I call the meeting to order.
This is meeting number 36 of the Standing Committee on International Trade.
This meeting is being held pursuant to the order of reference of January 25, 2021, and the order of reference sent to the committee on March 10, 2021.
The committee is resuming its study of Bill , an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act with regard to supply management.
Today we have the pleasure to welcome officials from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and from Global Affairs Canada.
From the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food, we have Marie-Noëlle Desrochers, acting executive director, strategic trade policy division, and Aaron Fowler, chief agriculture negotiator and director general, trade agreements and negotiations.
From the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, we have Doug Forsyth, director general, market access, and Kevin Thompson, executive director, market access and trade remedies law.
You are people who have been before the committee many times, so you're familiar faces to us.
Mr. Forsyth, you have the floor, please.
Thank you, Madam Chair and honourable members. Thank you for the invitation to appear before the Standing Committee on International Trade on its review of Bill .
The bill amends the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act so that the Government of Canada cannot make any commitment in an international treaty that would have the effect of increasing tariff rate quota volumes or reducing over-quota tariff rates for dairy products, poultry or eggs.
The intent of the bill is consistent with the long-standing Government of Canada policy to defend the integrity of Canada's supply management system.
I'd like to share with you some considerations regarding this proposed amendment to the departmental act.
First, by introducing specific policy objectives, proposed amendments would fundamentally change the nature of the departmental act. The act is an organizational statute that sets out, in general terms, the powers, duties and functions of the the and the
It does not prescribe specific policy objectives. This way, the act sets up a framework that provides flexibility to the government of the day to implement its particular foreign, international trade and development policy without having to change the underlying legislation; thus, it accommodates the policy perspectives that different governments may bring to the management of foreign affairs over time.
As an example, in terms of international trade negotiations, paragraph 10.2(c) of the act provides that the is to conduct and manage international negotiations as they relate to Canada. Section 13 of the act elaborates on the specific duties of the Minister of International Trade, which include improving the access of Canadian products and services to external markets through trade negotiations.
Second, specific foreign international trade and development policy objectives, including how to address sectoral interests or specific constituent concerns, are generally established elsewhere. For international trade negotiations, negotiating objectives and how to accommodate specific sectoral interests are set in the negotiating mandates that are approved by cabinet. This allows the government of the day to develop specific policy objectives in response to evolving international circumstances.
Third, Parliament has the final say over the outcome of any international trade negotiations. Parliament ultimately decides whether or not to pass the legislation necessary to implement any free trade agreement. Additionally, moving forward, trade agreements will be subject to even more parliamentary oversight. The updated policy on tabling of treaties strengthens transparency of trade negotiations and provides additional opportunities for members of Parliament to review the objectives and economic merits of new free trade agreements. The new policy includes the tabling of a notice of intent to enter into negotiations towards a new FTA, objectives for negotiations and, finally, an economic impact assessment.
Fourth, amendment of the departmental act in the way in which Bill proposes carries risks. By limiting Canada's ability to engage on these issues, this amendment would invite negotiating partners to narrow the scope of their own potential commitments, taking issues off the table from the outset of negotiations, likely in the areas of commercial interest to Canada. This narrows possible outcomes, precludes certain compromises and makes it harder to reach an agreement.
Addressing the interest of any specific sector in the act would set a precedent that could lead to demands for additional amendments to reflect other foreign and trade policy objectives, including sectoral interests, further constraining the government's ability to negotiate and sign international trade agreements and, more generally, to manage Canada's international relations.
Lastly, maintaining the nature of the departmental act unchanged does not affect the government's policy to defend the integrity of Canada's supply management system, nor the ability of negotiators to defend this position at the negotiating table.
The government has made public commitments not to make further concessions on supply-managed products in future trade negotiations. In fact, Canada has been able to successfully conclude 15 trade agreements that cover 51 countries while preserving Canada's supply management system, including its three pillars: production control, pricing mechanisms and import controls.
Most recently, the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement fully protects Canada's dairy, poultry and egg sectors and provides no new incremental market access for cheese or any other supply-managed product. Where new market access has been provided, specifically and exclusively in the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA; the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP; and the Canada-United States-Mexico Agreement, CUSMA, the access was deemed necessary to include an agreement that was in Canada's interest.
While new access was provided in those agreements, the supply management system and its three pillars were maintained. These outcomes were part of the overall balance of concessions through which Canada maintained preferential market access to the United States and secured new access to the European Union, Japan, Vietnam and other key markets.
