Evidence of meeting #65 for International Trade in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was nafta.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Andrea van Vugt  Vice-President, North America, Business Council of Canada
Daniel Ujczo  International Trade Attorney, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance
Maryscott Greenwood  Chief Executive Officer, Canadian American Business Council
Mark Nantais  President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association

May 4th, 2017 / 3:20 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Good afternoon everyone. Welcome.

I am sorry for the problems we had on Tuesday. It was nothing that we caused. Something caused a big gas leak, and I think good judgment was used to see that we would not have a meeting in the midst of a gas leak. We were looking forward to that meeting with Minister Freeland, of course, but it didn't happen. However, we have been assured that she will meet with us before the end of June. They're working on dates for her coming back to speak with us.

I welcome the witnesses here today. Thank you for coming. As you know, our committee is very active. We have just finished our huge study on CETA. We have also travelled across Canada on the TPP, and our report was tabled. We're also in the midst of a steel study. Right now, because of the various circumstances that face us on the North American side, our committee is doing a study on our relationships with our other trading partners in NAFTA going forward.

Our committee just returned a couple of weeks ago. We travelled to the western United States. It was a very well received trip. We went to Washington State and visited Boeing and Amazon. We were in California and Colorado. It was really good to start it that way. Our committee is planning on doing this in some eastern states also. We're going to Detroit, Michigan; and Chicago; and will finish up in Washington, D.C.

It was very good to get out to these other areas to meet other representatives, because many times we focus only on Washington. Of course, that is the centre of all activity, but it's very good to get to these other outlying areas. This month we are mostly going to have witnesses come forward to explain their take on our future relationship with those countries.

We try to keep it tight. We have quite a few witnesses, so if you could keep it to five minutes or less, we would appreciate it, so we can have lots of time for later dialogue with our MPs.

Today our witnesses are from the Business Council of Canada, the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance, the Canadian American Business Council, and the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association. Welcome.

Without further ado, we'll start with the Canadian Business Council of Canada. You have the floor. Go ahead.

3:20 p.m.

Andrea van Vugt Vice-President, North America, Business Council of Canada

Thank you, Chair and committee members. Thank you for the invitation to take part in your consultations on bilateral and trilateral trade in North America.

The Business Council of Canada represents chief executives and entrepreneurs in more than 150 leading Canadian companies in all sectors and regions of the country. Our member companies employ 1.7 million citizens, account for more than half the value of the Toronto Stock Exchange, contribute the largest share of federal corporate taxes, and are responsible for most of Canada's exports, corporate philanthropy, and private sector investments in research and development.

The prospect of a new round of NAFTA negotiations presents both a risk and an opportunity for Canada. Our country's economic health depends heavily on the ease with which goods, people, and investment move back and forth across the Canada–U.S. border. In the words of Stephen Schwarzman, chairman of President Donald Trump's strategic and policy forum, “the U.S. and Canada [trade relationship] is really very much in balance and is a model for the way that trade relations should be.”

I'd like to organize my thoughts under three key principles.

Our first principle for the Canada-U.S. relationship, and the NAFTA negotiations in particular, is to do no harm. Canada must protect the framework of rights, benefits, and privileges that our companies and citizens currently enjoy under NAFTA. It's also imperative that any agreement be based upon reciprocal access and treatment.

There's speculation that U.S. negotiators will attempt to rewrite NAFTA's rules of origin for goods. While it's unclear what they want in this regard, the unintended consequences could be quite dire. We support the modernization of outdated NAFTA tracing systems. We support the application of dispute settlement provisions. We do not support country specific rules of origin.

With respect to dispute settlement, the TPP offers a useful model for improving NAFTA in this regard. However, disputes related to NAFTA provisions must not be decided by domestic courts. This was a deal breaker for NAFTA in the original negotiations, and it should remain our position today. While doing no harm is our first principle, achieving only this would be a missed opportunity.

