Thanks very much, Chair.
Good afternoon. I'd like to thank the committee for inviting me to appear today to discuss current markets and trade programs and potential ways to further improve industry's ability to take advantage of both domestic and international markets.
The government is making important investments to ensure that the agriculture and agrifood sector is well positioned to take on new market opportunities at home and abroad. I look forward to talking with you about what we're doing in this area and some areas for future work.
Under our current programming, a large component of the markets and trade programs are delivered through Growing Forward. Growing Forward emphasizes the role of government as an enabler, with industry acting as an important collaborator and leader.
One of the key mechanisms for industry collaboration is the value chain round tables, which draw together producers, processors, retailers, government departments, and provinces to identify market opportunities and develop collaborative strategies. Growing Forward also supports a suite of market development programs that increase the ability of the sector to identify and exploit opportunities in markets where it is competitive on a cost or attribute basis.
These programs include the AgriMarketing program of almost $90 million, the Canada brand program of almost $20 million, the markets information program of almost $9 million, and the trade commissioner service of about $24.5 million. These programs facilitate industry success in global and domestic markets and have been very well received by industry.
Every year AgriMarketing is oversubscribed, and participants have consistently expressed their appreciation for the program.
Industry adoption of the Canada brand has grown steadily since the strategy was introduced in 2006. Membership has increased due to interest in consumer-oriented promotions and the expansion of the Canada brand to the domestic market. There are currently more than 400 members in the Canada brand program.
The domestic branding component of the Canada brand was introduced in response to industry interest in improving its ability to market directly to Canadians. Through retail promotions, the Canada brand has demonstrated that by identifying products as Canadian, participants can increase sales and improve profitability.
Additional funding was provided under AgriFlexibility, part of Canada's economic action plan, to intensify demand for Canadian products and key international markets through the Canada brand advocacy initiative. This initiative works to build knowledge of and demand for Canadian products through consumer-oriented promotion and advocacy campaigns, including advertising.
Another area where we have invested is in markets information, to provide relevant and timely information to clients in industry. Industry has noted that this information has helped positively inform decision-making.
Finally, the trade commissioner service is an important element of our market development programming. We currently have 33 trade commissioners in 13 priority markets and provide on-the-ground assistance to Canadian companies and individuals operating there.
In addition to Growing Forward programs, the government has placed a priority on market access. In 2009, Minister Ritz announced the market access secretariat, which partners with other federal departments, industry stakeholders, and provincial partners to advance Canadian interests abroad to reopen, maintain, and expand market access across multiple sectors in identified markets.
The Agriculture and Agri-Food market access report, which was released by ministers Ritz and Fast in October, highlights the accomplishments of the ministers from January 2010 through March 2011, with our support.
In particular, I would like to draw your attention to a few key successes.
Last July, Canada successfully negotiated transitional measures for canola seed exports with China, a market worth almost $2 billion.
In December, Minister Ritz announced an agreement reached with South Korea to reopen the market for certain Canadian beef and beef products, a market worth $30 million by 2015, as estimated by industry. This announcement is a step towards finally closing the book on BSE.
Another major victory for Canada was the positive ruling on the U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling legislation. Through dispute settlement, Canada was able to successfully defend the interests of the sector and ensure fair access to one of our most important markets.
Most recently, as part of Prime Minister Harper's visit to China, an agreement was signed that clears the way for immediate access on beef and tallow, and joint research to create a stable trading environment with China for Canadian canola seed.
In line with industry recommendations, and highlighted in the government's 2011 budget, additional funding was provided under the economic action plan's AgriFlexibility program to seize the full extent of opportunities in some key emerging priority markets like China, India, Indonesia, and Russia.
AgriFlexibility funding is being used to build on the momentum achieved thus far on market access by accelerating progress in priority emerging markets and building stronger relations with key countries to advance our interests through the strengthening of the trade commissioner service.
Also, as part of Prime Minister Harper's trade mission to China, Minister Ritz was pleased to announce that Tongwei Company Limited, a major Chinese feed company, intends to increase its purchase of Canadian canola meal by up to $240 million annually by 2015.
The government has also been active in the negotiation of a number of free trade agreements to provide important new export opportunities for the agriculture sector. Canada has most recently implemented FTAs with the European Free Trade Association, with Peru, and with Columbia. We are in the process of putting into force our FTAs with Jordan and Panama. Negotiations are also under way, notably, with South Korea, the European Union, Morocco, and India. Access gains in these markets would result in significant benefit for the sector.
The government has also formally indicated interest in joining the trans-Pacific partnership.
