Evidence of meeting #34 for International Trade in the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was negotiations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Steve Verheul  Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Jason Langrish  Executive Director, Canada Europe Roundtable for Business
  • José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro  Member of the Committee, European Economic and Social Committee
  • Sandy Boyle  President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee
  • Jean-François Bence  Director, Consultative Works, European Economic and Social Committee
  • Rose D'Sa  Member, European Economic and Social Committee

4 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

It was certainly quite a shift within the EU structure to move toward having a role for the European Parliament, because prior to the passing of the Lisbon treaty, they weren't that well informed on the negotiations. There is no requirement for them to be kept particularly well informed, other than the fact that I don't think anybody wants them to be surprised at the end of the day when they have to approve a treaty or not. The European Commission has started to inform them of developments in the negotiations.

As to whether they may be better informed than us, I'd have to say they probably are not, because certainly we do fairly extensive briefings here. I actually had the occasion while in Europe at one point to brief the EU's trade committee in the European Parliament as well. The reaction I received after that briefing was that I had been much more detailed and substantive in my briefing than they were getting from the commission, which brought a bit of a reaction from the commission.

So I think we are at least as much informed as, and probably more informed than, the EU Parliament.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Despite all that, the trade agreement can't be concluded without the consent of the European Parliament. Here, trade agreements are concluded without the consent of the Parliament of Canada. I assume that the European Parliament at least asks for more information before an agreement is concluded. Here, a bill is introduced in Parliament so that we can ratify an agreement that's already been concluded. There is a world of difference between those two approaches.

I believe that certain exemptions have already been prescribed with regard to government procurement, as exemplified in the free-trade agreement concluded between the European Union and Korea. So, I think that the departments are not governed by the principles behind the trade agreement.

Is the agreement between Canada and the European Union headed in the same direction? Will the agreement contain the exemptions included in agreements the European Union has concluded with other countries?

4 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

There will certainly be some exemptions from government procurement on both the EU side and on our side. The EU has existing exemptions from government procurement that remain in place now, and they're unlikely to change those. As to whether they would be the same as the ones that were negotiated with Korea, I wouldn't want to suggest that will necessarily be the case, because we're both starting from different places. The biggest element that's new to us is of course that we're negotiating government procurement with the provinces' and territories' procurement on the table. So this is going to be a different kind of negotiation from the EU-South Korea negotiation, but without a doubt there will be some exemptions on both sides.

4 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

I just heard the simultaneous interpretation, and it said that negotiations will be involved. Is that really what lies ahead? Has nothing been agreed to regarding government procurement so far? No agreement has been negotiated for government procurement, but those negotiations are pending, right?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

Yes. The next stage of the negotiations is that we'll be exchanging offers with the European Union on all of the market access issues, including government procurement. In those offers we will put down on paper for the European Union where we expect to be able to put on the table procurement both at the federal government level and the provincial and territorial level, and even with respect to municipalities. We will be doing that exchange sometime in the next few months. That's where we will be putting out our offers, which will then be negotiated from there. But that will give a clear indication specifically of what will be subject to disciplines under government procurement and what won't.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

In Quebec, the cultural exemption issue is of great importance. Quebec is the only francophone community in North America, and it has already inquired about this.

Do you have any information about this to give us? Will it be a complicated process? Are there already agreements on the key exemptions? Will we be able to hold on to what we already have in Quebec and to continue developing our markets, without necessarily being completely affected by tariff barriers that would take over and compromise the French-language culture in Quebec?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

I don't think there's anything we will negotiate or contemplate negotiating that would threaten Quebec's culture—or indeed the culture of the rest of the country as well. We are committed to pursuing the kinds of cultural exemptions we've had in the past.

We haven't agreed to anything yet in the negotiations in relation to culture, but the EU has brought two main issues to the table with respect to culture. One is that they feel that our existing cultural exemption is too broad and that it covers everything in the agreement. They've expressed concern that we would have a cultural exemption that would effectively mean that if we negotiated intellectual property rights for artists in another part of the agreement, the cultural exemption would override that—which obviously wouldn't make a lot of sense. So I think we will have some discussions about the structure of our cultural exemption, but that's more of a structural issue.

The second issue they've raised concern about is that they have a commercial interest in books, publishing, and distribution. They have expressed interest in pursuing discussions on that. We haven't reacted to that as of yet.

But overall I would have to say that we're not coming from places that are all that different. They have their own cultural concerns. They exempt audio-visual services. France is certainly a big supporter of the cultural exemption, and we've had discussions directly with France as well on this.

So I'm not sure this will be that significant a problem.

4:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Thank you very much.

4:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

Thank you.

Now, from the NDP, Mr. Julian.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Merci.

Thanks very much for coming.

I'll start by following up on your prepared text. You say there are 22 areas in negotiations.

We have...completed or parked four chapters and expect four more to be parked or closed at the next round in January.

How many are parked, and how many are completed?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

Well, when we say parked, they're essentially completed; they're waiting for some developments in other areas to reach their end point and then it would be a matter of cleaning up the remainder of the chapter. The substance of the chapter is pretty much closed or completed when we say parked.

We anticipate no more areas of disagreement in those chapters, so we're considering that the eight chapters or areas are essentially completed. Some of them are waiting for some further developments to link in.

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

But some of them are parked because they'll be in negotiations in other areas.

4:05 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

4:05 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

So how many are completed, of those four?

4:05 p.m.

Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Steve Verheul

I would have to say there would be four.