Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to the bill dealing with the European free trade agreement with Canada.
The bill is one that started its progression internationally in 1998 when the then government of Mr. Chrétien moved forward on deliberations with our partners and began dealing with this particular issue. The agreement was signed on January 26, 2008, in Switzerland and it was tabled in our Parliament on February 14, 2008.
The purpose of the bill is to eliminate duties on non-agricultural goods and selected agricultural products, giving Canadian exporters better access to Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination. Many Canadians would find it interesting that the particular destination is a group of northern European countries, including Liechtenstein and Norway.
This particular free trade agreement is one that has broad support. The Liberal Party supports this particular bill. There are some concerns in a few sectors, including shipbuilding, but I think we have worked together quite well to put forth some solutions that would enable our shipbuilders in Canada to find some recourse because the phase-out of tariffs will be over quite a prolonged period of time.
We want to ensure that in Canada we capitalize on our areas of expertise, and one of those is, quite frankly, in the shipbuilding area. On the east coast and west coast of Canada and in my riding of , we have outstanding individuals, fine craftsmen and craftswomen, who work in the shipbuilding industry and provide exceptional products.
Some of those have been built for our Canadian Forces. When Liberals were in government, we commissioned a number of projects, including the Orca class of boats that have been built in my riding of Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca by the shipbuilders there. Quite frankly, the product they have is superb.
My hope is that the government will work with our private sector to ensure that our capabilities will be exported and that those capabilities will find markets in other countries. It would certainly be a fine testament to the exceptional workers that we have in our country, in both eastern and western Canada, who have that ability.
There is one area in shipbuilding in particular that the government may wish to pick up on. We have a tariff on importing ships. A company in Canada that wishes to import a large vessel would pay an import duty. That duty goes into general revenue.
The government would be wise to consider, rather than putting those import duties into general revenue, to put them into a fund that would have to be matched by the private sector, which would double the size of the fund, so that those moneys could be directed toward infrastructure for the shipbuilding industry. The funds spent by the companies could then be recirculated within the shipbuilding industry. The private sector would then know that its import tariffs were going back into the shipbuilding industry.
Third, it would also increase the bang for the buck because the government would be putting those moneys in to match. The matching funds would share the responsibility between the private sector and the government, so there would be dual responsibility and a dual opportunity for both the private sector and the government to enable the private sector to compete with other shipbuilders, particularly those in northern Europe, who quite frankly have done a pretty good job of developing a fine product and are competing internationally.
However, those countries subsidize their domestic shipbuilding capabilities, and while they do it in certain ways, it is important that our shipbuilders not be under the gun or behind the eight-ball when they are competing with other shipbuilding companies in other parts of the world.
The scope of the bill is very interesting. As I said before, the EFTA countries are the world's fourteenth largest merchandising traders and Canada's fifth largest merchandise export destination.
The two way Canada-EFTA non-agricultural merchandise trade is, in total, $12.6 billion. Our exports to the EFTA were $5.1 billion last year and our imports were $7.4 billion. Our exports included areas such as the aerospace products industry and I want to take a moment to talk about the MacDonald-Detweiler issue when the government, I think wisely, made the decision to prevent that sale from occurring.
There is a challenge, though. While the MDA sale was quite rightly blocked because Canada and Canadian taxpayers had put more than $500 million into enabling MDA to be a world leader in the aerospace industry and paid for satellites that are some of the best in terms of earth monitoring capabilities, there is another side to this. There are over 1,200 scientists at MDA and unless they have products to sell and be competitive internationally, we will lose those scientists.
It took some 20 years to bring those scientists to Canada and to build and create the capabilities. It is of the utmost urgency that the work with and listen to MDA to find ways to ensure that those scientific capabilities stay within Canada. If we do not, the very real danger is that we will lose that world class capability we have within MDA with the pool of 1,200 scientists to other parts of the world. In particular, we will lose them south of the border to the United States.
This is not something we can wait on for a long period of time. This is something that has to be done quite quickly. I would again urge the or industry officials to meet with MDA officials to determine what we can do to ensure we do not have this loss of very highly skilled, extraordinary individuals.
The other issue I want to talk about is international trade, as this is a trade issue, dealing with the WTO and the Doha round of talks. This is very appropriate given the fact that we have a world food crisis on our hands. It has caused governments to collapse and food riots, and it particularly affects those citizens of our planet who are the poorest and most impoverished in the world. One billion people live on less than $1 a day and 1.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. Two and a half billion people on our planet live on less than $2 a day.
What happens if our foodstuffs increase 140% in a matter of less than a few months? That is what happened with rice. This year, rice prices have increased 141%. Wheat, sorghum, corn, the staples of life, have increased significantly over the last two years. Some have even increased 25% in a day.
Most of us in our country have been somewhat insulated from the effects of that for various reasons, but for the poorest people in the world, that is not the case. People living on less than $2 a day have a choice between food and sending their children to school, food and having a roof over their heads, or food and health care. Those are the stark choices people would have if they lived in those countries in the world, more than 58, where there is endemic poverty.
The food crisis has not hit us yet in terms of prices but it will. When it hits, it is those Canadians who are least able to afford it who are going to be hurt, people who are single parents with very little money, people making minimum wage or a bit above it, and seniors on fixed incomes who live hand to mouth. The implications of this are quite significant.
