Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to rise in debate on what is indeed a very important issue, the WTO negotiations. It is obviously a very important issue for those one in ten producers who happen to use the supply management system. It is important for the other nine out of ten Canadian and Quebec producers who in fact do not operate under supply management. Indeed, as I am sure colleagues in the House and those who are watching know, these negotiations cover a much broader range than simply agriculture. These are negotiations about a whole range of issues, all of which are critically important to Canada, to Canadians, to our economy and to producers.
My view is that there are politics involved in things. There are a lot of politics on this floor, there is no doubt about that, and we are seeing a good amount of that here today, but this has to be about a little more than politics because we are talking about people's livelihoods. We are talking about people's futures. We are talking about the well-being of our economy. We are talking about the well-being of Canadians.
This cannot simply be a tossing back and forth of political rhetoric. There is a lot of that taking place. We just saw an exchange between the hon. member for Glengarry--Prescott--Russell and the mover of the motion. It was a discussion about the timing of the negotiations. We can go back and forth one way or the other about what will or what will not happen, but we cannot deny the reality.
If the government of the day is voted down in regard to the confidence of the House, it is impaired in its ability to negotiate in international fora. It does not mean that it will not negotiate. It does not mean that the government will not be there, but this does impair its ability to do that. Anyone who wants to argue otherwise is simply exercising political rhetoric.
Yes, Canada will be there to defend its interests. Obviously it will be. We are not going to abandon our producers. We are not going to abandon the other sectors of the Canadian economy, but I ask opposition members not to try to suggest for a minute that they have not added one more handicap onto our ability to reach an agreement that is in the best interests of all producers and in the best interests of all Canadians. They have done that.
They cannot have it both ways. They cannot profess to be the defenders of something and then take actions that make it more difficult to exercise that defence. That is what the opposition members have in fact done.
My parliamentary secretary, who has been a farm leader in this country for so many years that he probably does not want to even count them, made mention of the fact that supply management is, at least from the governmental perspective, a Liberal Party and a Liberal government invention. Certainly it was done with producers and for sure they need to take the credit for the system that is there, but it was a Liberal government that provided the regulatory framework to allow it to come into force. It has been a Liberal government that for 35 years has defended the supply management system in this country. The Liberal government was there at its birth and has been there for the last 35 years defending it.
People can throw out all kinds of historical references to what may have happened in the past, but the reality is that there is a supply managed system in Canada, it is a robust system, and it works. Otherwise, those members over there would not be defending it. The reality is that we have a strong supply managed system and what the government has done in the past is what has in fact led to that system.
The hon. member said that he is unsure of where the government is. Let me take the member back to not too long ago and make mention of the last election campaign, which unfortunately was not that long ago. At that time, the SM5, which the hon. member mentioned, asked for a certain pledge in respect of supply management. In fact, the Prime Minister was asked to provide that pledge.
I will read that to the House. It stated that we will ensure:
--that at end of the WTO negotiations, producers under supply management can continue to meet the needs of Canadian consumers and obtain all their revenue from the marketplace, based on their costs of production, including a fair return on their labour and capital.
Those are not the words of the government. Those are the words of the SM5.
The Prime Minister signed that pledge. He signed it on behalf of the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party stands by exactly that comment and is being governed by that in its negotiations.
Is that still not enough? Let me go to a motion in this House from earlier in this session. It stated:
That, in the opinion of the House, in the current World Trade Organization negotiations, the government should not agree to any concession that would weaken collective bargaining strategies or the supply management system and should also seek an agreement establishing fair and equitable rules that foster the international competitiveness of agricultural exporters in Quebec and Canada.
We supported that. We supported that because we believe in a strong supply managed system in this country.
The point I am making here is that it has not been simply rhetoric. Rather, it has been members from this side, and others, coming into the House and defending the interests of Canadian producers, including those who are supply managed producers. That is on the record. That is fact. That is what is there.
As I mentioned, the WTO negotiations are a broad based set of negotiations. Yes, they include agriculture. They include non-agricultural market access. They include rules governing services. There is a wide range of issues being negotiated in the Doha round. The Doha round is also dealing with the whole issue of developing countries and the Minister of International Development is here in the House for this, because out of that round, we must also be dealing with the needs of developing nations. This is not something that is simple. It is something that is complex. It is not something that is one-dimensional. It is multi-dimensional.
As we defend the interests of the supply managed systems in this country, which we do, we will also be defending and promoting the needs of large segments of Canadian society and, indeed, those around the world, particularly those in the developing countries.
Let us talk specifically about the agricultural negotiations, because what we are trying to accomplish here is something that works for all Canadian producers, 100% of them, those who are in supply management and those who are not. We do not want to leave any Canadian producers out at all. We want to strike a deal. We want to come to an agreement in Hong Kong, and beyond if it takes beyond that, an agreement that works for Canadian producers in general. This is an obligation that I take very seriously. It is an objective that my colleagues in cabinet and caucus take very seriously. It is one that we will stand by.
There are things in the proposed agreement that Canada very much wants to see supported. The framework agreement of last July called for the elimination of export subsidies. That is a good thing for Canadian producers. When we see the Europeans put an export subsidy on their wheat so that they can compete unfairly with Canadian producers, that is not fair, it is not right and it should be stopped. This agreement, which is calling for the elimination of those export subsidies, is positive for Canadian producers. Those in the grains and oilseeds sector need that kind of initiative. They need that kind of thing in the agreement. That is why we were pleased to see it in the framework agreement of last July.
