Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue 10 - Evidence - February 6, 2007
OTTAWA, Tuesday, February 6, 2007
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs met this day at 6 p.m. to examine such issues as may arise from
time to time relating to foreign relations generally.
Senator Hugh Segal (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: I call the meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade to
Let me express my profound apology to our colleagues from abroad whom we are honoured to have here today. It is
one of the arcane measures of how this institution works that even though times are set, the Senate ploughs on, and
until it finishes, we are unable to respect the time we ourselves have set with you. It is one of those difficulties, and I
apologize for that profusely. Certainly, if I was visiting your country and we were treated the same way, I would be
deeply offended. You are very generous for remaining, and we appreciate that very much. We are honoured to have
I should like to introduce the members of our committee. Senator Stollery is the deputy chair of the committee. He
has worked for many years as the chair of the committee and brings those years of experience in foreign affairs to our
Senator Andreychuk is a former judge and ambassador. She is the chair of the Standing Senate Committee on
Human Rights and has been very involved in human rights issues and international law.
Senator Corbin is a long-time member of the committee and brings years of knowledge to deliberations as a member
of both the Senate and the House of Commons.
I do not see Senator Dawson here.
Senator De Bané is the first Canadian of Arab descent elected to the House of Commons, and he was a minister with
many portfolios. He is a Canadian who was born in Palestine.
Senator Di Nino is co-chair of the newly created Canada-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Group. He recently
visited our troops in Afghanistan and saw first-hand the difference our troops are making there, along with troops of
other allied countries.
Senator Downe is a member of the executive committee of the Canadian NATO Parliamentary Association. He has
an interest in the rights of seniors and veterans and is a stout protector of the interests of Prince Edward Island, our
smallest but most determined province by every possible account.
I do not see Senator Eyton.
Senator Mahovlich is a well-known Canadian, not only for his distinguished service in the Senate but as an
outstanding hockey player, having played for both Toronto and the Montreal Canadians.
Senator Merchant is from Saskatchewan. Her background is in the business world as well as in education in
I invite Mr. Thórdarson, the head of the delegation, and Mr. Hansen to make some opening comments and
introduce whom you wish amongst your delegation. We can then have an exchange of questions and comments about
the free trade agenda between our countries.
Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, M.P., Iceland, Head of Delegation, European Free Trade Association (EFTA)
Parliamentary Committee: We are all politicians, so we understand when people talk too much. That is a common
problem we all share.
I will introduce myself, and after I have said a few words about our visit and the reason we are here, then my
colleagues will introduce themselves and make a few remarks.
My name is Gudlaugur Thór Thórdarson, which is not a very international name, as you can guess. I am chairman
of this delegation, and I am also chairman of the environmental committee in the Icelandic Parliament and vice-
chairman of the parliamentary group of the Independence Party, which is a European conservative libertarian party.
Thank you for your warm hospitality here in Ottawa. My committee has been looking forward to this visit for a
long time and to being able to exchange views with the honourable members of the Parliament in Canada.
The EFTA Parliamentary Committee has had free trade negotiations with Canada. Those negotiations were
launched in 1998 with a visit to Ottawa and are on their way to a successful conclusion.
As you may know, negotiations were not producing any results for many years as they were de facto stalled.
However, last year things moved quickly in the right direction. Without being privy to information on the active status
of negotiation, I can say that I hope that Canada and EFTA will be able to conclude a free trade agreement soon.
We, the members of the EFTA Parliamentary Committee, would like to think that negotiations have been stepped
up after the work we put into planning for this visit. Whether or not that is the case, I can assure all of us gathered
around this table that a free trade agreement between EFTA and Canada would be a hugely important step forward
that will bring benefits to all parties involved.
Before handing the floor over to my colleagues for general introductions, questions or comments, I would like to
present an overview of EFTA free trade policies and touch briefly upon issues of mutual interest.
