OTTAWA, Thursday, November 24, 2016
The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade met this day at 10:30 a.m. to give clause-by-clause consideration to Bill C-13, An Act to amend the Food and Drugs Act, the Hazardous Products Act, the Radiation Emitting Devices Act, the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, the Pest Control Products Act and the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act and to make related amendments to another Act; and to study opportunities for strengthening cooperation with Mexico since the tabling, in June 2015, of the committee report entitled North American Neighbours: Maximizing Opportunities and Strengthening Cooperation for a more Prosperous Future.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chair) in the chair.
With that, senators, we will now turn to the agenda that was slated for today, and I call on Colin Robertson to come forward. We are now turning to the study on opportunities for strengthening cooperation with Mexico since the tabling, in June 2015, of the committee report entitled North American Neighbours: Maximizing Opportunities and Strengthening Cooperation for a More Prosperous Future.
By way of background, as I see some new senators, we took the opportunity in 2015 — and I’m not quite sure now — there is a report. You’re welcome to ask the clerk for that report. It was a study on trilateralism and how could we strengthen the workings, particularly on economic issues, and we enumerated what issues we were interested in amongst Canada, the United States and Mexico, both on a trilateral basis and on a bilateral basis, with emphasis on Canada-Mexico. You can read that report.
Mr. Robertson was with us then and gave us some excellent direction to go into in that report, but much has changed since then. Governments have changed; one again will change in the United States. Therefore, we’ve taken the opportunity under our general mandate to try to get some more information and update our report. We are with the view that we have a mandate that the steering committee will present this report in Mexico. We delayed it because of all these changes.
I’m very pleased to have Colin Robertson here today, who is on this topic like no one else. We have brought him in many times, so I’m not going to introduce him. The committee knows him. We’re behind time and we don’t want to usurp his time. I will say that he is Vice-President and Fellow of Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Executive Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary.
Mr. Robertson, you are providing your opinion on many issues but certainly on this one we look to you as an expert. Thank you for your patience in waiting, and the floor is yours, as usual. Welcome to the committee.
Colin Robertson, Vice-President and Fellow of Canadian Global Affairs Institute and Executive Fellow, School of Public Policy, University of Calgary, Canadian Global Affairs Institute: Thank you, Madam Chair.
The United States of America is the primordial relationship for both Canada and Mexico. The election of Donald Trump is proving, at least in the short term, as disruptive to Canada-U.S. relations and Canada-Mexico relations as 9/11. While we have our own interests and agenda, there is much on which Canada and Mexico can and should cooperate and collaborate in managing our shared neighbour and neighbourhood.
Mr. Trump’s announcements — threatening to tear up the North American Free Trade Agreement, threatening to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord, threatening to abandon the Trans-Pacific Partnership, telling allies to pay their share for defence and security — are disruptive for both of us.
The Canadian response needs to be smart. A reversion to anti-Americanism, often our default attitude, would be a mistake. Instead we need to plan, initiate and, most of all, engage. We need to identify our interests. We need to assemble the data that underlines the mutual benefits we all draw from trade and investment. We need to be able to do this for every state, every congressional district, every legislative district, the jobs generated by trade with Canada and the jobs generated by Canadian investment, and we need to be specific about the companies involved.
We need to engage with the Trump transition team. We need to reach out to Congress and state legislatures. We should use, for example, the Canadian embassy’s inauguration party to effect, paying careful attention to the invitation list. It is the best place from which to view the parade.
In the aftermath of 9/11, we devised the Smart Border Accord with the United States of America. Subsequent initiatives — the Security and Prosperity Partnership, Beyond the Border, Regulatory Cooperation Council and now the Trudeau-Obama reset — have had the same objective: keep the border open to the legitimate flow of goods, services and people. Most of it is bilateral in administration, but often with trilateral application.
The Trump election raises many policy challenges as we re-define the parameters around Canada-U.S. and North American relationships. With the election of the Trudeau government, we developed a common North American approach to climate. If the Trump administration is unwilling to collaborate, there is still much we can do with Mexico. There is also much we can achieve at the state level in the United States, where there is already strong collaboration and innovative work on climate mitigation, including various schemes around carbon pricing. Probably the best known is the one amongst Quebec, Ontario and California, the Western Climate Initiative.
