Madam Speaker, like the two previous speakers, I am pleased to rise today in this House to speak to Bill C-35, an act to amend the Special Import Measures Act and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act.
As we Bloc Quebecois members indicated in previous speeches, we support this bill. However, since we had some reservations about certain aspects of this bill, at report stage, we introduced a number of motions in amendment to try to improve it. But they were defeated.
These motions result from a study of the Special Import Measures Act done by the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade and by the finance committee. I would like to briefly outline these motions, which reflect the issues on which we differed.
Our Motion No. 1 read as follows:
That Bill C-35, in clause 15, be amended by adding after line 21 on page 10 the following:
“(3.1) In determining whether the complaint is properly documented, the Deputy Minister shall not take into account representations received from parties other than the complainant.”
A number of witnesses voiced concern during committee proceedings. The Canadian Steel Producers Association was one of these witnesses with concerns about certain provisions of the act. The Bloc Quebecois shares the concerns of these witnesses, which were asking that Revenue Canada ignore the unsolicited presentations by parties other than the complainant before the start of an investigation.
Such an approach would have Revenue Canada take into account only information coming from the complainant, without having to consider unsolicited comments from outsiders.
This approach, which was rejected, seemed reasonable to us since it would apply only before an investigation was opened. Unfortunately, the government does not seem to care any more about our requests than about those of an industry as essential to the economy of Quebec and Canada as the steel industry. Therefore, it rejected this amendment, which will not be included in the bill.
Motion No. 2 read as follows:
That Bill C-35 be amended by deleting Clause 27.
We considered that Bill C-35 should not contain provision for the minimum duty. We think it is premature to include the concept of a minimum duty in the Special Import Measures Act.
We think the government should stop approving policies that reduce the protection afforded Quebec and Canadian businesses when our main trading partners are not doing the same thing.
The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommended in its report—not one of the ones that was leaked—inclusion of the concept of a minimum duty in section 45 of the legislation on public interest.
However, clause 27 of the bill incorporates the concept of a minimum duty by amending section 45 of the existing legislation. Thus, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal may, on its own initiative, or on request, initiate a public interest inquiry if it is of the opinion that the imposition of an anti-dumping or countervailing duty, or the imposition of such a duty in the full amount provided for by any of those sections, in respect of the goods, would not or might not be in the public interest.
As a result of a public interest inquiry, if the tribunal is of the opinion that the imposition of a duty might not be in the public interest, the tribunal shall without delay do two things. First, it shall report to the Minister of Finance that it is of that opinion and provide that minister with a statement of the facts and, second, it shall cause notice of the report to be published in the Canada Gazette , which many people read every day without fail, as we all know.
In addition, in that same report, the tribunal shall specify either a level of reduction in the anti-dumping or countervailing duty provided for, or a price or prices that are adequate to eliminate injury, retardation or the threat of injury to the domestic industry. It is through this last measure that the concept of minimum duty is introduced.
Motions Nos. 4, 5 and 6 concern the notion of “material harm”. In our opinion, the definition of material harm was also problematical. The Bloc Quebecois called for insertion of a definition for the expression “material harm” into the Special Import Measures Act. This, coupled with the criteria suggested in the current regulations, would clarify this important concept for everyone.
In Motion No. 4, we proposed, and I quote:
That Bill C-35, in clause 44, be amended by adding after line 46 on page 33 the following:
“(3.2) For the purposes of subsection (3.1), “material harm” means harm that is more than negligible and that is not immaterial or trifling.”
We also proposed to make reference to “material harm” in several other provisions, including in clause 44, line 46 on page 33, which would read as follows:
“(3.2) For the purposes of subsection (3.1), “material harm” has the meaning given to that expression by the regulations.”
We also asked that the notion of “material harm” be applied to clause 51, through the following amendment:
—be amended by adding after line 18 on page 36 the following:
“(f) defining the expression “material harm” for the purpose of section 44;”
This is very technical, but so is the bill, and this is why we had to conduct a thorough review.
So, had these amendments and improvements been included, the legislation would leave no uncertainty for Quebec and Canadian businesses. These motions are very important, because the bill is supposed to improve the Canadian system of special trade measures so that it can better reflect the new economic context and the changes in the rules of international trade, and leave no room for confusion.
Another Bloc Quebecois proposal ignored in this bill concerns the future or retroactive method of imposing duties. We wanted Revenue Canada to continue using the future method. However, we would, in cases where prices or costs are likely to fluctuate significantly, like to have Revenue Canada authorized to use the retroactive duty imposition method.
This method would be used only exceptionally and only when Revenue Canada considered it necessary. This is why we tabled Motion No. 7 in this House.
I will read a passage from this motion:
That Bill C-35 be amended by adding after line 42 on page 36 the following new clause—
In this regard, we referred to the prospective and retroactive methods.
This bill is very important as it governs the imposition of antidumping and countervailing duties on dumped or subsidized goods where this dumping or subsidizing has or may have an injurious effect on producers in Quebec and Canada, while at the same time making changes to the Canadian International Trade Tribunal.
We need only think of our farmers on the Prairies, who are facing very definite problems with farmers in the northern United States, to realize how the border aspect of subsidies and dumping duties are a part of our daily lives.
The interventions of Bloc Quebecois members during this study have already led to a few important changes and substantial improvements. We suggested, for example, concrete measures allowing small and medium size producers in Quebec and Canada to have fair, equitable and easier access to the redress procedures provided by the current legislation.
We also proposed improvements to the way the Canadian International Trade Tribunal operates. The Bloc Quebecois also proposed that the cumulative effect be taken into consideration by the tribunal when assessing damages.
Furthermore, the amendment of section 76 of the Special Import Measures Act, requiring the Canadian International Trade Tribunal to assess the cumulative injurious effects of dumping or subsidizing in the context of interim reviews was consolidated as the result of our interventions.
We agree with the intent of this bill, which marks the government's first effort to clarify things. Quebeckers and Canadians, as well as the Bloc Quebecois, have long been calling for less bureaucracy and more efficiency. The government must give producers in Quebec and Canada the tools they need to compete in the global economy.
Dumping and subsidies are tools criticized, but often used, by industrialized countries. This legislation and the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act are necessary, in fact essential tools to counter dumping and subsidies.
It is important that these laws be designed in such a way as to appropriately meet the needs they were intended to address.
These amendments should hopefully improve the Canadian trade remedy system so that it will better take into account the new economic context and the evolution of international trade rules.
Unlike our colleagues across the way, who suddenly changed their tune after they took office five years ago, we in the Bloc Quebecois have always been in favour of free trade. We can therefore only applaud any steps taken to help ensure businesses in Quebec and Canada are full participants in this era of globalization, in a well-structured context based on appropriate legislation.
Overall, the Bloc Quebecois supports the principle of Bill C-35, which is to clarify the role of the Canadian international trade tribunal and to improve the Special Imports Measures Act. The review conducted by the subcommittees helped identify the improvements that should be made to these acts.
Bill C-35 will implement the recommendations included in the December 1996 report on the Special Import Measures Act which, as I said, was not leaked, and which the Bloc Quebecois greatly helped improve and fine-tune.
This review has identified a number of improvements which should be made to these acts, but more needs to be done, including the changes put forward by the Bloc Quebecois and by officials from various industries.
So, in spite of some concerns, we are rather pleased with the bill and we will support it, as we did at the previous stages. However, as we said before, we feel that rapid developments in international trade emphasize the need to review these two laws on a regular basis in the future.