House of Commons Hansard #175 of the 37th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was wto.


Question No. 118—Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Kitchener Centre Ontario


Karen Redman LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, Notice of Motion for the Production of Papers No. P-30 in the name of the hon. member for Macleod is acceptable to the government, with the reservations stated in the reply, and the papers are tabled immediately.

That a humble Address be presented to Her Excellency praying that she will cause to be laid before this House a copy of all documents, reports, minutes of meetings, notes, memos, correspondence and briefings between the Government of Canada and Bayer Inc. between October 1, 2001, and October 23, 2001.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Subject to the reservations expressed by the parliamentary secretary, is it the pleasure of the House that Motion No. P-30 be deemed to have been adopted?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


(Motion agreed to)

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.


Karen Redman Liberal Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that all Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers be allowed to stand.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

The Speaker

Is it agreed?

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Some hon. members


Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson Progressive Conservative New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the Notices of Motions for the Production of Papers, I draw the attention of the House and the government House leader to Motion No. P-32 which has been on file since November 19, 2001.

I will read it to the House and the viewing public to give an indication of what we are looking at. On November 19, 2001 I submitted the following:

That an Order of the House do issue for copies of all documentation including correspondence, memoranda, notes, minutes of meetings, reports, phone records, e-mails, and briefings pertaining to Lancaster Aviation and Airspares Network Inc. between the Minister of National Defence, the Department of National Defence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Could the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons tell us why the government is so hesitant? Why is it so reluctant to answer the questions? The questions are important. The Canadian public deserves an answer.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

Perhaps the hon. member should ask this in question period, but we will hear from the government House leader if he wishes to respond.

Motions for PapersRoutine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Wascana Saskatchewan


Ralph Goodale LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I know the hon. member treats the subject matter seriously. There was an occasion in the House some weeks ago when a motion of his with respect to a similar subject matter was defeated. I assure the hon. member it was done on a procedural basis and not because of the substance of the matter.

This is the first time to my recollection that the hon. member has raised the subject matter directly with me. I will make the necessary inquiries to try to provide him with a substantive answer at the earliest possible date because I take his point seriously.

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization, as reported (without amendment) from the committee.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan Liberalfor the Minister for International Trade

moved that the bill be concurred in.

(Motion agreed to)

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3:20 p.m.

The Speaker

When shall the bill be read the third time? By leave now.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Some hon. members


Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton West Alberta


Anne McLellan Liberalfor the Minister for International Trade

moved that the bill be read the third time and passed.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

3:20 p.m.

Edmonton Southeast Alberta


David Kilgour LiberalSecretary of State (Asia-Pacific)

Mr. Speaker, I rise to support Bill C-50, perhaps not surprisingly. The bill presents a number of legislative initiatives that would enable Canada to take full advantage of the new rights it obtained as a result of negotiations for China to accede to the World Trade Organization.

Over the past two decades China's economic growth has been among the highest in the world. Last year it was Canada's third largest trading partner after the U.S. and Japan. China's growing importance in the world economy makes it crucial that the Government of Canada continue to seek a constructive and open relationship with China. We need to ensure the continued capacity of Canadian exporters and investors to have access to the business opportunities in China that will present themselves as China grows and develops.

Now that China is a member of the World Trade Organization, the WTO will be the main multilateral forum to discuss these issues. The WTO is the main international forum for negotiating reductions in trade barriers. The members of the WTO have also agreed on a series of shared principles and practices to regulate and administer international trade. The system is based on the rule of law and on fundamental principles such as transparency, fair practices and non-discrimination.

After being admitted into the WTO on December 11, 2001, China began to significantly reduce trade barriers in goods and services. China also began a long-term process to amend its trade laws and regulations to make them compliant with the principles and practices set out in the WTO agreement.

The broad implications of the WTO rules mean that it will take China some time to implement fully its commitments. Although China's record on implementation so far, less than six months after it acceded, has not been perfect, we are satisfied that things are moving in the right direction and that China has been open to hearing us out and acting upon a number of Canadian concerns.

One of our areas of concern of course is agriculture. We have serious doubts about the unnecessarily heavy trade impact of Chinese regulations on genetically modified foods, such as Canadian exports of canola seed. We are also disappointed that China has still not fully implemented tariff rate quotas that are necessary for trade in a number of agricultural commodities. We will continue to pursue vigorously these matters on behalf of our farmers and food processors.

We will continue to apply vigilance over all Canadian export sectors to ensure that exporters do enjoy the benefits set out in the terms of accession.

China's accession to the WTO provides us with one more way to resolve trade disputes with China. The government will do everything it can to have its rights under the WTO upheld.

Our trade relations with the U.S. show that disputes and irritants remain while trade increases and we move toward more complementary economies. Also, during the 50 years the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade was in effect and now under the WTO, we have noticed an unprecedented increase in international trade along with strong economic growth around the world. What is even more important is that this trade expansion led to better quality of life for the residents of trading nations and for all of us.

By joining the WTO, China made a long-term commitment toward freer trade. It has acknowledged the indubitable relation between opening up to the world economy and economic growth. Therefore, we are convinced that China will continue its efforts to honour the international commitments it made during the 15 years of negotiation that led to its accession to the WTO.

Negotiations to join the WTO usually affect only the acceding country, requiring it to make concessions and changes to its domestic laws and regulations. Amendments to Canadian legislation are normally not required.

In these negotiations, WTO members sought and obtained the right to invoke China-specific safeguards and to apply appropriate non-market economy rules in anti-dumping investigations on Chinese goods. These are the measures that are implemented in Bill C-50 as members will all know.

These measures were designed to address China's unique place in the world economy as a major exporter with high tech production capacity and a large degree of government intervention and involvement in the economy. All WTO members have the right to implement them if they choose to do so. Other members are also taking necessary steps to amend their domestic, regulatory or legislative framework as necessary.

Under the China-specific safeguards, which will apply for 12 years following its accession, that is until December 11, 2013, Canada will be able to impose special trade measures to protect Canadian industries from injurious surges of imports from China.

The anti-dumping provisions in Bill C-50 allow WTO member countries to use special rules to determine price comparability in an anti-dumping investigation, while China makes the transition to a market economy. The rules will be in effect for 15 years following China's accession.

These measures will complement the existing provisions of the Canadian legislation on safeguards and anti-dumping proceedings, which are based on the WTO agreements, including the agreements concerning safeguards and anti-dumping procedures.

It is important to note that these special measures will apply only to imports from the People's Republic of China. They will not apply to imports from Hong Kong or Taiwan, which are separate members of the WTO.

The government does not foresee an increase in injurious surges of imports from China as a result of the WTO accession which would require the use of the China-specific safeguards. China already has quite open access to Canada's market and its terms of access to the Canadian market will remain largely unchanged as a result of its WTO accession.

