Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Issue 6 - Evidence - Meeting of February 13, 2014
OTTAWA, Thursday, February 13, 2014
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met
this day, at 10:32 a.m., to study security conditions and economic developments
in the Asia-Pacific region, the implications for Canadian policy and interests
in the region, and other related matters.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
The Chair: The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and
International Trade is here in the context of its ongoing Asia-Pacific study on
security conditions and economic developments in the Asia-Pacific region, the
implications for Canadian policy and interests in the region, and other related
We have before us Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International
Canada, who is well known to all of us.
Thank you for coming. We are studying Asia-Pacific in a general way. We will
be honing in to more of the Southeast Asia-Pacific area, including Burma,
Singapore and Indonesia, so anything you may have as an opening statement would
be helpful. Then there will be questions probably pointed to the countries that
we are now narrowing to study in more detail.
Welcome to the committee, Mr. Neve. It has been some time.
Alex Neve, Secretary General, Amnesty International Canada: Thank you
very much. It's certainly a pleasure to be in front of you and I welcome this
opportunity to share some reflections from Amnesty International as part of your
important study with respect obviously to an important world region. Clearly,
grappling with Canada's role, challenges and opportunities when it comes to the
Asia-Pacific is both timely and crucial.
I'm sure it will be no surprise to committee members that I intend to focus
on the state of human rights protection in the Asia-Pacific region and the role
that Canada can play in that regard, particularly within the context of what we
see to be deepening and expanding economic ties and trading relationships for
Canada with the region. We obviously want to see that help to prevent human
rights violations but also, more widely, to promote human rights reform and
I would like to highlight to committee members that Amnesty International has
a very strong record of human rights research and campaigning with respect to
the Asia-Pacific region, which goes back now more than half a century, over 50
In addition, we also have a strong and growing presence on the ground in the
region, including now an international office in Hong Kong, and well-established
Amnesty International sections along the lines of Amnesty International Canada
in numerous countries, including South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Thailand,
Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Mongolia and Nepal.
It obviously is a very diverse region and it would be folly to attempt
anything close to an authoritative human rights roundup that encompassed the
range of grave human rights challenges and exciting human rights opportunities
that exist in countries that are as divergent as Papua New Guinea and
Afghanistan, New Zealand and South Korea, or the enormous might of China and
obviously the much smaller Maldives — incredible diversity.
I would, however, like to offer what I would suggest are some high-level
reflections as to some but not all human rights trends that emerge in Amnesty
International's research and reporting, and then the importance of Canada
continuing to press bilaterally and multilaterally, both regionally and in
global bodies such as the Commonwealth or the UN human rights system, for those
concerns to be addressed.
To wrap up, I'll situate that in the context of the Canadian government's
interest in formalizing closer trade and investment relations, multilaterally
and bilaterally with the region. I'm not going to do so to offer any views with
respect to Canadian investment policy or the country's trade priorities; that's
not our expertise. I have nothing to offer on that front. However, I would very
much like to highlight a key recommendation that does come from our expertise
that we believe will help assure that Canada's approach to trade and investment
in the Asia-Pacific region ends up being as good as it can be for human rights.
Let me begin with some high-level observations as to the prevailing human
rights situation in the region. This is largely drawn from Amnesty
International's annual report from 2013. It gives a quick snapshot of the
situation in 2012 and is supplemented with some current areas of concern for us.
Let me begin with this, which is perhaps the most overarching area of concern
that emerges with Amnesty International's work in almost all countries in the
region, and that is that the simple act of publicly expressing one's opinion,
whether on the streets or increasingly, of course, online continues to be met
with harsh and even brutal state oppression in far too many countries. People
are routinely harassed, attacked, jailed and killed for daring to challenge the
Here is a very brief flavour: In Vietnam, more than 20 peaceful dissidents,
including bloggers and songwriters, were jailed on spurious charges relating to
national security. In Indonesia, authorities locked up six people for blasphemy
and 70 peaceful political activists remain behind bars. In Cambodia, security
forces gunned down people peacefully protesting against forced eviction and poor
In China, people protesting against mass forced evictions have risked
detention and imprisonment or being sent to Re-education Through Labour camps.
I'll come back to those in a moment. More than 100 people were detained to
prevent protests ahead of the Chinese communist party leadership change in
In Sri Lanka, journalists and others were arbitrarily arrested or abducted
for criticizing the authorities. In India, activists working for the rights of
indigenous communities were jailed on politically motivated charges. And, of
course, in North Korea, Kim Jong-un continues to, I guess we may say,
consolidate his leadership after assuming power in 2011. Political opponents
continue to be banished to remote prison camps where they face severe
malnutrition, hard labour, torture and, in many cases, death.
Armed conflict is also another area of concern for us in the region. It
continues to blight the lives of tens of thousands of people throughout the
region, with civilians suffering injury, death and displacement as a result of
suicide attacks, indiscriminate bombings, aerial assaults or targeted killings
in countries like as Afghanistan, Myanmar/ Burma, Pakistan and Thailand.
The ambitions of women and girls continue to be thwarted across the
Asia-Pacific region as many states fail to even come close to adequately
protecting and promoting their rights. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, many women
and girls continue to be barred from public life and, in some cases, are
subjected to execution-style killings by the Taliban.
Public outcry at the gang rape and subsequent death of a student in India in
2012, followed by other similar cases which have garnered public attention, have
highlighted that country's persistent failure to curb shocking levels of
violence against women and girls. The pervasiveness of violence against women in
countries like Papua New Guinea, which doesn't often garner attention, has been
shockingly illustrated by a spate of so-called sorcery killings against women
and girls in that country.
It is not all despair. We have seen a real breath of opportunity and change
recently in Myanmar. Hundreds of political prisoners have been freed, and we
have welcomed every one of those releases. President Thein Sein promised to
release all prisoners of conscience by the end of 2013, but now, six weeks into
2014, many remain behind bars. Additionally, Amnesty International has
documented fresh arrests in Myanmar over the past six weeks under the country's
draconian peaceful assembly and peaceful procession law, which continues to be
used to target peaceful protesters who are critical of the government.
Also in Myanmar, intensifying violence and discrimination over the last two
years against the Rohingya population in the country's Rakhine state have been
sources of turmoil, displacement and repression. Amnesty International, for
instance, just a few days ago issued an urgent action on behalf of 75 year-old
Kyaw Hla Aung, a prominent Rohingya lawyer and a former staff member of a
humanitarian NGO. He had previously spent 16 years in prison simply because of
his peaceful advocacy and efforts to highlight the situation and needs of the
Rohingya population. He was arrested again — and remains in jail — in July last
year after intervening to prevent a protest in April last year from turning
violent. We have issued our urgent action because there are serious concerns
about his health.
In China, recent concerns include the arrest on January 15 and detention of a
prominent Uighur scholar and founder of a notable website, Uighur Online. His
whereabouts are currently unknown and there is grave concern he is at risk of
We have expressed concern about the jailing of prominent Chinese legal
scholar and anti-corruption activist Xu Zhiyong, sentenced in last January to a
four-year prison term for "gathering a crowd to disturb order in a public
We have also spoken out about the case of Karma Tsewang, a prominent Tibetan
monk who has not been allowed access to his family or lawyer since his arrest in
early December. There are serious concerns about his health.
We have of course responded to the announcement by the Chinese government in
December that the country's notorious re-education-through-labour-camp system
would be abolished. We have welcomed that — for years that's something Amnesty
International has called for — but we have noted with concern that Chinese
authorities, at the same time, appear to be increasingly resorting to other
forms of persecution through detention, such as so-called "black jails,"
enforced drug rehabilitation centres, and brainwashing centres where torture
continues to be rampant.
The recent situation in Thailand has obviously been very tense in the course
of the standoff between the government and opposition forces. Mass popular
protests led to scores of people being killed and injured during clashes between
pro- and anti-government forces over the past two months. We watch, hopeful that
perhaps things are calming down, but there is a lot to be vigilant about on that
And then there is Sri Lanka. That country's very worrying human rights
situation, past and present, was in the global spotlight at the time of
November's Commonwealth summit in Sri Lanka. But just because the summit has
come and gone, we want to be sure that the human rights concerns are not
forgotten. Not only is there a pressing need to ensure full accountability for
widespread and systematic abuses in the past by both sides in the conflict, an
issue that will be sharply debated at next month's session of the UN Human
Rights Council — and I will come back that — but there is also clear evidence
that serious violations of human rights continue now; it's not just about the
past. Those include extrajudicial executions in police custody, torture,
threats, arrests and assaults of activists and journalists, and targeted attacks
against religious minorities.
There is much more I could address. That is a very brief and selective tour
of a number of countries in the region.
The key point I wanted to put in front of you is that, from Amnesty
International's perspective, the Asia-Pacific region continues to be one that
faces ongoing and very serious human rights challenges, even though there is a
lot of optimism and excitement about economic growth and change in many
countries in the region. My most crucial point, therefore, is to underscore how
vital it is that Canada put those myriad concerns at the heart — not on the
sidelines, not at the periphery, but at the heart — of its bilateral and
multilateral dealings in the region.
