Report of the committee
Thursday, May 11, 2017
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has the honour to present its
Your committee, to which was referred Bill C-30, An Act to implement the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union and its Member States and to provide for certain other measures, has, in obedience to the order of reference of Tuesday, March 7, 2017, examined the said bill and now reports the same without amendment but with certain observations, which are appended to this report.
A. RAYNELL ANDREYCHUK
Observations to the Eleventh Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Bill C-30)
Taking into consideration the testimonies heard during the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade’s (“the Committee”) study on Bill C-30, as well as the Committee’s report entitled Free Trade Agreements: A Tool for Economic Prosperity tabled February 7, 2017, the Committee makes the following nine observations for consideration by the Government of Canada:
1. A Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) implementation strategy should be developed and publicly accessible. It should be based on inclusive consultation with relevant stakeholders, identify the federal measures designed to help Canadian businesses to maximize the benefits of CETA, as well as ensure that the federal departments and agencies involved in trade promotion services are ready to support Canadian businesses as soon as CETA enters into force. The CETA implementation strategy should also identify the federal measures intended to mitigate the agreement’s potentially adverse impacts, including adjustment programs for negatively affected Canadian workers, sectors and regions.
2. The level of transparency regarding government policy on CETA and other modern, comprehensive free trade agreements (FTAs), which notably include commitments involving an increasing number of trade-related areas, needs to be enhanced. More inclusive and extensive consultations before, during and after negotiations could improve both the quality and types of input provided to negotiators about the trade and economic interests at stake, and foster confidence among stakeholders and the Canadian public with the process and the final product.
3. The Government of Canada should ensure that members of the Canadian business community and other interested parties that are affected by the required regulatory changes identified in Bill C-30 (for instance, those relating to intellectual property) are consulted in a transparent and inclusive manner on the details of these changes. A draft of the regulatory changes should be pre-published in the Canada Gazette to give interested parties an opportunity to determine the extent to which the proposal is in keeping with previous consultations.
4. The Committee conveys concerns expressed by witnesses regarding the issue of Non-Disclosure Agreements and the transparency of the consultation process, particularly as it relates to intellectual property. The Committee heard testimony that the use of Non-Disclosure Agreements by the Government of Canada limits the ability of stakeholder groups to participate fully in the process, as it prevents them from coordinating with their membership. In addition to restricting input on possible regulatory changes, Non-Disclosure Agreements make it impossible for those potentially affected by those changes to prepare for them, simply because they cannot be told what they may be. While recognizing the need to safeguard the confidentiality of certain information when required, the Committee nonetheless recommends that more transparent public consultation be instituted for future trade agreements.
5. Parliamentarians and parliamentary committees require sufficient time to study comprehensive, complex and technical FTA implementing legislation. During the negotiation of FTAs, the relevant committees should receive timely information and briefings about their progress in order to facilitate the study of FTA implementation bills, such as Bill C-30.
6. The Government of Canada should assess and publicly report the impact of CETA and other FTAs as part of the federal government’s implementation and monitoring commitments of such agreements. Such reports are in addition to those that should be carried out prior to an FTA’s ratification to disclose the agreement’s expected economic, labour, environmental, social and other impacts.
7. Witnesses expressed concern that Bill C-30 may put a certain number of sectors in Canada’s economy at a competitive disadvantage with those in member countries of the European Union. The Government of Canada should duly consider the concerns and recommendations conveyed to the Committee during its examination of C-30. These include those raised by Canadian stakeholders involved in coasting trade activities in Canadian waters who argued that amendments to the Coasting Trade Act might unfairly advantage European firms operating in Canada, including their vessels that register under a different flag for reasons of convenience, at the expense of Canadian firms. For example, to ensure that the standards applied to Canadian vessels are applied to foreign vessels operating in Canada, it was suggested that a single department or agency be established to oversee compliance with, and enforcement of, all applicable laws and regulations governing vessels operating in Canada. These concerns also include the lack of reciprocity regarding the concessions granted to European firms, which means that Canadian firms are not granted the same access to coastal trade activities in European markets. The Committee, therefore, recommends that the Government of Canada negotiate an offset provision to address this issue or implement other appropriate measures.
8. The long-standing requirement that citizens of Bulgaria and Romania apply for a visa before travelling to Canada was lifted to secure the support of their governments for CETA, and was not due to any meaningful progress against, for example, rates of visa refusal and of violation of immigration rules involving travellers from these countries. The Committee recommends that the Government of Canada adopt a similar approach with Romania and Bulgaria that it has articulated regarding the lifting of the visa requirement for citizens of Mexico. When the visa requirement for Mexicans was lifted in 2016, the Government of Canada reserved the right to reinstitute that requirement if violations rose above a specific number. Canada has not imposed a similar requirement for Romania and Bulgaria, but the Committee recommends that the Government of Canada advise these countries of the number of violations that would cause the visa requirement to be automatically reinstated. This would thereby put the onus on those countries to prevent that occurrence.
9. The Government of Canada should continue to work on measures that enhance the equitable distribution of the benefits of trade agreements for Canadians. The Committee is acutely aware that its consideration of Bill C-30 took place in the context of growing concern about international trade, including the potential for increased protectionist measures, and discontent over the distribution of benefits from FTAs. It underscores that CETA is a model of more progressive FTAs and that bringing it into force is an important signal of Canada’s commitment to openness in trade and investment.