Implementation of these measures will ensure that Canada and affected Canadian industries have at their disposal the full range of rights that were agreed to during the multilateral negotiations in the World Trade Organization. Such industries support the implementation of these measures in Bill C-50 since they provide additional tools to respond to potentially injurious imports.

For all of these reasons, I respectfully urge colleagues in the House to support the bill.

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3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Canadian Alliance Vancouver Island North, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to discuss Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization.

I was in Doha, Qatar on the Persian Gulf in November at the WTO fourth ministerial conference. The People's Republic of China and Taiwan both gained entry to the WTO at the conference. Indeed it was a very historic time. After all, China is the most populous nation with 1.3 billion people. Even at this very momentous and historic occasion it was apparent there was continuing discomfort between the People's Republic of China and Taiwan. At the time I put out this statement:

The addition of China and Taiwan to the WTO membership has added complexity to achieving consensus and may force the WTO into a United Nations style compromise. If this proves unworkable, bilateral and regional trading arrangements will continue to be necessary to ensure the World Trade Organization does not stray too far from a free trade agenda.

I obviously had some concerns at that time. China having one of the biggest and fastest growing economies in the world is undoubtedly a welcome addition to the World Trade Organization.

Mike Moore, the director general of the World Trade Organization, said that Beijing's greatest policy shift since the 1948 revolution which brought the communists to power was the signing of the 900 page document requiring the opening up of China's markets. In essence, what has happened is that China has agreed to join the world trade community on the world's terms. It has agreed to open up its marketplace to foreign trade and investment in return for reciprocal access to the markets of 142 WTO members.

This will undoubtedly have profound implications for China's internal politics and the compact between the people and the government. Some people have even argued that this is basically signing the death warrant of the communist party power in China. The communist party began opening up the economy about 20 years ago but resisted political reforms. Now that it has reached its limits of economic expansion, it now requires broader social and political reform.

Accession to the WTO has actually been described as the cleaver which severs the communist party's wilting grip on the last fragments of Marxist socialism. One might say that is an optimistic view. What is an optimistic view and one which I share is that its accession to the WTO will inevitably lead toward making the state subject to the rule of law. The communist government never accepted that. Let us hope that next year, upon the retirement of the prime minister of China, who was so instrumental in pushing this through, this does not fall apart.

We must remember that it would be in no one's interest for China to once again shatter into social discord. With accession to the WTO it is a huge opportunity for the Chinese people to create a modern political, social and economic system.

China has a somewhat open market. Millions are expected to lose their jobs. One of the reasons for that is because there are so many people working on the land who were there because the communist government subsidized crop prices in order to keep people on the land. Many of them will lose their jobs. Already we have 200 million unemployed in China. Therefore that is a very significant thing for them to do in a knowing fashion.

I am optimistic about all this because, if one goes back approximately 12 months, it was last April 1 that we had the collision between the U.S. reconnaissance aircraft and the Chinese jet fighter off the southeast coast of China. We remember all the diplomacy and the toing and froing on the fact that the U.S. plane was forced down into the People's Republic of China and was not given up for a long time and not in one piece. It had to be shipped back in pieces.

It was also done against the backdrop in that same month of April of a huge arms sale authorized by President Bush to Taiwan. Even against all of that just a short few months later everyone was on the same page more or less at the talks in Doha.

China has the potential to become one of the centres of manufacturing in the world. It currently attracts about three-quarters of all foreign direct investment in Asia which approximates $47 billion U.S. last year.

As a condition of its entry into the World Trade Organization China had to agree to allow existing WTO member states to bring in such legislation to deal with possible market disruptions or trade diversions. That is what Bill C-50, which we are debating, is all about from Canada's perspective. It would manage the transition period over the next decade or so as China modernizes its internal economic structures and legislation to conform to WTO practices.

All told, China must amend 570 pieces of legislation and more than 1,000 central government rules and regulations as part of its entry into the WTO. We have ongoing training on how to handle WTO rulings and so on occurring with judges and other members of the bureaucracy in China. Other countries have had to do this also under previous accessions. There are huge compliance problems related to even existing legislation in China.

From an overall perspective the impact and effect of Bill C-50 is that it is sufficient and appropriate legislation to ensure the creation of wealth, both for Canada and China, and not simply the redistribution of wealth, a concept that is foreign to at least one party in the House of Commons.

The legislation would introduce safeguards. While temporary in nature they would increase import duties, restrict the amount of imports and impose tariff rate quotas, all of which would protect Canada's economy and eliminate the possibility of injury to Canada's domestic industry during this phase-in period.

It is important to note that there would be a huge and wrenching change in China. We are putting in our safeguards for this is not a one-sided exercise. We must recognize that there are huge changes implicit in the accession of China to the WTO. It is very positive for the international community that, after 15 years of knocking on the door, China is now a WTO member. Actually, this accession was very good psychological news for the global economy.

The U.S. is the biggest foreign market for China and it has enjoyed most favourite nation trade status for some time and has been slowly lowering tariff and non-tariff barriers to imports and foreign investment. The other psychological good news is that the international community recognizes that China's huge population is in an early explosive economic boom. This has lots of people excited, particularly since Japan appears to be in somewhat of a perpetual recession these days. Japan being the traditional Asian powerhouse.

For the record, we cannot overlook certain issues associated with China. These issues include: the nature of China's economic system, its dealings with human rights, and its treatment of Taiwan.

As a condition of member concurrence for accession of China to the WTO, all of the WTO members were allowed to bring in legislation to deal with possible market disruptions or trade diversions. We must not forget that China has a state controlled economic system that is protectionist, still exploits labour and represses human rights.

While we welcome the People's Republic of China to the WTO we must wonder how serious it is about free trade from time to time as it still has a culture that invites unilateral actions which raise concerns in the international trade community. This is not to say that China's membership in the WTO would bring about overnight change and improvement in these areas. It does mean that China is now compelled to honour its WTO promises and obligations that in effect would make China more accountable for its practices in question.

The international business community of course does not enjoy litigation and reversion to the courts but rather looks for voluntary compliance with the spirit and intent of following the rules.

Regrettably just last week China's state run postal monopoly issued an order that would: limit express delivery by private companies to articles more than 500 grams, or 1.1 pounds; require all prices to be higher than the postal authority's; and forbid delivery to government, military or communist party offices or of any item addressed to an individual.This would virtually shut down the operations of United Parcel Service, Federal Express and three other large courier-style companies that are doing about 60% of the business in China.

