The forest industry, as you likely know, is an important part of Canada's economy. We are global players, but we also are the economic backbone of 200 rural communities across Canada that are almost entirely dependent on the forest industry for their livelihoods. We employ 236,000 Canadians directly. I'd like to point out that the vast majority of those jobs are manufacturing jobs. They are permanent, not seasonal, and they're well-paying.
The forest industry has faced significant challenges over the years. To respond to them, we have recognized that we cannot sustain business as usual; we cannot stand still. We must launch on a path of transformation, and we have done so.
To this end, last year the Forest Products Association of Canada unveiled what we refer to as “Vision 2020”. By the year 2020 we hope to generate $20 billion of additional economic activity through the adoption of new innovation, but also through the expansion of our existing markets and entry into new markets. We seek a further 35% improvement to what is an already global standard of our environmental footprint. We intend to employ 60,000 new hires, including women, aboriginals, and new Canadians, in that time period.
To accomplish these goals—we have already begun—we have increased our productivity significantly and our operating efficiencies; we have established world-class green credentials second to none; and we are making technological breakthroughs and producing new, innovative products, everything from clothing to lipstick to pharmaceutical applications, all made from renewable wood.
Our initial efforts to diversify our markets have also been a resounding success. For example, forest products are now Canada's largest export to China, amounting to more than $4 billion of product per year.
Throughout every area of transformation, the government has supported the industry as a strategic partner, including via support with initiatives on the trade front, opening up new markets, and helping us market Canadian wood products globally.
Our industry exports nearly $30 billion of products to approximately 187 countries around the world. This makes us one of the leading exporters in this country and also makes us one of the most successful exporters of forest products globally.
As mentioned, the continued expansion of existing markets and diversification into new markets are critical for our future. For this reason, we're very supportive of the government's trade agenda, including negotiation of new trade agreements and focused support to help us with our entry into new markets.
It's with this background that we welcomed CETA last month. Europe is the third-largest market for our sector. Last year the Canadian forest products industry exported more than a billion dollars' worth of wood, pulp, and paper products to the EU member states. Upon CETA's coming into force, FPAC members will benefit immediately from the elimination of existing tariffs on some of our wood products. Tariffs of between 3% and 10% exist today, for example, in the areas of plywood, panel, and board, so this is a significant improvement.
We also see value beyond tariff elimination. We're very pleased with the potential that we now see for regulatory cooperation between nations. And finally, just to make the point, we view the EU as a really critical future market for the new renewable products that we are beginning to generate from a transforming forest industry.
We appreciate the government's continued efforts in the area of freer trade. Expanding international trade relationships helps the industry to grow, diversify, and prosper. Our collective efforts, however, do not stop with the ratification of this agreement or others. In fact, it is our belief that to ensure the success of this agreement and the others, we must ensure that we have in place all the necessary enablers to ensure that we take advantage of the opportunity that this and other agreements provide.
As a commodity-based industry that is on the aggressive transformational path, we have five enablers that we see as being critical.
Number one is that we must maintain the excellent support of the broad network of trade offices that we benefit from globally. I will speak to a very specific hot topic in this area in a few moments.
Two, we must ensure that we have a reliable and affordable rail system serving all areas of the country so that we can deliver our product to ports and get them to market.
Three, we must develop sufficient infrastructure that supports new markets, particularly as trade flows grow beyond just north-south to east-west.
Four, we really think that promoting the Canada brand is an ongoing effort that's very worthwhile.
And five—this one's quite specific to the forest industry—we need continued support for the innovation system that is the foundation of our transformational strategy.
Based on this comprehensive view, we really welcomed the reference to our sector in the Speech from the Throne last month, where the government identified that they would “continue to support innovation and pursue new export opportunities” for the Canadian forest industry. We hope that the government, though, will consider these enablers that I'm identifying in bringing that open trade to reality.
I mentioned the impact and the real criticality of these trade offices globally. The current issue we are facing, which demonstrates and embodies the need for boots on the ground, if you will, is the recent anti-dumping case that came out two weeks ago: the preliminary determination on dissolving pulp from China.
This is a significant challenge for the Canadian industry as well as for our counterparts in the U.S. and Brazil. It is relevant to five operations currently, but has also put a chill on three other future prospective mills that were basically going to reopen in areas that had absolutely no future prospects other than this. It's also a significant example: dissolving pulp is a transformed industry that goes into the textile industry. We now use our trees to create clothing, which offsets the cotton market.
So we're in the preliminary decision stage, but it has already implicated and put a chill on future investment. I look forward to an ongoing discussion with members of this committee on possibly how we move forward in such a challenging environment.
In closing, expanding international trade relationships and defending our access to key markets is critical to helping the industry grow and prosper. Ultimately, ratification and implementation of CETA will help sustain Canada's forest industry, our communities, and the hundreds of thousands of jobs that the sector supports across the country.
Thank you. I look forward to any questions you may have.