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Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade
The Senate of Canada
Canada, K1A 0A4
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About the Committee
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has a mandate to examine legislation and matters relating to foreign relations and international trade in general, including: treaties and international agreements; foreign aid; and territorial and offshore matters.
On March 8, 1938, the Senate of Canada created the Committee on External Relations. Given the political instability of the day and the threat of war in Europe, it was felt that such a standing committee responsible for studying foreign issues of consequence for Canada would enable senators to enhance their knowledge of world affairs and thus carry out their duties more effectively. In 1938 and the years after, the war was central to the committee’s proceedings.
From 1947 to 1968, the Committee on External Relations continued to carry out its assigned role; awareness and liaison remained foremost among its responsibilities. With time, however, more and more emphasis was placed on study and investigation.
In 1968, the responsibility for international agreements was added to the committee’s mandate.
The committee also had responsibility for defence matters until 2001, when the Senate created the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.
Between 1988 and 1999, the committee studied and monitored the North American Free Trade Agreement. In its report, the committee recommended that the government pay special attention to adjustment assistance, control of energy exports, trade in agricultural products, application of the provisions allowing temporary entry for business people, and negotiations on the adoption of a countervailing duties and anti-dumping code. The committee also asked to be allowed to monitor and report on implementation and application of the Agreement in both countries, as well as changes in bilateral trade. In that regard, the committee tabled several reports including Monitoring the Implementation of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (1990) and Impact of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (1993).
In 1999, the committee looked into Canada’s role in NATO, NATO’s new Strategic Concept for this country, reviewed legal aspects of NATO’s new roles, examined NATO’s participation in Kosovo, studied the implications of the shift towards a new concept of human security, explored the evolving European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) and its implications for both Canada and NATO, and investigated Parliament’s role in determining Canada’s external military commitments.
In the early 2000s, the committee undertook a special study on new political, social, economic and security developments in Russia and Ukraine. Its report entitled: Canada, Russia and Ukraine: Building a New Relationship, tabled in June 2002, contained 20 recommendations designed to establish sound and sustainable relations with the two countries that could become major partners in international affairs. In the following years, the committee tabled reports on Canada-U.S. trade and security relations, and on Africa, notably.
Over the past decade, the committee has examined Canada’s relations with individual countries. In particular, the committee has studied the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), releasing a series of reports between 2010-2012: Canada and Russia: building on today’s successes for tomorrow's potential (March 2010); New Global Economy: Responding to the Rise of Russia, India and China (June 2010); Seizing Opportunities for Canadians: India's Growth and Canada's Future Prosperity (December 2010); and Intensifying Strategic Partnerships with the New Brazil (May 2012).
In more recent years, a study on the impact and utilization of Canadian culture and arts in Canadian foreign policy and diplomacy lead to a report entitled Cultural Diplomacy at the Front Stage of Canada’s Foreign Policy (June 2019). The committee also undertook a long-term study on the implementation of free trade agreements in Canada’s broader economic policy: Free Trade Agreements: A Tool for Economic Prosperity (February 2017), as well as several reports related to foreign policy issues of interest including Taking Action Against Human Rights Violators in Russia (March 2016); Perspectives on the Situation in Venezuela (June 2016); A turning point in Canada-Argentina Relations? (June 2017); North American Neighbours: Canada and Mexico Cooperation in Uncertain Times (June 2017); The Deepening Crisis in Venezuela: Canadian and Regional Stakes (July 2017); and Safety and Security for Global Affairs Canada Employees and Canadians Abroad (June 2019).
Selected legislative work
A large part of the committee’s legislative agenda relates to the implementation and modification of international agreements and treaties. In recent years, the committee has considered legislation implementing trade agreements with a number of countries including Israel (2019), Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (2018), Ukraine (2017), European Union (2017), Panama (2012), Columbia (2010), Peru (2009), as well as implementing treaties including the Convention between Canada and the Republic of Madagascar (2018), Convention on Cluster Munitions (2012), the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (2008), and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2007).
In addition, the committee reviewed the updates to Canada’s arms export regulations, as well as major updates to Canada’s international sanction regime.
For more information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at: sencanada.ca/AEFA.