Foreign companies have protested this attack on a very profitable business with annual sales of $1.2 billion growing at the rate of 30% to 50% annually. This industry carries billions of dollars worth of goods and employs tens of thousands of people. The central government's unilateral decision is bad for business, sends the wrong message and is counterproductive to China's own interests.

One can assume its centralized, top down, unilateral decision making based on its historical reference took over and reality would quickly lead to overturning this dumb decision before it does further damage. However China Post insists its actions did not violate any WTO agreements.

It is true that China agreed to open up many markets, but no deal was made on the courier business. Others argue that the attempt to restrict business breaks China's promise not to further limit any industry that has already been opened up to international competition and is in violation of WTO principles of nondiscrimination and fair competition. Inevitably disputes will arise and many will not be as clearly one sided as this bad decision by China on courier services.

Disputes are a part of any relationship and I am convinced that by having China in the WTO with a rules based framework, all parties are better off than if China were to be excluded. The greatest levellers of all are investors because unless they have confidence in the system, they will not invest, and without investment there will be no new wealth generated, and without new wealth everyone is a loser.

I now wish talk about Taiwan. Taiwan has a population of about 23 million. It is Canada's eighth largest trading partner and has the world's 12th largest economy. The significance of our trading relationship with Taiwan is often downplayed and that is why I emphasize our very significant relationship with Taiwan.

Last year Canadian exports to Taiwan almost exceeded $1 billion and our imports exceeded $4.4 billion. It is close to being completely WTO compliant in terms of legislation and only 14 pieces of legislation had to be amended as a result of its entry into the WTO.

Taiwan is a democracy that upholds the rule of law and goes out of its way to ensure it meets the spirit and the intent of international trading rules. While one must realize that Canada has to deal with the People's Republic of China and maintain good relations with it, there is no reason why Canadian policy toward Taiwanese government officials could not be much more accommodating.

In fact, Canada's relationship with Taiwan is hostile. Two years ago the Taiwanese minister of foreign affairs was not permitted to enter Canada.

One year ago the Taiwanese minister of health was not allowed into Canada because Canadian authorities said he might lobby for Taiwanese observer status at the World Health Organization.

To date Taiwan has developed formal diplomatic ties and established embassies in 28 small and uninfluential countries. We all heard the Liberal minister three days ago in the House excuse the Liberal government behaviour toward Taiwan's request for observer status at the World Health Organization and Canada's lack of support for that by saying that no other western democracy at the executive level had done it either. I say that is not a very good way to display leadership on this issue.

The U.S. senate has approved that request and we are waiting for the entire congress to do the same thing, which means the house of representatives also has to support that status.

What we have is 28 small and uninfluential countries with formal diplomatic ties and established embassies. As another 100 countries, like Canada, do not officially recognize Taiwan, it is forced to operate with “economic and cultural offices”. Canada has three such offices.

The Liberal government endorses the one China policy through its actions to the detriment of Taiwan, a healthy democracy, a very significant trading partner and a friend. Quite simply, this is wrong. The Liberal government is being hypocritical on human rights. When it comes to human rights issues in China, it is prepared to overlook abuses and at the same time tries to marginalize Taiwan which upholds the rule of law.

I have recently received letters from both the president of the Taiwan-Canadian Association of Ottawa and the president of the Greater Vancouver Taiwanese Canadian Association asking for my support in Taiwan's request for observer status at the World Health Organization. I have responded to both organizations and have stated that I fully endorse and support Taiwan's request for observer status.

The Canadian government cannot just sit back and remain silent on Taiwan issues and subordinate its Taiwanese policy to the dictates of the Chinese government. His Holiness, the Dalai Lama in a May 21, 2000, interview with Reuters and the American press stated that “Joining the WTO organization, I think is one way (for China) to change in the right direction... I think it is a positive development. In the long run, certainly (the trade agreement) will be positive for Tibet. Forces of democracy in China get more encouragement that way”.

China's movement against Falun Gong and similar Qi-gong groups, Protestants, Catholics and other religious groups reveals China's lack of commitment and adherence to internationally agreed upon standards for human rights. This should concern us all and we should especially be concerned about the lack of commitment the Liberal government demonstrates in holding China and Cuba accountable.

The Canadian government pretends to crusade for human rights issues internationally but when it comes to human rights in China or Cuba, it sells them out very quickly.

For this reason, it is extremely important that Canada express its concern on a number of issues including freedom of religion, expression, assembly, association, women's rights, children's rights, minority rights, good governance, cultural, social and economic rights.

I know that my colleague from Calgary Southeast will expand on some of the issues to which I just made reference and I welcome his comments.

I will conclude by saying that the world stands to benefit substantially from the liberalization measures that China has proposed as part of its secession to the WTO. I will also add that I agree with the safeguards and provisions that are contained in Bill C-50.

Canadian International Trade Tribunal ActGovernment Orders

3:55 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to Bill C-50, an act to amend certain acts as a result of the accession of the People's Republic of China to the agreement establishing the World Trade Organization.

Westerners and North Americans have had various visions of China over the years. First, I think it has always been for us the land of all inventions. One just has to think of paper, rice growing and all kinds of inventions showing that the Chinese have often been more advanced than the rest of the planet. These inventions are still used today on a regular basis.

It is also a land of missions. Missionaries from Quebec and Canada went to China, particularly at the beginning of the 20th century, and projected a certain vision of China in their relationships with Quebecers and Canadians.

It is also a communist country which, after World War II and because of efforts made during the war, chose a government that had concrete objectives to ensure that everyone had food to eat and a place to stay.

We must always look at these decisions in the context of what the country went through and avoid making judgments based only on our perceptions as westerners, without taking into account the reality. But the Chinese revolution is still an important aspect. The father of the Chinese revolution, Mao Zedong, brought deep changes to the Chinese society. Today, the Communist Party of China is still running the country and is trying to adapt to the realities of today's world. It is another aspect of China that we have seen these past few years.

Over the last ten years in particular, it has become the caricature of a country ruled by free market and unbridled capitalism, just as we would have probably seen in North America in the late 1800s or early 1900s.

I believe we must look at the reality of China. That is why I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak, as the vice-president of the Canada-China Parliamentary Association. Last year, I had the opportunity to travel to China and see for myself, during a brief but informative two week visit, some of the reality of eastern China, by far the most developed part. China has met some extraordinary challenges in terms of economic development. It has created entire new cities from scratch, some of them models as far as environmental concerns go. I think we could take a few pages from their book in this area.

There is a whole other aspect to China, however, the western part. Then there is the matter of China's relations with Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong. These are all very important points.

As for the international trade agreement, implementation of which will make it possible for China to accede to the WTO, and to have an entry into Canada under that agreement, let us recall that there are 1.250 billion people in China. Such a large population requires a particular kind of administration. Governing a country with a population of 30 million, as we have in Canada, is not the same as governing a country of 1.250 billion. It is the seventh ranking world economy and the ninth ranking in exports. Its population accounts for one-fifth of the world's total population.

