moved that Bill C-357, an act to provide for an improved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan, be read the second time and referred to a committee.
Mr. Speaker, Bill C-357 is a private member's bill tabled by myself as member of Parliament for Kootenay—Columbia. There are members from all parties of the House who support this bill in principle and I expect that if it comes to a vote at second reading the bill will pass and be forwarded to committee for consideration.
In 1970, when Canada recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China and terminated its diplomatic relations with Taiwan, Canada only took note of and neither endorsed nor challenged China's claims to sovereignty over Taiwan. Cabinet records show that the Canadian government policy intended to maintain a de facto relationship with Taiwan after de-recognition of the country.
The position of Prime Minister Trudeau was to leave flexibility in Canada's domestic or international relationships with Taiwan. This allows the various international jurisdictions and competing interests to work out their relationships without interference from Canada or Canadian interests.
In a letter dated May 9, 2005, Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs wrote:
Canada maintains a one-China policy under which we formally recognize the Government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) as the legitimate, representative of government of China. At the time of its recognition of the PRC in 1970, Canada “took note” of the position that “Taiwan is an inalienable part of the Peoples Republic of China”, but did not formally recognize this claim.
I am in complete agreement with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and this bill is complementary to the position of the Government of Canada on the one China policy. If there is a difference of opinion, it lies in the government's interpretation of the minister's own phrase, “but did not formally recognize this claim”. I believe Canadian government practices are demonstrably contrary to its expressions.
Last year the House voted by a margin of 2:1 to have Canada lead action at the World Health Organization to include Taiwan as a health entity. The Canadian Senate passed a similar motion of instruction. In spite of this direction by both chambers of Canada's Parliament, the Canadian government chose to ignore that instruction at the 57th conference of the World Health Assembly. This morning the general committee of the 58th World Health Assembly decided Taiwan's WHO case will not be included on the conference's provisional agenda. This is a matter of extreme consequence to the world's health.
This bill is more than three decades overdue because of action taken by our mutual trading partner, the United States. Months after the U.S. recognition of the PRC, it enacted its Taiwan relations act. Canada and its interests are in a significant disadvantage to their U.S. competitors. The Canadian government gives advantages to the U.S. in Taiwan commercial, criminal and security regulations. It ignores the U.S. Taiwan relations act while condemning the tabling of this Canadian Taiwan affairs act.
For Canada to take its rightful place in influencing world affairs, our Canadian government should rationalize policy with the U.S. to help build democracy and democratic values. A unified voice with the U.S. in China affairs would bring Canada into this sphere as a player rather than a pretender.
Canada is Taiwan's 11th largest trading partner. Bilateral trade reached $5 billion Canadian in 2004. Taiwan is Canada's seventh largest source of foreign tourists and foreign students with more than 150,000 people visiting Canada each year and 150,000 additional affluent and highly educated Taiwanese live in Canada as landed immigrants.
While the Canadian government emphasizes the importance of trade with China, the government has given very little thought to the shape and substance of our relations and the legal framework necessary to carry it out. In the recent foreign policy white paper there was no mention made regarding Canada-Taiwan relations. Given the trade, political and security importance of Taiwan to Canada, Taiwan issues have become a multi-party concern in Parliament in recent years.
This is well illustrated by the example of the WHO, which I raised earlier, and by issues frequently raised in the House question period. There have been several additional resolutions passed in both Houses as well as the foreign affairs committee.
Taiwan is an economic and democratic success story with a population of 23 million people. Taiwan is a fully functioning democracy governed by rule of law. President Chen Shui-bian's electoral victory in 2000 was the first peaceful democratic transfer of power in the 5,000 year history of the Chinese peoples. His re-election in 2004 confirmed the solid democratic foundation that has been established in Taiwan.
Observers of China affairs noted that while President Chen was re-elected, the explicit will of the Taiwan electorate to move toward sovereignty softened. It was therefore distressing to see the PRC respond to the Taiwan peoples by enacting the PRC anti-secession law in mid-March of this year. This action was an intentional buildup of pressure by the PRC in response to Taiwan's citizens taking the steam out of the Taiwan Strait question.
China observers cannot help noting the PRC's growing military strength, with an estimated budget of $65 billion U.S. According to a U.S. defense department report, China now has 725 missiles positioned across Taiwan Strait aimed specifically at Taiwan.
I note that after China passed its anti-secession law, Canada's foreign affairs minister issued a statement saying that any unilateral action, including the use of force, to change Taiwan's status is unacceptable to Canada. In fact, in April 2004 in a public speech, Canada's then foreign affairs minister called on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to resume dialogue without preconditions and to resolve cross-strait issues peacefully.
Taiwan honours the rule of law, preserves the free market, protects the environment and respects human rights. The world community cannot afford to let Taiwan fail because it is a symbol of the success of democracy and human rights as a universal value. Taiwan is a living rebuttal to the theory that these values are incompatible with the Asian way of life.
