I'm calling meeting number 33 of the Standing Committee on International Trade to order.
Today's meeting is taking place in a hybrid format, pursuant to the House order of June 23, 2022. Therefore, members are attending in person in the room and remotely using the Zoom application.
I'd like to make a few comments for the benefit of witnesses and members.
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Welcome to those who are online and attending virtually.
Ms. Collins and Mr. Sarai, I'm glad to see you. Thank you for joining our committee today.
Pursuant to Standing Order 108(2) and the motion adopted by the committee on Tuesday, September 20, 2022, the committee is receiving a briefing on ministerial work completed in a very busy summer of 2022.
With us today, we have the Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, Minister Ng.
Welcome, Minister. We're very happy to have you.
From the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, we have Rob Stewart, deputy minister of international trade; Sara Wilshaw, chief trade commissioner and assistant deputy minister, international business development, investment and innovation; Bruce Christie, assistant deputy minister and chief trade negotiator; and Aaron Fowler, associate assistant deputy minister.
From the Department of Industry, we have Charles Vincent, assistant deputy minister, small business and marketplace services.
I want to welcome back to our committee many of you who have been here before. We welcome you and we're happy to hear from you again today.
Minister Ng, we normally allot five minutes for whoever's presenting. I'm going to ask if it's okay with the committee members for the minister to have a few extra minutes, because she has a lot to tell us and we'd like to get that done. If that's okay with everyone, I'll turn the floor over to Minister Ng.
You have the floor.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Good afternoon to you, to the vice-chairs and to all of the committee members, both those returning and new members, both here in person.... It's wonderful to be here in person and to see everyone on the screen. It's terrific to get a chance to speak to the committee members directly. I always look forward to updating the committee on the work that I've been doing on trade.
This is a pivotal time for our economy and for Canada's approach to trade: how we trade, whom we trade with and who trades. Both the pandemic and Russia's illegal invasion of Ukraine have demonstrated the need to strengthen and diversify our supply chain so that Canadians can access the goods they rely on and so that Canadian businesses can continue to expand, contributing to our economic growth and creating good-paying jobs across the country.
My goal has always been, and continues to be, to deepen Canada's trade relationships all over the world by opening up new markets to business.
The United States remains Canada's largest trading partner, making up two-thirds of our international trade. Since our government negotiated CUSMA, we are seeing record levels of trade with the U.S., reaching over a trillion dollars in the last year. In May, I hosted my counterpart, the United States trade representative, Ambassador Katherine Tai, the first Biden cabinet official to visit Canada, a signal of the importance of the trade relationship.
In a relationship as broad and as diverse as our relationship is, we of course face challenges.
This past year, the and I led a team Canada effort to include Canadian vehicles in the United States' EV tax credits. The inclusion of Canadian auto in the Inflation Reduction Act will protect our auto industry and secure thousands of good-paying jobs. It is already attracting billions of dollars of investments into our EV supply chain.
In July I hosted the CUSMA free trade commission, meeting with the United States and Mexico in Vancouver and marking the success of CUSMA, a trade agreement our government signed that supports around two million Canadian jobs. A month later, and I strengthened Canada's ties with Mexico through the inaugural Canada-Mexico high-level economic dialogue.
We're also growing ties with our European allies on the other side of the Atlantic. In March I launched negotiations towards a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom, our fourth-largest trading partner. In August I joined the to host German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. Our two countries signed a hydrogen agreement that will grow our economy and fight climate change. Just last month, I joined my EU counterpart to celebrate the fifth anniversary of CETA, which has boosted our trade with the EU by 30% since coming into force.
That said, Canada needs to expand its commercial ties beyond its historic partners, including in the Indo-Pacific region.
This year alone, I've been to the region to strengthen our relationships, and I'm heading back in two weeks. During my first trip to the Indo-Pacific this year, I launched negotiations towards an early progress trade agreement with India, a pragmatic and commercially relevant agreement that will give Canadian businesses preferential access to over a billion customers. On my second trip, I attended the APEC trade ministers meeting in Thailand, where I launched negotiations to accede to the digital economy partnership agreement, which would position Canadian businesses and workers at the forefront of the rapidly growing digital economy.
I also visited Singapore to establish an innovative Canadian trade gateway in Southeast Asia, a front door that will both support Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs to expand across the Indo-Pacific and bring investments and talent from Southeast Asia into Canada. That was followed by two trips to the ASEAN meetings in Cambodia, where I pushed for our FTA negotiation with the ASEAN and announced the creation of a new Canada-ASEAN trust fund to promote further collaboration and Canada's strategic objectives in the region.