We are therefore dealing with a country that is a power unto itself because of its population numbers and its actions. Within 20 or 25 years, China may have made unprecedented progress and may even have become the leading economic power in the world.

Something we should bear in mind is that, ultimately, what we are doing here in amending our statutes to provide for the accession of China to the WTO and to adapt Canada's and Quebec's legislation, is being done to increase bilateral trade between the two countries. For Quebecers and Canadians, there are clear benefits in having access to the Chinese market, and China has an interest in having access to our market and skills. In that sense, this agreement seems relevant and positive for both parties.

Included in the positive outcomes is the development of China. We are witnessing an improvement in production, which is very important, and in the quality of life there. My discussions with Chinese parliamentarians and private citizens suggest that in the last ten years, the quality of life has improved significantly in China, especially in urban areas.

But there are still daunting challenges to take up in rural areas. We can have exchanges on this, because we also have a long way to go. Setting up a Canada-China parliamentary association to foster discussions on this among parliamentarians has been a significant development. These discussions are part and parcel of all that needs to be done and of the relationship that should be maintained between our two countries.

This new way of doing things is quite the challenge for China's economy, and also for the whole western world. In the year 2000, trade between Canada and China totalled some $15 billion.

There are challenges to be met. China, Canada, Quebec and all the countries that are part of the WTO must create more wealth. But this also means that we have to deal with all the problems relating to the distribution of this wealth, and with the concerns relating to regional development. As we saw, the major challenge for the Chinese is to develop the vast natural resources located in the western part of China.

During the discussions that I had with Chinese parliamentarians, I told them, based on our experience in Quebec and in Canada that “it is fine to develop natural resources, but if you undertake this process, you must find ways to ensure secondary or tertiary processing from the outset, to avoid situations where certain regions are dependent on central regions and, in the end, the economic support provided is insufficient for them to catch up”.

So, the distribution of wealth is a challenge. Discussions are taking place between Chinese and Canadian parliamentarians, including some from Quebec, on how to generate wealth in an open economy as opposed to a state controlled economy, and on how to distribute this wealth.

The Chinese government is pondering certain issues. Should it set up an employment insurance program? Is the Canadian model adequate? Are there other ways of doing this? The Chinese asked questions and they are trying to determine what is appropriate. We should continue this dialogue with them.

It must also be realized that China is facing this extraordinary challenge at a time when the Chinese government is about to undergo a change. A clear pattern has been noticed in recent years and decades. What spirit will drive China's new elected politicians and leaders? Will they keep going in the same direction?

It is in our best interests, I believe, to maintain relations with China, through measures such as its accession to the WTO, to allow us to help the Chinese in their efforts. In so doing, we will benefit from what they can teach us, just like they benefit from what we can teach them.

There is also a considerable challenge as far as international assistance is concerned. China is not simply a developing country, nor is it simply a very developed country, it is a country dealing with both of these realities. In terms of economic development, eastern China's growth has outperformed that of Canada for several years. In western China, conditions are comparable to those in developing countries, in Africa or elsewhere in Asia. This reality will require that the Government of Canada take a more flexible approach, one that will take into consideration this reality.

If we simply compare China as a whole, we will end up with an approach that does not correspond to either part of China. We need to take this into account when setting up co-operation between Canada and China, keeping in mind that the Government of Canada has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to foreign assistance.

There are priorities, such as Africa. The Prime Minister wants this to be taken care of this summer, at the G-8 summit. However, judging from his last trip, there was not enough leadership to provide innovative ideas that would help rebuild the African economy. The Government of Canada needs to invest more money and be open to new methods of international co-operation. As for China, it will require a more original approach due to the conditions that I mentioned earlier.

Canada also has the challenge of dealing with Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a very significant entry point for Canadian immigration. Now, with economic change and more openness, the Chinese may have easier access to Canada by going directly through the government of the people's republic without necessarily having to go through Hong Kong. This would require very different services for these clients. As a result, the available resources should be redistributed. We may want to have more officials present in China to provide this service adequately.

There is also an interesting model. Indeed, Taiwan is a member of the WTO, as is the People's Republic of China. I was musing that, if the Canadian government had a similar philosophy, perhaps Quebec could have been a member of the WTO, as is Canada, and would have been able to express its views. However, the level of flexibility observed in China—as the result of history, of course—has not yet been reached here.

I would add to this picture the vision that I developed during my trip to China, last year, to really show the evolution and the reality there.

First, we travelled to Beijing, the capital of China, where the meeting of the people's national convention is held annually. It is the equivalent of the House of Commons, but it does not sit quite as long. Still, there are 3,000 delegates at the people's national convention. This means that, instead of having a House of Commons with 301 members such as we have here, there are 3,000 delegates in parliament. This creates a totally different approach. People who sit in parliament are not only from the Chinese majority, but also different ethnic communities. We can see that China is not monolithic. It is made up of a number of particular components.

Beijing is also a city and a capital that is being totally transformed and undergoing a lot of modernization. It also carries China's history. When one visits the Forbidden City, one can understand certain things about how the Chinese approach the world. It is important to know this aspect of reality. The Olympic Games will be held there in 2008. This is another aspect of their opening up and, in this regard, everyone in the world wants to give China a chance to take its place. The Chinese really have the ability to do so. When they pursue development, one can be sure that things go well. I strongly believe that they will be ready for the 2008 games.

I also visited Shanghai, an ultramodern city which has undergone several periods of colonization by the French, the English and other communities which influenced its development. However, it is still an important world trading hub. It is clear from the volume of transactions in its stock exchange that this is a very important part of the world when it comes to trade.

A neighbourhood has been developed there which makes it an ultramodern city. One has the feeling of being in a city of the 21st or 22nd century. This is an aspect of avant-garde China that we did not know about, but which is a sign of things to come in the next 10, 15 or 20 years in the economic development of China, with respect to the place it will occupy internationally and the balance it will help to create vis-à-vis the major power represented by the United States of America. Since the iron curtain has come down, since Communist government almost world-wide have been overturned and parliamentary democracies put in their place, Americans might, in some respects, be tempted to throw their weight around a bit.

I think that it is in our interest that the hubs be diversified and that we use the opportunity presented by China and its vast market, its economic potential and its great influence in Asia, to strike a balance on our planet. Ultimately, it could benefit both international decision-making and bilateral trade.

Obviously, there are challenges associated with signing an agreement such as the one concerning the accession of China to the WTO. It will require the development of even greater mutual respect between the two countries.