Canada has admirably taken a very strong stand with respect to human rights
violations in Sri Lanka recently, most obviously with Prime Minister Harper's
decision not to attend the recent Commonwealth summit. Multilateral efforts to
push for meaningful action to confront long-standing impunity in that country
will be continuing at next month's session of the UN Human Rights Council. It's
expected to be very contentious and very divisive, and we certainly expect and
anticipate that Canada will continue to play an important role.
China is a complicated story. No country has settled into an effective and
consistent strategy when it comes to addressing China's many very serious human
rights problems. Governments are very much fixated on the economic potential of
a close relationship with China and find it inconvenient to push human rights
issues to the top of their bilateral dealings.
Going back close to 20 years, Canada has come to generally prefer an approach
that does not involve public pressure or criticism of China's human rights
record. Successive Canadian governments have often argued that Canada's
influence with China is minimal, and that forceful criticism would be
unproductive and might damage the relationship.
Amnesty International and other organizations have long called on Canada to
develop a comprehensive human rights strategy for the Canada-China relationship.
We don't have one. It's a strategy that should take account of all opportunities
across all of government and across all of our dealings, and it should have a
combination of both private and public forms of advocacy.
We have noted as well that Canada's influence with China is likely growing,
with ever-greater Chinese interest in the Canadian natural resource sector. It
is now particularly timely and necessary to develop that comprehensive approach.
Other countries in the region with serious human rights problems also tend to
get an easy ride from Canada when trade prospects are on the table. Malaysia
would be another example.
Canada is clearly interested in exploring commercial opportunities throughout
the Asia-Pacific region and in deepening those opportunities by concluding
bilateral and multilateral trade and investment agreements. The Trans-Pacific
Partnership, which Canada joined in 2012 and which is currently pursuing free
trade agreement negotiations, is a high-profile example. A foreign investment
promotion and protection agreement signed with China in 2012 but not yet in
force has also received considerable attention. Amnesty International takes no
view on such agreements per se. Trade policy and investment strategies are not
our remit, but we do consider it essential that Canadian trade and investment
policy and agreements in the Asia-Pacific and around the world more deliberately
pay very serious attention to human rights.
Trade and investment, and the business activities that are fostered and
generated by trade and investment, if pursued responsibly and sustainably,
absolutely can be beneficial to human rights protection, helping to improve
livelihoods, open up opportunities for employment and for marginalized groups
within societies, lead to greater access to education and skills development,
and many other benefits.
Trade and investment and business activities can also, however — you knew
there was going to be a "however" — be of great harm on the human rights front
when pursued irresponsibly or recklessly. That is particularly so when there are
no standards or weak standards in place to hold companies accountable for the
human rights consequences of their activities.
That is the case in Canada. An effort to establish such standards and a
low-level enforcement framework for holding Canadian companies accountable for
their overseas human rights impact came close but not close enough to passing
the House of Commons in 2010.
Business can be detrimental to human rights protection when the land and
resource rights of indigenous peoples are disregarded by mining companies, when
safe working conditions and just employment practices are not put in place by
garment companies, when businesses benefit from laws that violate rights around
union organizing, or when private or state security forces commit violence while
"protecting" company operations. We obviously want to ensure that Canada's
trade, investment and business practices and presence maximize the former —
human rights promotion — and minimize, ideally avoid, the latter — human rights
This is not just theoretical. It is very real. Amnesty International, other
human rights groups and UN human rights experts have noted concerns associated
with Canadian company operations in such countries as Papua New Guinea, the
Philippines, Myanmar, China, Bangladesh, India and Mongolia.
With that in mind, let me wrap up with a simple but profoundly important,
from our view, three-point recommendation as to a crucial policy step that
Canada should take before moving on to finalize new agreements and arrangements
in this region — in any region, in fact.
First, we would like to see clear enunciation that regard for internationally
protected human rights is to be a pillar of Canada's strategies for pursuing
increased and freer trade and investment in the Asia-Pacific and worldwide. We
do not yet see that, for instance, in the government's recently released Global
Markets Action Plan, which has no reference to human rights at all.
Second, in negotiating trade and investment agreements, ensure that there is
explicit reference to the relevance and applicability of binding international
human rights treaties, both in the agreements themselves and in domestic
legislation implementing those agreements.
Third, establish in law a requirement that all trade and investment
agreements will be subject to comprehensive, independent human rights impact
assessments, both before coming into force and at regular intervals thereafter.
Such assessments must be released publicly, and there must be an expectation and
requirement that shortcomings identified through the assessments will be
addressed and progress to alleviating those shortcomings will also be reported
Thank you very much. Those are the comments I wanted to share with you. I
know I took a bit more time. I assumed since I have the whole table to myself
here that Madam Chair would be a bit liberal with me, and she seems to have
been. I appreciate having had that opportunity.
The Chair: I'm neither Liberal nor Conservative in this committee; I'm
the neutral chair.
Mr. Neve: She was going to be permissive.
The Chair: Thank you for taking that time. You covered a great deal of
territory, and no doubt you'll understand that I have a very long list of
senators who want to ask you questions. I'm going to leave mine to the end.
Senator Johnson: Good morning, and thank you for your incredibly
overwhelming flood of information.
I'm very curious to know how Amnesty International is perceived in these
regions we are discussing in the Asia-Pacific. I'm very curious to know how you
are perceived and how you feel you are impacting as an organization.
Mr. Neve: As I said in my opening, it's such a diverse region, and
there isn't one answer to that question. It would differ considerably from
country to country. I would say in general we are on the ascendant. Our growth
and presence on the ground is increasing significantly, and that is an important
part of continuing to strengthen the impact we have. We're not only an
organization that's a strong international voice from elsewhere, but we are also
a strong local and domestic human rights voice, whether that be other voices
from the region pushing for change in a particular country or voices from within
the country itself that are pushing for change.
We have obviously much closer relationships with some countries than others.
There are many countries in the region that are very cooperative with Amnesty
International and provide us wide open access. We have been enjoying an
increasingly welcoming relationship with the Indian government recently, which
two years ago gave permission for us to open a new national office in India.
There is a lot of amazing work coming from there.
China, on the other hand, continues to this point in time to refuse to allow
Amnesty International to even come into the country on the ground to carry out
field research, which is a central piece of how we do our human rights research.
It's not the only way, and that in no way means that we have not been doing work
on China. I could easily, I'm sure, reach the ceiling with the reports and press
releases and actions on China. That's something we're continuing to work on,
really trying to build the confidence and the connections with Chinese
authorities such that they would welcome rather than feel threatened by that
kind of presence on the ground.
I could go on and on. The main point is that it differs.
Senator Johnson: You were talking about Myanmar/Burma. In Canada, in
2011, we raised concerns about their human rights record during the Universal
Periodic Review of the United Nations Human Rights Council and made some
recommendations. What would you say that Canada should do, as they are
undertaking another one in 2015, next year? What should Canada say in this
respect if a review were held?
Mr. Neve: Myanmar is a good example of a country where we need to
carefully find a balance, and that is what we have been trying to do in our
human rights work as well. No one would deny that the kind of change and
improvement we've seen recently in the country is historic and unprecedented,
and that needs to be welcomed, supported, bolstered and encouraged. Through
interventions at the Universal Periodic Review and other kinds of opportunities
open to Canada, it's always important to highlight and acknowledge that and
encourage it to continue.
At the same time, we have been concerned, not so much with respect to Canada,
but this is something we have noted with other countries, that there may be too
much of a headlong rush to close the Myanmar file: "It was a terrible situation
for decades, and Aung San Suu Kyi is now a national political figure, so all is
good, let's move on and look elsewhere." We think that would be a big mistake.
It's not just about encouraging the positive to continue. It actually is
important to highlight and be critical of the ongoing violations. The situation
for the Rohingya is an obvious example, but so too is the fact that that
long-standing Myanmar story of political imprisonment and prisoners of
conscience that did mark Aung San Suu Kyi's life herself for so long is not over
at all. There are still people behind bars who should not be there. As I noted
in my remarks, there are even some fresh arrests. We need to see from Canada an
approach that will find that balance between encouragement and still keeping up
Senator Downe: To follow up on Senator Johnson's question, to what do
you attribute the improvement in Burma? There has been pressure for 27 years and
nothing happened, but suddenly something changed. Did it come because of
pressure from China or other countries, or was it change internally?
Mr. Neve: Well, of course we think that it was all Amnesty
International campaigning. I think it was many things because for so long, so
many forces were working for change in the country. From within, even in
desperate and difficult situations, monks and the people were quietly working
for change and keeping up that agitation to make it clear to the authorities
that the people wanted change. That was crucial.
Absolutely, there was geopolitical pressure from China, in particular. I'm
not privy to what the particular secrets of that might have been, but there was
a sense that there was a bit of a change in tone in the way that China was
dealing with the government. As well, there's the fact that external pressure
never gave up, whether campaigning from civil society groups like Canada,
Amnesty International, or concerned governments in UN human rights settings and
elsewhere, and kept the country on the agenda and kept up the pressure to make
sure that UN special rapporteurs were being appointed and that they were
knocking constantly on the door. Secretary-Generals of the UN got drawn into
that work at various points in time.
