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Results: 1 - 15 of 141
View Judy A. Sgro Profile
Lib. (ON)
I call to order this meeting of the Standing Committee on International Trade. We are studying Bill C-4, an act to implement the agreement between Canada, the United States of America and the United Mexican States.
To the witnesses, I very much appreciate your appearing on short notice with us today. Welcome.
From Global Affairs Canada, we have Steve Verheul, chief negotiator and assistant deputy minister, trade policy and negotiations; Martin Thornell, senior adviser, tariffs and goods market access; and Stephanie Chandler, senior policy adviser, trade policy and negotiations. From Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, we have Aaron Fowler, chief agriculture negotiator and director general. From Environment and Climate Change Canada, we have Rina Young, manager, trade and environment, international affairs branch.
Mr. Verheul, I'll turn the floor over to you for your opening comments—
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 15:43
Thank you, Madam Chair.
Thank you for the invitation to appear before the committee today. We look forward to answering questions regarding the outcomes of the Canada-U.S.-Mexico agreement, or CUSMA, following my opening remarks.
The signature of the CUSMA on November 30, 2018, followed 13 months of intensive negotiations that brought together a broad range of officials and stakeholders, with a strong partnership between federal and provincial officials. That agreement achieved several key outcomes that served to reinforce the integrity of the North American market, preserve Canada's market access into the U.S. and Mexico, and modernize the agreement's provisions to reflect our modern economy and the evolution of the North American partnership.
On December 10, 2019, following several months of intensive engagement with our U.S. and Mexican counterparts, the three NAFTA parties signed a protocol of amendment to modify certain outcomes in the original agreement related to specific issues of state-to-state dispute settlement, labour, environment, intellectual property, and automotive rules of origin. These modifications were largely the result of domestic discussions in the United States. However, Canada was closely involved and engaged in substantive negotiations to ensure that any modifications aligned with Canadian interests. Throughout the negotiations, Canadian businesses, business associations, labour unions, civil society and indigenous groups were also closely consulted and contributed heavily to the final result.
To help better inform Canadians of the outcomes, documents have been made available on the Global Affairs website, including the text of the agreement itself, the amending protocol reached on December 10, a summary of the overall outcomes and summaries of all chapters in the agreement.
I want to start by recalling that the NAFTA modernization discussions were unique. This was the first large-scale renegotiation of any of Canada's free trade agreements. Normally, free trade agreement parties are looking to liberalize trade. ln this process, the stated goal of the U.S. at the outset was to rebalance the agreement. The President of the U.S. had also repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if a satisfactory outcome could not be reached.
The opening U.S. negotiating positions were, to put it mildly, unconventional. These included a proposed 50% U.S. domestic content requirement on autos; the complete dismantlement of supply management; elimination of the NAFTA chapter 19 binational panel dispute settlement mechanism for anti-dumping and countervailing duties; removal of the cultural exception; a state-to-state dispute settlement mechanism that would have rendered the agreement completely unenforceable; a government procurement chapter that would have taken away NAFTA market access, leaving Canada worse off than all of the U.S.' other FTA partners; and a five-year automatic termination of the agreement, known as the “sunset clause”.
The U.S. administration took the unprecedented step of imposing tariffs on imports of Canadian steel and aluminum on purported national security grounds, but with no legitimate justification provided. The U.S. administration had also launched an investigation that could lead to the same for autos and auto parts.
ln the face of this situation, Canada undertook broad and extensive consultations with Canadians on objectives for the NAFTA modernization process. Based on the views we heard and our internal trade policy expertise, Canada set out a number of key objectives, that can broadly be categorized into the following overarching areas. First, we wanted to preserve the important NAFTA provisions and market access that we have into the U.S. and Mexico. We wanted to modernize and improve the agreement where possible, and we wanted to reinforce the security and stability of market access into the U.S. and Mexico for Canadian businesses.
ln her August 14, 2017 speech launching the NAFTA talks, Minister Freeland set out six objectives. The first was to modernize NAFTA. The second was to make the agreement more progressive in the areas of labour, the environment, gender and indigenous peoples, as well as removing the investor-state dispute settlement. It also set out to cut red tape and harmonize regulations, provide a freer market for government procurement, and to establish freer movement of professionals. Finally, it was to maintain items of special national interest, such as supply management, the cultural exception and dispute settlement for anti-dumping and countervailing duties.
In terms of the outcomes, with respect to preserving NAFTA, Canada maintained the CUSMA outcome preserving important elements of the NAFTA, including NAFTA tariff outcomes. In other words, we ensured continued duty-free access into the U.S. and Mexican markets for originating goods.
We preserved the binational panel dispute settlement mechanism for anti-dumping and countervailing duty matters, which is a key component of the overall goods market access package of the NAFTA and of the original Canada-U.S. free trade agreement. We preserved Canada's preferential access to the U.S. under the temporary entry for business persons chapter. We preserved the predictability and security of access for services suppliers and investors. We preserved the cultural exception.