Our second principle is to modernize NAFTA and its predecessor, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement. They were negotiated in a different era. Opportunities to build upon NAFTA exist in many areas, including intellectual property, e-commerce, state-owned enterprises, competition, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, telecom, customs, labour, environment, procurement, and regulatory co-operation. Again, TPP offers a helpful template in many of these areas.

Labour mobility and customs procedures are two areas, in particular, where NAFTA is clearly outdated. For example, the list of eligible positions that was negotiated under NAFTA almost a quarter of a century ago didn't contemplate today's digital economy. Similarly, in today's world it's incredible that some of our customs procedures are paper based.

Modernizing NAFTA to reflect current business practices and to anticipate future needs would benefit all parties to the treaty.

Together, the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and NAFTA lay the groundwork for a mutually beneficial energy relationship, and this is an opportune moment to strengthen that.

The Trump administration's approval of the long delayed Keystone XL pipeline is a reminder that our governments have work to do to streamline the permitting process for cross-border energy infrastructure. In renewing NAFTA, we should strive to improve energy security, promote greater co-operation on technology, and expand access to a low-carbon energy solution. Doing so would significantly bolster the competitive opportunities of North America.

Our final principle is that we should go further. Infrastructure and government procurement are important areas in which Canada and the United States should work together. Each country has pressing domestic demands and limited public resources. A U.S.-Canada infrastructure pact could generate a common template for structuring P3 projects, including a recommitment to the principle of non-discrimination against U.S. content in Canada and discrimination against Canadian content in U.S. products. To the extent possible, such a pact could extend to state and provincial governments.

Regulatory co-operation is also an area where progress could mean substantive savings for Canadian and U.S. consumers. We recommend that the two governments establish, as a permanent entity, the existing regulatory co-operation council or a version thereof. This council should work closely with industry to ensure that the council has a mandate of harmonization. The approach should be to harmonize regulations, except in cases where authorities convincingly demonstrate that doing so poses a risk to health and safety. The Business Council of Canada stands ready to work with the government and with committee members to support the coming negotiations.

With that I conclude my remarks. Thank you for the opportunity.

3:25 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you.

We're going to move now to the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance.

3:25 p.m.

Daniel Ujczo International Trade Attorney, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you, honourable members of the committee.

I'm Dan Ujczo, an international trade and customs attorney with the law firm Dickinson Wright PLLC. I'm appearing on behalf of the Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance.

As many of you know, Can/Am BTA is an organization of the leading infrastructure operators and logistics providers in the major U.S. and Canadian companies that move goods and services across the Canada-U.S. border. Can/Am BTA will be celebrating its silver jubilee next week here in Ottawa. Jim Phillips, its long-standing founder and CEO, sends his best regards in a typical Jim fashion. He looks forward to seeing you next week at his conference.

By way of background, Dickinson Wright is a law firm that was founded in Detroit in the 1870s. It has since expanded to 17 offices located throughout the United States and Canada, and our offices here in Ontario date back nearly to Confederation. We are a bi-national law firm. We represent many of the leading Canada-U.S. companies, and we do so on the ground in the U.S. Midwest, Southeast, and Southwest. Issues having to do with Canada-U.S. trade and the North American trading corridors are vital to our operations.

I'll just build on the chairman's opening comment. We are members and supporters of most of the Canada-U.S. business groups, including many of those seated here today. We founded in 2015 the U.S.-Canada S.A.G.E. initiative to coordinate, for the first time, the efforts of all the Canada-U.S. business groups including those sitting here. We came together in beautiful Columbus, Ohio, my home town and the political battleground of Ohio. It's also the home state of LeBron James. We came together for the first-ever U.S.-Canada summit, from which the parties issued the first statement of general principles governing the Canada-U.S. relationship, the Columbus Statement. We have been meeting on a regular basis ever since.