In a telephone conversation with a representative of the People's Republic of China I was told that the PRC is firmly opposed to this bill. The PRC in Beijing has called the bill “a brazen interference in China's domestic affairs”. It states:
By proposing this so-called Taiwan Affairs Act, some individual members of Canada's parliament are preaching 'two Chinas' or 'one China, one Taiwan'.
Their assertions are simply not supported by the facts. In part, Bill C-357 states that this is “an act to provide for an approved framework for economic, trade, cultural and other initiatives between the people of Canada and the people of Taiwan”.
I ask members to note that the bill intentionally does not use words to describe state to state or nation to nation relationships. For greater clarity on this point, the first paragraph of the preamble states:
WHEREAS on October 13, 1970, the Government of Canada formally recognized the People's Republic of China as the sole legitimate Government of China and took note of its claim that Taiwan is part of China;....
In the absence of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and China, the best approach is to adopt this bill as domestic law of Canada and to spell out the specific manner in which relations with Taiwan would be conducted by Canada without trying to define Taiwan's international legal status.
Due to the lack of recognition and diplomatic relations between Canada and Taiwan, a host of specific matters have arisen, resulting in important legal and pragmatic problems in the interactions. Clauses 4 through 8 of the bill contain explicit provisions to create a workable mechanism to regulate de facto unofficial relations between Canada and the unrecognized entity of Taiwan.
These clauses are borrowed directly from the U.S. Taiwan relations act. The Taiwan relations act provides a strong, solid legal framework between the U.S. and Taiwan. It has been a success in strengthening U.S.-Taiwan commercial relations.
Canadians interests compete daily with their U.S. counterparts. As matters sit today, Canadians suffer a growing disadvantage in trade with Taiwan.
Clause 4 of the bill provides that the absence of diplomatic relations should not affect the application of any Canadian laws with respect to Taiwan, and the laws shall apply to Taiwan exactly as they do to other countries. Thus:
Whenever the laws of Canada refer to or relate in general terms to foreign countries...such laws are deemed to refer or relate also to Taiwan.
Clause 5 protects property rights of Taiwan and its citizens. Clause 6 provides for the capacity to sue and be sued in Canadian courts. Clause 7 enables the Canadian government to sign agreements with Taiwan, enabling the Canadian government to enter into agreements with Taiwan.
I emphasize that this bill explicitly recognizes Canada's one China policy--this is the fifth time I have tried to make that point--but at the same time it brings order to continuing discord.
Clause 8 imposes provisions to protect reciprocal legal rights for Taiwan and Canada when they do business and interact with each other.
Taiwan and Canada have very close relations. As mentioned earlier, every year approximately 150,000 tourists from Taiwan travel to Canada. From 1990 to the present, more than 150,000 high quality immigrants have settled in Canada. Two-way trade between Taiwan and Canada reached $5 billion in 2004.
Taiwan is already Canada's fourth largest trading partner in Asia and is Canada's 11th largest trading partner overall. However, Foreign Affairs Canada claims that “as Canada does not recognize Taiwan as a state, it is not possible to negotiate a binding agreement with Taiwan”. Foreign Affairs Canada boasts of administering 2,267 treaties, yet none of them is listed as with Taiwan.
Taiwan and Canada share the same social values, including respect for human rights, freedom and rule of law. Taiwan's justice system is comparable to that of Canada. We can cooperate with Taiwan in many fields, including the judicial and economic areas.
For combating transborder criminals, in March 2002 Taiwan and the United States signed the agreement on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, which has been implemented smoothly during the past three years.
With the growing concern about security, international cooperation is imperative. However, Foreign Affairs Canada has refused to sign any kind of agreements with Taiwan. The issue is this: the U.S. Taiwan relations act enables its government to sign international agreements with Taiwan but we have no such agreement.
Between Canada and Taiwan, there is only a handful of exchanges of letters or memoranda of understanding and arrangements concerning some minor technical matters in the commercial and scientific fields. How can Canada promote trade and investment with such an important trading partner like Taiwan without the ability to sign any legal binding agreement?
Clause 9 of the act deals with issues around international cooperation. The purpose of the bill is to help to brighten the prospects for stronger Canada-Taiwan economic, cultural and other relations. The 25 year old U.S.Taiwan relations act, which is the model for this bill, has been a tremendous success in helping the U.S. to build a strong, unofficial relationship with Taiwan.
Canada's interactions with Taiwan are to our mutual benefit. Taiwan is a good friend and close partner of Canada, as Canada is of Taiwan. As such, Taiwan counts on sustained Canadian support as it addresses many important challenges. This very much includes Taiwan's efforts to develop its democracy.
I acknowledge protests from the PRC and certain Canadian business interests. They have said great harm will be done to the relationship between Canada and China and serious consequences will ensue after adoption of the bill. The Chinese took the same position against the U.S. on the adoption of the Taiwan relations act 25 years ago. With the Taiwan relations act in effect for two and a half decades, Canada's competitive position has continued to weaken.
For all the right reasons I am calling on members of Parliament to do what is in the best interests of Canada and the world. I am asking for support in principle for Bill C-357 to move to committee for consideration.