Hon. Donald M. Fleming (Minister of Finance):
Mr. Speaker, I should like to table copies, in English and in French, of four reports that have been submitted by the tariff board. The reports in question are as follows: reference No. 118, basic iron and steel products; reference No. 119, pipes and tubes of iron or steel; reference No. 121, waterproof footwear and rubber-soled canvas footwear; reference No. 122, zinc and zinc products. Three of the reports were submitted some time ago to my predecessor and were released by him for public distribution in June of this year. I am now tabling these reports and also transcripts of the evidence taken at the public hearings of the board, pursuant to section 6 of the Tariff Board Act. I am tabling also a report, and the transcript of evidence, relating to zinc and zinc products which was submitted to me by the chairman of the tariff board earlier this week.
I should like to comment briefly on each of these reports at this time and to indicate how the government proposes to deal with them. I hope my remarks will provide an answer to the question asked two days ago by the hon. member for Springfield (Mr. Schulz) and to similar questions which may be in the minds of other hon. members.
I wish to refer first to the reference relating to basic iron and steel products. In this very broad and important reference the board's inquiries related to some 113 existing tariff classifications. Of this total the board considered that 21 items were not in need of revision. It recommended that the remaining 92 items be reduced in number to 38. In detailed explanatory notes included in its report the board has furnished information which permits comparisons between the existing rates and the proposed rates of duty.
The effect of the board's recommendation is that some rates are increased while others are decreased. They are designed to provide what the tariff board considered, on the basis of the evidence presented to it, to be adequate protection where it is required.
With regard to the wording and arrangement of the proposed tariff items, the most striking change from the present situation is the substantial simplification of the iron and steel schedule accomplished by the elimination of numerous special purpose items, and the consolidation of the remaining items into four major groups relating to plate, structural, bars and sheet and strip respectively.
The tariff board's recommendations on pipes and tubes are also intended to bring up to date and simplify a section of the tariff which has become out of date. These recommendations, like those affecting basic iron and steel, involve reductions in some rates and increases in others. The board's terms of reference contemplated recommendations which would modernize the pipes and tubes schedule. The board's recommendations are, I believe, consistent with its terms of reference.
I wish to refer next to the report which has just been received, that on zinc and zinc products, as the situation with regard to these items is much like the situation with regard to the iron and steel items. In this reference the board was instructed to investigate and make recommendations regarding alleged anomalies in the existing tariff structure, having regard to the obligations and procedures of the general agreement on tariffs and trade. The board found that anomalies did exist, and it recommended changes to remove them. As in the case of the other reports to which I have referred, these changes involve some increases in rates of duty and also some decreases.
A review of the three reports to which I have referred leads to the conclusion that the proposed increases and decreases are broadly in balance, and that the recommendations taken together constitute what might be called a negotiable package. I would emphasize, however, that it is a package which requires negotiation with other countries and on which we could not, in view of existing international obligations, take unilateral action without giving other countries rights to withdraw concessions of value to Canadian exporters. The government is taking advantage of the present GATT negotiations in Geneva to undertake such negotiations.
I believe hon. members will be interested in some aspects of the negotiations. First, the
Tariff Board Reports
lists of the bound items which Canada is seeking to modify have been notified to other contracting parties and in some instances have been made public by them. There is no objection to this on our part. It does not necessarily follow, however, that the giving of notice of our desire to negotiate a particular item indicates an intention to raise the rate of duty thereon. Frequently the reverse will be the case, as when two or more existing classifications are to be combined under circumstances where the proposed new rate is lower than the average of the existing rates. In other instances what is involved may be merely a change in wording. I hope this will answer questions that have been asked and will also serve to clear up any possible misconceptions.
Second, the negotiations at Geneva will necessarily be conducted in private, and they will be conducted in so far as Canada is concerned with careful reference to the tariff board's recommendations. However, I should emphasize at this time that what ultimately emerges should be expected to differ in some respects from these recommendations. This will be the case not only because of the give and take that necessarily occurs in any such negotiations, but also because the government will wish in some instances to take account of the new developments affecting individual tariff items. After the negotiations are concluded, it would be the intention of the government to introduce in parliament at an appropriate time the tariff changes which the government considers to be desirable.
I would like to refer briefly to the fourth report which I am tabling today, namely that on waterproof footwear and rubber soled canvas footwear, reference No. 121. As hon. members will have noted, in making this reference to the tariff board my predecessor did not ask for recommendations. Accordingly none were made by the board in this report. However, on studying the report which is being tabled today I came to the conclusion that it might be useful to have the board prepare a supplementary report on this reference, including therein any recommendations which the board might deem warranted regarding the retention or modification of the present duties. This supplementary report has not yet been received; when it is it will be tabled in accordance with the provisions of the Tariff Board Act.
Subtopic: TABLING OF REPORTS OF TARIFF BOARD