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

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Peter Braid Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Thank you.

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Thank you for being here.

My question relates to the trade agreement, but it relates more to what Mr. Braid talked about, intellectual property and things like that.

We look at trying to stimulate and do things with the venture capital market, private equity, and things like that. Do you not see an agreement like this facilitating the way? I've heard and seen European pension funds looking at trying to invest in some of our private equity companies and the like. Look at the great resource we have in R and D here, and the great research that goes on in this country, and yet we could do a better job of commercializing it.

Do you see this agreement as trying to facilitate the confidence and the money that get invested back into Canada as well? Is it a two-way street to see them invest here, where they see there's going to be an opportunity with two markets?

5:10 p.m.

Executive Director, Canada Europe Roundtable for Business

Jason Langrish

Directly, in terms of the venture capital and how the agreement will affect it, it's hard to say, but more broadly, the answer is yes. Venture capital is going to chase places where it can get good return. It's going to go to places where the investment climate is stable and predictable, and when, if your rights are compromised, you have some sort of retribution, some sort of path that you can pursue.

It's also going to the opportunities. We talk about this all the time in agreements, whether with the European Union or any other jurisdiction: you look to go to places where you feel you can pursue commercial opportunities, innovate, and get a good rate of return. That can be in infrastructure, it can be in resources, it can be in manufacturing, it can be in services, but you don't do it by having fragmented markets or by having barriers between countries. It doesn't really work out in practice; it might sound good in principle, but in practice the record shows that it doesn't work.

Further to that, we also see this agreement as moving along the process of removing the interprovincial trade barriers that exist in Canada, which are not only a barrier for foreign investors and traders into Canada but also for our own companies, which have difficulty, contrary to what some have said. They have difficulty with regard to getting their professional qualifications recognized, bidding on contracts, and providing their services. This is completely unnecessary and doesn't make a lot of sense. We're the only OECD country that doesn't have a single securities regulator. I don't think we are the ones who have got it right while everyone else is out of step. The evidence is overwhelmingly against us.

In these instances I think that we do need to move forward and reform in order to maximize our potential.

5:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

Thank you, Mr. Langrish. That was very helpful today. We hope to perhaps have you back in the new year when we pursue this again. It's just the joy of the committee. Thanks very much.

I'm sorry to the committee generally. We're running a little late today. We have our next witnesses prepared to go, so I'll bid Mr. Langrish farewell, and while we're doing that, we'll immediately set up the seats for our visitors from Europe.

I'm going to beg the indulgence of the committee. We may just have to go a little over time today. We have a visiting group from the European Union. They are the European Economic and Social Committee of the European community.

I think the committee will be provided with some documentation.

The European Economic and Social Committee is on a visit to Canada. We're very pleased that they were able to find some time today to join us briefly.

I hope at least that we can have an opening statement from our guests and perhaps establish some context so that members of this committee will have friends in Europe to ask questions of when we go over there.

I'm going to now introduce the members, but first I think we'll take a moment to set up translation for those who may need it.

Thank you to our committee and witnesses.

I will let Sandy Boyle, the president of the international relations section of the European Economic and Social Committee, explain who they are and what brings them to Canada at this time. We're very pleased that they are here, and I think that the members, on the eve of our visit to the European Union, will get some real benefit out of this.

I don't think there's going to be time for a lot of questions. It may be a bit unusual, but I'm going to ask you to extend your opening remarks a little bit to give us some background. I think members might benefit from that greatly.

I will introduce the members from various parts of the European Union. As I said, the president of the international relations section is Sandy Boyle. He's joined by Rose D'Sa, from the U.K.

I'm sorry, Mr. Isaias; I didn't catch what country you're from.

5:15 p.m.

José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro Member of the Committee, European Economic and Social Committee

I come from Spain.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

Yes, it's Spain. Exactly. I knew that.

Jean-François Bence is also a committee member. Welcome as well.

With that brief introduction, I'm going to ask Mr. Boyle to carry on and give us a bit of background.

November 15th, 2010 / 5:15 p.m.

Sandy Boyle President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

First of all, thank you very much indeed for the opportunity to be here.

As you correctly said at the beginning, we are here on a relatively short but very, very intensive program, which is representing the European Economic and Social Committee, of which the three of us are members. Jean-François is the director responsible for, among other things, external relations, but he also covers the key areas of agriculture, transport, and energy, which of course in many ways are central to some of the discussions we are having during our three-day visit here.

