House of Commons Issue No. 16 Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Standing Committee on Foreign and International Trade
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House of Commons Issue No. 16

Minutes of Proceedings and Evidence of the Standing Committee on Foreign and International Trade

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[Traduction en français]
In terms of the arrangements for Halifax, I might just mention that briefly we have now opened an office in Halifax. The site is being chosen for the actual meeting, and we are determined to bring in the Halifax summit for a lower budget than was required for the Toronto summit.

I must finally, Mr. Chairman, if I may, speak in a bit more detail about some of my own personal ideas as to where I think the committee's contribution could be particularly useful.

I think a focus on how the institutions could do better to address the problems of the poorest countries in the world would be of considerable value to us. That obviously takes you into the territory of the World Bank, the regional banks, and also the UN agencies. A concern has been expressed at the meetings I've been at thus far that many of the world's poorest countries--I'm really speaking here above all of Africa--are being left further and further behind. What more can we do? What are we doing wrong that we should be doing better? Is there a problem with the roles and relationships of the various institutions?

Finally, Mr. Chairman, if I may say this without being presumptuous, in terms of ensuring the maximum impact of the work of this committee I think it would be useful if we could have a report by early May. The basic point here is that despite what I've said about there not wanting to be too much advance preparation, the fact is that by early May countries have pretty largely taken their positions and they're coming together and there won't be as much opportunity to infuse new ideas into the process.

Thank you very much.

The Chairman: Thank you very much, Mr. Smith. My understanding is that you have to leave here at 4:30 p.m. Is that correct?

Mr. Smith: Around 4:30 p.m., yes.

The Chairman: Maybe we could ask questions of you first, then, before we turn to Madam Fréchette. In that way we can make sure the members...I don't want to say get a crack at you, but you know what I mean. This is not suggested in any antagonistic way, but just to make sure the members who.... If that's all right with you, Madame Fréchette, it would be helpful if we could proceed that way.

I must say, on your remark about the timing of our report, our subcommittee on procedures met yesterday, and recognizing the requirements of that, we decided to put off our review of the estimates until we completed our report. We intend to have something in your hands by the first week of May.

[English Translation]
M. Leblanc (Longueuil): J'aimerais poser une petite question assez simple; simple poser, mais peut-être pas simple répondre!

Trouvez-vous que le Canada a encore sa place dans un club aussi sélect? Est-ce qu'on a encore les moyens de faire partie du G-7? Notre pays est presque en faillite l'heure actuelle. Est-ce qu'on a encore une place l. Si on en a une, voulez-vous m'expliquer comment on peut arriver la garder?

M. Smith: À mon avis, la réponse est nettement oui. Je peux élaborer un peu sur cette réponse, mais je n'ai jamais entendu quoi que ce soit qui mette en doute notre rôle comme membre du G-7. Il est évident que nous avons nos problèmes budgétaires, mais nous ne sommes pas le seul pays avoir des problèmes budgétaires. Je pense, par exemple, l'Italie.

Nous sommes toujours une des grandes puissances économiques du monde. Je voudrais être modeste, mais je crois que la contribution que nous pouvons faire comme Canadiens sur des questions portant, par exemple, sur l'avenir des institutions de Bretton Woods est une contribution qui est acceptée et même très appréciés.

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Pour moi, nous n'avons pas faire la preuve que nous avons un rôle jouer comme membre du G-7, mais nous devons être capables d'agir d'une manière cohérente et unifiée. Si nous avons quelque chose dire, si nous avons des intérêts faire avancer, mon avis, nos idées sont les bienvenues, et le Canada est maintenant membres du club G-7 avec toute la crédibilité possible.

M. Leblanc: Il me semble que le fait de faire partie d'un club très puissant, très important nous oblige, par fierté en tout cas, participer certains projets qu'on n'a souvent pas les moyens de se permettre. Je n'ai pas d'exemples donner pour le moment, mais il me semble que dans certains cas, on a essayé de se donner une place qu'on n'avait pas les moyens de se donner dans le passé. Enfin, je répète la même question. Il me semble qu'on est dans un club qui est beaucoup trop important pour notre capacité d'agir.

