IN THE HOUSE ~ Speaking on dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA

Mr. Peter Julian (Burnaby-New Westminster, NDP)

Mr. Speaker, I indeed have the same problem that the hon. member has. I have been looking for some indication of firmness, some action that may have taken place since the Bush administration arbitrarily ripped up the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA. I have not seen a single example.

As the hon. member well knows, it took two months for the government to make a phone call. We have seen from the government absolutely no action, even though the NDP's three point plan called for an immediate recall of Parliament which did not happen. We have been calling for an end to the continued negotiations on NAFTA plus.

At the same time, as the dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA has been ripped up, we are seeing the government sit down and continue to negotiate concessions with the Bush administration. It is unbelievable that at the same time as we are purportedly upset with the Bush administration, we have the government negotiating further concessions in some 300 areas, including vital areas like food safety and air safety.

We called for an end to those concessions, those continued negotiations, and nothing has happened there. The government is continuing every day to negotiate further concessions with the Bush administration.

We called for an export levy on our energy exports because energy has been part and parcel of the negotiations around dispute settlement. In fact, as the member well knows, in the very early days of the free trade agreement and with NAFTA, our objective purportedly was to obtain a dispute settlement mechanism that would be binding and at the same time the American objective was to have privileged proportional access to our energy.

The Bush administration has that. In fact, we supply the American market before we can supply our own. In the event of a national emergency where we reduce supply most of our energy supplies will still go to the United States. Yet, the government has done nothing on that front either. There has been absolutely no action.

What has been disturbing, and I know the hon. member shares my concern, is that there has been very little support for the industries most affected. The only option seems to be litigation which is the second worst thing possible, but at least, given that the industries are getting that support from the government, this would be something that would help support them. However, the government is not allowing the bill to go through to actually provide some support for the litigation for those companies.

The second disturbing development is the open statements in the House that have indicated that it is no longer $5 billion that the government is pushing the Bush administration to repay regarding the punitive levies that we saw through the Byrd amendment, but only $3.5 billion.

Therefore, we are already sending a very clear signal from the government that we are conceding even before there is any negotiation. It is unbelievable that we are reducing already the bar on moneys that clearly, through the binding dispute settlement mechanism of NAFTA, should be coming back to Canada.

I have real concerns about the lack of firmness of the government and its indication of posturing and speechifying rather than dealing with the fundamental issue. If we were to negotiate away the dispute settlement mechanism for the softwood industry, any other sector could be impacted similarly. If we do not stand up, if the government does not stand up for Canadian rights, then we are going to experience similar problems in other sectors.