Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome this opportunity to speak on this very important issue of agriculture.
My family and I are actively involved in operating a 1,100 acre grain farm in northern Alberta and so agriculture is very near and dear to my heart. Agriculture is important to my riding of Peace River as well because it is a very large industry. No one has any doubt that agriculture is crucial to Canada.
Although Canadian farmers have been hard hit with a trade war that has lasted many years, in 1992 alone we still managed to export over $12 billion of agriculture commodities. Wheat and other cereals are our leading exports, with principal destinations being China, Korea and Japan. Live animals, meat and meat products are also important, with exports bound for the United States and Japan. Oilseeds, mostly canola, go mostly to Japan in raw form and to the United States in the form of processed oil.
In 1991 a total of 867,000 people resided on farms in Canada and total receipts from those farming operations came to $23 billion. We also know that agriculture has one of the highest spinoffs in terms of job creation.
Today we are being asked to condemn this government for its inaction with respect to the agriculture sector which is presently being confronted with the largest restructuring it has faced in the last 30 years.
Restructuring is something that agriculture and farmers are familiar with and has happened since Canada has been inhabited. My response to this question is yes, the government can do more. However, in the area of trade we have made a very good start even though it is only a start.
Canada is a trading nation. One out of every four jobs in this country can be linked to trade. Therefore we must push for trade liberalization both at home and abroad. This means moving beyond what has been negotiated at the first phase of GATT. We must work within the World Trade Organization to lower remaining trade barriers at a faster pace so that those sectors that have natural advantages can compete and win markets without the support of the treasuries of those countries.
We welcome the agricultural trade rules that GATT has brought us. Let us examine some of those rules.
Number one, overall tariffs on agriculture goods will be reduced by 36 per cent with a minimum reduction of 15 per cent for each specific product. Implementation will take place between 1995 and the year 2000 in six equal annual steps.
Number two, countries will be compelled to reduce internal support of their agricultural industries by up to 20 per cent over six years where such support has the effect of distorting trade. Countries will be committed to reducing export subsidy expenditures by 36 per cent and reducing the volume of subsidized exports by 21 per cent over the next six years.
Supply managed products will now be subject to tariff barriers instead of quota restrictions. It is true that the supply managed sectors need protection for a time to adjust to the free market conditions. I would think that 10 years should be quite enough time for that adjustment process to take place.
It was evident at the GATT negotiations that Canada had no support for article XI. The world has moved beyond that. We are
looking for liberalized trade throughout the world and Canada simply could not sustain any argument for article XI support.
My concern is that having set our tariffs for certain products at excessively high levels, we are inviting challenges from our trading partners. Let me give members a run through on a quick list. We have set our tariffs on eggs at 192 per cent; yogurt, 279 per cent; chicken, 280 per cent; milk, 283 per cent; ice cream, 326 per cent; and butter, 351 per cent.
I would like to elaborate a little on that last tariff. The domestic price of butter in the United States is $1.54 per kilogram. Once transportation and the 351 per cent tariff are added and the American dollar is converted to Canadian, that same kilogram of butter will cost $10.15 in Canada. That compares with the Canadian support price of $5.32.
The tariff makes American butter almost twice the price of Canadian butter. Is this not overkill? Is this not a reeling example of overtariffication? Obviously the tariff is way out of line. It is obvious we will not see any trade in butter for many years to come. Yes, let us help the supply managed sector move toward becoming a self-sustaining industry but let us be fair and not jeopardize the trading opportunities of those agriculture sectors that are competitive by suggesting blatantly high tariff rates for dairy and poultry products.
I suspect the true test of these high tariffs may come from our own Canadian consumers. Why should they stand for excessively high prices? Furthermore, high tariffs seem to be a contradiction to the spirit of the North American free trade agreement whose benefits Canadian consumers are eagerly awaiting.
I would like to talk a bit about the grain industry which I believe will see slow but steady improvement. Here we must push for a faster action to reduce overproduction, subsidies and import quotas worldwide. As an example, western durum wheat farmers are now facing restrictive import quotas from the Americans who accuse us of subsidizing our wheat exports.
The truth is that on four separate occasions a binational panel has dismissed these allegations by the United States. It is the American's own export enhancement program which encourages exports of Canadian wheat to other countries which is at fault. This program has left the Americans with shortages which Canadian wheat fills. Now American farmers are crying that Canadian grain has filled their terminals.
This is the exact type of program that has so devastated the agriculture industries in countries like Australia, Argentina and Canada that had the small treasuries and cannot back their farmers up to the degree that they do in Europe and the United States.
I believe governments must move quickly to free trade. Otherwise the initial optimism of the GATT signing will be lost. The big challenge for the new World Trade Organization which replaces the GATT in January will be to define what happens at the end of the first six years. I say that our goals should be to strive for a no subsidies, no trade barrier situation in a total time frame of 10 years.
Unfortunately there is no time to address other important issues in detail. I know that my colleagues here are going to be speaking about some of those issues, although I do want to touch on them briefly.
However, we have to have a responsive, deregulated transportation system in Canada. I also believe the Canadian Wheat Board should have a democratically elected board of governors and a system that is market driven.
Canadian farmers are hard working, proud people who would rather receive their income from the marketplace than from government subsidies. Our farmers offer the Canadian public a quality product and the security of a reasonably priced food. Canadian farmers have a worldwide reputation for supplying quality products.
What do farmers want from our government? They expect protection from unfair trade practices of our competitors. They want the protection of fair trade rules throughout the world. They want our government to push to reduce subsidies worldwide so that they can benefit from free trade. They want governments to live within their means which will lead to lower taxes and lower input costs. Finally, they want governments to reduce regulations and unnecessary programs.
I believe Canadian farmers can compete anywhere in the world, given a fair opportunity. I believe our Canadian farmers will adapt and prosper under the new trade environment. I believe they do not need more than 10 years to make these necessary adjustments.