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House of Commons Hansard #102 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was agreements.

Topics

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the government of the Republic of Costa Rica.

It is not the intention of the New Democratic Party to support the bill. That should be of no surprise as we have indicated that previously. I will expand on the reasons in the next few minutes.

Bill C-32 and the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement follow the North American Free Trade Agreement and the FTAA model of free trade that the New Democratic Party has consistently opposed because they put corporate rights ahead of human rights, the environment and democracy.

The side agreements on labour and the environment are insufficient to promote higher standards across the board in these areas. Costa Rica's record on labour is atrocious. We see no reason to make things worse.

The purported advantage of free trade in agricultural products is unproven. While Canadian farmers are not seeing the benefits of increased imports, the livelihood of Costa Rican farmers is endangered by an agreement such as this one. Many must wonder how that would be the case.

The bottom line is that the specific agreements are set out with the right of the investors to make a profit. They are the ones who benefit from these trade agreements and they do not encompass a holistic approach to the well-being of a country, a community or an industry within a country.

My hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned that colonialism in southern countries does not allow for diversification in some of those countries. Quite frankly we see that happening even within Canada where there is no diversity and as a result certain industries are suffering.

The Bloc will not be supporting the bill at third reading. I am pleased to see the Bloc come on side with the New Democratic Party's view that trade agreements are not okay if they do not encompass environmental rights, human rights and labour rights.

I know there were numerous members from the Bloc who went to Quebec City earlier this year, along with members of the New Democratic Party caucus. We listened to many people from southern countries who have seen the effects of trade agreements in their countries. They said that the effects were not always good and in some cases were detrimental.

According to the National Farmers Union, Canadian farmers and consumers have not benefited from increased agricultural exports, nor have farmers and consumers in the developing countries to which we export. The position of the governments of Costa Rica and Canada that it is a good deal for everyone is just not the case. There is no benefit when products go on the market at an extremely low cost. Flooding the world market with food prices far below production costs damages the ability of other countries to feed their citizens. That is exactly the case.

In Costa Rica in 1998 a flood of cheap imported grain drove the local farmers out of business. The number of farmers growing corn, beans and rice, the staples of the local diet, fell from 70,000 to under 28,000. Therefore it was not a good deal for everyone.

The problem with a number of the trade deals is that they put the rights of investors ahead of everything else. That is extremely important to the New Democratic Party because we represent a number of people who know that making a profit is not the only thing that counts.

New Democrats are not opposed to trade. Trade is necessary for strong economies,but not unfettered trade. Trade agreements must include labour, environmental and human rights. It is absolutely a necessity, and that is where we differ from the Liberals.

I was absolutely shocked as I listened to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade this morning. That is the Liberal member for London--Fanshawe. He referred to labour and environmental rights within trade agreements as littering up the agreements. He said “environmental rights and labour rights litter up the agreements”. That is like saying labour and environmental rights are garbage. That is not the case. The Liberal member for London--Fanshawe called environmental and labour rights garbage. If we refer to them as littering up an agreement, that is not good enough.

However this sets the scope of how the government tends to deal with labour and environmental rights. We have seen numerous environmental issues come before the House many times where the government uses tough talk but never follows through on environmental rights.

The government waves the ILO banner. Costa Rica and Canada would fall under the ILO banner; they would do everything it says. Frankly Costa Rica has implemented more of the ILO conventions than Canada.

Let me tell members about the history of labour rights in Costa Rica. Costa Rica is notorious for its persistent denial of labour rights, especially the rights of collective bargaining, association and strikes. In Costa Rica's private sector it is virtually impossible to form or join a trade union because of the hostility from employers and the government's unwillingness to enforce labour laws. That is Costa Rica's history. That is its position on labour rights yet it has introduced more of the ILO conventions than Canada.

We acknowledge that in some areas we have been able to succeed in having good labour legislation in Canada. We all know it is not automatically there. The reason those rights are maintained is the strong efforts of a number of labour unions, the number of people involved in social justice making sure that those rights are upheld, and the legal system built around that. Those things are not a given forever. Civil liberties are not a given forever in Canada. We are seeing that now with the anti-terrorism bill whereby our civil liberties would be jeopardized.

We must ensure strong legislation dealing with environmental and labour laws and the protection of privacy and civil liberties. We must fight for those things on a daily basis because they are not a given. It is crucially important that we do not accept willy-nilly every trade agreement the government comes up with.

My colleague from the Bloc mentioned how the deal was put forward. Negotiations on the trade deal began in June 2000 and the agreement was signed during the third summit of the Americas on April 23, 2001. It is coming before parliament as a fait accompli. Parliament did not even have a say in it. Really and truthfully we did not. The government went ahead and did what it wanted. It said the heck with every elected member of parliament, including its own members on that side.

I do not believe for a second that each and every one of them told the minister to go ahead and sign the deal. I do not believe they did not care or worry about our sugar producers or refineries in Alberta or Quebec. However that is what the government did. It went ahead and signed it, much like it did with the patent legislation.

The WTO ordered Canada to change its patent legislation and increase it to 20 years. We are now in a situation where we have huge drug costs. Drug companies were not suffering with a seven year patent. I acknowledge that there needs to be patent protection, but excessive patent protection jeopardizes the well-being of a country and its citizens. We are seeing that now.

These trade agreements should not be a fait accompli. A booklet was passed around and I chuckled when I read the comments. It was sent on October 24. It contains Canada's objectives for the fourth WTO ministerial conference. I laughed because, as my hon. colleague from the Bloc mentioned, there is never any consultation with the government. Everything is a fait accompli. The document is from the Minister for International Trade and it states:

The government continues to seek still better ways to inform a mutually beneficial dialogue with concerned Canadians. Citizen engagement on foreign and trade policy issues is the key to informed debate and decision making on public policy, and that has been an ongoing process.

Where is the informed debate? When do we go out and have a dialogue? Has anyone ever seen the government getting the views of Canadians and of members of parliament? The government throws something in front of Canadians and says this is the way it will be. We have to take it or leave it.

The government will not listen to any amendments put forth in committee. These are amendments that would protect industries within our country and protect human, environmental and labour rights. Is any of that there? No. The government does not care.

These documents are a waste of taxpayer money. They are not accurate, to say nothing of the fact that we have to get ourselves around the words “to inform a mutually beneficial dialogue”.

Trade agreements have not benefited our agricultural industry. I am encouraged by the fact that the member of the Canadian Alliance for Lethbridge is here. He pointed out that in February of this year any agreement with Costa Rica would lay the foundation for future negotiations on trade agreements. We know that to be true because the government is following along with NAFTA and the FTAA. The member went on to ask:

Will the government live up to a commitment it made to western Canadian beef producers when it was in western Canada last year that it will do nothing to destroy their industry?

Does anybody believe for a second that the government would live up to any commitment it made during the election? We have seen the government break one promise after another on a continual basis. We were promised infrastructure dollars, good environmental legislation, and support for our agricultural industry and grain farmers. Have we seen any follow-through? It has not been followed through for one second because the election is over.

The government pulled the wool over the eyes of Canadians once more. I will wager the government will not be able to do it in the next election because Canadians are not fools.

