Mr. Speaker, thank you for that wonderful compliment to the House this afternoon.
I rise today to speak to Bill C-13, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, the Hazardous Products Act, the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Pest Control Products Act, and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act.
As we know, the legislation before us today would enable Canada to implement the World Trade Organization's agreement on trade facilitation, the TFA.
Bill C-13 will bring various acts it seeks to amend into conformity with Canada's obligations under the TFA. There are about 71 clauses to this bill, not including related and coordinating amendments. It will be important to carefully look at each clause. However, I will not focus my remarks today on attempting to provide a detailed clause-by-clause analysis.
I would like to thank the department officials for providing me with a helpful briefing on the bill.
I would like to discuss more broadly what a trade facilitation agreement is, how it will impact global trade, and it what it means for Canada.
The TFA is the first multilateral agreement concluded since the creation of the WTO in 1994. It emerged from the WTO Bali ministerial conference in 2013, and it was a priority for developed countries. It aims to liberalize trade by harmonizing customs and border procedures among all 162 WTO member states. This could lower trade costs and boost trade. It makes sense that developed countries would want to see greater trade facilitation as it could provide greater opportunities for our companies to do business abroad.
Developed countries, such as Canada, are already in vast compliance with the measures proposed in the TFA. We have modernized customs and border procedures with a highly skilled and professional workforce at the Canada Border Services Agency.
On the other hand, developing countries may require a lot more changes to both their legislation and practices in order to implement the TFA. These costs are difficult to estimate. It is important to acknowledge that TFA implementation could divert resources and energies away from other development priorities.
The TFA has two main sections. Section I is about how the TFA will expedite the movement, release, and clearance of goods in transit. Section II sets out how developing and least developed countries will implement the TFA. It stipulates that they should receive assistance and support for capacity-building. I wonder what this would mean in practical terms, and I would like to hear more from the government on what mechanisms will be in place and what role Canada may play in this.
Overall, Canada should support the promotion of a more level playing field at the WTO that encourages sustainable, inclusive development.
There are two specific articles in the TFA that Bill C-13 addresses, Article 10.8.1 on rejected goods and Article 11.8 on goods and transit.
On rejected goods, TFA Article 10.8.1 requires that a country must allow importers to return to exporters goods rejected when they do not meet prescribed sanitary, phytosanitary, or technical regulations. A set of criteria outlines how these rejected goods should be dealt with. They can be returned, reconsigned, or handled in other ways, for example through seizure, detainment, forfeiture, or disposal.
Five of the six acts being amended by Bill C-13 are in relation to the issue of rejected goods and how Canada deals with them. Bill C-13 would give Canada the authority to take action on non-compliant goods and avoid having to maintain indefinite care and control of non-compliant goods.
In the bill we see some examples of what these goods could be, such as products with improper labelling or products that may contain certain hazardous materials. In some cases, if attempts to locate the rejected goods' owner are unsuccessful, the WTO member may now have the option to destroy the rejected goods.
The second TFA provision addressed by Bill C-13 is article 11.8, which states:
Members shall not apply technical regulations and conformity assessment procedures within the meaning of the Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade to goods in transit.
In order to comply with article 11.8, four federal acts require amendments, as follows: the Food and Drugs Act, the Pest Control Products Act, the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, and the Canadian Environmental Protection Act of 1999.
Currently, certain Health Canada and Environment and Climate Change Canada statutes prohibit the transit through Canada of goods that do not comply with Canadian technical regulations. This restricts food, drugs, cosmetics, or devices that are not compliant with Canadian regulations from passing through our borders.
Bill C-13 would create the legal authority to allow Canada to exempt goods in transit from the technical regulations outlined in these four acts. I would like to see some close study of these amendments at committee stage and look at some examples of what could be allowed to transit through Canada under these new provisions.
For some statutes under the administration of Health Canada, Bill C-13 would impose conditions that identify goods in transit that may not comply with Canadian technical regulations, so that in case these goods are diverted into the Canadian market, we know what they are.
Conditions would also be imposed under Bill C-13 that would provide oversight on products, such as certain pesticides and pharmaceutical drugs, not captured under the Transportation of Dangerous Goods Act of 1992, which are currently not permitted to transit through Canada but will be once this TFA is implemented.
The government asserts that this oversight maintains safeguards that protect the environment, health, and safety of persons who may come into contact with such goods. I am interested to hear more from witnesses at committee to ensure that this is the case, as the health and safety of workers is of paramount concern, as is the protection of our environment.
On the surface, many of the changes we see in Bill C-13 are seemingly minor, but we need to hear from experts in order to fully understand that this is the case.
For example, Bill C-13 would make changes to the product safety information section of the Pest Control Products Act, section 8.3. While much of the language remains the same, it deletes specific reference to a requirement to provide material safety data sheets, or MSDS. I wonder why this is the case, as we all know the importance of MSDS for workers who handle potentially hazardous products.
I talked about the TFA and its specific articles, and now I would like to discuss the potential benefits of the TFA to Canadian exporters.
We often see in trade agreements the tendency to overstate the potential benefits and understate the potential costs. We certainly see that with the trans-Pacific partnership. Initially, the previous Conservative government touted the benefits of the TPP. However, when we look at the studies conducted so far in this agreement, we see a different story.
On the one hand, we have a study by the Peterson Institute, which predicts a 1.3% rise in the real income of Canadians, but this is only a modest increase, and we have to question some of its assumptions, such as the assumption that we have full employment. In contrast, several have predicted negative or negligible impacts.
The independent study by the researchers at Tufts University actually criticizes other studies for using unrealistic assumptions in their TPP analysis. The Tufts study predicts that Canada will lose 58,000 jobs by joining the TPP. Negligible GDP growth for Canada is also reported in this study, and the same is true for the results produced by the World Bank, and the C.D. Howe Institute.
There are many reports, some suggesting gains and some suggesting losses; however, none of these reports are replacements for a full economic impact analysis that we are still waiting on the minister to provide.
At trade committee this week, we again heard calls for an impact study, and first nations groups also called for a human rights impact assessment. The government needs to provide this analysis to Canadians and their elected representatives so that we can get a better understanding of the potential benefits and costs of the TPP.
In the same vein, I wonder if the government has done any modelling or deep analysis of the trade facilitation agreement. Therefore, I approached the WTO numbers on the potential gains of the TFA with some caution, but let us talk about them—