Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege for me to rise to speak to this bill, an act to amend the Crown Liability and Proceedings Act.
I would first like to congratulate our Canadian representatives who worked tirelessly to ensure that there is fairness in our trade relations. It will open a tremendous market for Canadian business and Canadian industries abroad.
At the same time I want to congratulate all those who were involved in the negotiations in the three countries, particularly when it came to the side agreements. I know how difficult it was at times in pursuing these negotiations.
The object and purpose of this legislation can be stated in a few words. This legislation ensures that trade sanctions cannot be taken against Canada under the North American Free Trade Agreement, on environmental and labour co-operation.
What this legislation does is give effect to the unique provisions written into these agreements for Canada which provide that our own Federal Court of Canada would enforce a panel determination against Canada in the unlikely event that this should ever occur.
This was the agreed outcome of the trilateral negotiations when Canadian negotiators insisted that for Canada the trade sanctions were an unacceptable recourse and remedy particularly for environmental and labour disputes. Canadian negotiators proposed instead, and it was accepted by the American and Mexican negotiators, that the Canadian courts would enforce the integrity of the agreement as it operated in Canada.
The bill before us gives us legal effect to the negotiated outcome that Canada achieved in the so-called NAFTA side agreement negotiations on environmental and labour co-operation.
This amendment is the only legislative measure necessary for Canada to completely fulfil all of its obligations under the North American Free Trade Agreement on environmental co-operation and labour co-operation.
The environmental and labour co-operation agreements protect Canada's interests in these fields, with respect to the North American Free Trade Agreement. These agreements reinforce and broaden important commitments made by Canada, the United States and Mexico.
The three countries have pledged to work together to co-operatively pursue environmentally sustainable growth and promote the rights of workers across North America.
More important, both agreements reinforce NAFTA's provisions regarding labour and the environment. They guarantee that the increase in trade we are seeking will not happen at the expenses of the environment or Canadian workers.
At the present time, we are setting up a commission, under the North American Agreement on Environmental Co-operation, which will work to foster close and ongoing co-operation among the three countries. It will have as a mandate the promotion of sustainable development, the development and implementation of environmental regulations, and the settlement of disputes arising from non-compliance with existing legislation.
The commission will ensure the implementation of an agenda reflecting priorities, including setting limits on certain pollutants, evaluating projects having an impact on both sides of the border, and guaranteeing reciprocal access to tribunals.
The commission, in co-operation with the Free Trade Commission, will also ensure that the objectives of the Environmental Co-operation Agreement are met.
Established pursuant to the North American Agreement on Labor Co-operation, the Commission for Labor Co-operation has the same purpose. It will promote the application of a comprehensive set of principles considered essential by the three countries involved.
The Commission will also give effect to the promise made by all parties and set forth in the NAFTA preamble, that is "improve working conditions and living standards" and "protect, enhance and enforce basic workers' rights" in the three countries, on "their respective territories". The Agreement guarantees that legislation governing health and security, children's work, as my colleague mentioned earlier, and minimum wage will be respected in the three countries.
The agreements are based on a very close and permanent co-operation between the three countries, but they go much further than mere co-operation. In fact, each country signing these agreements will be committed to enforcing on its territory any national legislation concerning environment and labor.
The North American free trade agreements on environmental and labour co-operation in fact does strengthen and improve the environmental and labour objectives of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Through these side agreements Canada, the United States and Mexico have pledged to work together to co-operatively pursue environmentally sustainable growth and promote the right of workers across North America. Achieving these agreements met two of the conditions set out by the Prime Minister for proceeding with NAFTA on January 1, 1994.
In addition, the government sought a subsidy code, an anti-dumping code, a more effective dispute resolution mechanism, and maintenance of Canada's energy security.
Through these discussions with the governments of the United States and Mexico, we were able to successfully negotiate improvements to NAFTA that addressed these Canadian concerns. Understandings were reached on subsidies, dumping and national sovereignty on water resources.
At Canada's insistence, the three NAFTA countries have established working groups on subsidies, countervail and anti-dumping. Through these working groups we will seek rules and procedures on subsidies and dumping to make cross-border trading conditions more secure.
Ultimately, these badly needed improvements will make dispute settlement more equitable and substantially improve the business climate among the three partners countries.
In order to correct some of the false interpretations about NAFTA and water, the three governments have made a joint declaration on water. It states that there is nothing in the North American Free Trade Agreement that could force Canada, the United States or Mexico for that matter to export water.
The government's declaration on energy spells out our commitment to energy security for all Canadians, an important element of our overall economic priorities which also states that Canada will continue to be a strong and reliable supplier of energy to our customers, reinforcing our industry's expanding role in the North American energy market.
Taken together, these improvements enabled the government to proclaim NAFTA on January 1, 1994 and the government is satisfied that the North American Free Trade Agreement will advance Canada's trade policies objectives as stated in this House by all three parties.
I want on this note to thank all my colleagues who have made comments in this House and I am delighted to see this bill moving ahead. It is a great day for all of us and a great day for Canada and for the tremendous opportunities that will come as a result of this agreement.