It's a very good reminder that with any country, big or small or powerful,
the best human rights strategy is one that, as much as possible, can be active
across all of those fronts — domestic, regional, international, civil society
and governments — with some of it happening publicly, forcefully and critically
and some of it happening more quietly behind closed doors. The lesson is
probably that it's exactly that combination of forces that we need to make sure
stays in place right now with respect to the situation in the country. As I was
saying to Senator Johnson, we don't want to see governments closing the file and
moving on now. It got us to a certain important point, and it can get us the
distance we still need to go.
Senator Downe: That's why I worded the question the way I did. We have
a long way to go in Burma.
In your presentation you mentioned three issues at the end. The third issue
was about the impact of trade deals. Do you do any assessment after Canada signs
a trade deal? For example, we had a trade deal with Jordan a number of years
ago. One of the problems was garment workers who come in from Third World
countries and work in horrendous conditions. Those products are shipped to
Canada with no tariff. Do you do an after-deal assessment?
Mr. Neve: We don't have the capacity to do trade deal assessments.
Through our advocacy, we urge that processes be put in place to ensure that they
The one we have followed most closely, because it was the most significant
breakthrough in terms of Canadian policy around this, was the free trade deal
Colombia, which has been in force for a little over two years. In the end,
largely as the result of a lot of campaigning and advocacy by civil society
groups in both Colombia and Canada, a human rights impact process was added to
it. That's the first time we have seen that with any trade deal Canada has
concluded with any country. It's an annex to the agreement, and aspects of it
are part of the implementing legislation.
As part of that, both governments are required to carry out a yearly
assessment of the impact of the deal and to table that in their respective
parliaments. We have had two such dates come and go in 2012 and 2013. In 2012,
unfortunately in our view, the government tabled a report but chose not to
assess human rights in that report. They said that they felt it was too early.
We said back that a best practice would be to do their first assessment even
before the trade deal comes into force. We don't agree that a few months into
the trade deal is too early. Nonetheless, that's what happened in 2012.
In 2013 a minimal assessment was done, but it's very restrictive and
certainly, in our view, hasn't taken the kind of perspective that's necessary to
really get at some of the more troubling aspects — and we're not here to talk
about trade in Colombia. For instance, increased trade is a great danger for
indigenous peoples in Colombia, which we and others have documented. That hasn't
been picked up on at all by the methodology being used.
That's an interesting beginning and is the kind of thing we'd like to see
built upon in other trade deals. A lot of work still needs to be done as to how
that gets taken up and implemented so that the promise of what a good human
rights impact assessment could be is truly realized.
Senator Downe: Thank you.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: First of all, Mr. Neve, welcome to the
I am a French-speaking senator from Quebec. In preparation for your
appearance today, I looked through Amnesty International Canada's website and
something struck me. You focus your efforts on four priority countries: Canada,
China, Mexico and Colombia. The French version of the Canadian site, however,
does not mention priority countries but, rather, priority themes.
Could you please explain how Amnesty International Canada goes about choosing
its priorities and why they differ? I am also curious as to whether Amnesty
International Canada takes a coordinated approach to priority setting in the
other countries it works in.
Mr. Neve: I could give you a whole workshop.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Very briefly, please, as I have another
question. This is something that struck me, though, so I wanted to ask the
Mr. Neve: There are two separate Amnesty Internationals in Canada. We
have the English branch, which I am the Secretary General of; and we have the
francophone branch based in Montreal. We have separate boards of directors and
we're separately incorporated, but we work closely together.
You're right that while there are many priority countries and priority themes
that we work on in common, there are differences. That's reflective sometimes
linguistically. Even though it may not be on their website, and I can't remember
the ways in which they organize their website, but the francophone branch
priority countries include pretty well the entire Maghreb — Tunisia, Algeria and
Morocco. Obviously, part of the reason is the fact that they are French- and
Haiti is a very big priority for the francophone branch. My counterpart,
Beatrice Vaugrante, Director General of the francophone branch of Amnesty
International Canada, has been on an international mission to Haiti. That's a
major area of concern.
Certainly, with regard to countries in francophone Africa, the francophone
branch of Amnesty has a concerted campaign focusing on the issue of child-forced
early marriage in Burkina Faso in West Africa for two reasons: first, it's a
serious concern there; and second, the linguistic connection makes it a bit
easier to do the work.
You're right in highlighting the four countries you saw on our website —
China, Mexico, Colombia and Canada. I wouldn't want to leave an impression
somehow that it doesn't mean we don't do work on a number of other countries and
that there aren't even a number of other countries that get quite a bit of
I've talked about Sri Lanka in my remarks today. Over the last couple of
years, in particular with some very interesting international advocacy efforts
and the fact that the Canadian government was playing a significant role in
that, we significantly increased the work we were doing there. We did that
because Sri Lanka, especially in English-speaking Canada, is a very important
country in Canada with a large expatriate community here. Because of the role
Canada was playing we felt we had some real openings and points of influence.
That's an example of a country which, while it may not have the big billing on
the website, will nonetheless be an area that gets focus.
Right now, due to crisis situations, we're giving a lot of attention to
Syria, to the Central African Republic. I have done a lot of field work for
Amnesty International in South Sudan, which too is having a real crisis these
last couple of months. That's an area we're giving real attention to as well.
There are the longer term crises and then the short-term ebbs and flows that
come depending on what the world throws our way.
I could go on and on, which I'm sure you don't want to hear.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: A little over a year ago, in September 2012,
Amnesty International Canada applauded the Burmese government's decision to
release hundreds of political prisoners. Canada, too, has acknowledged the
progress Burma has made with respect to human rights, basic rights. And we
realize that the country still has a long ways to go on the issue of human
But do you think Canada was right to re-establish diplomatic ties with the
country and open up an embassy there, even though things are not quite perfect
as far as political freedom and human rights are concerned?
Mr. Neve: I get to duck this question because Amnesty International
quite intentionally never takes a position, not just with respect to the
Canadian government but any government, as to the decisions governments make
about establishing, maintaining or breaking diplomatic relations with any other
state. We view that as largely a political decision.
We certainly haven't criticized Canada's decision to establish relations with
Burma and to open the embassy. What we have noted is, having done so, it's our
expectation and I think it's what we're seeing, that that will be used by the
Canadian government to amplify and increase our human rights efforts.
As far as we come to ever taking a position about maintaining or breaking
diplomatic relations is to say to governments, "Whatever decision you make,
whether it is to maintain, to establish or break diplomatic relations, please
seriously factor human rights considerations into that equation." We recognize
there will be a whole host of other political, economic and security
considerations that lead governments to those decisions, but please make sure
that human rights considerations are central.
I'm not privy to how all the factors were weighed when the government made
that decision, but I believe the human rights considerations were certainly on
Senator Ataullahjan: I had many questions about Burma but they have
all been asked.
Let me throw something at you. One of our previous witnesses, David Welch,
said that we need to talk about human security and not human rights. He says
once we talk about human rights we get people's backs up. Would you agree with
Mr. Neve: Obviously, we're all about human rights, so we by no means
want to see governments give up on the language of human rights. We think it's
powerful and important language that comes from international treaties that
governments themselves, including the very governments that we may be concerned
about, have played a role in drafting, in adopting and having signed on to. We
wouldn't go so far as to say that we shouldn't talk about human rights with
governments who may be offended by it or feel threatened by that language.
At the same time, we recognize the value and importance of having a variety
of different kinds of discourse with governments in advancing human rights
issues. That may mean sometimes primarily with a particular government talking
about it in terms of something like human security or with another government
talking mainly about rule of law, democratic development or strengthening the
justice system. There are a variety of ways in which we can have the discussion
about human rights, but I don't think we ever want to do so out of a motivation
to leave human rights behind. From our perspective the end goal always needs to
be consistent advancement with a strong human rights agenda, recognizing that we
need to have the conversation with some governments a bit differently at times.
Senator Ataullahjan: We have been speaking about countries that are
not upholding human rights. Are there any countries in Asia-Pacific that are
doing a good job at upholding human rights?
Mr. Neve: Yes. No country ever gets the gold seal of approval from
Amnesty International. We're the activists, we're the advocates and you can
never make us happy. As the senator has highlighted, Canada is one of our
priority countries and we continue to have a lot to say about the many ways in
which Canada needs to improve its record, including with respect to some very
serious human rights issues. Obviously we're a country, more widely, with a
pretty laudatory record.
The same would hold true in Asia-Pacific. The Asia-Pacific has countries as
diverse as Australia and New Zealand, and there are entries on Australia and New
Zealand in Amnesty International's most recent report. With Australia, while
there is a lot we recognize as positive and strong, we've highlighted serious
concerns with recent approaches to refugee protection. As well, there is an
ongoing series of issues in the area of indigenous rights that are not
dissimilar to some of the challenges we face in Canada.
