Mr. Speaker, today it is my pleasure to speak to Bill C-2, an act to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. The association is made up of four countries: Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.
As some of my colleagues mentioned this morning, this is the second time that Parliament is considering the bill to implement the Free Trade Agreement between Canada and the States of the European Free Trade Association. During the second session of the 39th Parliament, Bill C-55 was passed at second reading, but could not be finalized before the 39th Parliament ended on September 7, 2008.
Bill C-2, which is before us today, and Bill C-55 are identical. I want to reiterate that the Bloc Québécois will support this bill because we believe that it will provide good trade opportunities for Quebec. Nevertheless, it is important to point out that this economic initiative, while very positive for Quebec, raises some concerns that I will explore later in my remarks.
As we all know, many Quebec businesses depend on exports to ensure growth. However, 85% of our exports are to the United States. That means that we have to diversify free trade.
International exports represent almost one-third of Quebec's GDP. 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 recession or a downturn in consumerism as is now happening with the Americans, coupled with the obvious aggression of emerging countries such as China, India and Brazil, we can see that it is getting more and more difficult to keep our place in the American market and to encourage growth in our manufacturing businesses. The results have been significant for Quebec. We have lost over 150,000 manufacturing jobs in the past five years, more than 80,00 of those since the Conservatives came to power.
The riding that I represent, Berthier—Maskinongé, has been severely affected by the loss of manufacturing jobs, particularly in the furniture and textile industries. If we were less dependent on the American market and our trading relationships were more diversified, I am convinced that our manufacturing sector would not be so hard hit.
And this is what makes the agreement that we are looking at today such an interesting initiative. It also offers new opportunities for Quebec business. For example, like Quebec, Switzerland has a large pharmaceutical industry, vigorous and innovative, especially with respect to brand name drugs. It is not surprising that Quebec is the Canadian leader in the field of brand name drugs because of its pool of skilled researchers and its favourable tax system. We could therefore easily imagine that in order to more easily break into the American market—
I think that I will stop there and continue after question period.