The states are key players in trade relationships. The biggest export market for 25 of the 30 states that voted for Trump is Canada. We are the second main market for almost all of the remaining states. That means jobs, but do they know it? We need to deliver this message. Mexico should do the same.
Let’s encourage the Trump administration to continue the bilateral ministers and trilateral ministers’ meetings around trade, energy and defence. The energy ministers’ meetings are a catalyst for practical initiates like the mapping of North American energy. By obliging officials to report regularly, things get done and North American energy independence becomes our competitive advantage, especially as President Trump wants to restore manufacturing.
These meetings of the ministers are the clearinghouse for the important issues that can’t or won’t get resolved at the level of officials or ambassadors because of their political implications. They used to get bounced up to the leaders’ meetings where they cluttered the agenda. Condi Rice, as Secretary of State, used to call them the condominium issues.
There is debate today about how close we should collaborate with Mexico. Some think we should go it alone, given that Mexico is a primary target with Mr. Trump’s promise to build a wall and increase deportations. I think this is the wrong approach. Instead, we should collaborate with Mexico on those issues where we share common cause, especially on energy, climate and trade, and the future of the North American Free Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
On the rest, border and security, we need to keep closely in touch. We will diverge at times, reflecting our own interests, but our shared and overriding principle should be no surprises, with ongoing dialogue through our ambassadors and between ministries and executive offices and legislators — parliamentarians. There is a whole suite of private and public sector groups, including business, the scholarly community and environmentalists that can also be useful.
Some core facts about Canada and Mexico:
We have become each other’s third-largest trading partner. Canada has major investments in banking and in the resource industries, especially mining and now energy in Mexico. Together we manufacture trains, planes and automobiles. Over 2 million Canadians spend over 22 million nights in Mexico, making it our second-most popular destination after the United States.
With a middle class of 44 million people, Mexico is a market that will only increase. By 2050, it is expected to rank fifth in global economic weight. That’s right, G5.
Here are some other strategic facts bearing directly on our long-term relationship with the United States of America: The U.S. Hispanic or Latino population now stands at 57 million, making Hispanics the second-fastest growing racial ethnic group after Asians. Over two thirds of that number has roots in Mexico. Today Hispanics make up 18 per cent of the U.S. population, up from 5 per cent in 1970.
A record 27.3 million Hispanics were eligible to vote in 2016, and politicians with Latino roots on both sides of the aisle — the Castro brothers, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio — are players in American political life.
The U.S.A. now has salsa deep in its DNA, and we need to appreciate the social, economic and political consequences for Canada-U.S. relations. It’s why strengthening the partnership with Mexico makes strategic sense for Canada.
The June visit of Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to Quebec, Toronto and Ottawa set a plan for closer collaboration, and there is no shortage of collaborative instruments. The Canada-Mexico partnership, with its private-public membership, has been in place since 2004. Its agenda focuses on the right issues: energy; agri-food; labour mobility; human capital; trade, investment, innovation; environment; mining; and forestry. We also now have discussions on security.
We work closely with Mexico on trade. After collaborating at the World Trade Organization, last December we persuaded Congress to roll back the protectionist U.S. country-of-origin labelling requirement that threatened our meat exports into the U.S. Mr. Trump wants to revisit COOL. The arguments that persuaded the Republican Congress, House and Senate, to rescind COOL still apply. We will have to make them to the new administration.
Despite the declared ambition and collaborative framework, the relationship with Mexico is still less, however, than the sum of its parts. The arbitrary imposition of a visa in July 2009 stuck in Mexicans’ craw and especially damaged the vital people-to-people ties that underwrite lasting relationships. The visa will be replaced in early December — probably next week — with the much-delayed Canadian electronic travel authorization system.
There are only 5,000 Mexican students amongst the 200,000 foreign students in Canada. Canadian governments, federal and provincial, should aggressively market study by Mexicans in Canada. To give the initiative momentum, why not have Governor General David Johnston lead a group of Canadian university presidents to Mexico to promote joint study opportunities and cooperation in innovation?
High level visits are catalysts for action. Justin Trudeau should put Mexico on his travel agenda for 2017. Why not a trade and investment mission with the premiers?