In the coming days, we will launch a NAFTA renovation initiative that will serve as a clearing house of information and intelligence on NAFTA. We will be having a monthly web-based town hall in which the U.S. administration and Congress have agreed to participate. We would like to invite members of this committee, and representatives throughout the Government of Canada, to participate as well.

Last, but not least, prior to the launch of the formal negotiations in the fall, we will be holding a cross-continent advocacy blitz regarding NAFTA. U.S. and Canadian companies will be going throughout the United States and meeting in key congressional districts to produce common communications and messaging. We believe that if all politics is local and all trade is personal, the next 6 to 12 months will require the largest on-the-ground advocacy campaign in local districts that we have seen in several decades.

My overarching theme today is that we cannot let this once-in-a-generation chance to modernize Canada-U.S. and North American relations pass without taking significant steps. I am mindful of the political realities on the ground in the United States. I live and work in the U.S. Midwest. Where I grew up in beautiful Youngstown, Ohio, two things were true. First, although I had heard there was such a thing as a Republican, I had never met one. Second, when I was working in a steel mill, NAFTA wasn't a four-letter word, though it was usually preceded or followed by one. The truth is that NAFTA is nearly a fatally damaged brand. Attempting to tweak the status quo will not work. Voters in places like Ohio and Michigan in the mid-term elections will run to the extremes of either party, creating more political and business uncertainty.

Additionally, I've been engaged in Canada-U.S. relations on the ground for nearly two decades in the U.S. government, the Canadian government, and the private sector. I can tell you that I don't expect we will see another opportunity like this in our lifetime. In the U.S., we have shiny-ball syndrome, so when the attention is on an issue it's time to act.

Last, but not least, we can't assume that the status quo will continue. The U.S. is doing much more on trade than with NAFTA alone, including something called particular market-scenario situations, where the U.S. is looking at China and its proxies and going after those with trade enforcement measures. Now is the time to stitch together preferential access.

In that vein, I offer a three-point strategy, all surrounding the letter E.

First, we need to show that the Canada-U.S. trading relationship is the example of what a 21st century trading agreement looks like. We applaud the Prime Minister's successful visit with President Trump, and we've hosted a number of the ministers and Team Canada. We have stretched across political parties and levels of government to come into the United States. Now is the time for the next set of messengers and messages. There are at least five consultation periods going on, on various trade issues. It's time to get the Canadian views and U.S.-Canadian companies to participate in this effort and give real-world examples of these issues.

We also support one of the lessons, which is that we need to embed—the second E—the progress we've made on issues like border management. We learned over the decade of border thickening that if the border doesn't work, NAFTA doesn't matter. Can/Am BTA and a number of folks, including those sitting on this panel, did a lot of work on the border, in admittedly a more hostile and inward-looking United States following 9/11. The best thing Canada can do at this point is to pass pre-clearance legislation and also embed the regulatory cooperation council. We believe that is the next phase of international trade. To the extent that Canada and the United States can establish that and make it work—and we're probably the only two countries of our size in the world that can make that work—it will give us a competitive advantage vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

With that, I'll yield my time. Thank you.

3:30 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, sir.

Now we're going to move over to the Canadian American Business Council.

Go ahead.

3:30 p.m.

Maryscott Greenwood Chief Executive Officer, Canadian American Business Council

Good afternoon, everyone.

I am very pleased to be here with you today.

Mr. Chairman, members of the committee, thank you very much for the invitation to appear before you on behalf of the members of the Canadian American Business Council.

We didn't coordinate it, but this is a perfect tee up to what I'm about to suggest to you today. It's certainly an interesting time to be focused on Canada-U.S. policy matters, more broadly on the common ground and uncommon friendship that we have long shared, a hallmark of an enduring, affectionate, productive relationship between Canada and the United States. Mr. Chairman, I'm delighted to know that you're travelling the country with the committee and getting outside of the swamp where I live. I'm a swamp dweller, if you will, and I'm glad that you're seeing the real America and taking the story of our integrated economy to the United States. That's very important to do.