Canadian farmers are not fools. Farmers know that the government has not supported their industry. If they look at the facts they will know the government's position that trade agreements are good for farmers is not true. Farmers will see that. Farmers know that the government is not supporting the agricultural industry. The beef farmers in Alberta and refinery workers in Quebec will know that is not the case.

This is critically important. I challenge the Canadian Alliance. Every time it supports one of the government's trade deals it jeopardizes the agricultural industry in Canada. Every time it supports one of these deals without taking a stand it jeopardizes Canadian industries. It jeopardizes human and labour rights. If it supports the government then it is as detrimental to Canadian industries as the government is because it jeopardizes those industries in the same way.

I challenge the Canadian Alliance to say for once that the trade deal is not good enough and that it is not what is best for Canadian farmers. This trade deal does not include environmental rights, human rights or labour rights. I would hope that members within the House do not talk like the Liberal member for London--Fanshawe and call environmental rights and labour rights littering up an agreement. They are equally as important as any profit that will be made which will send a paycheque across some investor's table or some company's table. They are important for Canadians and they are important for people in those other countries.

We all know that Canada has a good standard of living for the most part and we do not want to jeopardize that. That is why there are those of us who fight hard to make sure that there is more to a trade deal than just profit and that there is a holistic approach to a strong, healthy economy and country. It is not just profit for one company.

There is more to it such as the value added industry that benefits the local economy. We all know that the little grocer down the road and the small and medium sized businesses need those industries because they benefit from the value added to those industries. We all benefit as a nation by paying our fair share in taxes and supporting each other and our social programs. There is more to it than just one company making a profit, such as everything that goes along with having those industries within our country and supporting those industries.

If something reads made in Canada it is an extra incentive for me to buy it because I know I am supporting an industry in Quebec or an industry from the east coast. If I see Manitoba potatoes in the grocery store, I will buy them before any others. That is what it is about. It is about supporting each other because that is how we maintain a strong country. However it is also about supporting the people in those other countries. I am not saying we should never buy their products; of course we should. We want to make sure that they have a chance of attaining the same benefits we have.

One of the classic quotes that New Democrats use is by J.S. Woodsworth who said “What we desire for ourselves, we wish for all”, and we do. We want people in other countries who do not have some of the advantages we have to have those chances.

Will they have that chance when their governments do not enforce labour legislation or do not allow them the right to collective bargaining or to make a decent wage for the work they do? Will they have that chance when their governments do not ensure that their human rights are upheld or do not give their children a chance to have an education instead of being made to work at a loom or in the fields? We want the right to education for children. We want the right to social infrastructure. We want people in other countries to have the same benefits that we have in Canada.

The New Democratic Party is not opposed to trade. However we certainly are opposed to unfettered trade. We are absolutely opposed to trade that does not consider human rights, environmental rights and labour rights. We are not opposed to trade, not for a second.

Our national sport in Canada is hockey. Our Deputy Speaker's son plays for the Montreal Canadiens. However even in hockey there are rules. One team cannot be stronger than the other so it wipes out the other guys. There are rules in place involving a draft process so certain players cannot get all the cash and certain teams cannot get all the very best players. Imagine a team with Gretzky, Lindros--

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

An hon. member

Team Canada.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Team Canada, sounds great. Imagine one team with all the muscle and all the power. What does that do to the other guys?

They do not survive. That is the problem when trade agreements do not consider everything and when they do not consider the whole scope of how it will affect a country and the world.

Until the government comes up with trade agreements that include environmental, labour and human rights as equal to the profit of a corporation, it will not get the support of the New Democratic Party, and I am proud to say that.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the member's speech. As she was denigrating the member for London--Fanshawe, she mentioned he had indicated that something in the agreement was garbage. I heard the speech of the member for London--Fanshawe and I did not hear that. I am sure the member is mistaken.

The member wants to talk as though no negotiations took place and the agreement suddenly fell out of the sky. The fact is the two governments dealt with environmental and labour co-operation. They go hand in hand with trade liberalization. That is tantamount to the agreement. It is not something that just happened. It is something that was negotiated between the two parties, keeping in mind labour and the environment and the side agreements on them.

If we look at the Canada--Costa Rica free trade agreement, we will see that it complements the environment and labour and strengthens both environment and labour management, while reaping the benefits of increased trade with Canada.

Her side is indicating that somehow this did not happen, that it all just came together and there were no negotiations that took place. Yet Canada is a trading nation and depends on trade to be a nation of prosperity, such as we have.

Would the member withdraw the words she put in the mouth of the member for London--Fanshawe? He is quite capable of defending himself, but perhaps she would want to think about that. Could she comment on that?

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, quite frankly Hansard will show the comments of the Liberal member of parliament for London--Fanshawe tomorrow when he said that environment and labour standards were seen as littering up the trade agreement so that is why they should not be in there.

I never for one second said there were not negotiations. There was no debate in the House before the agreement was signed. That is the problem. That is the comment I was making.

Negotiations with another country before we have discussions in the Parliament of Canada leave out a very important group of people: the people of Canada and members of parliament who represent the people of Canada. When that deal was signed without it coming here first, that said “To heck with you. Your view isn't worth anything”. That has been a problem in the House.

Quite frankly on the issue of a side agreement for labour, human and environmental rights, when do those values become secondary to a buck? That is the problem with the government's position. They should not be side agreements. They should be an integral part of those trade agreements, which should state that if countries do not do certain things in the area of human, labour and environmental rights, we will not trade with them. They will not have access to our markets.

The problem is the government sees them as side agreements and secondary and we do not. The New Democratic Party sees them as of more value than a dollar, but definitely in those trade agreements they had better be on an equal footing.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member used a hockey analogy to explain why she would be concerned about some trade agreements. In hockey, if one team scores more goals than the other team, one side gets all the points and the other side goes home with no points.

In trade, if a person for instance makes a hammer and sells it to another person for $10, both sides go away better off. The person who makes the hammer gets the $10 and the person who buys the hammer gets the hammer to make something.

Will the hon. member not acknowledge that trade actually benefits both sides no matter what, because both sides enter into a trade agreement voluntarily because it will leave them both better off?

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, certainly I will comment. There is no question both sides can benefit, but both sides do not necessarily benefit, especially if we have a situation where one side decides it will ignore environmental, human and labour rights and pays someone 20¢ then sells the hammer for $20. Someone is losing out and I would be willing to wager it is the person who is getting paid the 20¢ or some child who is ordered to make the hammer. The child is paid 5¢ and the person who owns it is paid something else.

We agree it can benefit both. We are not opposed to trade and never have been. However, it has to be with some rules in place that make it fair for both sides.

Have Canadian farmers benefited overall? They can produce a product now but have to sell it for less than what it costs them to produce to survive. Do we want to wipe out our farming industry and say that we will not make a buck off the farming industry today, that we will let it go, then a few years down the road cry and say we have no farming industry in Canada? Will we say to heck with the small farmer? A big corporation from somewhere else can buy up all the farmland and make maybe an extra buck by not giving the same kinds of benefits to its local communities and those families who are an intricate part of our community within Canada. That is when it becomes a problem.

