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House of Commons Hansard #99 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was food.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:35 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to raise a further question with the Liberal member for Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.

I certainly respect his very considerable knowledge of agricultural issues. It would not be my intention to challenge his assessment that, on balance, the concerns about the agricultural aspect of this free trade agreement may in fact still warrant supporting the agreement. He has a lot more in-depth knowledge than I do about the agricultural issues at stake here, coming as he does from Prince Edward Island. We do not have a huge agricultural industry in our Halifax riding, not that I would not have a real interest, but I will bow to his superior experience in this regard with respect to agriculture.

I do, though, want to pursue for a moment the question of the shipbuilding sector. To his credit, the member has acknowledged that there are very major concerns of shipyard workers and shipbuilders about the negative impact of this agreement, which is without any real protections for the long term interests and what is really the long term survival of the shipbuilding industry.

I agree with some of the comments he has made about how there are reasons why it would be desirable to reach an agreement with these countries, which generally are higher wage countries with which we have a lot in common and so on. However, I am very surprised that his position and that of his Liberal colleagues is to basically toss the shipbuilding industry overboard with respect to the devastating impact that this agreement could have without having provided some kind of extra carve-out. We know that was not impossible when it came to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and we had the Jones act absolutely protected, which has had a devastating impact on Canada's shipbuilding. So now this is a sort of double whammy.

I would just like to understand better his view on this. Instead of taking a stand, which we could have done as opposition parties knowing this is going to be devastating for some in Quebec and other parts of the country, certainly in Atlantic Canada, the member and his colleagues decided to not take a united stand. I am surprised and I want to understand that decision. We could have prevailed in insisting upon protections for the shipbuilding industry in Canada, which otherwise may be very adversely impacted by this agreement.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Liberal Charlottetown, PE

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I am going to challenge the premise made by the member across in her first statement that I might have more knowledge in agricultural issues. It has always been my belief that she is probably more knowledgeable through her experience in the House on all issues debated in this House including agriculture.

However, having said that, I appreciate her comments. When the agreement is boiled down, this seems to be a win-win-win situation. The biggest concern is shipbuilding. Other concerns could be raised such as supply management, taking it to the World Trade Association and other agricultural commodities, but really when it is boiled down, they become pretty minor and shipbuilding was the issue.

I would suggest this is the reason why it took 10 years to conclude this agreement because it was an issue raised by the shipbuilding companies. It has been raised by unions across Canada. I read the agreement and it seems they have not a total carve out, but certainly negotiated what I consider to be a good agreement.

I will summarize it. It has the longest tariff phase-outs for any agreement with a developed nation: 15 years for the most sensitive vessels and 10 years for other sensitive vessels with no tariff reductions for the first three years. Of course, shipbuilding is also supported by the $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facility.

This an issue that Industry Canada has to work with. This is an industry that Parliament of Canada has to be very sensitive to. I certainly acknowledge the concerns of the member across. We have a shipbuilding facility located in Georgetown, Prince Edward Island. It is extremely important to our economy.

I certainly would not want to sign any agreement or approve any legislation that would be in the long-run harmful to that facility. Again, I believe we have negotiated terms that are beneficial that will work for our industry and it is important for us as parliamentarians, the Government of Canada and the provincial governments, to work to enhance, develop and improve our shipbuilding industry.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:40 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate my colleague, the member for Charlottetown, for his insightful remarks on Bill C-55, sponsored by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

For Canadians who are watching or following it is an important outcome for the amount of investment, energy and time that has been invested in negotiating an agreement between Canada and what is called the European Free Trade Association. We are not talking here about the European Union, the 26 or 27 member states that form the EU. We are talking about a much smaller conglomeration of states in Europe: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It is a move forward for Canada to be able to move to ratify yet another bilateral trading agreement like so many others we have ratified in the past and others that we are presently negotiating.

