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House of Commons Hansard #92 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was industry.

Topics

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Vancouver Kingsway B.C.

Conservative

David Emerson ConservativeMinister of International Trade and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

moved that Bill C-55, An Act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Switzerland), the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Republic of Iceland, the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Kingdom of Norway and the Agreement on Agriculture between Canada and the Swiss Confederation, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour for me to stand in the House today and lead off debate on this trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association.

It is important when we debate our trade relationships to bear in mind that Canada has been, is now and always will be a highly trade dependent country. Indeed, there is probably not a member in the House or a person in Canada who is not dramatically affected by Canada's trade and Canada's trade performance.

I should note that we are unlike the United States, for example, as we are nearly two and a half times more trade dependent than the United States. We have a domestic market of 34 million people compared to nearly 400 million in the United States.

Trade is Canada's lifeblood. We can look at the forces of protectionism, which will be damaging to the United States over time if they continue, and we can see that if such forces were to be unleashed in Canada, I can assure hon. members it would be not just hurtful but devastating to Canada. Therefore, it is critically important that Canada continue to develop trade relationships such as the one we are debating today.

As you have noted, Mr. Speaker, this agreement is with four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland. It is really a milestone in terms of Canadian trade policy. It is a milestone for a couple of reasons.

First, it is really our first substantial trade agreement in over a decade. Canada had a small agreement with Costa Rica in 2001, but I have to tell hon. members that the trade and investment numbers between Canada and the EFTA countries are nearly 30 times that of our relationship with Costa Rica. Really, our previous most significant trade agreement was back in 1996-97, when we made the deal with Chile.

We can look at the trade numbers and see that the combined exports and imports between Canada and the EFTA countries were over $13 billion in 2007. That is of course higher than our trade with Korea. It is a very substantial volume of trade and has grown rapidly in recent years.

When we look at foreign direct investment, we can see that two way investment flows between Canada and the EFTA countries are in the $28 billion range as of 2007. While people may make light of the fact that this is not a deal with the entire European Union, which would be our next priority on that side of the Atlantic, this is a very significant trade deal. These countries are relatively wealthy. Their GDP per capita is among the highest in the industrial world. They are technologically advanced countries. As I say, it is our first trade deal with a European bloc or country in terms of our bilateral free trade agreements.

When we look at it strategically for both countries, we can see that this is a trade deal that allows the EFTA countries to think of Canada as a gateway to the entire North American market, a market of 440 million people, and it allows Canadian businesses to look at the EFTA countries as a gateway into the European Union, because the EFTA countries do have a free trade arrangement with the European Union.

It is also important because Canada, and I think the majority of Canadians, most provinces and certainly the Government of Canada, is anxious to deepen our economic relationship with the larger European Union. To have shown that we can establish a free trade deal of the kind we have done with EFTA puts us in a very strong position to maintain and improve momentum in terms of doing a deeper trade deal with the European Union. That is a very high priority of this government.

As I look at our trade relationships, it is very important for members to recognize that we really have been on the sidelines for the better part of a decade in terms of our trade policies. We have become extremely dependent on the United States market because of NAFTA. That is all good, but for our trade it does mean that roughly 76% of our exports are going into the United States market. That is highly concentrated.

There are protectionist pressures in the United States these days, so it is critically important that we not focus just on improving NAFTA, which is a focus for us, but that we also look at diversifying our trade relationships. Other countries are doing it and they are doing it aggressively.

We can look at the United States. It has free trade agreements with 16 countries. Mexico has free trade agreements with 40 countries. Chile has trade agreements with 53 countries. Many of these countries are negotiating additional agreements as we speak.

We can look at Canada. Before this agreement, we have had free trade agreements with five countries through four agreements covering five countries. That is not good enough for a trade dependent economy like Canada's, which is why Canada is actively negotiating free trade agreements with a number of countries.

We have active trade negotiations going on with some 27 countries. When we broaden it to cover air bilaterals, investment agreements and free trade agreements, we are negotiating presently with something in the order of 100 countries.

This government is committed to a re-energized trade policy. We are moving forward aggressively to ensure that Canada is back in the game and that Canadian producers and Canadian jobs are not disadvantaged because we are sitting on the sidelines.

I would also note that on the same day we signed the EFTA agreement in Davos, Switzerland, we also concluded negotiations with Peru. That is another very significant trade agreement. It is a new generation trade agreement. When it comes before the House I will be able to explain to members some of the new and innovative elements in the agreement with Peru.

This agreement is what we call a first generation trade agreement because it was initiated roughly a decade or so ago, so it does not cover trade in services. It does not have an investment chapter, although it does have provision for those chapters to be added within the next three years.

I should say that this deal is a good one for both agricultural and non-agricultural interests in Canada. It has certain sensitivities that have been inhibiting the closure of this agreement over the years. The shipbuilding industry was one particular area in which we have had some sensitivities.