You asked me to be brief. I will try to be as brief as possible.

The European Economic and Social Committee is as old as the European Union itself, and I think therein lies an important message, because the founding fathers, which were only six countries, put in place a structure to ensure that civil society.... And can I say that it's the European definition of civil society? I understand that in Canada it can have some different implications, but civil society as we define it is three very distinct groups.

We have the employers group, of which José Isaias is a member and indeed a vice-president. We have the employees group, which, until I took over as president of external relations, I was a vice-president of. And we have the various interests group, which brings together quite a diverse grouping, but key players such as lead players in agriculture, consumers, and NGOs. Cultural groups and other groups come in there. But I wish to emphasize that we are talking here about predominantly mainstream European groups in terms of these three essential component parts representing now not the six countries that formed the EU, but the 27 countries that now form it.

We are a very large committee. It's done on a proportional basis between the three groups, equally divided, and the largest countries have more members than the smaller countries, but in total we number 344, so it's a very large grouping. Indeed, it's such a large grouping that we need to meet in Brussels when the European Parliament meets in Strasbourg, because we need to use their premises. Unlike here, we talk in 22 different languages, 21 of which are active in many meetings, so it's quite a diverse grouping.

The principal purpose of our visit here to Canada is that we were involved in an opinion on EU-Canada relations--that was heavily involved also--and commented on the trade agreement and the negotiations on the trade agreement. The unanimous view of our plenary, which carried the opinion, was favourable towards a trade agreement, and a substantial trade agreement, between the EU and Canada.

We also made specific recommendations on two components that we believe to be important, one being the need to address the question of sustainable development, which is now very much part of the EU agenda in trade agreements. The second, given our definition and how we value the role of civil society, is the hope that the EU-Canada agreement can replicate what has been the recent trend of finding a body that would be a joint body between the EU and Canada, made up of employers, of employee representatives, and the types of various interest groups that I have described, which could act as the body. It will not negotiate. It's not part of that process. It is part, then, of the ongoing evaluation and implementation process of the whole trade issue going forward.

I have tried to be as brief as I can. My colleagues will obviously wish to perhaps amplify if there are any questions, but in the interests of brevity, that is perhaps in a nutshell what we do.

The only other thing I would say is that in our external relations field, we now have 15 very formal structures, with bilateral arrangements with countries such as China, Brazil, and India, where we have our round tables. We're in the process of establishing a structure with Russia. Also, we are active on a regional basis in areas like Africa, the Caribbean Pacific, and Latin America, where we have specific forums that in many ways mirror the parliamentary structures in Europe. We become involved with civil society organizations, as I've defined them earlier, on this basis of mutual cooperation, exchange of views, and working on a common path together.

I will stop there in the hope that perhaps we can have a brief dialogue at what I know--for you and for us--is the end of a very long day. Thank you very much indeed.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

Thank you very much, Mr. Boyle, and thanks to all of you. I know that it has been a very busy visit to Canada. They really have stacked your agenda. I hope you get as much out of it....

In the interests of time, and as members have other matters on their schedule, I think we're going to do a quick round. I think we'll take one question from each party. I'm going to ask each party to keep it to two or three minutes.

That doesn't do you justice. I very much appreciate your coming, but also for bringing in this information, which has been very useful. You've established a contact with these folks, who may want to pursue those contacts with you further.

Mr. Boyle?

5:20 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

I'm sorry to interrupt, but it was remiss of me when I was rushing: I should have stressed that we are an advisory body.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

Yes.

5:20 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

I just wanted to make that clear, because Jean-François correctly drew to my attention that I had not, and we have a clear role in terms of where we are consulted by the Parliament on legislative programs, etc.

My apologies for interrupting. I just wanted to clarify something it was remiss of me not to say at the beginning.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Lee Richardson

That is helpful. This is new to this group as well. I would ask that you might just have in the back of your mind that as we conclude I'd like you to give a very brief wrap-up as well. That may come as early as ten minutes from now, but nonetheless....

We're going to start with Mr. Silva of the Liberal Party, for two minutes.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Thank you very much.

I apologize that we have to all be very quick here, but unfortunately our meeting ends at 5:30.

Thank you very much for being here.

I just want to clarify one thing. When you said “civil society”, you mentioned employees. Is that trade unions representing the employees? How does that work? Is that the case?

5:25 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

Yes.

Do you wish me to answer them as they come...?

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Well, if you can, that's fine. Maybe I'll go—