Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for inviting me back to speak to you about your upcoming trip to Europe to study and promote the negotiations toward the Canada-European Union comprehensive economic and trade agreement, known as the CETA.
As you requested, I will focus today on your trip next week and then provide you with an update on the negotiations. To complement today's briefing we have also prepared materials on specific issues that may come up during your trip. Embassy staff will also brief you on additional countries' specific issues prior to your meetings.
First I'd like to offer you some context on the roles of member states in the European Parliament post-Lisbon. Neither member states nor members of Parliament participate in the negotiations themselves. We negotiate with the European Commission exclusively. However, member states and Parliament are kept abreast of the progress of negotiations, and they have a real influence on the substance of what is negotiated.
While member states have always had a role in treaty-making, there was a new role for Parliament as of December 1, 2009, when the Lisbon treaty came into force. The European Parliament now has an enhanced role in EU decision-making. One of its most important new powers is that its consent is required for all international treaties, including trade agreements, negotiated by the European Commission. As such, the commission now provides regular briefings on the progress of negotiations, resulting in a better informed Parliament that can exert influence over the commission on the substance of an agreement.
This has greatly increased the visibility and importance of the European Parliament in EU policy-making, and has resulted in the need for non-EU countries to ensure that clear and open lines of communications are established between them and European parliamentarians.
Canada must ensure that its views, policies, and positions are understood and appreciated by parliamentarians as issues pertinent to us come up for votes in Parliament.
Member states also have a role, beginning with the development of a negotiating mandate, as well as decision-making on the progress, approval, and implementation of treaties. The commission provides regular briefings to member states in the trade policy committee, the TPC--formerly called the 133 committee. This group is instrumental in developing negotiating positions, preparing offers, and reviewing the texts. The trade policy committee meets every week, and in this context I will tell you about the program and member states you will be visiting.
First of all, the United Kingdom, one of the European Union's big three member states, is generally seen as supportive of the CETA. The current coalition government sees trade as a key focus for its foreign relations. Although attention has recently been drawn toward China and India, the U.K. still has a strong affinity for trade with North America and Canada. The U.K. has expressed particular interest in professional and financial services, intellectual property, and sub-federal government procurement.
However, the U.K. is sensitive on labour mobility, one of Canada's top interests in these negotiations. We have provided a brief for you on this issue, and you might like to talk to interlocutors about this subject in particular.
The embassy is planning a round-table discussion with the Canada-U.K. chamber of commerce members and business guests, a meeting with the minister responsible for trade, and a meeting with the House of Lords EU subcommittee on economic and financial affairs and international trade.
Moving on to Strasbourg, our mission to the EU is working to develop a program of meetings with members of the European Parliament, including a meeting with the European Parliament's international trade committee as well as the European Parliament's delegation for relations with Canada. This will be an excellent opportunity to signal strong support for the CETA negotiations in Canada as well as to underline the importance Canada sees in enhancing close and open trading links with the EU. It will be important to underline Canada's continuing commitment to rejecting protectionism, reducing barriers to trade, and promoting environmentally and socially responsible trade. You should expect to hear a wide variety of views expressed by members of the European Parliament, ranging from strong support for the CETA negotiations to strong criticism and skepticism of free trade agreements in general.
In addition, it is quite probable that members of the European Parliament will want to discuss other trade files, including Canada's FTA agenda, the anti-counterfeiting trade agreement, intellectual property reforms in Canada, as well as oil sands and seals. We have prepared background briefing materials on these issues as well.
After Strasbourg the committee will split into two groups, one heading to Rome and the other to Budapest.
For the group travelling to Rome, the prospective program entails a meeting with Italian deputies and senators; a meeting on agricultural issues of importance to Italy, likely with the national association of food producers; a meeting with Italian government trade officials; and a meeting with Confindustria, Italy's main industry association.
The Italians are supportive of the CETA, and our economic relationship is important. One of Italy's strongest interests in these negotiations is geographical indications. A GI is a name that links a product's quality, reputation, or characteristic to a specific geographic location or origin--for example, Champagne or Bordeaux. We already have a wines and spirits agreement with the EU that recognizes certain GIs, and we are currently analyzing an EU proposal that seeks recognition of GIs for other agricultural products and foodstuffs. You will also find more details on this issue in your briefing package.