We should also task our consuls general in the United States — the Mexicans have 51 consulates to our 13 — to find opportunities where they can jointly remind Americans that continental trade works to all our advantage.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which effectively updates the NAFTA, is now problematic. We should be discussing with Mexico what provisions we can jointly salvage and make bilateral, with docking provisions for the United States and others.
As the Trudeau government contemplates a renewal of Canadian involvement in peace operations, it should look first to the challenges in our own hemisphere. Can we jointly help with the Colombia peace process? Can we also help Mexico with its southern frontier problems that result from the continuing turmoil in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador?
There are going to be bumps ahead. We need to work in tandem with Mexico. We need to plan, engage and take the initiative with the Trump administration. We need better networks within Trump America and a thousand points of contact in Congress and the States.
Thank you, Madam Chair.
The Chair: Thank you, Mr. Robertson. You’ve initiated a list of questioners here. I’m going to start with Senator Downe.
Senator Downe: Thank you, chair, I’ll be brief. Thank you for your presentation, as always interesting.
The rise in Mexico is directly related to NAFTA. So if you take NAFTA out of the equation — President-elect Trump would either renegotiate or cancel and we either renegotiate or cancel — then you have the decline of Mexico. The NAFTA renegotiation will obviously impact Canada. Which country would suffer the most if NAFTA was cancelled, in your view?
Mr. Robertson: I think you are right, Senator Downe, that Mexico would disproportionately suffer. Like Canada, their largest trading partner is the United States. For us, about 75 per cent of our exports go to the United States, and for Mexico it’s a little less, around 70 per cent. We have the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement, which is a much inferior agreement, if NAFTA were to be cancelled. For Mexico, it would present a real challenge.
I think it’s worth remembering that the reason that led both President George H.W. Bush and President Clinton to follow through on the NAFTA was the strategic fear in the United States that if they didn’t do something to help Mexico develop its economy, they would have a failed state on their southern frontier. And if Mr. Trump is concerned about the flow of people from Mexico into the United States now — in fact, it’s a wash right now, and as many people are going back as are coming forward in the last couple of years — that would be a real challenge for the United States.
I think the same reasons that led first President Reagan to think of this and then President George H. W. Bush and President Clinton to proceed with the NAFTA, something that President George W. Bush and President Obama saw as quite meaningful, I think President-elect Trump, who at least in the short term has said he would be willing to re-look at things, might think twice about this for strategic reasons.
Senator Downe: There’s been a view expressed that the Canada-U.S. agreement would still be in force if NAFTA is cancelled. Is that your opinion?
Mr. Robertson: Yes, sir. Not all of it. There are parts of it. However, it’s not a shield because a Trump administration, if they decided to abrogate the North American Free Trade Agreement, may well take a look at the Canada Free Trade Agreement again, in the hopes of being able to — as Mr. Trump phrased it — negotiate a better deal.
I think we too have to plan for something we did not anticipate but need to be prepared for. I think there are compelling arguments as to why it shouldn’t happen, and now is the time to reach out to the Trump transition team and to enlist our allies. There will be a lot of support within the American business community not to upset the continental trading relations and the supply chains through which all three countries mutually benefit.
Senator Downe: This is my final question, chair.
Is President-elect Trump’s priority, as much as he can possibly can, to restore the manufacturing jobs that he believes have been lost in America to Mexico, and that would trump any concern about a failed state because he’s putting up a wall that the Mexicans apparently are going to pay for? I read that in all the papers.
Mr. Robertson: The principle market is the United States for 40 per cent of what I mentioned that Mexico exports. Forty per cent of what Mexico exports to the United States already started in the United States. That gives you a sense of how deeply intertwined the supply chains are now. So a product’s final assembly takes place in Mexico but a lot of the parts came to the United States. With Canada and the United States, about 20 or 25 per cent of what we export to the United States in final form actually started in the United States.
We really have got a continental market that works very well. I think Mr. Trump as a businessman perhaps doesn’t appreciate that, but that will be reinforced to him by American major corporations who will point out, I think, that this is working well for the United States.
Senator Poirier: I have just a couple of questions. Actually, you touched a bit on both my questions in your opening remarks.
Obviously, since November 8, NAFTA has received a lot of attention due to the comments made by the president-elect in the United States. Some have said that it is in need of an update for the 21st century economy. Could you elaborate on what you believe needs to be brought up to date in NAFTA?