Both the EFTA countries and Canada are important players in international trade and have a vested interest in
seeing the Doha round come to a successful conclusion. The EFTA countries are committed to a positive outcome of
the Doha round and have stated that this is the first and foremost goal.
On the other hand, we cannot overlook the current rush towards political free trade agreements. That is as a result
of the obvious troubles in which the Doha round finds itself. This rush, which has been labelled by many as a global
race for the FTAs, entails a growing potential of discrimination for economic operators. EFTA, for its part, views
bilateral trade agreements as complementary and not as a substitute to the multilateral trading system.
These days the free trade arena is highly competitive. It is a positive competition. We could say that EFTA's main
competitor on the trade scene is the European Union, of which none of the EFTA countries are a member. Since the
early 1990s, EFTA has sought to gain access to the same markets as the EU and has by and large followed the same
goals as the EU.
EFTA has established an extensive network of contractual free trade relations in Central and Eastern Europe, now
mostly part of the European Economic Area, as well as in the Mediterranean regions. We have free trade agreements
with Mexico and Chile, with Singapore, Korea and the Southern African Customs Union. Extending across the
Atlantic into Asia and Africa, the EFTA network consists at present of 15 free trade agreements and nine declarations
Lately, however, EFTA has taken a more proactive role and in many instances is one step ahead of the EU in its
efforts. EFTA has recently concluded free trade agreements with Egypt, the Southern African Customs Union and
Korea. Several more agreements are currently under negotiation and preparation.
We, the EFTA Parliamentary Committee, are supportive of EFTA third country policies and have done our utmost
to encourage the EFTA council to embark upon an ambitious trade strategy that will include the up-and-coming
players such as India, Russia, China and Japan. This seems to have born fruit, as EFTA in India recently launched a
joint feasibility study that could lead to a comprehensive economic agreement soon. As for the other nations I
mentioned, EFTA or individual EFTA countries are currently exploring ways of strengthening existing trade relations.
Earlier I spoke of the European Union. It needs to be kept in mind that the EU is our biggest market, and that three
of the four EFTA countries are participants in the internal market through a membership with the European
Economic Area, the EEA.
The fourth country, Switzerland, conducts its trade relations with the EU through bilateral agreements. I emphasize
this to draw your attention to the fact that the EU is our main competitor in international trade, as I explained earlier.
At the same time, the EU constitutes a hugely important market for us, an internal market in which we have full
Of course, when I talk about competition, I mean that in a positive way. We look at the EU as one of our closest
Honourable senators, our purpose with this visit is to add our weight to a successful conclusion of a free trade
agreement between EFTA and Canada, but not only that. We are obviously keen to learn about your views on the
other aspects linked to international trade. It will be extremely interesting for us, the EFTA parliamentarians, to hear
your committee's views on the Doha round in general. We would also be interested to hear your views on NAFTA, its
current status and future prospects. Last, it would be beneficial for us to learn about Canada's foreign trade strategy
and your committee's view on the current state of play in international trade.
Mr. Chairman, with your permission, I would now like to give the floor to my colleagues from Norway, Switzerland
and Liechtenstein for a short introduction, and then proceed to an exchange of views.
Svein Roald Hansen, M.P., Norway, Deputy Head of Delegation, EFTA Parliamentary Committee: I am a member of
the Norwegian Parliament, representing the Labour Party, a social-democratic party.
For Norway, Canada is a very important trading partner. It is the biggest after the European Union and the United
States of America. I think we have very good relations between Canada and Norway. We also are looking forward to
finalizing the free trade agreement between Canada and EFTA countries.
I will stop there and leave the floor to Switzerland.
Mario Fehr, M.P., Switzerland, EFTA Parliamentary Committee: I am from Zurich, the German-speaking part of
Switzerland. I have been an MP since 1999. I also am a member of the EFTA committee and the committee on foreign
affairs and I am a Social Democrat.