Also, we preserved state-to-state dispute settlement and in fact improved upon that mechanism, including through the protocol of amendment, to ensure that Canada can rely on an efficient and effective mechanism to resolve disputes with the U.S. and with Mexico.
In the area of autos, changes were made to the rules of origin regime to encourage the use of more inputs from Canada, in particular by increasing the regional value content requirements for autos and auto parts and removing incentives to produce in low-cost jurisdictions.
Together with the quota exemption from potential U.S. section 232 tariffs on autos and auto parts, secured as part of the final outcome, these new automotive rules of origin will incentivize production and sourcing in North America and represent important outcomes for both our steel and aluminum sectors.
With respect to modernizing the NAFTA outcome, we have included modernized disciplines for trade in goods and agriculture, including with respect to customs administration and procedures, technical barriers to trade and sanitary and phytosanitary measures, as well as a new chapter on good regulatory practices that encourages co-operation and protects the government's right to regulate in the public interest, including for health and safety.
A commitment on trade facilitation and customs procedures has been modernized for the 21st century to better facilitate cross-border trade, including through the use of electronic processes, which will reduce red tape for exporters and save them money. We have new and modernized disciplines on technical barriers to trade in key sectors, designed to minimize obstacles for Canadians doing business in the U.S. and Mexico while preserving Canada's ability to regulate in the public interest. The agreement also includes modernized obligations for cross-border trade in services and investment, including financial services, telecommunications and a new digital trade chapter.
On labour and environment, we have made important steps forward by concluding ambitious chapters that are fully incorporated into the agreement and are subject to dispute settlement. These obligations will help ensure that parties maintain high standards for labour and the environment and that domestic laws will not be deviated from as a means to gain an unfair trading advantage. The outcome also includes a special enforcement mechanism that will provide Canada with an enhanced process to ensure the effective implementation of labour reforms in Mexico—specifically related to freedom of association and collective bargaining.
Finally, the outcomes advance Canada's interests toward inclusive trade, including through greater integration of the gender perspective and better reflecting the interests of indigenous peoples.
With respect to some other outcomes, in the context of the overall outcome Canada did make some incremental moves in relation to the U.S. objectives, specifically in the areas of supply management and intellectual property.
On supply-management sectors, we should recall that the U.S. made an explicit and public demand for the complete dismantlement of the supply-management system, but in the end we preserved the three key pillars of supply management, including production controls, import controls and price controls, and granted only minimal access to the U.S. The government has also been clear in its commitment to provide full and fair compensation to farmers in this regard.
On intellectual property, obligations cover a broad set of areas including copyright and related rights, trademarks, geographical indications, industrial designs, patents, pharmaceutical intellectual property provisions, data protection for agricultural chemical products, trade secrets, and intellectual property rights enforcement.
Certain outcomes will require changes to Canada's current intellectual property legal and policy framework in certain areas such as intellectual property rights enforcement to provide ex officio border authority for suspected counterfeit or pirated goods in transit, as well as criminal offences for the unauthorized and wilful misappropriation of trade secrets.
In other areas, Canada has transition periods to implement its commitments. For instance, on the obligation to provide a copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years, Canada currently provides a term of life plus 50 years, and has a two-and-a-half-year transition period to implement this obligation following the entry into force of the agreement.
Under the amending protocol, the parties agreed to remove the obligation to provide 10 years of data protection for biologic drugs, meaning that Canada does not need to change its existing regime in this area, which provides a term of eight years of data protection.
I'll just mention a couple of other notable outcomes. Faced with the U.S. demand for automatic termination every five years, Canada instead proposed a process that would lead to the regular review and modernization of the agreement. We settled on a 16-year term with a formal review every six years, after any of which the agreement can be extended for another 16 years.
We also addressed issues of concern to civil society, including those with respect to the removal of the energy proportionality clause and those introducing new obligations on privacy and access to information, and an exception for indigenous rights.
We no longer have trilateral investor-state dispute settlement for Canada. The U.S. and Mexico maintained only a very narrow set of investor-state dispute settlement obligations. Investor-state dispute settlement under the original or existing NAFTA will have a three-year transition period for investments made under that original NAFTA.
There is no government procurement chapter between Canada and the other parties. Canada maintains its access to the U.S. under the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Government Procurement, which was significantly more ambitious than was the original NAFTA chapter. We retain our access to Mexico via the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership. We were unwilling to accept a “NAFTA minus” outcome on government procurement, which was all that was offered by the U.S.
In closing, I would like to underline that our objectives for these negotiations were informed by Canadian priorities and interests, close engagement and consultations with provinces and territories, as well as a wide range of stakeholders and the collective knowledge and experience of trade policy and sector experts across the government.
The views and information provided by stakeholders, including industry, labour, civil society and indigenous peoples and others, informed all of Canada's negotiating positions. The strong support for the new agreement expressed by industry and key business associations is clear evidence that we listened carefully to their views and advocated strongly for their interests.
