Evidence of meeting #44 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 trade.

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
  • Ray Armbruster  Director and President, Manitoba Beef Producers
  • Cam Dahl  General Manager, Manitoba Beef Producers
  • Gordon Bacon  Chief Executive Officer, Pulse Canada

11:45 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I think we would have preferred to have moved somewhat faster. I think the European Union frankly would have preferred that as well. Because of the extent and the complexity of this agreement, it just takes time to grind through a lot of it. We want to make sure we get it right, obviously. That requires a lot of ongoing consultations and a lot of ideas and creative thinking. I certainly think that if it's taking a little bit longer than we might have liked, it's because we're going to get a better outcome at the end of the day.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

We all hope that as well.

You made reference to the negative list, and I will say to you that one of the comments we heard through parliamentarians across from us from Europe was about how that was something they had to come to terms with. My sense was that they had done that, though, and that—thanks to the support of negotiators from the EU—countries had supported that. I think that's a big step forward.

I try to share with my constituents on a weekly basis what goes on in various aspects of Parliament. I do this through a newsletter, and I send it out to some 20,000 people per week. The feedback I get when I discuss CETA is people asking why we would hitch our wagon to a place—a whole variety of countries—where there are a variety of financial challenges. Of course, Greece is the one that most recently dodged a bullet, and I hope that's ultimately a true thing.

What answer would you give to my constituents—and maybe I will just steal your answer if it's better than the one I am trying to think of—as to why Canada would want to do that? Are we putting Canada at risk somehow? I'd like to refresh that answer. I know we've talked generally in the past about benefits. It comes back really to what the European parliamentarians told us, which is, “Push this along, Canada, because there are going to be changes of government”. One of our colleagues earlier in his questions asked you that.

Can I ask you, please, how you would answer the constituents for me? Could you give me the great answer?

11:45 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I myself have been asked that question a number of times too. Why are we negotiating with the EU when it's in such significant economic difficulties right now?

I think you have to take a bit of a step back and look at the bigger picture with respect to the European Union. It is made up of 27 countries. They remain among the richest countries in the world. It's the largest market in the world. There are 500 million people, and a GDP that is larger than any other market in the world. Sure, they are having some economic difficulties. We don't expect those are permanent. Even though they have some individual member states that are struggling somewhat, others remain very strong, including Germany and a number of others. For a union like the European Union coming out of that kind of situation, you can anticipate some significant opportunities developing. We want to take advantage of that wave when it happens. There's certainly no question in my mind that this is the right time to get it done.

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

We will now move to Mr. Sandhu.

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Thank you for being here.

I just want to follow up on my colleague's question earlier on. There was a study commissioned by the European Union regarding its sustainability impact assessment on CETA. Basically this study urged both parties to avoid investor-state provisions relating to disputes settlement, because the study found no evidence that they encourage investment flow in and out of the country. Furthermore, the study also concluded that they do contain the risk that legitimate public policies will come under attack. There's evidence on this side, and we have also had to hand out $165 million of taxpayers' money, and now we're on the hook in the ExxonMobil Corporation case in Newfoundland for another $65 million.

How are taxpayers being protected when we're negotiating these investor-state provisions?

11:50 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Whenever we start discussing these types of provisions, it's clear that we need to find the right kind of balance between the rights of government to regulate.... We don't want to interfere with that. We certainly don't want to affect anything related to public services or our ability to deliver and maintain public services. It's a matter of ensuring that we can keep that provision contained where it should be contained, which is with respect to investors who may have felt they had received some unfair treatment along the way.

In the chapter on investment protection, we're going to try to ensure that it's clearer than it has been before where that line is between the government's rights and an investor's rights to challenge some of the provisions. It's a matter of getting that balance right, because we do want to encourage investment. We want to assure investors that their investments will not be subject to unpredictability or to practices that might be highly questioned. At the same time, we want to ensure that, as a government and as Canada, we can do what we need to do to follow our policy.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Has the federal government done any sort of assessment on the impact on investment, both in and out of the country, if these provisions are part of it? Has the Canadian government done any studies on it?

11:50 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

It's difficult to do any kind of reliable study in that type of area, because you're basically having to ask people whether they feel more confident or less confident with having that kind of investment. Whether a company chooses to invest or not can be subject to a whole series of different questions and criteria. Investor-state protection is probably only one of those, and probably not the major one.

So we think that through the experience the European Union has had with investor-state dispute settlement and protection, and through the long experience we've had, we're well positioned to come up with an approach that we think will be more effective than what we've seen in the past.

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

We don't have any evidence as to whether the investment will flow or come into our country if these provisions are part of it, so why negotiate these provisions?

11:50 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I think the reason to negotiate those provisions is to provide greater assurance to investors that if something goes wrong with their investment, there is an avenue they can pursue, particularly if there's been some measure taken that they see as contrary to obligations.

We have that kind of dispute settlement in various other areas as well. It's a little bit different when it comes to investor state, but the main motivation behind it is that we can assure investors of a reliable environment within Canada. Similarly, we can be assured that we have a reliable investment environment within the European Union.

June 19th, 2012 / 11:50 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Just to change the topic here, we've had Bill C-31 being passed through the House of Commons. We've also had concerns from European Union countries, a number of them, in regard to the visa issue.

With regard to Bill C-31 being passed, was it direct pressure from the European Union to have this bill passed?

11:50 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

No, I wouldn't say so. That was done for domestic reasons. Certainly it allowed us some more scope to negotiate within the CETA on the basis of some of those proposed changes, but no, I wouldn't say it was driven by the CETA or by other outside countries that may have been asking for similar things.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Cannan.

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ron Cannan Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thanks again to you and your team, Steve, for the great work you've been doing to date. I know it's many hours and hard work, which is for, as I've said, the bigger picture for not only today but future generations.

I'd just like to clarify the numbers we'd talked about when this was announced a couple of years ago, in terms of the economic impact.

Are you still looking at $12 billion and at approximately 80,000 jobs being created?

11:50 a.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Certainly that was the outcome of the study that was done prior to the launch of negotiations. I think, based on the extent that we've entered into areas that are perhaps more comprehensive than we'd anticipated at the beginning, and given the fact that the study was assuming that there would be an outcome at the WTO negotiations that would have diminished the impact of those numbers, my own personal view is that those estimates are probably low.