Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Davenport commands respect and it is a privilege for me to respond to his concerns on behalf of the Minister for International Trade.
Negotiation of a multilateral agreement on investment at the OECD is still at an early stage. Although the original goal was to complete these negotiations by May, an extension to 1998 appears necessary. Canada has committed to nothing at this stage.
The principal objective underlying the MAI is to improve investment protection for foreign investors. A core principle is equal treatment for foreign and domestic investors with exemptions for sensitive sectors such as cultural industries. As exists under the NAFTA and WTO agreements, countries will be allowed to file exemptions for certain measures they wish to maintain.
Canada will not sign an MAI that inhibits Canada's ability to link the granting of investment incentives to job creation or to impose or maintain foreign ownership limits for privatized crown corporations.
Canada will retain the ability to review large scale mergers and acquisitions involving Canadian companies, protect its cultural industries, protect the integrity of Canada's health care system, require job creation as a condition for receipt of investment incentives, require companies to carry out R and D activities in Canada as a condition of receipt of federal funds, and regulate crown corporations and monopolies.
Through the MAI, Canadian investors will have greater access and protection in Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Korea, as well as other countries willing to adhere to MAI rules.
Signatories to the treaty will adopt investment rules similar to those accepted by the NAFTA partners. Equally important in a world where countries fiercely compete to attract foreign investment, Canada's adherence to an MAI that protects Canadian interests will raise our attractiveness as an investment location.
Foreign direct investment contributes significantly to Canada's growth, prosperity and employment creation. In the MAI negotiations Canada will be seeking disciplines on U.S. extraterritorial measures such as Helms-Burton, again for the benefit of Canadian investors.