South Korea would be a very good example. I was in Halifax over the weekend
giving a speech that was reflective on where have we come in the last 30 years,
and 30 years took me back to when I first joined Amnesty International. I talked
to the audience about when I joined Amnesty. It was actually a university group
in Halifax. The major prisoner case we were working on at that time was in South
Korea. It was a time of military government. Anyone who was at all critical of
that government was locked up; torture was rampant, et cetera.
Thirty years is not a short period of time but it's not a century either.
What transformative change we see in a country like South Korea. Now we have a
very active, dynamic and rapidly growing section of Amnesty International in
Yes, there are countries in the region that are either in a very good place
or I think in many respects are on a reform path, but they will always have
Amnesty International looking over their shoulder.
Senator Oh: Thank you for doing very good work on human rights.
Can you tell us which country in the Pacific region that is not violating
Which country had a bad record before and now shows signs of improvement? Do
you think economic growth will help to improve human rights and provide a better
lifestyle for them?
Canada's trade volume is so small in the Pacific region compared to France,
U.S., Germany, and Australia, which have benefitted so much more than we have in
Canada. Are they doing something on human rights?
Mr. Neve: With respect to your first question, no. We would not say
there is a country anywhere in the world that is not violating human rights. We
criticize Scandinavian countries. There simply is no country that has yet
figured out perfection when it comes to the human rights situation, and the
Asia-Pacific region is no exception. Obviously there are countries where it is
more serious than in others.
I would also highlight that we quite deliberately decline the many requests
we receive from journalists and politicians and the general public to rank
countries — here is the best country in the world, the second best, the third
best, et cetera — simply because there is absolutely no way to do so. Many
academics have put a lot of work in trying to come up with measures and formulas
and qualitative and quantitative ways of trying to do so, but it's impossible.
In our view, therefore, all efforts to do so ultimately end up starting to have
a significant subjective or discretionary piece to it. You think, on the one
hand, what if you have a country in which there is pretty serious torture. Let's
say there is reason to believe that maybe as many as 50,000 people have been
tortured in a particular country in one year. Then you have another country
where there is no torture happening, but no girls are allowed to go to school.
How do you compare them? I am sure everyone around the table would have
differing views as to which is worse or whether you can even rank or compare
them. That's the reason we have always declined not to go down that road. Maybe
some academic will break it some way and we will actually have a reliable way of
Yes, I do think there are countries on the road to reform. In my remarks, I
highlighted Myanmar/Burma, which I think is a very clear and obvious example.
We've talked about the kinds of strategies that the government could and should
be pursuing in that regard.
Yes, we do think Canada's economic relationship with a country can play a key
role in that. Even though we ourselves don't have a lot of expertise around
economic matters and don't wade into the debate about the best kind of trade
deal and what kind of economic policies we should be pursuing, we do have a lot
to say about the ways in which it's important to make those economic decisions
so they avoid contributing to human rights violations, because we know that is a
real risk. We see that in countries around the world. If an economic policy is
put in place that simply in an unregulated manner welcomes a whole host of
mining companies into a contested part of a country with indigenous peoples or
in a conflict zone, we know from experience all over the world that that makes
things worse. It almost inevitably deepens poverty, increases marginalization
and fuels conflict. There are ways in which bad economic decisions, bad business
practices, can be not just problematic but disastrous when it comes to human
But the opposite is true if companies have solid human rights policies in
place. If they come into a country, we ideally would say in the context I just
sketched out in terms of what we would like to see in a human rights-focused
approach to Canadian trade policy, which anchors recognition of human rights in
trade documents — not over here in a completely different area — and they have
processes in place to assess the human rights impact of those trade decisions
and policies, we think it can end up being very good there.
In terms of comparing Canada's volume of trade with other countries, I don't
have those numbers. I don't know how we stack up against other countries. I
would generally say our assessment is that Canada is not alone in countries
having this temptation, and this goes back to years and years of wanting to
tiptoe carefully around human rights whenever trade or business or economic
matters are on the table. That's not a uniquely Canadian shortcoming. That is
something we see in governments around the world, in the global north and global
south, and we are actively pressing all governments to improve.
Senator Oh: When I travel in the Asia-Pacific region, I see prosperity
in many countries affecting the lives of many people. Do you think economic
growth goes hand in hand with human rights?
Mr. Neve: Absolutely. It should.
In our view, prosperity is not the only human rights measure. The fact that
we have a growing middle class and that people are able to buy a nicer home and
maybe afford their first car is admirable, but that's by no means the only
measure when it comes to human rights. We know from countries around the world
that it's entirely possible to see prosperity growing while at the same time
there are very authoritarian practices with respect to civil liberties and there
continues to be little political opposition and critics of the government face
the likelihood of imprisonment, et cetera. We wouldn't say that chasing after
prosperity is what it's all about. It needs to be situated in a much wider human
Senator Demers: I would like your opinion about change. In the
Asia-Pacific, someone will give an opinion on the streets or online and will be
put in jail or harassed or at times will even be killed.
We have in Canada and the States basketball equipment made by youth, very
young, and older people that sells for $250. Most of the parents are going crazy
because they can't afford it because there is a name of an athlete on it. I will
not get into the naming of athletes because I don't want to get sued.
I play golf, and when you look at the golf equipment, it is made in China. We
use those people. I call that control. We use those people to produce quality
stuff, and it is quality, at very minimal pay, minimal price. When it comes back
to North America, they make billions out of it.
Have you seen improvement in the way they use their people to create or make
that equipment over the years? Are there better facilities for those young men
and girls and certainly older women and older men who make that equipment?
Mr. Neve: The particular factory conditions, which I think is what
you're highlighting, whether it be sports equipment or in the garment industry,
which we see as well, is not an area in which Amnesty International itself does
a lot of research, mainly because there are so many other organizations already
doing so. What I will share with you is more reflective of what I understand
coming out of their work of monitoring and researching and speaking out.
Most of them would probably say it's a very mixed record. Undoubtedly they
would acknowledge that particular companies or countries have made real strides
to put in place better codes of conduct and to make sure that there are
meaningful processes in place to actually monitor those codes. It's useless to
just have the words on paper around working conditions if they are not backed up
with something. At the same time, as we think back over these last 18 months or
so, we consistently incredibly tragic, heartbreaking reminders — such as in
Bangladesh — of the fact that there is far, far to go. With the Bangladesh
examples, it's not just the heartbreaking enormity of seeing how many people
have lost their lives and beyond that how many families have been absolutely
shattered. It has been stunning through the slow process of criminal
investigations and court proceedings to see the ineptitude and corruption and
lack of enforcement and lack of law that stands behind that.
A number of companies are rallying quickly because they know what they have
at stake here. I think it still remains to be seen. There have been some good
steps forward by a number of companies, some of whom have come together to try
to adopt standards jointly. It remains to be seen as to whether that will
deliver the goods.
It is a reminder, though, that when consumerism is involved, there often is a
bit more power and potential to actually get something done, because these
crises make their way out into the public domain and consumers make decisions as
to whether they will or will not buy that product. I think we will continue to
see both tragedies and also change coming out of those tragedies.
Senator Demers: Thank you for your honesty.
Senator Housakos: The Asia-Pacific region is a challenging part of the
world for Canada — it has been and I assume it will continue to be. We've had
some successes and failures in various areas of our pursuit of political and
trade interests in the region.
Today, you bring up the interesting subject of human rights, one that is
complicated and not easy to deal with. Of course, everyone is in favour of human
rights, but "human rights" means very different things to different people. We
can get into the discussion of what a human right is and what should and should
not be classified under that category. Thank God Canadians have a broader
perspective on that than some of the people do in the Asia-Pacific countries.
Has the Government of Canada balanced the defence of human rights with our
political and commercial interests and pursuits in the region? In your
testimony, you've pretty much given us a clear indication of where you stand on
that, but more fundamentally, I'd like you to give us your point of view on what
levers you think Canada has in the region in order to be more rigid in pursuit
of human rights. It's always nice to stand up and say, "I'm for something," but
if you don't have a stick to wave to back up your claims, it's somewhat
difficult to pursue your political interests.
Lastly, from your organization's perspective, would you say that the Canadian
public is aware enough of some of the issues of human rights in the Asia-Pacific
region? What price is the Canadian public prepared to pay in pursuit of
defending those interests in terms of jobs and trade revenue?
Mr. Neve: Big questions. First, I want to highlight that although you
didn't ask it as a question, you did pose a rhetorical question, namely, what
are human rights? I would just highlight that from Amnesty International's
perspective — and I think this is how the Canadian government needs to operate
as well — they are those rights that have been recognized and enshrined
This isn't about Canada going to the Asia-Pacific region and promoting the
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This is about Canada reminding
Asia-Pacific counterparts that they, like we, are bound by the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights and a long list of treaties. Not all Asian countries have signed on to
all of those important treaties, but many have. Some of those treaties are
almost close to universally ratified. Every Asia-Pacific nation has signed on to
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, for instance. Only the U.S., Somalia
and South Sudan have not.
With respect to the question of the right balance, I would come back to what
I said before. I'm the advocate and the activist, so I'm clearly not satisfied
and it will be very hard to satisfy me.
