By Paul Boostsma
April 6, 2012
A great deal of Canadian agriculture is based on the ability to trade with other nations. When we look at progress on trade the World Trade Organization is struggling to gain momentum, bilateral deals are moving forward at a faster and faster rate, and ambitious regional deals are being developed. Our government has some tough things to put into consideration as this growing trend towards selective trade partners evolves over time in an unstable world economy.
The first consideration is the need to find more opportunities abroad and to reduce our reliance on the United States. Prime Minister Harper has made trade missions a priority, seeking out new opportunities with a wide variety of countries to increase business opportunities for Canadian firms. Agricultural products produced in Canada have a positive reputation as safe and nutritious, and given our capacity to produce more as a country than we require, export opportunities are available.
The desire for increased trade requires consideration of our key strengths. Canada prides itself for its high health and safety standards. Canada has strong environmental and labour laws that govern the activities of business. This translates into opportunities to target high value markets throughout the world.
The downside of maintaining high standards is that it adds cost to the production system, making it more difficult to deal with cheap imports. The domestic economy cannot be neglected or easily sacrificed for the sake of trade. Agriculture is a leading industry in Canada, providing good food and jobs for Canadian people. Losing a significant share of the domestic market to foreign competition of questionable quality needs to be guarded against. Canadian farmers want a level playing field to compete in both domestically and internationally.
Canada’s government has a tough line to walk as it seeks out new opportunities in the emerging world of selective trade. Growing our export opportunities without sacrificing the quality standards Canadians expect is a tremendous challenge. I want to encourage the government to maintain what we have and ensure that Canada is one of the best places to live and work in the world.
Paul Bootsma is the Field Services Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKNX Wingham, and UCB Canada radio stations in Chatham, Belleville, Bancroft, Brockville and Kingston and in Brantford and Woodstock. It is also found on the CFFO website: www.christianfarmers.org. CFFO is supported by 4,200 family farmers across Ontario.