Evidence of meeting #85 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 ukraine.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Excellency Volodymyr Groysman  Prime Minister of Ukraine, Parliament of Ukraine (Verkhovna Rada)

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, Prime Minister.

We're going to move over to the Conservatives now.

Mr. Carrie.

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Colin Carrie Conservative Oshawa, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

First of all, Prime Minister, it's wonderful to have you here.

I'm proud to come from Oshawa, which is the home of the first Ukrainian Canadian cabinet minister, Michael Starr. We have a very active Ukrainian community.

I want to ask you about some of the sectors we have in common. We had the pleasure of visiting your country with former Prime Minister Harper a couple of years ago. I was really impressed with the opportunities we saw in the oil and gas sector, the aviation sector, defence, and industrial co-operation.

My question delves a little bit further into what some of my colleagues said. We have this visa regime and perhaps we could improve it to have a visa-free regime. What industrial sectors do you see as offering the greatest opportunities for co-operation between Canada and Ukraine?

12:40 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

Indeed, we have actually seen growth in all sectors of the national economy. We believe we can achieve good numbers in the development of agriculture and business. There's serious room for growth, including growth in the processing of agricultural products. If you look at the structure of our exports, you can see that we are global leaders in certain positions of agricultural expertise. For example, we are the number one exporter of sunflower seeds globally, but we still lack state-of-the-art technology in agriculture. Here, there's room to improve our GDP contribution.

Also, there's an energy strategy. We plan to develop alternative energy before 2035. We want to increase the share of alternative energy by 10 times. Our goal is also to achieve, by 2020, full coverage of our heating and housing needs with domestically produced natural gas. We have already started to increase domestic production. We expect that this year it will grow by 600 million or 700 million cubic metres, so there's another opportunity for co-operation. I should also mention hydroelectrical energy and the development of national nuclear energy. Here, again, there's great potential.

I should mention aerospace. We have opportunities for co-operation between our countries, and tomorrow in Montreal, we will attend the aerospace forum between our countries. We will sign relevant agreements. There's also construction development, light industry, and machine building. These are all areas in which we need investment, and which have huge potential for growth.

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Thanks for the good question, Mr. Carrie.

Mr. Dhaliwal.

October 31st, 2017 / 12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Liberal Surrey—Newton, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Prime Minister, Vice Prime Minister, and Ambassador, welcome.

Recently, Canada passed the Magnitsky legislation. How many Ukrainians have been illegally abducted by Russia from Crimea to face show trials? Would sanctions against the prosecutors and judges in these show trials be effective?

12:40 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

First of all, I want to thank you for the recent approval of the Magnitsky law by your Parliament. This is a very good contribution to support the fight for human rights.

When we speak about the demand for the respect of human rights, and the violations in Crimea, we see political prisoners and prisoners who were illegally abducted by Russia. In some cases we have managed to achieve their release. Recently, two Crimean Tatar leaders were released through international efforts, but the problem is that Russia doesn't respect human rights.

Russia has started oppressing Ukrainian citizens for having Ukrainian passports and for self-identify as belonging to the Ukrainian nation. They have experienced religious persecution, and these are all challenges for us. Therefore, we have seen dozens and hundreds of cases of people being held in custody illegally and only singular cases of people being released.

Of course, the law that you passed provides an opportunity to punish specific individuals for specific violations, and that's a very substantial contribution.

Thank you very much.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Mr. Yurdiga, go ahead, sir.

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

David Yurdiga Conservative Fort McMurray—Cold Lake, AB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I would like to welcome to our very special guests and friends from Ukraine.

I would like to focus on the economy of Ukraine. It's a concern for everyone, as our economy and your economy are somewhat intertwined. How has Ukraine's economy been affected by the conflict in Crimea and Donbass, and what more can Canada do from an investment perspective?

12:45 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

We lost almost a fifth of our economy because the Russians invaded our territory and illegally seized the assets of our country, including the natural resources. That was a huge challenge. Also, they ignored all international norms. They imposed limitations on the movement of Ukrainian goods, including the transit of Ukrainian commodities through Russia. It was an unprecedented pressure, but we also viewed the pressure as an opportunity. We've had to retarget the national economy to other markets. Doing that gave us an impetus to introduce new technology. For decades, Russia was holding us at bay in terms of stagnation. They prevented Ukraine by various means from developing technological breakthroughs.