There is no question: it can benefit both but not if both sides do not play by the same rules.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to the comments of my hon. colleague from Churchill. I was involved in some of the discussions dating way back to the 1988 election when that election basically became a referendum on free trade in the country and the pending free trade agreement with the United States specifically. When I listened to the NDP back in those days, and I am sure if I researched history long before that, I was left with the unescapable conclusion that if the NDP had its way, despite the hon. member saying she is not opposed to trade, we would never have had any free trade agreements signed, certainly in this hemisphere and probably in the world if the NDP was a factor in other countries. It is important that people bear that in mind.

Also I need look no further than my province of British Columbia, where thank goodness the NDP was recently thrown out of office, to see what its economic policies do to an economy.

I find it almost hypocritical when the NDP talks long and hard about the downtrodden of the world. It has often remarked that we have to increase our aid to developing and third world countries, help out more with humanitarian aid and improve human rights. All of us would agree on that. On the other hand, every time a free trade agreement comes before the House, the NDP is opposed to it because it is not good enough.

I would ask the hon. member to comment on that.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am glad I have the opportunity to comment. The New Democratic Party has never been opposed to trade. I would suggest to the member that he go back in history and also listen to numerous members of parliament or MLAs from the provinces. They are not opposed to trade. We are in favour of trade that considers more than just the dollar coming across the table. We are in favour of trade deals that consider human, environmental and labour rights. There is no question about it.

Regarding my colleague's comments about what happened in B.C., I suggest he look no further than the former Conservative government of Saskatchewan, under Grant Devine, that literally wiped out a province. The New Democratic Party then came in and built it up again so that it is now very strong and doing well. It had to come from a terrible time when the Tories literally wiped it out.

There is no question that provincial governments make their mistakes and have to own up to them. However, from a federal perspective, which is why we are here today, we recognize that trade agreements are important but not if we are willing to abandon human, environmental and labour rights of the people in both countries.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with my colleague and friend the hon. member for Prince George--Peace River.

I would be remiss if I did not take a minute to respond to the NDP member who just spoke. She talked about the environmental and labour side agreements as being secondary. I remind the member that those agreements were negotiated in advance. She said we are ignoring them.

The Government of Canada has an opportunity to help the Costa Ricans. There is always improvement and they can learn from us. We cannot expect something to happen overnight. We enjoy about $270 million annually in two way trade with the Costa Ricans. That can grow.

The NDP has argued against every single free trade agreement since I can remember as a child, and that goes back to the 1960s. The NDP is notorious for being absolutely opposed to trade.

Let us look at trade for a moment. We have had a number of free trade agreements. The 1989 Free Trade Agreement preceded NAFTA in 1994. Canada was successful in negotiating a free trade agreement with Chile in 1997. We are currently negotiating the free trade agreement of the Americas which would bring North America and South America into one free trading area with 34 nations by 2005.

We enjoy $1.4 billion a day in two way trade with the United States. Forty per cent of our GDP in Canada comes from our trade agreements. One in four jobs in Canada is a result of free trade agreements negotiated by the Canadian government with other nations over the years.

We have an enormous trade surplus with the United States. It is not without its problems. We are all fully aware of them and the challenges. We are struggling with the softwood lumber agreement. There are challenges to overcome but we cannot just give up and say that we do not want trade because there is a certain issue.

Let us get more specific with respect to the Costa Rican free trade agreement. One major concern in the country is with respect to the sugar industry. It has been raised by a number of people. The member for Saint John used to have a sugar refinery in her riding but it closed a few years ago. They are concerned.

My hon. colleague and good friend the member for Lethbridge, when I was travelling with the minister to Costa Rica last spring specifically to deal with this, brought to my attention the issue of the sugar beet industry in Taber. He asked that I bring it up with officials down there. I did that with the Canadian and Costa Rican officials.

In Canada the issue is with refined sugar. Those issues were raised. One of the biggest concerns of the Canadian sugar industry is not so much the free trade in refined sugar with the Costa Ricans but that it would be a template for the upcoming negotiations with the CA-4, the Central American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. Canada is currently negotiating with them, and more specifically with Honduras,which already has a sugar refinery. There are some concerns.

I specifically met on numerous occasions, and as recently as Tuesday of this week, with Claude Carrière who is a senior official and chief negotiator for Canada on not only the Canada-Costa Rica agreement but also on the trade agreement with the CA-4 and the FTAA.

I should compliment him for the good work he has done. He has given me his assurances, and I am aware he has given them to others, that this is not a template, that this is not a model. It is important that this be read into the record. It is important as they negotiate the free trade agreement with the upcoming CA-4 that there be an exclusion with respect to refined sugar because that is the concern.

They have talked about other things with respect to refined sugar. Canada exports 12,000 to 14,000 tonnes of refined sugar from Taber into the U.S. a year. Of course that is because it is country of origin. We export 57,000 tonnes of premixed sugar products to the U.S. More specifically we are allowed to export 2,000 tonnes of non-originating sugar into Costa Rica and under this agreement that has been doubled. It has been increased to 4,000 tonnes so there are potentially new markets out there for our sugar producers. I acknowledge it is albeit whether the economics and the economies would warrant that but we will have to be aggressive in going after that.

Overall I want to come back to the free trade agreement. It is really good for Canada. On commodities for which there are tariffs on Canada's side, we lose those tariffs immediately on auto parts, prefab homes, various agricultural products and fish products. It is good for Canada but it is also good for Costa Rica.

We do not have a large amount of trade with Costa Rica, some $270 million annually in two way trade and the Costa Ricans are looking to develop their economy. This is a win-win for both countries.

I applaud the member for Lethbridge and the sugar industry itself. They have done a very good job in educating parliamentarians on the industry's concerns. I applaud the government officials. This is one time that they have listened. They have addressed those concerns. They have given reassurances that in the CA-4 countries this will not be a template, that there will not be free trade in refined sugar. It is reassuring that they were listening.

Coming back to the NDP member's comments, it is almost unbelievable to listen to those members say that there are no environmental or labour agreements when in fact side agreements were negotiated to deal with them specifically. There is an opportunity for Canada as we increase our trade to share our information, to help the Costa Ricans improve their labour and environmental standards.

History has shown us that in every single free trade agreement we have entered into, it has been win win win for Canada. I cannot overemphasize that when there is $1.4 billion of trade, 40% of our economy, going between Canada and the United States. One in four Canadian jobs depends on free trade. That is why it is critically important. The reality is we are going to a global economy. In places like Europe, the economic borders are evaporating and trade is opening up.

The members of the Progressive Conservative/Democratic Representative Caucus and I will be supporting this legislation. The concerns within the sugar industry were real. We have been given the appropriate assurances by the department that this will not be a template in the upcoming negotiations with the four Central American countries.

I look forward to the implementation of this legislation so we can continue to grow Canada's free trade with smaller nations.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me we learn more, and I am still learning, about the country of Costa Rica.

For decades, especially in the last decade or two, Costa Rica seems to have been a kind of beacon for democracy in Central America. We are aware of the problems that some of the neighbouring countries such as Nicaragua have had. It is a country that outlawed its military and does not have a standing army. It has actually been referred to as the Switzerland of Central America. I think we would very much want to have closer economic and trade ties with a country like that so that we could assist it in assisting other countries in the region.

As my hon. colleague has pointed out, we should not be doing what the NDP has done, which is to point out that the agreement is not perfect. What agreement ever is? We can be of immense assistance to the Costa Ricans in helping them to lead the way not only within their own country but within Central America itself.

