Thank you, Mr. Chair.
Once again, I'd like to apologize on behalf of Mr. Laforge, our president, who is a farmer from New Brunswick. He tried valiantly to get to Quebec for his flight but didn't make it.
Mr. Chair, on behalf of the Canadian dairy producers operating 12,965 dairy farms, I am pleased to appear before this committee to present our views on the ongoing trade talks between Canada and the European Union. Before providing specific comments on the talks themselves, I would like to share with you the results from a recent study performed by EcoRessources, a firm specialized in economic research. The EcoRessources study estimated the economic impacts of the Canadian dairy industry, both at the farm and processing levels, using 2009 data.
Milk producers produced 83.8 million hectolitres of milk valued at over $5.4 billion. The 452 processing plants generated $13.7 billion in direct sales. Together the sector sustains more than 215,000 jobs in Canada, adding $15.2 billion to Canada's GDP, and it contributed over $3 billion in tax revenues: $1.8 billion at the federal level, $1 billion at the provincial level, and $300 million at the municipal level. I am very proud to say that the Canadian dairy sector contributes more than positively to the Canadian economy.
As you are aware, the Canadian dairy sector operates within a supply management environment, according to which producers manage their production to meet the demand on the Canadian market. Despite concentrating our effort on the domestic market, international trade talks are an important aspect when it comes to maintaining the integrity of the Canadian system in the future. In fact, the Canadian dairy supply management depends on import controls or the ability to manage imports at negotiated levels. Therefore, trade talks, whether at the WTO or at a bilateral level such as CETA, have the potential of affecting our import control measures.
Canada has negotiated a number of bilateral trade agreements with a number of trading partners these past 20 years and has always exempted dairy from the main provisions of these agreements. In other words, no concessions have been made with respect to TRQ—tariff rate quotas—expansion and over-quota tariff reduction. This is fully in line with the position defended by the Canadian government, which was clearly spelled out in the unanimously endorsed House of Commons motion of November 22, 2005, and supported by all parties. The motion clearly states that Canada will accept no over-quota tariff reduction and no TRQ expansion for its supply managed sectors.
I must point out here, outside of my text, that the motion also stresses that Canada will pursue, for the non-supply commodity, their export interests as well. I'm just pointing out that there's no conflict there. Canada's chief negotiator for agriculture has also confirmed that his mandate, not only in the context of the WTO, but also in the context of CETA, is consistent with the motion. Now DFC supports the Canadian government's position on this.
As the Canada-European Union trade talks are entering into what we consider the most difficult phase of the negotiations, we want to thank the Canadian government for the strong position it has defended in these negotiations, opposing the European Union demands for increased access to our milk and dairy product markets, notably cheese. DFC is also pleased with the comments by both Minister Ritz and Minister Van Loan, who have reiterated on a number of occasions that they will not trade away supply management and will continue to defend our interest at the international level. This being said, the Europeans continue to seek access to our dairy market, and we urge the Canadian government to continue to remain firm, opposing any concessions in this area.
In support of the Canadian government's position, we would like to highlight that Canada imports almost ten times more dairy products from the EU than the EU imports their products from Canada. For a market that is fifteen times smaller, it hard to say that Canada is a closed shop. More precisely, Canada's exports of dairy products totalled $26 million, out of which cheese export totalled $23 million—so it's mostly cheese—and we have imported dairy products worth $217 million from the EU 27, out of which cheese accounted for $156 million.
In the end, it is Canada's credibility that is at play in these negotiations. How could the Canadian government be taken seriously at the WTO if it makes any concession in the CETA negotiations? But until the negotiations are over, the debate over market access will continue to preoccupy their farmers.
I will conclude in French, Mr. Chairman.
Another area of the negotiation that is of concern is the issue of geographical indications. As you may be aware, the Canadian government has opened the door to a negotiated outcome regarding the EU demands for a broad recognition of geographical indications. In considering this particular question, we must not lose sight of the fact that the Canadian cheese industry produces hundreds of varieties of cheeses, and many of them are based on recipes that were brought to Canada by the migrants who have helped create the multicultural society that is Canada today.
The GI debate has the potential of severely affecting some of the cheeses we produce in Canada, notably parmesan and feta. The final outcome on GI should allow us to continue to produce those cheeses that are considered to be generic here in Canada and to market the great Canadian cheeses under the names they are currently being marketed.
The industry, both producers and processors, strongly opposes the expansion of the protection conferred through GIs. Quite a few cheeses produced in Canada could be negatively affected by a broad recognition of the GI principle and many of these are produced in small quantities. But in the end, the small cheese producers are equally important, create jobs in rural areas, and have helped the Canadian cheese industry acquire its "lettres de noblesse".
Thank you very much.