We even see this with our neighbour to the south, with whom we have long had a special relationship. We realize that a strong economy such as the U.S. can have a tendency—this is very clear in the case of the softwood lumber crisis—to take a bit of an imperialistic and protectionist attitude, an attitude that expects a small country like Canada to bow to the dictates of the U.S. economy.

So international agreements bring some discipline to these relations. We are going through some difficult periods, and the great American economy is still using measures to try to silence Quebec and Canada in the softwood lumber dispute. However, the WTO will make a ruling which, I believe, will be favourable to Canada.

The same thing may happen with China. It will be important for both sides to understand that there probably will be disputes to settle, but that it will be possible to do so within the WTO structure, which is far better than settling disputes in an unregulated context where the strongest always wins. We will certainly have the opportunity to influence each other.

As far as the judicial system is concerned, we could pass on to them elements which could easily be integrated in their own system and allow for a better harmonization between the will to administer justice and the way to do it. I think we have some co-operation in this area.

It seems to me that there is another very important aspect, and it is one of the main reasons why the Bloc Quebecois supports this bill. China and Quebec have developed a very special relationship.

Let us not forget that, during Mr. Bouchard's last economic mission, when he was still the Premier of Quebec, an agreement was signed for a Chinese textile company to open a plant, the China World Best, in Drummondville. It has now been built along the Jean-Lesage highway, and we can see the Chinese flag flying alongside those of Canada and Quebec.

Finally, it is the first investment outside China that is made this way. It was because the Chinese found in that region workers with expertise in the area of textile, and also because there is some kind of sentimental connection between Quebec and China.

Let us not forget that China is currently the country where the largest number of inter-country adoptions are negotiated by Quebecers. I think this is very important to the Chinese people, and we must understand that.

Before having business dealings, before getting involved in trade, those people need to have a well established personal relationship. They have to trust those they are dealing with. In that regard, they seem to have hit it off with Quebecers.

I noticed this, especially when I visited Shanghai. Besides Canadian representatives, we met with the Quebec delegate in Shanghai, Mr. Milot, who made me aware of these facts. He even came to Rivière-du-Loup the year after to give a lecture and to meet with potential exporters from my area and look at market development opportunities. At that time we were saying, “China will join WTO in the a few years and that will give us additional opportunities”.

We have now reached that point. The time has come for us to pass the legislation so that Canadian laws are consistent with the agreement allowing China to join the WTO.

We will have to meet particular challenges to enter these markets and get our share. I know that many engineering firms from Quebec have projects, in particular with regard to international co-operation in China. There is much interest in pursuing this.

Not a week goes by without a Chinese delegation coming to Quebec to meet with people who would like to be partners in economic development. Over the next few years, these visits will continue yield very promising results.

The last time a group of parliamentarians came to visit, we went to the Quebec National Assembly. The group was able to watch a debate between Bernard Landry and Jean Charest on the Quebec national issue. I was very proud that they were made aware of that reality. This can be done through interpersonal contacts, when parliamentarians come to visit us and when we go to China. Then we go beyond economic issues to establish personal relationships that will help to enhance co-operation.

Canada has a good reputation in China. Members will recall that Doctor Norman Bethune fought beside Chinese revolutionaries in the army of Mao Zedong. He has become a symbol for the Chinese. When Chinese parliamentarians come to Canada, they show great respect for him; they want to see the house where he grew up. Doctor Bethune spent a good part of his life in Montreal. He fought in Spain during the civil war, then went to China. He was an extraordinary ambassador for Canada. We can use this image to move things forward and improve not only our economic relationship but also our cultural and social relationship with China.

A good example of this is the Cirque du Soleil, which will set up in China. On the cultural level but also in terms of employment, this is a sector where we thought that the Chinese could bring us something, which remains quite possible anyway, but we will also have an exchange in that area, and the Cirque du Soleil will be present in China.

The agreement itself provides an opportunity to access an extraordinary market. It will also be a fantastic challenge. The 12 years provided for will be truly needed. This also implies on our part that we understand that in a win-win relationship, the Chinese will gain access to part of our market, while we will gain access to part of theirs, thus increasing co-operation, and economic, cultural and social exchanges.

One issue remains very sensitive however, and that is Tibet. It is believed that the accession of China to the WTO will give us greater influence through our relationship with the Chinese people and the Chinese government. I believe this is the right approach.

A concrete example of this is the fact that the Canada-China Parliamentary Association will travel to Tibet during its upcoming mission, in May. The Chinese themselves have offered us this opportunity. We will thus be able to witness firsthand what is going on and to assess the situation not only on the basis of what we will be shown but also through personal contacts and our personal assessment. I think this is the right way to advance issues.

During that trip, we plan to visit western China, where much remains to be done in terms of development. In that area of international co-operation, there is room for much collaboration between Canada and China, with great benefits for both. I think China's accession to the WTO will also be useful in this respect.

To conclude, I think it is important to be realistic about our relationship with China. It is important to ask ourselves questions about our overall relationship with China. We should not shy away from asking the tough questions. What does the future hold for Tibet? How does China see its relation with Tibet? All the discussions I have had so far have always been quite straightforward.

We can help this giant of a country which is China to take its place in diplomatic and economic relations around the world. This would also promote trade expansion. And then economic growth will lead to peace on earth, improved human rights and mutual understanding and assistance. We should not simply pass judgment on what is going on while ignoring history.

This means that, for all these reasons, it is appropriate for us to support this legislative proposal we have before us, which amends the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act, the Customs Tariff Act and the Export and Import Permits Act.

This has some similarities to the signature of a treaty, which is interesting. It may be something the Canadian government should give priority to, that is having treaties ratified here on a regular basis, so that the House of Commons, which represents the population as a whole, can have a say, not just the Canadian government.

If this situation could serve as a precedent, that might indeed be worthwhile. In fact, what we are voting on here is legislative amendments to Canadian statutes, but at the same time this is a sort of agreement in principle or ratification by the House of Commons of the negotiations carried on for some years between China and the WTO and a number of countries, so that in the end an agreement can be reached that will make it possible to increase economic, social and cultural exchanges with the Chinese government.

Regarding this legislation we are voting on today, I hope that in 10, 15 or 20 years, we will realize that this has been an important step in increasing economic exchanges. It will also have contributed to a better balance between the various world powers. Based as it is on mutual respect between Canada and China, it will also make further developments possible.

I am sure that, down the road, a sovereign Quebec would also subscribe to the same sort of legislation in order to make it possible for the relationship between Quebec and China to expand in the years to come.

As we know, there have been collaborative efforts in the past, for instance in connection with hydroelectric power. The expertise we possess here in Quebec was of use in the Three Gorges dam project, which will likely be the biggest such project in the world. They are preparing to submerge whole sections of the country. This is a huge challenge, to put all the necessary infrastructure in place and to ensure that it is done under optimum conditions as much as possible.

