This week, I changed much of the tech behind this site. If you see anything that looks like a bug, please let me know!

Evidence of meeting #34 for International Trade in the 40th Parliament, 3rd 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

Steve Verheul  Chief Trade Negotiator, Canada-European Union, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Jason Langrish  Executive Director, Canada Europe Roundtable for Business
José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro  Member of the Committee, European Economic and Social Committee
Sandy Boyle  President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee
Jean-François Bence  Director, Consultative Works, European Economic and Social Committee
Rose D'Sa  Member, European Economic and Social Committee

5:25 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

The answer to that is yes.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay. Thank you very much.

You've said that the advisory opinion has been favourable towards Canada from all of these different groups, including the labour groups represented at the table.

5:25 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

Absolutely.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay.

There's another question I would ask. In terms of your advisory role capabilities, is that going to be decisions that...? You're now putting forward I guess some favourable commentary because Canada and the EU share common values, but is the opinion from your perspective that we should pursue this because Canada will open up other avenues for the European Union with, let's say, the U.S. and Mexico because of our NAFTA agreement? Or is it because it's a good idea to do Canada because it makes sense? I just want to know what the logic is behind your support of the argument.

5:25 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

Our opinion is on Canada and Canada alone. We also, a few years ago, had an opinion in terms of transatlantic relations, but our experience in terms of looking at things from a transatlantic point of view has not been terribly productive.

In terms of the major partner in the transatlantic dialogue, there are bodies for individual groups, like, for instance, employers groups, etc., on a transatlantic basis, but our opinion is focused on Canada. I think you correctly said that one of the key areas of that is the mutual shared interest. Of course, from a European perspective one would see benefits, but we see the benefits being very much a two-way process.

5:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

That clarifies things for me.

5:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Thank you.

Monsieur Laforest, deux minutes, s'il vous plaît.

5:25 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Laforest Bloc Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon, everyone.

I was looking at the list of people sitting on the European Economic and Social Committee. If the agreement is ratified, you will be involved in the evaluation process. There is already documentation on the subject. Your role will consist in evaluating the agreement, in collaboration with a similar agency in Canada, once a year. So much variety and so many countries are involved, and people will be representing you. You will have to conduct an evaluation taking into account the interests of workers, executives, business managers, banks, industry, the private and public sectors, and so on.

Have you set rules in advance for determining whether there is consent following the free-trade agreement's performance evaluation? It is a rather complex process. Have you set rules in advance?

5:25 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

The answer to that would be no, we have not set rules in advance, but we have in terms of other trade agreements. This has been a reasonably new phenomenon in terms of the trade agreements, that there is the facility for this ongoing role for, as we define them, the civil society organizations.

But I stress very much that we do not see this as being an EU evaluation by ourselves in isolation. The preferred route we have is that it is a joint body that reviews with our partners who have similar partners from the Canadian side.

I very much stress that it is that form of joint evaluation we see as being the enduring value that a body such as that would add. Ultimately, as we see it, for the success or otherwise of trade, it's going to be absolutely imperative that the business communities, those who are affected in terms of the employees in the industry, and the wider areas such as agriculture, consumers, etc., I've mentioned, have this ongoing voice in terms of the direction the agreement goes, and the implementation.

5:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Thank you.

Mr. Julian.

5:30 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

Thank you for being here today.

I find your recommendations around social justice, against social dumping on the environment, very intriguing, and I have two questions I'd like to ask.

First, who have you met with, and who are you meeting with--which civil society groups, which parts of the labour movement--while you are here in Canada?

Second, there are some criticisms in Canada on where these negotiations are leading, particularly the impacts socially and environmentally. If we're looking at completion of the negotiations in a year or so, what would your role be? Would it be your role to say there are overall negative social and environmental repercussions? Would your role be to say we don't believe this agreement should be ratified by Parliament? Or would your role simply be to offer some recommendations about where the negotiation should go?