In conclusion, while the spirit of Bill is consistent with the government's policy of defending the integrity of Canada's supply management system, amending the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act as proposed by the bill would change its nature and create risks.
Along with my colleagues here today, I welcome your questions. Thank you very much.
Thank you, Mr. Forsyth and other witnesses.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
With different markets and different conditions when you negotiate trade deals, you have to have flexibility and you have to have options in order to be able to achieve agreements. I know that Bill is aiming to somehow further protect supply management or preserve it, as Mr. Forsyth just said, but in the meantime, it carries risk, which Mr. Forsyth also stated in his opening remarks.
What I'm interested in is this. Although we've signed so many trade agreements without having to really jeopardize the supply management system and we have successfully done that throughout its history—and we have so many trade agreements that I don't have to mention it at the moment—the question is, are there any live examples out there that can advise us on what the consequences will be in the long run if Bill is implemented, since we know that we will lose that flexibility and we will be limiting our team of negotiators on the road when they try to achieve trade agreements with countries in the world?
Thank you for the question.
Madam Chair, I will start, and perhaps my colleagues will join in afterwards.
From a trade negotiation perspective, Canada has a long history in negotiating free trade agreements and has been at the forefront of negotiating free trade agreements for the last 25 or 30 years.
I would just note off the top that our supply management system, as you've indicated, has not stopped us or hampered us from concluding any trade agreements, but I think what is certainly possible is that the wording proposed for this bill will give trade negotiating partners pause with respect to wanting to engage with Canada. From a trade negotiator's perspective, when we start a negotiation, we like to start with the full possibility of access in the back of our minds, whether or not that's where we end up. It's rarely the case that you would see 100% access in any free trade agreement, but you like to at least start with that notion in mind.
As you go through a negotiation with your various partners, you find that interests are enunciated, elaborated and narrowed down. You understand what's in the art of the possible, but you like to start as wide as possible when you do launch those negotiations. When you start from a very narrow band of possibilities and then that gets narrowed, the scope of the negotiations and the scope of the agreement is very much smaller than you would have seen otherwise.
If we were to end up with this bill as it is written, I think very much that we would start with a much smaller scope of negotiations with various partners. It wouldn't be unusual for them to say “That's fine. Canada has taken these issues right out of play. We will take issues that are of interest to Canada right out of play.” Then you're talking about negotiating from a smaller pie, as it were.
I'll turn it over to my colleague from AAFC to see if he has anything to add.
Thank you very much. Thank you, Chair.
I would certainly agree with everything Doug has said so far and associate myself with his response.
I believe the question was whether there are examples of similar measures being imposed by some of our trading partners around the world and what the consequences of those might be. I have to say I am not aware of any legislative prohibition on our trading partners' ability to discuss an issue.
Were such a prohibition in place, I feel that depending on the level of commercial interest that Canada had in the matter that was covered by such a prohibition, we would use the exploratory stage of our trade negotiations to indicate that we see this as an important issue that needs to be discussed in the context of the negotiation.
Free trade agreements are really about changing the legislative and regulatory regime that our trading partners have in place in order to create commercial opportunities for Canadian exporters, so I suspect that were our interests sufficiently significant for us to want to discuss that issue in the negotiations, we would make that clear at the exploratory stage and base our decision on whether to move forward in the negotiations on our partners' indication of their capacity to have discussions in that area.
On the specific question of whether there are examples I could point to, I have to say offhand that I can't think of any similar prohibitions that are in place.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I thank the witnesses, of course, but also the members who have joined us today for this important meeting. I particularly thank Mr. Plamondon for introducing this bill.
Before beginning, I would like to stress the importance of the supply management system here in Quebec and everywhere in Canada. It is important not only to our producers, but also to our food security. We must continue to be open to the world and encourage international trade while at the same time protecting this supply management system. I believe we have shown that this was entirely possible.
We have continually renewed that commitment. We upheld it in concrete terms in the new trade agreement with the United Kingdom, which does not grant any additional access, as you know. I have repeatedly said in the House: not one ounce more of cheese will enter the country under that agreement.
Perhaps, since I am addressing you, Mr. Forsyth, I will switch to English.
Mr. Forsyth, could you explain to us whether, in your view, the adoption of this bill is necessary for the government to continue to defend Canada's supply management system?
