Mr. Morris Bodnar (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Industry, Minister for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and Minister of Western Economic Diversification, Lib.)
Mr. Speaker, during his visit to Paris on January 22 and 23, the Prime Minister raised Canada's concerns over the French ban with both the French prime minister and the French president.
During the same visit, the Minister of Industry provided the French authorities with a copy of the report from the Royal Society. This study, commissioned by the Canadian government, raises some important questions regarding the report from the Institut national de la santé et de la recherche médicale which is used by the French authorities to justify its asbestos ban. Prime Minister Juppé has agreed to have its experts examine the Royal Society report.
The federal government meets regularly with the Quebec government, the industry and the unions to develop a common approach in addressing the French ban on asbestos use, as well as its potential effects in other markets. This is in line with the concerted action plan agreed upon on July 24, 1996 by all the parties.
The federal government has raised this important issue at the highest levels in France. I anticipate that all interested parties will continue to play their respective roles in this jointly managed file.
As an example of that concerted approach, our missions facilitated the current meetings by the Quebec minister for international affairs in Germany, Belgium and the U.K., where the asbestos issue will be raised, as well as his upcoming visit to Senegal and the Ivory Coast.
The Canadian Minister of Natural Resources is also writing to her Quebec counterpart on a memorandum of understanding with the industry on the responsible use of asbestos.
We are also invoking our rights under the World Trade Organization to address the French ban. As a first step we formally asked the French government on January 27 to justify the ban under the technical barriers to trade agreement. France's reply will help us in assessing the asbestos ban in the context of France's WTO obligations.
Pending that reply, it is premature at this stage to discuss other options available to Canada under the WTO. When all relevant information on that file will have been gathered with the help of the Quebec government, the industry and the unions, the Minister for International Trade will decide on any further action.
Meanwhile, it is irresponsible to discuss publicly any strategy with regard to further WTO actions, as it could prove harmful to the asbestos industry and its related jobs in the region.
Topic: Adjournment Proceedings