5:30 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

I stress that ours would be an advisory role. For the specifics, I'll ask Jean-François to answer, because I think we should share some of this, and you should not just hear a monologue from me. We're here very much as a team, and I want to stress that.

I have a program here, and perhaps the easiest thing would be to make sure it is available to you. We believe, on the excellent advice that we've had from the EU delegation here in Canada, that we are meeting all the major players. We started off this morning with a very valuable meeting with the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance. We had lunch with the Quebec and Ontario CETA chief negotiators, something that was extremely valuable in terms of giving us that type of background. We've met with CERT, and immediately before this meeting in fact the representative left to come here, and I saw him in the chair just before we came here.

Tomorrow we are of course meeting with our own member states. We're having lunch with the chief CETA negotiator, and we're then meeting, I think, with the lobby that is defined more as the anti-lobby, the Council of Canadians. We're meeting with the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, and then we're having a meeting with the Assistant Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Europe to discuss the framework agreement, and we're meeting with the Consumers' Association of Canada and also having a lunch with academia.

So I think it's a pretty broad program in only three days. We're not saying it's totally exhaustive by any standards, but we believe it's a program through which we can meet in the main with the bodies--and of course when we meet with the Council of Canadians that will include the Canadian Labour Congress, which will be party to that meeting. I can also say that in Madrid at a recent meeting, I managed to have a dialogue with them. So we're trying to connect also individually and collectively as we go forward with the respective groups. I know that José Isaias very much so.... Business Europe has been connecting very much with the business community, and we look forward to trying to develop links with the other partner organizations that I've mentioned.

On the specifics of environment, I'll ask Jean-François to speak.

5:30 p.m.

Jean-François Bence Director, Consultative Works, European Economic and Social Committee

You asked a question about the monitoring of the negotiations and about how interactions take place. The committee's position is stated in the opinion. We are constantly in touch with the European negotiators, and briefing and debriefing meetings are held. We are also in contact with the parliamentary committee that deals with international trade.

Once the agreement is finalized, we will provide our opinion on it. Since we are an advisory body of the European Parliament, the council and the commission, once an agreement is reached, we share our opinion with all those organizations about whether or not the agreement should be concluded and whether or not it should be ratified.

5:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian NDP Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Merci.

5:35 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

Chair, can I be guided by you? Rose would like to respond briefly to this issue. Is there time to do that? Thank you.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Yes, please do. Go ahead.

November 15th, 2010 / 5:35 p.m.

Dr. Rose D'Sa Member, European Economic and Social Committee

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I detected in your question, Mr. Julian, a possible note of criticism, in that you were concerned about the possible negative impact, either socially or environmentally, of any proposed trade agreement between the EU and Canada. Therefore I wanted to stress that our purpose in coming here from Brussels was to say that European civil society organizations, or what you might call stakeholder bodies, are very keen to discuss with their Canadian counterparts any possible negative impacts this trade agreement might have either on Canada or on the European Union. We think if we discuss in an open and transparent way all our respective interests, we will have a much better chance of influencing the draft document in a positive way. As you have heard from Sandy, we have very extensive consultation plans over the next three days, and we fully intend to consult both people who are pro and those who are against this agreement, because we feel that the European Union and Canada have a huge amount of mutual interests, common values, and a common desire to be prosperous in the longer term, in terms of world prosperity and world trade.

If we as people with common values cannot negotiate with each other, then all is lost. So our purpose in coming here is to make sure that we have the best possible agreement, that we avoid putting contentious issues under the table or under the carpet. We want to raise them, bring them out in the open, and deal with them in a very constructive and transparent way. Our understanding from our Canadian counterparts so far is that the mechanisms here have been transparent, and that the involvement of the provinces has been a path-breaking initiative on the Canadian side.

We represent 27 countries with very different political and economic backgrounds, and if we can work together and you can work together, we could have a fantastic trade agreement. That's why we're here.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Hear, hear.