If I understand correctly, a government that came after and wanted to make concessions would have to assume the political responsibility and have the courage to include it in its mandate and seek the permission of the House first.
So the power is delegated to the members of the House. That is the aspect that I find interesting. I don't think it conflicts with our interests.
There have been several references to the agreement with Great Britain. I would like to point out specifically that the market shares that had been allocated to Europe had also been allocated to Great Britain. It was obvious that we could not have expected new concessions on its part. Unfortunately, the agreement signed with Great Britain is temporary. There is therefore still a risk of fresh demands.
I would like to bring this point to the attention of the committee members, because I think it is important.
You spoke earlier of the negotiating mandates. When a representative of the government participates in negotiations, they have a mandate from the government. Would the law proposed in Bill not simply be part of the mandate? Would it not impose a limit to prevent the representatives from touching supply management?
Would that not have the same impact?
There seems to be a desire to dramatize the fact that it is a law, but it could simply be set out in the government's instructions. On the other hand, if it is in a law, we are sure it will be there, regardless of what government is in office.
Thank you. I will move on to my next question.
You say that all governments have expressed their support for supply management. That's true, but in the recent agreements, all governments, regardless of stripe, have made concessions, except in the case of the agreement with Great Britain, obviously, that we spoke about earlier.
So the goal of this bill is to cement that.
Someone cited the danger that other groups will be asking to have their interests entrenched in law. Is that not a slight exaggeration? We know that the other groups are not governed by supply management.
It must be understood that if we grant more concessions, then at some point, the supply management system will no longer be able to function. In order for a supply management system to function, supply has to be controlled. That is the very foundation of the system.
I would like to hear your thoughts on that subject.
I am putting the question to Mr. Fowler from the Department of Agriculture.
I think there's a bit of a deception in saying that Parliament has the final say when the agreement has already been signed, sealed and delivered. What Parliament is studying and making decisions about is how to enact that agreement within Canadian law, not whether to enact that agreement within Canadian law. That is why I began my remarks by expressing some sympathy for your having to be the ambassador of those arguments, because I don't think they really hit the nail on the head, frankly.
I think what we have here is a dispute. While I always appreciate the kind of information that officials can provide in the context of a debate, what we have here is actually a political debate. It is first and foremost about the role of supply-managed industry within Canada and the extent to which there is and ought to be political will to properly defend it within trade agreements, notwithstanding what appears from time to time in the mandate that can be changed by a particular government.
We also have a debate—I think a good one and an appropriate one, but not one that can be solved by technical expertise—about the role of the legislature in determining what kinds of international commitments Canada is going to undertake in respect of trade. This bill promotes a view that would have the legislature take a far more active role in determining what governments can and cannot do within a trade negotiation.
I've been clear many times before that this is something I support, so I don't agree with so-called principled objections to the legislature weighing in on these things. I think the treatment of the supply-managed sector in the last number of trade agreements—I'm thinking particularly of the three I mentioned earlier—shows there is a need for the legislature to get more involved, because we clearly can't trust the word of government, even when it has said that this is a priority for them. Even on the Canada-U.K. trade deal, we can talk about how there was no market access ceded under that agreement, but that's because there continues to be temporary market access for U.K. cheese makers under existing agreements. That's going to expire. In fact, the expiration of those agreements and the U.K.'s desire for Canadian market share has been cited by the government as a reason that the U.K. would be interested in coming to the table to negotiate a future agreement, so—
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
I am very grateful to the people from the departments for being with us today.
Mr. Forsyth, you said just now that the mandates assigned to the negotiators concerning the protection of supply management are reflected well in the intent of Bill .
Can you explain what happened in the case of the Canada—United States—Mexico Agreement, CUSMA, not just so that we would concede another market to the Americans, but also so that we would permit them to limit Canadian exports, in particular for powdered milk?
How is it that at some point, despite those intentions on the government's part, the negotiating teams go even further than concessions that are not provided in Bill, as we have it before us today?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Madam Chair, I would like to welcome all the presenters and my dear friends and colleagues. In particular, I know I missed saying my good morning from beautiful British Columbia to Christine, our clerk.
Madam Chair, contrary to what my dear friend Mr. Blaikie said—that Mr. Forsyth is here to defend the government—it's my understanding that he's here to provide professional non-partisan advice to the committee members on this particular act, which is Bill .
