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 C-216.
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 Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of International Trade and the Minister of International Development.
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 Minister of Foreign Affairs 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 C-216 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 C-216 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.