Now I want to stress that we have economic growth. As I said, this year it will stand at 2.2%. Next year it will be more than 3%, but we believe economic growth of 5% to 7% is absolutely a realistic goal, because we see huge potential for the participation of Canadian business in our privatization. We have 3,500 state-owned enterprises. That's the inheritance from an inefficient past.

We have now registered a bill that will regulate privatization according to the best international standards. After the bill is passed into law, it will provide wonderful opportunities for investment. There are very many areas, from land to space, that can bring good profits for investors.

Last month we returned to the international lending market. We placed our bonds, amounting to $3.5 billion, so now we see the re-emergence of foreign investors' interest in Ukraine, but we need to move forward and we need to become a country of high standards.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, sir, for the question.

Thank you, Prime Minister, for the answer.

We're going to move over now to the NDP.

Mr. Garrison, you have the floor.

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

I also welcome the Prime Minister here. I'm hoping we can use the frequent contacts we've had recently to build closer relations between our parliaments as institutions, as well as government-to-government relationships. I echo my colleagues' comments that we would certainly urge Canada to get on with instituting visa-free access for Ukraine as a complement to our free trade agreement.

As a member of the defence committee, I was privileged to visit Ukraine last month and to see some of the challenges Ukraine faces in trying to reform while facing ongoing Russian aggression. We saw Canadian involvement in military reform, police reform, and other areas. My understanding is that most of those technical agreements expire early next year, and I wonder whether talks have begun or whether you've had any signals from the Canadian government about the importance of continuing those technical assistance programs for reform in areas such policing, corruption, and the military.

12:50 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

It is very important for us to continue and to deepen our co-operation in technical missions. Indeed, in the course of a policy review for subsequent periods, we are really interested in ensuring that Ukraine has a proper place, and that the things we do in Ukraine are unprecedented. I cannot imagine another country that faces so many structural changes, in areas such as justice, decentralization, education, health care, pensions, national police, national security and defence, energy, and so on.

All these things naturally require experience and technical support. Because we face economic problems that were left unresolved for decades, they became chronic problems, so now, as we look into these problems, they need rapid but weighted professional actions to change Ukraine.

I insist that today we have reached a stage where we can, by means of new changes and transformations, turn into one of the most dynamic economies of Europe. It's an absolutely obvious fact, and such instruments as public privatization, weighted circulation of lands, openness of economy, smart regulations, and the improvement of our energy capacities will provide us with an opportunity to ensure sustainable economic growth.

Today, many business people look for start-ups for other investment opportunities, and Ukraine is exactly the sort of start-up that can bring success to investors. We now see thousands of international companies operating in Ukraine, and not all of them have an easy time because business is never easy. However, it's obvious that these companies are achieving their goals.

We have high intellectual capacity in Ukraine, and we have natural resources. This combination gives us an opportunity to succeed. Your technical assistance will improve our competence, because today we are developing our own institutional strength. We already accumulated our own experience in recent years. We understand that we are a young democracy, a young state, but we face unprecedented challenges, and therefore, we have to move quickly. It's an honour for us to move quickly with you.

Thank you.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

We'll move now to the Liberals.

Ms. Ludwig, go ahead, please.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Ludwig Liberal New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Thank you, Chair.

Thank you, your Excellencies. I'm very pleased to be collaborating with you and also learning from your experiences.

Mr. Prime Minister, could you speak to the opportunities in terms of scaling up for exports, opening your economy to opportunities for innovation and infrastructure, and what those opportunities may be for Canadian professionals to support you and work with you on the investment side?

12:50 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

Thank you very much.

Indeed, in order to develop our national economy, it is very important to modernize infrastructure. In recent years we have launched a serious modernization of our country and an overhaul of all life-support systems.

We have unique ports. We have started a modernization of the Ukrainian railways. We have started the rebirth and renewal of Ukrainian roads. We are developing other sorts of infrastructure also, to improve our export and import capacities.