My colleague has had the opportunity to travel with officials and other members from all parties to that region. He has had bilateral discussions with a number of those countries. Would he be willing to comment further on that?

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gary Lunn Canadian Alliance Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member is absolutely correct. As trade is increasing, Canada is leading. Canada has successfully negotiated the first free trade agreement with a Central American country that has a smaller economy, a nation probably similar in population, and it has done it in a very positive light addressing some of Canada's concerns.

There is a lot of work to be done in many of these countries. In many cases they have developing economies. We can share our information. We can help bring them along on labour and environmental fronts. At the end of the day it is not only a win-win for the Costa Ricans but also for Canada as we open up new markets.

Canada is a very large country with the majority of its population very close to the 49th parallel, the southern part of the country. The reality is that we need to open up our trade corridors north and south. There are great markets both ways as we move into South America and Central America. Canada is leading in this respect as we move forward.

A good example is the free trade agreement that Canada has negotiated with Chile. Canada is the envy of many countries as we have successfully done this. While we are in a downturn in the economy our growth in trade with Chile has far surpassed that of every other country trading with Chile. Other countries have been in a negative cycle in trade with Chile. Canada has made a positive gain in this struggling economy. The numbers speak for themselves. In every single free trade agreement, trade grows. It creates jobs in Canada as well as in Costa Rica. Everyone can win.

I look forward to working on future free trade agreements, most important, the free trade agreement of the Americas. I think it will be great for Canada.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a pleasure for me to rise today to speak to Bill C-32, an act to implement the free trade agreement between the Government of Canada and the government of the Republic of Costa Rica.

I must say at the outset, having sat in the Chamber and listened to some of the debate this morning, that it is as well very informative for Canadians viewing the debate at home. They can hear the different positions being put forward by the various speakers and parties on the issue of free trade, in this case with a very small country, certainly small as far as being viewed as an economic power is concerned. There is a huge disparity between the respective sizes of our countries, but nevertheless we are hearing various members representing their parties putting forward different perspectives.

I want to state for the record that I do agree with the hon. NDP member for Churchill in the sense that many times unfortunately we see in this place what I would classify as a flawed process. I think that was a big part of her angst about the agreement itself and about the other ways in which legislation comes in here. In that regard I would concur with her observations. All too often the government uses what many of us on the opposition side would view as a flawed process to arrive at legislation.

That should not necessarily detract from the fact that occasionally the government does get it right. Certainly I and the coalition believe that this is one of those cases where by and large the government has gotten it right with Bill C-32, the free trade agreement with Costa Rica.

I want to go back in history a bit. I am one of the few members from the coalition who ran in the 1988 election. That is where my personal history with free trade comes from. I think many in our country will remember, as I said earlier, that in 1988 our country was embroiled in an election campaign that became for all intents and purposes a referendum on free trade with the United States.

I remember, ironically enough in light of the fact that I am now involved in a coalition with the Progressive Conservative caucus in parliament, that at that time as a candidate for the Reform Party of Canada I found myself on stages throughout my huge rural riding of Prince George basically in line with the Progressive Conservative incumbent, who obviously was promoting free trade with the United States during that election campaign. Aligned against us during those all candidate forums were members of the Liberal Party and the New Democratic Party who were passionately and emphatically opposed to that free trade agreement.

There is a certain sense of irony, I guess, in that now it is the Liberal Party, and I congratulate its members and encourage them to continue to work toward more free trade with the Americas. They have in the past and I am sure they will continue in the future with more conferences and negotiations with countries. As my colleague from Saanich--Gulf Islands indicated, we are now on the very cusp of having true free trade throughout the Americas, a free trading bloc of 34 countries involved in a free trade agreement. I think of what a great thing that will be for all the countries.

It will not be without its problems. As my colleague also pointed out, coming from British Columbia, I will say that right now we are involved in a pretty serious situation with regard to the economy of British Columbia and by extension the economy of Canada.

The fallout from the demise of the softwood lumber agreement in March is just rocking our lumber industry to its very foundation, in particular in British Columbia, which constitutes the vast majority of lumber exports to the United States.

I had to point out that certain irony, because as I say, there are four members involved in our coalition, including the leader of the parliamentary coalition, the member for Calgary Centre, as well as myself, my colleague from Edmonton North, who was running for the rural Alberta riding of Beaver River at the time, and my colleague from South Surrey--White Rock--Langley, who ran in that election and well remember the debates that took place about the need for free trade. By and large, with the possible exception of the NDP, I do not think that many people are disputing the fact that the free trade agreement and the agreements which have flowed from it, such as NAFTA, more recently the agreement with Chile, and now the agreement we are going to enter into with Costa Rica, and we will hopefully expand beyond that, have been good for Canada.

Have we had problems? Of course we have had problems. Have some industries to a certain extent been affected detrimentally from time to time? Of course they have been.

By definition any agreement requires some give and take and some compromise, but that does not detract from the fact that overall it is the way to go. It is the way the world is going. It is the way the global economy is going. I think that ultimately it means that producers who can produce the best product at the best price will be in that business and we can get away from this system where all governments around the globe are continually forced into a situation where they have to subsidize certain industries. Obviously we ultimately do not want to do that. We want to see countries that can produce the best product for the best price in that particular business.

Partly due to this bill coming before the House, it so piqued my interest that I started doing a bit of research on Costa Rica. My partner, Leah Murray, and I have had the good fortune from time to time to take educational trips to certain countries during the winter recess. We hope to do that this winter in Costa Rica and learn more first hand about that country.

As I was saying in questions and comments to my colleague, it seems that the more I have researched Costa Rica the more I have come to understand that it is really a beacon for democracy and has certainly been a pretty good example. There again, has it had and does it continue to have problems as an emerging nation in Central America? Of course, but by and large when we compare it to some of its neighbouring countries it has done a pretty good job of being the country that others around it can look to and model themselves after. I know it has welcomed hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguan refugees into the country because of the fallout of the civil war and other wars in that area. That in and of itself has posed some real problems for the Costa Rican nation, but in my understanding it is doing the best it can.

Just as a personal aside, one of the things I will do when I am there is visit with a cousin of mine who emigrated to Costa Rica quite a number of years ago and is operating his own business there. He is in a business whereby small local corporations contract with him to provide English language training for their staff. Why are they doing that? Obviously those business people can see the opportunities that are emerging in Costa Rica not only for themselves and in regard to the ability to make a profit, but also for the betterment of their employees and the people of that area. Certainly I will be interested to learn more about the businesses and companies that he is working so closely with.

As a final point, for those who are so opposed to free trade agreements and say that until everything is perfect we should not sign on to them, I only need to point to NAFTA. There were a lot of legitimate concerns expressed at the time, but look at what has happened to the country of Mexico. If we have this outpouring of concern for the less developed countries and want to help the people of those countries, I think we should look there. It is not a perfect system, but I think it is a lot better than the alternative, which is isolationism.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I noted with interest my colleague's comments about being a Reform member running alongside a Conservative and being pretty much onside with everything. I do not think there is any question about it. There will not be any argument there. New Democrats have long maintained that there really is not a whole lot of difference between the alliance-reform and the Conservatives. Quite frankly, we would also maintain there is not much difference between them and the governing party. That point is made.

