Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Thank you again to the committee for inviting us to appear on Bill C-8, an act to implement the Canada-Jordan free trade agreement.
It was our pleasure to be here when you were studying the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. I'm going to make a similar case today as to why we support this particular bill and this agreement. Even though the numbers may not be staggering, I think it sets a precedent for this industry from our standpoint, which we'd like to see carried forward in a number of other areas in the world.
By way of introduction, the Forest Products Association of Canada is the national voice, the national trade association, for Canada's lumber, pulp, and paper producers. We have about 22 members in our association and that membership represents the lion's share of Canada's forest products industry nationally from coast to coast in communities across the country.
The industry represents about 12% of Canada's manufacturing GDP and about 2% of GDP in general. We continue to employ over 220,000 Canadians directly. If you add our indirect employment of another 340,000 or so, we get up in and around the 600,000 job mark. That is, of course, spread across the country in pretty much every single province.
I want to mention one other aspect of this that leads you to a place where I want to go, which is the community aspect. Obviously, a lot of those jobs are located in rural parts of the country, and they're also centrally located in a number of small communities across the country. The past two to three years have obviously been extremely difficult for this industry, as members around this table and members in the Commons know. Daily, we've seen members from all parties get up and express support for the industry. For that, we're appreciative. Many of you have communities that have been subjected to the hardship this industry has been subjected to over the past couple of years, so you're no stranger to it.
Thankfully, we're starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel, to use an overused expression, or a light around the corner, or whatever you want to call it, but things are looking up. We're seeing the markets in China start to grow. We're seeing an increase in pulp sales and wood sales to markets such as that and we're feeling somewhat optimistic. Of course, we still need the U.S. housing market to rebound for it to really be rock solid and for us to feel comfortable moving ahead.
That said, one of the things the industry needs to do—and has been doing for the past couple of years—is preparing for when those markets do return. We've identified a four-part plan, if you will, a strategy on where we need to go.
A big part of that, of course, is to become more productive and more competitive ourselves. It is incumbent upon our companies to do a lot of that, and they've been doing this over the past couple of years. Some of the restructuring you've seen--the difficult decisions that have been made in terms of closing mills--is part of the restructuring and part of that new competitiveness going forward.
Another element of it is to better our environmental and sustainable resource management track record further. We are leaders in the world. That has increasingly become a market advantage for the industry. We need to continue along that path and use this to our best advantage in the marketplace.
A third part of our strategy going forward is looking to maximize the resource. You've seen terms likes “added value”, but this is more a question of maximizing the tree and what we extract out of that tree. Right now, we use about 95% of the tree, but we'd like to it up that closer to 100%. This takes you into a world where you're into the bioeconomy, with bioenergy and biochemicals that can be extracted from the tree, a world where you still have the wood/pulp base as your economic base for the products, but then you go beyond that by expanding into the bioeconomy side of things.
A fourth part of the strategy going forward--and that's where this free trade deal comes into play--is that we need to expand and diversify our existing markets. Obviously, the U.S. market is our most important market. It will remain so for quite some time. It represents about 70% of our product exports. We export about $24 billion a year in total, so it's a fairly significant portion of our product that goes to the U.S.
But we can't depend solely on the U.S. marketplace. The softwood lumber dispute has shown that there are times when the relationship can be a little frayed. For that reason, the industry has looked to other marketplaces such as China and India. In this case, believe it or not, we see some potential in the Middle East, and maybe just in that context, it will open up the Jordan bracket.
You've probably seen the numbers. I think Canada's total exports to Jordan represent something like $60 million a year. As for our percentage, I think we happen to be the largest single exporter to Jordan at around $11 million a year. Those aren't big numbers, obviously, for an industry exporting $24 billion a year outside of our borders, but there are two important opportunities, one on the paper side and one on the lumber side.
The Jordan forest products market represents a general marketplace of about $370 million. Unfortunately, we account for only about 3% of that marketplace. It's also a market that's growing. Depending on the product lines, you're looking at 16% to 100% growth over a year-to-year basis, so we see enormous potential there.
Certainly, on the paper side, there's some potential to get rid of the tariffs and make us more competitive vis-à-vis some of our main competitors coming out of Indonesia and Germany. On the lumber side, we're seeing a very important marketplace in the form of plywood. Again, the reduction or elimination of tariffs would give us a leg up on some of our major competitors, primarily, again, coming out of Indonesia and of course China.
Again, as I've said, at $11 million, what we're sending there now is not a big number. Even if that were doubled it wouldn't be a big number in the grand scheme of things. But the reality is that a lot of these products come from certain parts of the country and can sometimes come from one particular company. So when you narrow it down, all of a sudden what seems to be a fairly insignificant number can be a very significant number for one or two companies.
We certainly feel that's the case here with the Jordan deal, where most of the products come from the two provinces of British Columbia and Quebec. If we can increase market share in that regard, that would be an important step in expanding existing markets and maybe even diversifying existing markets.
I'll leave it at that.
I am ready to answer any questions, and I can do so in French, if you prefer.
Thank you again for the opportunity to appear today, Mr. Chair.