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Evidence of meeting #5 for International Trade in the 41st Parliament, 1st 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
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Paul Cardegna

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Monsieur Ravignat.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Thank you for being here.

The danger with the speed at which we're going forward with this is in missing some major points when it comes to defending Canadian interests in this trade.

I'm particularly concerned about cultural issues. You talked about the concerns the Europeans had, but culture represents a very large industry here in Canada. Culture is a source of our identity. There are issues with preserving that.

I'd like to know whether you've done an analysis of what those figures represent for the Canadian economy, and what's potentially going to be lost, particularly if the copyright issues are not upheld from our end.

12:40 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

On the cultural issues, we've spent a lot of time consulting with cultural industry representatives. I had the most recent meeting with them about a month ago in Toronto. I think that's the third or fourth meeting I've had with them that has gone into great detail on what they see as potential issues of concern with respect to culture. So we've factored that into our own analysis of the cultural issue.

But again, on culture, the EU, and in particular some member countries, such as France, Belgium, and a number of others, attach a great importance to culture and having the freedom to allow cultural expression without restrictions.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Thank you for the answer.

Would it be true that we're not placing enough importance on our own culture in our trade negotiations? And is it not perhaps true that Canada is not fulfilling its obligations related to certain copyright agreements that are already in place? I'm thinking about the Berne agreement, for example.

12:45 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Sorry, I missed that last part.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

The Berne agreement, related to copyright issues.

12:45 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I don't think there's been any suggestion that we haven't been meeting our cultural obligations. I haven't heard that from any of the cultural representatives. I haven't heard it from any organization. In fact, I think there's a recognition that we're very strong on protecting our cultural interests in these negotiations. I think the Europeans would be the first to acknowledge that. So we do have a lot of common interest in this.

The one caveat I would mention is that beyond the kinds of cultural exemptions that we negotiate in an agreement like this, there's not a real desire to do much more, mainly because I think a lot of cultural representatives are a little uncomfortable with including a lot of cultural provisions in a trade agreement. It fits better in joint cooperation agreements, joint production agreements, some of the issues with the UN convention on preservation and promotion of cultural diversity. Those are the areas we can advance our cultural interests in much more effectively.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

Thank you.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you.

For the committee's information, we have three more questioners and our time is tight. We have a small in camera session. If I can ask for three minutes in the last three, we'll get them in.

Mr. Shory.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Devinder Shory Conservative Calgary Northeast, AB

Thank you once again, Mr. Chair.

We on this side understand that this CETA agreement with the EU will be of enormous benefit to Canadians. Of course, we also understand that the opposition NDP has to look after some special interest groups, and they are doing their job. At the same time, it was amazing to hear the minister talk about 80,000 new jobs and a $12 billion increase to trade. He also mentioned that an average Canadian family will have $1,000 extra income.

Also, I agree with the minister that free trade is a kitchen table issue. And I had to ask him the question of how he gets these things done, unlike in the past. Anyway, the record shows that in these last six years, our Conservative government has signed nine free trade agreements. As the minister mentioned, and as I'm sure you are also aware, we are in negotiations with so many other countries, which proves that we understand.

Mr. Chair, the government has set a target to sign the CETA agreement with the European Union by 2012. Number one, is this timeline achievable? And also, for the benefit of my friends across the table, does our Conservative government have a mandate to sign these agreements?

12:45 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

First, on the deadline, I think it's clear that we are within range of that deadline. We're very well advanced on the text of the agreement. We're well over half finished on the chapters. In the remaining chapters, only a small number of differences are separating us.

We've tabled offers on government procurement and goods. We're about to table offers on services and investment. Those will all be on the table.

We will enter a much more intensive focus process after the October round. The negotiator on the EU side and I both feel that we can certainly meet the target of early next year to finish the negotiations.

I'll just add the caveat that you never quite know if you might get hung up on a particular issue, and that could cause some delays. But I think there's a lot of momentum behind these negotiations, and both parties are committed to completing them.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Easter.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Thank you.

Steve, I will begin by saying that you've always been forthright and accessible within reason, and we appreciate that.

On the question of pharmaceuticals, the generics, as you know, said it will cost Canadians $2.8 billion annually. That will fall back on our health care system. We've met with the pharmaceutical representatives, and they're saying something different, a far lower amount.

I asked you on November 15 if you had done any analysis, and you indicated at that time that you had not done any analysis internally in the department on that issue. Has any been done yet, and is it available?

12:50 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

We have certainly seen all of the analysis provided by both sides of the issue, and we have been assessing that. We have certainly been doing some internal analysis on different potential avenues that the negotiations could follow. But given that at this point we have not made any concessions in this area, it's a little unclear what we would analyze, because we have made no moves and we may not make any moves on this issue.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

Okay.

The other question comes back to this whole issue of supply management. It's easy to use those words, but as you know, what makes supply management work is import controls and tariffs. First, are import controls in the negotiations? Second, are tariffs part of the discussions?

12:50 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

First I'll make the comment that both sides agreed very early on in the negotiations that we wouldn't prevent discussions on any issue in the negotiations, so we have had discussions on issues that are sensitive on both sides. But when it comes to dairy in particular--and it also relates to beef and pork in the EU--we have not had any in-depth discussions whatsoever to this point.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

So there will be 20 or 30 issues at the end of the day that you're not able to deal with at the negotiating level, and this could be turned over in fact at the end of the day to the political establishment on each side. Our concern is that the European Parliament will have a veto and a say. Ours will have really nothing to say. Is that correct?

12:50 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

The European Parliament will indeed have to ratify the agreement.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

We can't get smiles on the record.

Go ahead.

12:50 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

I wasn't quite sure what the question was.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Liberal Malpeque, PE

There was a question. The bottom line is this. At the end of the day, I doubt if you will get to agreement at your discussions on the issues that are left, which will no doubt include tariffs, import controls, on sensitive commodities. The final decisions on that will then be turned over to the political establishment in both countries. Is my analysis correct?

12:50 p.m.

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

Steve Verheul

Well, our intention on both sides as negotiators is to complete as much of this agreement as we possibly can and to have some hope that we can do it all. As in any negotiation that includes some difficult issues, chances are that we may need some political direction on a handful of issues before it's done. As to which issues those will be, we'll have to wait and see.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Chair Conservative Rob Merrifield

Thank you very much.

Mr. Keddy, you have a couple of minutes.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

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

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I listened to the question on culture. It has been mentioned a couple of times, and I'm always amazed that we still have parliamentarians who don't have faith in Canadian culture. We heard the fear-mongering when we signed the free trade agreement with the United States. We were going to become Americanized. We were going to be absolutely bulldozed by American culture, and that didn't happen.

Now we're signing an agreement with an organization of states that has 27 member states. They have over a hundred languages. They have probably as many distinct cultures, and somehow they're going to overwhelm us. I would expect that the Europeans would be more afraid that they may become Canadianized.

12:55 p.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat NDP Pontiac, QC

They're 500 million. We're only 30 million. Do the math.