Mr. Speaker, I am extremely pleased to have this opportunity to express my great enthusiasm for the motion by my colleague from Joliette. I congratulate him on having the initiative to bring this motion before the House of Commons.
I would point out that he has extremely strong support, not only in Quebec, by also from various groups in Canada. The support in Quebec comes from a number of major organizations, among them the labour movement and all those involved in regional development and development in general.
It seems to me that the colleagues who have just spoken have not really grasped the point of my colleague's motion. He is not saying that investments do not need to be protected, but rather that investors must not be given the same right to act as international stakeholders as states are, and that rules for the protection of foreign investments developed and used by the Canadian government with satisfactory results prior to NAFTA must be preserved.
I heard the hon. member across the way say that we have signed a number of agreements since 1990. It is true that we think signing some of these agreements was a good idea. Beginning with NAFTA, the right of investors to make complaints directly against governments was recognized. At that point, the approach to complaints took a ridiculous turn internationally.
I want to say this very clearly and I will repeat it because it is bending the truth to say that we do not want to protect investments. We do, however, want to protect the government's rights.
What is it about NAFTA that we do not like? What is it about NAFTA's investment protection provisions that we object to? Several things have become obvious, and some affect Canada.
First of all, there is the definition of “expropriation”, which is much too broad. As an answer for my hon. colleague on this side, I can say that we recognize—as the OECD rules recognize—that in cases of expropriation, compensation should be at fair market value.
Under NAFTA, expropriation now means the evaluation of potential losses. This interpretation has given rise to some high-dollar complaints. Imagine what this means when complaints are lodged against governments, in particular against underdeveloped countries. Just one complaint could cause the government to refuse to protect the environment, for example. Thus, this is an extremely damaging provision.
The second point is that not only are the investors protected, but their backers are protected as well. Even if an investor decided to accept the legislation passed by a government, a bank in another country could decide to sue. That is excessive.
The third and most important point for us is the famous investor-state redress provisions, which enable foreign companies to take their case before special tribunals. I am speaking specifically of foreign companies, because native companies do not have this right of recourse. It is completely disproportionate to give economic parties—which may be quite large—the status of international parties because they are acting under trade treaties, which is true, but treaties nonetheless.
Under this provision, governments can be attacked directly for any measures they may take that would deprive companies of potential profit.
Consider our position in terms of overall globalization and the size of investments. These investments are quite significant: $4,000 billion in one year, with over $430 billion for Canada alone.
These investments go from developed countries to underdeveloped countries that want them, but if these investments come with similar strings attached, there are constraints for the governments of developed countries, but there are significant restraints for the governments of underdeveloped countries, even without waiting for a final ruling from a special tribunal. A single complaint, along with astronomical profit losses, might mean that a government that had improved its environmental record, for example, would regress.
I want to tell the Chair that the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade heard many witnesses prior to the free trade of the Americas negotiations. In fact, the FTAA contains what we object to in NAFTA, and we want this removed, but we have read the FTAA documents and they are identical to NAFTA. This is unacceptable, and we will continue to fight this.
In the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, all the witnesses disagreed with the NAFTA provisions, except for one person who worked for a big legal firm, so this is understandable.
For those who were strongly opposed to the MAI, the multilateral agreement on investment, which the OECD dropped, I would like to point out that the MAI also uses the same terms as NAFTA.
It is not a matter of not protecting private company investment, but rather of protecting the right, the power of governments to use the measures, policies and decisions available to them to protect the public good and not allowing foreign companies—I stress this because native companies do not have recourse to these mechanisms—to complain about one of these decisions which could possibly cause them to lose money and which they would be entitled to complain about before a special NAFTA tribunal if it applied to NAFTA, or an FTAA tribunal if it related to FTAA, or whatever.
I would also like to point out that Canada, which signed investment protection agreements with 22 countries, adopted OECD rules until 1994 without complaint. However, with the implementation of NAFTA it adopted NAFTA rules and in all these agreements with developing countries, companies which invest are given the right to challenge the legislation of the governments of developing countries.
Canada and the United States were not alone in adopting these provisions. All the other countries, in their bilateral agreements with other countries, retained the initial OECD rules and those in effect at the WTO, rules such as respect for the right of ownership regardless of the nationality of the owner; no nationalization without fair financial compensation; ban on treating assets within a country differently depending on whether they are domestically or foreign owned; free movement of capital resulting from an operation and the disposition of investments.
I hope my colleagues in this House will take advantage of this opportunity to speak to this extremely important issue.
I am talking about the future ability of governments to fulfil their responsibilities vis-à-vis increasingly large investors with increasingly large assets, whose primary concern is not the common good. This is a vote to protect the right of governments, large or small, to defend the common good.