We support initiatives on this side of the House in the official opposition that improve market access for Canadian businesses. We are a profoundly steeped in trading tradition nation. On balance we support the European free trade agreement deal and the bill that implements it.

Having said that, as we just heard in the previous exchange, there are some legitimate concerns surrounding Canada's shipbuilding industry and not inconsequential concerns. In large part, as we have just heard from my colleague from Charlottetown, it was the negotiating of those provisions that deal with shipbuilding that in part accounted for the 10 years it took to negotiate the deal.

We believe that there are some profound concerns around shipbuilding. We share these concerns, but we also believe that the unusually long tariff phase-outs and what are called the snap back provisions address these issues, and I will come back to that in a few moments.

We are anxious to send Bill C-55 to committee to ensure that the bill implements the agreement as has been described by the committee report dated April 7. So again, what is this all about?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

I regret to interrupt the hon. member for Ottawa South, but the government House leader is rising on a point of order.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Conservative York—Simcoe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I also regret interrupting the member for Ottawa South. I apologize for that, but there is a motion that we wish to put at this time.

There has been consultation among all the parties and I believe, Mr. Speaker, you will find unanimous consent for the following: That, during the debates on May 28 and May 29, 2008, on the business of supply, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4), no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and, within each 15-minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflect the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

I thank the hon. member for having indulged this interruption.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Royal Galipeau

Does the hon. government House leader have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

An hon. member

No.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying for Canadians who are watching or reading this debate, in due course this is about implementing a free trade agreement between Canada and a small number of European nations that form the European Free Trade Association: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

It is important to remember that the negotiations began in 1998 through the former Chrétien Liberal government to pursue this bilateral trade negotiation. It was signed on January 28, 2008 in Switzerland and then tabled in Parliament on February 14, 2008, three short months ago.

What does this agreement do? What are the important points of analysis that have been treated at committee that we need to make sure Canadians understand?

The first thing the agreement does is it eliminates duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, not all, but only selected ones, giving our Canadian exporters better access, almost preferred access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination.

The agreement also lays the groundwork for a better deal, a more comprehensive deal on services and investment with the European free trade association countries, as well as free trade talks with the broader European Union. This is extremely important for Canada as we move forward progressively, bilateral deal by bilateral deal to consolidate our trading relationship more formally with the European Union, and hopefully ultimately through a free trade agreement with the EU which, as we all know, is expanding rapidly. It comprises now some 26 to 28 nation states and is expanding in terms of massive economic opportunities for Canadian exporters.

We heard talk about the sensitivities around the shipbuilding sector. These are legitimate sensitivities and impressions that were asked at committee repeatedly by the shipbuilding industries and different labour representatives who did more than the yeoman's share of work in terms of making sure that what has arrived here in the House today addresses the concerns around shipbuilding.

As my colleague from Charlottetown has mentioned, it does something that has previously not been done here in Canada. It is certainly an interesting precedent for us to follow. What it has done here is it has actually included the longest tariff phase-outs for any agreement with a developed nation. There are 15 years of phase-out for the most sensitive vessels and 10 years of phase-out for other sensitive vessels with no tariff reductions in the first three years.

These are very important fiscal mechanisms that will help to cushion the transition in the shipbuilding sector as we ramp up our trade with the four nation states involved.

We also know that shipbuilding here domestically will be supported through a $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facility or the SFF as it is known. That will also help deal with the adjustment in the shipbuilding sector as we move to formalize this bilateral trading agreement.

Experts have also included what is called a snap back provision, which raises tariff levels to what is called most favoured nation status and rates for up to three years if the agreement results in a serious threat to domestic industry. That is very powerful protection for our Canadian shipbuilding sector.

It has gone further. As an individual who has had the privilege of working on international trade disputes in Europe, what I like about this bill is that it also includes a process for binding arbitration and, of course, relevant dispute resolution mechanisms which are attached to it. This would really help deal with differences that might arise going forward.