Switzerland has a special role within Europe because we are neither a member of the European Union nor of the
European Economic Area. However, we have many bilateral agreements — 18 altogether — with the European Union.
Many of those agreements are free trade agreements on specific issues.
We are also interested in having such a free trade agreement with Canada. Canada is a country with which we have
had a long-standing friendly relationship, not only when it comes to economics, but also in many areas like human
rights and the environment.
I personally think free trade agreements that are fair benefit both partners. I believe that Swiss investments in
Canada are the fifth largest, so we have a lot of economic exchange, but that is not our only common link.
Franz J. Heeb, M.P., Liechtenstein, EFTA Parliamentary Committee: I am a member of Parliament in Liechtenstein.
The Principality of Liechtenstein is a very small country with 35,000 inhabitants and 160 square miles. Economically,
you must not be afraid of us, but we have very good skiers, together with Switzerland and Austria.
Since I was young, I have appreciated Canadian ice hockey players. After seeing the skaters there yesterday evening,
I know why you are so good in that sport.
The Chairman: Colleagues, we are honoured that you are here. Our normal process is to have members of the
committee pose questions and/or make comments and elicit your response. I will take the chair's prerogative and ask
the first question.
This would not apply to all of the members of the delegation equally, but there has been a concern in Canada about
some of the competitive forces around shipbuilding in our country and in some of the larger EFTA member nations.
We are in the same circumstance you are in with free trade agreements. We do not have any precise information on
what the content will be, but the agreement is being referred to as a ``tier 1'' free trade agreement, which means it begins
with the reduction of tariffs across as broad a range as possible.
I once had an economics professor who said that all free trade agreements in their initial stage look the same: ``There
shall be free and unfettered trade between the signatories to this agreement except'' — and then 300 or 400 pages follow
with the details of the exemptions.
Could you share with this committee what you think would be the quantum increase in the volume of trade between
EFTA countries and Canada if the agreement that is being contemplated, assuming it operates as many tier 1
agreements do, achieved its optimum result over the next short to medium period of time? Would the agreement
aggressively ramp up the level of commerce among our countries, or would it help avoid difficulties in trade that is
already going on? I use shipbuilding as one example where I am sure there are great sensitivities in your delegation, as
there would be in our own.
Mr. Thórdarson: The short answer to this question is no. If I have a little bit longer, I think what we would gain from
a free trade agreement between Canada and EFTA is something we cannot now foresee. With other free trade
agreements we have made, we have not foreseen all the opportunities they have given us.
First and foremost, the agreement would strengthen relations between the nations. I think that is important. These
nations have a lot in common. For example, in the nation I represent, Iceland, we have always looked at Canada as our
friend. In the years 1874 to 1914, one fifth of the Icelandic population moved to Canada and we have had good
relations since with those people, who have been very helpful to Iceland in many ways.
I think it is very important to work together. One thing with business relations is that they bring many other things
in many fields. We are both northern nations, as is Norway, and we have much in common when it comes to
environmental issues and so on.
To be frank, we have been discussing this a little bit in the delegation today. We heard similar views from the
parliamentary groups we met today. There were a many worries about the free trade agreement: if it is made, what
impact will it have on this or that industry and what can we do about it? It was a bit strange because we have not
spoken about those things in that way for a long time.
At the end of the last meeting, I remembered that I last did so in Iceland in1991. It was the year we entered the EEA
agreement, which was a big step for Iceland at the time. There were many worries about this industry and that area and
so on, but no one mentions those concerns anymore.
There definitely have been changes. However, the agreements have opened up a lot of opportunities from which we
have gained. Of course, we have done other things also to help our competitiveness, but the GDP per person has been
rising a lot since then. No politician who wants to be taken seriously wants to get out of the European Economic Area
Agreement. In fact, no one mentions it anymore. That is what happens with these free trade agreements. After they
have started, it is very seldom that people want to reverse them.
