Hon. Jean-Luc Pepin (Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce):
Mr. Speaker, the International Grains Arrangement entered into force on July 1, 1968 at a time when international prices were under some pressure. It was recognized at the outset that it would take some time and a considerable measure of restraint to achieve effective operation of the price provisions of the arrangement. Progress was made in this direction, encouraged by frequent meetings both among exporters and within the International Wheat Council. Canada has consistently observed the minimum prices established for Canadian grades of wheat.
In recent weeks there has been a significant deterioration in prices for high quality wheats traded in European markets. In some instances and for certain grades and classes these prices have been substantially below established I.G.A. minimums, and a significant volume of business has been done by our competitors.
I went to Washington on March 11 and met with senior officials of the department of state and with the Secretary of Agriculture to see if a greater degree of co-operation in pricing matters could not be achieved. The results of these talks hold some promise for the future, but in the present competitive situation 29180-420
amongst exporters it is not likely that immediate restoration of price levels can be achieved. In view of this the Canadian Wheat Board has come to the conclusion that it must meet the competition in the marketplace.
A meeting of the Prices Review Committee of the International Wheat Council is taking place next week and an early meeting of exporters has been called to determine actions necessary to restore price stability in keeping with obligations assumed under the arrangement. Canada will exert every effort to improve the degree of international cooperation with respect to prices through the I.G.A. and in discussion with other exporters. It should be noted that the I.G.A. itself provides procedures for temporary adjustments of minimum prices, since relationships between type and qualities of wheat fluctuate with competitive circumstances.
International co-operation in wheat marketing remains a cardinal principle of Canadian policy and while remaining competitive every effort will be made by Canada in consultation with other exporting and with importing countries to improve and strengthen co-operation with respect to prices and the operation of the I.G.A.