Bilaterally, Canada is also working on the Canada-U.S. Regulatory Cooperation Council in order to make it easier for Canadian and American firms to do cross-border business. This initiative was announced in February 2011 by Prime Minister Harper and U.S. President Obama.
The government has also made internal trade a priority and is working closely with provinces to review the regulatory environment to make it more relevant to today's market and facilitate internal trade flows. A better integrated domestic market can be a driver for a more competitive and innovative sector.
While our current programming has resulted in significant successes, there have been shifts in global and domestic markets that present new challenges for the sector. The growth and rising demand in emerging markets, coupled with slower growth in our traditional markets of the U.S., EU, and Japan, have shifted our growth opportunities towards the former. These markets require a different approach from the traditional ones. In particular, it requires greater focus on bilateral engagement. Furthermore, technical barriers are increasingly used by countries as a means to protect their domestic industry, making market access initiatives increasingly important to the continued success of the sector.
In the domestic market, Canada's high dollar and strong economic performance have made Canada a preferred export destination. This has resulted in increased import penetration, putting competitive pressure on the sector.
Finally, there are new ways of doing business. Consolidation in the retail sector, the importance of global value chains, and local food movement are increasingly dominant business models that industry and government will need to adapt to in order to compete.
Supported by the unprecedented engagement with industry that has taken place under Growing Forward, Growing Forward 2 presents an opportunity to adjust policies and programs to address new realities and build on successes. The shift in market opportunities to emerging economies suggests that more efforts could be focused on expanding access and improving penetration in these fast-growing markets. In order to maintain our competitive edge in foreign markets, Canada will also need to adopt aggressive strategies to set our sector apart from the pack.
GF2 also provides an opportunity to address the increasing competition in the domestic market. Industry has been supportive of domestic branding. Under GF2 we could explore opportunities to expand this programming with carefully delineated federal and provincial roles.
New market opportunities and a changing business environment may also require our sector to develop new skills. Under GF2 we will continue to explore a means of better assisting the sector in building the skills and knowledge they will need to adapt and compete in a highly competitive environment. We will be working closely with our provincial and territorial counterparts to look at the opportunities and challenges in the sector as we progress towards Growing Forward 2.
AAFC, along with other key departments, continues to work to create and maintain trade opportunities for Canadian agriculture producers and food processors and to support Canada's trade objectives. We also continue listening to stakeholders through forums like the value chain round tables and the market access industry advisory group and using their feedback to identify how Growing Forward 2 can help Canada compete in foreign markets.
Thank you for your time. I look forward to your questions.
We anticipate that the Market Access Secretariat will continue to focus on opening markets where they're dealing with access issues, but will be moving more into relationship-building, as they've been doing with China.
The emerging markets where we're having the most market access issues are primarily in agricultural countries. The farming means more to them than anything else, even as they're transitioning from a rural to an urban society. There are still 800 million people living in rural China, for example. So as they're making that movement, they're looking to us for knowledge, capacity, training, and so on.
The Market Access Secretariat minister has been signing memorandums of understanding and cooperation with these emerging markets. Because we are successful at resolving market access issues, we hope the Market Access Secretariat will be focusing on the maintenance of market access through these kinds of cooperation agreements.
What we want is access to their markets. What they want is the knowledge and research, the genetics we have—all world-class. They want training in the food safety system so they can produce crops and trade within their regional bases.
We think that if all goes well—no new bird flu or livestock diseases—the Market Access Secretariat will be able to focus as much or more on maintaining access, because we've been successful there.
As far as costs, the number of people on any mission has been going down. People are flying economy across the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. We've generally made a commitment to reduce our travel costs each year, so we're prioritizing. At the same time, we're making sure that we develop the best service to industry, our minister, and the government.
Thank you very much, gentlemen, for taking the time to be here.
Mr. Mayers, I'm going to address my first question to you. I'm now working on a file on a company in my riding called SBC Firemaster. In western Canada, they're probably the largest exporter of firewood to the United States. For your information, I'm going to be presenting a letter to the minister tomorrow with some concerns. Maybe this will give you a heads-up.
Basically, what happened is that this very successful company, which has been exporting firewood to the United States for 26 years, suddenly had the border shut down to them last year. Instead of having just one inspection per year, 40 of their trucks were inspected in a period of one month and 35 were turned back. They spent over $100,000 on inspection fees and fines, lost $1.5 million, and had to lay off staff. It was a real shock to this very successful Canadian company.
The trade minister, I believe, worked hard and got the border reopened; I was working with him on that and am following up with him and with the minister. But in the letter to me from the sales manager, Mr. John Jefferson, he raises some concerns about the involvement of CFIA on this file.