M. Smith: Il est vrai qu'il y a un certain prix payer pour être membre de ce club, mais nous le pouvons et nous avons contribué ce qu'il faut. Je pense, par exemple, l'aide que nous fournissons la Russie, aux pays de l'Europe centrale et de l'Est. Je pense aussi l'Ukraine. Nous avons fait des contributions l. Si vous pensez plutôt la situation politique en Europe, nous avons 2t Cela montre que même si nous avons nos problèmes budgétaires, nous avons un plan pour répondre ces problèmes. Même si nous devons couper nos dépenses, nous sommes toujours capables de participer aux programmes d'aide la Russie ou une force de maintien de la paix en ex-Yougoslavie.

[Traduction en français]

Mr. Penson (Peace River): Mr. Smith, I see that global trade is one of the items we're hoping to discuss during the summit. I'm just wondering whether, after all of the work that went into the GATT talks and that settlement over the seven years, it's really too early to be having any serious discussion about trade or the results of the World Trade Organization going into effect. Is it too early to really assess how things are shaking down there, or do you have some specific items in regard to trade that Canada's going to be advancing at the G-7?

Mr. Smith: Let me reply to that really under two headings, first of all the institutional heading. As you have just said, the WTO is now up and running, although still in search of a permanent head. There are questions about the relationships between the WTO and some of the other international institutions, and they form, properly, part of the agenda that I think will be looked at in Halifax. So there is an institutional dimension: the role of the WTO and the relationship of the WTO to other institutions.

The second question is the trade agenda, if you will. Relatively late in the lead-up to Naples, the United States came forward with quite an ambitious trade proposal, which in fact didn't fly last year. This is one of the reasons why this year, as I was saying earlier, there is a more systematic process of preparation in the QUAD meetings that will lead up to the Halifax summit. There we are looking at what the agenda is.

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There are a number of issues--and I think this will be the focus--that were effectively left over by the Uruguay Round, whether the relationship between trade and environment or trade and labour standards, or further work that needs to be done in the area of financial services or in investment. So I don't think you will find, coming out of Halifax, anything very startling in the sense of a trade agenda that doesn't flow from the aftermath of the Uruguay Round and the compromises made at the end of the Uruguay Round. Nonetheless, it will be an agenda at least the seven countries represented believe should be the focus of trade negotiations over the next year or so.

Mr. Penson: Specifically, will our position be advancing any certain agenda there, Canada's position? Are we taking anything to the table that we're asked to look at?

Mr. Smith: All the issues I've mentioned we have interests in. We have interests in a NAFTA context as well as in a global context. So we have both interests to advance and interests to protect, if I can put it that way.

It is too early at this point really to make a prediction about just where we're going to go. But I can assure you that nearer to the time we will have something fairly specific to put forward. At this point ministers haven't addressed themselves to that issue. But it's one we would be happy to bring back before this committee, if that were your choice.

Mr. Regan (Halifax West): Perhaps after I ask this question you will feel it's more appropriate for Madame Fréchette. It relates to the issue of what this committee can best spend its time focusing on over the next couple of months. I want to focus on three suggestions we've heard for changes we should be seeking in the international financial institutions.

One is that we need to have a greater degree of independent analysis of IMF programs, for example, because at the moment they seem to analyse themselves. The second is that for the World Bank, for example, the levels of military expenditures in various countries should be a major condition for financing for those countries. The third is we should ensure our own representatives from Canada to these organizations become accountable to Parliament.

First of all, are we likely to be focusing on those as issues in this summit? Are we likely to have success? What's your view on that? And what issues generally should we be focusing on as a committee?

Mr. Smith: Let me reply briefly, but I really do think Louise Fréchette should answer those questions in more detail, perhaps when she speaks in a few moments.

I have not addressed, and I don't think this summit would address, questions of how executive directors would relate individually to national parliaments. That's something that would be determined on the basis of individual countries' practices. But Louise can answer that, I'm sure.

About the World Bank military expenditure issue, that is an issue that is out there. Whether we will actually address ourselves to that at this point again is early days to say.

About the IMF, Madame Fréchette is involved in meetings as a G-7 finance deputy, which is another hat she wears. She will explain that to you as well.

But I think it would make more sense, Mr. Chairman, either now or later on, as you wish, were Madame Fréchette to reply to Mr. Regan's questions in more detail.

The Chairman: Madame Fréchette, would you be more comfortable answering those questions right now, or would you prefer reserving the answers until after you've given your formal presentation?

Ms Louise Fréchette (Associate Deputy Minister, Department of Finance): Mr. Chairman, I can do it now, if you wish.

The Chairman: Why don't we do it right now? That will keep the flow going, as it were.

Ms Fréchette: Then I'll reserve for a little later my formal introduction and my thanks to you, when explaining what a G-7 deputy is.

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