PARLIAMENT of CANADA

About the Committee

INTRODUCTION TO THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE
ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE

MANDATE

The Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade has a mandate to examine legislation and matters relating to foreign and Commonwealth relations, including: treaties and international agreements; external trade; foreign aid; and territorial and offshore matters.

HISTORY

On March 8, 1938, the Senate of Canada created a standing committee on external affairs. Given the political instability of the day and the threat of war in Europe, it was felt that a standing Senate committee responsible for studying foreign issues of consequence for Canada would enable senators to enhance their knowledge of world affairs and thus carry out their duties more effectively. In 1938 and the years after, the war was central to the committee’s proceedings.

From 1947 to 1968, the Committee on External Relations continued to carry out its assigned role; awareness and liaison remained foremost among its responsibilities. With time, however, more and more emphasis was placed on study and investigation.

In 1968, the Rules of the Senate were amended to dramatically alter the role and structure of Senate Committees. Responsibility for international agreements was added to the committee’s mandate.

The committee also had responsibility for defence matters until 2001, when the Senate created the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence.

SELECTED STUDIES

Between 1988 and 1999, the committee studied and monitored the North American Free Trade Agreement, beginning with the reporting without amendment on Bill C-2, the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act. It recommended, however, that the government pay special attention to adjustment assistance, control of energy exports, trade in agricultural products, application of the provisions allowing temporary entry for business people, and negotiations on the adoption of a countervailing duties and anti-dumping code. The committee also recommended that it be allowed to monitor and report on implementation and application of the Agreement in both countries, as well as changes in bilateral trade. The committee continued to monitor the agreement tabling several reports including Monitoring the Implementation of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (1990), Impact of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement (1993) and in June of 1993 the committee reported without amendment on Bill C-115, the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act.

In 1999, the committee began its studies on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and peacekeeping which looked into Canada’s role in NATO, NATO’s new Strategic Concept for this country, reviewed legal aspects of NATO’s new roles, examined NATO’s participation in Kosovo, studied the implications of the shift towards a new concept of human security, explored the evolving European Security and Defence Identity (ESDI) and its implications for both Canada and NATO, and investigated Parliament’s role in determining Canada’s external military commitments.

In recent years, the committee has examined Canada’s relations with individual countries. In particular, the committee has studied the so-called BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), releasing a series of reports between 2010-2012: Canada and Russia: building on today’s successes for tomorrow's potential (March 2010); New Global Economy: Responding to the Rise of Russia, India and China (June 2010); Seizing Opportunities for Canadians: India's Growth and Canada's Future Prosperity (December 2010); and Intensifying Strategic Partnerships with the New Brazil (May 2012). Most recently, the committee examined Canada’s relations with the Republic of Turkey, releasing a report entitled Building Bridges: Canada-Turkey Relations and Beyond.

SELECTED LEGISLATIVE WORK

The bulk of the committee ’s legislative agenda relates to the implementation and modification of international agreements and treaties, most significantly the study of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act in 1988, and the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act in 1993.

In recent years, the committee has considered legislation implementing trade agreements with a number of countries including Panama (2012), Columbia (2010), Peru (2009), as well as implementing treaties including the Convention on Cluster Munitions (2012), the Convention on the Settlement of Investment Disputes between States and Nationals of Other States (2008), and the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (2007).

In 2012, at the request of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the committee conducted consultations in relation to the establishment of a “Charter of the Commonwealth.” In its report A Charter “Fit for Purpose”: Parliamentary Consultation on the Proposed Charter of the Commonwealth, the committee made recommendations to assist the government in the subsequent negotiation of the text of the Charter.

CURRENT WORK

For information on the current work of the committee, you may wish to review the orders of reference the committee has received from the Senate, or review the committee proceedings. Detailed information on current work of the committee can be found on the parliamentary website at: http://senate-senat.ca/aefa.asp .

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