Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak on behalf of my New Democratic Party colleagues on Bill C-50, the bill which would amend a number of Canadian statutes as a direct result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the WTO agreement. Largely Bill C-50 is a housekeeping bill in that it seeks to amend the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, the Customs Tariff, the Export and Import Permits Act and the Special Import Measures Act, with the fundamental objective of protecting Canadian industries from being overwhelmed by new Chinese imports resulting from China's accession to the WTO.
These amendments are specific only to Canada's trade with China and they do not impact on trade with any other countries. I would point out as well that effectively as of December 11, 2001, the PRC formally acceded to the WTO after some 15 years of negotiations with member states. This legislation obviously does not in any way impact on the accession of China to the WTO. What it does is propose a number of changes to Canadian laws to deal with the reality that China is now a member of the WTO, and one of the most substantial members of the WTO. It is a country of 1.3 billion people, it has the world's seventh largest economy and it is the ninth largest exporter. It is clearly a very significant player.
There is no doubt that Canadian exporters are keen to gain increased access to this huge market, but a number of other Canadian industries are afraid that they may drown in the anticipated surge of Chinese imports. Member states, including Canada, conducted bilateral negotiations with China to determine the terms of trade which will come into effect with China's accession in an attempt to deal with a number of these concerns before China formally became a member of the WTO.
That is what this legislation is all about. It is in response to those bilateral negotiations between Canada and China as a result of China's accession to the WTO. Effectively it provides for the protection of Canadian industries during a transition period of some 12 years through the application of safeguard procedures. What are these safeguard procedures? They include such aspects as border restrictions on Chinese imports that cause or threaten to cause market disruption to Canadian industries. Essentially, if China and Canada cannot come to an agreement in cases where Chinese imports are threatening Canadian producers, Canada would be able to impose limits on Chinese imports in those sectors during this 12 year window.
As well Bill C-50 would allow Canada flexibility in conducting anti-dumping investigations in China in cases where Chinese marketplaces are dictated by the Chinese government rather than by market forces. Under the rules of the WTO, if a nation sells its products in another country at a price which is effectively lower than the cost of production or at a price which is lower than the market price for the product in the producing country, that is what is called dumping of that product in foreign markets, including Canada. If a WTO tribunal agrees that dumping is occurring, it allows the injured country to impose a countervail, tariffs in effect, to offset the artificially low price of the imported product.
What is the impact of this legislation? First, we have to be clear that it will affect only the People's Republic of China, which by the way excludes Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. It only affects the bilateral relationship between the People's Republic of China and Canada. For some time the Chinese government has been anxious to join the WTO so it can increase its export potential. However, there is no doubt that the terms of China's accession will permit a significant amount of agricultural products to enter China, including those from Canada, which presents a real threat to Chinese agricultural industries and particularly to rural Chinese communities. There is a real concern about what the impact of this might be on those rural communities.
Poverty in China is already a huge concern, particularly in rural areas. President Jiang Zemin acknowledged earlier this month, on February 5, that some 30 million Chinese live in absolute poverty. However, the Asian Development Bank just last week claimed that the Chinese government has unofficially admitted that an additional 60 million Chinese live in what it calls “vulnerable poverty”. Furthermore, under Chinese law migration from impoverished rural areas to the wealthier urban centres is strictly regulated. They cannot move. This accession to the WTO could have a very serious impact on poor people in rural communities in China.
Another area in which serious concern has been expressed with respect to the impact on China is the Chinese automotive industry. Reduced tariffs under the WTO agreement will mean that exports will very quickly flood the Chinese market. This again could mean a tremendous strain on Chinese workers. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions has reported that 10 million Chinese auto workers are forecast to lose their jobs as a result of China's entry to the WTO.
That is just an overview of the impact and the purpose of the legislation, but I want to take a few minutes on behalf of my colleagues in the New Democrat caucus to raise some fundamental concerns, not only about the legislation but, more important, about the WTO itself and its agenda.