This agreement has the best provisions on shipbuilding of any free trade agreement that Canada has ever signed. The tariff phase-out is 15 years on the most sensitive products and 10 years on the next most sensitive products, and the first 3 years is a period during which there would be no tariff reductions at all.

When we combine what is in this agreement with the buy Canada shipbuilding program that the Government of Canada is bringing along, with over $8 billion in shipbuilding, and when we combine that with the replenished structured financing facility for shipbuilding, I think we are on the threshold of a renaissance in the shipbuilding industry in Canada. I think it will be very good for the shipbuilding industry.

Even today as we speak, the Davie shipyard in Quebec, which has gone through serious financial problems over the last 10 years, is now owned by a Norwegian company and its order book goes out at least five years, with many of the vessels and work being done in that shipyard being sold back into the Norwegian and European markets.

I would also note on the agriculture front that this agreement does exclude the supply managed sectors. As members know, we have committed not to put those on the table in our free trade negotiations with other countries, and we have not done so in this case.

Let me wrap up by saying that this is part of the government's approach to enhancing Canadian competitiveness and to recognizing that while we have had the strongest economy among the group of eight, certainly fiscally and economically, we do see risks on the horizon. Everyone knows there are some serious economic adjustments taking place in the United States and the rest of world. We are aggressively moving to ensure that Canada's economic performance in the long term is enhanced, because Canada's economic performance will be driven by our trade performance.

There will be no way that we can spend our way to prosperity in Canada. It does not work that way. It leaks out in terms of just enhancing imports for Canada. We have to trade. We have to export. We have to sell to other countries. Our global commerce strategy, which is part of “Advantage Canada”, is designed to do just that.

I would note that our approach is driven by the modern integrated approach to international trade which recognizes that trade today is driven by global value chains. Global value chains are driven by investment. Global value chains are driven by technology. Global value chains are driven by the movement of capital and people around the globe.

Rooting those value chains deeply into Canada is a critical part of our trade strategy, which is why our free trade agreements are important. It is important to expand our free trade agreements from goods to cover services and investment. It is important to bring air bilaterals into the mix, because if we do not have good air services between Canada and our trading partners, we cannot service and be efficient in terms of being part of global supply chains.

We are also doing investment agreements. As I noted earlier, investment agreements are critical because investment carries with it technology and opportunity in terms of driving exports and imports.

We are looking at transportation and logistics in a way that integrates this, like no other country and like never before in Canada, with our trade policy. Our transportation and logistics gateways in the Atlantic, in the Pacific, through Churchill in the north, and north and south between Ontario and Quebec and the United States, are critical elements of trade policy. Without transportation and logistics at a globally competitive level, we simply will not be a competitive trader in the world economy today.

This is part of a larger mosaic of policies that are fitting together in a comprehensive way to ensure that Canada, Canadians and our kids and grandkids have opportunities like those we have enjoyed in the past. I welcome the discussion on this agreement today.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Gerry Byrne Liberal Humber—St. Barbe—Baie Verte, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would like to congratulate the minister on certain aspects of this agreement.

However, I would like to ask him a question as well. Does this agreement with the four European continental countries involved explicitly provide a basis for those four countries that prevents them from banning seal products from their marketplace on the basis of perceptions of the animal cruelty aspects, which other European countries are currently providing? Does this agreement provide a rules-based approach that prevents those four countries from doing so?

Would the minister, in consideration of any potentially expanded European free trade agreement with other European countries, put the marker down right now that Canada will not engage in any discussions with any other European country unless they agree immediately to put into a rules-based approach that the banning of Canadian seal products would be explicitly illegal?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member raises an important question for Canada. That is the number of initiatives that have been launched in Europe, in particular, where countries are attempting to ban seal product exports from their markets.

This agreement does not actually have to deal directly and explicitly with the banning of seal products because the World Trade Organization rules, in Canada's view, already prohibit that type of a ban. We are aggressively pursuing consultations and possibly will follow that up with trade actions to ensure those rules do prevent and prohibit these types of bans in the future. We have ongoing discussions with a range of countries around this very issue.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government has said that shipbuilding is of strategic importance to the sovereignty of this nation. We have people like George MacPherson from the Shipyard General Workers' Federation talking about the fact that currently the shipyard industry is only operating at about a third of its capacity and that over the next 15 years it will be worth about $9 billion in Canadian jobs. The Shipbuilding Association of Canada and Irving Shipbuilding have called for a carve-out. We know that in the United States, for example, under the Jones Act, the Americans did a carve-out and were able to protect the shipbuilding industry in the U.S. Given all that, why would this minister not consider putting on the table a carve-out for the Canadian shipbuilding industry?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think I should correct the member. The United States actually does not carve shipbuilding out of its trade agreements. The United States has domestic policies that prohibit foreign-constructed vessels from plying between two U.S. ports. Canada does not have such a policy.

