions of subsidy and dumping, definitions that have not yet been agreed upon. I do not believe Canadians are willing to buy another deal arranged behind closed doors, then delivered as an unamendable package to be fast tracked through Parliament.
How is the minister going to ensure that all interested Canadians are made aware of the controversial aspects of MAI and have an opportunity to express their opinions before the MAI package emerges from the negotiations now under way in Europe?