Mr. Robertson: Yes, senator. I think, as a starting point, at the time that we negotiated the NAFTA, and I was part of the negotiating team, we weren’t using these things. We have now moved to a digital economy. So many of the professions that are allowed mobility back and forth are simply not included in the NAFTA list that allows ease of trends back and forth across the borders, with Americans coming to Canada, Canadians coming to the United States. That would be one of the first things you would want to update, and indeed one of the things that we were looking at in the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, which effectively was becoming an update for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Senator Poirier: You also that due to a lot of the comments of the possible renegotiation of NAFTA, a lot of the comments have been negative, and you have mentioned already a few things there. Can you see that there could be an opportunity for Canada and Mexico to strengthen the economic relationship and make it more beneficial for both the countries?
Mr. Robertson: If the United States were to pull out of NAFTA, NAFTA, in fact, remains in place between Canada and Mexico, and I think that we should be looking at a number of the things that we were going to be doing with the United States in the Trans-Pacific Partnership and apply them, which we could do, to an updated Canada-Mexico agreement. And I would provide docking provisions because I think over time the United States, which in a sense was the initiator going back to President Reagan of North American closer continental hemispheric trade relations, would come to that point at some point.
Senator Eaton: In his platform, President Trump has talked about the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. If we do go ahead with Keystone, could we not try and sell a continental-wide energy policy that might mitigate some of the problems that we’re going to have with Trump over NAFTA? Is that not a negotiating point?
Mr. Robertson: Yes, senator. I put the big issues with the Trump administration into three baskets: border security, trade and energy. I use “energy” advisedly because that’s the language they’re using. They don’t talk climate and they don’t talk environment. I think you can talk clean energy and get to the same point. The one thing I learned with the United States is let them choose the language but then from a Canadian perspective define what we mean. That way we can often reach our objectives.
I do think energy is one area that Mr. Trump has identified where there are a number of convergences not just with Canada and the United States but also with Canada, the United States and Mexico. I think certainly at the outset we should be looking with the Trump administration to find those areas where we can start to build trust and confidence. That will help us when we come to more difficult areas.
Mr. Trump has stated that he would like TransCanada to make another application for a presidential permit. Congress is in Republican hands and the president in favour. All the work and the studies that have been done, the studies on the pipeline that were done by the state department, even the environmental study, conclude that the pipeline was the most efficient and cleanest and safest way to move oil and gas.
Senator Eaton: That might help Mexico too?
Mr. Robertson: I think so, yes. There are pipelines. TransCanada is working on a pipeline, for example, to take natural gas from the United States into Mexico. So there are various layers. These relationships are so complex now that there is a tremendous amount of integration, much of it beneath the water line.
Senator Eaton: I’m sure you’ve thought about this. I guess it makes me think, as a Canadian, that we will be put at a greater disadvantage if Mr. Trump does not put a carbon tax on his industries and lowers his corporate tax. Right now we have a bit of an advantage, don’t we, in terms of corporate taxes?
Mr. Robertson: Yes, senator. Ours is about half of what the American corporate tax is.
Senator Eaton: We will lose if we raise. Wouldn’t that affect our trading capacity? You don’t see our taxes being —
Mr. Robertson: Proceeding with a carbon tax in Canada, we have the experience in British Columbia where you had a neutral carbon tax. On that one I would let the economists pronounce. I think that you will see that there will be a reaction from the oil patch on Premier Notley, Premier Wall and others. The premiers will soon get a sense from the business community where that might be. Of course, the Trudeau government has left it to the provinces to figure this out over the next couple of years.
My own view is I think we probably have to revisit that because the intention had been to move in tandem with the United States, just as we moved in tandem on the emission standards, for example, for cars and trucks, that the Obama administration brought in. The Harper government moved in tandem with the United States. We’ve tended to do so again because we look at North America and want to keep the rules and standards on all sides the same so that we don’t disadvantage one side or the other.
Senator Eaton: This would apply equally, I guess, since the TPP is dead, if we turn our sights towards countries like India, China and Japan?
Mr. Robertson: I think that we should, in fact, seek to diversify.
Senator Eaton: I agree. Our taxes would also put us at a disadvantage dealing with those countries, would it not, because they have no intention of applying a carbon tax?
