Mrs. Suzanne Duplessis (Parliamentary Secretary to Minister for External Relations and to Minister of State (Seniors)):
Mr. Speaker, I welcome this opportunity today to speak on third reading of Bill C-115, the proposed free trade agreement with Mexico and the United States.
First of all, I would like to explain briefly what is happening in the world today. Because of today's highspeed communications and current developments, it is clear that the economies of countries throughout the world are closely linked. We can no longer live in isolation behind a wall of protectionism, because on one side, we have a united Europe, and on the other, the Pacific rim countries including Japan, China and Thailand, which also form a trading block.
According to the opposition, we should operate entirely on our own. I think this philosophy is obsolete, considering the positive results of the free trade agreement. I know what I am talking about, because towards the end of 1985, I sat with other government members on the joint committee on external affairs, chaired by the hon. member for London West, who is now a member of
cabinet. We travelled across the country, from province to province, and the same problem came up time and time again. When a company or an industry exported goods to the United States, it would often be hit with a tax, at the request of manufacturers of the same products in the U.S., who had lobbied their representatives in Congress or senators, and as a result, the industry was hit with a tax that was often applied retroactively.
People in the Maritimes, including fishermen, complained about the trouble they had selling their fish on the U.S. market. In Quebec, people complained about softwood lumber exports. All products manufactured in Canada-in Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta or British Columbia-were often subject to taxes imposed by the U.S. government. When we proceeded with the free trade agreement, I believe we solved this problem, mainly by setting up a panel for dispute settlement.
I think this was quite an achievement. As a result, Canada's trade surplus with the United States increased 13.6 per cent last year, compared with the previous year, reaching a record $17.7 billion in 1992. This represents more than 200,000 new jobs and an increase of $15.1 billion in new direct foreign investment.
Mr. Speaker, this is really good news. People realize that this was necessary and that this is what Canada needs. Canada has a lot of primary products, and it also has a manufacturing sector, but it needs access to a much larger market.
Today, as we proceed with the NAFTA legislation, I would like to mention in this House that Quebec stands to gain under this agreement, like all the other provinces. In 1992, Quebec's trade with Mexico was worth $82.7 million, twice as much as in 1988. Manufactured products represent over 75 per cent of Quebec's annual exports to Mexico.
These exports include communications equipment, transportation equipment and newsprint. Three markets that are expanding at a tremendous rate.
The province has already established ties with Mexico through a series of bilateral agreements on a variety of items, from technical co-operation to cultural exchange.
May 27, 1993
Quebec has a solid reputation for its expertise in a number of sectors, including communications, telecommunications, engineering, pollution control and power transmission technology. The Quebec International Affairs Minister, the hon. John Ciaccia, had the following to say about the conclusions of the Quebec parliamentary commission on NAFTA and I quote:
Remarkably, none of the groups or individuals that submitted
briefs to the commission objected to free trade.
On the whole, NAFTA is good for Quebec because it maintains the advantages of the FTA and in many respects improved them. It extends to Mexico the main provisions of the FTA and opens up new markets in sectors that were hardly mentioned in the FTA.
I would like to say a few words about transportation equipment and services, mining operations and the services sector. With respect to transportation equipment and services, the need for Mexico to improve its infrastructure, in order to attract foreign investment and update its automobile fleet, will create a demand for goods and services in a sector where Quebec has the requisite know-how and resources. I would like to name two companies which are well known to all of you: Bombardier and-
Topic: GOVERNMENT ORDERS
Subtopic: NORTH AMERICAN FREE TRADE AGREEMENT IMPLEMENTATION ACT