Thank you so much.
Chair Saini, honourable members, thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee to speak about the long-standing, unique and mutually beneficial trade relationship between Canada and the United States. As many of you know, back in February our government held its first bilateral meeting with the Biden administration, where we launched the road map for a renewed U.S.-Canada partnership, which lays out an ambitious plan for going forward together to address the pandemic and to build back better.
Just last week I had my first meeting with Ambassador Katherine Tai, the newly confirmed U.S. trade representative. We discussed our countries' close relationship and agreed on the importance of keeping our integrated supply chains open and resilient.
Our ongoing engagement with the new administration offers us the opportunity to strengthen our trade relationship.
This includes working together on implementation of the new NAFTA and engaging constructively on trade issues, such as U.S. tariffs on Canadian softwood lumber and solar products, and buy American provisions.
Canada and the United States have a trading relationship like no other two countries in the world. Every day, $2.7 billion worth of goods and services cross our borders. Canada is the top destination for U.S. exports and 32 states count Canada as their top customer.
Our cross-border trade is critical to workers, to businesses, and to families and communities on both sides of the border, providing stability and good jobs to Americans and Canadians alike. It is a testament to our relationship that as of January 2021, Canadian exports to the United States have surpassed their pre-pandemic levels. That's a good sign for the economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Our integrated supply chain means that Canada is able to easily export its cutting-edge products into markets in the United States.
Let me give you an example. IPEX is an Ontario-based company that is bringing its innovative, made-in-Canada environmental solution to the U.S. infrastructure industry by recycling vinyl in its products and making sustainable earthquake-resistant water main pipes.
I can tell you unequivocally that Canada and the U.S. are committed to growing our already close relationship—which is made even easier with the new and modernized NAFTA—and supporting both countries in a strong economic recovery from this pandemic.
I would also like to spend a little time on buy American and buy America. The terms “buy American” and “buy America” are often used interchangeably and mistakenly. Buy American requirements mandate that all American federal government departments purchase only U.S. goods. The U.S. Trade Agreements Act of 1979 waives buy American requirements for countries that are party to the WTO Agreement on Government Procurement and other U.S. free trade agreements. As Canada is party to the GPA, buy American requirements are waived for Canadian companies.
Buy America requirements, on the other hand, are different. Buy America requirements vary between the departments and agencies, but in general they are applied to iron, steel and manufactured goods used in infrastructure projects and in most cases require 100% U.S. content.
Here I understand the concerns of Canadian businesses that export and trade with the United States, but let me be clear: We will always stand up for Canadian businesses and workers, and we will continue working as one team Canada to ensure stability and prosperity for our industries. Also, as I mentioned earlier, I raised this directly with both President Biden and the U.S. trade representative, Ambassador Tai. We are committed to working together to reinforce our deeply integrated production of goods and services and mutually beneficial economic relationship, and to avoid negative impacts on jobs or businesses.
With respect to softwood lumber, there is no doubt that it is an important industry to the Canadian economy and to our trade relationship with the United States. Let me begin by stating unequivocally that the duties imposed by the U.S. on Canadian softwood lumber are unwarranted and unfair. They hurt workers and industry on both sides of the border.
Canada continues to strongly believe that a negotiated agreement with the U.S. is in both countries' best interests.
Again, I raised this directly with both President Biden and Ambassador Tai, and I will continue to actively engage with key elected officials on this issue. We're taking a team Canada approach, working hand in hand with the softwood lumber industry and provincial and territorial partners on all fronts to ensure Canada and the United States can come to a conclusion on this matter.
Let me conclude by saying that our government is absolutely committed to standing up for our workers and businesses and finding opportunities to strengthen our relationship with the United States.
I look forward to working with my colleagues on all sides of the House to ensure success in Canada-U.S. trade relations in the interest of all Canadians.
With that, Mr. Chair, I'm happy to take questions.