Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague from Bow River for raising this important issue.
Canada's agri-food industry contributes over $114 billion to our gross domestic product and over $64 billion to our balance of trade. That is why the issue of trade restrictions by China on Canadian agri-food products is a top priority for Canada. Canada's priority is to regain full market access to China for our canola seed and to maintain markets for all our world-class agri-food exports there. We are pushing on all fronts, using every available channel on the ground, both in China and here in Canada, working closely with industry and the provinces.
On May 7, in Geneva, Canada's ambassador to the World Trade Organization formally raised the issue with our counterparts at the WTO General Council. Our ambassador told the council that co-operation between WTO members and a willingness to engage on issues are extremely important.
Canada has been working hard to resolve this issue with China. We have been, and remain, open to working constructively with our Chinese counterparts. We have repeatedly asked China for the scientific evidence that supports its findings, but unfortunately, China has not been forthcoming to date in providing this information. We are asking to have this issue resolved based on our shared overall commitment to the WTO.
Here at home, we are working hard to help Canadian grain producers with cash flow pressures as seeding gets under way. The agricultural industry asked us to expand the advance payments program and to help producers manage cash flow, and we have delivered.
We have changed the loan limits for the advance payments program for the 2019 program year. Advances of up to $1 million will be available on all commodities. The first $100,000 will remain interest free for all commodities except canola; canola advances will be eligible for loans of up to $500,000 interest free. These measures were welcomed by the industry.
Members do not have to listen to me. “Timely action to help producers deal with unprecedented uncertainty is good news,” said Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada.
ln addition, federal and provincial governments agreed to extend the AgriStability enrolment deadline by two months, without penalty, from April 30 to July 2, 2019. The measures will give producers the breathing room they need to manage their cash flow and help them manage the impacts of market disruptions in key export markets. At the same time, the industry is urging us to continue to diversify our trade in global markets to give our growers access to more markets for their crops and to reduce the risk of market closures.
As we know, the minister is meeting with her counterparts to discuss the importance of rules-based trade, market access for all Canadian agri-food products and opportunities resulting from the CPTPP and CETA.
We are listening to our farmers. We are listening to Canadians. We are delivering, and we are with our farmers every step of the way.