Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and good afternoon to members of this committee. Thank you for inviting me here today to speak about the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP.
The TPP is a significant opportunity for the canola industry and canola growers to gain access to a growing trading region. Equally important, it is an opportunity to establish science-based policies that deal with non-tariff trade barriers amongst a block of countries. Specifically, this includes low-level presence, or LLP; maximum residue level tolerances, also known as MRLs; and approved processes for biotech crops.
Canola is an incredibly important economic and agronomic contributor to 43,000 canola farms that span this country. CCGA represents these 43,000 canola growers and is governed by a board of farmer directors representing the provinces from Ontario, west to B.C. Canola is a Canadian success story, increasing from marginal production in the early 1980s to becoming the number one cash crop in the country, now contributing $15.4 billion to the Canadian economy annually. Over 14 million tonnes were produced in the last crop year alone and the industry has set a goal to increase production to 15 million tonnes by the year 2015. That goal may even be surpassed this year, two years early.
The canola industry is highly trade-dependent, exporting 85% of seed and canola products on an annual basis. Therefore, much of canola's current, as well as future, success is directly related to our ability to access and compete in global markets. With a large and ever-increasing population, the Asia-Pacific region continues to grow in economic importance and is a priority market for Canadian canola products. CCGA believes that establishing free and open trade with the TPP member countries will provide a significant opportunity to the canola industry and canola growers. Together, TPP countries represent 51% of Canada's agrifood exports. For the Canadian canola industry, this represents $2.9 billion in canola exports.
For a TPP agreement to really provide benefits to Canadian canola growers, it must address both tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade. In terms of tariffs, Canadian canola products currently face tariff issues in two of the TPP countries: Vietnam and Japan. This results in canola being less competitive in comparison to other oils such as palm, sunflower, and soy, and puts Canadian farmers at a competitive disadvantage. In addition, Japan and Vietnam have higher tariff rates on oil versus seed in order to protect their domestic processing industries.
This type of policy reduces the growth potential of Canada's value-added industry and its positive economic impact. For example, the tariff on canola oil in Japan can be as high as 20% versus a 0% tariff applied to seed. CCGA would like to see this market distortion eliminated by zeroing out the oil tariff.
Beyond reducing or eliminating tariffs, a TPP agreement must also deal with several non-tariff trade barriers. Non-tariff trade barriers have the potential to significantly disrupt trade and therefore directly affect the competitiveness and profitability of Canadian canola farmers. Canadian farmers are some of the most technologically advanced in the world, but non-science-based trade barriers limit the ability of growers to use and profit from technology. The ability to access and adopt new technology is vitally important to Canadian canola growers' ability to compete.
TPP negotiations represent a significant opportunity to establish enforceable and transparent trade policy that is aligned across a block of nations in the areas of LLP, MRLs, and biotech approvals. The importance of establishing transparent and science-based policy in these areas cannot be overstated. Yet TPP negotiations currently represent Canada's best opportunity to advance these issues in a very meaningful way.
In order to feed the world's growing population and at the same time ensure Canadian canola growers remain profitable and contribute to the Canadian economy, farmers must continue to adopt new and innovative technologies. This includes new crop protection products as well as new biotech traits. Crop protection products, which include herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides, are critically important tools in a farmer's production toolbox. They allow farmers to produce more per acre by helping to control yield-robbing weeds, diseases, and insects. Advancements in science are continually facilitating the introduction of new crop protection products that are more targeted, less expensive, easier to apply, or offer a different mode of action that aids in the effort to reduce weed resistance.
However, our trade rules are not set up to facilitate undisrupted trade with the ongoing introduction of new crop protection products. Importing countries can take years to establish legal tolerances for residue levels and often countries have near-zero tolerances for residues of products they have not yet approved themselves. To be clear, though, once a product is approved and an MRL is established in an exporting country, it becomes an issue of regulatory alignment, and is not a health and safety issue at that point. A TPP agreement should support cooperation in setting scientific, risk-based MRLs, thereby encouraging alignment between trading partners.
Another significant non-tariff trade barrier affecting canola growers is the approval of biotech traits. Every country is responsible for the regulatory approval of new genetically modified events. Unfortunately, the lack of consistency, and in many cases, lengthy approval processes, often results in non-tariff trade barriers that delay access to new technology, or in some cases, create disincentives to adopting new technology.
Through the TPP process, CCGA would like to see a commitment by the member countries to make regulatory system improvements that provide a clear and predictable approval process for canola and other events. In addition, this regulatory renewal should ensure a timely and synchronized introduction of new crop genetics to prevent non-tariff trade barriers and trade disruptions. This would require TPP countries to work towards synchronized approvals of new biotech crops as well as mutual recognition of scientific risk assessments.
In addition, with an ever-increasing number of genetically modified crops being grown around the world, there is the risk that the unintentional presence of genetically modified materials, which are approved in the country of export but not yet approved in the country of import, could disrupt trade, similar to the situation that arose with Triffid flax in Europe. It is very important that countries around the world adopt a consistent LLP policy to prevent this type of disruption to trade. As you are aware, the Government of Canada is currently developing a domestic LLP policy that would be applied to unapproved events found in shipments to Canada. CCGA fully supports the Government of Canada in these efforts.
The TPP is a prime opportunity to pursue the discussions around LLP, with the goal of putting in place an LLP policy that is consistent across all TPP member states, to help prevent future trade disruptions that will directly impact the competitiveness of Canadian canola farmers. In closing, I would like to make a brief comment on the Canada-Japan bilateral trade negotiations.
Although Japan is set to join the TPP negotiations this summer, CCGA believes it is still in our competitive interests to continue to aggressively pursue a bilateral trade agreement with Japan. Japan is a very important and consistent market for Canadian canola. They were one of our first, and continue to be one of our longest-standing international customers for canola seed.
Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee today. I look forward to taking your questions.