Evidence of meeting #42 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was colombia.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

  • Kerry Buck  Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Jean-Benoît Leblanc  Director, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division I, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
  • Alex Neve  Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada, Amnesty International
  • Hassan Yussuff  Secretary-Treasurer, Canadian Labour Congress

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I'm just going to stop you there, Ms. Buck. I understand that, but that's not what my concern is. My concern is why parliamentarians do not have a report before us that reports on that. It is not what Canada-Colombia relations are.

You are aware, Ms. Buck, that guiding principles on human rights impact assessments of trade and investment agreements have been tabled at the UN Human Rights Council to help define global best practices. Were these used to inform how Canada would be approaching its obligations and the agreement with Colombia?

11:45 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

Canada has a long history, the government has a long history, of being very supportive of credible, strong international work on corporate social responsibility. We have been supportive of the work done by John Ruggie, for instance, on the guiding principles for business and human rights.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

What about the United Nations report, Ms. Buck? That's what I'm asking you about.

11:45 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

Excuse me?

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I'm asking you about the United Nations impact assessment guidelines. That's what I'm specifically asking you about. Are those being taken into account in the formulation of this report?

11:45 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

There are many different human rights impact assessment approaches. We have considered a range of sources when looking at the methodology. They include very strong work by a number of sources on corporate social responsibility and guiding principles for business and human rights, such as the voluntary principles, the Kimberley Process, etc. There is a very broad range of sources.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Okay.

Thank you very much.

Mr. Keddy, you have seven minutes.

June 7th, 2012 / 11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and welcome to our witnesses.

I'll probably take a little different tack in my questioning than my predecessor.

I participated in the debate on Colombia after we formed the government in 2006. I had the opportunity to visit Colombia. I supported the agreement, along with other members of my party, when the NDP, who are now the official opposition, didn't. It was in the sincere belief that dialogue and trade are better than isolationism at any time. If countries get to the point where you have to have isolationism—there are a number of examples of that in the world today, Syria being one of the foremost that would come to mind—then you have no other choice. But Colombia was a long way away from that.

My question, Ms. Buck, will go to the institutions in Colombia itself. Colombia went through some very dark days in the 1970s, 1980s, and early 1990s. No one is debating that. No one is saying that it didn't occur. But when you look at the history moving forward, it was a gradual improvement, especially from the eighties and nineties and into the first decade of 2000. I think part of that, and we've never had the discussion, was due to the fact that their institutions were very strong. The institution of Parliament, with its flaws, was there and was very strong. The institution of an independent judiciary was there in Colombia for many years, even with its flaws in the police force, which had a long history.

I would just like to ask you how much that influenced the ability of Colombia to move forward through some very difficult times to the country it is today. You can travel from one side of Colombia to the other by car, when only a few years ago, it was unsafe.

11:50 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

There has been some very important progress made in Colombia in recent years. Progress on human rights is always attributable to a number of factors; it's never linear. Part of the evolution in Colombia was a political evolution, with stronger commitment by the current Colombian government to push forward on respect for human rights. So a number of very important initiatives have been taken recently—restitution for loss of land, for instance.

Part of the capacity to move forward, yes, can be linked to strong institutions, but Colombia recognizes two things, as does Canada. The institutions need further strengthening on human rights, and they have taken some very important steps in that regard, and there is more work to do. The second part is that Colombia also recognizes that beyond the institutions it has to deal with communities with a multitude of indigenous groups and civil society actors, private sector, to move forward on human rights as well. So it's institutions and beyond institutions, as well, where it needs to do the work.

It recognizes it, and the Government of Canada has been working hard with Colombia for a number of years to help it build the human rights capacity of some of its key institutions, so on policing, on the judiciary, but also providing funding and support to human rights lawyers who can help victims in the renewed courts.

We have been working in terms of engagement, consultation, and funding of a number of human rights-related projects at all different levels—at the community level, with the Government of Colombia, and with multilateral organizations that help parts of the Colombian society deal with human rights—and some very important progress has been made.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Thank you for that, because I certainly believe that important progress has been made.

One of the other questions that has to be asked is this. When we deal with nations, whether they're in the Americas or the European Union, or with Japan or other nations with whom we're discussing FTAs or economic partnership agreements, there is a pretty similar template, if you will, for most of our agreements. We're looking to eliminate tariffs, we're looking to get our products and trading goods—which we're already trading with most of these countries—into the country tariff-free, and we're looking to eliminate the hidden tariffs, the non-tariff trade barriers.

But the agreements with Colombia, Jordan, and Panama are all very similar agreements, with very similar templates. Colombia was the first, but we negotiated these agreements in roughly the same period of time, basing them all on a similar template. So I'm going to say that this is the Colombian model, if you will.

Do you want to just comment on that, that the template is there? Is it that much different from the agreements with Jordan and Panama, or is it a similar or almost identical template?

11:55 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

I'll pass that question to my colleague, Monsieur Leblanc, to answer, if you don't mind.

11:55 a.m.

Jean-Benoît Leblanc Director, Trade Policy and Negotiations Division I, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

As Mr. Keddy just mentioned, yes, it is true that the Colombia agreement is very similar in terms of the chapters that you have: the trade in goods, trade in services, investment rules, government procurement rules, intellectual property, and non-tariff barriers. So it's very similar. It is a model Canada has been using for years. Obviously since the NAFTA there is always some adjustment, depending on the commercial realities of the country we are negotiating with.

In some countries, for example, investment rules will be even more important if Canada is a large investor. If for example, Canadian banks are active in one market, we might put a bit more emphasis on financial services, and so on and so forth.

So it's the same template—quite general, but with a little adjustment depending on the commercial relationship.

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Easter, you have seven minutes.

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you, folks, for your presentation.

I do agree with Mr. Davies' line of questioning on this issue.

I will admit that I come from the point of view that an economic relationship can be utilized to improve human rights; I don't think the right way to go is to just close the door and say that we're not going to deal with them.

But I can certainly tell you that on this particular clause in the legislation, Scott Brison did travel to Colombia, and the clause was one of the conditions of our agreeing to pass the legislation.

We don't want to take it out on you folks, because it's ultimately the minister and the ministry who are responsible, but I find this is basically an excuse. I have to ask you, does the ministry, the department, not take seriously the clauses that were inserted into the legislation so that there would be a significant report? That was conditional on our passing that legislation. Does the department not take the legislation seriously?

I think the departments are basically in violation of a law that was passed by the Parliament of Canada. This is serious stuff. People can laugh if they like, but this is serious. Parliament passed a law. We expected a report; we're not getting it, so why the insufficient data?

11:55 a.m.

Political Director and Assistant Deputy Minister, International Security, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean Branch, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Kerry Buck

The department, the government, takes the report and that clause of the legislation very seriously. You'll appreciate that this is an agreement, as my colleague said, that is specific to Colombia. This element of the agreement is specific to Colombia. It's very important to do it properly; it's very important to do the proper analysis.

The report is about the correlation, the human rights impact of activities that flow from the CCOFTA, in the most active economic sectors flowing from the CCOFTA. Four and a half months of trade and investment data was, in our view, insufficient to allow that in-depth, rigorous analysis of the correlation between that economic activity and human rights.

The period will be covered. The government's position is that the tabling of the report is clearly consistent with the fulfillment of its obligations under the legislation. But it is also clear, as we have recognized in the report, that the entire period will be covered when we table the next report in 2013.

Thank you.