Yesterday in Parliament – February 26, 2019
House of Commons
Nothing to report.
Orders of the Day
Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Howard Wetston moved second reading of Bill C-85, An Act to amend the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act and to make related amendments to other Acts.
He said: Honourable senators, I’m pleased to speak today as the sponsor of Bill C-85, which will allow Canada to take the necessary legislative steps to formally ratify the modernized Canada-Israel free trade agreement or CIFTA, first enacted in 1997. I’ll be calling this bill CIFTA for convenience.
As you know, as a medium-sized economy competing internationally, Canada relies on free trade and a transparent rules-based system to take advantage of global commercial opportunities and create economic prosperity.
To put it in a global context, Canada now has a total of 14 bilateral and multilateral free trade agreements, or FTAs — except maybe with the U.S.; it has another name, as we all know — in force, applicable to trade with 51 countries.
From 2013-17, Canada’s average merchandise trade with these countries amounted to $936 billion per year, or 84.5 per cent of the average of total Canadian trade for the same period.
As many of you are aware, Canada and Israel enjoy a rich and fruitful commercial relationship.
Since the Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement entered into force in 1997, this two-way merchandise trade agreement between the two countries has more than tripled, totalling more than $1.7 billion in 2017.
Bill C-85 intends to modernize this successful partnership so that it better serves the Canada-Israel trading relationship, while ensuring its benefits are more widely shared.
I want to begin by acknowledging the work that was done by the previous government, who led the way in modernizing CIFTA by concluding important negotiations on amendments to the original 1997 agreement.
In July 2015, after over a year of negotiations, Canada and Israel announced the conclusion of the revised CIFTA.
Amendments to the 1997 agreement included four updated chapters: dispute settlement; goods market access, which is obviously critical to any trade agreement; governance and rules of origin. Also included are seven new chapters: e-commerce, environment, intellectual property, labour, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade and trade facilitation. For those who don’t know what phytosanitary is, I have looked it up, and it’s about the control of plant diseases. You heard it here first. It’s one of the values of doing these things. You learn things.
In 2017, Canada and Israel agreed to further expand the CIFTA to include new sections dealing with trade and gender, small- and medium-sized enterprises, or SMEs, and corporate social responsibility.
Those additional chapters are meant to express the values that we have in Canada to our international trading partners. I’ll speak more about those in a moment or two.
The result is a modernized and robust trade agreement that will enhance the two countries’ commercial relationship.
Once in force, close to 100 per cent of all current Canadian agriculture, agri-food and seafood exports to Israel will benefit from some form of preferential tariff treatment, up from the current level of 90 per cent.
Additional preferential access for these exports gained through modernization represented approximately $6 million worth of Canadian exports to Israel at the time of negotiations in 2015. That is an important number because it will be a number that accelerates and creates the opportunity for further growth in Canada for exports to Israel.
This means that Canadian exporters in areas such as cranberries, baked goods, pet food, wine, fruit and fish and seafood stand to benefit from this modernized agreement.
I’m enjoying this agreement because of all the foods that we have to discuss here. It’s quite tantalizing as I discuss it.
In exchange, Canada agreed to eliminate tariffs on certain targeted Israeli agriculture and agri-food imports, such as fish and nuts, some fruits and certain oils.
Moreover, the modernized CIFTA fully respects Canada’s supply management system — that is, no quotas for supply managed agricultural products.
The agreement has also received support from a number of agricultural groups, such as the Canola Council of Canada, Pulse Canada, and the Canadian Vintners Association.
Aside from tariff elimination, the modernized CIFTA intends to create more favourable conditions for exporters through important commitments to address non-tariff barriers and establish mechanisms under which Canada and Israel can cooperate to address and seek to resolve unjustified non-tariff barriers that may arise. These include simplified customs procedures for processing goods as well as through a risk-management system that facilitates the release of low-risk goods while examining goods that warrant greater attention.
Furthermore, the modernized agreement contains provisions to facilitate co-operation between both parties to combat intellectual property, or IP, rights infringement and to cooperate on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.
Honourable senators, it also includes commitments by Canada and Israel not to levy customs duties or other charges on digital products that are transmitted electronically. We all are aware of the increased growth in commerce of digital products.
Moreover, these are only a few of the commercial opportunities that the modernized CIFTA provides. However, it is important that trade be inclusive.
For this reason, the modernized CIFTA includes a chapter on gender and trade, as well as small- and medium-sized enterprises.
It also includes comprehensive and inclusive provisions in the areas of labour, environment, and corporate social responsibility, or CSR.
Canada and Israel have committed to enforce effectively domestic environmental laws and not relax such laws in an effort to attract trade and investment. This is to ensure both countries pursue high levels of environmental protection while realizing the benefits of liberalized trade.
The CIFTA also includes a dispute resolution mechanism with recourse to an independent panel of experts. A review panel under the environment chapter, which is a first for Israel, of the agreement will consist of three panellists selected by the parties. One of those members will not be an Israeli or a Canadian. I’m not sure which member that might be, but nevertheless will not be an Israeli or a Canadian.
The two parties will also agree to enforce their labour laws, which must in turn provide protection for internationally recognized labour rights and principles, with recourse to an enforceable binding dispute-settlement mechanism.
Once again, this is a first for Israel as well, as I understand it.
The corporate social responsibility chapter includes a commitment to encourage the use of voluntary CSR standards with specific reference to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. The guidelines aim to promote positive contributions to enterprises — economic, environmental and social progress worldwide.
By providing expanded market access, once again, key to trade, and more predictable trading conditions, the modernized CIFTA will enable Canadian companies to take meaningful advantage of these opportunities. That is why Bill C-85 before us today is an important part of Canada’s larger trading agenda.
I want to point out, if I may, that this particular agreement has some new features. It’s progressing towards modernization and is expanding upon some of the chapters that have been negotiated with other countries. I find this to be a very progressive and important step forward towards representing Canadian values that we see as important in our trading relationships.
Moving forward with the modernized CIFTA will establish a more predictable trading environment, strengthen our bilateral relations and expand commercial opportunities that can contribute to sustainable economic development for both countries. Therefore, I hope with your support we can move this bill forward as quickly as possible to the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.
As a last point, I want to bring to the attention of honourable senators that there is expected to be a technical briefing on this bill tomorrow at 1 p.m. to further discuss these issues.
Thank you very much.
(On motion of Senator Frum, debate adjourned.)
Contacting Members of the House of Commons
Find your Member of Parliament’s contact information here.
Find contact information for Senators here.