There are interesting business opportunities. I know that one company from the Quebec City area signed an agreement with the Chinese government for the development of Chinese heritage historic sites, which, unfortunately, will be flooded once the dam is in place. However, there is still an interesting market for a new technology industry with computer potential and Internet based. So it is a project which, in the end, will give results.

I will give another example that shows the importance of this trade. We often hear that such international agreements are far removed from us and have no impact on us. However, to give members an example, the last crisis in Asia had an impact in my riding, in Saint-Alexandre, more particularly in a hog slaughterhouse. We used to sell a lot of pork on the Asian market, but there was a decrease in demand because of the crisis in that region. This created a surplus production that had to be distributed on the North American market. In the end, it had an economic impact on the number of jobs in the village of Saint-Alexandre-de-Kamouraska, in my riding.

Therefore, it is important to realize that these decisions made regarding international agreements are also a way of trying to increase our economic potential. One important challenge will be to ensure that the regions outside large urban centres can benefit from these exchanges.

I know that the Université du Québec à Rimouski, among others, has had this type of exchanges, as well as the Rimouski community in general. Chinese students will soon arrive in Rimouski to study there. This kind of co-operation can also work both ways.

For all these reasons, let us hope that this agreement will lead to increased exchanges. As for us, let us ensure that all the regions of Quebec and Canada can reap the benefits, so that signing this agreement and voting in favour of this bill makes us all winners.

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4:25 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-50. Other of my colleagues in the New Democratic Party have spoken during other stages and we remain opposed to the bill.

In listening to the debate today I have to say the irony of it has not escaped me. Much of the discussion by various members has focused on their feelings, issues and concerns about the People's Republic of China, the status of its workers and the environment. In reality we are debating something that has already happened. The People's Republic of China joined the World Trade Organization last December.

We are debating what is primarily housekeeping legislation which deals with the consequences of dealing with Canadian industries that will be negatively impacted and seeking some protection for about 12 years. I suppose in the total order of things as consequences go, the best thing is to try to seek some protection. However the underlying issue that keeps coming out in the debate, whether one is for or against the bill, is the position of China and its role within the WTO and its role within the global community.

It is ironic because the vehicle that has allowed this to happen is a membership in a very elite club. My colleague from the Bloc, whom I usually agree with, a few minutes ago talked about China taking its place. I want to express the irony that somehow the World Trade Organization has become the symbol of whatever it means for a country or a nation state to take its place. The WTO in and of itself is fundamentally an undemocratic institution. It is fundamentally an organization that places the needs of capital movement and of corporations to do trade with the minimum amount of rules above the issues of a democratically elected parliament here in Canada or anywhere else in the world.

In some ways it is unfortunate. I sense that a huge gap exists between what we would like to debate in terms of our concerns with the PRC and our ability to express them, which somehow has been channeled into the WTO. The WTO has made it very clear it has no intention, despite many efforts, to deal with concerns around the environment or international labour laws. I say that by way of preface because that is fundamentally why members of the New Democratic Party cannot support the bill.

Today in question period I raised the terrible situation that is unfolding in my province of British Columbia around the massive restructuring of health care. It relates to this bill because what is taking place in my province is a wholesale restructuring of public services that have been built up over many decades.

Sixty-five hundred people stand to lose their jobs in the health care system. These are people who care for frail people, elderly and sick people in community care settings and long term care institutions. Those of us who have been following the debate in B.C. are most concerned about the jeopardy of what is now to come and that is privatization. With privatization comes an exposure of these public services under these trade agreements. Therefore they are very much related.

The situation in B.C. is very much on my mind today. I continue to get calls from constituents who are asking what happened to our medicare system and why is it not at the top of the federal political agenda. Is the feeling that we have this universal medicare system not one thing that speaks to who we are as Canadians?

Yet it too is under attack because of lack of funding, because of setting the stage for privatization that would be facilitated not by the bill itself but by what has caused this bill to come forward, which is the World Trade Organization. I am deeply concerned about the state of things, where we are headed as a country and where the planet is headed.

I have already said that the WTO is a very undemocratic organization. There is no opportunity for ordinary citizens to be heard. My colleagues in the federal NDP and I have participated in many rallies, workshops and demonstrations around trade liberalization and what is commonly referred to as globalization. Amazingly thousands of people have taken it upon themselves to become informed and educated about organizations such as the WTO, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.

Even a decade ago there was very little information known about these already very powerful organizations. The only reason we have some knowledge about their vast impact on our daily lives, the economy and the democratic life of our country and our ability to create laws in the public interest is citizens have taken it upon themselves to become informed and to organize, to mobilize. They are standing up for the public interest. They are saying that the interests of all of us in society are more important and have to take precedence over private corporate interests. That is another reason we in the NDP are strongly opposed to the WTO.

In terms of the impact Bill C-50 would have, I listened to my colleague from the Bloc speak about model cities in China, about China taking its place and that this was a way to encourage development between the two countries. It seems to me that the ability to do that through the WTO or through trade agreements is non-existent. Whenever issues around human rights, the environment or poverty have been put forward as part of the trade issue, they have always been bounced off.

We have seen it time after time with team Canada, with all of the infrastructure and the millions of dollars it costs to put those things together, when it goes on those big trade missions to China. Various organizations have sought to have the social concerns and the human rights concerns put forward as part of those delegations and missions. They are always told that they do not belong there as it is a trade mission and to have faith because trade will improve everything else. I do not see any evidence of that happening.

One of the most disturbing things is that China stands out internationally for its flagrant disregard of human rights. We have heard about the situation in Tibet. I have been to many rallies to support the self-determination of the Tibetan people. Their cultural, religious and political freedoms have been brutally squashed in the People's Republic of China.

We only have to look at the situation facing workers in that country. We know that in March of last year China actually ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which is good. It is a very important covenant to which Canada is also a signatory. It spells out social and economic rights of individual citizens of a country that has become a signatory.

Ironically China filed a reservation under article 8.1(a). What does that do? It prevents workers from freely forming trade unions.

This encompasses the most fundamental freedom, the right of workers to organize freely without interference from the state or from the employer, to negotiate on a level playing field, to assert their rights and to have decent working conditions and wages. The People's Republic of China filed a reservation on that section.

There are numerous abuses and violations of the most basic rights that would be recognized by the International Labour Organization. We hear horror stories of what happens in factories. In some instances women involved in mass production are actually locked in a factory and when a fire breaks out they cannot escape. Many workers burn to death.

It is hard to imagine that kind of situation in Canada, although it did happen many decades ago. One reason for May Day and International Women's Day is they recognize the struggles that have taken place for working people to actually assert their rights and to win the most basic thing, which is safe working conditions.

