Statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade

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1 Statement to the House of Commons Standing Committee on International Trade Regarding the Global Markets Action Plan and the importance of Air Transport Agreements to the Canadian economy Ailish Campbell, Vice President, Policy, International and Fiscal Issues

2 Mr. Chairman, committee members, thank you for the invitation to appear before the Committee on International Trade to discuss the Global Markets Action Plan (GMAP) and Canada s Air Transport Agreements. The is a not-for-profit, non-partisan organization composed of the CEOs of 150 leading Canadian enterprises. Member companies collectively administer $6 trillion in assets, have annual revenues in excess of $850 billion, and are responsible for the majority of Canada's exports, investment, research and development, and training. Nous sommes responsables d un programme actif de recherches, de consultation et de défense en matière de politiques publiques. Le CCCE est source de commentaires bien réfléchis et fondés sur la perspective des affaires sur des questions d importance nationale au niveau de la structure économique et sociale du Canada. As I noted to this committee in testimony on the GMAP last year, promoting Canadian commercial interests are critical to our nation s competitiveness and standard of living. We must support exporting and importing firms, facilitate investment and encourage people-to-people linkages that develop new customers for Canadian products. Total Canadian exports in 2013 including goods and services were $530 billion in a $1.9 trillion dollar economy. For 2014, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has reported that two-way merchandise trade has, for the first time in Canadian history, surpassed the $1 trillion mark, at just under $1.1 trillion. This milestone was reached despite the fact that as 2014 wound down, the sharp decline in crude oil prices significantly decreased the value of Canada s top export product. The continued resilience of the Canadian economy in the face of global headwinds is as a result of the drive and ingenuity of Canadian firms, the support of Canadian government policies and open markets, in particular to our largest trading partner the U.S. 2

3 The CCCE believes that the success of Canada s Air Transport Agreements and the GMAP can be measured using four criteria: 1) A strong and positive commercial relationship with the U.S. and a renewed North American partnership; 2) The implementation of the Canada EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement; 3) A strategy for Asia, including a Strategic Partnership with China; 4) Growth of Canadian commerce with emerging markets. Priority #1: A strong and positive commercial relationship with the U.S., and a renewed North American partnership The United States is Canada s most important trading partner. According to trade data from Statistics Canada and the Conference Board of Canada, the U.S. is responsible for about 73% of Canada s exports. The U.S. is also the source of almost 50% of Canada s overall international airline traffic. Other nations trail far behind; Mexico, for example, accounts for just 5.8% of Canada s airline traffic. Canada air access to the U.S. is excellent and competition for customers both cargo and passengers is fierce. Canada has an open skies treaty with the U.S., which effectively grants unlimited access to U.S. airports so long as the airline can obtain a slot at the airport in which they wish to operate. However, the costs of travel in Canada remain high. Canadian carriers operate in a deregulated, user-pay aviation system. Meanwhile, the U.S. air transport sector enjoys direct U.S. government support in the form of subsidies, direct and indirect ownership, favourable tax treatment and loan guarantees. The World Economic Forum s Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report rated Canada 1 st in the world in 2013 out of 140 countries for its air transport infrastructure, but 136th for its ticket taxes and airport charges. Costs at Canadian airports and on travel ranging from security fees to the Ontario aviation fuel excise tax should therefore be examined. 3

4 The agreement with Mexico will allow for direct services to and from Canada once ratified by both sides. So far Mexico has not concluded a full open skies agreement with any country, including the U.S. The key issue to facilitating improved air travel between Canada and Mexico is the elimination of the onerous visa requirement for travelers from Mexico. As a first step, Canada could begin by announcing that it will waive the requirement for Mexicans who already hold valid U.S. visas. In 2008, Mexican tourists spent $365 million in Canada. In 2012, that number fell below $200 million. Canadian airlines have had to eliminate or reduce planned routes and it is virtually impossible for a Mexican to arrange to travel to Canada on short notice, whether for business purposes or to take advantage of Canada s competitive airfares to Asia. While Air Transport Agreements to the U.S. and Mexico provide excellent market access, the Canadian government must act to reduce fees and taxes that add costs to travel and address Canada s visa regime for Mexican travellers. Priority #2: The implementation of the Canada EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement The Canada EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is not yet ratified. A successful conclusion to CETA is the top trade priority for the CCCE. Importantly, CETA is not the main vehicle for air transport sector market access. Under Canada s blue sky policy, we have already negotiated an air transport agreement with the European Union. As a result, flights are growing. This will facilitate business and tourism. However, when flying to EU destinations, it often costs more to fly from Canada than to fly from the U.S. This situation warrants further examination, particularly where specific federal policies are causing the problem. This committee may also wish to examine the support EU member states provide to airport hubs. 4

5 Priority #3: A strategy for Asia In 2012 Canada officially joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which has now expanded to include 12 countries with a combined GDP of nearly $22 trillion. The negotiations have not yet concluded. Outside the U.S. and Mexico, of the TPP nations, Canada has an open skies agreement with New Zealand and an open agreement with Japan for direct services. We suggest that the Canadian government prioritize modernizing our agreement with Australia. For other TPP nations, such as Vietnam and Malaysia, while market access varies, improvements could be negotiated if there is mutual interest and concrete commercial plans to offer services from at least one carrier on either side. Beyond the TPP, we have an open skies agreement with South Korea, Canada s first free trade agreement partner in the region. There is unused capacity in the air agreement Canada already has in place with China. Slot issues are a constraint on this rapidly growing market. Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou are highly congested and controlled, meaning that new services are very difficult to launch even with the required bilateral rights are available. Priority #4: Growth of Canadian exports to other emerging markets There are a large number of emerging markets that GMAP correctly identifies as markets with great potential, thanks to their growing middle classes, their need for Canadian products and because of established firms and supply chains. New agreements in emerging markets in Africa and Latin America such as Nigeria, Ghana, Ecuador and Belize would allow for future growth. In addition to market access, we can encourage growth of the air transport sector by facilitating travel for tourists and business visitors. Visa requirements and processing times are a critical issue this committee should consider. 5

6 Airlines contribute to the Canadian economy by connecting people and supporting trade and commerce. Canada s visa regime directly impacts the airline industry s ability to do this. Visas on incoming or connecting passengers reduce the potential for increased air transport services and travel in this country. The Canadian government should consider increasing the number of air access agreements with emerging markets and improving Canada s visa policies. Conclusion The CCCE commends the Minister of Trade Ed Fast, Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt, Canada s Chief Air Negotiator Bruce Christie, the Executive Director of Air Policy Marc Rioux and their teams for the excellent work to open up air market access. Their work ensures competition to benefit consumers, and opportunities for Canadian airlines and airports to grow. Still, while the air transport agreement process is working well, more can be done to modernize existing agreements and negotiate agreements with new markets. We must prioritize the competitiveness of the Canadian air transport sector and examine government policies, in particular Canada s visa regime for business travelers, tourists and in-transit passengers. Thank you. 6

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