For those of you who are not completely familiar with the Canadian American Business Council, please allow me just a moment to describe our organization, and then I'll go into our specific policy recommendations for you to consider.

We are 30 years old, a non-profit, non-partisan, issues-oriented organization dedicated to delving into the issues that affect businesses and citizens in Canada and the United States. Our aim is to maximize competitiveness for companies large and small on both sides of the border as we face challenges in the global economy. Our members are key business leaders and stakeholders, who range from entrepreneurs and small businesses to some of the biggest brand names on the planet. Collectively, CABC members employ about two million people and have annual revenues of close to $1.5 trillion. All four witnesses here share some common members, and then we have some unique members.

For the past three decades the CABC has nurtured, cultivated, and celebrated a uniquely close Canada-U.S. relationship, bringing our message to critical stakeholders on both sides of the border, Capitol Hill, Parliament Hill, and beyond. Notwithstanding the periodic strains in our trade and commercial relationships, there remain countless areas of goodwill and co-operation between our two countries that we'd both be wise to capitalize upon. One is staring us right in the face at the moment. It was alluded to, and I'm going to go into it more deeply. Despite recent tensions over dairy and softwood lumber in the North American Free Trade Agreement, President Trump's executive order of February 24 of this year, entitled “Enforcing the Regulatory Reform Agenda”, is aimed at streamlining federal regulations. That executive order directed U.S. agencies to create task forces to identify regulations that eliminate jobs, are outdated or are too costly. That's not all it does. It also provides a perfect opening to accelerate and enhance a long-standing bilateral project known as the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council, which is also working to streamline regulations on both sides of the border.

Bilateral regulatory co-operation may not be as enthralling as Russian spies or border walls, but it is critical to businesses on both sides of the border. Regulatory harmonization will also have a direct impact on your constituents, all of whom are consumers and some of whom own businesses that spend far too much money every single year dealing with red tape that is the result of regulatory disharmony. For a president who's eager for some wins, this is a golden opportunity for Canada, and it has a win-win potential for both governments.

In the sectors of agribusiness, energy products, medical devices, medicines, and especially consumer products, there are an array of conflicting regulations that make it difficult to do business on both sides of the 49th parallel. In some cases those regulations even impede a consumer's ability to buy the goods that they want to buy or obtain the medications that they want or need if they are suffering from certain illnesses or conditions. Some cosmetic products in the United States, for example, aren't available in Canada. Some medications that are sold over the counter in the United States are still prescription-only in Canada, and vice versa, causing headaches for companies trying to market their products in both countries. There are also differing recall mechanisms for medical devices on either side of the border, and imposing regulations, for example, on a drug that helps people with Parkinson's syndrome, and the list goes on and on.

Meat producers in both countries deal with an antiquated, old headache involving the requirement that an actual veterinarian certificate be manually placed on a certain outward-facing spot in every case of exported or imported meat, even though the information is more easily available via other methods. It's an example of a costly and dubious regulatory requirement that also prevents producers from fully embracing automation, such as high-tech shipping methods. There are plenty of redundant and expensive regulations just like it on both sides of the border.

Why not leverage President Trump's interest in cutting red tape and creating regulatory harmony for the benefit of the bilateral economy? This doesn't have to wait for NAFTA renegotiation or WTO trade actions. It is something that is ready to go right now, today. Canadian and American officials have been working together on this since 2011, as many members of this committee know well. As the great Canadian Gary Doer would say, it's time to “put the puck in the net”. The CABC has also been on the front lines of this issue working hard to ensure that the concerns and suggestions about regulatory harmony, from stakeholders on both sides of the border, are being heard.

In the midst of fears about President Trump's NAFTA intentions, now is the time to work even harder on the Canada-U.S. relationship and to focus on the issues that are not contentious. Regulatory harmony is a critical piece in that strategy, and success there could well ease tensions everywhere.