It is 2002 and we are still facing the reality that the People's Republic of China does not allow those basic freedoms to be enjoyed by its workers. It does not allow basic political freedoms or religious freedoms. We have witnessed the Falun Gong members on Parliament Hill. They have spoken out because their members in China have been tortured, murdered and silenced from practising their beliefs.

These things are relevant to the debate today because we are part of the global community. In some ways we are part of setting the standard. Many people around the globe look to Canada as a place that has a basic value of respecting fundamental human rights.

Historically, we certainly have had situations in Canada. One only has to look at the tragedy of what has happened to the aboriginal people and how they have been marginalized, criminalized and had land taken from them. We have our history too. Nevertheless, many people look to Canada as a place where human rights are respected. There is a belief that we should be a leader in the international community not only to defend rights in Canada but also to speak out in the international community.

While the consequences of the bill are to provide some safeguards to Canadian industries and hopefully it will have some effect in that way, I have to be very clear that even at this late stage of the debate the NDP cannot in principle support the bill because of what underlies it. Based on the conversations I have had and the education I have gone through in talking with constituents, I feel strongly that people in Canada want to see our federal government engage in trade practices that are fair.

We want to engage in trade practices that recognize the protection of our environment, the establishment of important labour standards, the establishment of social standards. They cannot be divorced from trade. These are not separate but are part and parcel of one another.

We stand most strongly for the idea of fair trade. It is not that we are opposed to international trade. It exists. Trading has gone on for thousands of years and more so in today's technological world. However, I would stand here today and every other day and argue that we should never defend a jurisdiction, an agreement or an organization that usurps democratic practice or undermines democratic legislation and removes the power of government in favour of creating an unfettered field for private corporations.

Even the notion of free trade is such a loaded term because it is basically free trade at the expense of everything else. I reject that. It is not that I reject trade. I reject the notion and the practice of what has now escalated so rapidly in the last decade. Now we see that after 15 years of negotiations the People's Republic of China has entered this world elite club of the WTO. Some people I know see that as fabulous news and as the vehicle for better relations, but let it be said that I think there is a growing number of people who do not see that as an appropriate vehicle and who will continue to speak out to defend human rights and to protect the environment.

In closing I would just reiterate that we do not support the bill. We will continue to express our concerns about what happens in our own country and also internationally. We are part of the global community. I am very proud that defending international covenants and international human rights is something that we as New Democrats do and I know we will continue to do that.

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4:45 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, I have a question but before I ask it I just want to respond to the point about the changes in the Chinese postal system. I understand that those changes came in on March 6 but have no effect on Canada and the minister will be continuing to follow up on that.

I am glad that the previous two speakers mentioned Tibet and showed that the interactions we have had through initiatives such as this have led to it being open and to the fact that our parliamentary association can visit next year. This will hopefully once again help make improvements in that area.

I am also delighted that the previous speaker mentioned Falun Gong and what its followers have been through. I was happy to present a petition in the House about that from my riding of Yukon. I remember one night being out at midnight in the rain here and talking to those supporters in the rally who were still awake. They have suffered much. I think all members of the House are in support of eliminating human rights violations and suffering such as the Falun Gong followers have undergone.

My question is this. The WTO requires China, as a member, to follow certain principles and practices that will contribute to a more open and participatory system of government. The member might be aware of them, so I will not list them unless I am asked. Certainly having a more participatory government is beyond economics. Certainly the member would at least support that part of this initiative.

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4:45 p.m.


Libby Davies NDP Vancouver East, BC

Madam Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his comments, particularly as I know that he too has supported the Falun Gong members who have been here on Parliament Hill. I know that many of us have supported their efforts. However, if they were in the House today and we were to ask them as people who have direct experience, those who have come from the People's Republic of China or have friends or relatives there, whether or not they think the WTO will be the mechanism that will guarantee or even necessarily improve their freedom to speak and to practise their beliefs, I think the answer we would get is no.

Yes, I certainly support anything that will encourage a more participatory government, but I think we have to understand that the WTO is about trade liberalization. It is not about strengthening workers' rights, basic social rights or political and civil rights. It does not deal with those aspects. There may be some references to having greater transparency in government and so on. We certainly saw all of that during the FTAA in Quebec City. In fact, it was very interesting to see how all of the leaders who came here from the Americas, and including our own Prime Minister, were bending over backwards to try and convince us that the FTAA would be the vehicle to improve democracy in the Americas, yet there is really no critical analysis to back that up. In fact the evidence is to the contrary. When we look at these trade agreements, we see that they actually provide more and more concentration of power among fewer and fewer people. They actually undermine the democratic process.

While I appreciate the member's comments, I guess I have to disagree. I do not believe that the WTO, in either the short run or the long run, will deal with some of the concerns that have been expressed today in the House about Tibet, about the situation of workers, about the environment or about improving democratic government.

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4:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to take part in this debate that has been going on for a long time and started long before the introduction of this bill. We have held debates in committee and in the House on the future of the People's Republic of China and its accession to the World Trade Organization.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate my Progressive-Conservative colleague from Cumberland--Colchester on his excellent work in raising the awareness of our caucus and explaining the situation to us.

We often hear about the WTO when there are problems and we win or lose our case. What we are dealing with here is the accession of a player who is most important by its territory, its economy, its political situation and its population. Obviously, the rules of the game will change, and Canada should be ready for this.

That is why this bill provides for a buffer period Canada has secured through negotiation concerning the opening of our market, especially in the textile industry.

This being said, textiles are indeed going to become a major market, and this is a matter of some concern in our country, especially in Quebec. As we know, the Quebec textile industry was hard hit by uncertainty and job losses when the Free Trade Agreement with the United States and Mexico came into force.

However, there is no need for concern. We need to adjust. Currently in Quebec the textile industries that upgraded have been able to start exporting again while taking free trade into account, of course.

Indeed, when you open your market to major players such as China, there is a period of uncertainty during which some sectors of the economy suffer losses. However, these sectors know this is coming. They have enough time to prepare for it.

I remember that when the previous government had negotiated the first free trade agreement with the U.S. certain measures were proposed. They were far from being perfect and probably insufficient. However, associated measures were offered to help with the transition from a closed market to an open market.

Sadly, we see no such thing in this bill. This may not be the appropriate time, but the government is not putting forward any financial incentives or measures to give those businesses that will most likely be harmed by the accession of China to the WTO a chance to further upgrade; the textile industry is a case in point. I hope that when the bill is passed in both Houses, when China officially joins the world trade community through its membership in the WTO, the government, while respecting its agreements with our southern neighbours and our international commitments, will put in place incentives to help the industry prepare and upgrade.