I would reassert that this agreement has the longest tariff phase-out of any agreement in Canada's history, in terms of the shipbuilding industry.

I would also note that the Canadian shipbuilding industry is poised for a major expansion that I believe is going to tax the capacity of Canada's shipyards. It is going to require the training of shipyard trades that will be employed in the future. The Canadian shipbuilding industry is becoming technologically sophisticated.

We have carved out the “buy Canada” privilege that we now are able to apply to ships that are purchased by the Government of Canada and its agencies. So, that is preserved. Also, when we look at the billions of dollars in ship procurement that Canada will be doing over the next few years, our shipyards are going to have all the work they can handle.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened very carefully to the minister's remarks. I have two specific questions for the minister.

The first question is with respect to the free trade agreement itself. In his remarks he mentioned that it is simply a generation one agreement and deals strictly with goods. He alluded to the fact that in 2007 there was approximately $13 billion worth of two-way trade, in terms of goods. However, there is also tremendous opportunity in the investment regime, as well; approximately $24 billion worth of two-way investment between Canada and the EFTA countries.

Would he speak to the fact that this deal does not specifically address that and what steps is the government taking to deal with that?

The second question is with respect to the issue around shipbuilding. I think that is a very important issue that has been raised by the Liberal Party, in the Liberal caucuses; specifically, the Atlantic caucus, which is standing up for shipbuilders.

The minister has been very clear about the concerns around that, as well, but the government has only proposed a $50 million renewal of Industry Canada's structured financing facilities. Does he feel that $50 million is sufficient to help the industry transition when the tariffs are reduced?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would offer an update on the numbers on direct investment between Canada and the European Free Trade Association countries.

The numbers for 2007 now show that investments are up at $28 billion, from $24 billion in 2006. So investment is a chapter that we intend to add, as well as a chapter on trade and services. The agreement makes provision for those to be added as chapters. It also stipulates that should be done within the next three years. So, we will be working with the EFTA countries to ensure that we put those chapters in place in a timely way.

I have spoken to shipbuilding. I will say again that the Canadian shipbuilding industry is about to go through a renaissance. I think it is dinosaur thinking to build the future of an industry as potentially dynamic as shipbuilding on the kind of protectionism that we have applied in the past. It is an industry that has the capacity in certain kinds of vessels and certain technologies to be globally competitive. It is an industry that can have a long term future, not just a future that is propped by interim protectionism. It is an industry that has a future.

The structured financing facility, as the member knows, is not in my bailiwick. That is the Minister of Industry's portfolio. However, I would say that we, as a government, will be assessing that on a go-forward basis, assessing whether it is sufficient to support the global competitiveness of the shipbuilding industry. Then we will see how it looks over the next couple of years.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Storseth Conservative Westlock—St. Paul, AB

Mr. Speaker, as usual I will have to leave the agriculture questions to this side of the House.

As the minister knows, the agriculture industry has become increasingly reliant on trade with the United States. Our producers realize this and realize the need to look somewhere else, to be able to open markets in other places of the world. That is what they are reliant on our government doing.

I would like the minister to ensure for us that the agriculture industry is going to be a net benefactor out of this. I would like the minister to perhaps take a bit of time to talk about some of the benefits in the free trade agreement for our producers.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

David Emerson Conservative Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have made some quite significant gains in terms of the opportunities for agriculture in this agreement. Certainly, on durum wheat we are going to see some real opportunities from this agreement. Moving into crude canola, it will see some significant gains as a result of this agreement as well.

On the agri-food side, frozen french fries, beer and frozen blueberries will gain market advantage. There will be a wide range of tariff reductions on processed and frozen foods in all three markets and in other sectors as well. In the non-agricultural area there will be significant gains for a number of manufacturing producers in Canada.

This should give Canadian producers a real opportunity and more than that it gives them an opportunity to go into these markets and establish a supply chain between EFTA and Canada but also extend that supply chain into the European Union because the European Union does have a free trade agreement with the EFTA countries. It is a real opportunity for Canadian companies who are really serious about competing in the global marketplace to take a great leap forward.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I take great pride in the fact that I have an opportunity today to speak to this very important bill, Bill C-55, with respect to Canada-EFTA, now referred to as CEFTA, the Canada-European free trade association agreement.

From the outset I want to indicate our party's position on this very important bill, which is that the Liberal Party supports this deal, but calls on the government to continue to monitor and consider the issues around shipbuilding and the shipbuilding industry because this is something that has been brought to our attention on numerous occasions.

We look forward to working with stakeholders in the shipbuilding industry and with the government to make sure it addresses these concerns. I will allude to some of these concerns in my remarks as well.