I guess on the first concern—and I don't have the letter in front of me—I'm wondering what kind of standardization there is. Apparently, they were turned back at the border because their pallets did not accept the requirements of heat treatment, whereas in fact pallets that are imported...and these were supposedly imported from other countries. Apparently, if the pallets are imported into Canada, they are inspected by you folks, and theoretically they should be then allowed across the border because they've already been inspected. He feels that the Americans did not accept our standards. I was wondering what the relationship is there, between CFIA and....
The other concern he expresses is that because of a lack of communication between I guess USDA and CFIA, although the new requirements were known in March of last year, their company was blindsided because they didn't receive notice from CFIA.
Once again, I'm raising these questions with the minister. I'm just giving you a heads-up with that.
I'm wondering what kind of communication exists on the ground. I've worked successfully with you folks before to solve issues dealing with the Americans. What is that relationship on the ground? Is there a standardization so that our businesses aren't being hit hard by arbitrary U.S. decisions?
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has three elements to its mandate. Certainly, food safety is the number one priority, but we have equally important responsibilities in terms of protecting Canada's animal-based resources—an animal health responsibility, if you will—and Canada's plant-based resources, a plant health responsibility. In this case, the issue is of both the firewood itself and any wooden pallets used in transporting the firewood. Wooden pallets, as you can imagine, are used in the transport of many, many products, so the movement of plant pests in wooden pallets is an important phytosanitary consideration, and that's why CFIA plays a role in that respect.
We work very closely, in the context of the question, with our counterparts in the U.S.—the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. Indeed, there's a very high level of collaboration around the management of plant pests. In fact, the Regulatory Cooperation Council includes one initiative that relates around the issue of wood and pallets in terms of the international standard, ISPM 15, which relates to the heat treatment of these commodities. In the context of the specific example that you raise, we are aware of it and have worked hard with our U.S. counterparts.
Mr. Chair, if you will indulge me, I will just explain what happened. When a regulatory agency, in terms of the import of products, identifies non-compliance, it normally then moves that particular exporter to a higher level of scrutiny, and that happened here. So rather than the occasional inspection of products—not every single shipment is automatically inspected—companies where a non-compliance is identified then move to an intense level of inspection, and that would explain why they went from a level they were used to, to an increased level of intensity as it relates to their exports to the U.S. In that continued inspection they also then had further non-compliances, which continued, resulting in the unfortunate situation.
In working with the company, we were able to provide the company with some advice around heat treatment, which I understand they took up and as a result were able to resolve this issue. But as well, using this as an example, we've continued to work with our colleagues in USDA to explore how we can make for a more predictable trading regime as it relates to wooden pallets, recognizing the impact that can have on trade. Whether you're talking automobiles or firewood, wooden pallets can have an impact in terms of that trade, so it is extremely important for us to address it from a regulatory perspective.
I have handed out a presentation, but I'm going to give a condensed version of it for your benefit.
Good afternoon. I'm Kathleen Sullivan, executive director of CAFTA, and I thank you for the opportunity to speak today about the importance of trade and market access for Canadian agrifood products.
Canada's agrifood sector depends on trade. We are the fourth-largest agriculture and agrifood exporter in the world. We currently export about $40 billion a year in agriculture and food products, and that's about half of all of our production. If we didn't have access to foreign markets, the structure and size of our domestic production and processing sectors would be radically impacted.
Agrifood exports are critical to the national, provincial, and rural economies across the country. Agriculture and food account for almost 10% of Canada's total merchandise trade. Across Canada, 210,000 farms are dependent on export markets. It is critical that we identify new trade opportunities for our agrifood products and that we protect existing and valuable export markets.
Trade must be a priority for this country, and as we look towards the future of agriculture policy in Canada, we can think that trade must be a major concern. For us, this includes three key priorities: first, continuing to seek opportunities to conclude a multilateral trade deal that will further liberalize agrifood trade; second, to actively and aggressively pursue meaningful bilateral and regional trade deals; and third, to address market access issues. I'll talk just very briefly about all three of those.
With respect to multilateral trade deals, around the world agriculture is subject to both domestic and trade policies that impact international prices and the flow of goods. These policies continue to create imbalances in trade and to establish trade patterns that are based on historical preferences or on bilateral trade deals rather than on natural competitive advantage. Only a multilateral trade deal, like that being negotiated through the WTO, can fully resolve these issues.
We recognize that the WTO is at an impasse right now. We do encourage the government, though, to continue to work with other WTO countries to try to breathe new life into those talks.