Once this agreement is, hopefully, ratified and entered into, it would give us transparency and predictability. If we do enter into disputes with the EFTA, we would have a better and more transparent process for binding arbitration and dispute resolution already laid out and agreed upon. That would save countries and trading partners tens of millions of dollars of legal fees, of fighting costs, of lost energy and would help deal with differences in advance before they actually occurred.

Also in the bill, from an agricultural perspective, is this. Specifically, Canadian agricultural supply management and what are called “buy Canada” government procurement programs would be explicitly protected. That is important from a supply management perspective. It is also important, in my view, from an environmental perspective. It is important because I predict that in due course we will see much more local buying occurring as citizens in Canada become more attuned to, for example, questions of agricultural input and, for that matter, impacts on overall greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric challenges. I believe that will start to drive more local and domestic consumption, which will have a bearing on our supply management systems, and I think speak volumes to keeping our supply management systems as they are presently constituted.

Why is this so important? How big is this in order of magnitude for Canadians who may be watching the debate?

These four European free trade association countries are the world's 14th largest merchandise traders and are Canada's 5th largest merchandise export destination. That is not inconsequential for a nation as deeply dependent on international trade as Canada has become.

For example, two-way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade is $12.6 billion. Canadian exports in 2007 to the EFTA totalled $5.1 billion. What are we selling? What constitutes the $5.1 billion? It is nickel, copper and pharmaceuticals, particularly as our life science industries explode in and around the Montreal catchment area and in other clusters that are servicing around the country, including here in my own community of the city of Ottawa. We also export forms of machinery, precious stones, metals, medical devices, aluminum and aerospace products, which are not inconsequential with Canada's burgeoning aerospace industry. We export pulp and paper, which is more traditional, organic chemicals, autos and parts, and art and antiques.

In the same year, we imported more. We imported some $7.4 billion worth of products, which included such important assets and products as mineral fuel, other pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, machineries and medical and optical instruments. One can imagine, when we are talking about Switzerland and Norway, the kinds of high tech investments that have gone on there. We are talking about clocks, watches and many other products.

When we look at bilateral trading arrangements or multilateral trading arrangements, we often examine the concept of what is called “foreign direct investment”. We take, in this case, a cluster of four nation states and compare it with Canada. We want to know how much the four nation states are investing in Canada and how much Canada is investing in those four nation states, the EFTA. The news is overwhelmingly good because we are net winners. In fact, we are massive winners when it comes to how successful Canada has been in attracting investment into this country from the EFTA.

For example, in 2006 Canadian foreign direct investment in those four countries was $8.4 billion. In the same year, their investment in Canada was $15.6 billion. With $8.4 billion of our investment going there and $15.6 billion coming here, that is a net win for Canada at a time when the world is moving aggressively forward to a rules based,liberalized trading regime system. Whether it is Mercosur, the European Union, NAFTA and beyond, bilateral or multilateral, that trend is seemingly unstoppable.

However, when we look at the trend, we also measure the question of foreign direct investment: how much is coming here and how much are we sending there. That is not in terms of products sold, goods and services, but overall investment, and, in this case, Canada is a massive winner with almost twice as much investment being attracted here from the four countries as we are investing there. It is very promising for the future.

When it comes to the question of agricultural products and supply management, some comments were made earlier by the member for Halifax, I believe, about supply management. Here I think we should be cautious. The National Farmers Union has obviously raised some important questions around the agreement as to whether it might or might not negatively impact supply management by undermining Canada's position at the World Trade Organization. It may or it may not but in committee, from what I can recall in the transcripts I have read, I have seen no single supply management group indicating any profound concerns. The dairy sector may or may not feel some effects if this is ratified, but the Dairy Farmers of Canada were expressly consulted and at the time said that it had no deep concerns about moving forward.

That is not to say that we should not watch what flows from this negotiation in terms of the practices in those four countries and what we can learn from their subsidies in the agricultural sectors, particularly in anticipation of our negotiations with the European Union.