I also made a stop in the Philippines, where I met with some of the most incredible entrepreneurs, specifically women entrepreneurs, many of whom were looking to Canada as their next export market. Earlier this year, we launched the Canada-Philippines joint partnership to create even more opportunities for these entrepreneurs. This summer I welcomed Vietnam to Vancouver to strengthen the economic partnership through the joint economic commission.
My latest trip to Asia was back to Singapore to enhance our ties with the comprehensive and progressive trans-Pacific partnership partners, with whom we have seen an over 8% increase in exports since the agreement came into force.
Before returning to Canada, I stopped by in Jakarta, where I met with a number of key government officials in Indonesia to advance the progress on the Canada-Indonesia comprehensive economic partnership agreement and the Canada-ASEAN collaboration.
Beyond the Indo-Pacific region, I have been promoting Canadian businesses, innovations and investments all over the world.
This included leading a trade mission to the Caribbean; expanding opportunities in Guyana, Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and the wider CARICOM; and launching a virtual trade mission to Africa, with a focus on Botswana, Senegal, South Africa and Côte d'Ivoire. Over this week, I have been meeting with the African Union and chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat in Ottawa to participate in the first-ever Canada-Africa high-level dialogue.
What do all of these countries I've just listed in the last few minutes have in common? They're all places where Canadians come from. I like to say that Canada is best positioned to trade in the world because we all come from around the world. Our government is ensuring that all Canadians, no matter their origin, no matter their agenda, and no matter the size of their business, can benefit from trade.
As the Minister of Small Business, I have a duty to ensure that our small business owners and entrepreneurs get the support they need to grow their businesses internationally.
Through resources like the trade commissioner service, our CanExport program and our trade accelerator program at Export Development Canada, our government is helping thousands of small businesses expand their global footprint. With our government's women entrepreneurship strategy, we're investing $6 billion into supporting women entrepreneurs, such as through the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada's series of women-only trade missions to the Indo-Pacific.
We're also ensuring that indigenous peoples benefit from trade, for they are the first traders, entrepreneurs and innovators in the land we now call Canada. That is why Canada joined the indigenous peoples economic and trade co-operation arrangement, or IPECTA, which will establish a framework for co-operation among participating economies in order to remove barriers to indigenous peoples' economic empowerment and participation in trade.
We are doing all this work, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but also because it’s the smart thing to do.
Canadians can participate in and benefit from trade. They're growing our economy and creating good jobs, and this is why we negotiate strong and progressive gender, labour and SME provisions in our free trade agreements. It's also why in April I launched a new and expanded responsible business conduct strategy to ensure that Canadian companies abroad are contributing to local communities and upholding high environmental and ethical standards.
Rules are important, and Canada will continue to champion the rules-based international trading system, including through our work with the Ottawa Group at the WTO. At the WTO 12th ministerial conference in June, Canada played a role in reaching a historic multilateral agreement to advance vaccine equity around the world and renewed the moratorium on e-commerce, and we are working to restore the WTO's dispute settlement mechanism and to protect our oceans and fish stocks.
We all know the pandemic and Russia's invasion in Ukraine has taught us all an important lesson: We can no longer take our rules-based trading system for granted. That is why Canada will continue to be a world leader in championing progressive, sustainable and inclusive trade.
I can't do this work alone.
I want to thank all of you for your hard work and contributions.
You're all a core component of team Canada, and I look forward to continuing this work with all of you and to deliver for Canadians.
Thank you. I look forward to taking your questions.
I thank the honourable member for that wonderful question.
I would say to the contrary that there are the markets we are opening around the world, the work that we are doing in the Indo-Pacific, the high-standard and high-quality agreement that is the CPTPP, which includes a number of Pacific nations. Canada is a Pacific nation country and we are in the CPTPP. We've seen an 8% growth in exports since it has come into force, and it's a progressive and comprehensive agreement. We work with the United States as our largest trading partner and we do this work together.
Yesterday was really terrific, because Secretary Blinken was here in Canada...actually, he's still in Canada. He's just in Montreal today but was in Ottawa yesterday. Minister Joly did announce that we are going to join the Indo-Pacific Economic Partnership and Secretary Blinken, of course, in the United States has supported this.
This is work that we continue to do. Of course, there is always more work to do to deepen the partnerships in the region, but also with the United States we're very committed to making sure that we have good, resilient supply chains. We're negotiating good, strong frameworks for Canada to be a part in the Indo-Pacific, but we're also negotiating in other parts of the world where there are customers. We get to tout that we're the only G7 country with a free trade agreement with every other G7 country. That's customers. Supporting our Canadian businesses to enter into those markets, particularly small and medium-sized businesses, is what I love doing every single day, and I love doing it with all of you.