The Chairman: Could you give us a sense of how the trade unions in your respective countries responded to both the
existing agreement back in 1991 and the one that is being contemplated now? Are they as optimistic and constructive
about this instrument as you are?
Mr. Thórdarson: They are. The EEA agreement meant more than just market access; it also led to cooperation in
many fields. There was a lot they were pleased about there. Also, as was mentioned, we had a bigger delegation today.
I am not a socialist or social democrat, but we have had good social democrats here. For example, in Iceland, the
trade unions want to lower trade barriers and have cheaper agricultural products and food in the country, because in
their view it is easier for their people have better living standards if they have food and other produce at better prices.
Maybe that is as far as we have gone. An M.P. from Iceland 20 years ago might have had somewhat different answers,
but at the moment this is the situation and I cannot see that changing.
The Chairman: Thank you. Senator Downe is from Prince Edward Island. I want to say to our colleague from
Liechtenstein, be careful. Prince Edward Island has 125,000 people is and known to be very aggressive.
Senator Downe: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for that wonderful introduction. I welcome the committee members as
well. I am sorry you did not come a bit later to the East Coast where we could show you our successful and humane
seal hunt. I know Iceland is a great fishing nation as well.
I am wondering about approval of the free trade agreement in your respective countries. Does your committee have
the mandate for approval? Does it go to your Parliament or to your executive committee?
Mr. Thórdarson: The approval comes through the Parliament. This committee or delegation, in cooperation with
other bodies, makes the line, I would say, or the strategy about the free trade agreements that EFTA is heading into
and where we want to go and so on. The technology is on a governmental level and with the secretariat of EFTA, but
the last word is for the Parliament to decide.
Senator Downe: I assume that if three of the four countries agreed, you would go ahead with those three. You do not
need all the countries agreeing to the agreement.
Mr. Thórdarson: No.
Mr. Fehr: Each and every one of our four countries has to approve the law. For instance, in my country of
Switzerland, usually the commission on foreign affairs is asked, which has just happened now. We are looking for a
mandate or framework for going into negotiations with Albania, Peru and Colombia, so we were informed, not about
all the details, but just asked, ``Are you willing to do this, and do you think it is a good thing?'' Then the commission on
foreign affairs said, ``Yes, it is okay; we think it is a good thing.''
We have long-standing experience with this kind of free trade agreement. We have discussed it many times, and we
have found that it has helped our economy because we are very much export oriented. At the end, when the
government has finished negotiations, they come back to Parliament and then we can say yes or no. We cannot discuss
any details. We can ask questions. Maybe we had some negotiations with Egypt and human rights issues are brought to
the table. Some of us asked, ``Could you also bring into the negotiations human rights issues?''
With Canada, no one would ask such a question. For us, Canada is a natural partner. Canada is not a Third World
country, and we are not a Third World country, so it is a natural partner for free trade agreements. I think everyone in
Switzerland would agree with this point of view. If an agreement with Canada comes back to the Parliament there, no
one would be against such an agreement. If an agreement with, for instance, China would come back to our
Parliament, for sure some people would raise human rights issues.
Senator Di Nino: I too add my welcome and our apologies for keeping you waiting.
What is the population of the EFTA nations, approximately?
Mr. Thórdarson: It depends.
Senator Di Nino: Let us see — what time is it today?
Mr. Thórdarson: I was hoping that you would not ask that question.
Senator Di Nino: Mr. Chairman, I will withdraw the question.
Mr. Thórdarson: I tell the same story. A friend of mine who was Prime Minister of Iceland for 13 years told me that
when I was asked how many people live in Iceland, I should say fewer than a million, otherwise we would be in trouble,
but the actual answer is 300,000.
Senator Di Nino: I was talking about all four countries.
Mr. Hansen: In Norway, there are 4.5 million people.
Mr. Fehr: In Switzerland, we are 7 million and some.