Now is not the time to cave—like the Toronto Maple Leafs did to the Washington Capitals earlier. Now is the time to focus on the positive and keep our eye on the prize. Remember, as always, that every long-term relationship has its chilly periods. The trick is looking for the bright spots—and here we believe that regulatory harmony could be one—and the shared goals and common ground that ensure the Canada-U.S. relationship remains as vital and robust as always.

With that, thank you for having us today, and because it is today, I have to end with “May the 4th be with you”.

3:35 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you. What a great presentation.

Now we're going to the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association. Mr. Nantais, it's great to see you again. You're a great contributor to our committee. You always bring a vast wealth of information for us. Thank you for coming again and giving us your perspective.

You have the floor, sir.

3:40 p.m.

Mark Nantais President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association

Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

Good afternoon, honourable members. It is indeed a pleasure to be back, and I'm very grateful for the opportunity to appear before you again today.

As you know, I'm here and pleased to represent our member companies, Fiat Chrysler, Ford, and General Motors, who are among the largest multi-national companies in the world. Together they're responsible for approximately 60% of all annual production in Canada and for roughly a century of high-value paying jobs in Canada. The sector accounts for 140,000 direct jobs and about 500,000 direct and indirect jobs right across the country. In 2016, vehicles were in fact the top Canadian export, valued at $64 billion, 95% of which were exported to the United States.

Recently, all three CVMA member companies have collectively announced billions of dollars of new investment in Canada. Additionally, they have made exciting investment announcements in innovative research and engineering related to artificial intelligence and connected and autonomous vehicles, right here in Canada. They're contributing to the future landscape of our industry, if you will. This will harness our highly skilled workforce and capitalize on our world-class research and development capacities.

Let me turn to NAFTA and the reason it has been so important to our industry and the economies of its three participating countries.

Since the Auto Pact of 1965, Canada's auto industry and its supply chains have become deeply integrated with those of the United States and, over time, of Mexico. We build vehicles seamlessly on both sides of the border, and the resulting deep integration has led to a more competitive auto industry and greater consumer choice of vehicles that are more affordable.

The NAFTA, which followed, has been the foundation for a strong, globally competitive trading bloc. The geographic proximity of the three NAFTA partners facilitates the multi-billion dollar parts sector and the just-in-time supply chains critical to our vehicle assembly plants in operation. It also creates inherent transportation and supply chain logistical cost advantages.

Autos account for 20% of total NAFTA trade; that is, about $230 billion. Since Canadian vehicles assembled have slightly higher content, in terms of parts and materials, from U.S. than from Canadian sources, any disruption of the integrated supply chain will impact U.S. auto companies and suppliers' jobs as much as, if not more than, our own.

Much has changed in the global and North American market since NAFTA was first negotiated. The CVMA believes there is an opportunity to modernize NAFTA, which brings into sharp focus the need to ensure that Canada capitalizes on opportunities and also protects what is essential to the long-term health and global competitiveness of the auto industry and the economy overall.

In the auto sector, NAFTA duty-free access and the associated 62.5% minimum content requirement is really the highest of possibly any trade agreement in the world that I know of. It promotes the free trade and flow of vehicles and parts across the borders of the three NAFTA partners. Any changes to the duty-free access and content rules will disrupt the highly integrated supply chains and reduce the massive benefits, undermining the global competitiveness of that integrated automotive industry we talk about.

The CVMA recommends leveraging the existing deep integration of the auto sector to drive additional economic growth for Canada. This may be accomplished by the following means.

Free trade agreement rules of origin must fully consider our strong historical and ongoing reliance on deeply integrated supply chains. This will continue, going forward, as companies rely on existing manufacturing footprints and sources of inputs.

Strong and enforceable currency manipulation disciplines should be added. While the U.S., Canada, and Mexico have not manipulated their currencies, the inclusion of strong and enforcement currency manipulation disciplines in NAFTA would set an important precedent and establish a platform for collaboration, in distinction to other countries that use currency manipulation to benefit their economies and protect their domestic industries.

