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View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Welcome to this meeting number 37 of the Standing Committee on International Trade. I'm thrilled to be able to call the meeting to order.
This meeting is being held pursuant to the order of reference of January 25, and the order of reference sent to the committee on March 10.
The committee is resuming its study of Bill C-216, an act to amend the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act (supply management).
With us today we again have the officials from the Department of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Global Affairs Canada, and, of course, our House of Commons legislative clerk to assist us during clause-by-clause consideration of the bill.
We will start to deal with Bill C-216 now.
Therefore, I will call clause 1.
Shall clause 1 carry? Is there any debate on this clause?
Mr. Savard-Tremblay, did you want to speak to this or were you raising your hand to vote?
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
I was raising my hand to vote, Madam Chair.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you.
Ms. Gray.
View Tracy Gray Profile
CPC (BC)
I would request a recorded vote, Madam Chair.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
All right. Thank you very much.
Madam Clerk, would you please take a recorded vote on clause 1?
(Clause 1 agreed to: yeas 9; nays 2)
The Chair: Shall the title carry?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
The Chair: Shall the bill carry?
(Bill C-216 agreed to: yeas 9; nays 2)
The Chair: Shall the chair report the bill to the House?
Some hon. members: Agreed.
Some hon. members: On division.
The Chair: Shall the committee order a reprint of the bill for the use of the House at report stage?
Émilie Thivierge
View Émilie Thivierge Profile
Émilie Thivierge
2021-06-14 11:11
Madam Chair, I'm sorry to interrupt.
Since there were no amendments adopted, the committee doesn't need to order a reprint of the bill.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Émilie. I really appreciate that.
That completes the required votes on Bill C-216.
Madam Clerk, is there anything else on Bill C-216 that we need to do?
Émilie Thivierge
View Émilie Thivierge Profile
Émilie Thivierge
2021-06-14 11:11
No, Madam Chair.
We just need to suspend to go to the in camera part of the meeting.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
I want to thank the witnesses for taking the time to come out this morning.
In particular, I want to thank the analysts, the interpreters and our clerks for getting us through every one of these meetings. We are now finished with Bill C-216.
We are now going to suspend and rejoin via an in camera session.
[Proceedings continue in camera]
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
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 C-216, 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.
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:03
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.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Forsyth.
Ms. Desrochers, do you have opening remarks? You do not.
All right, we'll go to our committee members.
Welcome, by the way, to Mr. Hardie and Mr. Berthold. We're glad to have you joining the international trade committee today.
Mr. Aboultaif, go ahead for six minutes, please.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
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 C-216 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 C-216 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?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:11
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.
Aaron Fowler
View Aaron Fowler Profile
Aaron Fowler
2021-06-11 13:13
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.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Keep it very short, Mr. Aboultaif.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
Okay.
There are other sectors. We offer a wide variety of products and solutions to the world. What would you see as the reaction of other sectors if something like Bill C-216 went forward? What would you see as the reaction as far as opportunities on the world stage with trade go?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:15
Do you mean reaction from Canadian stakeholders, or from—
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
Yes, I mean Canadian stakeholders.
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:15
Honestly, I think if this did go forward, the reaction we would see would be other groups seeking to have their concerns, their issues, inserted into the departmental act as well.
View Ziad Aboultaif Profile
CPC (AB)
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much.
We will move to Ms. Bendayan for six minutes. Go ahead, please.
View Rachel Bendayan Profile
Lib. (QC)
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?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:17
As I mentioned in my opening statement, since supply management was introduced, which was well over 50 years ago, various governments of various stripes have been very clear about defending the supply management system and ensuring that everyone understands how well it works for producers and farmers all across Canada.
I think the government has done a very good job of promoting and ensuring that all of our trading partners understand what supply management is. It's certainly part and parcel of all trade negotiators' mandates that we understand it well, that our trading partners understand it well, and that throughout the world, whether bilaterally or multilaterally—for example, at the World Trade Organization—it is well known what Canada's policy is.
To answer your question as to whether it would have any effect, I think that, as I said, the policy is well known and well understood, so I am not sure that there would be any.
