Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill on the Canadian Wheat Board. Our government is committed to the continued success of Canadian agriculture and because this government believes that western Canadian grain farmers deserve the same marketing freedom and opportunities as other farmers in Canada and around the world.
We want to ensure that Canadian farmers succeed and build a strong future for the sector as a whole. Our government's top priority is the economy in which the agricultural industry plays a key role.
We believe that farmers should be able to position their businesses to capture the market opportunities that are open to them. We put farmers first in every decision we make on agriculture.
We recognize that this is a major change for agriculture in western Canada. That is why we have been consulting extensively with stakeholders from across the supply chain, from the farm to the seaport.
Over the summer a working group comprised of experts in the field consulted with industries and heard a broad range of advice on how the grain marketing and transportation system could transition from the current CWB-run system to an open market that would include voluntary marketing pools.
The working group submitted its report to the hon. Minister of Agriculture. It covers a wide range of issues from transportation to research to elevators, basically the how of moving to an open market. The working group is one of the ways our government sought advice on how to move forward.
Our formula is simple and it works: we listen to farmers, we work with farmers, and then we deliver the practical results farmers need.
Let us take a minute and look at opening world markets that are on the doorstep for Canadian agriculture.
Canadian farmers have proven time and time again that they can compete and succeed in the global marketplace if they have a level playing field. That is why the government has been working very hard to build new opportunities in global markets for our farmers.
We have been on the road a lot and our efforts to build trade relationships are paying off. The hon. Minister of Agriculture has led trade missions to key markets in Europe, Asia, South America, Africa and the Middle East.
Working closely with the industry, we have completed over 30 international trade missions and returned home with some real tangible results for our farmers, producers and processors. Everywhere we go, we are finding new customers who want to buy Canadian good quality foodstuffs.
Together we have been moving a lot of product, and we have delivered some real results to our farmers and processors. The government knows farmers want to make their living in the marketplace and not from the mailbox. That is why we have gotten out on the world stage, whether it is serving up Canadian steak in Brussels or canola oil in Mexico, to ensure our farmers can connect with new customers.
We have reopened and expanded access for Canadian cattle, beef, beef products and bovine genetics in China, Hong Kong, Colombia, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Panama, Singapore, Costa Rica, Vietnam and Korea.
We have also reopened and expanded access for Canadian pork and swine in China, Malaysia, Mongolia, Russia, the Philippines, Ukraine, Armenia, Albania, Croatia, Indonesia, Jordan and Thailand.
We have negotiated new duty free access for Canadian hormone-free beef to the European Union, a promising market, estimated to be worth more than $10 million annually. As of July 2011, industry has shipped approximately 626 tonnes of beef, worth almost $5 million.
We have developed new opportunities in China for up to $500 million in sales for pulses and achieved transitional measures that allow access to the Chinese market for Canadian world-class canola, safeguarding a market worth $1.8 billion.
We have succeeded in agreements and set up relationships with India to find a long-term solution on pulse fumigation while ensuring uninterrupted supply of pulses, safeguarding a market worth $533 million in 2009. Of course, there is more work to do.
Let us take a minute and look at trade negotiations with the WTO and FTA. Agriculture trade is critical to Canada's economy and prosperity. In 2010 our agriculture and agri-food exports were over $35 billion. Importantly, Canada's trade in agriculture and agri-food products contributed $11.1 billion to our trade surplus.
Those dollars mean jobs and livelihoods for Canadians here at home. That is why when we, as a government, take measures to support agricultural trade, we are not just helping farmers, we are helping all Canadians.
Canada hosted the Cairns Group ministerial meeting in Saskatoon in early September to press ahead with a stronger rule-based approach to global agricultural trade. At the WTO, we stand ready to work with our trading partners to define a realistic path forward on the Doha round, which would provide for more open and predictable multilateral trading systems.
Our government is also pursuing an aggressive regional and bilateral trade negotiation agenda. In that regard, we are working toward a comprehensive economic and trade agreement with the European Union.
The EU is Canada's second most important partner for trade and investment with two-way agriculture and seafood trade totalling over $6 billion in 2010. We want to make that relationship even stronger and more profitable for the benefit of our farmers.
We will also begin free trade negotiations with Morocco in the very near future. Morocco is an important and growing market for our wheat and pulse exports.
We are making important progress in other markets. We have recently implemented a free trade agreement with the European Free Trade Association, Peru and Colombia. The free trade agreement with the EFTA will eliminate or reduce tariffs on certain agricultural products from Canada, including durum wheat, frozen french fries, crude oil, beer and frozen blueberries.
Canadian producers will also benefit from the elimination of tariffs on exports to Peru and Colombia. Many agricultural exports such as beef, pork, wheat, barley and pulses will receive immediate duty free access. Notably, the FTA with Colombia marks a significant opportunity for Canadian exporters to now benefit from the preferential treatment and access as their American competitors.
We have also signed free trade agreements with Jordan, Panama and Honduras. This government is working toward implementation of these free trade agreements as early as possible.
We are hopeful that our ongoing free trade agreements negotiated with South Korea, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Ukraine and the Caribbean community will also soon create export opportunities for our agricultural producers in these markets. As well, we are looking ahead to export new possibilities with trading partners like Japan and Turkey.
Let us look at the marketing we are currently headed toward.
We want Canadian farmers and processors to get the credit they deserve for the high quality products they are bringing to market. Our agriculture exporters are innovative and competitive, and we are working with them to expand their markets.
Canada is working on all fronts to boost our agricultural business with the world. We know that buyers and consumers already think highly of Canadians and Canadian products. We want to raise awareness and boost the appetite for our great Canadian agricultural economy. That is why our government is investing $32 million in the Canada brand initiative to boost the Canada brand in key markets. The goal is to get more consumers putting our great Canadian food products in their grocery carts and on their menus. We have already announced branding strategies in Japan, Mexico and Korea.
These dollars are supporting market research, advertising, store features, culinary tourism, and other promotional activities that bolster of the work being done by the Canadian industry to sell the products. Consumers are looking for variety, quality and safety in their food, and our farmers and processors can deliver. When they think of good food, we want them to think Canadian and then buy Canadian.
The goal of these initiatives is to get more international customers bidding on our great Canadian food and help our farmers make the most of international markets. Opening up the markets for durum wheat and barley farmers will attract investment not only from Canadian companies, but from the international community as well. In fact, the head of Bunge North American division said, “Bunge is absolutely planning to be a part of it” and Bill Jamieson, chairman of the National Cattle Feeders' Association, said, “More access to more markets will create more opportunities and profit for grain producers”.
In closing, we believe all Canadian farmers should be able to position their businesses to capture the market opportunities that are open to them. Once passed, this legislation would provide western Canadian grain farmers with endless opportunities for their business. I urge my hon. colleagues to stand up for western Canadian farmers and support the bill.