As far as innovations are concerned, this topic is on the agenda because Ukraine is a highly innovative country. You can see that in many innovative projects in the world there are Ukrainian components. Ukrainian experts are known worldwide. I know in particular that in IT there is a lot of co-operation between Canadian and Ukrainian businesses. Ukrainian IT experts co-operate with Canadian business people.

Just yesterday, I met a family of Canadian business people who employ 1,000 Ukrainian programmers and software developers, so the context is already there.

If we sign an agreement on free trade in services, we can move on to an agreement on co-operation in IT, to offer our joint products. Also, it is very important for us to upgrade our transportation capacity based on the newest technology.

We also work to protect copyright and to ensure trust in the Ukrainian economy. We also need to improve the efficiency of the management of our national sciences. The science sphere is still unreformed. We invest quite serious money into science, but we could obtain much more. We are working on that, and next year we are going to create a foundation to support innovation in Ukraine.

We will also discuss this topic at the National Council of Ukraine on the Development of Science and Technology, at which we will be looking to create systems that will lead to innovation-based products from Ukraine. Innovation is very important for us in all areas, in particular with the innovations being implemented in agriculture.

Thank you.

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Thank you, Ms. Ludwig.

I think we might have time for a couple more quick questions.

Mr. Diotte, you have the floor.

12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Kerry Diotte Conservative Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Prime Minister, I think Canadians are all struck by the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Congratulations on that.

I'm wondering what you expect next in terms of Russian aggression, and also whether you hold out any hope of getting that territory back some day.

12:55 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

We have no option but to return the temporarily occupied territory. It's about values.

I believe that now there is a fight between two worlds. It's not about a local conflict in Ukraine. First they insisted that it was a domestic conflict, but there is not, and never has been, a domestic conflict in Ukraine. It's a matter of conflict of two worlds—the democratic world that is based on values and respect and another world that is not related to democracy in any way. Unfortunately, the divide between these two worlds is on our eastern border. We protect the western world's values. When we said that we wanted to be a democratic nation and that we wanted to integrate into the west, then the Russians unleashed their military operations to hold Ukraine. I'm certain that in the post-Soviet space, Ukraine will be a successful example of transformation despite all the tragedies that have happened in our history.

I can hardly forecast Russia's future steps, but I believe that the answer to this question is related to the efficiency of reaction of the democratic world to protect its democratic values. Imagine today, for example, had the Ukrainian army not been so heroic, what the limits of Russian aggression might have been. We realize that today it is very important to consolidate the world, and that here and in many parts of the world, there are thoughts that the sanctions against the aggressor should be lifted. But don't we think, dear friends, that this means selling out on our values, values for which we should fight, and the values for which the previous generations fought?

It's really hard to predict Russia's actions, but we need to act ourselves. We should fight. We should push. We should make the Russian leadership respect international law and sovereignty and borders. All these things should mean our victory. I don't remember who said that the aggressor acts until the aggressor believes the price is intolerable. This price should be unbearable for them.

I want to stress once again that your leadership is very obvious. It is value-based and we respect your leadership. We gladly welcome Canadian global leadership.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

Thank you, Prime Minister.

Thank you for that question. It was a very short question, but it had a big answer, and we're past our time.

I'm going to pass the chair over to my esteemed colleague, the chair of the defence committee, and he'll have closing remarks.

Go ahead, sir.

1 p.m.

Liberal

Stephen Fuhr Liberal Kelowna—Lake Country, BC

Gentlemen, thank you for coming. Ukrainian success is important to the committees represented here, to Canadians, and to Canada in general.

As you know, the defence committee was in Ukraine about a month ago, and we will be tabling a report in the House of Commons in the coming weeks. I fully suspect that our recommendations to the Government of Canada will probably spill outside of our normal defence portfolio given what we've heard here today and what we heard in Ukraine. We look forward to that and to providing some constructive recommendations to the Government of Canada to help you get to where you need to be.

Thank you very much for appearing today. If you would join us for photos outside, we would appreciate that. Thanks.

1 p.m.

H.E. Volodymyr Groysman

Thank you very much.

1 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Mark Eyking

The meeting is adjourned.