He commented on the benefits of the trade agreements. I would agree that there certainly are benefits to trade agreements. He talked about the English language and people in Costa Rica learning the English language in order to be able to carry on trade. That is really important and there is no question about it, but what happens when we have what supposedly is called free trade with, say, the U.S. and because the U.S. lumber industry does not want its industry to suffer in the U.S. it imposes a 19% tariff on Canadian softwood lumber? Where is that great free trade with the United States?

That is the problem with these deals. They are not there to benefit both fairly. It is usually the big guy with the big stick who wins out.

I would like his comment on the 19% tariff that the U.S. has imposed on softwood lumber from Canada.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

I thank my hon. colleague from the NDP for her observations and questions. I will not get into a debate about the differences between the old Reform Party of Canada and the Progressive Conservatives because that would use up all available time, plus pointing out the differences we have had in the past. I think that on a number of issues we continue to differ even today, but the great thing about a coalition is that we are allowed to differ and I would commend that to her for consideration.

At any rate, as far as the softwood lumber agreement is concerned of course there are some problems and she quite correctly pointed out the problems, as I did during my remarks. The fact is that we do have this outstanding problem with the United States. Part of the problem is that we entered into a softwood lumber agreement in the first place instead of having true free trade. That is what the industry is fighting for and certainly what I am in favour of. That is why I hope that whatever comes of the present negotiations will move us closer to free trade, which is sort of the opposite to the hon. member's argument because the problem with it is that we have not had free trade in softwood lumber. We have had these agreements and when they expire the Americans impose duties, tariffs, countervail and whatever against our product. Hopefully in the very near future we can solve that problem.

I have to agree with the member that free trade agreements by definition do not mean that we have to be less vigilant all of a sudden. We still have to be vigilant in regard to the problems that develop from them. They are not perfect, just as anything in life is not perfect.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member commented on his election to represent Prince George--Peace River and the comments of the NDP. This morning the NDP took a run at the member for London--Fanshawe and actually turned his words around, which I guess must happen all the time in election campaigns. The NDP member indicated that the member for London--Fanshawe said something to the effect of littering up trade deals. In fact the member was quoting the EU ministers who were the ones who said that trade deals are best done not littered up by environmental and labour standards. He was quoting someone. I wonder whether the member could comment on the desperation of the NDP to score points by misconstruing members' words.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, far be it from me to defend the NDP on anything, but I would point out to my hon. colleague that it seems to me that all of us in the House, probably all members at different times, could be judged guilty of misconstruing comments or twisting words around.

I would point out in conclusion that obviously these agreements are not perfect. I agree with the government in that I do not think it is necessary that standards for environmental or labour rights to protect those things have to be included and integral to the agreement itself, as the NDP seems to be hanging its hat on. I think it is sufficient that it be written in good, solid language and that it is in the side agreement that those rights will be protected and will be considered part of the free trade agreement.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rick Casson Canadian Alliance Lethbridge, AB

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting time with my colleague, the member for Medicine Hat.

Besides being probably two of the best looking members of parliament, my colleague for Medicine Hat and I have something else in common. We are probably the sweetest because we have the only homegrown sugar industry in Canada. I preface my remarks with those comments.

I would like to get into some of the details of Bill C-32, the free trade agreement with Costa Rica. The main concern I and many of my colleagues on all sides of the House have with the bill is the sugar aspect. The bill follows the free trade agreement with Chile which was signed in 1997 and the North American free trade agreement inked in 1994.

Our party supports free trade as a means of maintaining a healthy economy by providing jobs for Canadians and improving the standard of living in Canada. We also believe that free trade is good for developing nations and provides stability in those nations as well.

One of the stated purposes of Bill C-32 is to promote regional integration through an instrument that contributes to the establishment of the free trade area of the Americas, known as the FTAA. It could be the first of several of these agreements with the other countries of South and Central America, and that is part of some of the concerns we have. I will get to that later.

We in the official opposition feel it is important to establish good trade relationships with these countries to encourage economic, social and democratic growth. Eighty per cent of what Costa Rica exports to Canada, goods such as fruits, vegetables, coffee and coal, already enters our country free of duty.

Canadian producers are looking to expand their markets for goods in Costa Rica. These are products such as french fries, metal structures, along with fish, paper products, auto parts, plastics, wood and agricultural goods. Many of these items currently face high tariffs when exported to Costa Rica, even though the populace has expressed an interest in them and the products are not economically produced within their own borders. The proposed trade deal would change all that. The proposed trade deal would benefit Costa Ricans by providing them with greater access to the products they cannot currently afford or manufacture on their own.

In the year 2000 Canada exported $86 million in total trade to Costa Rica. In that same year we imported $183 million worth of goods from that country. The bill would ensure that Costa Rica maintains an open access to all our markets while opening Costa Rica's door to Canadian producers and their high quality specialized products. The proposed trade deal would benefit both countries in that way.

The Canadian Alliance promotes free trade and, I want to emphasize this, the joint elimination of tariffs with our trading partners. We have seen in the past, particularly in our grain and oilseed sector, where tariffs and support were reduced in Canada when our trading partners did not reciprocate and this put our producers at a disadvantage. We do not want that to happen particularly in the sugar industry.

In this respect, our party has one particular and significant concern with the bill. If the Costa Rica free trade agreement, as described in Bill C-32, is used as a template for other FTAA negotiations, especially the CA-4 countries, we feel the Canadian sugar industry will suffer and suffer greatly. Canada already has one of the most open sugar markets in the world. Our import tariff on raw sugar stands at zero and our tariff on refined sugar is only 8%, one of the very lowest in the world.

Canadian sugar producers such as Lantic and Rogers provide almost enough refined sugar to meet the domestic needs of all Canadians. U.S. and Latin American tariffs on sugar range from 50% to 160%.

The Canadian domestic sugar industry employs over 2,000 Canadians. This includes the sugar beet industry and growers in my part of the world, in southern Alberta, and the refinery workers across the country.

One threat to Canadian domestic sugar producers comes from the four Central American countries, the CA-4 countries: Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras, because of their refining capacity and the subsidies they receive from their governments.

Twelve per cent of Canada's refined sugar is made from the sugar beets that are grown in my area. This is the only region left in Canada that grows sugar beets for refining in Canada. The rest comes largely from imported cane sugar which is refined and a small amount of refined sugar imported from abroad.

The three cane sugar refineries are located in Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto. They employ many Canadians and have been providing our country with the highest quality of refined sugar for years.

The jobs and economic impact of the current sugar market situation are not limited to beet growers and refinery workers however. Canada's low sugar prices have attracted substantial investment in Canada's food and beverage industry. These industries provide thousands of jobs at bakeries, biscuit manufacturers, dairies, fruit and vegetable canneries, confectionery manufacturers and so on.

By generating demand for goods and services, the sugar industry also indirectly supports a number of other economic sectors, including agriculture, natural resources, packaging, industrial machinery and transportation.

The industry has concerns with the sugar aspect of the deal with Costa Rica because of the precedent it would set for upcoming negotiations with other Central American countries. The industry has closed two plants in Canada since 1997 reflecting the competitiveness in the Canadian market and limiting export opportunities. The industry has been forced to be efficient and globally competitive, and it has done that. The industry has changed to meet the new competition in the world. The sugar market is very competitive. We have very little access to the U.S. market, our closest trading partner. I know my colleague will expand on that somewhat. However the industry has changed and shaped itself. I know the investment in the plant in southern Alberta has been in the tens of millions of dollars. The growers themselves have invested in new equipment and new methods. The industry is in tune and has made the changes necessary to stay competitive.

