Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Motion No. 397. The object of the motion is to replace the American dumping and countervailing regime on the lumber issue with a net subsidy approach. On the fact of it, this motion looks like a good initiative.
If it could be accomplished, we could quantify all industry specific subsidies and if both sides were roughly equal, there would be no countervailing duties. We would have a better regime if we could accomplish it. However, there are a number of roadblocks in getting to the destination outlined in the bill, and I think they are fairly major hurdles and roadblocks. I would like to go over those roadblocks and perhaps get a response from the person who is promoting this motion.
The first roadblock is we have attempted this net subsidy method before. Under the free trade agreement and the Uruguay round of world trade negotiations, we attempted to establish this approach. It failed because many countries, including the United States, were opposed to this method of dealing with subsidies and distortions. That opposition is stronger today than it has been probably for a long time.
The approach would not affect U.S. internal trade law, things like the Byrd amendment. These things would stay in place. The trade law still remains a major burden in getting full free access and open trade with the United States. These tools and internal trade laws that exist in the United States will not disappear if we can accomplish what the member suggests.
The other concern is the U.S. department of commerce would still be there. It would have the power under this suggestion to quantify the subsidies, not only in the United States but in Canada as well. It would be a rather naive assumption to expect the U.S. department of commerce to use the same measuring stick for both economies in coming to that determination.
I guess another difficulty with this approach is has its problems too. I can visualize trade lawyers in Washington and the various lobbyists and protectionists, who want to frustrate this sort of thing, killing the deal with a thousand needles. They could study every fine detail, every little aspect of this into the ground, and we would have a never ending process. It would go on and on, and we would never get any resolution.
Many trade experts would say, if we do not like the way trade is working with the United States today, that the best solution would be to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement and renegotiate the agreement with the Americans. I think in all honesty the difficulty with that approach is the Liberal government has too many sectors in this economy that it wants to favour and protect. A lot of the problems we have in the airline industry is the policy by the Liberal government to create a sheltered, protected monopolistic air system in the country, and we are paying the price for it today.
We have it in the guise of culture and arts too, that we need to have our own regime in place. Basically, what we are really doing is protecting certain friendly industries in that sector which the government wants to protect. Generally, it is a monopolistic type arrangement again.
In the banking sector more often than not Liberals are more in favour of protectionism, giving a small group of people concentrated power rather than truly opening up the sector to the full advantages of a free enterprise, free market system and the benefits of real competition.
The grain industry would be another example, and the supply sector. If we were to reopen NAFTA, we would have to seriously put these things on the table to get any progress in dealing with the other issues where there is a concern.
I do not see the Liberal Party being the party that would want to really encourage free trade. It has not been supporters of it. I remember John Turner in 1988 saying that if we signed on to a free trade agreement with the United States, we would lose our border and sovereignty. Liberals sound like the NDP when they talk on trade issues generally and they generally take the same positions. They are trying to suck and blow at the same time. That is a hard thing to do but they try to do that.
They fought free trade, and everything they said about it in 1988 has basically backfired on them. We have a $50 billion to $60 billion merchandise trade surplus with the United States on an ongoing basis. We probably have the biggest trade surplus with the United States of all its trading partners, and the Liberal Party fought it tooth and nail saying that it would not be good for Canada.
However, I agree that the way to try to address a lot of these issues would to approach some reopening of NAFTA.
In conclusion and speaking to the motion itself, the best course of action from where we are right now, is to stay the course. We went a long way down the pipe with both NAFTA applications and World Trade applications, and I think we are getting very close to the end of the pipe where these things will come to a determination.
Any attempt at this time to try some other way to resolve this only plays into the hands of the special interests that are behind these countervailing and dumping charges in the United States. We realized that it would take a long time to work our way through these things and get to the end of the pipe, and get final determinations on these issues. We can see this coming. It just seems to me it would be a detour to abandon that process. To go to something else at this stage that probably would not work.
I wanted to deal with some collateral issues that pertain to this matter. My Prince Albert riding in Saskatchewan has some softwood lumber plants and a pulp and paper plant that are experiencing a lot of difficulty. The province does not have the fiscal capacity to deal with the problems, and a lot of that has been created by the equalization policy of the Liberal government. There really have been no measures taken by the government to help the industry through this stage of negotiations and trade disputes, and it is starting to show. A number of plants have closed down.
The largest player, Weyerhaeuser is now starting to put some of its plants on the market. It looks like the industry is basically downsizing in Saskatchewan and we are going to be looking at closed capacity and a lot of unemployment arising out of this matter. It is not a good situation.
I have never it seen it so bad in just about every sector of the Saskatchewan economy, in the farming sector, softwood lumber sector and livestock sector. It just is not good times. There are lots of problems in the province and unfortunately the federal government has been of very little assistance in addressing these matters.