Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-50, a bill that would allow Canada to adapt its regulations and laws to accommodate the accession of the People's Republic of China to the WTO.
I always listen to the arguments of the hon. members because they make me think and then I add a lot of comments to my notes. I always end up with a mess on my page because I have so many notes.
Certainly whenever I hear somebody say, and I have heard this often today, that this is a housekeeping bill, I wonder if it is a housekeeping bill. In this case it is not a housekeeping bill. The bill amends many acts of our Canadian legislature. It would do a lot to provide protection for Canadian industry and would eventually affect human rights in China and probably in other countries. The bill, if passed, will have a major impact on many of us.
It is rather ironic that we are talking about the accession of China to the WTO when, as we speak, the deputy minister for international trade is in Washington with six officials from six provinces to discuss softwood lumber issues which have come to an impasse.
When the negotiators wrote the NAFTA agreement and made all the arrangements that would give us free trade with the United States, I wonder if they predicted that the domestic laws in the U.S. would throw up so many hurdles to our trade in Canada.
I come back to this being a housekeeping bill. I am wondering what things we are missing and what the impact will be from this in three, four, five or even ten years and from the things we overlooked, the things we thought we had.
Certainly with the United States we thought we had free trade, but because of the domestic laws and the tools available to the U.S. industry and the reluctance of the U.S. government to take a leadership role and get a handle on this, it is now trying to rule what we in Canada do in our forestry industry.
All these trade bills and agreements have far reaching impacts and are not just housekeeping bills. When we are talking about dealing with a country that has 40 times the population of Canada, it is hard to imagine the imbalance of trade. We all know how difficult it is and all the problems we have with our trading partner, the U.S., and it only has 10 times our population. China has 40 times our population and there will probably be 40 times the problems as this trade agreement proceeds.
As the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas said, there are human rights aspects to this agreement. I am sorry he is not here to hear this part of the discussion because he and I were on a human rights mission in Colombia last week. Colombia's huge problem is the drug trade. Part of the problem with the drug trade is that there are no options for the farmers in the jungles and fields where they have their cocaine. If it had more trade and a more advanced economy the people would have more options to get out of the drug trade, which would have a big impact on that country.
One of the big issues at that time, which was presented to the hon. member for Burnaby--Douglas, myself and other members of the committee, was that the country needed new opportunities for trade and new opportunities for the economies to grow. Trade agreements such as this are the way to do that. They are not perfect. We cannot just snap our fingers and suddenly impose human rights issues to meet our human rights approaches to change in either Colombia, China or anywhere else. The only way we influence these societies is if we do trade and communicate with them and make their citizens aware of the options to a way of life.
I often think of the Middle East and the fact that the people in some of the countries that have a repressed society are now seeing the optional standards of living that are offered by other countries around the world. That is creating stresses and strains in those countries which has resulted in a lot of the conflicts and differences we have unfortunately experienced.
Bill C-50 would change our rules to accommodate the accession of China to the WTO. It is an interesting process that has been going on since 1986. An agreement has been reached for China to enter the WTO. The agreement will help our agricultural industries and manufacturers to access this market, which is a closed market, to a great extent. These rules will help us to enter their markets, which again is 40 times larger than our market, while at the same time provides some protection for our own industries which feel threatened by this trade arrangement, as evidenced by many of the presentations made to our committee.
The textile industry is concerned that China could actually have 100% market share, whereas now the market share is divided among perhaps 20 countries. However certain specific items that were brought to the committee's attention could eventually be totally supplied by China.
It is interesting to see how these agreements evolve and the things that are involved with them. For instance, China had to change a lot of things to become a member of the WTO. One of the things required of China was transparency. All its trade related laws and regulations had to be published and available to the other WTO partners prior to their implementation so that the other countries and other members of the WTO could influence those changes. I am sure this is a whole new ball game for China and a healthy and positive step.
Domestic and foreign companies that are affected by trade related, judicial and administrative decisions can now request formal reviews. This is a new opening for China and will create public awareness by the business communities in China and Canada about the different cultures and standards.
Product standards and related procedures are to be imported and brought into line with international practice. That makes sense. It will bring costs down for consumers, make products more competitive and allow us to enter China's market and China to enter ours. Canadian companies that are competitive will be able to compete.
The requirements previously imposed on foreign investors will be eliminated. Canadian investors, for the very first time, will be able to invest in a more open market and in different aspects of the Chinese economy. That will establish lines of communications and connections between our two societies, two philosophies and two cultures. It also has to be a positive move with respect to human rights and standards of society.
China will be required to meet these requirements and abide by them, although in some cases I note that the American congressional study identified certain areas where China has not been very consistent and that its track record for following through on agreements has not been very good. We will have to follow up on that to ensure that they do, as will, I am sure, the WTO.
As Canada's fourth largest trading partner and having 40 times our population, having access to China's market has to be a positive move for the Canadian economy . Canada's duties and tariffs have not changed for China. The committee was comfortable with some of the witnesses' concerns. Some of the increases in imports that are expected by some of the industries will not occur because of the lack of change in imports and duties. However, we will be following up on the red flags that have been raised.
Growth sectors for Canada include cultural industries, environmental technologies, financial services, specialized machinery, auto parts and plastic goods. That is a wide array of products and opportunities for Canada to a market with a population 40 times larger than Canada's population.
Safeguards have been put in place. I hope the government has done a satisfactory job in making sure the regulations and safeguards are bulletproof because we are finding out that where we thought we were safe and protected in other trade agreements, we were not. The best example right now is with the United States which is trying to impose its forestry practices on Canada. As a result, thousands of Canadians in the forestry industry are out of work. Once again, we thought we had free trade with the United States but we do not.
Another positive aspect is that China will be forced to upgrade its economy to international standards and eliminate unaccepted practices that have gone on for many years, which would not be acceptable in most other societies or cultures.
We are optimistic that by creating public awareness and opening lines of communication, we will be able to influence the standards of human rights and democracy as a part of the trade issue. Human rights and democracy cannot be separated. They are tied together. Perhaps some would rather not have them tied together, but they are.
I noted earlier that the Chinese track record for abiding by agreements and trade negotiations is not stable. A U.S. congressional committee recently stated that China has broken every agreement made with the U.S. in the last 10 years.
The process for invoking safeguards provided by the bill is convoluted and lengthy. Again in context with the softwood lumber, the Canadian softwood lumber industry has no protection. The safeguards we thought were there are not because the domestic laws and avenues available to the U.S. industry have created havoc in Canada over the softwood lumber issue.
It has been suggested that privatization in China has already driven up unemployment. When this happens there can be a backlash. It could end up in civil demonstrations or even worse. Any time an economy changes dramatically, as we learned from the Russian experience, it must be done slowly and incrementally. Countries like Canada, the United States and other major economies must help these countries adjust from their current processes to a market based economy.
We support the bill in principle. We certainly support having China join the WTO. We are skeptical about some the aspects of the bill simply because we have been surprised before and are paying a huge price for it. We hope it will induce further communication between our two societies and raise awareness in the citizens of China of optional lifestyles. Hopefully it will lead to improvements in both of our economies and in democracy and human rights in China.