Senator Di Nino: I understand that there is an $11-billion trade between Canada and the EFTA nations. Generally,
with the developed world in particular, trade now does not carry as much tariff as it used to once upon a time. In most
cases, it seems to me that tariffs have been reduced or eliminated, pretty much. How much of that $11 billion, to your
knowledge, actually carries a tariff or a tariff other than minimal? Do you have any idea?
Mr. Hansen: I do not know.
Senator Di Nino: I do not know either. I should have that information, but I did not prepare myself that well. I
Mr. Fehr: I know that, for instance, chocolate that is made in Switzerland has some tariffs to go into your market.
Maybe the following question could also be raised: What else could be traded if there were no tariffs? Could there be
even more trade? Could there be more benefit for all our five countries if there were fewer tariffs? I could not answer
that question exactly, but I am sure there would be more trade and more benefit.
Senator Di Nino: I ask because it seems to me that more and more these days the impediment to trade is in the areas
of regulation and standards. I was wondering if that has been an impediment in the trade between EFTA and Canada.
You used a very good example of chocolate and the components of chocolate. Are there impediments of a nature that
would be described more in the area of regulation and standards that you have been able to see in the relationship
between Canada and EFTA?
Mr. Thórdarson: Are you talking about technical barriers?
Senator Di Nino: I am referring to technical barriers, such as GMOs, genetically modified organisms. As you know,
that is an issue much more prevalent with the European Union. I wondered if you have found that to be an issue for
trade with our country.
Mr. Thórdarson: As I mentioned, if you want to get into details about the trade negotiation and the free trade
agreements, then unfortunately we are not the right persons to ask. However, I know what you are talking about. It is
a big thing in the WTO and between nations, especially technical barriers of all kinds, and there are many of them. I do
not recall hearing complaints about those things with the nations that are discussing or negotiating with the EFTA
countries. Of course, I cannot be quite sure, but I think that if that were a big problem, then we probably would have
heard about it, because we usually get a little report about the negotiation with each country, even though we usually
do not get into details.
Senator Di Nino: From your experience through the negotiations that have been going on the last few years, what
seems to be the single biggest impediment to increasing trade between our nation and your group?
Mr. Thórdarson: The negotiation has been going on for nine years, or this is the ninth year. If I understand correctly,
this is the first step of a free trade agreement. We have free trade agreements with other nations, third countries, in
which we are going to the second and third steps; we are trying to widen up to other areas more than only goods. If I
understand correctly, we are just at the first step with Canada.
I am sorry I do not have the details. In the EFTA meetings, when two parties are discussing things, you get a
different answer as to the reason it has not been concluded, as we can easily see. Just look at the Doha round, for
example. If you ask the Europeans, they have a different answer than the Americans.
As I understand it, there are many things we could do to strengthen relations between the nations. This would
definitely be the first step. I have other ideas also — for example, aviation and so on and so forth. I think this would be
an important first step. This would be the first transatlantic free trade agreement that Canada would have, and I think
it would strengthen the relations between friendly nations. We have a lot in common in general and this would
definitely increase trade. If it did not, it would be the only time a free trade agreement had not done so.
Senator Di Nino: I totally share your views. Canada is a trading nation. Our GDP is huge when compared to most
other nations in relation to trade.
There is another area that is of interest to us, and to you of course. I take a look at the numbers that I have been
given and it seems there is quite an imbalance in trade between EFTA and Canada in your favour, which sometimes
happens. However, on the area of foreign direct investment, we have actually done much better than you have. We
have had investments from your countries that are about twice what we have been able to invest in the EFTA
Do you have any comments with regards to the ability of your nations to invest in this country? Are there any
roadblocks that we should be trying to lessen or eliminate in order to attract more investment from your countries and
continue to encourage our investors to go to your part of the world?
Mr. Thórdarson: Actually, I think it is quite right. If you look at the numbers that EFTA hold, we export more to
your countries than you import, but if you look at individual countries, then they are different. For example, Canada
imports more to Iceland, even though it is not big in comparison, but everything matters.