View Rachel Bendayan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Sir, if I may follow up, I believe you mentioned in your introduction, and I have certainly heard from legal experts within government, that policy objectives are not normally found within the departmental act. This is not the usual instrument to include policy objectives like the one regarding supply management. Can you perhaps give us examples or let us know where these types of important policy objectives should be found, if not in this particular act?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:19
I think that assessment is correct. It would be unusual to find policy-prescriptive issues like this in a departmental act. I'm not aware of any departmental acts that include them.
I think that where we see policy prescriptions like this is in the words enunciated from the government. It's clear that this is a Government of Canada position, a policy position. You find it in speeches. You find it in departmental legislation, for example, at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and you find it in various places like that. I think it would be unusual to put something like this within the context of the departmental act.
I'll just ask my colleague from Agriculture Canada if he has anything more to add.
Aaron Fowler
View Aaron Fowler Profile
Aaron Fowler
2021-06-11 13:20
No, I would agree with the answer. I would say that generally this type of policy constraint would be found in the negotiating mandates we receive that inform our engagement with our negotiating partners. I would endorse the answer that Mr. Forsyth provided.
View Rachel Bendayan Profile
Lib. (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Just as a quick follow-up, Mr. Forsyth and Mr. Fowler, you referred to a negotiating mandate. Mr. Forsyth, you were at the negotiating table with the United Kingdom. Did you receive a mandate on behalf of our government not to hinder supply management in the negotiations that you undertook with the United Kingdom?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:21
Yes, absolutely. In fact, the mandate that we received and that we put forward through the Minister of International Trade and that was approved by cabinet included words to the effect that there would be no incremental market access for supply-managed products. Words to that effect apply in every negotiating mandate that I'm aware of when we launch free trade negotiations. They are words to live by, I think—
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Forsyth.
I'm sorry, Mr. Perron; I had not acknowledged you earlier. I'm glad to see that you're joining our committee today.
We'll go on to Monsieur Savard-Tremblay, please.
View Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Greetings to all the witnesses.
I will yield my speaking time to Mr. Perron for this first round of questions.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Madam Chair, thank you for your greetings. It is always a pleasure to be with you.
Thanks also to Mr. Savard-Tremblay.
I will address Mr. Forsyth first.
In your opening statement, you acknowledged that this bill was consistent with Canada's long-standing policy and its intention of protecting supply management.
Did I hear you correctly?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:23
That's correct.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
So it is part of a continuing process and is consistent with the intentions expressed orally. I believe this bill puts the election promises into concrete form.
You said that this might carry risks in the negotiations.
Whenever we enter into negotiations with a country for a free trade agreement, is there not always precisely such a risk, given that we need to be vigilant and protect our key sectors?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:23
Yes, any time we enter into negotiation, we would have both offensive and defensive interests, and on the defensive interests side, it's absolutely about protecting and defending key sectors like, for example, supply-managed sectors.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much, Mr. Forsyth.
Some opponents of the bill argue that a change would not be prevented, because any act can be amended at a later date. So a government that had its negotiating mandate limited could always come back to Parliament to change it.
Is that correct?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:24
Thank you for the question.
Yes, that is my understanding. If this bill were enacted, if they wanted to make changes to it, they could do that.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Perfect, thank you.
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 C-216 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.
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:26
If this bill were enacted, I would not see a need for it to be in the negotiating mandate. I mean, you would probably put it in anyway, but it would be to remind negotiators of what is in the legislation. However, I think it would be clear—
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
You agree with me that it would be more or less equivalent, right?
It is simply defining a future government's negotiating mandate in advance, no matter what party is in power.
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:26
I think all governments of the day, as I mentioned in my earlier answer, have supported supply management since its inception. It has been part and parcel of Canada's trade negotiations and Canada's agriculture policy. I don't think that's anything new.
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
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.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Mr. Fowler, could we could get a somewhat short answer?
Aaron Fowler
View Aaron Fowler Profile
Aaron Fowler
2021-06-11 13:28
I will endeavour to do so, Chair.
It is true that supply management rests upon three legs. One is on import controls, because we need to know the volume of product that's entering the country in these sectors in order for us to do the domestic administration and allocation of the system to ensure it continues to operate. It is important that we preserve import controls to ensure the smooth functioning of supply management.
I would say, though, similarly—
View Yves Perron Profile
BQ (QC)
Thank you very much.
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you, Mr. Fowler.