The WTO is not the answer to everything. One should not think that just because China is joining the WTO, the Tibet issue will be solved tomorrow morning, questions regarding human rights will be answered tomorrow morning and the religious groups issue will be solved tomorrow morning. This is not the way to look at it.

That being said, there are two ways of approaching the problem. There are countries where sanctions are necessary and others where incentives are necessary. In the case of China—I will remind members that the negotiations were extremely lengthy—incentives are better suited to the situation than sanctions. We are not talking here about apartheid, even though Quebecers and Canadians wonder about respect for human rights in China. The advantage of China's accession to the WTO is that it will level the playing field.

Let us take dumping as an example. It is an important aspect. Several businesses in our country are eager to see other countries, such as Russia, join the WTO, because their industry will be better off with regard to exports. I am talking of course about the asbestos industry. It is known that Russia is dumping asbestos all over the world. In my riding, 300 jobs could be lost this year and a mine will be closed. I take this opportunity to urge the government to act quickly to develop a policy on the use of asbestos.

WTO rules will open up the market, which means that there will be increased interaction between China and its WTO partners. Therefore, it will be easier to go to see the positive things that China has to offer. For the less positive things, we will not wait to receive official invitations. We will be able to go to see, because the WTO also opens up he country. It is not only an economic tool.

When billions of dollars are traded, not only does it have social and economic impacts, but it also has impacts on culture, on the environment and I would even say on tourism. If we get to know China better and if China gets to know countries such as Canada better, things will most certainly improve.

That being said, I think the WTO is far from perfect. This will cause problems, but look at what Canada has been able to do through free trade. We have been winners in this. Changes have to be made, of course; there is always a transition period.

The WTO will not solve all our problems, because it is only an organization. There are other economic and trade agreements. Members on this side of the House have mentioned that, with all the various international agreements we have, we do not know which one prevails. For instance, in a dispute with our neighbours south of the border, is it the Free Trade Agreement or the WTO that prevails? We know our American counterparts quite well; we know they will use the one with which they stand a better chance to win.

Given all the agreements being signed by Canada, there will come a time when we will have to wonder which one has priority. We are talking about expanding the free trade area of the Americans, with the FTAA. Which of these agreements will have priority? These questions need to be asked and deserve to be answered.

I will stop here, because I feel we have had a very good debate on this bill. A lot of members took part in it. Again, I would remind the House that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has always wished for citizens and stakeholders to take part in the process and not only be consulted.

On the eve of the negotiations concerning the FTAA and other agreements, the committee asked for some kind of permanent mechanism to keep in touch with the people we represent. We still do not have one. People ask us questions about this bill, the WTO and other international agreements we are currently negotiating, and we do not have a way to get back to them. We will have to rethink the whole consultation process and the way to ensure Canadians get involved.

The Progressive Conservative Party will be glad to support this bill, while reminding everyone, of course, that some parts of our economy will suffer, at least during the transition period, but eventually China, Canada and every country in the world should be able to benefit from this initiative.

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5 p.m.


Larry Bagnell Liberal Yukon, YT

Madam Speaker, a previous speaker, who is in support of the bill, mentioned that millions of people could lose their jobs in China. I do not necessarily agree with that comment. By opening up trade, a lot of markets in different countries will be more open to Chinese business which will increase employment. If there are certain instances where prices are too high in China, then opening up trade to lower priced products will actually help poor people in China. Previous trade liberalizations have shown an increase in jobs. I hope that one day this may help my riding of Yukon with its mineral and forest production because China uses these types of products.

I would like to ask the member two quick questions.

First, there is a safeguard in the bill to protect Canadian companies for up to 12 years if needed, and I know he is a strong supporter of free trade. Does his party have any concerns about repercussions to Canada for such trade sanctions, if we were to add it?

Second, the member's riding of Richmond--Arthabaska may have some products similar to those found in my riding. What industries does he think might be hurt or helped in his riding with this new trade liberalization?

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5 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Progressive Conservative Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. This may annoy our Liberal colleagues a little, but it is always nice to see that they have changed their position on free trade treaties since the 1993 election. As we know, only fools never change their mind. Therefore, we are very happy that those on the other side of the Housee have changed their mind.

Actually, some protection measures do exist. However, as things stand now, there could be job losses. The protection measures deal mostly with dumping and they are good measures. However, eight, ten or twelve years is a very short period to allow a company to transform itself and adapt to a new reality called China.

Nevertheless, we are satisfied with the provisional protection measures. They are necessary. As I said in my previous speech, while complying with current worldwide agreements, we would also like to see incentives for companies that are most at risk.

The textile industry will be one of the most seriously affected. We do not need to convince anyone of that. It is written in the bill. These are not my words. Everyone agrees that this industry is more at risk. Where are the incitatives which will help the textile sector to transform itself and become more efficient?

Having said that, we are satisfied. In my riding, I hope that the asbestos industry will be among those that will benefit from the accession of China to the WTO. As we know, Asia buys large quantities of asbestos. Unfortunately, Russia is dumping this product. China needs it. If this product is used safely--it is like a credit card--you get the benefits out of it and you forget its inconveniences.

I would like to point out, however, that in my riding there are textile companies specialized, among other things, in jeans, shirts and skirts; they could be hard hit. In the Eastern Townships, several companies have already closed down. I am thinking in particular of people who bought cotton. Since cotton imported from China, for example, is much cheaper, some companies have already been forced to close down.

That being said, in the end, the hon. member is right: an agreement like the one before us today is beneficial for all citizens of the participating countries.

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5 p.m.

London—Fanshawe Ontario


Pat O'Brien LiberalParliamentary Secretary to the Minister for International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I listened to my colleague opposite with great interest. He asked a question about what would take precedence, NAFTA, WTO or FTAA. Clearly the cornerstone of the government's trade policy is WTO. Having said that, we proceed on three fronts. Recently we had a Canada-Costa Rica and a Canada-Chile bilateral in NAFTA or FTAA, which is a new initiative, then regionally in those areas, then of course multilaterally at the WTO. The WTO is the cornerstone, but softwood is a sad example unfortunately. They compliment each other and to some extent there is an overlap. We will be taking action at NAFTA and WTO. It is not a case of them being mutually exclusive oftentimes.

The member talked about the issue of possible assistance to certain industries such as textiles and so on. When I was in Shanghai representing the Minister for International Trade last June at the APEC trade ministers meetings, I had a chance to intervene for businesses in my own part of Ontario. Their problem was the bureaucracy they faced in China and the rules for doing business there.

My question for the member is this. Does the member not feel that by having China as a member of WTO it will force the Chinese to move toward respecting rules based trade and will that not benefit all Canadian companies?