Let us take the whole issue of domestic supports. So far in these negotiations, we have had an agreement whereby those who provide the largest domestic supports, the United States, the European Union and the Japanese, will be required to make cuts in their domestic supports in a much larger proportion than the rest of the developing countries, and that includes Canada. That is appropriate because they are providing domestic supports way out of proportion to what the rest of the world's countries are providing and they are doing it in a way that is distorting the marketplace to the detriment of Canadian producers.
When our corn growers in Quebec and Ontario and elsewhere find that the commodity price of their product is dropping through the floor, it in part is a result of the domestic supports being provided in the United States. An agreement whereby we can bring an end to the counter-cyclical payments and the deficiency payments that are provided to the United States is something that we ought to be working for and negotiating in Hong Kong, because it is absolutely essential for Canadian producers. It will give them a real tangible benefit and increase their ability to create wealth for themselves, their families, their communities and this country. That is what we are working for in this Doha round. That is what we are working for in the negotiations.
At the same time, we are working to maintain a supply management system in this country, as I mentioned in our support of those resolutions. We are making sure that the three pillars of supply management are viable and strong so that the system can be maintained. That is our goal and our objective. That is what we have been working on.
We achieved a very important milestone in July in the framework agreement, because that agreement called for the establishment of a sensitive products regime. Why is that important? It is important because it will allow countries like Canada to have the ability to treat its sensitivities, its sensitive products, differently than it treats other products.
That is exactly what we want to do with supply management. We want to designate as sensitive those products that we deem as supply managed products. They could then be treated in a sensitive way that responds to the needs of our producers and our country. That is what we achieved in the framework agreement. Every nation agreed that sensitive products will be part of this agreement.
In the same way that I will work to make sure there is no backtracking on the agreement to eliminate export subsidies, and in the same way that I will work to make sure that there is no backtracking on the agreement that countries will reduce domestic supports in the proportions talked about, I will also make sure that we do not backtrack on the July framework agreement that allows for and calls for a sensitive products regime as part of market access. That is absolutely essential to protecting supply management. It was this government that achieved the agreement of the other 147 nations in the WTO that there would be a sensitive products regime.
That is what negotiating is all about. That is--
An. hon. member: That's what governing is all about.
Hon. Andy Mitchell: My hon. colleague says that is what governing is all about. That is what we mean when we talk about achieving results that will work for our producers, and in this case in particular our supply management producers.
I want to make an important point here, because sometimes it gets lost in the international community. I thought that my hon. colleague across the way would have mentioned this. It is not just Canada that wants sensitive products. We have our sensitivities, indeed, which we usually refer to as our supply managed products. Other countries around the world also have sensitivities and also want to have sensitive products. I want to make it clear that Canada has indeed made the point with those countries that we need to have a particular regime for sensitive products. Indeed, we do not want to see countries trying to hide their treatment of sensitive products within their general tariff reduction formulas. The European countries suggested this and we rejected it because we think it is inappropriate. We do not think that ought to happen.
There needs to be an aggressive tariff reduction formula on non-sensitive products, one that would actually provide market access. There needs to be a separate sensitive products treatment, which the framework agreement calls for and which we were pleased to see was agreed to in the July framework agreement.
It is clear from both our actions in those negotiations and what we supported, including what the Prime Minister supported, that we are supporters of supply management.
As I mentioned, we need to have flexibility in how each country protects its robust sensitive products regime. How we may want to do it in Canada may not be the same way they want to do it in Japan. It may not be the same way they want to do it in the European Union or in the United States but, my goodness, we have to ensure we have the flexibility in there so we can choose to defend our sensitivities in a way that makes good sense for us, and that is the position we have taken at the WTO.
What we are trying to accomplish is something that works for all of agriculture, for our exporters and for those who decide to use a supply managed system. We want to make absolutely certain that is the case.
In taking my last few minutes, I want to speak directly and personally to the members in this House, which is not always done.
We are going to have some very significant and challenging negotiations in the WTO. We have already had them with Hong Kong and probably beyond Hong Kong, and they will continue. The timeframe for achieving an agreement is the end of 2006 and these will be challenging negotiations.
I, along with my colleagues, the Minister of International Trade, the Minister of International Cooperation and others, understand very clearly our obligation to all Canadian producers. We understand our obligations to reach a fundamental agreement that works in the best interests of those producers. We understand the importance of supply management. We have said that over and over again.
The reaction that I have taken in the negotiations has been there to ensure we have an agreement that will allow for the continuation of a robust supply managed system, as well as provide that environment, both in terms of domestic support reductions and in export subsidies, that will be in the best interests of producers generally.
In my view, it will be important that I have the opportunity to be provided with every potential tool that I can have in terms of achieving that outcome. It is my responsibility and my obligation because those negotiations fall to me. I say to the House that it is absolutely essential and important that I be given every opportunity and every tool to achieve a result that all of us want to achieve.
This is not about whether or not there is support for supply management. My goodness, this House has spoken over and over again in support of supply management. This is about the way we go about doing it and it is about providing, in my view, the opportunity for myself and those who will be negotiating with me every possibility for success. That is what I am asking the House to do.