Sri Lanka would be a good example. We saw some strong and forceful human
rights advocacy by Canada in recent years. Some might say, "We'll take it where
we can get it." Some might say that that, too, was politically motivated, that
it was largely about satisfying a particular constituency within the country,
and it wasn't so hard to do because there are no massive amounts of trade
between Canada and Sri Lanka that were at stake. I'm not going to go there. I'm
just going to acknowledge that important human rights efforts have been made and
We have been disappointed with respect to China. That's obviously the big one
in the region when it comes to this issue of balancing trade and human rights.
Our disappointment there goes back years and years.
I don't want to be mistaken in suggesting that somehow Amnesty International
wants the government to have Minister Baird get up and issue an angry press
release with a lot of finger wagging in public every time there is a human
rights violation. We wouldn't endorse that kind of strategy either, but we
continue to be disappointed, recognizing, as you said, that it's complicated;
there is a balancing here.
China is a perfect example of a country where we really need a thoughtful,
comprehensive strategy, and we don't have it. We never have, for years and
years; we have had piecemeal efforts. Some years, Canada seems to be a little
more brash than other years. Other years, you hardly ever hear anything from
Canada, even though there have been serious human rights concerns in China.
None of that is happening in the context of a well-thought-out strategy that
speaks, not just to the one, lonely, hard-working soul in the China division
over at the Pearson building who has the human rights file, but one that
actually gives guidance and instruction to people in Industry Canada, Natural
Resources Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada and all sorts of other
government departments in which there are constant dealings, back-and-forth and
openings with Chinese officials at a whole host of levels where we could really
be thinking about how to stream human rights through all of that. That would
take me further down the road of not being disappointed. I think there's real
potential there, and I would love to see that taken on as a serious effort.
Senator D. Smith: I apologize. I came in a few minutes late. When I
was coming in, you were referring to Sri Lanka and Prime Minister Harper's
decision not to attend a heads of state mission. I assumed you were supportive
of that decision; is that correct?
Mr. Neve: It's never easy with Amnesty International. We never
actually called for him to stay away because that's something we never do. We
acknowledged that, having made the decision, it conveyed a strong human rights
message and we wanted to see Canada's efforts to push and promote that human
rights message continue in a whole host of other ways.
Senator D. Smith: By way of background, ironically I was asked in
November by the Speaker if I would go with him to London, along with MP Joe
Preston, Chair of the Canadian branch of the Commonwealth Parliamentary
Association, to explain to Commonwealth headquarters and also the parliamentary
group why Prime Minister Harper wasn't going, which was because of these human
rights issues. I don't always agree with Prime Minister Harper on everything,
but I did agree with him on that, and over we went.
You've already touched on this, but I want to see if you've got a feel as to
how you decide when you visit and when you don't. There is a difference between
governments and, say, parliamentary associations. In the case of parliamentary
associations, presumably you'll be meeting with opposition members from those
countries, hopefully. Some people are of the view that you just go regardless
and preach the gospel of human rights, bona fide elections, anti-corruption
policies and things like that. Do you think there are instances where it's so
black and white that you just don't go at all, like North Korea, for example?
Mr. Neve: I'm not trying to duck the question. We actually don't take
a position saying that any head of state should stay away from or should attend
any summit in any particular country. We do say an ideal strategy — and I don't
think we saw enough of this with respect to the Sri Lanka summit — is for
countries to work together multilaterally in a very concerted way to come up
with a shared and strategic approach that will be the most effective.
Accidentally, we actually got there with the Sri Lanka summit but not
necessarily deliberately. We had, for instance, a prominent leader like Prime
Minister Harper who made it very clear he was going to stay away and why. Prime
Minister Cameron made a different decision and went but used it as an
opportunity make some strong statements in-country about the human rights
situation, which got a lot of both domestic and international attention.
In many respects, if Prime Minister Harper hadn't made his decision to stay
away, there probably wouldn't have been as much pressure as there was on Prime
Minister Cameron in the end, who had his own reasons for going, largely because
the U.K. would probably be the last country to ever boycott a Commonwealth
meeting. It put real pressure on him to be seen as very visible and outspoken
about human rights while he was in the country; and both had benefit. We have a
long way to go, but I don't think that necessarily was some sort of concerted
U.K.-Canada scheming to come up with a one-two punch, such that Harper would
stay away and Cameron would go.
Senator D. Smith: There wasn't scheming, but I point out that in the
year before, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, which has
representatives from oppositions, was held there. I was at it and the British
members agreed to meet with some of the Tamil groups in Northern Sri Lanka; and
I had been there before on stuff like this. The government did everything they
could to veto it. They rearranged a trip to have some people meet with a couple
of others who went, and most of us didn't go, and just preached the party line.
To get back to my basic question, if you think you can make a case for going
to North Korea, then I guess you would probably go anywhere. What's your view on
going to North Korea, preaching the gospel of human rights?
Mr. Neve: Amnesty International seeks to go anywhere and everywhere we
can. Obviously, if we're only allowed to come with limitations and restrictions
that we would consider untenable and that impair our impartiality, et cetera,
then we won't go. If North Korea said, "Sure, Amnesty International, come, but
for all those prison visits you want to do, you will have four police officers
with you in every interview, and we're not going to let you go to that one
detention camp you've been saying you want to go to, but we have a great one we
want to take you to," then clearly we would say no.
The calculus is different for a government going because obviously it is not
going as a human rights advocate. Similarly, if the conditions around the
meeting feel like they are untenable and that it will end up being a laudatory
window dressing opportunity for a government to seem to be an accepted and
celebrated member of the international community against a backdrop of serious
human rights violations, then that's probably something the Canadian government
would not want to play a role in.
Senator D. Smith: At that conference I attended in Sri Lanka, a senior
minister addressed one of the plenary sessions on how fine they were doing with
human rights. When he sat down, he got booed. I could see the look of shock on
his face, but certainly he got the message loud and clear; but I don't know if
it changed anything.
Mr. Neve: You always live in hope.
Senator Demers: If you want to go to North Korea, go with that idiot
The Chair: A little order here, please.
Mr. Neve, we have run over time, which explains that we are very concerned
about the human rights record in these countries and how we can put it into our
I have many questions that I did not put. At some point, I will do so, with
your permission, perhaps in a written form. Or perhaps we could have you back to
concentrate on certain countries that we will be studying. When you put trade
and human rights in an agreement, do you then narrow the focus, because the
Twitter world goes into that as opposed to the broader issues of human rights?
How do you balance where you put your emphasis on human rights with trade and
all the other issues? You have put out Colombia. My concern is that so many
other human rights issues that aren't trade-agreement focused are not being
addressed. That has been a concern of some people. Perhaps you think they are
being addressed. Give that some thought, because it is an issue about the
security of countries developing with better human rights records and Canada's
approach, which has to be economic, human rights and a full foreign policy.
You can reflect and then perhaps we could have you back before the committee
or we could have that in written form on the countries of concentration where we
might do something differently than have the debate. Is it human rights or
trade? I've been at this table for many years, and we have had debates every so
often about how to balance trade and human rights, in particular as they pertain
to China. Perhaps we could pursue some of those issues.
As you can see, it is a concern for this committee, and we will focus it into
the countries that we will concentrate on. Thank you for your input and your
patience with all of our questions.
I apologize to our witnesses that we are running a little late. We've been
trying to cover too much territory too quickly. Time constraints are always our
Before us we have, as an individual, Pierre Lortie, Senior Business Advisor,
Dentons Canada; and Ailish Campbell, Vice President, Policy, International and
Fiscal Issues, Canadian Council of Chief Executives.
Before we proceed, Senator Smith, you wished to make a statement.
Senator D. Smith: I don't see any conflict here, but I think to be
above board I should point out on the record that I have the title Chairman
Emeritus of Dentons. I don't see a conflict, but I want to put that on the
record. I'll be a good boy and listen very closely.
The Chair: It has been disclosed and noted.
I will turn to Mr. Lortie to make his opening remarks, followed by Ms.
Campbell, and then we will go to questions. Hopefully we'll be able to get all
senators in with a question before the adjournment.
Pierre Lortie, Senior Business Advisor, Dentons Canada, as an individual:
I would like to thank the committee for the opportunity to present my
perspective on issues related to Asia.
I view these issues through the lens of my experience at the helm of a
Canadian corporation that did not think twice about going after Asian markets.
My work allowed me to do business in most Asian countries and to run
manufacturing and technology companies there.
I also had the honour of representing Canada on the APEC Business Advisory
Council from 1999 to 2005 and to serve as a member of the Asia Pacific
Foundation Taskforce on Canada's place within regional forums in the
Asia-Pacific region. You heard from Don Campbell, who chaired the committee. I
recently took part in a committee examining security concerns in Asia in
cooperation with Australia. I will speak mainly from an economic perspective,
but I would be glad to answer questions on other aspects during the question
The one issue I want to put on the table at the outset, because any
discussion about Asia is always almost exclusively focused on Asia, is the point
that today from an economic point of view there are three major areas. Since
political power depends on economic force, it brings about very serious
geopolitical questions for Canada, for individual Canadians, society and for the
Although it is tempting to suggest that Canada should redirect part of its
resources, whether the Canadian government should redirect part of its
expenditures and commitments from Europe or from the U.S. towards Asia, I think
this would be a major blunder. The issue for Canada or for Canadian firms is not
to redirect; it's to recognize that there are today three major theatres in
which we have to be present with long-term commitments and the required
resources. So it's not a question of substitution; it's a question of adding.
