Mr. Speaker, having listened to the debate for a short while, I found it pretty heavy going, kind of depressing.
So I had the idea, if only to lighten things up for a few moments, to share with you a little discussion I had with my staff this morning, when I learned that today was the day I was to speak on Bill C-50, concerning accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization. I will share with you the contents of my favourite cartoon strip.
This is something I have had for some years and like to bring out from time to time. When I am feeling low, I look at it and it cheers me up.
It is taken from the comic strip Philomène , which is called Nancy and Sluggo in English. We see her standing at the front of the class. She has a little paper in her hand and she is announcing to the class “Today, my five minute report is on China. Its title is ‘China: a five minute report’”. In the next frame we see Philomène looking at her watch. Her thoughts are shown. “Oh oh, I'm in trouble”. She realizes that just saying “Today, my five minute report is on China. Its title is ‘China: a five minute report’” is not going to take up her five minutes.
Funnily enough, my favourite comic strip is about a speech on China, and today I have to talk for twenty minutes about the accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization.
That said, let us get back to the heart of the issue. I think that we must conclude, or at least point out, having heard the speech by my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, that we must face up to reality. Facing up to reality means acknowledging that Canada and China entered into a bilateral agreement in November 1999 on freer trade between the two countries.
Facing up to reality means considering and acknowledging the fact that, since 1986, China has manifested its intention to join the WTO. Since then, it has negotiated bilateral agreements with some forty WTO members, Canada among them. The provisions of these bilateral agreements apply to other WTO members by virtue of the most favoured nation criterion.
It must be noted also that, for all intents and purposes, China is already a member of the WTO pursuant to the protocol on the accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization that came into effect on December 11, 2001. Consequently, Canada has no choice but to adapt its legislation, and I will explain why in a few moments. Normally, Canada does not have to adapt its legislation when a new country joins the World Trade Organization, but it must do so in the case of China, and I will come back to that shortly. Perhaps this will respond to some of the concerns expressed by our colleague from the Canadian Alliance. Facing up to reality means adapting our legislation accordingly.
Our colleague from the Canadian Alliance was saying that we do not necessarily have to initiate trade relations with a country just because that country belongs to the World Trade Organization. The Government of Canada can decide not to trade with a country such as the People's Republic of China.
With all due respect, I would tell my colleague from the Canadian Alliance, who claims to put the private sector at the centre of our economic system and to be in favour of free trade, that it is not for the government to determine whether or not a Canadian business wants to trade with China.
It is for Canadian or Quebec businesses to decide whether they want to trade with the People's Republic of China, whether or not that country is a member of the World Trade Organization. It is not for the government to decide, unless there is a political decision on the part of the government to boycott a particular country. However, I do not think there is any plan to boycott the People's Republic of China at this time.
If the Alliance member is suggesting in any way that the government should boycott the People's Republic of China, I think he should have informed the House of his view, since it would be a rather spectacular and drastic measure that would be a radical departure from what has been Canada's approach with regard to the People's Republic of China over the last few years.
I would like to say a few words about the People's Republic of China. Admittedly, this is not one of the most democratic countries in the world. With the reports of organizations like Amnesty International, we realize that human rights violations actually do occur in the People's Republic of China.
However, we should also realize that the People's Republic of China represents one fifth of the world population. Is it really possible to isolate from the rest of the world one fifth of the population of the planet simply because it does not have a democratic system and because there are human rights violations there?
Democracies are a tiny minority in the world. Does this mean that the free and democratic nations should live just among themselves, and let the rest of the world fend for itself? No, this is not the philosophy of Canada, nor is it the philosophy of Quebec.
A number of years ago, we realized that the development of democracy was closely linked to economic development. This is why, many years ago, Canada and all developed countries set up and maintained development assistance programs and international cooperation programs, so that all the countries we used to call third world countries, and which we now call, more appropriately, developing countries, could set out with determination on the road to both economic and democratic development, and eventually become countries living under the rule of law, totally democratic and respectful of human rights. I think the market economy certainly contributes to economic, human, and democratic development.
The remarks of the Canadian Alliance member make this important philosophical debate unavoidable. How should democratic nations like Canada respond to autocratic nations, to nations that do not have as much respect for human rights and are therefore, on this score, developing nations?
Must we, as we did specifically in the case of South Africa, take a hard line, a policy by which we will totally isolate these states on the economic and political level? Or will we choose, as we did in the case of most developing states in the world, the way of co-operation and trade relations, to lead these countries down the road to economic, democratic et human development?
While we must recognize that, in the case of South Africa, the situation was quite out of the ordinary, I would say that we chose, several years ago, to promote open relations and to establish as many links as possible with these countries, to lead them down the road to development.
It must also be recognized that the People's Republic of China is Canada's fourth largest trade partner. Its trade with Canada reached $15 billion in 2000. It must be recognized that the People's Republic of China is the seventh most powerful economy in the world and the ninth largest exporter.
This means that we cannot indefinitely isolate states such as the People's Republic of China, and many other states around the world, which have a system that is more autocratic or less open to human development and other aspects. I think that is what accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization finally recognizes.