Mr. Robertson: There are many factors that go into making investment decisions. A key factor would be having continued access to the United States. What we don’t want to become is a spoke. We have many advantages in Canada, such as stability and a well-educated population, but access to the United States market and that preferred access to the United States market has always been one of our selling points to foreign investment.
Senator Ataullahjan: I’m referring to a recent article from November 22 saying that NAFTA’s effect on U.S. jobs is disputed. Some critics say that it led to a loss of 850,000 jobs, while the U.S. Chamber of Commerce says that it added a net 5 million jobs in the U.S., and the Congressional Research Service has said that it has had only a positive effect on U.S. growth but has helped U.S. manufacturers become more competitive due to more efficient supply chains. What is the reality?
Mr. Robertson: Senator, in my view, the NAFTA benefited all three economies. When China ceded to the World Trade Organization, which I think is a good thing to bring in the international system, that had a disruptive effect and there was a job loss from North America generally, in part as China came in, but that had nothing to do with NAFTA. I do think and the studies that I’ve seen, and I rely on the Peterson Institute in Washington and other studies you’ve pointed out, have worked materially for NAFTA.
What has changed is the technology and the transformation that technology has brought, so when you go to an auto plant or manufacturing plant today, there’s a lot more robotics. There are fewer jobs visibly present. It’s not factory lines anymore, but you have to remember that behind the robots are a whole lot of software engineers. So there are different kinds of jobs. There has been a transformation caused by technology, less by trade.
Senator Housakos: Where do you see the opportunities for Canada in renegotiating the NAFTA agreement with the United States and Mexico? Is it a fair comment to make that even though we’ve been huge net benefactors of our relationship in terms of trade with the United States, that it hasn’t had the same impact with Mexico? If anything, many can argue that it’s been a bad deal in terms of Canada-Mexico in the sense that it’s been a net job loser. People have argued that it just hasn’t been as beneficial as the U.S.-Canada trade deal. If there is a propensity on the part of the Americans to open up the deal, do we have opportunities to renegotiate to the benefit of Canada? What areas would those opportunities be?
Mr. Robertson: I mentioned having more professions on the mobility list. That’s one that we would like to see done. We would also probably put border access because there are still challenges at the border, pre-clearance, for example. We have some legislation to pass here, but the American Congress does as well. There are things we could do and that we would want to push the Americans on so that we can make that border as easy for Canadians to access back and forth as possible.
Senator Housakos: What would be a couple of elements that the Americans want to renegotiate with Canada? What would you think would be their biggest difficulties that they have with the current agreement?
Mr. Robertson: Their traditional push, and I think you would see this also under President Trump, would be on intellectual property. They would push us on the length that we guarantee, in a sense, for those who create intellectual property. On pharmaceuticals, for example, it’s the battle between big pharma and generics. The United States has a longer period of protection than does Canada and indeed much of the rest of the world. This has already been signaled by Senator Orrin Hatch who is chair of the Senate Finance Committee, and I think Mr. Trump would be there as well, so that’s one area where the success of American ambassadors have also pushed us on, intellectual property protection.
Senator Cordy: Thank you. It was a very interesting speech. I really enjoyed it. You spoke about the need for engagement in your opening comments. I guess I look at the engagement for the country-of-origin labelling, and I know that Canadian senators and MPs who are a member of the Canada-U.S. association were very active in all of their meetings with members of Congress and the Senate, and Ambassador Doer happened to be the ambassador at that time and did a significant amount of work to finalize the deal, to close the deal after all the discussions.
I’m wondering about the PR job that we have to do with the United States in order to explain to the United States the importance that the trade is with Canada. A number of the states, those close to our border — and I’ll speak about Eastern Canada since that’s where I’m from — have a significant percentage of their trade in exports to Canada. If those doors were to close, those states would be hurt greatly. What do we have to do in terms of engagement or PR?
Second, with the importance of engaging with Mexico, finding our commonalities and where we can work together, how are we going to do that kind of thing?
Mr. Robertson: To pick up on your remarks, there is the vital role that you as legislators and senators play in going down to see your counterparts. You referred specifically to the Canada-U.S. Inter-Parliamentary Group, and there is a Canada-Mexico group. My view is we should probably bring the Canada-Mexico group together.
