Thank you very much. It is really an honour for me to be here representing the International Trade Committee of the Parliament.
There were supposed to be two of us, but my colleague had to cancel the trip. Being among parliamentarians, I can explain it very easily. We have elections in June. Sometimes these changes force a meeting with a single representative of Parliament. Indeed the whole purpose is to have meetings like this one, meetings with officials dealing with trade, and meetings with business people.
We are starting here, and we have another meeting today. We are going to Montreal tomorrow, and Toronto afterward, to gather as much information as possible for us to have a better understanding of the situation, both on a bilateral basis, from a trade perspective, of the EU and Canada, and secondly, the position of Canada in a multilateral global panorama, if you will--obviously in the Doha Round in particular.
The European Parliament has had an international trade committee for five years now. Before that it was merged with a larger economics committee--part of it on this, and part of it on foreign affairs. It was decided to have this very specific international trade committee, which deals with agreements that the EU has with other parts of the world. And it monitors what the European Commission does when it negotiates on behalf of the European Union in any international institution, obviously in the context of WTO mostly.
I don't know how familiar you are with European politics and sophisticated European architecture, but you probably are aware that the commission has the full negotiating power in international trade. It's one of the areas where it would be “federal” in European terms, even if we don't use that word. The commission has full power. In terms of international trade, there's nothing left to member states. The economic interests that are at stake are very much linked to the economic reality of different member states and their own import and export. .
The Parliament has the role of monitoring the commission's priorities and how the commission carries out these different negotiations--and we can talk more about that, with Canada, for example--or what the commission says on behalf of this complex reality that the EU has in the Doha Round, for example.
On the other side, when the Lisbon treaty has been approved, if the Irish referendum, probably in October, so allows, the Parliament will not only have this political power that it already has in international trade, but full legal power regarding any international commitment from the EU on international trade. Nothing will be adopted in Europe in terms of international trade without a vote of the European Parliament, which will, first of all, be a vote of the International Trade Committee, and afterwards a vote in plenary.
I think that is extremely important politically. That is already forcing my colleagues and me, and the committee of course, to follow the negotiation closely and for the commission to listen more to the Parliament, because otherwise whatever they negotiate could have some sort of democratic problem.
On the other side, through this enhanced power that the International Trade Committee has, we intend--pretend, let's be more modest here--to be able to bring the public opinion, the civil society, the NGOs--to put it another way, the democratic concerns--to these international negotiations in trade. It is true that sometimes, especially when we negotiate with the third world, for example, when we are dealing with the economic agreements with Africa or with other issues, where besides the purely economic angle there are other concerns on the table, it is important that we bring forward this democratic control of that and these other concerns that society might have. Parliament has a very specific role in putting that on the negotiating table.
That's why the Parliament is becoming stronger all the time in international trade. The purpose of our visit is more or less in that context. We do know that if there is a complete imbalance between how close our two societies are, Canadian society, Canadian public opinion, Canadian political reality, Canadian business, I mean from any angle, and the Europeans.... And we are not as close as we should be, in terms of international trade and economic relationships and direct investment, both ways. So there's a lot of room to manoeuvre there. We could both have a much, much stronger relationship.
We are very much aware of that in the Parliament. That's why we decided to send this delegation here: first, to deliver that message; second, to listen a little bit to what are the most important issues on the table, on this negotiation that is about to start. Once this scoping work has finished and once we know more or less where these should be headed, I think we all look forward to some sort of clear negotiating mandate on the leadership of both EU and Canada to start a real negotiation, leading towards an agreement. It is the role of the Parliament, as I said, to follow that, to follow all the negotiation, with the view of supporting it strongly at the end, of course, and bringing it into real European legislation, as far as it is needed. So that's mostly why we are here.
I will finish with this. On the other side, we also share with Canada, first, our concern about our multilateral approach to trade—I would start with that—and second, our concern about the future of the Doha Round. We, as a committee, have been following very, very closely the Doha Round. Some of us attended the ministerial conference in July, when we saw the failure of it and we were witnesses to its failure. We are supporting the commission, and are indirectly putting pressure also on member states politically, in trying to go ahead with the Doha Round, as far as it is possible. We know we share these with our Canadian counterparts. We know how much energy Canada has spent in the Doha Round. We also know it might be that in certain specific issues we are not exactly in the same position, so that was also something we wanted to take back home after this trip: to listen to which are the main concerns, whether we are in a positive or negative, optimistic or pessimistic mood regarding the Doha Round itself, and what would come out of that.
WIth that, I will stop, Mr. Chair.