Before I begin, I want to take a step back and create a context for the reason why we are supporting the bill. It is very important for the members in the House to recognize that we are the party of free and fair trade. We are the party of Wilfrid Laurier. We are the party, since that time, that has expanded Canada's trade opportunities abroad. We recognize that we are a trading nation.

It was during the Liberal Party's regime that we signed and even created side agreements that were very important, beginning with NAFTA in 1994, then, as the minister alluded to, Chile and Israel in 1996, then Costa Rica in 2002. All these agreements gave Canada additional opportunities and allowed us to succeed in the international community.

Currently, under the leader of the Liberal Party, the leader of the official opposition, and understanding points of trade, we recently made an announcement. I just want to remind members about the importance of trade because as the minister alluded to, we need to look at opportunities and we need to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunities.

In my opinion I feel the government has done limited work. I understand the minister has done a lot of good work, but I think he is constrained by the Prime Minister in that the Conservatives have done very little work when it comes to Asia, for example, and that is an area where there are tremendous opportunities.

On February 20 the Liberals made an announcement to allocate $50 million for the creation of the South Asian foundation to really harness the growth potential in a booming Asian economy.

I mention this in the context that we need to look at trade from a macro level. We promote the Doha round discussions very much and we think trade is very important, but we also need to look at how we deal with an emerging Asia, how we deal with a united European Union, and how we position ourselves within North America for economic prosperity and for the opportunities that exist.

In terms of this particular free trade agreement, I would also like to remind the House that it was under the Liberal government that this initiative was started, but we recognize there were some legitimate concerns around shipbuilding, and so we worked extensively with the shipbuilders to see if those issues could be addressed.

This is a generation one agreement. It strictly deals with goods. It does not have provisions for investment or services, and those are areas where there have tremendous opportunity and potential. We need to work with that. That was the question I asked the minister earlier because I felt that it was very important and needed to be addressed.

With respect to the trade agreement, people sometimes do not recognize our trade with EFTA and how important it is, but it is actually a very important trading partner. It is Canada's fifth largest merchandising export destination. It has two-way trade of approximately $13 billion. It is a tremendous opportunity for our businesses here in Canada to export into those markets.

People sometimes underestimate their importance when we allude to some of the countries involved in this agreement: Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Iceland and Norway. People do not think of those as countries that we necessarily trade with, but we do a lot of trade, However,t more importantly, there is a lot of investment and two-way investment between those countries.

I have 2006 data with me. Investment has increased, but we actually invest around $8.4 billion into those countries and they in turn invest $15.6 billion in Canada. There is tremendous opportunity there with respect to trade. Those trade statistics allude to the importance of our trading relationship and this will enhance that relationship. However, there is a tremendous potential that exists in the service sector and the investment regime as well.

The other area that was mentioned that I thought was very important to discuss, and the member opposite mentioned it as well, is with regard to agriculture and agricultural products. This is an important issue that was raised during a committee discussion as well. When the free trade agreement was initiated and eventually signed, there were legitimate concerns around supply management.

We support this free trade agreement because it maintains the Canadian supply management program. That is very important to us. As a Liberal Party, we have been staunch defenders of this initiative and we feel supply management is very important for our domestic market.

Therefore, because of the provisions in the agreement and the fact that Canadian supply management programs are maintained, the agricultural issues by and large are addressed. This was our primary concern with respect to agriculture. We understand the importance of agriculture. We raised this issue and ensured this issue was dealt with in the appropriate fashion in the agreement.

I alluded earlier in my remarks to non-agricultural goods. I said we supported this deal but we had concerns specifically around shipbuilding and the shipbuilding industry. We are supportive of the deal because it legitimately address some of those concerns, for example, the fact that for the first three years there is no tariff reduction, which is very important for shipbuilders. Once the deal is signed, hopefully effective January 1, 2009, if all goes well, it will ultimately mean that by 2012 there will be no tariff reductions for shipbuilders.

Subsequent to that, there will be a 15 year phase-out on Canada's most sensitive vessels. Those sensitive vessels range from ferries to cruise ships to offshore supply ships to basically salvage ships. Those vessels will have a 15 year phase-out. The other vessels such as tankers, those having to do with drilling platforms, drill ships, ice breakers are given a 10 year phase-out period. Those are sufficient safeguards to allow for the reduction of shipbuilding tariffs and allow the Canadian industry the opportunity to rebuild itself in some context, to redefine itself and ensure that it can compete not only domestically, but abroad as well.

The other issue we felt was important was whether the requirements for buy in Canada procurement policy would remain intact, which was important to us. When we saw the deal, this had been maintained and honoured in the free trade agreement. There was no requirement to modify the buy in Canada procurement policy.

Therefore, not only do we have a long tariff reduction phase, but we have a buy in Canada procurement policy that is maintained and protected.