We've heard several of the panels today talk about regulatory co-operation. This is absolutely critical as we move forward.

Alignment of and recognition of vehicle technical and safety standards ensures that Canadian consumers have access to the safest, cleanest cars in the world at the most competitive prices. Vehicles assembled in one jurisdiction need to be available for export and sale in another without regulatory constraint. Recognition of vehicle safety and technical standards will need to be an accepted component of any trade agreements to support global competitiveness in any trade agreement Canada chooses to pursue moving forward.

Streamlining customs procedures by reducing the unnecessarily burdensome and redundant reporting requirements in Canada that others have spoken about would increase border efficiency, make exports more competitive, enhance border security, and facilitate the legitimate trade that NAFTA seeks to achieve.

Finally, the CVMA recommends that border infrastructure be improved. Improving ports and border crossing facilities will help prevent inefficiencies and bottlenecks, and improve the competitiveness of Canadian exports.

In closing, the CVMA encourages the Canadian government to work with its U.S. counterparts to ensure that any changes with regard to auto trade rules help all partners grow economic activity, create more jobs, and avoid any further regulatory complexity. More regulation will only hurt employment and employment mobility, as well as increase costs for consumers.

Getting a modernized NAFTA right will have implications for future trade agreements, such as the TPP, without the continued participation perhaps of the United States, and a potential trade agreement with China. We want a focus on continued strong integration with our partners in NAFTA to support Canada's competitiveness at the global level.

Mr. Chair, I will conclude on that point, and I would certainly be pleased to answer any questions that members may have. Thank you.

3:45 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, sir.

Thank you, everyone, for those presentations.

The committee might see a group of students come in here. As you know, this is the most exciting committee, and I heard they might be dropping by, so be on your best behaviour and we'll be doing all right.

Without further ado, we'll start the dialogue with the MPs. We have the Conservatives up first for five minutes.

Mr. Van Kesteren, go ahead, sir.

3:45 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for being here. Welcome to our American friends. It's good to see you again. It's the first time I think we've met Daniel, but I appreciated your testimony earlier.

I want to go first to Mark, then I'm going to skip over to you quickly, Daniel, because I have a question.

Mark, I was listening to some of the things you were saying, and you're spot on. I remember, having been on the industry and finance committees, we had you many times before and you've always given us great direction as to where we should be going—on harmonization, the lessening of red tape, lower taxes, the thinning of the border, and the investments. We've made a number of investments in the centres of excellence in Ford Motors, and of course, the bailout in 2009 proved to be a great thing to do. We need to have those Detroit three strong again, and they're moving in the right direction.

Daniel, you mentioned the thickening of the border. One of the things we recognized as a Conservative government when we were in power was that we had to make the busiest crossing in the world flow more easily; hence, the Gordie Howe bridge, which no one thought would ever happen, is becoming a reality. But I'm concerned about the American side. I wonder if you could tell the committee if you're seeing any problems starting to crop up to get that task completed as far as the obligation on the American side is concerned.

3:45 p.m.

International Trade Attorney, Dickinson Wright PLLC, Canadian/American Border Trade Alliance

Daniel Ujczo

Thank you for the question.

It seems as if the Gordie Howe bridge—“the bridge” as we call it in Detroit-Windsor, both in my days of working in the Canadian government and then coming back to the dark side of private law practice—is just a never-ending issue, but it is moving forward. There's no question about that. Certainly on the U.S. side, and in particular Governor Snyder of Michigan and his team, are committed to moving the project forward.

But there are the standard issues that we face on the U.S. side whenever there is a development of that size and scope: local issues of zoning, acquisition of property, those types of issues. I think those who are on record as supporting it have not wavered. There continues to be public support. All facts on the ground indicate that, and they're moving forward.

