Mr. Speaker, Bill C-50 is a bill of no small proportions. It is a bill which we should all, as members in the House, pay very close attention to because of its implications.
Having introduced it in this way and peaked the interest of members, I now need to say what it is about because everyone will be wondering what this important bill is that we are debating on Friday morning with the attention of all 301 members of parliament fully at hand.
We are debating a bill that will establish and increase our ability to trade with the People's Republic of China. It is a very interesting bill because we already have a great deal of trade going on with China. For many years we have exported, among other things, grain to China. For many years we have given it good credit conditions so it could buy our wheat and hopefully pay for it a little later. We are all aware of the fact that many items which we purchase are made in China.
I was intrigued to notice that my little timer clock was built in China. Many computer things we use are built in China. I had the opportunity the other day to do a little home repair and lo and behold, in big clear letters on my pliers it said “Made in China”. Over and over we see this. I have an electronic daytimer, which I hesitate to take out of my pocket. I am totally dependent on my auxiliary brain which is made in China.
One reason that trade with China is so important is the fact that it has such a huge population. It really boggles the mind to think of how large our target is in terms of doing trade with China. I anticipate that as we bring China fully into the World Trade Organization the impact on many economies, including Canada's, will be even greater than it is now.
The bill we are dealing with today is a housekeeping bill. It does not really talk about issues. That is one of the failures of the government. It often brings in legislation that is housekeeping in nature, the purpose of which is to amend certain bills, motions and agreements so that these trade deals can proceed. However I do not recall, at least in the eight some years that I have been here, that we have ever had in the House or even in committee a good philosophical debate about how we should handle trade with China.
Over and over many members of the House raised, shall I call it, the red flag of human rights abuses in China. Some members, and I think a lot of Canadians, think that we should put increasing pressure on China to reduce human rights abuses in their country. All of us probably have etched into our mind the history of Tiananmen Square and how the People's Republic of China really did stifle in a very high handed manner what appeared to us, at least in the way it was reported, to be a legitimate political protest. In Canada of course we feel that to protest on a political basis is almost a right. In China it is not a right. The people there do not enjoy anywhere near the freedoms that we do in this country.
It is interesting to know that our total imports from China at this stage are worth in excess of $11 billion per year. That is a significant number. Many of those goods are brought into this country competing with products which are produced in Canada. It is very important that when we enter into as trade agreement with China that we have a mechanism to balance the impact that volume of trade can have.
The whole idea of free trade and trade under the World Trade Organization is to increase the economies of both countries in the agreement.
What we are looking for is one of those win-win situations where both countries involved in the agreement benefit. As the Parliament of Canada, we should ensure that safeguards are built in to prevent the very populace and the huge country of China from totally overwhelming little old 30 million population Canada. We really are vulnerable when we are talking about a population that has over one billion people and we have 30 million. It is very disproportionate. Therefore it is important that our rules and regulations be such that we reduce at least the probability of us being overwhelmed economically by trade with China.
We should look at not only the human rights implications in trade agreements that we have but also the large economic spin-off that occurs when we enter into trade agreements with such a large country with an overwhelming economy.
At this stage it would be accurate to say that parliament's involvement, the people of Canada's involvement via their parliament , in setting up these trade agreements has been woefully inadequate. We just do not have the opportunity to debate.
One thing that really bothers me is that our negotiators often go out to these different organizations, whether it is a trade organization or whether it is the United Nations, and unilaterally carry with them Canada's position without that position ever having been debated and established by parliament. This is particularly annoying when there are some things which are obviously to our detriment and parliament could have, if it were permitted to fulfill its role, alerted the negotiators to the implications, and some of the problems could have been averted and resolved in advance.
We believe parliament should be involved and should ratify these agreements which establish a new economic relationship with other countries. This is a huge missing link in the work of parliament. Sometimes I wonder what the role of parliament is. I told some people in the riding not long ago that we were getting more MPs, and that is great. However I said what was the purpose of having more MPs since under the present regime the MPs who were here were not even allowed to think for themselves. They cannot even choose for themselves their choice of a chairperson of a committee. That is orchestrated by the Prime Minister's Office.
In my view there should be much greater consultation with Canadians through their parliament on these agreements. The agreements should be brought to parliament for scrutiny and for ratification. To me, that is a given. It is so obvious I cannot even proceed to build an argument for it. I cannot think of a single argument against that, so how can I not proceed to argue for it by refuting those arguments against it. There are none. We should just be doing it.
Another thing which I think is important for us to know is some of the details of Bill C-50.
I would point out there are some safeguards in the bill which seem to at least be going in the right direction. It is called a products specific safeguard. This could be applied to any good originating in China that was causing or threatening to cause injury to Canadian industry.