My question is for Mr. Forsyth. He mentioned numerous times that there are some risks involved. One of them, he mentioned, is a narrow outcome. I would like to ask him to explain or elaborate on those risks and the potential impacts.
I'd be happy to elaborate on some of those risks and what would happen in a trade negotiation if one were to be negotiating with not the full basket of items on the table. I highlighted it in one of my earlier answers, but I'm happy to flag it again.
I think that as a trade negotiator you like to start the negotiation with as many items on the table as possible. It does potentially allow for trade-offs and allows for a broad discussion with your trading partner in order to understand what is within in the art of the possible.
It is incumbent on us as trade negotiators to make sure that our trading partners understand our key defensive interests and what our red lines are and what things we cannot do. As I've said, throughout my negotiating career, it's been clear that concessions made in the supply management sector are red lines. That is what was in my mandate for the Canada-UK TCA and that was what was respected.
If we were to start from the position that we would not be dealing with 100% of the items that we would negotiate on, it does risk having an agreement that's not necessarily completely beneficial to Canadian exporters and producers and it does risk being an agreement that does not necessarily provide the full economic benefits to Canada that one might have expected.
We have not faced that yet to date, but it is possible that if we were to go down the path provided in Bill , that is in fact what we would do. It would be quite likely that our trading partners would take off the table something of interest to Canadian exporters and producers, and then we would be faced with the situation of negotiating an agreement that might not be as beneficial to Canada as it could be.
Maybe I'll turn to my colleague from Agriculture Canada to see if he'd like to add anything.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
We know that in the United States, Congress can give a mandate, because it has authority over treaties. It is in the constitution. In Europe, also, it is the parliament that gives the mandates. Here, this is the Crown's responsibility, so it is the government that gives the mandates, as was observed earlier. This is a fair bit less democratic and less transparent.
In the United States, despite the constitution and the fact that Congress gives the mandates before the negotiations, some sectors are nonetheless protected by various laws, such as the maritime sector, government procurement and sugar. There are laws that prohibit touching those sectors in the negotiations.
You have had an opportunity to negotiate with the United States in recent years. My question is very simple. Around the table, did you feel that you had in front of you negotiating partners who were weakened, who had lost their bargaining power, and were condemned to lose in advance?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I have a couple of quick notes, in that case. I'm fine waiting for the advice of the clerk on how to proceed with the motion. Although I'm not asking for extra time in this case, I think that normally when a member moves a motion, once the motion is moved, it doesn't count against the member's time.
As I say, I'm satisfied that we've learned what we need to learn from officials. I don't think that the question here hinges on any technical answers that they might provide. I think this is a political question and a question about the role of the legislature in determining trade policy.
I'm happy to cede the remainder of my time, which I take to be approximately two minutes.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The first question I have is for Mr. Forsyth.
Again, thank you for appearing before committee. I think you've been in the lead for most appearances since I've been on the committee—maybe you and the minister—so congratulations on being available.
When we say that we can't ever say we're not going to put certain items forward at the beginning of the trade negotiation, I understand the sentiment, but I'm curious that when we were doing the USMCA deal, softwood lumber never made its way on there and buy America really never got resolved either.
How does that happen? I'm not in the inner circle on this stuff, so how do we make a statement like that and then never get softwood or buy America dealt with?
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Whenever the issue of supply management comes up, I think of poor Canadian families. Milk is so expensive that many poor Canadian families find it very hard to buy milk. In fact, according to Statistics Canada, milk consumption has been declining in Canada since 2004. If my numbers are correct, in 2004 milk consumption per capita was 85.6 litres. In 2018 it was 65.85 litres. That's a decrease of almost 20 litres per capita.
Then there's the quality. There were reports earlier this year that the butter available in Canada is no longer soft enough and is not like what we were accustomed to. In fact, I'm told that now we have to pop a slab into the microwave to ease the butter back into better spreading consistency.
My question is about the agreements, when our market opened a little bit. We had agreements like CPTPP. We had agreements that said we were allowed imports of certain products. There was a little bit of that, but let's say I want to have New Zealand butter. Why am I not getting it, when New Zealand farmers are willing to export to Canada? I know I can't import it as an individual.
My question is with regard to the administration and allocation of imports. Why is it that I can't import? Why is it that the local convenience store can't import? Can you quickly explain how this works?
I'll highlight a few of the issues.