Why is that so? The last time I looked, 40% of the overall European Union budget was dedicated to the common agricultural policy, a massive agricultural subsidy program which, early on in the European Union's formation, lead to rampant corruption in countries like Italy and Spain where huge tracts of land were actually put into fallow status while farmers were collecting massive subsidies from the European Union. Those abuses were exposed and the European Union has moved to correct those difficulties, much later on, of course, in its existence. However, it does speak to Canada making sure that we deal appropriately with this level of subsidy. When we talk about 40% of the European Union's budget, we are talking about billions and billions of dollars.

It is also important to move forward with this agreement because, frankly speaking, the EFTA is a minor negotiation for Canada within the much larger context of the international trade portfolio. It probably will not gain a lot of media attention and probably will not form part of the next election in terms of core issues addressed at the door, but it is one of those areas where we can make progress and, again, progress because it is in anticipation of cracking the big nut, which is to begin to expand our negotiations with the European Union, which is very important for Canada's trading future.

I give great credit to former Prime Minister Chrétien for his perspicacity, his forward looking vision and his understanding of the need in 1998 to commence these negotiations to expand our bilateral and multilateral trading regimes--

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Agriculture on a point of order.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz ConservativeMinister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That, during the debates on May 28 and 29, 2008 on the business of supply, pursuant to Standing Order 81(4) no quorum calls, dilatory motions or requests for unanimous consent shall be received by the Chair and, within each 15 minute period, each party may allocate time to one or more of its members for speeches or for questions and answers, provided that, in the case of questions and answers, the minister's answer approximately reflects the time taken by the question, and provided that, in the case of speeches, members of the party to which the period is allocated may speak one after the other.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. minister have the consent of the House to move the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the HouseGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to)

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Ottawa South still has approximately two minutes left for his comments.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me wrap up in terms of why this is so important.

It is funny how the member for Charlottetown tied it together well in his closing remarks, pursuant to a question that was posed to him. Let me reframe and restate before concluding.

A lot of the multilateral approaches in which we are presently involved in terms of multilateral trading arrangements are stalled. Canada, in my view, needs to pursue and adopt bilateral trade agreements in order to remain globally competitive. We have benefited well. We are, as many describe, the most trade dependent nation on the face of the planet and, therefore, this is a good step forward.

As I said earlier, there is no evidence that the expansion of rules based trading regimes is in fact decelerating. On the contrary, it was China only several years ago that managed to break through and join the WTO after more than a decade of aggressive negotiations and positioning.

Here we have a win-win situation. We have the biggest concern addressed coherently in shipbuilding. Some concerns on supply management we have spoken to. We believe the bill addresses that imbalance as well. In fact, it took roughly 10 years to complete this negotiation because of the shipbuilding concerns that I believe have been adequately addressed. It is not a total carve out, as the member for Charlottetown indicated, but it is a good, solid agreement on which to move forward, to expand Canada's trading relationships and to create the wealth, the jobs and the investment that we need to move forward.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Omar Alghabra Liberal Mississauga—Erindale, ON

Mr. Speaker, as we always do, Canadians have a discussion about our trade dependence on the United States. As the United States is going through a recession these days, we are witnessing a significant impact on Canadian jobs and on the economy. There are always discussions on the need to diversify our trading partnerships, our exports and our imports so we are not that dependent on a single state.

I am not saying that we should not nurture, maintain and increase our trade relations with the United States, but could the hon. member comment on the value of Canada's diversification, of identifying trading partners, removing trade tariffs and the value that this expansion would have for Canadians and Canadian jobs?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that the United States is going through some very difficult and troubling times. I personally predict that we will see culprits. We will see the blame laid squarely at the feet of different actors in American society who I think concocted a sub-prime mortgage scam that has affected many vulnerable Americans. I wish our American cousins all the best in the recovery that we would like to see in the United States and, of course, the spill over effects in helping to keep Canada's trading arrangements there robust and healthy.

