Mr. Chairman and honourable members of Parliament, I am pleased to be here today to present the position of the Canadian pork industry on the comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union.
First I will say a few words about our organization. Canada Pork International was established in 1991 as the export market development agency of the Canadian pork industry. It is a joint initiative of the Canadian Pork Council and the Canadian Meat Council, and our membership includes all the stakeholders from the hog producers to the processors and trading houses.
Our organization deals primarily with market access issues: promoting Canadian pork abroad, providing market intelligence, and working on other significant export-related issues.
It should be noted that more than 50% of the pork produced in Canada is exported. Canada is the world's third-largest pork exporter, behind the EU and the United States, and we account for nearly 20% of the world pork trade, so we are a significant player at the world level.
In 2010 we exported to over 100 different countries, close to 1.1 million tonnes, and that was worth $2.8 billion. This year we are on track to exceed the $3 billion mark, and our exports right now are up by close to 5% at this point.
Our industry is quite proud of the fact that we have been able to achieve an effective market diversification strategy. While more than a decade ago the U.S. market accounted for more than 75% of our total exports--and I'm quite sure you have heard that from many other sectors in the past--it's now just 32% of our total exports.
An essential factor for our success has been the opening of new market opportunities through the Uruguay Round in the mid-1990s, but also through regional trade agreements like the one we have with Mexico.
We need to note that Canada has been an exporter for over 100 years. Our export capacity was first built to supply the British market, from which we are excluded at this point, because when they joined the European Union, or the EEC at the time, we were excluded from that market. Therefore, we are very thankful to be given the opportunity today to express our views on the proposed agreement between Canada and the European Union.
As I mentioned earlier, Canada holds around 20% of the world's total pork trade, in spite of the fact that in practice our products have yet to gain meaningful access to the European Union, which is the world's second-largest pork-consuming market, behind China. To give you an idea of the size, China would consume around 50 million tonnes of pork per year and the European Union around 20 million. For that reason, CPI and its members are strongly in support of Canada concluding a comprehensive agreement with the European Union.
In our latest strategic plan, we identified the European Union as one of our highest priorities, and our interest in penetrating the European Union has greatly increased in recent years because of the sheer size of that market. It's also because of the interest that has been shown towards our products by many meat importers in Italy and the U.K. and by those who basically have a pork deficit within their own national markets. It's difficult for us to quantify the exact potential of the market at this time, but we estimate that if the conditions are right, the EU could easily become one of our top ten markets, if not one of the top five.
There are three areas of specific interest to our industry that need to be dealt with during the current negotiations. One is the EU pork import regime. Following the conclusion of the Uruguay Round, the EU was very creative in its efforts to minimize foreign pork access by amalgamating all meats instead of providing a minimum access for each. As a result, the EU pork TRQs represent roughly one-third of 1% of the total EU pork consumption.
In comparison, pork imports represent more than 25% of the total Canadian pork consumption and are three times larger than the total EU imports for a population of 500 million. Here in Canada we are just about 34 million. That gives you an idea of the difference here. Still, in spite of that, the EU current tariff rate quotas and their administration are very complex and not conducive to sustained trade.
In-quota tariffs are also very high, and they require performance bonds as well. In practice, it has never failed. We believe that Canada should be in a good position to negotiate a significant Canada-only tariff-free TRQ with simplified administrative procedures in its allocation.
Several western European countries were significant markets for Canadian pork at one time or another over the years, until the EEC adopted a series of technical measures—one called the third-country meat directive—that eventually excluded Canadian pork. Our major markets at the time were...I mentioned the U.K., which was a market for more than 75 years; France; and the Netherlands. The same measures were applied against our products when significant markets in central Europe--such as Poland, Hungary, and Romania--joined the European Union, and as a result we lost all of those markets.
Although the Canada-EU Veterinary Equivalency Agreement has substantially made it easier for some Canadian pork plants to become EU-approved, there are still negotiations required to make it a true equivalency agreement, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is fully aware of those and is always working with us in trying to ease those challenges.
Plants that wish to meet the EU standards under that agreement still have, in order to comply, to incur significant expenses and implement strict protocols, especially on some feeding material. At this time, only three Canadian pork plants are EU approved, with more considering it. Better access and less constraining plant registration requirements would definitely convince most Canadian plants to seek an EU registration.
Although they have been rarely used when it comes to exports to Canada, EU pork export subsidies can in theory apply to all markets. Canada should insist that it should at least not be used for shipments to Canada within the framework of this agreement.
It is worth noting that all of the issues we have with the European Union have been well documented over the years by the Government of Canada. We really appreciate having been consulted since the very beginning of the negotiations and being kept appraised of all the latest developments pertaining to our products.
A final Canadian pork position has yet to be submitted to the EU and it is still being worked on, but we are quite confident that the Canadian negotiators will do whatever is possible to get the best possible deal for our industry.
Finally, just to take one more minute of the committee's time, we wish to bring to your attention that the free trade agreement between the European Union and the Republic of Korea was implemented earlier this year. And everybody is aware that the United States has concluded a similar deal, although it remains to be ratified by the South Korean parliament, which is, in our view, just a matter of time.
South Korea is Canada's fourth-largest market in value for pork exports, and sales are on track to get very close to $300 million this year. Our Korean customers are all telling us that Canadian pork is the top-quality imported pork in that country. The Canadian industry has worked hard to develop opportunities for a wide range of products, including value-added products such as chilled pork, which is now available in several large South Korean supermarkets.
It now happens that all of Canada's competitors in South Korea have a free trade agreement, and you will appreciate that the Canadian pork industry, as well as several others in the Canadian agrifood sector, have a very significant interest in not being left behind. Our South Korean contacts have repeatedly made it very clear that without an agreement with South Korea, the Canadian pork industry will be almost out of that market within two years, as the tariff elimination schedules provided in other FTAs will make us completely uncompetitive.
Therefore, we urge the committee to support efforts to resume the negotiations shortly and finalize a Canada-South Korea free trade agreement as early as possible. There is no doubt in our mind that not concluding an FTA with South Korea would more than negate any gain we could make in successfully concluding one with the EU. Both are important to us.
Thank you for your time today, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.