Thank you very much for that question.
Let me start with the Ottawa Group. It is an incredibly effective group of countries working together to advance the international rules-based order and the multilateral trading system.
Who is part of the Ottawa Group? Well, it's countries like Japan, Korea, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand, Mexico, Kenya, Norway, Brazil, Chile, Switzerland, the European Union, and most recently, the United Kingdom. This is a formidable group of countries that work together to ensure that the work we are doing together will reinforce the work on the international trading order.
I would say that for almost every meeting that we hosted with the Ottawa Group, the director-general has been there. Of late, it has been Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is a formidable leader as the director-general of the WTO.
The reason this group was formed was to strengthen and build upon those rules that we all depend on. It is called the Ottawa Group for WTO reform.
During the pandemic I was very proud of some of the work that ultimately made its way to the ministerial response to the pandemic. We saw, in the early part, that some 90 countries issued over 200 export restrictions during the pandemic. You can imagine what that would cause to the goods, the inputs that are needed to make very important things like PPE, protective gear, or critical food and medicines that needed to move around the world.
Making sure that there were some rules to deal with a response to the pandemic, this initiative, the response to the pandemic, started at the WTO through the Ottawa Group. It was the Ottawa Group that developed what ultimately ended up being adopted multilaterally by the over 100 members of the WTO to get the multilateral agreement.
We also committed at the ministerial conference to work on the dispute settlement system so that we have a functioning dispute settlement system for the WTO, for the international rules-based order. I'm very pleased. I know you've heard from our ambassador, who is in Geneva working with her colleagues at the WTO, including the United States and many others. This is about working multilaterally to ensure that we have solutions to fortify and strengthen the rules-based system.
I think about e-commerce and the negotiations that are taking place so that we have the kinds of rules that are going to help the digital economy. That is certainly the present and the future. Trade and the environment and the kinds of rules that are going to be necessary to ensure that both the economy and the environment go hand in hand globally is what we are working on there with our multilateral partners.
We're also looking at the negotiating function. Some of the innovations that we have been able to pursue are called joint statement initiatives, or JSIs. We passed one, which is a plurilateral initiative on domestic services regulation, which is making it easier in each of our economies. Those rules that facilitate trade with ease were started as a plurilateral, a JSI, that then went forward to the broader membership and were adopted.
Here's the thing that really was extraordinary: The multilateral rules-based trading system is something that we are committed to working on, and we achieved a ministerial outcome from the WTO membership. Remember it requires every single member to achieve a multilateral agreement, and we did that.
A negotiation in fisheries has been in negotiation for over 20 years. Finally, at this multilateral meeting we came to an agreement to protect our fish stock in the world. That work continues.
As the committee will know, Canada is presently at the negotiating table with the ASEAN bloc of 10 countries. Some of those countries are already a part of the CPTPP. We are also at the negotiating table with Indonesia on a bilateral agreement.
To give people the sense of scale of the opportunity, Indonesia is a country of 280 million people. Next to the United States, they are number two. The only two other countries larger than that are India and China, so it will be and is an important trading relationship. As you pointed out, we already have 70 years of diplomatic relations with Indonesia, and with the countries of the ASEAN, they are projected to be the third-largest bloc in the world. It is fast-growing, and we already have tremendous Canadian presence there.
In each of these trips that I do, I have an opportunity to meet with women-owned businesses and the Canadian companies that are operating on the ground so that they can talk to me about the kind of growth they are seeing in what they say to me are frontier markets. That's real market access for both services and goods, and that is really very important. We are going to be celebrating an anniversary of 45 years in the ASEAN-Canada relationship, so both of these trading agreements on both tracks are extremely important.
What are trade agreements important for? They are important so that we are able to create the right conditions through those agreements for businesses to do business and for investors to have confidence because there is a set of predictable rules that they can look to in order to make Canadian investments grow into the region or make those very investments grow into Canada.
I was very pleased, while I was in the region, to launch a Canada trade gateway to the Indo-Pacific, to the Asia-Pacific. We have a tremendous group of trade commissioners and human capital in the region, but this really will help us coordinate in a way that allows Canadian companies one window or one door.
I've been telling people in the region that the door swings both ways. It's a way for Canadian companies to understand the opportunities in the region and to create those supports, whether they are from the Canadian trade accelerators, tech accelerators, the Canadian trade commissioner service or the range of Canadian chambers that are now all over the region to support and to work together with Canadian businesses and exporters who are looking to grow in that region. It is very dynamic. I know that as part of its work, the committee has some plans to take a look at it on the ground, and I think you will see what I see, which is this dynamic growth.