One of the challenges that we have is getting the attention of American legislators. I think that if we looked at it in a trilateral way, we would be more likely to get American legislators present. I strongly believe that you individually — because you’re permitted now by using your point system — should travel down to Washington and get to know your counterparts.
One of the key relationships in the resolution of the country-of-origin labelling was the relationship that Chrystia Freeland had with Pat Roberts, a conservative Republican from Kansas, who is chair of the agriculture committee. But all of you working and informing your counterparts — and it does mean us going there because they are less inclined to come up here. Going down there and seeing your counterparts really does make a difference.
When I was at the embassy and I had individual senators who would come down and had personal relationships, that advanced causes. I think these personal relationships are what we have to go back to, particularly with those from Trump country. As I pointed out, for 30 of the 35 states that voted for Mr. Trump, their first export market, which is jobs, is Canada, and for the other five we’re their number two. But it’s these personal relationships, particularly at the legislative level, that are important, and the Senate would play a critical role in this. So I would start there.
Then, as I say, a thousand points of contact and us telling our story and having the facts. We do have to do a better job of assembling what the facts are so when you sit down with an American senator, since they are usually looking for jobs or money and votes, we can talk about jobs and investment and do that very well. But we need to get those facts and figures, and they should be provided to all of you, as I heard at the outset of your conversation. You need to have that information. It is in our interest for you to do this personally.
Senator Cools: I’d like to welcome the witness here and to thank him for his thoughtful presentation. I’d also like to note that I think your remarks are extremely timely and relevant because the issues you have raised are probably the most important issues that are going to emerge before us in the next short while.
Now, treaties are strange animals in a way because treaties are in fact, in law, agreements between sovereigns. But the sovereigns, for the most part, have little money to deliver the actuation and the actualization of the treaties, so they rely on the two houses in what we call — I’m sure you know this language — appropriating monies to make these things happen.
Now, I do not know enough about how the U.S. Congress runs, but I’m inquiring of you. You may follow these matters so closely that you may know. Do their houses, their Congress and Senate, have a role in those treaties? In other words, do they have to approve of those treaties by formal vote? Do you know?
Mr. Robertson: Yes, senator. The Senate has to give its concurrence to treaties. There’s a lot that is done through executive orders, but in terms of treaties, in the Constitution of the United States —
Senator Cools: They have to agree?
Mr. Robertson: They have to agree.
Senator Cools: That’s wonderful news. I think we should pay careful attention to that and start to widen our scope a little bit.
At the National Finance Committee meeting last night, we had some striking testimony. One of the witnesses before us was talking about the building of the Gordie Howe Bridge and the corridor between Windsor and Detroit. This witness gave us some fantastic information. He told us that one-third of Canada’s trade moves through those corridors, which I did not know. I’m just putting this out because it’s very relevant. Perhaps our research assistants should look up that testimony from last night. He also told us about the millions — I have forgotten the numbers; I have to look it up myself — of trucks that go through that corridor daily or yearly, I forget what it was. What you’re saying today is resonating with what was said last night. So I again strongly urge committee members to let us take hold of this information and move with it with some vigour and some energy.
Those parliamentary friendship groups — we had a Speaker in the Senate, Senator Kinsella, who used to call it “parliamentary diplomacy” — are very important, and I think we should be alert and alive to these issues as they are unfolding. I think we should get in on the ground early. I hope you’re with me, chairman.
The Chair: I’m absolutely with you 100 per cent on the comments you’ve made.
Senator Cools: Great.
The Chair: With some indulgence, can I move to Senator Lankin?
Senator Cools: Absolutely. You can always go to Senator Lankin, as far as I’m concerned.
Senator Lankin: Thank you for your presentation. I was very interested in your strategic suggestion about visiting the TPP between Canada and Mexico. You talked about some provisions in particular and then with docking provisions for others, the U.S. to join. Could you highlight briefly which of the matters or the issues you see as being appropriate to visit in a bilateral TPP? Are they the same issues that you responded to Senator Housakos on in terms of what improvements we would like to see to NAFTA? Is there any parallel between the two?
Mr. Robertson: Sure. I talked about the digital economy that we’re in now. There are a series of provisions related to services and intellectual property protections in the Trans-Pacific Partnership that we’ve negotiated with the Obama administration that I think we could easily lift and apply in a Canada-Mexico arrangement with the hope that the United States would come onto it at some point, as an example. I also come back to professions as well.
