Mr. Speaker, Canada has a unified position that reflects the trade interests of the Canadian agriculture and agri-food sector as a whole across all commodities and across all regions, which is hardly a very undemocratic system. It is very democratic. This position will allow Canada to play a strong and active role in influencing the direction and eventual outcome of the important upcoming negotiations.
In the upcoming negotiations Canada and other countries will be looking to build on the WTO agreement in agriculture signed in 1994. We made real progress in the Uruguay round, bringing the world agriculture trade under a multilateral rules based system for the first time. Canada has reaped the benefits. The Uruguay round was a good start at decreasing distortions which characterized trade back in the 1980s, but much remains to be done.
Currently our farmers are faced with some of the lowest commodity prices seen for a long time. A worldwide problem of oversupply in some commodities has been aggravated by limited market access and prolonged by the persistent use of some export subsidies and trade distorting domestic support of some of our major trading partners, particularly the European Union.
The United States has also responded to low world prices with increasingly large payments to its farmers, further widening the disparity between the amount of assistance provided by the U.S. and EU and the assistance provided by other countries. It is not clear that these additional subsidies are helping U.S. farmers since there appears to be just as many concerns expressed by American farmers as there are with our farmers about low prices and low incomes.
This makes our efforts at the international negotiating table all the more critical. Taking a strong position at the WTO to lower subsidies and enforce the rules that are agreed to is one leg of our strategy to deal with the farm income situation.
Canada's initial negotiating position gives Canada an authoritative agenda, endorsed by industry and provinces, to work to level the playing field internationally for Canadian producers and exports.
A key component of this work is to have all agriculture export subsidies completely eliminated as quickly as possible. We will also be calling for substantial reductions in domestic support programs that distort production and trade, and for an overall limit on domestic support of all kinds.
We will be looking for improvements in market access, particularly for food products. Food products are leading the surge in growth in world agriculture trade. The Canadian industry has increased its emphasis on these new demands to capture new markets while preserving and enhancing existing markets in our traditional bulk exports.
Canada will work to preserve our right to choose how to market our agricultural products. This includes preserving our orderly marketing systems such as the Canadian Wheat Board and supply management for dairy and poultry products. With this position Canada will play a strong and active role in influencing the direction and eventual outcome of these important World Trade Organization negotiations.
Canada is not alone in its position either. There is much support internationally for the elimination of export subsidies. There has been much progress in bilateral negotiations with the United States for a more unified position. The Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been diligent in pushing the U.S. secretary of agriculture to pursue a course which will allow us to build on our common goals and best interests.
The 21 APEC countries as well as members of the Cairns group, which comprises 15 like minded agricultural exporting countries such as Australia, South Africa, Brazil and Argentina, have all agreed that we should seek the elimination of export subsidies which are so detrimental to trade.
Canada is a leading player in Cairns and is working closely with other member countries to ensure that the WTO negotiations are launched quickly and cleanly so our common objectives can be met sooner rather than later.
The minister of agriculture recently hosted a meeting of Quint, an informal group of ministers that includes Australia, Japan, the EU and the United States. At that meeting earlier this fall all ministers agreed on the urgency of the WTO negotiations. Our work with Cairns and Quint also allows us to pursue our goal of reducing and eliminating trade distorting subsidies on a variety of fronts and provides Canada with a greater influence.
The Government of Canada has confidence in the ability of our producers to compete in a world marketplace. As producers they have confidence in themselves. We are laying the groundwork to ensure our trading partners enter the WTO negotiations with a commitment to a smooth launch, steadfast negotiations and meaningful results.
As the WTO negotiations proceed, the federal government will continue with the partnership approach that led to the development of a unified national negotiating position by ensuring that the industry and provinces are consulted closely throughout the process.
This is a team effort by the federal government, the provincial governments and industry as we seek greater access to more markets and a level playing field. Increased access to world markets means new opportunities for Canadian producers and processors, Canadian skills, Canadian research, and Canadian innovation and technology.