Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Conservatives agrees that Canadian manufacturers face an almost insurmountable unfair competitive disadvantage. For that very reason China agreed when it joined the WTO that safeguards might be needed to avoid disruptions in domestic marketplaces where it hoped to trade. Therefore, the United States availed itself of that offer from the WTO to limit increases in Chinese imports to 7.5% per year. The European Union very wisely also availed itself of this negotiated phase-in period. Mexico, Argentina,Turkey, most countries said if they did not phase in this influx of Chinese imports, their domestic industry would collapse. Why did Canada not do the same? It boggles the mind.
From January 1, 2005 to July 1, 2005 we were faced with a 40% increase overall in Chinese imports. In certain categories, for instance, men's jackets and blazers, imports grew 358% in the first five months. In the area of 11 million units came flocking in here. In women's skirts the growth rate accelerated 233%.
Clearly, China was waiting for this date. It is within its right and within the WTO rules to bombard the Canadian marketplace with Chinese imports. We know that if we look at labels for where things are manufactured, it is difficult to find something that is not manufactured in China or Bangladesh. It is more and more difficult to try to support our domestic industry.
We are not asking for anything unusual. It defies reason that when we brought it to the minister of international trade and the Liberal government in 2005, we were met with a stone wall. The Liberals said, “No, we are free traders. We drink our milk from a dirty cup”. I suppose they were trying to be some kind of tough guys.
In actual fact, why not avail ourselves of the measures that were put in place to protect domestic markets? The result has been predictable, devastating and irreversible, but there is still time. The Conservative government could still tap in to this phase-in period. This is our opportunity to raise it with the new government and ask if it would please consider this.
I should note that in November 2005 the Conservative official opposition critic for international trade said that he supported the safeguards, “A Conservative government would stand up for Canadian workers and work proactively through international trade policies to ensure Canada competes on a level playing field”. He was speaking specifically about the garment industry trade safeguards when he was the official opposition critic. I think he is now the chair of the international trade committee.
The solution is simple. The WTO allows member countries to impose limits on the growth of specific categories of Chinese clothing imports. It can be 7.5% growth per year for a period of three years. This would translate into hundreds of millions of dollars of economic opportunities for our domestic manufacturers to be able to plan a strategy at least instead of being attacked in this way.
The question is, the rest of the world has acted, why not Canada? If we value this industry sector, if we have not abandoned the garment industry and simply resigned ourselves to the fact that Canada will not manufacture clothes any more, and I would like to believe that no one in the House of Commons believes that, then we have to help this industry in a way that is not a handout but is simply availing ourselves of the protective measures that other countries had the common sense to put forward.
There are strategies we could talk about further. The motion that we are negotiating today addresses some kind of a transition plan for the workers that are going to be displaced. There have been casualties. There has been collateral damage to the extreme. There have been more jobs lost since January 1, 2005 than there are left in the industry. We are down to less than 50,000 jobs in manufacturing across the country now.
My own riding of Winnipeg Centre took one of the hardest hits because the industry has a certain critical mass in Montreal and Toronto that we do not enjoy. It has been devastating and I do not say that trying to overstate the situation. My riding is the poorest riding in Canada already. To lose this many jobs in that key industrial sector in the inner city of my riding is a blow that I cannot remain silent about.
As we look at an industrial strategy for Canada and as we address pressures on the auto industry, we are urged to act. As we address pressures in the aerospace industry, we seem motivated to try to encourage our domestic industry sector so that it continues to be a viable force and a well-respected sector internationally.
I am urging the policy makers and decision makers in the House of Commons to apply the same attention to the garment industry. Whether it is men's clothing, women's clothing, textiles or weaving, it should be one of the value added industries that is exciting.
I appeal to all members present to pass this motion and extend the spirit of the motion by availing ourselves of the opportunity in the WTO. The safeguard measures are important. They might be our last chance to save this industry.