Import competition from Central America and other countries in the hemisphere has grown dramatically in recent years, even with Canada's small tariff. If new regional trade deals lead to the removal of Canada's refined sugar tariff in advance of WTO trade liberalization, the Canadian sugar industry may suffer. It may not even survive if we get out too far ahead of the rest of our trading partners.

Our members on the House of Commons trade committee, who saw that the issue could be a precedent setting trade deal with the other CA-4 countries, worked with people in the industry and people on the government side of the House. It is funny that when we are dealing with a trade agreement we cannot really make amendments. We either agree with trade or we disagree with it.

However we thought if we did not change the text of the trade deal itself, but put in the preamble that there is a concern and that this trade deal should not be used as a pattern for the other CA-4 countries, then that would put most of what we feared could happen to rest. Costa Rica itself does not have the capacity at the moment to greatly harm our industry but the other countries in Central America do. We have assurance from the chairman of the subcommittee on international trade and others that this will be added to the preamble. That will allow us to support the bill and we will.

We must remember that the whole idea of free trade is to benefit both parties. If we are going to ensure that a vital industry in Canada remains viable, then we need to keep that in mind when we open up the other trade deals in the rest of Central America.

I wanted to make that point. We support free trade. We support what it does and how it helps nations around the world. We wanted to make sure that our concern about the sugar aspect of this was brought forward, and it has been. We feel fairly comfortable, if it is followed through as indicated, that those concerns will be put to rest. We look forward to further debate.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Lethbridge for the great speech. He made a great case for why, while we support free trade, we do have some concerns about the pattern we see developing with respect to how we treat sugar when it comes to dealing with the CA-4 countries in upcoming trade negotiations.

I want to start out by talking about free trade more broadly and simply make the point that free trade does raise the standard of living for all people. It does provide better working conditions. It does ultimately lead to a cleaner environment. It leads to higher wages. Everybody benefits when we engage in free trade.

Canada is a trading nation. Forty-three per cent of our GDP comes from trade. Canada, better than most nations and perhaps better than just about any nation in the world, understands the benefits of free and unfettered trade. It leaves people better off and provides higher standards of living, all those sorts of things.

While my NDP friends talk on the one hand about their belief that trade is good, on the other hand what we always see from them is rhetoric suggesting that trade is a disaster. I have yet to see the NDP members support any kind of trade arrangement. I do not think they have ever supported one, and that is unfortunate because in the countries they are concerned about, Costa Rica in this case, trade arrangements will allow those people, who in some cases are very poor, to become much wealthier. It raises their standard of living.

Probably the best example recently is Mexico when we entered into the NAFTA agreement. Mexico has seen its middle class increase dramatically. After years of having very wealthy people and a very large group of poor people, Mexico is now starting to see its middle class develop.

We have seen that same process occur in other countries. One of the best examples is India where a couple of hundred million people have now become part of the middle class. This has happened in many other countries around the world. Free trade is a very good thing.

The NDP member for Churchill who spoke earlier suggested that sometimes trade can be compared to hockey where all the talented players are on one side and the players who are not so good are on the other. She suggested that sometimes a big country will dominate a little country like a big team will dominate a little team in hockey. As I pointed out to her, the difference is that in hockey when one team wins the other team loses and the team that wins takes the two points and goes on to the next game. In trade both sides come out ahead because it is a voluntary exchange. The analogy I used was that if someone produces a hammer and sells it for $10, the person who buys it is happy because he or she gets a hammer and can use it for something useful. The person who gets the $10 for the hammer is happy because he or she can use it for whatever. In essence, that is what trade is all about. Both sides come out ahead.

The member for Churchill offered some examples that are simply not the case. She wanted to know what would happen if some got 20 cents for it. I would say that the person is probably happy to get 20 cents if he or she were only getting 10 cents for whatever they produced before. People enter into these things voluntarily. They enter into them because it leaves them better off. Surely the member for Churchill wants to see people better off.

I want to talk specifically about Bill C-32, the Costa Rica free trade legislation.

As my friend said at the outset, we believe in this but we do have concerns about the sugar component. Why? Is it because we do not believe in free trade? We do believe in free trade, but the problem is that Canada is being opened up to the import of sugar from all kinds of countries, not necessarily through Bill C-32, because Costa Rica at this point does not have the capacity to send us refined sugar, but we are concerned that it might be a template for what will happen when we enter into negotiations with the CA-4 countries, like Guatemala, which have a big capacity to export refined sugar.

The concern is not that we would have that sugar coming here but that we also have access to the U.S. market. The U.S. is Canada's natural export market, but in the last number of years Canada's ability to export sugar has declined.

We produce sugar in this country. A lot of people do not appreciate that. There is a sugar beet industry in my riding and in the riding of my friend from Lethbridge. It produces a lot of very good sugar. Our sugar producers can compete with anyone in the United States which also produces a lot of beet sugar. We can compete with any of them. We have an excellent facility in Taber, Alberta, that has just been upgraded. Several million dollars have been put into it. We can compete.

The problem is that the Americans are protectionist on sugar and our government has not been able to crack that open. Not only has it been unable to crack open the American market, the amount of sugar we export to the U.S. market has shrunk from 55,000 tonnes a few years ago to 15,000 tonnes today.

In the end it is the decision of Americans. However the government has not done a good job of looking after the interests of our sugar producers. It has not made it a priority. The reason it has not done so is that it is a relatively small industry compared to, for instance, the supply management industries.

The government gets heat constantly from the United States and other countries about supply management. Instead of threatening a big industry like supply management our government trades off sugar. It does it over and over again. In the free trade deal there is no question that sugar was traded off.

The Americans are happy to protect it. They like protecting it because a number of senators and congressmen have the industry in their areas and want to protect it for political reasons. We have not pushed them too hard on the issue. However it is time for the government to find a spine and push the Americans hard.

I am glad to stand by the Americans at any time. We will certainly stand by them during their time of need. However today we are talking about free trade. The Americans are protectionist on this and other issues. Softwood lumber is another example. We could go through the list. It is time the government started to push them.

The government thinks sugar is a small industry and no big deal but it is a critical industry to the people involved in it. It is not important in terms of overall GDP but to the people involved it is their livelihoods. It is very important to them.

I urge the government to make cracking open the American market more of a priority. It should at least raise the quota back to the 55,000 tonnes we used to have. That is still not a lot, frankly. It was not a big amount of sugar to export relative to what we produced but it was three times better than what we export today. It is critical that the government take that into account when it sits with the Americans the next time because this is unacceptable.

In my riding and across the prairies it is a difficult time in agriculture. People know that. Sugar beets provide a real option for a lot of people. They provide a good livelihood not just for producers but for all the people who work at the facility in my riding.

If we cannot appeal to the government to make it a priority on the grounds that the sugar industry is important, we appeal to it on the grounds that farmers need options at a time when wheat prices are low and they do not have many options.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be able to respond since my colleague referred to an analogy I made. In the point I was trying to make I referred to your son and the Montreal Canadiens in the same breath. It was in a good light, Mr. Speaker. I said that even in hockey we have rules. We have rules so that one guy or team is not so big and powerful that they have all the power in one area to the detriment of the other. That is the point I was trying to make.

