Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman and honourable members, for inviting me today.
First, I should let you know my background. I am a lawyer. I am a counsel at Lang Michener in their international trade group. I am also an adjunct professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Law in Cleveland, Ohio, and I teach a course on NAFTA, on bilateral trading arrangements. I'm also a consultant to the Asian Development Bank, and in 2007 I reviewed 100 free trade agreements around the world for the Asian Development Bank, created a matrix on all those free trade agreements and the various provisions, and drafted an 800-page report that is currently in the process of being turned into an e-book.
So I read free trade agreements for fun.
In looking at the Canada-European Free Trade Association, which I call the CEFTA, I see it's just your basic trade-in-goods agreement. When I look at the agreement in the context of the shipbuilding industry in Canada, the one question I have that I think all of us want to answer is whether it meets the requirements of GATT 1994, article XXIV, paragraph 8(b). Is it a free trade agreement in the context of the GATT?
The provision of the GATT is that:
a free trade area shall be understood to mean a group of two or more customs territories in which the duties and or other restrictive regulations of commerce (except, certain ones where necessary...) are eliminated on substantially all the trade between the constituent territories.
So we need the elimination of all duties and all other restrictive regulations of commerce on substantially all trade. There's no definition in the GATT of what “substantially all” means.
Also, this provision doesn't give us a timeframe. We have a timeframe when we enter into an interim agreement to enter into either a free trade agreement or a customs union, and under an understanding on the interpretation of GATT article XXIV, that has to take place within 10 years. That's the limitation period, or it can be extended in exceptional circumstances, and the WTO member has to justify how this is exceptional. But we don't have that 10-year limitation period for a phase-out or elimination, reduction of duties, and other restrictive regulations of commerce.
What's generally understood is that “substantially all” means 90% of the trade, and there is a requirement under a transparency mechanism called the transparency mechanism for regional trade agreements that each country, after it enters into a free trade agreement, has to go over items line by line to demonstrate that the “substantially all” threshold has been satisfied.
I think Canada should be concerned for the shipbuilding industry that China and Korea will be watching to make sure we meet that threshold. I expect some of our hardest questions at the WTO, in the committee on regional trade agreements, would be with respect to the shipbuilding and justifying why it's taking 15 years in certain cases for the phase-out to occur, because that is abnormally long in the context of free trade agreements.
I looked at my 100 free trade agreements, and the longest one I've come across is the United States-Australia free trade agreement. There's an 18-year phase-out for duties on beef. That was considered to be exceptionally long, and it actually has created some tension in the trading relationship between the United States and Australia. That's the longest I can find in the books. I can't even find something of 15 years.
So I kind of look at it from an academic perspective. We've got developed country to developed country in the Canada-Australia free trade agreement. Canada-EFTA is developed to developed, and we're having the longest phase-out, as opposed to the developed country to developing country, which is where I would have expected to see these longer phase-outs occurring.
I also looked through the various EFTA free trade agreements, and when I look at the EFTA-Chile free trade agreement, I see it has immediate phase-out, four-year phase-out, or six year phase-out. It doesn't have anything as long as 15 and 10 years. It does have a provision that allows them to dismantle, which means they can go back and talk about the phase-outs. But to my knowledge, none of the phase-outs have been in excess of 10 years under the EFTA-Chile free trade agreement.
When I looked at the EFTA-Croatia free trade agreement, category A was two years, category B was five years, category C was four years, and table B included some of the ships in chapter 89. So the phase-out for ships under the EFTA-Croatia free trade agreement was either immediate or in five years.
For the EFTA-Egypt FTA, category A was one year, category B was six years, and ships fell within categories A and B.
For the EFTA-Israel FTA, all duties were removed immediately. It was the same with the Singapore-EFTA free trade agreement.
With Jordan, category A was four years, category B was seven years, and category C was a re-examination over four years for particular goods. But ships and yachts were in category A, and there were no ships or yachts in categories B or C. They were positive lists.
For the EFTA-Korea free trade agreement--and we know from the WTO case relating to China and Korea that both have shipbuilding industries--they had B1 at three years, B2 at five years, and category B3 at seven years. There were a few other vessels in B3 for the seven years, but on almost all the ships the duties were eliminated immediately.
Lebanon had a seven-year phase-out period. The table for ships had them either immediately free or they started at 15% or 5% and went down to zero within seven years.
In Mexico there was immediate duty relief for all ships and boats.
In Tunisia, category A was immediate duty relief, category B was in three years on 20%, 12%, 4%, and 0%, and ships fell within that category.
The last thing that's interesting in the Canada-EFTA free trade agreement is the safeguard mechanism. In article 25 there is a transition period for the shipbuilding industry at five to 15 years, depending on the goods, but there's an ability to use the safeguard mechanism if serious injury is shown. The duties can go back up to the MFN rate either when the case was brought or immediately before the agreement came into effect. That gives a three-year adjustment, so it's conceivable that we could go down close to zero if serious injury is felt by the shipbuilding industry. The duties can go back up to the original rate for a three-year period to allow the shipbuilding industry to adjust.
It looks as though the negotiators have done more than other negotiators in free trade agreements have for this particular industry, so from an academic perspective this is theoretically a good agreement in terms of this phase-out. The shipbuilding industry is the only one that has this phase-out period.
Rather than rambling on, I'll leave it up to you to ask any questions you may have. Hopefully this helps you factually.