Mr. Speaker, today I am speaking as chairman of the Reform Party committee on international trade.
The topic is Bill C-4 which will permit the full Canadian enforcement of two NAFTA side agreements: the North American agreement on environment co-operation and the North American agreement on labour co-operation.
I will begin my statement by saying that the Reform Party supports this bill, although we do have a few areas of concern that I will be expanding upon later in my presentation. Our support of NAFTA is on the condition that Canadian businesses can take full advantage of this important agreement by reducing government spending and lowering taxes in this country; by eliminating interprovincial trade barriers, and by shifting emphasis from welfare to retraining and technological development.
Because we support NAFTA we support the necessary enacting legislation introduced in Bill C-4. I would like to commend the government for signing NAFTA. I was encouraged in the throne speech by the promise of an activist trade policy and by improving access to export sales. I was especially encouraged by the promise to work with provincial governments to eliminate internal trade barriers.
Canada is a trading nation and benefits enormously from trade liberalization. Canada produces a surplus of many goods and services which are in demand around the world. Yet Canada cannot possibly produce the full range of goods and services that Canadians need so it is to our advantage that we maximize and optimize trade. Greater and freer world trade will open up new markets and new opportunities. It will provide more jobs, raise our real income levels and add to the strength of the Canadian economy. The overall prosperity of Canadians will be enhanced.
In Canada, trade accounts for one out of every four jobs generated. In my riding of Peace River we are very dependent on trade to provide jobs; in the agriculture sector, oil and gas, and also in forestry. Twenty-five per cent of everything we produce is exported and the total value of exports is increasing all the time.
This underlines the importance of participating in both NAFTA and the GATT trade agreements. The NAFTA agreement allows Canada to reach its long-term objectives and will
strengthen environmental co-operation in North America; promote sustainable development on a continental basis; create an effective institution to oversee this agreement; effectively enforce and enhance compliance with domestic environmental laws.
In the area of labour co-operation, NAFTA will improve working conditions and living standards in all three participating countries and it will protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights.
In order to benefit fully from any trade deal, the government must ensure that Canadian businesses are in a position to participate fully in the new opportunities that exist.
The hon. member for Calgary Southwest and many of my colleagues have spoken about the importance of bringing down the cost of doing business. We must eliminate deficit spending so that we can finally lower taxes. We must eliminate interprovincial trade barriers.
There are many categories of barriers. In the agriculture and food processing industries over 100 barriers exist. They include production quotas, differential labelling, quality and packaging standards, and transportation and stabilization subsidies.
In the liquor, wine and beer industries we have provincial production requirements, local bottling requirements, differential mark-ups, quotas, packing requirements and marketing favouritism.
In the transportation industry, we have different licensing requirements, size and weight requirements, safety regulations, provincial transportation board discretionary powers, and varying fuel and sales taxes.
In the area of government procurement, we find explicit and implicit preferences for local suppliers and requirements for locally produced materials. With government procurement expenditures exceeding $100 billion per year, approximately 20 per cent of GNP, this is by no means insignificant.
In the area of labour mobility, there are different licensing requirements for professionals and trades persons from province to province. These barriers create significant impediments to people wishing to move to another province since skilled workers have to meet additional licensing requirements.
In the area of capital mobility there are industrial incentives, local investment funds and local tax incentives. Such carriers are often used for regional development and create an inefficient allocation of our financial resources.
The cost to our nation of these and other internal barriers is in the neighbourhood of $6.5 billion per year. Interprovincial trade barriers have fragmented the marketplace and hindered Canada's ability to compete internationally. Furthermore, these barriers give competitive advantages to large firms that can afford to comply with the stringent rules imposed by government. At the same time they hinder small businesses from reaching their market potential. Unless we can improve competition within our own borders and can lower the cost of doing business by providing some tax relief, we will never be able to reap the full rewards of the expanded trade opportunities that exist.
I have outlined our party's concerns on the need to let businesses take full advantage of this trade agreement. We expect the government to take the necessary steps to allow this to happen.
Let me get back to Bill C-4. Under NAFTA a compliance mechanism has been established in the event an arbitral panel finds persistent patterns of failure by a country to effectively enforce its labour and environmental laws. If a country fails to correct the problem, the panel may impose sizeable fines. In the event that a fine is imposed on Canada, and it is very unlikely this will happen as one speaker said earlier, the fine would ultimately be enforced by domestic courts.
At this stage we support this bill and its enabling legislation in order to move quickly to bring this trade deal into full effect. But we do have a few specific concerns that need to be addressed.
First, the bill states clearly that any panel determination that would enforce Canadian labour laws or standards cannot be appealed. We would favour the addition of an appeal process.
Second, we would insist that Canadian members on this panel be chosen on the basis of fair regional representation.
I trust that the standing committee reviewing this legislation will address our specific concerns.