At the moment, Icelandic banks are looking at opening banks in Canada, at least two of them. I honestly think that
the most important thing is to open the eyes to this possibility. In all of the EFTA countries, there have been firms that
have been investing in countries in Europe, Eastern Europe and many other countries. We could say, both on our side
and maybe on your side too, in North America as a whole, it looks as though people are not making an effort to bring
people in. When we spoke to your parliamentarians today, they said they may be looking too much towards India and
China and so on. This is very important, but do not forget little Europe which is, after all, a wealthy area where you
can sell a lot of goods, if you are interested in that.
This free trade agreement is important because it would be so symbolic. It would definitely draw attention in the
media of these countries. I speak for Iceland, and my colleagues can comment on their countries, but there is a great
interest for relations with Canada. Maybe it is not a good thing, but because of troubles in the U.S., we look to Canada
because we think there are opportunities and something opens up.
Mr. Heeb: I want to add that free trade brought Europe a lot. In this way we learned different tastes, learned to
consume Italian pizza and German sauerkraut and so on. We learned a lot together. I think it brought us an
understanding of different cultures and an understanding of other economies, too. With these negotiations, EFTA and
Canada are trying to find the same platform. I think this would be a great chance for understanding between Europe
Senator Andreychuk: I recall when the negotiations started and the impetus was to look beyond Europe, to diversify
and to find common ground and common opportunities, and then it lagged. It became more, I would say, like
bureaucratic negotiations, where I think you may have been preoccupied with Europe as we may have been, in addition
to always being preoccupied with the U.S.
What gave the political impetus now, to have you here, to get involved, and to put the emphasis on here, when we
seem to be, as you pointed out, looking for opportunities everywhere, including China, India, and you've mentioned
Ecuador? Is it a way for us to look into Europe? Is there a competitive advantage for us into Europe? Is it some
competitive advantage for you to have an agreement with Canada, to then look into the U.S.?
Mr. Thórdarson: I think you are quite right. We are part of the internal market in Europe, so you will gain access to
that market if you make an agreement with EFTA. You will then be getting into the European Economic Area. In the
same way, we will probably get access to NAFTA if EFTA makes an agreement with Canada.
In the last couple of years, we have been very proactive. There has been a lot of interest within the countries about
the situation in negotiations, and as I recall the only free trade agreement taking up questions in my parliament is the
Canadian one. When on earth are we going to finish this deal with our friends in Canada?
We have been planning to visit you for how many years? Three or four years. We are finally here and enjoying our
time and it is good to know there are places that are colder than Iceland.
The Chairman: Yes, but it is a dry cold.
Mr. Thórdarson: But warm people.
Senator Andreychuk: Could you describe what you think the advantage is to your countries to come into Canada,
beyond our immediate trade? We have an inkling, particularly I do, of Iceland, thanks to one of our colleagues,
Senator Johnson, who spends a lot of time telling us about Iceland. What advantage do you see coming in beyond our
borders and into the U.S.? Do you see an advantage to you or do you still see where Europe goes, so do you, with the
Mr. Thórdarson: No. As I mentioned, every free trade agreement creates chances or opportunities for the people and
firms in each country. I do not know if a large country can do without free trade, at least not for a long time; it cannot
be prosperous. There is no way a small country can be without free trade, so we try to get as many free trade
agreements as possible. Before we had free trade, we were the poorest nation in Europe, and now we are one of the
I see many opportunities when it comes to all the EFTA countries, especially, when I look at it from the Icelandic
point of view because there is quite a distance involved but we have many things in common. We have links to Canada,
and there is much interest in the many relations that have developed with Canada. It has been good for business thus
far. If we were able to increase that business, there would be many more opportunities.