It very much starts with our looking at the world for our offensive and defensive interests in any negotiation. We look at where we are, what sectors we'd like to protect, what sectors we have to protect. Those are the issues that would go into our cabinet mandate. There are recommendations to the minister, and they would be elaborated on in a cabinet mandate.
The Canada-U.K. agreement, as I mentioned a couple of times, was certainly part and parcel of the constraints that the negotiating team faced and that I faced as chief negotiator. As you know, it was well respected throughout the negotiating process, and we were able to achieve an outcome that fully respected the policies of the supply-managed system.
Thank you, Madam Chair, and thank you for this opportunity.
When we talk about supply management, it brings to mind the whole issue that this is more about families, communities and the strength of sectors that historically have been the foundation of many communities in the country. It goes beyond money and markets, which is why I tend to agree with Mr. Blaikie that this is more of a political issue and not so much a technical one. It is also an issue on which we need to understand the technical implications of maintaining something that is, if you like, culturally important to Canada, because there will eventually and undoubtedly be trade-offs.
Would adopting this bill and exercising a total barrier to negotiating over supply management basically shut the door to other countries in a very large way in our potential trade agreements?
Mr. Forsyth, maybe you could answer that.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I am just going to ask my question again, but it will be much simpler and more concise.
I would ask the witnesses not to compare the constitutional system of the United States with Canada's or Europe's and not to talk about the model for assigning the negotiators' mandates.
In the United States, there is a law that prohibits touching government operations. Another, called the Jones Act, prevents touching the maritime sector. They are also prohibited from touching sugar, which is systematically excluded under an agreement dating from the war of secession.
I would ask the representatives of both departments whether they believe that the Americans are weakened by those laws and that Canada could have better bargaining power because the exclusion of certain sectors has the force of law in the United States.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
It is important to recall that the reason we are here is that the milk producers and the producers who are under supply management have little or no confidence in governments' policy decisions, particularly the ones that have been made recently by the Liberal government.
The government just kept repeating ad nauseam that it was going to protect the supply management system, and at the very end, we realized that it had made truly extraordinary concessions regarding that system.
I understand the intention of Bill , proposed by my colleague Mr. Plamondon. He wants to prevent new cracks in the system from being created. However, I'm afraid that passing this bill will hurt supply management more, because, as Mr. Forsyth said, the fact that we are protecting a sector will attract other countries' attention when it comes time to negotiate.
Unfortunately, this sector will probably, once again, find itself, at the very end of the negotiations [inaudible] our negotiators are going to want to give yes and no answers.
The other reason why the producers who are under supply management have little confidence in government decisions is that in connection with the recent Canada—United States—Mexico Agreement, they were given promises of compensation but they have not yet seen an inkling of a hint of the beginning of an agreement on compensation, unfortunately.
Speaking for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, can you tell us where this stands, Mr. Fowler?
Where the problem lies at present is that the producers are being told things, but the politicians provide no assurances. We then feel that we have to propose a bill to fix things and put barriers in place that ultimately create a bigger risk of imposing constraints on the agriculture sector in Canada rather than helping it.
Thank you for the question, Madam Chair.
If I understood that question correctly, I think one of the keys for any good negotiator is to make sure that you're in close contact with the key stakeholders to ensure you understand exactly what their issues are and to make sure they understand where you are at in the negotiations. That two-way communication is very important so that surprises, whether at the end or in the middle, are kept to a minimum.
That is one of the key objectives we have in any trade negotiation. It is staying in close contact with affected sectors, whether they're on the defensive side—for example, supply management—or on the offensive side, for example, with some of the grain sector and the beef and pork sectors.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
Earlier in this discussion, we raised the question of the cultural exemption.
Quite frankly, I am surprised that my colleagues, the members from Quebec, have not had more to say about this question, because the fact that we had to defend the cultural exemption and many other issues is essential to this discussion, in my opinion.
My question is for either Mr. Fowler or Mr. Forsyth.
Given that we have a number of defensive sectors—I believe that's what you called them, Mr. Forsyth—and given that we have a number of areas that we try to protect in Canada—particularly the cultural exemption, but others as well—do you feel as if putting one particular defensive sector into law in this legislation somehow diminishes the importance, in the eyes of our potential trading partners, of the other things we try to defend, such as the cultural exemption?
Thank you. I will maybe add to that, if that's okay.
As was mentioned in response to an earlier question, Canada's commitments under the CPTPP are known. They're made on a plurilateral basis, so they're available to all CPTPP members.