What if people have to make choices within food groups? That is how it happens. As prices increase dramatically, people actually have to jettison vital food groups that are important not only for the health of adults but are critical for the development of children.
We know that the deprivation of micronutrients and malnutrition on a developing child is catastrophic. If children are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished, the developing brain in particular is affected. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies create long term cognitive, intellectual and physical disabilities that are permanent.
Children would grow up to be adults who are less than what they could be. The downstream effects of this are what? The downstream effects are that children who are deprived of micronutrients and are malnourished have long term physical, cognitive and intellectual disabilities that affect them when they are adults.
When they are trying to be employed; go to school; acquire training; live and work; act, behave and interact; all of those are negatively impeded by virtue of the fact of what happened when those individuals were children. Early deprivation has long term, profound implications not only for the individual but for society as a whole. The tragedy of it is that it is entirely preventable.
When we know that, it behooves us to start to tackle this issue in a pragmatic way. Let us talk about some of the antecedents as to why the food crisis is taking place. Demand, to be sure, is going up in countries such as India and China, pushing prices up.
Second, there is the issue of higher energy costs. Energy is required to produce fertilizers. Seeds are becoming more expensive. Availability is down. Biofuel, the conversion of foodstuffs such as corn into ethanol, which is put in our gas tanks, is also a driver to move prices up.
The last and the most pernicious area is the area of trade barriers. There is something we could do that would dramatically ameliorate the effects of food prices and that is the tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade that are dramatically impeding our ability to be able to produce the food that we require.
Imagine that the Doha round and WTO has ground to a halt. It started in 2001, I believe, and it has been sitting there moribund or endlessly going around in one big circle. The countries that are most responsible for this are those that are the richest. The countries that pay the price are those that are the poorest.
Imagine that. We have a world food crisis where some of the poorest people in the world are unable to put food on the table and we, as developed countries that are the richest countries in the world, are actually doing things to prevent people who need food, who live on less than $2 a day to feed their children and themselves.
Why has the government not demanded an emergency series of debates at the WTO to move the Doha round forward and to implement the Doha round of agreements? This is something that our new Conservative government has fallen flat on, among many other things on the international stage. Why has the government not done this, instead of sitting back? Why has the government not taken a leadership role to address this international challenge?
Canada can do this. We can take a role in mobilizing the more than 27 agencies such as the World Bank, FAO, IFAD, WFP, and WTO. All of those organizations, 27 in total, are tasked with a responsibility to deal with food issues.
Canada can make a profound impact at the WTO. Canada needs to get our diplomats behind this. There has to be a sense of urgency that has to come from the 's Office. The Prime Minister has to tell our highly competent diplomats to move this forward and get the job done. They have to get the Doha round of agreements completed and mobilize this with our international colleagues.
On the development stage, we have heard very little. In fact, we have heard nothing on this. Moneys were given. A good thing the government did was to not tie the aid and I compliment it for that.
The amount of money given by the government was $50 million more than last year, but prices have increased by 40% plus for the demands that the World Food Programme is trying to meet.
We have an increased demand but we also have increased costs. As a result, the amount of money that we are actually putting forward on this is not even able to keep up with the increases in prices. This is something that is unconscionable.
What else can happen? As I said before, some 500 million small landholders live on less than a hectare. About a tonne of foodstuffs, grain and basic products can be derived from a hectare. We know what we could do. Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University has made some very eloquent interventions. We could double or even triple the output from these small landholders, who are some of the poorest people in the world.
Imagine if Canada were to tap into some of the extraordinary research available in the International Development Research Centre and other areas in Canada to deal with the issues of better seed quality, better access to fertilizer and markets and better agricultural practices, water security and irrigation techniques. That combination could be used quite significantly to triple the output of foodstuffs from small landholders. What a remarkable thing we could do if Canada were to take up that leadership role.
I would be remiss if I did not draw attention to two areas of excellence within CIDA. One is the micronutrient initiative in which Canada plays a leadership role. I urge the government to work with the and other partners to support this initiative because micronutrient deficiencies have a profound impact on developing children.
CIDA has discovered high protein, high caloric, high energy bars. The government could work in this area as well because these bars would be effective during a food crisis.
I also want to talk about food security and, in particular, the fisheries issue.
A good chunk of the world relies on fish for food because it is an important source of protein. Ninety per cent of world fish species have been removed from the oceans, particularly large fish species like tuna and shark. This is a catastrophe. Our oceans are dying. Dr. Sylvia Earle from Woods Hole in Massachusetts has done an excellent job of articulating this. She calls it the dying oceans. Why is the government not dealing with this catastrophe?
I will give the House an example. As draggers fish, they destroy the beds upon which fish reproduce. Draggers are horrible, destructive elements in fishing and they are creating an environmental catastrophe. If Canada were to work with our partners to ban dragging, that would go some way toward addressing the problem of our dying oceans. The reason I mention this is because this is part of international trade agreements and trade negotiations.
We have heard nothing from the government on all these issues. We have given the government a number of constructive solutions on which it could act. It could act on the food crisis. It could act through international development and trade. The government could ensure that Canadians are not going to be affected by the storms that are wafting over the world right now. So far we have been somewhat protected, but that is not going to exist much longer.
These are big international issues that demand international action. Our country can act with authority and knowledge. I implore the government to demonstrate some leadership and do this for our citizens and for the world.