First, with respect to this legislation and China, I would note that China has an absolutely appalling human rights record. Whether one reads the reports of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Asia Watch, the United States state department reports or, indeed, those of a number of respected Canadian NGOs, it is clear that in a whole range of areas the Chinese record on human rights is deeply disturbing. Just recently there have been new allegations of severe crackdowns on Falun Gong practitioners, with arrests and brutal treatment of Falun Gong practitioners as well as other religious leaders. Certainly that is something that I think all in parliament must be concerned about.
At the same time there are ongoing concerns about Tibet and the repression of religious freedom and the right to self-determination of the people of Tibet. I would note that in this accession process the Tibetan people effectively have been excluded. As the Canada Tibet Committee has noted recently, the Tibetan people have been excluded, have been shut out from the accession negotiation process. There is a real concern that under the Chinese accession to the WTO, Beijing authorities will use increased western investment as a two edged sword, first to consolidate their grip on the disputed territory in Tibet, and second, to exploit Tibet's natural resources.
At the same time concerns have been raised about CIDA's role in Tibet and its so-called poverty relief project that excluded input from the Tibetan government in exile and ignored recommendations submitted by the Canada Tibet Committee. There are real concerns here that have been ignored in the context of this trade relationship. I think we have to take the opportunity of this debate on China's accession to the WTO to put these concerns on the record.
With respect to the issue of workers' rights, this is an area in which China is perhaps one of the weakest countries in the world. China has shown total contempt for the rights of working people. In fact, in its accession to the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights, China filed an explicit exemption or reservation under article 8.1(a) of the convention. Article 8.1(a) is the article of the covenant whereby states party to the covenant undertake to ensure the right of everyone to form trades unions and to join the trade union of his or her choice. What did the Chinese government have to say about this? It filed a reservation which states:
The application of Article 8.1 (a) of the Covenant to the People's Republic of China shall be consistent with the relevant provisions of the Constitution of the People's Republic of China, Trade Union Law of the People's Republic of China and Labor Law of the People's Republic of China;--
In other words, collective bargaining rights, the most basic and fundamental collective bargaining rights for working men and women in China, are completely denied. That has to be a concern when we speak of the accession of China to the WTO because, as we know, the WTO completely ignores the rights of working people.
It is interesting to talk about trade in the context of the WTO. I was present at Doha in Qatar in November of last year when the new round was negotiated, along with my colleague from Charlevoix and the minister, the parliamentary secretary and others. I think it should be very clear what happened in the context of that negotiation of a new round. Some of the most fundamental issues that the poorest countries, the least developed countries, were seeking to have addressed were ignored in that process, which was fundamentally undemocratic. There have been a number of excellent articles written about what took place there, the kinds of threats, the kind of bullying and intimidation, the kinds of inducements given to countries to ultimately force them into agreeing to a consensus for a new round.
It was our position as New Democrats, and the position of many of the NGOs who were present there, that before we launch a new round of the WTO we should be addressing some of the very serious outstanding issues, issues of existing implementation of commitments.
The poorest countries in the world, the least developed countries in the world, still too often are denied any meaningful access to markets in the north for their textiles and their agricultural products. Surely we should recognize that those products of the poorest countries must have an opportunity to be sold in our markets and the markets of the north without duties, without tariffs, in order to enable the desperately poor people of those countries to improve their standard of living. That was the promise that was made at the time the Uruguay round was concluded, but that promise has not been kept. What we have seen is a growing gap between the rich and the poor, and I say that this is the case both in Canada and globally.
There were other serious concerns as well. I have met with farmers, campesinos, in Brazil, Mexico, Colombia and elsewhere who have talked about how poor farmers have been driven off the land and have lost their livelihoods because of having to compete with heavily subsidized agricultural products from the United States. Clearly that is not acceptable and yet that is part of the WTO agenda. Similarly, the WTO is now launching a new round in some areas, which will be very destructive to least developed countries and to poor people throughout the planet. It wants to launch a new round on issues such as investment and competition.
What does that mean? Does it mean that we will see, within the context of the WTO, the kind of protection of corporate rights that we have seen within NAFTA under the investor state provision, chapter 11 of NAFTA? What it means is that the MAI, the multilateral agreement on investment, which was defeated a couple of years ago, is now coming back under another guise, the guise of negotiating so-called investment rules. We vigorously oppose those negotiations.
