Mr. Chairman, I am pleased to speak in the take note debate on the World Trade Organization meeting to be held in Qatar this week. The World Trade Organization is based in Geneva and came into being in 1995. It is the successor to the general agreement on tariffs and trade, GATT.
This year's meeting will provide an opportunity for members to take stock of evolving global trade trends and issues as well as to review and advance the work of the World Trade Organization.
The Minister for International Trade in his speech to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade stated that Canada's current and future growth and prosperity were clearly linked to trade and depended on a healthy, open, transparent, multinational, multilateral framework of rules which provided access to growing world markets and kept pace with changes in technology, business practices and public interest.
He also said that many of our exporters were small and medium size enterprises that depended on trade to grow and recognized the importance of a framework of rules to enhance transparency and predictability for opportunities abroad.
The cornerstone of the multilateral trading system, the WTO system of agreements, is the foundation of Canadian trade policy and effectively constitutes Canada's trade agreements with a host of emerging markets worldwide. It also underpins much of our trade with the United States.
Canada's overall objectives for this meeting are to improve the lives of Canadians by increasing economic growth and productivity; to create opportunities for Canadian agrifood, industrial and service exporters and investors by achieving greater access to foreign markets and ensuring fair conditions for their activities; to provide Canadian consumers with better choices and better prices in goods and services; to reflect changes in the global economy by updating WTO rules; to encourage the WTO to be more transparent and open; to address public concerns about the social and environmental implications; and to contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction in developing countries.
The Minister for International Cooperation, commenting on poverty reduction, mentioned recently that the best way to reduce poverty was through the economic growth provided by trade. She said:
I believe that helping them negotiate and exercise the rights and obligations of membership in the World Trade Organization will go a long way in helping these countries achieve that objective.
Canada believes it is important to better co-ordinate the activities of the WTO with a larger cast of international organizations such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to ensure they are not giving developing countries conflicting signals.
Many developing countries believe that they did not achieve enough access to other foreign markets during the Uruguay round of negotiations, especially for agricultural goods, textiles and clothing products. Canada believes that richer countries can help poorer nations through the WTO.
International trade is important for Canada because it drives our economy. Canada is by far the most trade oriented of the G-8 countries. Trade is vital to our continued prosperity. Our exports of goods and services now represents 45.6% of our gross domestic product, up from 25% in 1991. We traded an average of $2.5 billion in business daily with the world last year, of which $1.7 billion per day was with the United States.
The payback for Canada was immediate in that one job in three depends on exports. The 427,000 new net jobs created in 1999 marked the highest total since 1979 and part of this expansion related directly to our success in global markets.
One of Canada's main objectives at the WTO meetings will be to address important trade tariff barriers and other trade restrictions such as in Canada's steel trade industry. The steel industry's financial health is particularly important for my constituents in Hamilton Mountain.
Approximately 6.6 million tonnes of steel making capacity, or nearly 40% of Canada's total, is located in greater Hamilton. Approximately 16,000 people in greater Hamilton are directly employed in steel making and processing. In total, more than 500 firms are directly or indirectly involved in the industry.
On November 2 the United States international trade commission ruled that certain steel imports from 10 countries were hurting United States steel companies. The U.S. ruling may force steel imports intended for the United States to be diverted to Canada and subsequently flood Canadian markets.
The WTO ministerial conference in Qatar would be an opportune time to voice our collective concern over the possible effects of diverted steel from the United States into Canada. The WTO's overriding objective, after all, is to help trade flow smoothly, freely, fairly and predictably. The issue of Canada's jeopardized steel industry should be a high priority item which Canada should bring to the table at the WTO meeting in Qatar.
Another objective that Canada must bring to the WTO meeting in Qatar is to seek broader support for Canada's approach to cultural industries. In October 1999 the Canadian government decided to pursue a new international instrument on cultural diversity. The instrument would set out clear ground rules to enable countries to maintain policies that promote their culture while respecting trade rules and ensuring markets for exports.
Canada has stated that it will not make any commitment that restricts its ability to achieve its cultural policy objectives until the instruments can be established.
This year's WTO ministerial meeting is an important opportunity for the Canadian government to promote and reinforce the international trade agenda on a global stage. The Liberal government wants WTO negotiations that would open up markets for Canadian trade, update the multilateral system to reflect today's economic realities and help the developing world reap the benefits of liberalized trade.
A new round of international trade negotiations also holds the promise that all participating nations, developed and developing, have the opportunity to reduce poverty, enhance security and improve the quality of life for people around the world.
The Minister for International Trade said this would only occur in an environment of good governance and coherent domestic economic and social policies through new negotiations to preserve growth and development at home and around the world.