Mr. Speaker, I hope the member's interjection will not come out of my time.
The reality is the vast majority of our trade is trouble free. Yes, we are angry and frustrated over the unfair action in softwood and the ludicrous U.S. farm bill but we must keep things in total perspective. I have a history lesson for the Tory member opposite when it gets to questions about the relative position of his party historically and my party historically on the matter of continental trade.
Only NAFTA countries benefit from the extensive set of rules and obligations and dispute settlement mechanisms that help shield us from certain U.S. trade action. For example, it is because of the NAFTA that Canada was excluded from the recent U.S. safeguard action on steel imports, a topic of great importance in Canada.
The NAFTA also provides a unique dispute settlement system that ensures that trade remedy actions, such as countervail, dumping and safeguard, are applied in a manner consistent with domestic law. Canada has used this mechanism with success in contesting U.S. duties on products such as pork and hogs. We are using it with respect to U.S. action on softwood lumber.
We do have protection from the arbitrary and capricious use of U.S. trade remedy law, protection that no other country enjoys, apart from Mexico. It is worth noting that just as only a small percentage of our bilateral trade is subject to dispute, an even smaller percentage, some 2%, is subject to trade remedy action.
A key priority for the Government of Canada is to resolve the disputes that will inevitably emerge in a trade relationship valued at over $675 billion. That is the scope of this relationship.
We will continue to use every tool available to us, including dispute settlement provisions, to aggressively defend Canadian interests. We have an effective array of tools to do this.
Our main priority is in resolving the softwood lumber issue. In this, the fourth U.S. led dispute in 20 years, we are challenging recent U.S. government decisions that negatively affect our industry in every legal venue open to us.
Despite the U.S. having never sustained its claims three times previously, we are once again in a position of having to defend ourselves against U.S. trade action and cumulative 27% duties on our lumber exports.
As the U.S. government has not offered any new proposal to secure a long term durable solution, the Government of Canada is currently undertaking four challenges of U.S. decisions, laws and policies relating to softwood lumber at the WTO and two others under the NAFTA.
Another perennial problem area is agriculture. We have had disputes with the United States on our wheat exports and on dairy. Most recently Canada, along with many other countries, including EU members Australia, South Africa, India, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and China, have expressed their concerns about the direction of the new U.S. farm legislation. I wonder if those governments are facing the kind of silly motion this government is facing today because they have not been able to get rid of the U.S. trade action.
The legislation moves in precisely the opposite direction of the Doha objective: to achieve substantial reductions in trade distorting domestic support. We are reviewing the legislation very carefully, as are other countries, to assess its conformity with U.S. international trade obligations.
It is at this point I would like to point out how incredibly naive the member for Vancouver Island North is to propose that the farm bill is a policy directly directed at Canadian producers and the fault of the Canadian government. It is unbelievable. This was a move to protect political interests in the United States during an election year. That is what I meant earlier by Tip O'Neill's comment about all politics is local.
It is a destructive step backward in global trade mobilization and no amount of lobbying from right wing President Fox in Mexico or close friend and ally, prime minister Tony Blair, could persuade the American congress and senate otherwise.
The motion would have us believe if only the Prime Minister and the president were somehow closer friends we would not have this farm bill. It is just nonsense. Tony Blair can attest to that.
Many people focus on the dispute settlement systems under the WTO and the NAFTA as the key means of resolving disputes.
While those are fast and effective ways of resolving disputes, they are not the only means at our disposal and are often used only after we have exhausted all other avenues.
For example, the trade relationship is managed through regular means between Canadian and U.S. ministers and officials, and, on a daily basis, through our embassy and consulates in the United States.
The Prime Minister enjoys a good working relationship with the president. The Deputy Prime Minister has worked actively with the U.S. director of homeland security on the smart border declaration. The Minister for International Trade meets regularly with his counterparts. In fact the minister is in Mexico today meeting with Secretary Derbez and U.S. trade representative Mr. Zoellick.
We also used the various committees and working groups set up under NAFTA and the WTO to pursue Canada's interest. The Minister for International Trade, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, the Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board and the Minister of Finance met with provincial and farm group representatives on Friday. While everyone at that table recognized the need to provide short, medium or long term support to farmers, there was a consensus that we should not open ourselves up to punitive trade actions but rather seek out solutions that would increase productivity and profitability consistent with the proposed agricultural policy framework.
Our trade relationship with the United States is the government's top priority. That has been demonstrated repeatedly by the actions of the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Minister, obviously the Minister for International Trade, and many other ministers. There have been many delegations. The member who moved the motion has even participated in delegations of Canadian parliamentarians to go to the United States to seek fairer trade between our countries.
However to put forward a motion of no confidence in the government because somehow it has not single-handedly been able to reverse the historic trend of American protectionism is unreal, divisive and, of course, the government cannot support it.