At the same time, there is pressure under the existing GATS agreement, the general agreement on trade in services, to go even further down the road of privatizing fundamental public services: health care, education and other public services. Once again, that part of the WTO agenda is something that we want nothing whatsoever to do with.
The WTO is very good at protecting corporate rights, very good at protecting the rights of multinational corporations, but why is it that while it can protect intellectual property and patents, it cannot protect and it seems it does not want to protect the most fundamental and basic human rights, the most fundamental and basic rights of workers, the eight core labour standards as recognized by the International Labour Organization? Why is it that the WTO cannot protect the most basic international environmental rights as well, the rights as set out in a whole range of multilateral environmental agreements?
In Doha each of those issues was raised: human rights, workers' rights and the rights of people to have a clean and healthy environment. In each case they were shot down by the WTO under that agenda. Yes, there was some very modest progress around one of the most egregious breaches of the rights of working people, of poor people throughout the planet, particularly in Africa, Brazil and Asia, and that was on the issue of putting public health before the profits of multinational pharmaceutical companies under the so-called TRIPS agreement. There was a statement and it was a political statement. There was no amendment to the TRIPS agreement, but there was a political statement out of Doha saying that public health has to come first.
We welcome that, but unfortunately it does not go nearly far enough. It does not make it clear that those countries that have no manufacturing capacity whatsoever to manufacture affordable generic drugs should be able to import those drugs from other countries that can manufacture them.
I am calling today on the Government of Canada to make it very clear that we support unreservedly the right of those countries in a position to manufacture cheap, affordable pharmaceutical drugs, drugs that can deal with the epidemics of HIV-AIDS and tuberculosis and other epidemics, to make those drugs available to countries that have no manufacturing capacity. Surely the right of their citizens to have access to affordable drugs to fight these epidemics has to come before the right to profit of these multinational companies. That is still not clear in the context of the WTO.
For that reason as well we want to say that the accession to the WTO of China, while it is an important step in terms of including 1.3 billion people, still does not deal with the fundamental concerns about this undemocratic agenda of the World Trade Organization itself.
I want to say a word about Taiwan as well. I recently had the opportunity to participate in a forum of Asia-Pacific countries, some 24 or 25 countries of the Asia-Pacific region. During the course of that forum, a statement was made congratulating the People's Republic of China on its accession to the WTO. At the same time, when I attempted to include in that declaration from the Asia-Pacific forum a statement also congratulating Taiwan on its accession to the WTO, it was denied. The opportunity was denied by the People's Republic of China. This kind of heavy-handed thuggery by the People's Republic of China in terms of its relationship with Taiwan surely must be rejected, not only by parliament but by the Government of Canada as well. It is time we recognized that democracy is alive and well in Taiwan.
I had the opportunity and the great privilege of being able to participate as an observer in the recent December elections in Taiwan. It is a fiction to suggest that the People's Republic of China in any meaningful way represents the people of Taiwan. It is time that our government recognized that. It is time that our government recognized that the independent sovereign nation of Taiwan must be represented fully within international fora. I want to take this opportunity today, in the context of the debate on accession by China to the WTO, to call on our government to speak out much more vigorously to recognize the important role that Taiwan can and should be playing internationally in organizations such as the World Health Organization, the United Nations and other international fora as well. It is time that Canada ended its shameful acquiescence to the People's Republic of China in terms of its relationship with Taiwan. I hope that day will come sooner rather than later.
In closing, once again I want to say that because of our deep concerns about the undemocratic agenda of the WTO, because of the failure of the WTO to respect the rights of workers, to respect fundamental human rights and to ensure that the multilateral environmental agreements take precedence over the corporate rights of multinational companies, for all of those reasons, my colleagues in the New Democratic Party and I are opposing the principle of this legislation and calling for fair trade globally, not the kind of trade that the WTO is promoting.
As thousands said in Pôrto Alegre, Brazil just last month, un autre monde est possible, another world is possible, and it is that other world that we as New Democrats are striving for in the context of this debate today.