I know that the people in Ontario are more interested in car manufacturing than we are out west. We have no manufacturing plants for vehicles in western Canada. We should have. That is another one of the flaws of Canada. We have totally concentrated the industrial development mostly in the province of Ontario and somewhat in Quebec. Out west we are basically hewers of wood and haulers of water. It is unfortunate that we are not permitted to develop industry which is relative to our natural resources.
This is a bit of deviation from the particular bill, but I would point out that the Federal Government of Canada has primarily put the big barriers against us being able to do things like establish a pasta plant. That is again so eminently obvious.
Saskatchewan is almost the breadbasket of the world with all the agricultural products which are produced in the prairie provinces. Why should we simply take our raw materials off the land and ship them over to China for processing there and then buy some of them back after they are processed? That is nothing short of simply shipping jobs out of our country. There is no excuse for that.
It would reduce unemployment. It would give us a much greater sense of independence. It would help us in terms of international security to have a truly independent food supply since we would be set up not only to produce it but also to process it and get it table ready. I will continually press for more of such economic activity out in the regions. It boggles the mind why the government would continue to oppose that and not allow Canadians out west the freedom to market and to process their own product.
Bill C-50 has in it a safeguard which would limit the intrusion of Chinese products into our country if those products would threaten or cause injury to our industry.
There is a diversionary safeguard, which is interesting. It would prevent goods that are shut out of one market from overflowing into Canada. The most obvious example would be if the Americans were to put up a trade barrier so that the China was unable to deliver its product to the United States. This safeguard would, at least it appears to us, put the brake on that. It may not stop it entirely but at least it would prevent dumping of any product that is produced in China from overwhelming the Canadian economy. Basically it is like anti-dumping legislation.
There are specifically safeguards related to textile and clothing. We have factories across this country that produce textiles and clothing. I happen to frequently buy clothing that says “made in Montreal”. It is one of the few areas in which we are permitted to trade within our country. That would be another diversionary speech that I could give on all the trade barriers we have within our country. Recently of course there has been quite a bit of publicity on the barrier between Quebec and Ontario.
Obviously this is something that the two provinces have to work out. I would like to see the federal government take a larger leadership role in bringing these parties together for meaningful negotiations and to open up our interprovincial borders for trade.
Bill C-50 is meant to improve our trading relationships with China without detrimentally affecting our own industry and our own economy. I sincerely hope that is what will happen with the passage of this bill.
We ought to be aware that there is another little element. I will not get into it in depth, but there is a question about the adjoining state of Taiwan. We also have certain trading arrangements with that country. As we proceed into a trading relationship with China, we have to make sure that no barriers are put up to our trade with other countries which also have a great impact on our country.
I would like to read a page from our policy book. It is one of the things our party has always emphasized, as we did with the previous party before we became the Canadian Alliance. We are the only party that starts with basic principles. We used to have 21 principles and on those principles were built 75 policies. Those overriding policies drive our responses to different legislation.
I would like to read an item into the record. It is important for Canadians to know that the Canadian Alliance is a party that thinks through these things in a broad sense and on a principled basis prior to getting into individual pieces of legislation. Item No. 56 from our policy book states:
We support a foreign policy that protects Canada's sovereignty and independence, promotes our national interests (political, economic and strategic), contributes to collective security and defence, promotes democratic principles and human rights, and assists in international development. We will pay particular attention to maintaining good bilateral relations with our most significant trading partners.
There is one thing which totally puzzles me. There is no doubt that our most significant trading partner is the United States, yet I am appalled at the attitude which is sometimes displayed by the Prime Minister toward it. I wish that greater efforts would be taken toward building a solid co-operative relationship with it, particularly pertaining to trade and all the border issues. The Liberal government is altogether too lackadaisical in looking at these issues and their importance.
There is no doubt that because of China's size it has the potential of also becoming another of our very significant trading partners, even much greater than it is now.
Tonight when everyone puts up their feet and flips on their TV, they should look at the back of the remote control. It was probably made in China. The label on the back of the television will probably indicate it was made in China. A lot of the tools in our toolboxes were made in China.
Our trade with China is inevitable. It would be a huge error to enter into trade with a country without working agreements that safeguard Canada's interests. In that regard I believe the bill goes in the right direction. Perhaps there are some minor things which need to be adjusted.
Certainly I would like to have a broader debate sometime in the future in which we look at the bigger picture of what this means to us politically and economically around the world. We need to do more of that.
Meanwhile the bill is one which deserves our support. It is my intention to support it and probably most of my colleagues will as well.
I do not want to remind the Speaker of his job, but I have gone about 30 seconds over my time. I am willing to give the floor to the next person who I am sure will have even more interesting things to say than I did.