We will go on to Mr. Blaikie for six minutes, please.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
Thank you, Madam Chair.
I suppose I might start by expressing some sympathy for Mr. Forsyth, who has been sent here to defend the government's right to ultimately betray supply-managed producers in trade negotiations on what I think are frankly some specious grounds.
I don't think the bill was presented in ignorance of the fact that Canada's trade negotiating teams receive mandates from cabinet, but one has to wonder—and perhaps you could answer for the committee—whether the negotiating mandates for either CETA, the CPTPP or CUSMA included a prohibition on conceding market access in supply-managed sectors.
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:29
Thank you for the question. Maybe I can answer it in a more general way, given that the mandates are for cabinet purposes.
I think it's very clear that each trade negotiator understands well his or her mandate. Whether it was under the CETA or CPTPP or CUSMA, that's where we started from. As I mentioned in my opening remarks, it was deemed necessary to reach agreement on those three key trade agreements, and those decisions were not made lightly. Those decisions were not made by just the chief trade negotiator at the time; they were done in close consultation with the government of the day, including the minister and beyond. Those were important decisions. They were made in the economic interest of Canada, and they were not made lightly.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
That's fair enough, although I think that the concern of supply-managed producers has less to do with the feelings of government decision-makers in respect of their decision to betray them and more to do with the substantive consequences for their industry.
On that point, those three agreements were clearly failures to protect the supply-managed sector in a way that the government has indicated it would like to or that it would. It seems to me that there is a stark difference between legislation that takes making those concessions out of the purview of government and a mandate that restricts the government but that the government can change from day to day.
In your opening remarks, you said that Parliament has the ultimate say because it can pass or decline to pass the legislation that enacts these agreements, but I think you also know—and you can correct me if I'm wrong—that by the time enabling legislation comes to Parliament, the deal is already signed. If Parliament declined to pass enabling legislation for those agreements, Canada at that point would be in default of very serious international commitments already made on behalf of Canada by the government. Is that not true?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:32
I would say it's mostly true, but I think it is Parliament that votes on the final text, and if Parliament deemed it necessary to make those changes, we would have to return to the negotiating table based on that, absolutely.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
But to be clear, typically Parliament doesn't actually get to vote on the text of the agreement except in appendices to the enabling legislation, perhaps, and Parliament can't actually alter the wording of those agreements. It can change the wording of the enabling legislation, but it can't in fact alter the wording of the agreements. Is that not true?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:32
That is true. That's correct.
View Daniel Blaikie Profile
NDP (MB)
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—
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
Thank you very much, Mr. Blaikie. I'm sorry to cut you off, but your time is up.
We have Mr. Berthold for five minutes, please.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
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 C-216.
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 BillC-216, as we have it before us today?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:36
Maybe I can start and then turn to my colleague from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.
As I mentioned in my remarks, the intent of the bill is consistent with the long-standing Government of Canada policy to defend the integrity of the system. As I mentioned in my previous answer, whether it was with respect to the CUSMA negotiations, the TPP negotiations, the CPTPP negotiations or the CETA negotiations, it was deemed necessary by the government of the day to provide some concessions to our various trading partners in order to finalize each free trade agreement. It was not—
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Excuse me for interrupting you, Mr. Forsyth.
What happened for those concessions to have been made at the last minute? We have seen that this was done at the very end. Did we not draw attention to supply management by saying at the outset that there would be no concessions? Is that not one of the points on which Canada had to give in, at the very end of the negotiations?
Doug Forsyth
View Doug Forsyth Profile
Doug Forsyth
2021-06-11 13:37
Thank you for the clarification.
In any negotiation, whether it's a trade negotiation or anything, the tough issues are really left until the very end. Nobody wants to concede any of the difficult issues up front, because your trading partner will just continue to ask for more. It was at the very end that these issues did get decided under the CUSMA. Again, those decisions were not taken lightly at all.
Maybe I'll turn to my colleague from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to follow up on that.
View Luc Berthold Profile
CPC (QC)
Mr. Fowler, to continue in the same vein, when we decide to make concessions like that one at the last minute, there are major repercussions for a sector. This was a sector that the Americans had targeted.
When we decide to protect a sector, if we keep our position like a card up our sleeve, are we not running less risk of having to give in at the end?
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