Canada has been clear that with respect to countries that have expressed an interest in having access to the CPTPP, our willingness to leave those market access commitments available for that country depends on that country's ability to bring a commensurate level of ambition to the table, including with respect to the market access commitments it would be prepared to make to Canadian exporters.
This is a very hypothetical situation, but if the U.S. were to seek to accede to the CPTPP and access the incremental market access through that agreement that is not available to them through the CUSMA, I think the first question I would have is, “What does Canada get in exchange for that? What is the incremental access that we would get into the U.S. market?”
At this point, it's not a question that I can answer, but I think it shouldn't be taken as a given that any country that accedes to the CPTPP will, by definition, be accessing Canada's market access commitments as they're currently written.
I will maybe start, and then I'll turn to my colleague from Agriculture Canada to further elaborate.
If I understood the question, you want to know other sectors that might come forward and what those sectors might be. Is that what I understood?
Mr. Sukh Dhaliwal: That's right.
Mr. Doug Forsyth: Okay. Thank you for the clarification.
As we said, I'm sure most sectors are keeping a close eye. You will have seen on Monday, when a number of industry players came and presented to the committee, that others were watching very closely to see what was going on.
Again, we haven't heard for sure who might have an interest. However, you could certainly see that there might be an interest from sectors that we consider defensive in the trade negotiations, whether those are cultural industries or telecommunication service providers.
Again, I think it's fairly wide open with regard to who might have an interest in seeing themselves in legislation once the legislation is in place. Once it's given to one group, I think it's clear that others might also have an interest. I haven't heard of anything specifically, but I could well imagine that there might be some other sectors at play.
I'll turn to my colleague to see if he has anything to add.
Maybe I could start, and then, Aaron, if you would like to add anything, please do.
For sure, whoever we're negotiating with watches what's going on in Canada very closely. I know that our counterparts in the United Kingdom watched all of the hearings from last fall all the way through April with great interest. What they heard was reflected back to me very much at the negotiating table, so they were watching very closely.
I can imagine that as we plan to move forward with other trading partners, whether Ukraine or Indonesia and ASEAN countries, they will all have a keen interest in following all of the things that are going on in Canada, as we would do, frankly, and as our missions in various countries would do with countries with which we are negotiating.
As a negotiator, you want to have at hand as much information as possible about your opponent. Anything you can have that would impact or influence your negotiating position and what you say and do at the negotiating table would be important to have.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Once again, I thank the witnesses for being with us to provide an impartial opinion, as public servants. It is as such that I would like them to answer my questions.
We hear a lot of people say that we have to reserve access to other products and that protecting supply management by a law would limit the negotiating mandate. However, the politicians all say that they don't want to touch supply management.
Is that not a contradiction? Are we not lying to ourselves a little when we say that we have to keep our cards in our pockets, at the same time promising they will not be touched?
I would like to have your objective opinion as a public servant on this subject, Mr. Forsyth.
Thank you, Mr. Forsyth.
Your answer suggests to me that essentially, you can promise anybody anything and then go and negotiate, realize that you can't keep your promise, and repeat the negotiating scenario from the last three agreements. That's what I'm hearing.
I would like to know what you think about the argument that it would attract attention to supply management.
It's a pretty crazy argument, that the effect of protecting the supply management system with a law will be to attract attention to the system. In the negotiations for the last three agreements, there was in fact no law that protected supply management, and there were major concessions. There is even talk of precedents.
I would like to note, for the committee's records, that the first concession was made under a Conservative government. Some people might therefore want to choose their words carefully when they are making statements.
Apart from that, with respect, I would like to know whether...
You yield your speaking time to me, Mr. Blaikie! That is very nice of you. Thank you.
We are told that concessions were made because it was thought to be advantageous. I can imagine so, but the fact is that in the future, if the supply management system is subject to more concessions, it will end up ceasing to function.
I am now going to address the question of the cultural exception, the importance of which the parliamentary secretary reminded us of earler. I am thrilled to hear culture being discussed. I want to assure my colleague that if we are to pass laws to give culture more protection, the Bloc Québécois will be ready, as in fact it already is, in the case of Bill C-10. I will now end that aside. Still, that proves that we can protect certain sectors.
I want to come back to my original question and ask Mr. Fowler about this. There is talk about blocking other accesses, but I would like him to tell me how he interprets the fact that Canadian beef, in particular, cannot enter Europe at present, while European cheese can enter Canada.