Tracey pushes the government to reveal their priorities on NAFTA


 Ms. Tracey Ramsey (Essex, NDP): Good morning, Minister.

I'm pleased to see today that Canadians finally have some understanding of the priorities of the Canadian government, and so I thank you for sharing some of those with us, and I look forward to the further priorities that you will reveal to Canadians as we move through this process. I welcome the negotiators to the table as well. It's nice to see all of you.

Like my colleague, I'm someone who represents a border riding. In my riding, down in Essex, in southwestern Ontario, you certainly don't have to look far to find people who understand NAFTA, who have felt the negative impacts of NAFTA on the manufacturing sector, but businesses that have benefited from the flow of traffic across the largest border crossing we have in Canada, I believe, across the Ambassador Bridge, and the soon to be Gordie Howe Bridge.

So my question to you is this. You mentioned supply management and the United States has, of course, released this long list of negotiating priorities, and from that list we know that the Trump administration will be taking aim at our supply-managed system.

Your Liberal government has eroded supply management under CETA, and was attempting to do so on the TPP. So I want you to be clear today. Will you commit that you will not accept any further erosion of supply management through an expansion of tariff-free access for U.S. dairy, poultry, or eggs, or any other mechanism?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: Thank you for the question.

It is a real service to Canada and to your constituents, Tracey, that you're on this committee because I know you know very well and represent a constituency which understands and is involved in this trading relationship as much as any part of our country, so I know you speak from a very informed place.

On supply management, as I said repeatedly, and as a I said in our remarks today, our government is fully committed to supply management. Something that we have said both in public and in private to our American partners which bears repeating today and it's an important point to underscore is the balanced and mutually beneficial nature of Canada's overall trading relationship with the United States. It is truly reciprocal. When it comes to dairy, the United States sells us far more than we sell them. It is—

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: And yet they still want further access, so the question really is about whether we'll grant that.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: And that is why it's important to point out to them, as we both in private and in public, that when it comes to dairy today the balance of trade is 5:1 in the U.S.'s favour. I would call that already a pretty good deal, and both I and my negotiators, who have great experience in particular in the agricultural sector, are very aware of that.

Something else that is very important, and that again we point out both in public and at the table and in our private conversations, is when it comes to dairy Canada has our system of supply management for supporting the interests of our producers. The U.S. clearly does not have supply management, but the U.S. has its own system for supporting dairy producers in the United States.

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: Subsidization, yes.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: Dairy producers in the U.S. are beneficiaries of an extensive web of government supports. That is the reality as well. We remind our American partners of that fact when we enter into this conversation, but I think it's also worth pointing out to Canadians, because I have noticed that in some of the Canadian discussions—

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: I'm really sorry I don't want to interrupt you, but I have another question and I want to make sure I can get it in.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: Okay, but let me, Tracey, just finish this.

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: Okay, you can finish this off.

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: I'm speaking now particularly to our journalist friends. Something that I feel may sometimes be missing from the public discourse in Canada is a full appreciation of the extent to which the U.S. dairy sector also benefits from an extensive network of subsidies. Their way of doing it is different from ours, but there are significant government supports.

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: My next question is around chapter 11. Canada is the most sued country under investor-state dispute settlement provisions contained in NAFTA's chapter 11, which allows companies to sue governments over anything that they think has reduced their profits. This includes taking aim at our environmental protection and health safety. This threat of challenges under chapter 11 has had a very chilling affect at all levels of government—

The Chair: You only have 15 seconds, so I think we should leave it to the minister.

Ms. Tracey Ramsey: Okay. So my questions is: will you seek to remove chapter 11 from the agreement?

Hon. Chrystia Freeland: As I said in my remarks earlier today, Canada takes a strong interest in improving and making more progressive investor-state dispute settlement mechanisms. That is something that we were very proud to push hard on in CETA and that is definitely an area that we are interested in pursuing here. In particular of paramount importance is preserving a sovereign, democratically elected government's right to regulate.