I'm someone who is very committed to inclusive trade that works for everyone and to making sure that every business, no matter what size, gets a foothold in those economies and gets into those countries. Growth means jobs for Canadians, and good jobs for Canadians are good for our communities.
I said earlier to everyone here on the committee how appreciative we are, because this is one file where we really worked as team Canada. We were completely focused on making sure that Canada was included in these important credits that will ultimately incentivize American consumers to buy electric vehicles, and electric vehicles that are made in Canada are such an important part of the Canadian economy and the auto sector.
What this has enabled us to do, of course, is attract the kinds of investments for the battery ecosystem that is now in Canada. Week after week, month after month, you're seeing our government make announcements of the investments—whether it's through BASF or others—that are coming into Canada to develop the battery ecosystem. It's really good to see, then, in the Inflation Reduction Act that the critical minerals that will come out of Canada will also be part of that supply chain in the creation of EVs.
A lot of work went into ensuring that Canada was carved into this and into maintaining a very important supply chain. I often reminded the Americans that a car probably crosses seven or eight times over our Canadian and United States border before it comes off the production line as final. That means workers on this side of the border and on that side of the border are working on it. It means that in the future, the critical minerals that will go into making the batteries are going to come into Canada and be processed and make their way into those vehicles. It means that for your motorcycles, that battery ecosystem is going to be key. So will the critical minerals. They will be key in this lucrative market of which we continue to be a part through this integrated supply chain of what is all of us, I would say, as Team Canada.
Again, it was members of this committee. It was all of us on all sides of the House. It was different levels of government. It was industry itself, the auto sector itself, the parts folks, the labour representatives, the labour unions and the workers themselves, so it really was team Canada.
How did you know that would be my favourite question to answer?
Women in trade—women entrepreneurs, period—are the smartest thing that we could be doing. We are 50% of the population. I've used this sports analogy before: If you are going to train up a wonderful team to win at your sport, you sure the heck don't want 50% of that team sitting on the bench. Why would we want 50% of the women sitting on the bench?
Our first-ever women's entrepreneurship strategy is a $6-billion investment to help women entrepreneurs start their businesses and scale and grow their businesses to access the international market.
I often tell people not to worry about the title on my business card; I'm the minister for start-up, scale-up and access to new markets. For women entrepreneurs, I am there with them every step of the way to help them start and to help them grow.
What is the return on investment for the women's entrepreneurship strategy? It's $150 billion in Canada. We have invested $6 billion and we can return $150 billion to the Canadian economy simply by adding women to the economy. I tell my international colleagues that it's $12 trillion to the global economy by adding women to the economy.
The women's entrepreneurship strategy has three parts. One is getting access to capital. We hear a lot about that from all small businesses, but women-owned businesses in particular face those difficulties. Mentorship and having an ecosystem of support is what they're looking for, and then we need to be able to track this stuff and make sure there is good data.
I'm really pleased to say that although we've only had the women's entrepreneurship ecosystem in place since 2019, it has already helped 5,000 new women-owned businesses start and helped 7,000 existing women-owned businesses grow their existing business.
I'll highlight one of the ecosystem partners in particular, the Asia Pacific Foundation. They've been doing these really terrific women-led trade missions. They've done one to Japan in person. They've done them to Taiwan, India, Australia and New Zealand, and South Korea, and they're heading back to Japan in December. They're women-led trade missions to look for opportunities in those particular markets so that these businesses can grow. We're seeing some terrific collaborations in those markets.
We're also seeing really excellent opportunities for collaborations because there isn't a single place that I have been to where I don't convene a round table of women-led businesses. This includes France, Sweden, Africa, Thailand, the Philippines, Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, the CARICOMs and so forth.
It is dynamic. You are seeing these incredible female businesses of all sizes, and they're growing their businesses. What we're trying to do here is create those connections between Canadian businesses that want to grow into those markets and collaborate and co-invest for growth. I think it is the smartest thing that we could be doing.
The business women in international trade program is growing. The support that EDC is providing to women entrepreneurs is growing and the support that BDC is providing is growing, but I would say that economic policies alone are not going to do it. You need to have affordable child care, because women need to work, and when they work, they need support for child care.
Parental leave is a game-changer. When I was in Israel, I remember the women entrepreneurs asking me, “Are you kidding? Are you telling me that if I were in Canada, I can keep working and my partner or spouse can take the 18 months?” I said, “You've got it.” That is a game-changer.
I think smart, whole-of-government policies to support the growth of businesses are exactly what we have been doing since 2015. You sit around the table at the women's caucus and you talk to me about this all the time, but I want to thank everyone because this work is all of our work.