Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the good member for Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant.
I am pleased to rise tonight to explain what the Canadian government is doing to protect Canadian export interests.
At the outset I first want to put to the House that as a rural member and a farmer, I know how worried my many constituents are about the discovery of a BSE infected cow in Alberta. Last week in my constituency I heard from farmers and food processors alike who are worried about the disruption of their livelihood.
We must keep things in perspective. That is what the government is going to do. This disruption is a very serious matter and it has an impact far beyond the beef industry. So far, only one cow has been infected and Canada's food industry is among the safest in the world. We hope that this disruption will be short and temporary.
As everyone knows, Canada is a very important exporter of beef and cattle. Canada has established itself as one of the most important beef and cattle exporters in the world. In 2002 beef and cattle exports were worth approximately $4 billion; beef valued at $2 billion and cattle valued at the other $2 billion.
This has made us the fourth largest exporter of beef behind only Australia, the United States and Brazil. We are a substantial player in the business of cattle exports. We are also a leading exporter of bovine genetics, valued at over $37 million in 2002. There is therefore no question about our important role in the world market and the need to take every step necessary to protect it.
Canada's major export market for beef and cattle is the United States at approximately $1.8 billion for cattle and $1.7 billion for beef; Mexico at $187 million for beef; Japan at $720,000 for cattle and $52 million for beef; South Korea at $200,000 for cattle and $43 million for beef; and Taiwan at $19 million for beef. Our other important markets include China, Saudi Arabia, France, Russia and the United Kingdom.
While the U.S. is by far our major market, our beef and cattle export markets are clearly diversified. As a result of one BSE case, nearly all our trading partners have suspended imports of beef and cattle from Canada: the United States, Mexico, Japan, South Korea and most others.
I can assure the House that the government is doing everything it can to ensure that our export markets are reopened as early as possible once the BSE situation is fully researched. It goes without saying that the steps we are taking to take control of the BSE situation in Canada are critical to restoring our market access. We need to be able to satisfy our trading partners and consumers that we have the BSE situation under control.
In this regard we immediately launched a comprehensive strategy to protect our trade interests. Our two pronged strategy includes: one, ensuring that our trading partners are kept fully informed of the efforts that we are making to take control of the situation in Canada with a view to ensuring early removal of trade measures once we have the BSE situation under control; and two, monitoring closely the measures being imposed by our trading partners to ensure that they are based on science and that they are not more trade restrictive than necessary to address the legitimate BSE concerns.
With respect to the first part of our strategy, right from the beginning we have been open and transparent with all our trading partners. On May 20, the day of the announcement of the BSE finding, the federal Minister of Agriculture spoke to U.S. secretary of agriculture Veneman and the Minister for International Trade spoke with U.S. trade representative Zoellick. By May 21 our embassies and consulates around the world were informing governments.
On May 21 our chief veterinary officer, Brian Evans, informed the Office International des Epizooties international committee, the international standards setting body for animal health issues, at their meeting in Paris. This is an ongoing process.
We are sending daily updates to all our embassies and consulates. Based on this information, they are providing constant updates to foreign governments.
In the United States, our largest market, our embassy is providing up to date information to the U.S. administration. They are in touch with congressional contacts and our consulates are informing authorities at the state level of the latest developments. Further, U.S. media are receiving technical briefings.
In all our other markets our embassies are contacting foreign government authorities and advising them of the most recent information.
As I said, this is an ongoing exercise. Our embassies and our consulates will continue to keep foreign governments well informed. We will continue to keep the OIE informed.
I would add that our efforts are being made at the highest levels. All of our ambassadors are giving this issue the highest priority. Almost without exception, foreign governments have responded positively to our timeliness and openness in providing complete information.
We are hopeful that these efforts will put us in a good position to have the import measures lifted as early as possible once we confirm that the immediate problem is under control.
As I said, the second part of our strategy is to ensure that measures being imposed by our trading partners are science based and not more trade restrictive than necessary.
I need to emphasize up front that both the WTO and NAFTA give members the right to impose sanitary and phytosanitary measures necessary for the protection of human, animal or plant life or health. This is a fundamental right of all WTO and NAFTA members. Canada itself takes very seriously the right to impose SPS measures necessary for the protection of our human, animal or plant life or health. We therefore do not in any way question the right of our trading partners to impose measures on Canadian products based on legitimate health and safety concerns.
Both the WTO and NAFTA recognize the OIE as the international standard setting organization for animal health. Under the WTO and NAFTA, sanitary measures which conform to international standards, in this case the OIE, are deemed to be consistent with the WTO and NAFTA. Members therefore have the right to maintain measures necessary to prevent the introduction of BSE in accordance with OIE standards. However, we are being very vigilant in monitoring the measures imposed by our trading partners to ensure that their measures are in accordance with the OIE.
The OIE is very clear on products that are not to be included in BSE related measures, for instance, milk and milk products, semen and embryos, protein-free tallow and derivatives made from this tallow, and hides and skins.
We have asked our embassies and consulates to provide full details of the measures being imposed by our trading partners.
There are other issues that need to be sorted out with some of our trading partners, such as how they will be dealing with in-transit shipments. In some cases it is simply unclear. We need more information to inform our exporters. We are trying to get that information.
I see my time has run out. There is much more I would like to say on this issue, but the bottom line is that the government is taking this issue very seriously. We will try to get this problem resolved as quickly as possible.