The other concern we had was with respect to the dispute mechanism and how we would deal with any disputes if they were to occur. We again have very little confidence in the government. If we take, for example, the softwood lumber agreement, or as some refer to it, the softwood sellout, that very much questions the government's judgment and the way it represents Canada.

I remind the viewers and the members in the House, that agreement cost $1 billion of Canadian taxpayer money. It left $1 billion on the table. It created a quota system in Canada. It in effect forced companies in Canada, the softwood lumber industry, to be subjected to quotas. Now we are going to the courts again with the U.S. government on these issues again. We are being sued on these matters, or being taken to court in litigation over this.

More important, the fundamental issue we had with that was we lost our sovereignty. We lost the ability to genuinely be able to create programs in Canada to work with industry, and that concerned us.

Therefore, we want to ensure the dispute mechanism does not reinvent the problems we incurred with the softwood lumber agreement. The dispute mechanism in this agreement addresses some legitimate concerns around snap-back provisions, about the fact that it will establish a joint committee to supervise the implementation of CEFTA. Disputes will be resolved through cooperation and consultation and any matter not settled in 90 days may be referred to a tribunal to interpret the agreement and determine consistency with obligations. These important provisions have been addressed in the agreement.

We support the bill. We support the free trade agreement. As I said before, we are the party of free and fair trade. Liberals understand the importance of trade and of creating opportunities for our businesses.

I want to share one small example with the House. I come from the riding of Mississauga—Brampton South, which is situated close to the airport. Many logistical companies, owners of small business and others rely on trade and look for opportunities to expand trade. It is unfortunate that the Minister of Finance is attacking Ontario. He has said not to invest in Ontario. I hope the Minister of International Trade will not follow suit and will use his better judgment.

The reason I bring that up is because Canada's trade surplus has been in decline since the Conservatives took power. Our trade surplus is shrinking each month and our export market opportunities are fairly limited. The government needs to continuously examine foreign markets to look for opportunities for our businesses, specifically small and medium sized enterprises, like the ones in my riding, that depend on trade, and create a lot of jobs and economic opportunity.

This is a first generation trade agreement. It is a step in the right direction. It addresses some legitimate concerns around agriculture, supply management, and the shipbuilding industry, but we still have some concerns.

I asked a question earlier today with respect to the structured financing facility. The shipbuilding industry is supported through Industry Canada by a $50 million renewal. This is not sufficient. The government needs to do more.

The Minister of International Trade, in his previous job as a minister in the Liberal government, was also the minister responsible for Industry Canada. He looked at this issue. I asked my question in that capacity. I wanted him to explain to the House what more was being done to help this industry in terms of financing. The minister is very optimistic about shipbuilding. He feels it is a dynamic industry with a lot of potential. I want to ensure that the minister understands we share those same concerns. There is tremendous opportunity as well in that industry. Perhaps the minister could speak to that issue and explain what more is being done to help it out.

I look forward to any questions or concerns by members opposite.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar NDP Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member made a number of points about the government's policy on trade in general, but specifically on the proposed trade deal.

Our party has raised concerns about our shipbuilding industry, and my colleague from B.C. raised it earlier. This is not a concern for only Atlantic Canada; it is also a concern for B.C. as well. There is the potential for jobs for manufacturers right across the country in supplying parts, et cetera. In the case of B.C., we have called on the provincial government to do more.

The member talked about procurement policy. Governments can make a difference, in this case a provincial government. They can buy Canadian. They have to remember our Canada first policy. We are frustrated because we do not see that happening.

I listened carefully to the minister and to the member about the tariff phase-out. Most Canadians want to see a healthy shipbuilding industry, one that is supported by provincial governments. They want to see our Canada first policy.

Before we enter into a deal like this, should we not have a healthy, robust shipbuilding industry? Norway has done that. If we enter into a trade deal like this, it will have all the advantages and we will have all the disadvantages. As was mentioned by my colleague, we are not at full capacity. We are not buying Canada first. We need to have a healthy shipbuilding industry. Should we not focus on our shipbuilding in Canada first before we enter into a trade deal like this, particularly in light of Norway?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, many members of the House share the same concern. I know I do. Members not only from Atlantic Canada but across the country, especially from British Columbia as well, share concerns about the shipbuilding sector and the fact that the industry might be exposed to tremendous competition from EFTA countries, specifically Norway.

I am glad he mentioned Norway. That point was raised in committee on numerous occasions. We received clarification time and time again that Norway no longer had a program or a regime that provided subsidies. The concern with Norway is a legitimate concern, but it was been addressed in committee.

At the beginning of my comments, I said that we supported the agreement, but we had legitimate concerns about the need to ensure the meeting Canada's procurement policy was kept intact, which I believe it is. That is my understanding and that is what the minister and the government have said. I also said that I wanted further clarification on structured financing.