The current owner of the Ambassador Bridge certainly is moving forward with his objectives as well. That's part of what a free market is all about in some cases. The view on the ground is that things are moving as originally planned. I think there has been a little delay on some of the RFQs. It's a complicated project. I do a great deal of P3 work. We do a lot in our firm on municipal financing and P3s, and it's a very tricky project. There's no question about it.

That corridor itself is very tricky, just in terms of the geography and other types of issues. Again, from an on the ground perspective, I think everything is moving according to plan.

3:45 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Maryscott, did you want to add to that?

3:45 p.m.

Chief Executive Officer, Canadian American Business Council

Maryscott Greenwood

Mr. Chairman, if I might jump in for a moment on the politics of border policy, it's important to remember that the President and this Congress were elected on a “build the wall” chant that continues at every rally and every turn. I agree completely that it's enormously important for our border to work well for legitimate commerce and to be secure against threats.

I would just caution on the use of vocabulary. I've been saying this for many years, and apparently to no avail. When Canadians say “border thickening” to each other, people understand that's a bad thing. To American ears and to an administration that's trying to physically build a wall on a border, the border is the last line of defence. I agree that it needs to be efficient, but I think it would be useful, just from the point of view of vocabulary, to think about a smarter, more secure border, one that's more efficient, and not thick versus thin. A thin border sounds like an insecure border to American ears.

The politics of advocating for that, even if that's not what you're suggesting.... You're not suggesting that there be a less secure border, but quite the contrary. Anyway, it's the thick-thin words that I take issue with, but nothing else.

3:50 p.m.


Dave Van Kesteren Conservative Chatham-Kent—Leamington, ON

Mark, do you want to just jump in on that?

I apologize, as I was going to talk to you about some other things.

3:50 p.m.

President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association

Mark Nantais

The border issue is exactly as Maryscott says. Language, how we say it, does make a difference. Smart, efficient, productive borders are things that we pursue in our discussions with the U.S.

There is still room.... I mean, we talked about the regulatory cooperation council. The other half of that piece was the Beyond the Border initiative. The Beyond the Border initiative is equally important. Not only should we be talking about efficient and smart borders, but we also need to talk about what comes with that.

Certainly in our industry, where we move not just parts and components across the border every single day as many as six or seven times, but we also move people, labour mobility is key. We will bring in, for instance, some experts to do emergency work on a line. If we have a line that's shut down, that's $1.5 million an hour in lost revenues. Sometimes they can't get across because they don't have a letter saying what their university credentials were in simple terms.

Nothing could be worse than that. The lists of the jobs that qualify for that movement back and forth across the border under NAFTA needs to be updated. It needs to be updated in any case. We also need to update the procedures around that to make it more flexible and timely, because the two-week turnaround time for an approval is unacceptable in our industry.

3:50 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, sir.

We were a little over time there. I caution my colleagues to be careful with your quick questions in the last 15 or 20 seconds. But that was a good question and a good answer.

We're going to move on to the Liberals, five minutes.

Madame Lapointe, you have the floor.

3:50 p.m.


Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Good afternoon to the witnesses. Thank you for being here with us today.

Ms. van Vugt and Mr. Nantais, you spoke about infrastructure at the borders, pipelines and ports. What should we add to improve the transport of merchandise between our two countries?

3:50 p.m.

Vice-President, North America, Business Council of Canada

Andrea van Vugt

I think that the experience we went through with the Gordie Howe international bridge, securing the financing and going through the regulatory process, underlines the need for some sort of an understanding between Canada and the United States on building infrastructure. We need a way to identify funds quickly to ensure a responsible and expeditious process through the approval of those infrastructure projects. It's through those infrastructure projects and those investments that you'll be able to move people and goods quickly, which contributes to the competitiveness of our region.

Also, along the lines of border security, anything we can do to make the border more secure, to focus on those people who are not a threat to the security of our country, enables the resources that we do have at the border—which are limited on both sides—to focus on those people who would be a threat. Former Secretary Alan Bersin used to say that if you reduce the size of the haystack, you can find the needle.