Second, bilateral and regional trade deals must be a priority. It is critical that Canada act aggressively and uncompromisingly to pursue our export interests around the globe. I have to say this government has put in place the most ambitious trade agenda this country has seen in a generation. We are now looking at the possibility of trade deals with lucrative markets that include the EU, India, South Korea, Japan, and the trans-Pacific partnership. These deals combined would increase agricultural exports significantly, but even more importantly, being left out of those deals, such as that with the TPP, for example, could have devastating consequences for our industry.
We strongly support the government's trade agenda and priorities, and we offer the following observations. First, it's critical that we prioritize our resources. Canada has world-class trade negotiators, but our resources are ultimately limited. We need to focus on FTAs that have the greatest potential to benefit our agriculture and food sectors and the economy overall.
Second, while our current trade agenda is impressive, we have yet to conclude a major trade deal since the NAFTA. It is imperative that we do so as soon as possible to demonstrate that we are serious about trade and that we have the resolve to conclude modern trade deals.
Third, our FTAs going forward have to be ambitious and comprehensive. Countries around the world are negotiating next-generation trade deals like the trans-Pacific partnership, deals that are broad in scope and substantive in depth and that address new and emerging issues.
Finally, FTAs have to go beyond tariffs. We need 21st century deals that address non-tariff barriers and that incorporate disciplines to ensure regulations and decisions that impact trade are based on science.
The final priority in a new agricultural policy framework needs to be market access. Regardless of our trade status with a country, market access issues continue to be a growing problem. Our trade relationships need to be stable, and decisions that impact trade need to be predictable, enforceable, and based on science. We strongly commend the government for establishing the Market Access Secretariat. Going forward we need to provide the secretariat with the appropriate resources and give it the authority necessary to manage issues across federal departments.
We also need to ensure that there is industry participation and expertise to work together with and to support the secretariat's activities, and we need to find longer-term solutions to some of the market access issues that continue to plague our industry. Trade is critical to Canada's agricultural producers and food processors. We welcome the government's strong approach to trade, and we, in particular, thank both Minister Ritz and Minister Fast for the efforts they have made to find new trade opportunities for our sector. We look forward to ensuring that trade is a key component of Canada's future agricultural policy framework.
With that, I look forward to your questions.
Kathleen has covered off a number of the items. I'll try to accentuate some of those and give you a perspective from Viterra's vantage point.
I would like to thank you for this opportunity to address the standing committee to talk about Canada's development of Growing Forward 2 and about marketing and trade.
Canada's ability to access global agricultural markets is absolutely critical. World trade in agriculture and agrifood products continues to increase. A major source of growth is the increased demand for food, driven by population and income growth in emerging economies. For example, food imports in emerging economies such as China and India have grown by 300% between 1999 and 2008. As we see the forecasts, with world population to increase to 9 billion people by 2015, the demand for agricultural products and the need for trade will continue to rise.
Trade is extremely important to Viterra, a very proud Canadian company. We're headquartered in Canada, of course, and we have extensive operations across Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand. We have a growing international presence. We have marketing offices in Japan, Singapore, China, Vietnam, Switzerland, Italy, the Ukraine, Germany, Spain, and India. We operate in three distinct businesses: grain handling and marketing, agriproducts, and feed and food processing.
In fiscal year 2011, Viterra exported approximately 15.3 million tonnes of grains and oilseeds and special crops; our food division processed approximately 1.3 million tonnes of malt, pasta, oats, and canola; and our feed division processed about 1 million tonnes of feed in Canada and about 700,000 to 800,000 tonnes of feed in the U.S.
The need for agricultural products is expanding, and the need for freer trade, easier trade, is absolutely essential. Notwithstanding the increases in demand for agricultural products, we face what appear to be ever-increasing tariff and non-tariff trade barriers. We face blackleg in canola in our shipments to China, salmonella in canola meal in our shipments to the United States, and we've had issues with Triffid flax in our flax shipments to the European Union.
Looking at tariffs, we face issues of differential tariffs on canola into China, with canola having 9% tariff, soybeans having 3%. We have limited access on low- and medium-quality milling wheat into Europe. We have a 30% applied tariff on canola and malt into India. And we see an over-quota tariff of 30% on malting barley into Korea. These are just a few examples of what we face as an industry on a day-to-day basis.
When we look at Growing Forward 2, and the development of a new policy, there are some key elements and considerations that we would put forward. I would like to note that our government has been instrumental in helping to resolve a number of our trade access issues, and I can speak from first-hand knowledge and first-hand impact. Of particular note is the creation of the Market Access Secretariat. We have relied upon them very heavily in resolving some of our trade issues. Certainly, the blackleg issue on canola into China was a huge one. We're a major exporter of canola into that market. We give credit where credit is due, and the Market Access Secretariat was on the ground almost immediately to address that issue.
