Mr. Speaker, I want to reiterate that the debate concerns the proposed free trade agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association, which is made up of Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill and the agreement.
In the first part of my speech, I talked about how the agreement could mean attractive opportunities for the pharmaceutical industry in Quebec. The same is true of the nickel sector, especially for one mine in Ungava, in Quebec. The agreement could also benefit aluminum exports to Iceland. Consequently, Quebec is very interested in seeing this agreement implemented.
Moreover, we have ascertained that the agreement will have no impact on agricultural supply management. The existing systems in Quebec and Canada can be maintained.
However, at the end of my speech, just before question period, I made the point that the federal government will have to take far more aggressive steps to support the shipbuilding industry once this free trade agreement takes effect. The agreement provides that tariffs will decrease over 15 years.
I believe that the shipbuilding industry in Norway, in particular, is much better equipped today than Canada's. Canada has abandoned the shipyards. The industry was not really given the tools to grow.
In that context, I would like to point out that one recommendation in the report presented by the Standing Committee on International Trade was adopted by that committee. It had been proposed by the hon. members for Sherbrooke and Berthier—Maskinongé from the Bloc Québécois, our two spokespeople in this matter. They did their work in a very conscientious manner and got support from the committee on the following motion:
The Canadian government must without delay implement an aggressive Maritime policy to support the industry, while ensuring that any such strategy is in conformity with Canada’s commitments at the WTO.
The purpose of the motion is to raise a red flag. Indeed, the free trade agreement is desirable. However, in practice, for the marine industry the government truly has to make a significant shift and implement a support strategy for the shipbuilding industry.
This currently does not exist and our shipyards have often been left to fend for themselves over the past few years. We are seeing the results of that. It is possible to have a healthy and competitive shipbuilding industry, but we have to have a policy to that effect. That is no reason not to support the free trade agreement with European countries.
We are sending a message to all of Europe. The agreement I am currently referring to is the agreement between Canada and the European Free Trade Association, which includes Switzerland, Norway, Liechtenstein and Iceland. It is important to note that these are countries Quebec does a lot of trade with. However, this now suggests that the real target should be signing a free trade agreement with the European Union that will help achieve results for all our exchanges with Europe.
For example, the four countries involved in the current agreement represent 12 million people and roughly 1% of Canadian exports. With the European Union, it would be 495 million inhabitants who generate 31% of global GDP. In fact, the European Union is currently the strongest economic power in the world.
Every day we are painfully becoming more aware that our economy is far too dependent on that of the United States. When there is a downturn in consumerism such as we are seeing now in the United States, when we see that the Americans are committing a lot of money to the war in Iraq, when we see the commercial paper crisis, when we see the economic slowdown in the United States, when we see the obvious aggression of emerging countries such as India and China, we can see that it is getting more and more difficult to keep our place in the American market.
This agreement gives us an opportunity to move forward and guarantee that we have access to Europe.
The current free trade agreement indicates that we are moving in the right direction. We should have a similar agreement for the entire European Union, but we do not. We believe that the federal government should speed up its attempts to access Europe so that we can arrive at an even more significant agreement that will give the best possible results.
This is the reality. We have lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs in five years, more than 80,00 of which were lost since the Conservatives came to power. They follow the laissez-faire doctrine, meaning that the market regulates everything, but that does not mean that we should not be open to new markets, as we would be with the free trade agreement we are talking about today, and of course a more widespread agreement with the whole of Europe. The European Union is absolutely essential to diversifying our markets and reducing our dependency on the United States. The fact that Canada has not yet signed a free trade agreement with the European Union considerably diminishes the competitiveness of our businesses on the European market.
At this point in my speech, I would like to say that the Canadian government must realize that it is essential to move forward on environmental issues. Other countries must see that we are respecting Kyoto, and that we will be firmly committed to Kyoto plus, which will be developed at the Copenhagen conference next year. As it stands, we could end up paying export taxes because the international community does not recognize that we have made an adequate effort on environmental issues. The government will have to be tougher and much more active in this respect, and it will have to recognize that sustainable development is not only good for the environment, but it is also good for the economy. Canada is not currently a leader, as it could have been if it had truly decided to accept Kyoto, to implement it and to create resources more quickly, such as a carbon exchange, so that we could reap all the necessary benefits.
Let us go back to the possibility of a free trade agreement with Europe. With the rise of the petrodollar, European companies have tended to open subsidiaries in the United States and leave out Canada. That is another reason why it would be a good idea to sign a free trade agreement with all of Europe.
Canada's share of direct European investments in North America dropped from 3% in 1992 to 1% in 2004. The alarm bells are ringing. We need to change our attitude, we need to change the way we do things, and we need to come to an agreement with all of Europe, like the one we are debating today, as quickly as possible. It would be to Quebec's and Canada's advantage to sign and implement an agreement as soon as possible.
I should also point out that the European Union and Mexico have had a free trade agreement in place since 2000. As such, if a Canadian company is doing business in Mexico, it is in that company's best interest to relocate more of its production to Mexico because it can access both the European and U.S. markets, which it cannot do if it keeps its production in Quebec. It is important to both companies and workers for the federal government to change its attitude and speed things up in terms of opening up markets. Being open to globalization when the conditions are right means that our companies have to be in a competitive position. We have to give them the fiscal tools they need, and we have to give them the tools they need to access the market.
The example I just gave is the best one. A Quebec company does not have the same access to the European market as a Mexican company, and companies in Mexico have access to both North American and European markets. This is an aberration that should be rectified as soon as possible.
Quebec would be the first to benefit from a free trade agreement with Europe. The Bloc Québécois has been promoting this for some time now. We proposed it as part of our election platform and our political agenda. We believe that if we persevere in this file as we have in others, we will eventually get a free trade agreement with Europe.
For example, 70% of the people who work for French companies in Canada are from Quebec, as are 37% of those who work for U.K. companies here and 35% of those who work for German companies here. In contrast, just 20% of people working for U.S. companies in Canada are Quebeckers. The Government of Quebec has been working with companies since the Quiet Revolution, and that is a major advantage when it comes time to seek out European investment. We have everything we need to become the bridgehead for European investment in America.
Thus, we see what the prevailing spirit was when the free trade agreement was signed with the United States, the agreement that later became NAFTA. Thanks to that spirit, Quebeckers rallied behind their leaders who wanted to implement free trade. Quebec has benefited from this free trade. Unfortunately, market conditions have changed considerably. Since the markets have opened up to China and other countries around the world, we are now facing a new reality. This reality calls for new tools for international trade. Free trade agreements are the best example.
Today, the Bloc Québécois is very pleased to support Bill C-55, which would implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the EFTA, that is, the European Free Trade Association, consisting of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
We believe this is a step towards adopting such an agreement with Europe as a whole. Quebec is open to this position and hopes to see it come to fruition. Quebec as a whole shares this desire to move forward on such agreements. We hope the federal government will pick up the pace and conclude an agreement with the European Union. That would be the best way to diversify our economy, which really needs a boost, due to the slowdown in the American economy and the emergence of new competition from China.
I am pleased to confirm once again that the Bloc Québécois supports this free trade agreement and hopes to see it implemented as soon as possible. It will be beneficial for businesses and workers in Quebec.