The second point is that Canada has, over the last two decades, pursued a
trade strategy that was lacking. Since the FTA with the U.S. and NAFTA, we have
not had consequential successes in trade negotiations for the last two decades.
If you look from the year 2000, except for the agreement with the EFTA, all the
other agreements are with countries that have no economic significance for
If you take the total amount of trade that we do with the countries where we
have free trade agreements in effect today with the EFTA, it's about 1.16 per
cent. If you take the EFTA out, it is 0.34 per cent of our total merchandise
trade in 2013.
In my experience, when we talk to officials in the departments, they say, "We
don't have the resources to pursue additional negotiations because we're running
after Costa Rica," or God knows where. At the end of the day, we are squandering
expert resources on agreements that don't have a lot of importance for us. They
may be important from a development point of view, but they sure as hell are not
a trade strategy.
That being said, I would commend the present government and say that Canadian
efforts to conclude an agreement with the European Union has to be the first
priority for this country. If we look at our trade, number one is clearly NAFTA
or the U.S. Number two is Europe. Although, if you add up everything in Asia,
you have a bit more than with Europe. The fact of the matter is that the Europe
Union is a common market with common rules for investment and trade, whereas our
important partners in Asia all pursue independent trade or investment
strategies. Therefore, we have to knock them of one by one. It's a significant
difference, and the priority given to the European Union was the right priority
and one that I personally support very much.
What I'm trying to say is that Canada's trade strategy must, first and
foremost, aim at maximizing the benefits that accrue from the trade agreements
and minimizing the negative impact of the trade diversion stemming from
agreements made by other countries.
Why does that have to be? The first point is that it's always easier to
expand sales in a market you know than in one you don't. The second point is
that if you do an agreement with a country where you already have a lot of
trade, then when you eliminate the tariffs, you get the benefits right away. The
third point is because we have a lot of trade there. If somebody has a better
agreement than us, the costs to us are significant.
Korea is a case in point. It is open for business. In the last few years, it
signed free trade agreements with Chile, Singapore, EFTA, ASEAN, India, the
European Union, the U.S. and, more recently, with Australia. It has just
concluded negotiations with Colombia and Turkey. It's in advanced negotiations
with Japan, and with other countries. Basically, we're the only industrialized
country that doesn't have access there, and it's important across the board for
our economy, agriculture in particular.
The second point is that if we look at the tariffs, Korean tariffs are 13.3
per cent on average versus 4.3 per cent for Canada. So if you take that out,
we're gaining immediately.
The third point is that because we failed to conclude an agreement with Korea
in a timely manner, we have lost significant market share in that country. When
Chile signed their FTA, in the year following the agreement, hog exports from
Chile to Korea went up 22 per cent. If you look at our trade between 2011 and
2013, two years, which follows the EU and the U.S. agreements, we have a decline
of $1.655 billion in merchandise trade with Korea. If you put that into
perspective, that's basically the total trade we do with Australia, so it is
significant. It is a huge cost, with little government expenses to get there. It
needs the leadership to make it a priority.
Because of time constraints, the trade priorities for Asia, in my view,
looking at those priorities plus some of the dimensions there, number one should
be South Korea. Why? Because it's the one where FTA negotiations are the most
advanced and one where diversion costs are beginning to bite significantly.
The second one is Japan. Japan is our second largest market in Asia. The new
government under Prime Minister Abe is determined to revitalize the Japanese
economy. It cannot do that without trade. They have signalled that they are open
for trade agreements. They are engaged in a number of discussions not only
within Asia but outside of Asia. Now, because Canada is saying, "We're going to
do the TPP," and this and that, basically the Japanese don't know what is
important to us anymore. As a result, they're slacking on us and putting their
efforts somewhere else. By the way, even though there is tension between China
and Korea and Japan, they're more advanced in their trade negotiations than they
are with Canada. It tells you a lot.
The third one should be ASEAN. ASEAN is one of the largest markets for us in
Asia, in fact the third largest. It is the centre of what is called the "noodle
bowl" of agreements within Asia, and it is critical that we have a trade
agreement with them.
If you put the priority on ASEAN, it raises the question about TPP. Although
I concur with some of the arguments as to why Canada should be involved, the
fact of the matter is that, for Canada, TPP is not that important. For Asian
countries, TPP is important because it gives them access to the U.S. market. We
have access to the U.S. market; therefore, there is no value for us to do it.
Basically, if we look at the 10 countries at the table for the TPP, the only
one that really makes economic sense for us is Australia. Even if we had an
agreement with Brunei, it would not change a lot for Canada.
Second, the U.S. approach on the TPP is not making a lot of friends in the
area. They are asking for unlimited access in many areas but are not prepared to
give the same. Cotton is a good example, with Vietnam. Plus, no one of sane mind
would negotiate a trade agreement if you don't have fast-track authority, and
the U.S. doesn't have fast-track authority.
The third point is that the TPP is viewed, in many areas in Asia, as a means
for the U.S. to divert and compete with China. It's important to note that of
the ASEAN countries, only four participate in TPP. The largest ones are not
there. Indonesia is not there. Why is it that six of the ten, including the
country that has been the leader in ASEAN, are not at the table? It is not for
distraction or whatever. There are clear reasons for them not to do that,
because the equilibrium in Asia is very important.
The fourth point is that a lot of people are saying, in essence, that their
argument for participating has been proven by Japan saying maybe they want to be
there. But to a large extent, if you increase the diversity of the countries
around the table, it's hard to determine how that simplifies the process. It's
already complex. To a large extent, we would be better to have free trade with
Japan than trying to fool around with TPP, maybe have a trade agreement with
them some day. We need to be clear-sighted about what we want to do.
The fourth priority should be China. I know this will spark a lot of debate
in Canada, the old debate about what is realizable and absolute. It is a huge
market and a market where we have to be clear-eyed and differentiate between
"made in China" and "made by China." These are very different things. In terms
of "made by China," there is not a lot that Canadian firms cannot compete with.
It is an important market. We should be there. I would suggest that as it
embarks on negotiations with China, Canada should also embark on trade
negotiations with Taiwan and do both at the same time. Today there are many
countries signing agreements with Taiwan. Taiwan would be a large market for
Canada. It's already a large market for Canada.
India is a reluctant trader. It has signed agreements across Asia. Most of
those agreements are on goods only. Very few, if any, are WTO compliant. The
negotiations have been very protracted. Basically, it is an important market. We
need to engage with India, but we need to have our sights at the right place and
recognize that it will be a tough run.
In conclusion, I would repeat that Canada would make a blunder of historic
proportion if it proceeded to substitute North America or Europe for Asia. It's
not a question of substitution; it's a question of recognizing that there is a
new theatre and we need to invest and commit the resources that are required in
all three. We also need to have a multi-faceted perspective and strategy
I will conclude by saying that you need to put more resources today in the
budgets. This may not be the most popular comment, but the fact of the matter is
that we should look at what Australia did. I know Mr. Don Campbell expanded on
that during his testimony.
If, between 2000 and 2013, Canada had had the same rate of growth in Asia as
Australia — by the way, our markets are Northeast Asia, and the West Coast of
Canada is closer to Japan than Australia, so distance is not the issue. If we
had had the same rate of growth as Australia, our total merchandise exports
would be 15 per cent higher than it is. That's almost twice our total
merchandise exports to the European Union. I would suggest to you that is a very
good investment for a country.
The Chair: Thank you.
Quickly, I will turn to the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, Ms.
Ailish Campbell, Vice President, Policy, International and Fiscal Issues,
Canadian Council of Chief Executives: Thank you, chair and committee
members, for this invitation to appear in front of you.
The Canadian Council of Chief Executives, or CCCE, is a not-for-profit,
non-partisan organization made up of 150 CEOs from Canada's leading companies.
We are actively engaged in public policy research, consultation and advocacy.
The CCCE is a source of thoughtful and informed comment from a business point of
view on issues of national importance to the economic and social fabric of
Member companies collectively administer $4.5 trillion in assets and have
annual revenues in excess of $850 billion. The council represents virtually
every sector of the Canadian economy.
Our member firms are active around the world. As such, the Canadian
government's actions to advance foreign market opportunities are critical.
I would like to break my remarks into two sections. First, I will highlight
the commercial and economic issues and opportunities for Canada in the
Asia-Pacific region; second, I will highlight the three main challenges faced by
Canadian companies seeking to do business in the region and discuss possible
ways of addressing these challenges.
First, then, to the opportunities. Let me frame this in simple, direct terms.
GDP is rising in developing countries faster and at a greater scale than ever
before in human history. Canadian firms, from agriculture to energy to financial
services and IT, must be part of this growth story.
