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View Alain Therrien Profile
View Alain Therrien Profile
2020-02-03 12:15 [p.803]
Madam Speaker, this is a broad and heavy topic, so today, I will just keep to the country of origin rule. I will give a brief history to explain where that comes from, why it is important and how this agreement threatens Quebec's aluminum industry.
First, modern agreements originated with the European Economic Community, which was established under the Treaty of Rome in 1957. At the time, the parties concerned created a customs union where goods could move within their countries tariff-free.
The six countries could move goods and services without any trade barriers. However, when they negotiated with other countries, a single negotiator spoke on their behalf. At the time, this decision was made to ensure they could better compete with the Americans under GATT, for example. This was not complicated for them. I will give an example that is easy to follow. Under that agreement, if a Japanese car wanted to enter any of the six countries, the same tariffs would apply for all six. There was no advantage for the car to enter one country first and then be sent to another. At the time, that was how things were done.
The Canada-U.S. agreement signed and implemented in 1989 is a bit different. Canada and the United States decided to merge their markets to remove any trade barriers between the two countries. Tariffs could not be imposed on products being exported from Quebec or Canada to the United States.
Take the example of the Japanese car to be exported to the United States. The Americans had the right to independently decide that products from Japan would not be imported to the U.S. In a free trade zone, the Japanese car could enter Canada and then get a free pass to go to the United States. Obviously, that was disrespectful and inconsistent with the intentions of those who had signed the agreement.
To protect themselves from that, the Americans and Canadians told the Japanese, among others, that if they wanted to take advantage of this customs free zone between the countries, they would have to manufacture the car in Canada and then export it unencumbered to the United States. For a car to be able to go to the United States, the country of origin rule stated that at least 50% of the car needed to be manufactured within Canada's borders.
When Mexico joined the agreement in 1994, this percentage rose to 62.5%. Today, this is a free trade zone where three countries have some sovereignty over what can happen in other countries. Two out of the three countries produce aluminum, namely Canada and the United States. Mexico does not produce any. There is one foreign producer, which is China. In five years, China has increased its production by 48%. It produces four times as much aluminum as the second-largest producer in the world. This is a hefty competitor. It produces 15 times as much aluminum as we do. It is well known that China is dumping products.
Dumping refers to the practice of producing goods that are then sold at a loss. There are several reasons why China would do this, but one of the main reasons is that it can eliminate competition in a country and take over the entire market. It can then increase rates and its profit margins.
That is the game played by countries that engage in dumping. Canada and the United States, both aluminum producers, passed anti-dumping legislation, since they have the right to protect their own markets. China's solution was to go through Mexico. Mexico does not produce aluminum and has no need for an anti-dumping law to protect its market. In two months, between May and July 2019, the Chinese increased their aluminum exports to Mexico by 240%. No, they are not all dressing up as RoboCop. They simply figured out a way around the rules. The Chinese sell their aluminum to the Mexicans, who process this aluminum into aluminum parts, which are then sent across the border into the United States and Canada.
They could not get that aluminum across the border because we have anti-dumping laws. This is a way for Mexico to get dumped materials into markets that are supposed to have protections against dumping. To get this aluminum across borders, to create jobs in Mexico and to support Chinese production, which is the most polluting in the world, the aluminum is transformed into automotive parts. It is a good scheme. Between May and July, aluminum parts exports from Mexico to the United States increased by 260%. This is an established, well-known and lucrative scheme that must absolutely be eliminated.
The agreement does nothing to address this. Given that Canada, and especially Quebec, relies heavily on aluminum production, the Liberals talked a good game and said all the right things to lull people to sleep. They said that 70% of aluminum parts used in automotive manufacturing had to be produced in Mexico, Canada or the U.S. What I just explained is supported by the numbers, and numbers do not lie. As the numbers show, this scheme will continue under this trade agreement.
There is a lot of talk about Donald Trump. Everyone is afraid of Donald Trump. Essentially, the government did not capitulate to Donald Trump, it capitulated to Mexico, which decided to produce auto parts with aluminum dumped by China. They are doing this right under our noses and think we will not notice. We figured out this scheme and have condemned it many times because aluminum is Quebec's second-largest export. It is an extremely important market for us. Just go to Lac-Saint-Jean or visit an aluminum plant in Quebec, on the North Shore or elsewhere, and you will see the number of people working in this sector. They have well-paying jobs. We are talking about more than 30,000 direct and indirect jobs, not to mention those that would be created by planned expansions. That is the legacy the government will leave with a flawed agreement. It was unable to negotiate perhaps because it is used to making concessions, but somehow it is always Quebec that ends up making the concessions, and we are sick of it. It is quite clear that Quebec is always the one to make concessions.
We are here to say that this agreement must be amended. We need to agree on that. I know the government is not going to reopen the agreement and renegotiate it, but there are things it can do. We are calling on the government to do what must be done because Quebeckers' jobs depend on it, because Quebec's second-largest export depends on it and because regions depend on it.
That is why the Bloc is rising. We are in the right here. We know we are defending Quebec's interests. That is why we were elected, and that is what we are going to fight for throughout this Parliament.
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