Anything that our two governments can do to make the border more secure will also make the border more efficient, which I'm sure would help Mark's members get their products more quickly to market.

3:50 p.m.


Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Nantais, you spoke about labour mobility. I don't know if you had the opportunity of studying the CETA accord that was negotiated with Europe. You spoke about the recognition of credentials and diplomas. Is that what you were referring to?

3:50 p.m.

President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association

Mark Nantais

That is indeed it. We're very much aware of CETA and something that we supported. Why? Because when it was negotiated, it recognized the integration of our industry. It set down placeholders, if you will, for the accumulation of content that goes into our vehicles vis-à-vis NAFTA.

That was also premised on the U.S.-EU proceeding with an agreement—which is not the case at the moment, or at least it's in hiatus—but it recognized the integration of our industry and put down placeholders, and said we will put down quotas until such time as we are able to formally include that in a U.S.-EU agreement.

That allows us to still build vehicles and send them to the EU—in limited numbers, of course. How we allocate those numbers and the methodologies that go behind establishing those numbers must be flexible. They must respond to market conditions and so forth. But it recognized the integration of our industry. It recognized essentially the integration, in a broader sense, with NAFTA, and that is what's so critical.

That's one thing that from a Canadian perspective we've not done very well so far. We're always out there, particularly in a bilateral. We've got to get the deal on the bilateral basis, when in fact we should be looking at any new agreement through the lens of what it means economically for our country. What does it mean for our jobs? What does it mean for the products we produce? It should not be at the expense of what we build or the jobs we have here, but in a way that promotes them and expands or increases the levels of employment and investment in this country.

3:55 p.m.


Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

You also referred to ports, with regard to infrastructure. Were you thinking of imports and exports? Would you include the east and west of the country?

3:55 p.m.

President, Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association

Mark Nantais

Yes. Absolutely. One thing in our industry, and I'm sorry to be rather focused on my industry, is that if we're going to export vehicles, we pretty much have to batch them together and send them through the United States, outbound from U.S.-based ports. We have capacities, primarily inbound capacities on our east and west coasts, and the rail service generally supports them, but on the outbound it's a different story.

I'm not sure we're competitive in that sense. I'm not sure the capacities on the outbound side are sufficient at this point in time. As we get new agreements to export our products more broadly across the globe, then we should also be able to export them through our country, through our own ports, which are competitively priced with ports in the United States. Again, we're integrated, so we will go out of Baltimore, for instance, to European markets.

3:55 p.m.


Linda Lapointe Liberal Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Thank you.

I only have a little bit of time left. I would have a question for Ms. Greenwood.

3:55 p.m.


The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

No, sorry. We have to move on to the NDP. Maybe you'll have a chance later on to get your question in.

The NDP has the floor now for five minutes, Ms. Ramsey.

3:55 p.m.


Tracey Ramsey NDP Essex, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair. Thank you so much to all of you for being here today and presenting. My riding is Essex, down on the border in southwestern Ontario, and I think those of us who represent border ridings in Canada feel more keenly the response to what's being said in the U.S. Certainly, there has been some strong language recently that really has impacted our particular region.

Of course, we have a lot of challenges at the border—you've identified some of those—that need to be fixed and repaired before we have the new bridge crossing. We need to address these issues at our border, because I can tell you that every week I have people contacting me in my riding. They have issues with labour mobility going across that border. They have issues bringing goods across that border. They lose goods. I have fish plants that sometimes cannot get their goods across into the U.S. We understand how integrated that chain is. Twenty-three years on from NAFTA, we feel that very strongly.

My question really is around the executive order on Buy American and Hire American. We responded very viscerally to this in our region, as most Canadians did. I'd like to ask Mark what this means for these very integrated chains in auto, and I'd like to ask the rest of you, too, what you think Canada's response should be.

Mark, when those chains are so deeply integrated, if a policy like this becomes implemented in the States, how will that impact the auto sector here in Canada?