While we continue to work with the Chinese on this blackleg issue, the Market Access Secretariat, along with support from the Minister of Agriculture and the Prime Minister, continues to ensure ongoing access to this market, and that's noted and appreciated.
On a go-forward basis, we would like to suggest or recommend that it's critical that the Market Access Secretariat be properly resourced and financed in the future. Trade issues will not abate, and I fear they will only increase, so we need the Market Access Secretariat to support the industry and protect the access we have.
Tariffs, export subsidies, and trade-distorting internal support programs are really best addressed through the resumption of negotiations and eventual conclusion of a World Trade Organization agreement. As has already been stated, we do recognize that those discussions have been in a hiatus, that some of our trading partners appear to lack the will to address these issues.
We feel that as with any policy, it needs to be emphasized that the best venue to address our tariff and subsidy and support program issues remains the WTO. Recognizing that the WTO is not likely to advance in the near future, we must continue to place our focus on addressing our agricultural trade issues through bilateral agreements. We've already mentioned a number of them. One of the most critical ones coming up under current negotiation is the EU. The government has announced interest in the trans-Pacific partnership, which we would certainly support. Scoping discussions, which we would certainly support, have been announced with regard to Ukraine as well as other countries, such as Japan.
Those bilateral agreements really are critical for our country as an exporting nation.
There needs to be continued advocacy for the development of rules and standards that lead to predictable science-based trade through participation in various forums such as the World Trade Organization, as well as the World Organisation for Animal Health, and Codex. Where appropriate, it is important to engage with other like-minded countries to resolve market access issues. What comes to mind on this one is a need for the development of a low-level presence policy to address the unintentional presence of products derived from biotechnology and non-GMO shipments. From our vantage point as an exporting company, this really is one of the most critical and pressing needs, as a low-level presence policy certainly can affect and address a lot of our issues in all our exported agricultural commodities. Again, we thank the government and we thank Minister Ritz for showing leadership on this file, for working with the various departments to advance a policy, and now to start engaging other countries in discussions in and around this. As I said, this truly is very critical to our industry.
I'll close with collaboration, which extends to close interaction with Canada's agricultural industry, and the industry, including producers, exporters, marketers, and processors, can provide useful insights when we deal with our federal counterparts on all the various issues, from a practical marketing point of view, and help provide up-to-date market intelligence to our government. I think it has already been mentioned that we certainly welcome and support the industry advisory group on market access and the value chain round tables.
I sit as co-chair with Fred Gorrell on the grains round table, and I believe these various round tables have proved to be of great benefit by providing a forum to discuss agricultural and agrifood market access issues. These initiatives should not only be maintained but expanded.
Those are my introductory comments. Thank you, and I look forward to the questions.
I think the Canada–EU free trade negotiations are really the best, and probably the only example we've seen of what I would consider to be a next-generation or 21st century trade deal in that they're incredibly broad. They cover every topic you could imagine—-labour mobility, investment, services, trade, and goods.
Trade deals used to focus traditionally on trade and goods. In that regard, they focused on market access; tariffs, quotas—very traditional things. But today, trade is about a lot more than just goods. It is about services, it is about investment, it is about labour mobility, and it goes far beyond tariffs to include non-tariff barriers—things that Richard has raised, such as low-level presence standards around the world for genetically modified material. How do we deal with ensuring that inspection standards are consistent from country to country? Non-tariff barriers, phytosanitary issues, have to be dealt with in these trade deals.
What we also have to do in these trade deals is find new and creative ways for dealing with emerging issues. In the past, what stopped us from trading was tariffs. Now what's stopping us from trading is non-tariff barriers—they've become new and more creative, and it's a different one every time. So we have to create mechanisms in our trade deals that anticipate new things that might come down the road in the future, that can deal with those and that also have really strong enforcement mechanisms attached to them.
Deals that are really broad and really deep are the next generation of trade deal we have to look at. Canada–EU is an excellent example. Even compared to NAFTA, it won't eclipse NAFTA economically, but in the range of topics covered, it's going to be a much broader deal than was ever anticipated in the North American Free Trade Agreement. In that sense, it's going to become the template for all trade deals that we negotiate.
Interestingly, it is also the most modern trade deal the Europeans have ever negotiated. It will become a benchmark for deals that both of our countries or regions negotiate going forward, but we have to finish it.