Senator Lankin: The mobility?
Mr. Robertson: The mobility side.
Senator Lankin: Do those specific issues hold an interest for the U.S. as well? You’ve already commented about intellectual property rights.
Mr. Robertson: Yes, senator. The Trans-Pacific Partnership was in many ways an Obama initiative. It began with Australia, New Zealand, Chile and I think maybe Singapore. It was when President Obama, shortly after he was elected, suddenly seized on that as part of the broader security pivot to Asia. He saw that as the trade complement.
There are a lot of senior military officers — I spent last weekend at the Halifax International Security Forum, and senior military officers from the United States were there — it is still the Obama administration, and they still see the strategic value of that. That may be something that in time Mr. Trump may rethink as to where he was during the campaign.
Let’s not forget that when Bill Clinton ran in 1992, he ran against the NAFTA, as did, to some degree, Mr. Chrétien. Then we added the labour and environmental accords in 1993-94. In 2008, then candidate Obama and then candidate Clinton ran in part against NAFTA, but when President Obama became president, the NAFTA continued to go forward.
The Chair: I’m going to take the liberty of asking you one question. You were very good to set the stage when we started the trilateral study, and you’re doing that again. I see our next witness was the other half of that piece, so we’re very fortunate to have both of you.
Part of our problem is politics, not the agreements. It’s myths that arise on both sides of the border or trilaterally. The myth is that jobs were taken away from locals. You already pointed out that the manufacturing is so interrelated that there were gains and there were losses, but people still believe that trade agreements have drawn jobs.
We have the same problem here. We haven’t done a very good job of selling it. I heard one of President Obama’s advisers say that was the weakness, and we haven’t really addressed those.
The other weakness is addressing within trade agreements those who are going to be disadvantaged or need to be relocated or re-educated or in some way find new opportunities. Is that one of the tasks that we also have? Because we need to get the right information to our citizens, and we need the right information to get to the United States, but it gets clouded in politics and, for some politicians, it’s to their advantage to suggest otherwise. A little bit of mischief, I might call it.
Mr. Robertson: Yes, chair. I agree. The level of manufacturing in the United States is roughly where it’s been for the last 25 years. What has fallen is the employment provided by manufacturing. That’s dropped from about 20 per cent to about 8 per cent, partly because, again, of technology.
But to just go back to your point about trade education, it is absolutely vital. When we went into the free trade agreement with the United States, with about 25 per cent of the country in favour, 25 per cent of the country dead against, 50 per cent in the middle, we learned as we did that that we had to do a better job of informing Canadians of the benefits of trade.
We used to keep this going. Parliamentarians played a critical role in this. We used to provide information to your offices as we learned about success stories on exports, companies in provinces and in ridings. We would send that on to members of Parliament. As a consequence, if you look today, one of the big shifts since 1988 is that every premier, whether they be separatist, socialist, Liberal or Conservative, favours trade because they see that’s what puts bread on the table and creates the growth that everybody wants. We got there by reminding members of Parliament and senators about what was working so you could put it in householders and things.
We stopped doing that in the mid-1990s, and I think that’s a big mistake. We have to go back, because Canada, of all the countries in the G8 world, is really dependent on trade. This is what allows us to pay for our health system and our education system. It helps make us Canadian, but we have not done a good enough job.
I know the current government has begun a consultation process around the TPP. I hope we would use that as an opportunity to remind Canadians about how much trade matters to them. Most people have no clue that what they may do is involved in trade, and I think that’s particularly true south of the border, but we Canadians should start here.
The Chair: Just as an editorial comment to keep the dialogue going but not to really elicit an answer, we have concentrated on stakeholders and consultations with stakeholders, but it is the public, and that hasn’t filtered through. What you’re saying about that it resonates with me.
Senators, we are right on time, which is absolutely magnificent.
Mr. Robertson, thank you for coming. Thank you for the work you do. I think you’re a very valuable resource with where you’ve come from with your personal experience and your dedication. You are always first on the topics that affect Canada, and particularly on trade, and that’s extremely important. We thank you for, of all the things you do, always having time to answer and come to us on short notice. We very much appreciate it. What you have given us today will be extremely helpful as we proceed to determine what parts we can study and how we can strengthen Canada’s role.