Last is Budapest. Hungary will be the next country to hold the rotating presidency of the EU, beginning in January 2011. This covers the period of the next two rounds of negotiations. Although the role of the rotating presidency has been reduced following the EU's Lisbon treaty, the country holding the presidency will still chair key meetings of EU ministers, including the trade policy committee.
The prospective program in Budapest includes a joint meeting with the Hungarian Parliament's EU affairs committee and the economic and informatics committee, the committees responsible for the CETA and Hungary's economic and trade policy, respectively. A meeting with the newly formed Canada-Hungary Parliamentary Friendship Group is also planned as well as meetings with an expert on Hungarian and regional economics and a senior Government of Hungary interlocutor. If time permits, a session with a representative of a Hungarian business group will be added.
Given the important role the European Union member states play in both policy-making and the eventual ratification of any international trade agreement, we anticipate that this overall program will provide the CIIT with the opportunity to underscore Canada's priorities in these negotiations to key interlocutors in the U.K., the European Parliament, Italy, and Hungary.
Now I'll give a quick update on the negotiations.
Since I was last here, we had our fifth round of negotiations, in mid-October, in Ottawa. Negotiations continue to progress well, even though we've moved to a tougher stage in the negotiations.
There are some key milestones to report. We have had a consolidated text covering all 22 areas of negotiation since last fall. Of these, we have already completed or parked four chapters and expect four more to be parked or closed at the next round in January.
We have already exchanged initial offers on goods, which would have 90% of all tariffs go duty-free immediately upon implementation of the agreement, and we've exchanged detailed requests in the areas of government procurement, services, and investment.
We expect to exchange second offers on goods and our first offers on GP--government procurement--services and investment in the next few months.
On the key areas of focus, government procurement remains one of the EU's top priorities, particularly at the sub-federal level. We are working closely with the provinces and territories towards a high level of ambition on procurement, as this will, to some extent, set the level of ambition in other areas.
In the area of goods, the remaining 10% of tariffs on which we have not yet made offers will involve some sensitivities, including some with respect to agriculture, on both sides, autos, and fish for the EU.
As I mentioned to you during a previous briefing, we are paying particular attention to and have made good progress on non-tariff barriers, especially in the area of regulatory cooperation. In fact, we are negotiating a chapter on regulatory cooperation, the first time such a chapter will be included in a free trade agreement.
On services and investment, we have been working hard to convince the EU to adopt a more ambitious approach to a negative list, which means that everything is captured by the commitments except for areas that are specifically excluded. This is the approach we have used in all of our agreements, including NAFTA, but the EU has never used this approach. Reports from the commission on their discussions with member states in this regard are encouraging.
We are also pressing the EU to go further in the area of labour mobility, including easing the temporary entry of business people and professionals and mutual recognition of qualifications.
Finally, intellectual property is also an important area, as the EU has been pressing us on copyright protection, enforcement, patents, and the protection of geographical indications. The copyright bill tabled by the government a few months ago is also likely to come up in your meetings.
Provinces and territories continue to be engaged and are well represented during negotiating rounds. We had just over 60 provincial and territorial representatives in Ottawa for the October round, and we continue to meet with them frequently, both in Ottawa and across the country.
Our consultation process in this negotiation has been the most extensive and open process we've ever had in a trade negotiation. We consult regularly with industry and civil society after each round through teleconferences and have frequent meetings with stakeholders, on request.
That's where we are now in the negotiations. We have two more formal rounds scheduled, one in January in Brussels and the other in April in Ottawa, and we continue toward the goal of completing the negotiations in 2011.
We also anticipate that ministers will meet to take stock of progress in the negotiations later this year.
CETA is a unique and important opportunity for Canada. That the committee travelled to the EU should serve to underscore Canada's commitment to an ambitious agreement.
I would be pleased to answer any questions you might have.