May 21, 1951 (21st Parliament, 4th Session)


Donald Methuen Fleming

Progressive Conservative

Mr. Fleming:

Well it would not have been water under the bridge if the government had adopted the very constructive suggestion offered by the Progressive Conservative opposition on that occasion. We would not now be facing a situation in which our exports to the markets of the United Kingdom and the commonwealth countries have

Trade Agreements
experienced this further critical drop. And when I speak of the serious drop that has occurred in the last fifteen months, I do not confine to that period the falling off in our exports to the United Kingdom and commonwealth countries. That has been going on for some years, ever since war purchases dropped out of the picture. But the situation became infinitely more critical during the fifteen month period beginning toward the end of 1949 and running now into 1951. A great deal of this loss of trade would not have been water under the bridge today if the government had been prepared to move in the direction they were asked to move at that time and on other occasions.
I said something about the procedure indicated by the government on this occasion. What I have just said relates to the background of the trading situation against which we must measure the Torquay agreements to judge their value and relative importance in influencing a trade situation that has been characterized by an increasing lopsidedness. In 1947, after the Geneva agreements were signed and the then prime minister made the announcement on the air to which I have referred, parliament was summoned at a very unusual time. The reason given was that parliament was to be asked to meet on December 5, 1947, for the purpose of ratifying the Geneva agreements. Such was the importance of those agreements, such was the urgency attached to their ratification by parliament, that nothing short of immediate ratification was proposed at that juncture. So parliament was called to meet two and one-half weeks before Christmas. If you will examine Hansard for December 5, 1947, you will see at page 2 a paragraph in the speech from the throne relating to the course the government asked parliament to follow with respect to the Geneva agreements. That paragraph read:
A permanent solution of our exchange problems and the future well-being of the nation depend upon the revival of world trade. An important step forward in this direction has been the successful conclusion of the recent discussions at Geneva. A positive achievement was the conclusion of trade agreements with eighteen other nations.
Then mark these words, if you please:
You will be asked to approve these agreements. Canada is now represented at the United Nations trade conference in Havana, which it is hoped will result in the establishment of an international trade organization along lines agreed to at Geneva. The trade agreements and the establishment of an international trade organization will provide a sound foundation for the expansion of world commerce, production and employment.
I have already alluded to the fact that the Geneva trade agreements were to a substantial degree neutralized by conflicting policies adopted at the same time by the

government. But to contrast the course the government invited parliament to take at that session with respect to the Geneva agreements with the course suggested in the present motion may I refer to the resolution introduced in the house, which will be found at page 106 of Hansard for December 9, 1947:
That it is expedient that parliament do approve the general agreement on tariffs and trade, including the protocol of the provisional application thereof-
Then it goes on to set out the various documents, and in conclusion states:
-and that this house do approve of the same, subject to the legislation required in order to give effect to the provisions thereof.
In the course of the debate objection was taken to parliament being called upon to vote approval of those agreements before there had been detailed examination of them. On March 12, 1948, the then prime minister introduced the following motion, which was seconded by the present Prime Minister, and which will be found at page 2145 of Hansard:
That the subject matter of the general agreement on tariffs and trade, including the protocol of provisional application thereof, together with the complementary agreement of October 30, 1947, between Canada and the United States of America, be referred1 to the standing committee on banking and commerce.
You will see, sir, that the resolution is one which has been followed quite closely by the government in the resolution now under debate. I make this one observation in respect to the course that was followed in the banking and commerce committee and in the house. Following the adoption of that motion on March 12, 1948, the committee held several meetings and it heard some evidence. Then, the committee suddenly ceased to be called. The Geneva trade agreements rested literally in the lap of the banking and commerce committee, and that was the last that was heard of them. They have never been approved by parliament. The resolution which was introduced by the government at the beginning of that session was never disposed of because the agreements, apparently by the deliberate tactics of the government, were never reported back and have never been debated since.
Now, attention has been called in the debate today to the fact that the committee on banking and commerce is not being called upon to make any recommendations with regard to these agreements. The resolution simply proposes that the subject matter of the Torquay negotiations be referred to the standing committee on banking and commerce. What happens after they are referred there will remain, I suppose, in the inscrutable realm of government strategy. If it

suits the political interests of the government to have a resolution passed in the committee reporting these Torquay negotiations back to the house, unquestionably that will be done. If it suits the political fortunes of the government that the study of the agreements should die in the committee, no doubt that is the fate that awaits this agreement, just as it was the fate that overtook the Geneva agreements in 1948.

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