The motion reads:
That, as part of its study of a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, the Standing Committee on International Trade invite the Hon. Ed Fast, P.C., M.P., Minister of International Trade, and Canada's Chief Trade Negotiator to appear before the Committee on Wednesday, March 20, 2013 or Monday, March 25, 2013, for the purpose of updating the Committee on the progress of the trade negotiations currently underway.
Ambassador, my apology to you folks for dealing with this motion right now, but if you were to note the committee minutes and the orders of the day, you would see that committee business in this committee seems to be in camera, meaning in secret, and there are a lot of issues this committee should be dealing with in public, especially this one, as it relates to where the CETA negotiation is at, at the moment.
While we see the Pacific Alliance as an important issue, it's critical, I believe, at this moment of time in the life of Canada to hear directly from the minister on an issue the government claims is its priority, for which there are increasingly unanswered questions. Simply put, I believe Canadians deserve to know if the members of the government have permission to allow the Minister of International Trade and our chief negotiator to appear before this committee to explain to Canadians exactly what the heck is going on with the negotiations on the largest trade deal this country has agreed to enter into, namely CETA.
I've even heard you yourself say, Mr. Chair, the CETA agreement will make NAFTA look like a relic. It's a huge agreement, and I know there's strong interest in getting it done.
We now have the spectacle of the Minister of International Trade stating publicly that he is expecting to conclude the CETA sometime this year, 2013. Members will recall that this committee was told the government expected to conclude the CETA by 2012. That commitment was made on October 6, 2011. That's more than 17 months ago.
It's time for the Minister of International Trade to come before this committee and explain why the negotiation is potentially turning into a failure. We see the European trade commissioner talking a lot about the potential deal with the United States, and it's as if we don't exist. We can't allow that to continue.
We have the spectacle of the Prime Minister of France providing to Canadians, through a media event with Prime Minister Harper, the most straightforward indication of the problems between Canada and the EU in terms of the obstacles to reaching a deal. According to a report in The Globe and Mail dated March 15, 2013, the French Prime Minister stated that the problem areas are “...in agricultural goods—in particular beef, poultry and pork products—as well as patent protection and cultural diversity.” As has occurred in our falling behind the United States in our FTA with South Korea, the Globe is reporting that the EU shift towards negotiations with the United States could result in Canada again being marginalized.
Mr. Chair, I don't need to elaborate much on that, but the fact of the matter is that we did have a billion-dollar beef and hog market in South Korea. The Americans have signed their FTA. I was in Washington and I heard Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack talk about how they are expanding their beef trade. We're the losers in the U.S. expanding their beef trade, and we can't allow the same thing to happen in Canada with respect to the European Union.
Members opposite, the government members, in my view, can do two things. They can speak in support of or in opposition to this motion, or they can sit in silence, which in itself, I believe, speaks volumes, if they are permitted to speak at all.
Mr. Chair, let me lay out a few points on why I think the minister and chief negotiator should appear on CETA and do so immediately. The reasons are pretty straightforward.
The last time the minister presented himself to this committee on CETA, or the members opposite allowed him to come, was October 6, 2011—17 months ago. We've had our chief negotiator here for estimates, but not on CETA. The last time our chief negotiator appeared before the committee was in June 2012, nine months ago. Since that time we've had several developments that have not been clarified by the minister or by any member of the government.
On October 15 and again on November 13, 2012, Canadian Press reports indicated that government studies prepared by Health Canada and Industry Canada concluded that the CETA agreement would result in Canadians paying up to $2 billion in additional drug costs annually. Steve Verheul, the chief negotiator, confirmed the existence of these studies in his testimony of June 19, 2012, at page 5. However, he stated that while he was aware of the studies they had not been shared with him.
In his testimony on October 6, 2011, the minister confirmed that a cost-benefit analysis of the implications of CETA had been done but that he would not share them with the committee. Now that's serious stuff when a minister admits there are studies and won't share them with a committee.
The European Commission in its June 2011 sustainability impact assessment report cited the figure of $2.8 billion in additional annual costs, the same figure this committee was presented with. In fact, the European Commission report, of some 468 pages, stated on three separate occasions that as a consequence of CETA as it was being negotiated at the time, it would cost Canadians more in drug costs.
On the DFAIT website, in a “message from the Minister” posted on April 16, 2012, the possibility that CETA would result in increased drug costs to Canadians was described as a “myth”. The minister owes this committee an explanation as to which it will be. It surely can't be both. It can't be going to cost us, as the Europeans and the studies are saying, and also be a myth at the same time. We need answers on that issue.
Now let's go to November 2012 and the leaked EU documents from the European Commission to the Trade Policy Committee. At page 2 of document DS 1744/12, it states in reference to dairy, poultry, and eggs that:
There is agreement that these products will not be totally liberalised, and new market access will be granted in the form of TRQs.
Don't you think we should as parliamentarians, Mr. Chair, find out from the minister if he thinks this is true? We get questions all the time from industry and we've been pretty steadfast in saying that supply management is protected. But if there are problems here for dairy or poultry, then we should know about them so that we can work with the industry to try to rectify those problems.
We know that on October 6, 2011, the minister told the committee with respect to supply management that “...we have made no concessions on supply management”. There is too much of a discrepancy here between what the minister is saying and what others are saying, Mr. Chair.
By March 13, 2012, when the minister appeared on the estimates, he told the committee in response to a question related to supply management that we're prepared to discuss all issues on the table. On June 19 Steve Verheul told the committee that “no formal offers have been put on the table” concerning supply management.
Less than five months later it seems that the government has entered into an agreement that directly affects our supply management sector, if we are to put any credibility to what is coming out of the European Union in terms of leaks.