That concludes my opening remarks. We would be pleased to answer any questions you may have regarding the agreement.
Thank you very much, Madam Chair.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-02-05 15:57
Thank you very much, Madame Chair.
I want to start off today by thanking the officials for being here, particularly Mr. Verheul. I think your experience and knowledge are very much respected around the table, so thank you for being here today.
Off the top, I want to address some things that have happened recently on this. On December 12 we met and asked the government to provide important documents so that the members of Parliament on this committee could fulfill our democratic obligations, basically to review this very important agreement. These include economic impact studies. We've watched the process in the United States—I think, everybody around the table has—and there is some concern about having something unexpected happen and our reviewing it and having an issue that needs to be addressed. I therefore have a process question for you.
If Canada decides to amend the agreement, would it have to be sent to the United States and Mexico to be ratified?
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 15:58
Yes. If we are proposing to make some change to the agreement that has already been agreed upon trilaterally amongst the three parties, we would certainly have to ensure that the U.S. and Mexico were on board and agreeable to those changes.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-02-05 15:59
All right. You see, the government is asking us to move forward quickly with this, as soon as possible. I think everybody would like to see this done as well as we can.
Will the minister table the economic impact studies used to analyze the agreement and determine its effects on Canada? Will we be able to have those studies sooner rather than later? What's the timeline for that?
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 15:59
Yes, it is certainly our hope that we will have the concluded economic assessment in the very near future. I'm expecting that I will see a revised draft sometime today, but I will caution that the economic assessment of the outcome of a negotiation such as this is a bit of a challenge to analyze, because we have an existing agreement, which is the NAFTA. We have this new agreement, which in many ways replicates outcomes of the NAFTA, so we have essentially free trade as it stands now. We're not looking at a lot of increased liberalization beyond what was in NAFTA. We were aiming to preserve it. Most of the changes we made that we would characterize as improvements are going to be the facilitation measures we took to streamline products going back and forth across the borders.
What we've done on regulatory co-operation and technical barriers to trade is all very difficult to quantify economically. Therefore, we do have a challenge in trying to develop an economic assessment that is going to provide a lot of that, because a quantitative economic assessment just doesn't have that much to work with, given that most of the trade is already free, and these other elements are very hard to quantify because there are no real numbers attached to them. It depends on the amount of co-operation and how far we can go in harmonizing the different regulations, and those kinds of issues.
We are working on it as quickly as we can. We anticipate having it within the coming days and we'll make it available to the committee and others, but I just want to highlight that this is not the same type of economic assessment we would do with a brand new agreement.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-02-05 16:01
I understand that. I think members around the table were hearing not only about improvements with the deal, but sectors that may not feel that it's an improvement for their sectors, and I was just curious. When did the minister task you to produce this economic impact study?
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 16:02
The economic impact study is something that is not done by my group—
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 16:02
—which is essentially the negotiators. It's done by the chief economist's.
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 16:02
I'm afraid I don't know offhand. This is something that has been worked on while we were in regular contact with the chief economist's office as we went through the negotiations. Obviously, they can't go too far with their analysis until we have a final agreement, which they can then assess. We didn't really get that until December 10 with the modifications that were made. They have been working diligently since then to go through their economic analysis, and we're now at the point where we're very close to having a final outcome and we will be providing it to the committee in the very near future.
View Colin Carrie Profile
CPC (ON)
View Colin Carrie Profile
2020-02-05 16:03
Out of curiosity, has the minister made available to you any documents that you would be able to table for us?
We know we're starting this as quickly as we can. I know we're very anxious to look at any data that you have. Are you guys able to produce anything for us that we could take away today and start looking at?
Steve Verheul
View Steve Verheul Profile
Steve Verheul
2020-02-05 16:03
I think we've put quite a bit of information on the web. There's a detailed description of the outcomes, chapter by chapter, and an overall assessment of the agreement. We've included some analysis, sector by sector, and I think that's available. Certainly there's a lot of analysis that's available and has been published with respect to the implications of the agreement for sectors, for regions, for various areas, and an overall picture.
What we don't have, as of this point, is that economic assessment, which has not yet been quite finalized.
View Chandra Arya Profile
Lib. (ON)
View Chandra Arya Profile
2020-02-05 16:04
Thank you, Madam Chair.
First of all, on my own behalf and that of the people of Nepean, and indeed all Canadians, I would like to recognize and appreciate the hard word done by the negotiating team over a long period of time. I'm sure there were a lot of lessons learned that can be applied in future negotiations with other countries or other trading blocks.
We are all elected officials wearing our different political colours. However, even though we may differ in our ideological thoughts, our end objective is the same, namely, what is good for Canadians. You have achieved that, and I'm thankful for it.
We all know that Canada is a trading nation—60% of our GDP comes from trade—and we are rich today because of natural resources: oil and gas, minerals and forestry products. However, the world is going towards a knowledge-based economy. I would like to know where this agreement stands with respect to where our economy is going in the next five to 10 years in the new digital age.
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