That being said, I want to comment on how well Mexico is doing and re-emphasize that New Democrats are not in the least opposed to trade. We need trade for strong economies on both sides. Whatever countries are involved in the trading process it should be beneficial.

I will tell my hon. colleague a story. I was visiting Arizona a few years back and watching an American program. This is important because it deals with the issue of trade. On the program there was a representative of American companies that were doing business near Guadalajara, Mexico. The story talked about 200 dead women were disappering found in the desert.

Women were disappering going to and from their workplace. They were as young as 12 or 13 years old. Some 200 bodies were found over the course of a few years. People were imploring the companies to put some kind of system in place to bus the women to and from their residences and the workplace. These companies made a fortune selling their products in Canada and the U.S. yet their representative said they had to have flexibility and be able to make a profit. He asked why they should have to put in a busing system.

They found the bodies of 200 Mexican women. Is that right? Is that a fair deal for everyone? Is that what the member's idea of free trade is all about?

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is indeed a tragedy; it truly is. No one likes to hear a story like that one. The question is: Where would the women go if the factories were not there? What would they do to support themselves? That is a legitimate question.

Does the hon. member have an answer to that? Where would they work if the factories were not there? How would they support themselves? How would they feed their families? That is my question to the hon. member.

Can the hon. member get up and tell us what trade deal the NDP has ever supported in the House? The hon. member claims she supports trade. What trade deal has the NDP ever supported in this place?

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

NDP

Bev Desjarlais NDP Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is the kind of good debate we need to have in the House. I will answer the question. Whenever we think the right or the opportunity to go to work is a licence to kill, something is seriously wrong. That is the problem. Yes, by all means they should have a job to go to. However with all due respect people said the same thing about the miners at Westray. They said if they had not had the mine to work in they would have had nothing.

Do we accept unsafe work conditions? Do we accept child labour? Do we accept death on the way home because we cannot put in safe social systems and safe transportation? Is that okay? No, it is not. That is where we differ. Yes, they should have the right to go to work. However they have a right to other things as well such as human rights, labour rights and environmental rights. That is where we differ. When the hon. member comes up with a trade agreement that has those things he will have the support of the NDP.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Haliburton—Victoria—Brock Ontario

Liberal

John O'Reilly LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to talk about the Montreal Canadiens. They are a great team. If one cheers for them or knows some who plays for them that is great.

I want to bring the attention of the hon. member for Medicine Hat back to the concern I have about Alberta's sugar production. The member has mixed up the U.S. free trade agreement with what we are discussing. This agreement is about Costa Rica and Canada.

Costa Rica would incur the same costs trying to export to the prairies or western Canada that western Canada would incur trying to export to Costa Rica, so there is some balance there.

I wanted to know a little more. Costa Rica has no refineries or beet sugar production whereas Alberta does, at least in the riding of the member for Medicine Hat. What are the member's fears? Could he expound on them a little? I am unclear on exactly what his fears and his farmers' fears are.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Canadian Alliance Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know what to say except that it is pretty unrealistic to think Alberta would start sending sugar to Costa Rica which is in Central America and is surrounded by all kinds of countries that produce tremendous amounts of sugar.

We do not oppose the idea of free trade but in a world of complete free trade everyone would obviously find their natural market. Our natural market for sugar is not Costa Rica but we would have a natural market in the United States.

That is the problem with bilateral deals. If we had rules based trade through the WTO things would find their natural level. Canada would trade with the U.S., which is obviously the right way to do things. It makes so much sense. It is the largest market in the world. The $11 trillion U.S. market is right below our border. We should be trading with the U.S.

The problem with the bilateral deal is that it would give us some new free trade on the one hand but entrench a bunch of distortions on the other hand. It would make more permanent some of the problems that already exist between Canada and the U.S. It would give the government an excuse not to deal with an issue that really and truly affects the sugar producers in my region.

Canada—Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Bloc Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-32, the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement implementation act, must be examined in the context of the debate that has already taken place regarding the current process for negotiating a free trade area of the Americas and in the context where clearly we are in the midst of a globalization process. I believe that the exchange we just witnessed between the NDP member and the Canadian Alliance member demonstrates this fact.

Currently it is clear that the Canadian government's strategy consists of multiplying bilateral agreements to speed up the process of economic integration with the continent and with the world.

We already have a free trade agreement with the United States and Mexico, NAFTA. We have a free trade agreement with Israel, and another one with Chile. This weekend the Prime Minister announced that there would be negotiations for an agreement with Singapore. We also know that the government is interested in negotiating a free trade agreement with four Central American countries: Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade recommended that the government enter into negotiations with the European Union to establish a free trade agreement.

This then is the context in which we must look at the bill before us, regardless of whether we are friends with Costa Rica or not. I think it is clear that the people of Canada, like those of Quebec, are friends of the Costa Ricans. This is not the issue. The issue is what is we are getting in the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement.

I think the position of the Bloc Quebecois on free trade, like that of most Quebecers, is well known. We support it. We think it is an excellent idea because it encourages countries, by opening their borders, to specialize according to the advantages they enjoy such as natural resources, human resources or capital. This increases the general productivity of our economies. What I mean by productivity is not working intensely, but more effectively, more intelligently. All of this generates additional wealth, which can then be shared, and the problem often lies here, in the equitable distribution of the resultant wealth.

We must face the fact. The world has never been as rich as it is now. At no other time in recorded history has the world been as rich. At the same time, we must acknowledge that globalization and free trade agreements have not reduced the gap between the rich and the poor. Quite the contrary, they have widened it. A certain set of qualifications and a certain mobility are needed to benefit from globalization, free trade and specialization. Unskilled workers, as this is all the more apparent in industrialized economies, are unemployed and underemployed, in unacceptable working conditions and living in poverty.

The same can be said for regions. If free trade is not guided by a number of rules about the creation of this wealth across the continent or worldwide, inequalities among regions and among various classes of people within countries will grow. Accordingly, all aspects of our life must be taken into consideration, not just the economic issues more directly linked by trade agreements, but also the various social, environmental, cultural and democratic aspects. If they are not considered we may end up, under the guise of improving economic activity, creating inequalities, eradicating cultures and violating democratic rights.

Returning to the hockey analogy, although I unfortunately missed the beginning of it, I again congratulate you, Mr. Speaker, on your son's choice.

At this time, the professional teams and leagues have systems to try to level out disparities. If the top team had its choice of players during the selection process, not only would their team keep getting better but the one in the cellar would stay there. Professional hockey leagues have therefore come up with a plan to share player talent around more fairly by letting the bottom team in the rankings have first choice.

This of the same sort of philosophical approach we would like to see used by the Government of Canada in the free trade agreements, particularly in negotiations for the FTAA, as well as in the upcoming WTO negotiations.

Unfortunately there was nothing on this in the Canada-Costa Rica agreement. The Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement is a first generation agreement, as is NAFTA, as are those with Chile and Israel. It does not take the social, democratic and environmental dimensions into consideration.

The only new reference I was able to find in this agreement is one to the WTO declaration of 1998 on fundamental rights. This reference, however, has no mechanism for application.