However, there is no doubt that Canada needs to expand its reach. We are already trading all over the planet but the formalization of this trading arrangement with four nation states goes another certain distance to help us diversify. Diversification is good. Dependency on one particular market is not so good. We are seeing that there are risks now despite the fact that so many hard decisions were taken by the previous government to prepare the country to deliver 10 years of surpluses consecutively, to pay down so much debt and to lower taxation while addressing core social equity and justice questions.

Canada is well positioned and well prepared to weather the storm, although we are not sure what the fallout effects will be of the recent 30 months of decisions taken by the government.

However, more important, expanding our reach in terms of trade builds on our people. The single greatest asset we will have over time will be people: their brain capacity, their training and their skills levels. We have people from every corner of the planet now living right across this beautiful country. It is up to us now to play intelligent hockey and to build on those relationships all over the world and to strengthen our trading relationships.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton NDP Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the comments made by the member for Ottawa South. On the face of it, when we look at this trade agreement, the member nations of EFTA all have strong social democratic traditions. They are an excellent model for how one might go about building trade agreements. They have that ideal balance, almost, between trading and yet protecting the sovereignty of their own nations. To some extent, one would think they would be the ideal trading partner for a country like Canada.

Like the member for Ottawa South, I come from a landlocked riding. There is no shipbuilding industry on Hamilton Mountain--I know that will surprise some members--but what we do have in Hamilton is a really vibrant steel industry. Well, actually, it used to be a vibrant steel industry and now of course, like much of the manufacturing sector, we are seeing devastating job losses and declines in the manufacturing sector right across this country.

Yet we are selling out an industry in this trade agreement, namely the shipbuilding industry, which could make such a profoundly positive contribution not just to those communities across this country that are actively engaged in shipbuilding, but also in communities like mine that have steel making industries. The shipbuilding industry of course uses steel. There is all kinds of potential and, therefore, all kinds of reasons that we should carve out the shipbuilding industry from this trade agreement and then talk about the trade agreement again.

In light of the fact, and I think the committee hearings demonstrated this, that this trade agreement clearly sells out Canada's shipbuilding industry without any regard to either the workers or the community interests involved, could the member comment on why he would support an agreement that clearly sells out shipbuilding but also, as a result of that, continues to sell out industries like the steel industry in my riding of Hamilton Mountain?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Liberal Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to go back to the preface of the member's remarks. She heralded the notion that the countries with which we are entering into this almost complete negotiation are countries with strong social democratic traditions. Her language was “strong social democratic traditions”.

If in fact these are countries with strong social democratic traditions, I do not think they have expressed in any discussions, debates, negotiations or positions they have taken their view of what the member has categorized as a sellout. If they are countries of social democratic traditions, then I would expect they would negotiate in the best of faith and would put the interests of their trading partner alongside the interests of their own.

Surely the NDP is not suggesting that as a social democratic party that does not believe in the free market, only it can understand what is happening in terms of the Hamilton steel industry. The problem is that the NDP keeps pushing and pushing, not because it would like to see a carve-out. Once there is a carve-out, it sets a very interesting precedent. It is risky business and the question becomes, what is next to carve out?

I think what the NDP is really saying, and it should level with Canadians and tell them, is that it does not believe in the expansion of rules based trading systems; it does not believe in the international trading order; it does not believe in the international economic order; and it does not believe in private capital flows. It should say so and then give us an alternative vision of the world and the order that we ought to be pursuing.

Instead of trying to scare Canadian families and workers from the steel industry and beyond, I think it should--

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Andrew Scheer

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Hull—Aylmer.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, I congratulate the member for Ottawa South. It is refreshing to hear from an expert on the matter.

I would like him to elaborate on his concerns about how supply management could be affected by this agreement. We all know that the current Conservative government will not go to bat for supply management. I would like to hear an expert opinion on this subject.