We need to pursue free trade agreements, especially with some of the challenges we face, such as the Doha development agenda. We need to create more export opportunities. With the strong Canadian dollar and the tightening of the border, we need to look at diversifying our markets. There is potential opportunity here, recognizing the concerns he has referred to with the shipbuilding. If the government could provide further clarification on a structured financing for the industry, that would definitely help the industry put itself in a competitive position going forward.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to echo the comments made by the hon. member for Mississauga—Brampton South about the minister. He has done some good work. I had the opportunity to work with him when he was on the Liberal side. I congratulate him on the free trade agreement, which we have signed.

My question is around the shipbuilding industry as well. I have a concern from the perspective of B.C. The member said that it was a 15 year trade out period, but those post-Panamax cargo vessels are not part of the agreement.

Could the member explain how it would not affect British Columbia and Atlantic Canada when it comes to those ships? Also, could he explain in detail what small businesses in his riding will benefit with the trade with South Asia, so we can look forward to trade with those nations?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, again, I believe the member is referring to the comments I made with respect to the announcement by the leader of the official opposition, on February 20, with regard to a $50 million commitment to create a foundation to strengthen ties with Asia.

There is no doubt that the member from British Columbia is very concerned about that because British Columbia acts as a portal to Asia. It is very important for us to create strong economic opportunities. I hope the government takes those comments very seriously and understands the importance of building strong relationships with Asia.

Specifically, the questions he mentioned with regard to shipbuilding and the tariff reduction regime, I alluded to them in my remarks. I will highlight which ones are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction and which ships and vessels are subject to a 10 year tariff reduction.

Ferries and cruise ships are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction. Again, I want to preface this comment by saying that made in Canada procurement policies are protected and exempt in this agreement as well. Dredgers and salvage ships are subject to a 15 year tariff reduction. With respect to 10 year tariff reductions, this includes tankers, fishing vessels, drilling platforms, drill ships, production platforms and icebreakers.

Those are categories, If there is anything specific that the member has with regard to any particular vessel, we can always look it up to ensure it is part of the regime. If not, then I will take it into consideration and follow-up.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jean Crowder NDP Nanaimo—Cowichan, BC

Mr. Speaker, I paid close attention to the member's comments. I want to address shipbuilding, coming from British Columbia.

In the early 1980s our shipbuilding industry was very healthy. What has happened over many years of government neglect, which we can lay both at the Conservative and Liberal doors, is the shipbuilding industry has gone into crisis. We have seen shipyard after shipyard close.

The member pointed out, quite rightly, that Norway's shipbuilding industry currently is not subsidized, but it had a long period of government investment and subsidy to get it to the place where it was healthy enough to be able to stand alone.

Why would the member not support the shipbuilding industry's own request to have a carve out provision for the shipbuilding industry and then to have an effective government policy to actually support shipbuilding, particularly in view of the fact that it is of strategic national importance? Why would he not support a carve out?

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Liberal Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, when we pursue free trade agreements, it is a two way negotiation process, a give and take. The fact that there are long tariff reductions, a made in Canada procurement policy, that supply management is protected and that for the first three years there is no tariff reduction, all these very much play into our national interests, and they were addressed in the free trade agreement.

I share the member's concern with respect to shipbuilding. The government has done very little to develop a comprehensive plan to deal with our domestic shipbuilding industry and to create a long term strategic initiative and partnership with the shipbuilding industry so it will be able to compete. Norway is a very good example because it did subsidize. There is no doubt that it no longer provides subsidies now but it did subsidized before, which allowed its shipbuilding industry to be in a competitive position.

The onus and responsibility now lies with the current government to put together a plan for not only structured financing but a more comprehensive plan that can position our industry, once the tariffs are reduced, especially when the tariff reduction starts in 2012, to be on an equal and competitive footing. Even though the subsidies no longer exist today in Norway, there is no doubt that the subsidies in the past have put it in a more favourable position. Therefore, I do very much recognize the member's concerns.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Bloc Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak about the proposed free trade agreement with Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland, the members of the European Free Trade Association. I am speaking on behalf of all the Bloc members and would like to acknowledge in particular the contributions of the members for Sherbrooke and Berthier—Maskinongé to the Standing Committee on International Trade, which has studied the proposed agreement and the free trade agreement.

The Bloc believes that this is a good free trade agreement that deserves to be supported. Moreover, we believe that Quebec will benefit a great deal from this agreement.

For example, the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec, like the industry in Switzerland, is very healthy. We can therefore expedite trade and perhaps pave the way for more and more transactions. To penetrate the American market, Swiss pharmaceutical companies might be tempted to produce drugs here, which presents an attractive opportunity for us.

We would remind this House that Quebec is the home of the brand name drug industry in Canada because of its pool of skilled researchers and its tax breaks. For Quebec this agreement will pave the way for new business opportunities.

