Mr. Speaker, the motion tabled in the House by the hon. member from across the way includes two issues related specifically to tariff policy. These are: maintaining tariffs on imported clothing and types of textiles produced in Canada; and, allowing clothing made with Canadian textiles but manufactured abroad to be imported without customs duties. I would like to address these two issues and clarify the misunderstandings that may exist regarding the government's position on these policies.
Let me begin with the first issue of maintaining the tariffs on textiles and apparel produced in Canada.
The Canadian apparel and textile industries remain important providers of earned incomes and economic activity in this country. Concentrated in key urban areas, such as Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg and Vancouver, the apparel industry serves as an important employer of new Canadians. The textile industry is a source of skilled employment in communities throughout Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.
The Canadian apparel and textile industries have faced and continue to face a challenging global trade environment, one that has encouraged their transformation from national to globally integrated companies and markets. Challenged by increasing competition from abroad, the Canadian apparel and textile industries have had to transform themselves over the past decade through focusing on higher value-added activity, on innovative and attractive new products, and through identifying the winning niche markets for their products.
However further change continues to be the order of the day. Apparel and textile markets continue to globalize. Domestic producers continue to face long competition from low wage countries. The Canadian dollar has demonstrated renewed strength in the last two years, and, most recently, textile and apparel quotas were limited in their entirety at the end of 2004, consistent with Canada's World Trade Organization commitments.
Although many of these changes are not unique to the apparel and textile industries or even to the Canadian economy, they are nevertheless having an impact upon the environment in which these industries have and continue to operate.
It is in the face of such challenges that the government has demonstrated its continued commitment to the long term viability of both the apparel and textile industries in Canada by working with them to confront these very great challenges.
It should be noted that the tariffs on imports of textiles and apparel are among the highest tariffs in Canada. While the Canadian average tariff is 4%, tariffs on textiles range from 8% to 14%, while the tariff on apparel is in the range of 17% to 18%. These tariffs serve to provide significant protection for the Canadian textile and apparel sectors.
Canada, along with over 144 other WTO members, is currently participating in the Doha round of multilateral trade negotiations and discussions are currently focusing on methods for achieving trade liberalization. The government is keenly aware of Canadian import sensitivities regarding the textile and apparel industries. Any decision to reduce tariffs would be predicated on an overall result that is beneficial for the Canadian economy.
That said, in order to enhance the competitiveness of the Canadian textile and apparel industries, the government announced in December 2004 that it would implement tariff relief on fibres, yarns and apparel fabrics not made in Canada. As a first step in the implementation of this initiative, the Canadian International Trade Tribunal, or CITT, was directed to inquire into and report on the availability of these products from domestic production.
In the course of its inquiry, the tribunal reviewed 591 textile tariff items. Information on textile production was collected by means of questionnaires completed by domestic textile producers and submissions from textile and apparel producers, as well as the Canadian Apparel Federation, the CAF, and the Canadian Textiles Institute, the CIT.
On the basis of the information, the tribunal issued a report on June 30 of this year and recommended the elimination of tariffs on 341 of the tariff items examined. The proposed tariff relief amounts to several million dollars in duty forgone. It is the government's intention to respond to this report as expeditiously as possible. As announced last December, any new tariff relief measures will be made effective January 1 of this year and importers will be able to request a refund of the duties paid since that date.
I would be remiss not to mention the other two elements of the package of competitiveness initiatives announced by the government last December, namely: the provision of $50 million in additional funding to the textile production efficiency component, CANtex, over the next five years to encourage Canadian textile companies to shift to higher value-added products, focus on niche markets and improve productivity; and, the extension of the duty remission orders benefiting textile and apparel manufacturers for five years, gradually phasing out benefits over the final three years.
CANtex encourages companies to improve productivity through projects such as lean manufacturing and the implementation of new information technology and logistics systems. Starting in fiscal year 2005-06, the additional funding is intended to encourage excellence and competitiveness in the manufacture of technical, specialty and industrial textiles, including assisting manufacturers producing textiles for the traditional apparel sector to reorient production to other textile product markets. CANtex will allow companies to apply for up to $3 million in repayable contributions for projects, including equipment and machinery acquisition.
Duty remission programs for textiles and apparel have been a feature of the Canadian tariff policy in these sectors for a number of years. Extending the six remission orders in question will help the textile and apparel industries in transforming their operations to adjust to the new competitive pressures. Over the next few years the government will review the current administration of the duty remission orders program and revise it as necessary to address the problems.
The measures announced last December were in addition to over $70 million in federal support for the textile and apparel industries over the previous two years, and more than tripled the annual level of assistance to these industries.
I am confident that these measures will help Canadian textile and apparel producers to lower costs and to invest in new initiatives and improve productivity as they continue to adapt to the challenges of a global trade environment.
I would like now to turn to the second tariff policy issue in the motion in question concerning the duty-free entry into Canada of apparel made from Canadian textiles. This policy is commonly referred to as outward processing and it is a policy that many of our trading partners, including the United States and the EU, have adopted to assist their textile industries.
Over the past decade, the Canadian government has on several occasions explored the possibility of introducing an outward processing program for textiles with Canadian textile and apparel producers. However these efforts have not come to fruition due to the fact that the two industries have not been able to agree on the details of the program.
The House may recall that in 2002 the government established a joint government-industry working group on textiles and apparels. The industries were represented by the Canadian Apparel Federation and the Canadian Textiles Institute, the two primary trade organizations associated with these industries, as well as by the Union of Needle Trades, Industrial and Textile Employees, representing employees. Government officials from Industry Canada, the Department of Finance, International Trade Canada, Statistics Canada, the then Human Resources Development Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency participated in these meetings.
This joint government-industry working group met on a number of occasions in 2003, during which representatives from the apparel and textile industries submitted recommendations for government action to address the issues related to the long term competitiveness of apparel and textile industries.
One of these recommendations involved implementation of an outward processing program, which the government responded to in February 2004. In this regard, I am pleased to inform the House that the Canadian textile industry has submitted the basis of a proposal for an outward processing program to the Department of Finance. The Canadian Textiles Institute is currently working with the Canadian Apparel Federation on details of the program.
I would again like to thank the House for this opportunity to clarify the government's position on tariff policy elements.