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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

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Conservative Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Okay. Thank you.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

Mr. Keddy.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Welcome to our witnesses.

I have a couple of points to make before I get to a question. There was an interesting discussion by the NDP on the auto sector. I would just question where we would sell automobiles, since we produce more than we can consume. I wonder where would we sell them, where our marketplace would be, and where those jobs would go. Maybe there's a study on that. I wouldn't mind seeing it.

4:15 p.m.

An hon. member

A credible study.

4:15 p.m.

Conservative

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

With respect, there are a number of areas here that we're still negotiating. Obviously, those negotiations cannot be public, but there are articles and parts of those negotiations that I think as a committee we need to understand. That's only proper and correct for us as the international trade committee.

In particular on fish, you simply mentioned that fish could be a negotiating or sticking point. The EU obviously are snookering us on shrimp and have us outnumbered on ICCAT, or on those two particular issues, with tuna in particular being a migratory, cold-water species.

We have a sustainable tuna fleet, probably the only one in the world. However, we do have some ongoing problems. Though it's separate under this negotiation, we certainly don't want to lose the advantage that we have there, and we want a fair and open market in Europe for Canadian fish that's caught sustainably.

Could you just drill down a little more on fish in particular and how you see that unravelling?

4:20 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

We spent quite a bit of time on fish, as you might expect, over the course of the negotiations. We made it clear from the beginning that it was one of our primary offensive objectives. It's certainly the number one objective for most of the eastern provinces, and an important objective for B.C. as well. Certainly when we've been talking to Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, P.E.I., and New Brunswick, they've all said that fish is number one. The EU clearly is aware of the importance we attach to this, and certainly shrimp is at the top of the fish list, given the history we've had on that product in the EU market.

The discussion has become a little broader than simply tariffs and our interests in access to the EU market. There are also issues related to the tariff, including rules of origin and what's going to be considered a Canadian fish. So we're working on that, which has become a bit complex. We've also had some discussions on investment restrictions, both ways, in the fisheries. The EU has raised some concerns about some of our provincial export restrictions on fish, and they have suggested it's an area of concern to them. We've even had some discussion on access to ports by the EU, and it's come up in some of the environmental discussions as well.

So fish has come up in a number of different negotiating tables, but as part of the overall broad strategy, it's clearly one of our priorities, and the EU has recognized that.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

I appreciate that. It sounds as if most of those issues should be solvable. I want to say “easy to solve”, but I know better.

The other issue I would like a little clearer explanation on is the investor protection part of this agreement. I know the criticism made at the table here of chapter 11, but you have to have a rules-based system that protects investors. No one's saying that the system we have couldn't be improved somehow, but what should the end agreement look like that would allow investors—both from the EU investing in Canada, and Canadian investors investing in the EU—to have some measurable assurance that their investment is protected, should countries pass independent laws affecting that investment?

4:20 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

It is an area we're going to be spending a lot of time on, because I think the EU and Canada share a common objective in that area, for the most part. I don't think either of us has major concerns about investment protection in each other's markets, but we also want to set an example for other bilateral negotiations that each of us will pursue.

I think what we've seen in the last number of years is that all the bilateral investment treaties, or the foreign investment protection treaties we've negotiated and other countries have negotiated, include some type of investor protection mechanism. So virtually all countries are going down that track to some degree.

The EU, as I mentioned, is having to develop an EU-wide policy on investment protection, since they only recently gained competence on that issue over member states. They're in discussions to do that now. But clearly they have expressed the view that this is a good time to be negotiating with Canada because they can draw on our experience as well and try to come up with something that works for the two of us.

We are also looking at modifying the kinds of investment protection provisions we have had in the past to try to improve on those, to deal with frivolous cases that might come forward, that kind of thing. So we are looking at improving it as well.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

The final question, Mr. Chairman--

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

You've had your final question. Sorry.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

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

That was the final question.

4:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

That was, and it was a dandy.