The agreement facilitates trade between a company and its subsidiaries and is likely to mean new investments in the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. That is good news.

Let us turn our attention now to Norway. Nickel accounts for over 80% of our exports to that country. The largest mine in Canada and the third largest in the world is owned by the Swiss company Xstrata and is located in Ungava. This agreement may also have benefits on that front.

Let us continue our tour of the countries with a stop in Iceland. Aluminum is our main export to Iceland. Aluminum production is also concentrated in Quebec.

Overall, this is an attractive agreement. I would also say it does not have the same drawbacks as previous agreements.

For example, NAFTA and the agreements with Costa Rica and Chile all contain what could be called bad clauses on investments that give companies the right to sue a government that adopts measures that would reduce their profits. This sort of provision is not found in the agreement with the EFTA. Consequently, the free trade agreement with Europe, at least this part of Europe, is worthwhile. There will be no sword of Damocles hanging over our heads, because this agreement does not contain any such clauses.

Furthermore, the agreement only covers goods and not services. It will not create competition with public services, whether they are offered by the state or not, since they will not be covered. Similarly, banks providing financial services will not be in competition with Switzerland, which is known to have a very solid and very discreet banking system, and Liechtenstein, which is a true haven for the financial world when it comes to taxation and anonymity. We are already having enough problems with Barbados without adding any more. It would be best if the agreement did not allow this type of exchange.

For government procurement it is the same thing. The government is still free to favour domestic procurement, subject to the WTO agreement on government contracts. It would be somewhat ridiculous for the government to negotiate room to manoeuvre and then decide not to use it. It is imperative that the federal government, which is the largest purchaser of goods and services in Canada, favour suppliers here and consider the potential spinoffs from its purchases.

We have another absolutely ridiculous example. Canadian athletes will be dressed in material that is made in China. There should have been a different solution. We could call this an obvious and quite unacceptable lack of pride. This is outside the limits of the agreement before us, but I wanted to mention it anyway. When we look at an agreement like this, we have to look at what it will allow us to do. This agreement does not allow for such an absurd possibility.

The whole issue of agriculture is a concern that a number of MPs have mentioned in this House. Supply management is not affected by this agreement. The Bloc Québécois motion passed here in 2005 has become the cornerstone of the Canadian government's position on protecting supply management. We are very proud of that and we hope things will continue this way.

We are just as proud of the fact that the supply management model is being developed throughout the southern countries. It may be part of the solution to the food crisis. The more countries that use this type of system, the less agriculture will be subjected to traditional trade patterns. Thus, it will be possible to provide better protection that will allow both communities and producers to be well served in terms of agricultural production.

This agreement ensures that supply management will not be affected. That is another reason that the Bloc Québécois likes this agreement.

This agreement will make it possible to implement bilateral agricultural agreements as add-ons to the free trade agreement. We will see how this will come together. Bilateral agreements will not necessarily have a huge impact on Quebec agriculture, because milk proteins are excluded from the agreement and the tariff quotas and over-quota tariffs remain unchanged. In short, supply managed products will be protected.

However, there is one sector where this agreement would be good, although the federal government will really have to go out of its way to make a sustained effort. I am talking about the issue of support for shipyards. A number of members in this House have brought this up this morning. As a member of the maritime caucus, I know that there have been questions. They have been handled in an acceptable fashion in the agreement, but that does not mean that the Canadian government will not have to have a more aggressive and constructive policy on shipyards. In fact, we have some concerns.

For example, imported vessels are currently subject to a 25% tariff. Under the agreement, these tariffs will gradually decrease over three years, and will be completely eliminated in 15 years. In the future, in 15 or 20 years, we do not want to see a whole industrial sector disappear, as was the case with the textile sector. We know that the government needs to take action now to ensure that once this all disappears, our industries in this sector will be competitive.

Our shipyards are currently less modern than Norwegian shipyards, for example. They are in worse condition. So some things will need to be renewed, since Norway has invested heavily in modernizing its shipyards, while ours have been completely abandoned by the government.

Canada-EFTA Free Trade Agreement Implementation ActGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker NDP Bill Blaikie

Order, please. It is now time for statements by members. The hon. member will have 13 minutes left for his speech.

The member for Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar.

Centennial FestivitiesStatements By Members

May 9th, 2008 / 10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Carol Skelton Conservative Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am inviting you to come to Saskatchewan and experience some of Canada's rich heritage by joining the towns of Asquith and Delisle in celebrating their centennial in July.

English settlers named their town after Lord Asquith who called it the centre of the British Empire and presented a silver cup that Lord Asquith School proudly uses to this day.

Delisle took its name from its first postmaster, John Amos Delisle. Twenty-six of his direct descendants will come back to celebrate 100 years. Delisle is also the hometown of NHL legends Max and Doug Bentley.