We must take into account these economic, social and environmental concerns. Quebecers and Canadians should have been consulted in a meaningful manner, but this was not done. All that was put at their disposal was a website where they could make comments. Some groups did receive 18 months ago a letter from the Minister for International Trade inviting them to express their views. However, no systematic consultation process was set up. At no time were parliamentarians involved in the process. Now the government is coming up with an agreement that is presented to us as a fait accompli, expecting us to blindly pass the implementing act. We will not.

I hope that the federal government will realize that it can never again put parliamentarians, Canadians and Quebecers before a fait accompli.

In this case and in future ones, if there is no true consultation process that includes parliamentarians, civil society and all Canadians and Quebecers, we will vote against these free trade agreements out of respect for our democracy.

The first fundamental flaw of the whole process leading to this agreement is that it was not transparent. Negotiations were not conducted following a monitoring of the whole process by parliamentarians.

The second element which in our opinion is a serious mistake in the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement is the investment clause.

In its documentation, the Minister for International Trade tells us that nothing is changed in terms of investment and services. I realize that nothing has changed regarding investment and services. An agreement had already been negotiated in 1998 between the Government of Costa Rica and the government of Canada for the promotion and protection of investments.

In the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement, reference is made to this previous agreement. Under the provision on investment, article VIII.2 reads, and I quote:

The Parties note the existence of the Agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Costa Rica for the Promotion and Protection of Investments, signed in San José, Costa Rica, on March 18, 1998.

When we take a look at the 1998 agreement, what do we see? We see that the provisions of NAFTA's chapter 11, which we condemned here and the Minister for International Trade said he wanted to change, are all there.

I would remind the House that in the debate we led and are continuing to lead for the negotiation of the free trade area of the Americas, we do not want to see investment protection provisions similar to those in chapter 11 of NAFTA, which give multinationals and private corporations too many rights over governments, states and the democratic will of peoples.

There were many problems with chapter 11, but I will mention just four: the definition of investments, which is far too broad; national treatment, which means that we cannot have a specific policy to further the economic development of a particular sector; the concept of expropriation, which is far too broad; and finally, the dispute settlement mechanism, which allows a company to go directly to an arbitration tribunal to challenge a government decision or policy. The agreement between the government of the Republic of Costa Rica and the Government of Canada contains these same provisions to promote and protect investments.

I will take the example of investments. The agreement reads as follows:

(g ) “investment” means any kind of asset owned or controlled either directly, or indirectly through an enterprise or natural person of a third State, by an investor of one Contracting Party in the territory of the other Contracting Party in accordance with the latter's laws and, in particular, though not exclusively, includes:

(i) movable and immovable property and any related property rights, such as mortgages, liens--;

(ii) shares, stock, bonds and debentures--;

(iii) money, claims to money--;

The list goes on.

The definition of investment is far too broad in the Canada-Costa Rica agreement, and it is inspired by the NAFTA definition.

Now as for the national treatment provisions, there is exactly the same clause as in chapter 11 and for expropriation exactly the same type of definition. I will quote from article VIII:

  1. Investments of investors of either Contracting Party shall not be nationalized, expropriated or subjected to measures having an effect equivalent to nationalization or expropriation--

This is rather broad. Finally, as far as dispute settlement is concerned, I will quote from article XII:

  1. If a dispute has not been settled amicably within a period of six months from the date on which it was initiated, it may be submitted by the investor to arbitration in accordance with paragraph (4).

Chapter 11 is found indirectly within the Canada-Costa Rica free trade agreement and runs contrary to the commitments made by the Minister for International Trade when he stated that he did not want to see any equivalent of chapter 11 in the treaty on the free trade area of the Americas.

The final element that makes this agreement with Costa Rica unacceptable is the matter of sugar, as has been stated already.

In this case, there has been a unilateral liberalization of the sugar market on the part of the Canadian government without anything corresponding being done on the other side by Costa Rica or any of the other Central American governments that will follow later. There is no way I will be convinced that in agreements with Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras or El Salvador we will have what is not in the free trade agreement with Costa Rica.

In the case of Costa Rica under the agreement, the doors are now open to selling in Canada, with no applicable tariff, over 20,000 tonnes of refined sugar starting in 2003, and the volume involved will have no limits starting in 2009.

Canada is one of the countries, if not the country, that is most open to sugar imports. There is no tariff on raw sugar and there is a $30.84 tariff on refined sugar, which is the equivalent of 8%. Our price for sugar is one of the lowest in the world, whereas the U.S. and the European Union have many protectionist measures that resultsn distorted prices on the world level.

In Central American countries such as Guatemala, the tariffs on refined sugar may be as high as 160%. We are opening up our market while there are no market opportunities for Canada in these economies. The previous speaker mentioned this and I agree with him.

The United States is the obvious market for our refined sugar industries, but there is so much protectionism that even though they consume ten times more sugar than Canada they import less.

The four countries of Central America that I mentioned produce 2.8 million tonnes of raw sugar, of which 1.6 million tonnes, half, is exported. Three hundred thousand tonnes of that is refined sugar. In total Canada consumes approximately 1.2 million tonnes.

Guatemala, for example, currently produces and exports 1.1 million tonnes of sugar per year or the equivalent of our annual consumption. In 2000, Canada imported 273,000 tonnes of raw sugar from Central America, compared to our exports of 110,000 tonnes, under the quota, to the United States, a country that consumes ten times more sugar than we do, as I mentioned earlier.

Our industry is competitive, but in a market where there is no price distortion. On the world market and in the United States and Europe, where protectionist measures are in place, such distortion exists. I refuse to believe that there will be a market for Canadian refined sugar in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Why? Because of the rule of origin.

We would have to import raw sugar from Central American countries and refine it in Canada in order to sell it back to these countries. The transportation costs alone explain why it would be difficult to sell this sugar, notwithstanding the fact that they produce raw sugar themselves,and could develop their own refining capability.

In Montreal, 345 jobs are being threatened. This may not seem like a lot to the Minister for International Trade, but in the Montreal area, particularly in these troubled economic times, these are jobs we want to keep.

Why were the opinions of industry, the unions and opposition parties not taken into consideration on this issue, if “it is not true”, as the Minister for International Trade said?

I personally presented an amendment to the Sub-Committee on International Trade, Trade Disputes and Investment to make sure that this provision would not be included in the future. It is true that in the current context Costa Rica is not a threat, but Guatemala is.

I presented an amendment to make sure that in future free trade agreements with Central American countries we would not have the provision that is included in this one. That amendment was rejected by the Liberals. Now they would have us believe that they care about the 345 workers at Montreal's Lantic Sugar. Come on.

I think this provision should have been left out of the agreement. We must negotiate the liberalization of the sugar market. My proposal to the Minister for International Trade is to put this item on the agenda at the negotiations on the free trade area of the Americas and also at the WTO. We want the liberalization of sugar at least at the continental level, if not at the world level, so that Canadian and Quebec businesses that are competitive can compete in a fair market in terms of the practices used.

Because of these three elements, namely the lack of transparency during the negotiations, the fact that chapter 11 is indirectly included through the agreement for the promotion and protection of investments, and the fact that Canada's refined sugar industry is put in jeopardy, the Bloc Quebecois will vote against Bill C-32.