Asia will become home to more than 50 per cent of the global middle class by
2050, up from about 25 per cent today. This literally represents billions of
customers for Canadian products.
Asia's recent surge is not a short-lived phenomenon. The changes that
underpin Asia's transition, including large-scale urbanization, dramatic
productivity gains and rapid advances in education, are relentless and
Securing Asian markets for Canada's energy products is critical. We must
diversify our customers, as Jim Prentice highlighted in his speech on Canada's
foreign relations in Ottawa yesterday, and secure world prices for our energy
products. There is significant work to do here at home as well to ensure we have
the infrastructure to effectively serve and secure these markets.
Sectors with huge opportunities in Asia are as diverse as Canada's resilient
economy. I have already mentioned energy. Other sectors that stand to grow and
benefit include financial services; manufacturing, including aerospace; forestry
products; agri-food; seafood; and education.
Now let me turn to the three main challenges faced by Canadian businesses
seeking to land new customers in the region and ways of addressing these
First, as you have no doubt heard before, Canada is not sufficiently
diversified in its exports. Only about 8 per cent of Canada's exports go to
China, India and other fast-growing economies. We must conclude more modern,
high-quality free trade agreements and investments with Asian nations. Japan and
India are key targets in this regard. I would join with Mr. Lortie in
emphasizing that Korea is an excellent agreement to conclude simply because it
is within reach and would be pivotal as our first agreement with an Asian
My CEO and President, Mr. John Manley, has issued a statement supporting the
government in securing a free trade agreement with South Korea. I would
respectfully note that one of our members, Ford, disagrees with this position.
Canada should also consider a strategic dialogue similar to Australia's with
China. The lack of a more developed and ongoing China strategy is Canada's major
gap in its economic portfolio, especially considering that China is Canada's
second largest trading partner after the United States. Without such an
agreement, we risk falling behind competitor nations.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are also an opportunity to deepen
our links in Asia. I would be happy to expand on TPP in the Q and A section, but
the essential point is this: Much hinges on the quality of the TPP agreement and
whether it will be a true market access opening agreement, whether that will
come in the first round of the TPP, and whether it will deepen over time. The
quality of that agreement is very much of interest to us.
Second, CCCE members have achieved great success in these challenging
markets. I would be happy to share specific examples, and I'm sure many of them
are already known to you, in the Q and A section if this is of interest. These
markets are difficult to establish and grow in, however, not only because of
distance but also complexity and different standards and regulations.
We must provide new — I join completely with the previous speaker, Mr.
Lortie, and emphasize "new" — additional resources to the Canadian Trade
Commissioner Service to Export Development Canada. I would argue that Canadian
authorities that investigate and enforce trade rules — the CBSA, the CITT and
others — in order to support Canadian companies in their efforts to break into
these markets, need to establish, grow and ensure the enforcement of trade rules
as we negotiate them.
Third, there remains a lack of awareness in Canada of Asian markets overall
and, I would argue, of specific nations for expanding business opportunities.
The business community must do its part to raise awareness of the importance of
Asia. Commercial relationships develop not simply through the exchange of goods
and services but through dynamic interactions ranging from investments in
foreign subsidiaries and joint ventures, licensing intellectual property, supply
chain access across multiple jurisdictions, and the work of teams in both Canada
and Asia working together to provide services, such as accounting. I would note
also that firms must tailor their products to local tastes and demands.
For our part to raise awareness in the Canadian business community and
amongst policy makers of the opportunities in Asia more broadly, the Canadian
Council of Chief Executives launched an initiative entitled Canada in the
Pacific Century to identify and promote key policy solutions to enhance Canada's
ability to succeed in a transforming global economy. The results of this
initiative are available online at our website, and I have tabled here the final
It is also available on our website in French.
The CCCE is the secretariat for the newly created Canada-India Chief
Executive Forum along with our critical partner, the Confederation of Indian
Industry. We are pleased to provide support to our CEO Forum co-chairs, Tom
Jenkins of OpenText and Hari Bhartia of Jubilant Life Sciences, and the CEOs who
form the committee and working groups. Our next CEO Forum meeting will be on
February 25 in Delhi, India.
I trust my remarks here today underscore that the private sector is taking
action and not waiting for government but leading it where necessary, working in
cooperation with the government where possible and working with key players,
such as Export Development Canada, the Trade Commissioner Service and the
negotiators at the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development as well
as provincial and territorial partners.
While firmly keeping our paramount economic relationship with the United
States robust and dynamic, and with traditional partners in the region, Canada
also must expand its activities in growing markets, chiefly China, India,
Indonesia and Malaysia. Mr. Lortie noted the importance of CETA and the EU — it
is 500 million people, and China alone is 1 billion people. We have to look at
where the middle class customers for Canadian products are and prioritize those
markets. Asian markets provide the scale of customer demand required for
Canadian firms to create job, grow and create global presence.
Member firms of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives wish to see more
businesses using Canada as the staging ground for their global operations. In
that regard, investment and economic agreements with Asia are critical.
The Chair: Thank you for covering a lot of area rather quickly.
Senator Dawson: First of all, to our two witnesses, I agree that the
idea should be to add resources, not redirect them. The Canadian government
needs to increase its investments in various countries — not to mean we should
be shifting our priority from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region.
Mr. Lortie, I am of the same mind as you regarding the agreements signed with
numerous countries, the free trade agreements, and the economic benefits. My
friend from Prince Edward Island could tell you all about the impact of an
agreement with Panama on Prince Edward Island's economy, but I will let him
speak to that.
Nevertheless, we have a problem of the practical variety. We have to set
priorities. Recently, we did China, Ms. Campbell, and India. Now, we are looking
at the Asia-Pacific region and, as a committee, we have to choose our
priorities. As a CEO, Mr. Lortie, you would occasionally have to prioritize
certain sales targets, but, we, as a committee, have to identify those countries
where we should place a little more focus.
Besides China and India, which the committee recently studied, before I
joined, I would like to hear what you would recommend as far as priorities go,
be it Indonesia, Malaysia or Singapore. If it were up to you, what would your
Mr. Lortie: When you say "we did," are you referring to the Senate
Senator Dawson: Yes.
Mr. Lortie: Because, from Canada's standpoint, practically nothing has
Basically, the top priority is to sign agreements to ensure that the efforts
and resources being mobilized lead to economic benefits. Considerable efforts
have been made in the past few years to raise our profile in Asia. And all of
that needs to lead to trade agreements. The important areas for Canada are
northeast Asia, Korea, Japan and China. Those three countries are currently
engaged in free trade agreement negotiations. And if they are successful, the
region will be more significant in terms of GDP than the United States.
We know the players in the markets where Canada is already present. Those
markets are readily accessible to us — at least on the western coast. In short,
that is where the scale of our trade is clear.
The other important element is ASEAN, which represents 10 countries. They
include Indonesia, which has been instrumental in positioning ASEAN in Asia. A
bilateral agreement with ASEAN would give us access to its various member
states. Indonesia is, without a doubt, an extremely important country. Unlike
India, with whom the process is long and complicated, ASEAN has agreements with
just about everybody.
ASEAN represents our third largest market in Asia. Our biggest market there
is China, then Japan, followed by ASEAN and then Korea. An agreement with ASEAN
would have other complications. But, fundamentally, it is the most important
market for us. ASEAN is also the organization with the most political influence
throughout Asia — at least, it was vital in setting up the institutional
architecture that governs Asia.
Certainly, as far as organizations Canada should align itself with are
concerned, ASEAN is of tremendous importance. India is important for economic
and security reasons. If a conflict arises, it is more likely to occur off the
Indian Ocean than the China Sea. So we cannot disregard India. From a purely
economic standpoint, it ranks fourth.
Senator Dawson: I agree with you that little has been done in the past
few years. So, as part of a team that has decided that Team Canada needs to go
after the ASEAN countries, you are being asked to pinpoint two or three targets.
What are they?
Mr. Lortie: I would tell you that, in 2013, Japan's Prime Minister
visited each of the ASEAN capital cities. ASEAN is important to Japan, and the
country is making considerable efforts in that regard. Obviously, some ASEAN
countries are more important than others, and Indonesia is one. Singapore
usually plays a significant role or wields influence, and more and more, that is
true of Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. Brunei is last.
Despite having other problems as well, the Prime Minister of Japan sees Asia
as important, sees trade as important, and that is why he visited all the
capital cities in 2013. It is not a matter of choice.
Senator Downe: Mr. Lortie, I want to follow up on your presentation. I
share many of your concerns and have spoken about them on many occasions in the
Senate. A couple of years ago, Canada was in the process of negotiating 67 trade
deals with 67 different countries. Those are ongoing. We can only imagine the
resources they are consuming within government rather than focusing on our
After we sign these targets with minor countries, our trade deficit, in many
cases if not all cases, increases dramatically. Two years after we signed the
deal with Peru, our deficit went from $2.5 billion to $3.9 billion, and since
2006 our goods and services have declined by 7.5 per cent. Most of what we're
exporting now is commodities.
