Mr. Speaker, I heard the NDP member from Ottawa talking about the importance of a multilateral approach in trade agreements to ensure some degree of fairness in the agreements and to ensure that they benefit all parties involved, which is quite a departure from the sort of bilateral agreements this government wants to rush through.
The Bloc Québécois has always been very clear. Protectionism will not help the Quebec economy because it is based on the manufacturing industry. In its budgets, the government has been trying to limit the development and growth of manufacturing businesses by introducing policies that favour other sectors, such as the western oil industry. We object to such ploys because everyone knows that the Quebec economy is based primarily on manufacturing, and therefore on exports. International exports account for one-third of Quebec's GDP. If we include all interprovincial exports, over half of our GDP depends on the growth of our manufacturing industry.
We therefore cannot support any sort of protectionist initiatives. That is why, when we learned that the American administration had decided to include protectionist measures in its stimulus plan, some Bloc Québécois members rushed to Washington, the American capital. They urged the American government and all partners to stay away from protectionist measures because they are harmful not only to our economy, but to theirs as well. A great deal of trade takes place between Quebec and the United States and between Canada and the United States. The fabrication of manufactured goods often begins on one side of the border and is completed on the other side. The value added to goods increases on the other side of the border, and those goods come and go. We have an integrated manufacturing industry. The Bloc Québécois therefore vehemently opposes any sort of protectionist measures.
However, the common good and the ability of governments to redistribute wealth, protect the environment and culture, and provide their citizens with basic public services, such as health care and education, must always be the basis for decisions about trade rules. If the WTO's Doha round is compromised and the free trade area of the Americas is currently stagnating, is it because the negotiations were flawed? Of course. It does not mean that the multilateral system is ineffective. It comes down to some partners around the table having the impression that they will come up short. Some parties want to have more benefits and, consequently, the other parties run the risk of coming up short.
When negotiating, it is important to always bear in mind that agreements must be fair to all partners and that each party must secure the benefits it had hoped for by signing the agreements.
In the case of multilateral agreements, if the government made more of an effort around the table to arrive at just and fair compromises, we would not be in a position today of watching it rush to sign bilateral agreements with just about anyone in order to bypass others who would like to sign agreements. I do not believe we should be doing this. The Bloc Québécois' position is that it is important that efforts be directed to negotiating multilateral agreements.
That is why the Bloc Québécois was the first party in this House to call for an agreement to be signed with the European Union. This agreement is still being questioned today because it is not clear whether the government is serious about defending what is important to us at the table, namely cultural exemption and supply management. Fundamental requirements still need to be central to the debates, discussions and negotiations because there are fundamental aspects at the heart of a society's economy or identity. For example, supply management is fundamental to Quebec agriculture. There is also cultural exemption. I like repeating that in this House. Quebec is a nation where culture, the arts, literature and, essentially, everything that is at the centre of our collective identity as Quebeckers, are important to us. We want to preserve our identity for generations to come because that is what defines us as a nation. So ends that aside.
As my colleague from the New Democratic Party said in his speech, when agreements are negotiated, they have to benefit the country's economy, or the nation's, in the case of the Quebec nation. When the Bloc Québécois assesses potential agreements presented to it, one of the questions it needs answered is whether these agreements can benefit Quebec's economy.
That being said, with Panama there is another problem to add to the debate: the fact that this country is on the grey list of tax havens. None of us likes to hear in the news that companies are not paying their fair share of taxes because they shelter their capital in tax havens in various countries that protect them from having to fulfill their social responsibility. It is clear that ordinary citizens do not enjoy the same privileges that the government unfortunately continues to give rich companies to save them from paying some of the tax on their profits.
As far as Panama is concerned, I have here an article from Le Devoir, from September 29, 2010, entitled “Lutte internationale contre l'évasion fiscale—Les mauvais élèves sont montrés du doigt”. It is about singling out the offenders in the international fight against tax evasion. The subtitle refers to the release of the international forum's first report card.
This text from Agence France-Presse explained that, following a preliminary review by the WTO, Panama would probably be on the WTO list of offenders. I believe this needs to be taken into account.