We're going to move on. We've got a number of witnesses yet to hear today, so I think we'll do a couple of quick questions. Keep it to two or three minutes. We'll have one from Mr. Silva.

Monsieur Laforest, une autre question? All right.

Two or three minutes, Mr. Silva.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Perhaps you could explain the process to us. I realize that since the Lisbon treaty, Parliament has been given a much more enhanced role in the ability to pass certain legislation and treaties. We're meeting with the European Parliament's international trade committee. Is this the committee the treaty would be going through first, before going to Parliament, and they'd have to approve it as well and amend it, or just consent to it or not consent to it before it goes to Parliament?

4:25 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

The international trade committee is the committee the European negotiators are providing updates to on a regular basis. So they'll be the ones most familiar with what's in the eventual agreement and with what's happening in the negotiations. They would take a first look at it and offer their views. After that, when it comes to ratification time for the agreement, the European Parliament as a whole will decide on whether they agree with ratification.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

I understand that, but do they go to them first for ratification before going to Parliament?

4:25 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

My understanding is that it's not a necessary step.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Okay. So they're providing input but it doesn't go directly to Parliament.

4:25 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

That's my understanding.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

It bypasses them. Okay.

Given the fact that the seal hunt is a big issue in Europe, and the European Parliament has taken a very active role against the position of Canada, is that going to be an impediment or an issue discussed at upcoming visits? Is that going to be a possible future impediment to ratification, or a condition perhaps to ratify the Canada-EU trade agreement?

4:25 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

No. This issue first came up around the same time as the launching of the negotiations in May of 2009. Both sides reached an explicit agreement that we would not allow that issue to distract from the negotiations. So we have not discussed it. We have not tried to do anything on that issue. It is following a separate track through the WTO process that we have initiated on the seal trade.

We don't anticipate it to be a problem or an issue in the negotiations. You may hear about it from the European parliamentarians, because it is an issue, as you've said, that's attracted a fair amount of attention. We have provided separate briefing notes on that for your use.

4:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Liberal Davenport, ON

Thank you.

I have a lot of other questions, but I can ask them in the future. That's fine, Mr. Chair.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Lee Richardson

We're going to have two more: Mr. Holder, and then we'll conclude with Monsieur Laforest.

Mr. Holder, two or three minutes, please.

November 15th, 2010 / 4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

I'd like to thank our guests for attending. I'm not sure whether I should be wearing my sealskin coat and tie to this event. I'm inclined to do that, unless you think it's totally provoking.

Mr. Verheul, you indicated in your presentation that in the 22 areas of negotiations, four are done or parked and four more will be done in January. By my math, that leaves 14 more to be done, and you have scheduled only one more meeting after that, in Ottawa in April. What's your confidence that that will be completed by then?

4:25 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Well, we're not aiming specifically to complete it all by April, although hopefully we will be well advanced towards that. There will probably be a need for further negotiations after April, but they may not necessarily take the form of a full negotiating round. There will be a smaller set of issues to deal with, so there will be a need for a smaller group of negotiators to get together.

Even with the other chapters among the 22, the differences there are now fairly straightforward ones. We know they have a position; we have a different position, and it's a matter of trying to find some common ground or accepting one of the other positions. Those other chapters are not far from being finished; it's just a matter of needing some decisions on some more difficult issues.

4:25 p.m.

Conservative

Ed Holder Conservative London West, ON

It won't surprise you that there may be different perspectives from different parties around this table on the issues of this trade agreement. To what extent would a divided house, if I can call us that, going to Europe affect the deliberations that you're having?

I ask that question specifically because when this committee made a point of going to Washington before, we agreed that there were four primary areas that we would agree on. We agreed in substance on the direction that we wanted to take those. I would suggest to you that the dialogues that took place were positive and helpful and laid the groundwork for further dialogue.

So I ask the question: if we come with our different perspectives on this, which I think is a healthy process generally, what impact might that have on your negotiations? If we come with different views as members of Parliament, what would be the impact?