Our colleague of the Alliance was saying “Yes, but they have minimal working conditions and their production costs are much lower that those in Canada. Consequently, we are not on the same level, we will not benefit from the same conditions. China will therefore have the advantage and will be able to sell on the Canadian market similar goods that it will have produced at much lower costs, thus outdoing Canadian goods and the Canadian businesses that produce them”.
This is indeed a legitimate concern, if ever there was one. However, we must realize that the members of the World Trade Organization have also faced up to this reality, that China does not currently have a market economy, and that production costs in China are definitely lower than just about anywhere else in the world. Working conditions are also lower.
This has been acknowledged. Consequently, specific protections were included in the accord on China's accession to the WTO and, as a result, we now have to incorporate them into Canadian legislation. These protective measures are temporary, but they will allow Canada and other WTO members to protect their markets during the transtion period.
The bill before us today, Bill C-50, deals with China's accession to the World Trade Organization. The bill amends some Canadian legislation, including the Canadian International Trade Tribunal Act and the Export and Import Permits Act, to allow the government to apply, if need be, the protective measures set out in the accord on China's accession to the World Trade Organization.
Bill C-50 also amends the Special Import Measures Act to include provisions in Canadian statutes regarding anti-dumping investigations provided for in the accord on China's accession to the WTO.
In practical terms, three guarantees would be added. There are three guarantees set out in the treaty on China's accession to the WTO. There is what is known as a guarantee per product, which may be applied to any product originating from the People's Republic of China that impacts or threatens to impact Canadian industry negatively because of increased imports of Chinese goods produced at a lower cost than on the Canadian market.
There is a guarantee of diversion, which can be used to prevent Chinese products that have been denied access to markets by reason of a guarantee per product from flooding the Canadian market, thereby having a negative impact our industry.
I think that the guarantee of diversion has taken on a new significance in the last few weeks when, for example, the United States decided to apply safeguard measures to prevent the importation of steel into their market. Canada could have become some sort of outlet for steel products meant for the United States, and these products could have ended on our Canadian market or elsewhere. This is exactly the type of situation we want to prevent with the guarantee of diversion.
For example, if a country applies safeguard measures, invoking the guarantee per product to keep products originating in the People's Republic of China from entering its market, a neighbouring country can invoke the guarantee of diversion to prevent those Chinese products being denied access to the first country from flooding its market, in this case the Canadian market.
There is a third special guarantee that applies to clothing and textile imports from China. To respond to the concerns of our colleague from the Canadian Alliance, I must say that there are provisions in the treaty on the accession of the People's Republic of China to the World Trade Organization that will become part of Canadian legislation pursuant to Bill C-50. There are guarantees that actually allow us to protect the Canadian market against the unfair competition feared by our colleague from the Alliance because of the present economic conditions in the People's Republic of China.
Let me come back briefly to the philosophical debate I mentioned earlier. We are having this debate in the House today because of some comments by our Canadian Alliance colleague, who has once again brought up the whole issue of the appropriateness of opening our arms to countries whose the system is much less democratic than ours, where there is no market based economy or whatever else.
This is a recurring issue. I remember that there was a debate very recently at the Inter-Parliamentary Union as to whether we should admit the Shoura, which is the consultative council of Saudi Arabia—I am not using the expression legislative council, because it is a little hard to determine whether the Shoura does indeed meet the definition of a parliament in legislative terms. So, the Inter-Parliamentary Union wondered whether it should admit the Shoura as one of its members.
This debate was also going on. Some were saying “Human rights are being violated in Saudi Arabia. That country is not a democratic state. Members of the Shoura are not elected; they are appointed by the king. They can be removed at the king's pleasure. They are not called upon to oppose legislation that the king might want to enact. Why should we let it join the Inter-Parliamentary Union?”
Then, there were those who were saying “If we want Saudi Arabia's legislative system to eventually include women as members of the Shoura, to eventually have members elected to that council and to ensure that these members are not at the mercy of an autocratic ruler, if we really want to lead Saudi Arabia down the road to a more democratic system, even though it must be recognized that the Shoura has already made a lot progress in a fairly short period of time, in terms of the number of its members of various origins in Saudi society, then this is what must be done”.
This was the other view that was expressed. Both of these views are very relevant and legitimate. Ultimately, we must go back to the fundamental question that I raised earlier. In fact, is the best way to lead these countries down the road to democracy, human development and democratic development, not to share our experience with them and ensure that these countries are more open and eventually adopt ways of doing things that are similar to ours?
I will conclude by touching briefly on the issues of human rights and economic development. China's accession to the World Trade Organization and the implementation bill before the House today will not be enough to change the mindset and the economic and political system of the Chinese people.
We will have to continue putting pressure on the Chinese authorities to move toward freer trade, democracy and better human rights. We will have to support human development and international co-operation in China and throughout the world.
Therefore, I urge the government to recommit to the international objective, which is to set aside 0.7% of our gross domestic product for international development. Because of the government cuts, the development assistance budget has gone from 0.46% in 1992 to 0.25%. The increases announced recently would only raise it to 0.27%.
We must urge the government to step up its efforts to reach the objective of 0.7% of our GDP.