Thank you very much. I'd love to wrap up on that positive note. Thank you very much for that.

We have time for one more. Go ahead, Mr. Keddy, for two minutes, please.

5:35 p.m.

Conservative

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

Two minutes it is, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome to our guests. Although the discussion has been very brief, it has been very positive.

We very much look at this as a very comprehensive agreement. At the end of the day, it will hopefully be the most comprehensive agreement we've ever signed. We look to a fair and equitable conclusion for both the European Union and for Canada.

We will need to continue to negotiate a number of issues. One of the difficulties I'm trying to wrap my head around as a member of Parliament is how we can have investor protection for investments by Canadians in Europe and by Europeans in Canada, enable ongoing fair business dialogue and business practices to occur, and still protect that investment should member states decide--individually or together, for whatever reason--to penalize that investment.

In a nutshell, how do we promote good behaviour and penalize bad behaviour, yet promote trade at the same time? I don't think we're quite there yet.

5:35 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

I'll give José Isaías an opportunity, because he is the final one to say a few words.

5:35 p.m.

Member of the Committee, European Economic and Social Committee

José Isaías Rodríguez García-Caro

Thank you very much. I will continue in French.

Your question was very interesting. I have with me a joint draft letter that we, that is, the European and Canadian employer organizations, are working on. The letter will touch on certain topics that are important to us, one of which is the protection of intellectual property.

There are more points we agree on than points we disagree on. Certain elements will have to be considered along the way, but they should not prevent us in any way from concluding this agreement. Our opinion covers issues we must try to resolve before the agreement is finalized. The scope of the agreement is so important to us, and the European Union-Canada relations are very solid.

Canada is a strategic country. We think that this fact should not stand in the way of anything, even though we have differences from an organizational standpoint. We are a civil partnership established by the European Union and we don't even have any Canadian counterparts, but, frankly, this is a major risk that we are ready to take.

What you are saying, thanks to the discussions and the willingness to conclude a very ambitious and comprehensive agreement, should help us finalize the agreement. We want to do that as soon as possible.

Thank you.

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Thank you very much.

Mr. Boyle, I want to say thank you again to the committee. I'm going to let you wrap it up, but this has been very helpful. It has been very fortuitous for the committee that we found the time and that you were able to find some time in your busy schedule to have this opening exchange with us. It's been very helpful, and with that I'd ask you to close.

5:40 p.m.

President, International Relations Section, European Economic and Social Committee

Sandy Boyle

I think from our perspective we would simply wish to echo what you said. We are very grateful indeed for the opportunity to be here.

The point I started on was the point I think I can finish on. We would hope that in the course of the negotiations, there is a recognition—which I believe will be forthcoming from the European side—and a recognition from our Canadian counterparts in Parliament that there is a role, and an ongoing role post the agreement itself, for the type of structure I was outlining, where we could establish some form of joint body. I think the argument is that if we can get it in the Central American agreement, if we can get it in Korea, and we can get it in CARIFORUM, there should be absolutely no obstacle to having one with Canada, where we are far, far closer culturally and have far, far closer ties than we do with some other areas.

There is real value, we believe, in coming together, as I've described in mentioning the civil society contacts and this important role of evaluation in the implementation era. It's an important part of the jigsaw. I'm not arguing that it's any more than that, but that from our perspective, it was really one of the key areas coming from civil society that we included in our opinion. It's one of the areas we're here to try to explore. The thing I am pleased about is that the partners with whom we've discussed this to this date—and I can't talk for everyone yet, because we have not met them all—share the potential benefits that could come from such a structure. We may get a different view from others. We have to wait and see until we see the entire representation.

Thank you very much for the opportunity, and we can only hope that there is a continuing positive dialogue between the EU and Canada that bears fruit. Thank you very much indeed.

5:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

5:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Thank you, Mr. Boyle.

And with that, ladies and gentlemen, I'll wish our witnesses Godspeed, and thank you again for coming.

We are adjourned.