Hon. Mitchell Sharp (Minister of Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, in responding to a question from the hon. member for Danforth on October 211 undertook to inform the house on the current status of the preparations for the round of GATT trade negotiations scheduled to get under way next year. This round is colloquially known as the Kennedy round, a phrase which recalls to all members the courage and the wisdom of the late president of the United States.
On May 24 I reported to the house on my return from a meeting of trade ministers in Geneva that it had been agreed in principle to convene a comprehensive trade negotiating conference on May 4, 1964. This major negotiation is to cover all sectors of trade, including agriculture. In taking this decision the GATT ministers recognized that a great deal of preparatory work would be required before the opening of negotiations. For this purpose a trade negotiations committee has been established, composed of representatives of all the participating countries, to elaborate the rules for the tariff negotiating plan to be adopted, to work out the means for dealing with the special problems of agricultural trade and non-tariff barriers to trade, and to consider the participation of less developed countries in the negotiations.
This committee, of which Canada is a member, has held a number of meetings and established a series of subsidiary groups to work on particular questions. A subcommittee on the tariff negotiating plan has been at work. The elaboration amongst the countries concerned of a suitable across the board linear reduction plan designed to be largely automatic in operation requires the most careful
and detailed examination. Hon. members will recall that while GATT ministers agreed on the adoption of a linear plan for the negotiations, it was accepted that for countries such as Canada, for which a linear plan would not be appropriate because of the characteristics of our production and trade, the objective would be the achievement of reciprocity through an exchange of concessions of equivalent value.
In the field of agriculture a general agricultural committee has been established by the trade negotiations committee. The terms of reference of this committee are as follows:
The committee shall consider and submit to the trade negotiations committee recommendations in regard to the rules to govern, and the methods to be employed in the creation of acceptable conditions of access to world markets for agricultural products in furtherance of a significant development and expansion of world trade in such products.
A cereals group has met to examine the possibility of coming to general international agreement on acceptable conditions for access to world markets for wheat and other cereals. This group is meeting again during the present month. A group on meats has held one meeting, and a similar body will be established on dairy products. Other subcommittees are dealing with non-tariff barriers and the participation of the less developed countries.
Preparation for a major trade negotiation of the scope which is contemplated is a complex process involving progressive recalculations of the varying interests of participating countries. Agreed methods and procedures will take some time to work out. Indeed, there has already been what the technicians refer to as some slippage in the schedule originally envisaged for the preparatory work. The house will appreciate, however, that the negotiating conference itself is not scheduled to open until May of next year.
Canada is participating actively in the preparatory work and will continue to do so. We wish to ensure so far as possible that the negotiations will have broad coverage and will be substantial and successful. It is important for Canada that the foundations for the negotiations should be soundly laid and should accommodate our own negotiating interests as well as those of the larger participants such as the United States and the European economic community. Our current efforts are directed to this end.
In addition to the preparations being undertaken internationally, each participating country in the months between now and the formal opening of the negotiations next year will be developing its own negotiating position, including its assessment of benefits and the elaboration of its contribution to the bargaining in the light of its national and particular interests. As I have mentioned on a number of occasions, the government will be very anxious to have the views of all affected Canadian interests in preparing the Canadian negotiating position. However, announcement of procedures for receiving these views has been deferred until the framework of the negotiations can be outlined with more certainty, and I regret to say that it is not possible to give the necessary certainty at the moment.
Nevertheless, for many of the Canadian interests concerned there may be useful preliminary studies which can be initiated now. I know that some organizations in particular sectors of the economy have already begun such studies. The scope of the tariff reducing authority of the United States is known, as is the objective of the United States administration to use this authority to the maximum consistent with the procedures laid down in the trade expansion act and an adequate response from its trading partners, in particular the European economic community. It would be useful for industry to begin to identify and evalue the export opportunities which may be presented in the United States and other main markets so as to be able to respond quickly and effectively when the government is in a position to consult on a more precise and specific basis. It would also be useful if at this stage exporters would advise the Department of Trade and Commerce of barriers to trade other than tariffs which may stand in the way of the expansion of their sales to particular countries.
This statement which I am making today is in part an announcement to the business community, as well of course as to the members of the house, of the procedures we contemplate. The Department of Trade and Commerce itself has been in touch with exporters generally. Indeed, within the next few days I expect to have some informal discussions with leading members of business communities. It is in the light of the government's assessment of the trade benefits of the prospective negotiations that consideration will be given to the concessions that may be appropriate on Canada's part.