We are very concerned about the opportunities and the middle class in Asia,
but what about the middle class in Canada? Where are they going to be working?
Mr. Lortie: That's an important issue. The most important partners we
have are developed economies — the South Koreans, the Japanese and so on. Quite
frankly, the benefits of trade are normally larger when you're trading with
countries that are more or less at the equivalent level of development as
opposed to different levels. To a large extent, the agreements we have made,
except maybe Peru, were really foreign aid under the guise of trade as opposed
to a true trade strategy, and I think we should look at it that way.
At the end of the day, if we went through the major countries in Asia where
we have large trade relations, in essence, we would gain a lot. When we look at
all the industries, Canadian industries versus the Chinese industries,
surprisingly, for a lot of people, Canadian industry is more competitive than
the Chinese industries in those key sectors. It is not true that we cannot win.
There is a lot of reshoring happening on the manufacturing side, and it will
be very difficult for Canada to do it unless we are part of the supply chains.
We cannot be in the supply chains if we don't have presence there. If you look
at the investment protection agreements we have in Asia, there are gaping holes
all over the place. We need a strategy that is more comprehensive and that
really focuses on those areas where we already have a large presence and can
expand. If we don't do it, we're going to lose huge shares of market because the
EU and the U.S. are busy doing them.
Senator Downe: Your view is that these minor agreements are really
foreign aid, so set those aside. They are done for purposes other than
prosperity for Canada. Where we have to focus our efforts on a narrow path is on
these countries where we not only have a presence but we have similar
established economies. Is that correct?
Mr. Lortie: Yes. If you look at merchandise trade, 95.8 per cent of
our trade, of our merchandise export in 2013, were to our 10 largest markets; we
have free trade agreements with only two of them. You don't need to be a genius
to know where you need to go to score.
Ms. Campbell: On the trade deficit point, there is a critical
structural issue. Asia is critical to addressing our trade deficit because we
have recently seen the world energy market turned on its head because the U.S.
for the first time since 1949 is actually going to export oil. It has discovered
new forms of energy, and we are locked into a relationship with one customer. If
you want to see the delta for prices diminish, if you want to secure new
relationships and see that trade deficit disappear, the number one factor is
achieving world prices for Canada's energy exports. We will only do that with
new customers, and where are those customers? They are in Asia.
Senator Downe: Our trade deficit has gone up since 2006 from $37.8
billion to $143 billion. It's much more than oil.
Ms. Campbell: Certainly, but world energy prices, and I would be happy
to compose the number for you, are a huge part of that.
I encourage you to look far beyond our trade deficit, because we are not
measuring services or foreign affiliate well in Canada. Actually, no
jurisdiction in the world is doing this. This is where we have to up the game of
our statistics agency and those around the world. That's going to be captured
not in merchandise trade issues but in repatriated profits, so we have to look
at the whole balance of payment account, including the capital account and the
Mr. Lortie: If you look at the merchandise trade of Canada, we went
from 4.5 per cent of global merchandise trade to 2.3 within the last few years.
Basically, we're not gaining in the markets. Korea is a good example. We need to
be on a competitive basis with our major competitors, and that means that the
Canadian government has to put the framework in place, and that framework is
called a free trade area. There are no two ways around it.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: I want to welcome you to the committee and
commend you on your presentations. I have just one question and it is for Ms.
No doubt, intellectual property is a major issue when it comes to trade and
the production of goods in Asia. In your CV, I saw that you had dealt with
intellectual property issues. Do you believe IP is a recurring problem for our
companies doing business in Asia?
Ms. Campbell: The short answer is yes. This is always a risk.
Intellectual property risk, first of all, needs to be recognized inside the
firm, so intellectual property has to be recognized by the CEO and the CFO as
part of the value proposition of a company. It has to be properly protected and
structures put in place, proper patents and proper copyrights, in multiple
jurisdictions. First and foremost, it has to be recognized by the firm.
I would argue that the problem may sometimes rest with small- and medium-size
enterprises, or even large enterprises, that don't realize what they have is a
patentable IP-related product that they need to guard more effectively and have
a more robust IP strategy for their firm. Then they go abroad, and there I think
lessons are clear. They need to ensure that they are working with the proper
authorities in those jurisdictions. They need to find others in their class and
learn some of the lessons about IP protection. Sometimes it may be a forced
relationship with a joint venture partner in that country because it is better
to have some share of a sale than see your intellectual property taken. Then
you're into enforcement and into legal proceedings as opposed to building
customer relationships. Firms have to look at business strategies to address
We also need to look around the world in terms of best practices. I've heard
people discuss, for example, having Export Development Canada issue a form of IP
insurance to help exporters not only recognize the value of their IP but also
provide a certain amount of insurance in case of expropriation of IP. It's an
area we need to explore further.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: What do you recommend in countries where
judges or officials can be bribed and a Canadian company is not able to assert
Ms. Campbell: In this particular instance, we've talked about where we
think there are more like-to-like regimes. Japan is an excellent example where
we need to deepen relationships. They're an advanced economy. We are not very
well penetrated into that market. We could do more work there immediately.
For those other questions you raised, I would say there is where a
government-to-government, leader-to-leader relationship is very important to
underscore Canada's interests in those areas.
Mr. Lortie: In my experience, if a challenge came up after the
contracts had been signed, the issue was dealt with outside the country by the
court of justice in London, for example.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Even for countries in the Asia-Pacific
Mr. Lortie: Including China.
Senator Fortin-Duplessis: Thank you very much.
Senator Downe: Back to this trade deficit, I'll ask Ms. Campbell about
the role of the Canadian business community. It seems these other countries are
prepared much better than Canada when we sign these free trade deals. Is there a
gap? Is there a role for government or is there a role for business or a
combination of the two between the signing of the deal and the preparation to
take advantage of any opportunities in these countries?
I'm thinking of Peru. You go through all the countries I can list for you
where we've signed the deals and the trade deficit has gone up dramatically.
What's missing in the preparation?
Ms. Campbell: I think you're asking the right question. I wouldn't
pretend to have the whole answer, but here is a shot at it. It's simply this. We
have concluded an agreement with our largest trading partner in NAFTA and we are
essentially cultural cousins with the United States. Our businesses didn't need
a lot of tutelage. We have not, I don't think, had the experience either in
government or in business of concluding an agreement of that magnitude until
I think we're in new terrain. I don't know that there are great Canadian
patterns to copy. I think we need to look abroad to Germany; we need to look at
Australia; we need to look at small nations that are punching way above their
weight, like the Scandinavian countries. If you will allow me, that IP isn't
protected. We need to create a made-in-Canada version of those. That's going to
take the business community stepping up; that's going to take supply chains and
mentoring of large firms to small firms. That's going to take strategies. For
example, I want to see what the CETA implementation strategy is, not only from
the Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development, DFATD. I
like to just say "International."
We need to see the international department strategy here. The CCCE would
like to see EDC strategy, BDC strategy, and working with the provinces.
The good news is that we have successful firms, especially for a country of
30 million with the slight disadvantage of being spread out, so we do not have
some of the natural clustering of business mentorships that's easier in
Scandinavian countries, for example. But I think Quebec with CG100 and other
business mentoring institutions are showing how business-to-business
relationships can amplify those opportunities. Absolutely, those government
agencies I named should have their own strategies to help amplify this, I would
say for small- and medium-sized firms.
Senator Downe: Is your association in any discussion with the
government now on addressing this problem?
Ms. Campbell: I wouldn't say directly, but I would say just by the
nature of having business-to-business relationships with European firms and
equivalent organizations in the EU; so I think that's the next stage. We're
focused on seeing the full text of the agreement, first, which I understand will
be forthcoming, and then the ratification process. We have to put all of our
emphasis on that. I'm hoping for swift ratification both here and at the
European Parliament of the vast majority of the deal.
You're absolutely right; we should be working on that issue.
The Chair: Thank you to both Mr. Lortie and Ms. Campbell.
I didn't put a question, but one of the areas that I follow closely is
Europe. Their strategy isn't to identify the key markets and do trade with them.
They want an imprint everywhere because one doesn't know what the politics will
be like or the opportunities.
One of the knocks on us was that we weren't in Korea early enough. Australia
was there. Had we been there, we might have been able to conclude something more
One strategy is to have some presence, identify what kind of presence around
the world, because we're so dramatically changing. Another is to zero in and
find your markets. Another is to balance larger companies, energy companies, et
cetera, with small- and medium-sized companies.
My own province, Saskatchewan, had incredible success because of niche
markets, if you can call them that. Peru is one of them, which I have argued in
a gentle way with Senator Downe about the opportunities for certain businesses
in my province, which may not be reflective of the deficit picture, et cetera.
There is one strategy of identifying how you conduct your trade, and the
other is what areas you focus on immediately.
Perhaps we'll have an opportunity to continue this dialogue. You can see that
there's a great interest. Please follow our work and perhaps we will have you
back to critique us as we hone down on a number of countries. You'll see if
we're addressing the right issues.
Thank you very much. I apologize; we're stressed all the time in these
committees to finish and move on to our other committees. Thank you for coming
(The committee adjourned.)