The Chairman: Thank you. I have no other requests for questions or comments from senators, so I will put one final
question to the visiting delegation. It relates to the perspective and advice that you can give the committee in respect of
your trade and other relations with our Russian friends. This is off-topic because it is not about EFTA, per se, but we
are all involved in the larger world of trying to manage political, trading and energy relationships. I would be most
interested in your perspective on the relationship emerging with Northern Europe, in particular, and our Russian
friends and the long-term prospects for a stable economic frame of reference or some of the difficulties and challenges
that you might want to share with us. In that way, we could benefit from your more proximate awareness of the issue
because of geography.
Mr. Thórdarson: That is a big question. We all know the importance of good relations with Russia and we know as
well about the problems. We could say that there is not always the same understanding of following the rules developed
and used in business between the nations. At times, they have other ideas of how things should be done. In respect of
energy, security issues have led to a large debate on the best way forward.
I would like to think that the more cooperation in trade and other areas would lead to security that is as good as
possible. This is a complicated question. Perhaps we could meet in a few weeks to discuss that as the only topic. The
more relations are developed between the Western nations and the more trade we have with Russia, the more likely we
will have good relations between these nations, which is of huge importance to every nation, and especially to little
Iceland and her neighbour, Norway.
Mr. Hansen: It truly is a big question, and I am not an expert on this issue. It is Norway's point of view that it is
especially important to find cooperation with Russia in terms of exploring the Baltic Sea for oil and gas. We are most
concerned about standards for drilling and so on from an environmental perspective because it is so important.
Perhaps the best thing we could do is work together, not only Norway, Canada and the EU but also Russia, to bring
them into the same framework as much as possible. If we work with them, you work with them and the U.S. works
with them, then perhaps they might play a little game with us, so I think we should cooperate with them. That might be
the best advice.
Mr. Fehr: I fully agree. Your question was most interesting. I am not able to give you advice but I can tell you that
this is an ongoing discussion in Switzerland. For instance, the commission on foreign affairs recently decided to make
its annual trip to Russia because many things are going on. It is not clear what will happen after President Putin when
the election occurs in 2008. As well, we have seen the relationship between our northern neighbour, Germany, and
Russia change a great deal and become more realistic since former Chancellor Schroeder has been succeeded by
Chancellor Merkel. There is still a big human rights issue with Chechnya, which has Canada constantly involved.
Russia is sometimes like a big black box, but perhaps it is better to talk to a black box because then you can be more
assured that it will not explode. We should talk.
If Swiss people are talking about relations with a country like Russia, it is a more rational relationship. However, if
they are talking about a relationship to a country like Canada, it is very different because 36,000 Swiss nationals live in
Canada. Canada is a big investor and is a safe country that looks after the environment and human rights issues. It is
completely different. For Swiss politicians, Russia is still a black box.
Senator Mahovlich: We do a great deal of business with Russia — hockey. We do very well. One of our greatest
Canadian hockey players was from Iceland. His name is Frank Frederickson and he is related Senator Janis Johnson.
He is in the Hockey Hall of Fame and is a great hero in Canada. If you have an opportunity to go to Toronto, be sure
to visit the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Mr. Thórdarson: Did he play with the Falcons?
Senator Mahovlich: I think he might have but you can find that out at the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Senator Di Nino: I have one quick comment to put on the record: Canada has been the big winner in the relationship
with the EFTA countries in respect of human capital, including 36,000 Swiss. How many in Canada are from Norway?
Mr. Hansen: There are 330,000 Norwegians.
Senator Di Nino: We thank you for the greatest investment you have made in our country. It is not only appreciated
but also it has worked to our advantage.
The Chairman: We are honoured that you came to the committee today. We appreciate your patience. We are
hopeful that the bureaucrats, who notionally report to us, will conclude the agreement quickly so that our parliaments
can consider as soon as possible moving to the next stage in what is an important strategic and commercial relationship
for Canada with each of your countries. We thank very much for joining us today.
The committee continued in camera.