Evidence of meeting #5 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 negotiations.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

That's very good. Let's let him answer.

12:35 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

The rule-of-origin issue has been a challenging one across many sectors. It comes partly from the fact that just as the EU 27 member countries have integrated their market, our market is to a large extent integrated with the U.S., especially in some sectors. This has added another element of challenge to rules of origin.

As to fish, there are many species that are strictly Canadian. There's little trade back and forth before they're put onto the market. Much of our processed shrimp, for example, is not involved with cross-border trade with the U.S. Other species, like lobster, are different. We catch some lobster in U.S. waters and eventually this catch comes through our processing system.

Certainly, the ones that are Canadian and meet that definition in the negotiations will have full duty-free access. But we're also trying to work out a process whereby even some of the fish caught in other waters but processed in Canada will have access to the EU market.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Thank you.

Mr. Holder.

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

One of the things that struck me when the minister spoke was the issue of procurement. We haven't talked a lot about it in this session today. I was surprised to hear that the potential in the EU was $2.4 trillion. That is staggering to me, and I think it tells us why this is so important.

From the standpoint of the Canadian government's negotiations on procurement, can you clarify what our involvement with the provinces and territories has been? We've heard some concerns in some corners about procurement being an issue that would put Canada up for sale.

As for opportunities on the European side, could you help me understand what those opportunities are? But before you do that, could you explain who we've been talking to on our side? Has this been a comprehensive dialogue with all of our partners in Canada, including the provinces and territories?

12:35 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Yes, it certainly has. We've spent at least a few days every month with the provinces and the territories in face-to-face negotiations. We've spent a lot of time going through these issues, and government procurement has been one that we spent more time on than others. When we put an offer on the table with the EU on government procurement, it is fully endorsed by the provinces and the territories, which were a great help in constructing those offers. So the consultation process has been unlike any we've ever had before on these issues.

With respect to government procurement, bear in mind that we will be opening up some markets to the European Union, but for the most part we're not anticipating any big changes. Our procurement system in Canada is largely open to begin with. Municipalities, provinces, and the federal government often have contracts with foreign suppliers, so we're not anticipating a huge change.

Within the government procurement chapter that we're preparing, there would be a number of flexibilities available to municipalities or any level of government. You could have contracts that are completely unrestricted below the thresholds that will be set in the negotiations. Municipalities or other contractors would be able to set out the terms of the tender, what they expect to receive. As far as contracts go, they can include social and environmental factors, job training, and assessing relevant experience, which may only be available locally. So we're building in a lot of flexibilities.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Do you think the upside is for Canada going into the European market versus the other way around, based on your comments about how open our system is already?

12:40 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I think you pointed out the most relevant fact yourself. It's a huge market in the EU, $2.3 trillion. That is a market that we have left virtually untapped up until now. It's not just a market of direct sales from Canada to the EU. There are a lot of global value chains that go into and end up in those contracts, and we need to be part of more of those.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

I'm not at the table myself, and I can't imagine what these negotiations would be like. I'm trying to understand what the most challenging aspects would be for doing this deal.

We've set 2012 as the date for this to be completed, and we've done eight rounds. Is 2012 realistic? Are there impediments to that target?

12:40 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

As far as the most challenging parts of the negotiations, I think if you talk to anybody involved in negotiations of this type, the most difficult is the work at home. It's all of the consultations you need to establish your positions, and all the work we need to do, especially in our case, with provinces and territories, to make sure we're lined up in the right direction. By the time you actually get to the negotiating table with the other side, that tends to be the easiest part. You're well prepared, you know what you need to do, and you understand clearly what your objectives are. So the hardest part is lining up all of the domestic support behind you.

On the deadline of finishing negotiations by 2012, we do feel this is quite realistic. We had a discussion in Brussels last week with my counterpart, and he is of the same view. The Europeans want to move very quickly on this negotiation to finish it, as do we. So after the October round, we will be entering into an even more intensive phase of the negotiations, aimed at reaching agreement on most of the major issues by the first couple of months of next year.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder London West, ON

Thank you very much.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Monsieur Ravignat.

October 6th, 2011 / 12:40 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Thank you for being here.

The danger with the speed at which we're going forward with this is in missing some major points when it comes to defending Canadian interests in this trade.

I'm particularly concerned about cultural issues. You talked about the concerns the Europeans had, but culture represents a very large industry here in Canada. Culture is a source of our identity. There are issues with preserving that.

I'd like to know whether you've done an analysis of what those figures represent for the Canadian economy, and what's potentially going to be lost, particularly if the copyright issues are not upheld from our end.

12:40 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

On the cultural issues, we've spent a lot of time consulting with cultural industry representatives. I had the most recent meeting with them about a month ago in Toronto. I think that's the third or fourth meeting I've had with them that has gone into great detail on what they see as potential issues of concern with respect to culture. So we've factored that into our own analysis of the cultural issue.

But again, on culture, the EU, and in particular some member countries, such as France, Belgium, and a number of others, attach a great importance to culture and having the freedom to allow cultural expression without restrictions.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Thank you for the answer.

Would it be true that we're not placing enough importance on our own culture in our trade negotiations? And is it not perhaps true that Canada is not fulfilling its obligations related to certain copyright agreements that are already in place? I'm thinking about the Berne agreement, for example.

12:45 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Sorry, I missed that last part.