The CPR and the CNR made these early settlements flourish. Today, agriculture and potash mining are their economic mainstays. Asquith and Delisle are also commuter suburbs of Saskatoon, the Paris of the Prairies.

Visit Saskatchewan and enjoy the history, beauty and warm hometown hospitality during Asquith's and Delisle's centennial festivities.

Government PoliciesStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Liberal Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has really failed to live up to its promises.

Remember when health care was one of the five priorities of the government? No? That is all right, neither does the government.

Remember when the Prime Minister said the Conservative government would not monkey around with income trusts? It would be unfair to seniors, the Conservatives said. Well, they did not just monkey around with them, they ripped them apart like King Kong with a biplane.

There is one area where the government has overachieved, one area where the Conservatives are performing at a level beyond anything seen in Ottawa since the days of, well, Brian Mulroney. This is one more area where the government is going to surpass the achievements of Brian Mulroney. Mulroney was thrown out of office after two elections. The current government will get it done in one.

TQS NetworkStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Bloc Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, Remstar would like to purchase TQS. As part of its demolition plan, the company announced its intention to dismiss 270 of its 479 full-time employees. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean, 36 out of 40 jobs will disappear between now and the fall.

Closing the newsroom is a breach of the commitments the TQS network made to the CRTC. The sale of TQS should not come at any cost, and certainly not at the cost of eliminating regional news services. In Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean alone, TQS produces five programs that reflect our regional reality.

The Bloc Québécois is an ardent advocate of TQS services. Eliminating the newsroom would be a major blow to the diversity of information available to Quebeckers.

I hope that all political parties in the House will defend the interests of the Quebec nation before the CRTC.

Nuclear Non-ProliferationStatements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government has once again gone out of its way to embarrass itself on the international stage. This time it is the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee meetings in Geneva.

While the rest of the world attempted to take a more constructive approach to the challenges of nuclear non-proliferation, the Canadian government delegation stood almost alone, hurling accusations at Iran and North Korea, ignoring the fact that supposed non-NPT states like India, Pakistan and Israel have acquired nuclear weapons as well.

This is tragic and it is dangerous. Canada is blessed with world-leading civil society experts who have helped form our nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation policies. Thanks to them, Canada has been known as a world leader in this area.

Disgracefully, for the first time at the nuclear non-proliferation treaty preparatory committee, the Canadian delegation did not include a single NGO participant.

These days when Canada speaks, the world shakes its head. The government is destroying our international reputation and undermining the global fight against nuclear proliferation.

Barbara Ann ScottStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Conservative Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I invite this House and all Canadians to celebrate the 80th birthday of Barbara Ann Scott, a Canadian figure skating icon.

From Ottawa's Minto Skating Club, where my daughter and her Capital Blades team also skated, Barbara Ann had a stunning career. She began winning national awards when she was 11 years old. She was the first woman to perform the double Lutz in competition.

In 1948, she competed on an outdoor rink during the winter games in Saint-Moritz, Switzerland, becoming the first Canadian to win a gold medal for figure skating. To this day, she is the only woman who has done that.

A hundred thousand people lined the streets of Ottawa to acclaim her.

She has been an inspiration for generations, including my daughter, Miriam.

Happy birthday, Barbara Ann Scott King.

Canada loves you.

Madawaska UCT Council 830Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, on April 12, I had the opportunity to participate in the Madawaska UCT Council 830's 50th anniversary celebration.

I would like to begin by telling the House about the dedication of UCT councils to their communities across Canada. There is no doubt that UCT councils' commitment and contributions to numerous communities promote both community and social development.

The Madawaska UCT Council 830 is no exception, and that is why I wanted to salute it here today. The Madawaska Council 830 is very active, and its contribution makes its community a better place in which to live.

I would like to thank the founding members who were honoured during this event: Paul E. LeBlanc, Armand Couturier, Yvon T. Cloutier, the late J. Germain Fournier, Robert T. Martin and Alphé Thibodeau.

Thank you and congratulations to all members of the UCT for their good work.

BurmaStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Conservative Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is time for the Burmese dictatorship to stop playing politics when people's lives are at stake. We are alarmed by the reports that the military junta is seizing international aid shipments from the World Food Programme. This is unprecedented and must stop. This dictatorial regime's response to this disaster is just the most recent example of its failure to meet the basic needs of the Burmese people.

Canada stands ready to help. We have pledged $2 million in aid. We have offered our disaster assistance response team. The Minister of Foreign Affairs personally assured the UN Secretary-General that Canada is there for the Burmese people.

The military junta must let aid agencies do their work and allow international aid workers to enter the country during this period of crisis. Given the widespread and devastating effect of the tropical cyclone Nargis, Canada calls upon the military junta to focus on meeting the immediate needs of the people rather than pursuing its own narrow interests.