By Nathan Stevens
May 11, 2012
Canadian trade policy is one of the more controversial issues that Ontario farmers live with every day. There are segments of Ontario agriculture that would benefit from more open trade and segments that would not reap the same rewards. A recent trade policy session held by the George Morris Centre brought in several experts on the intricacies of international trade deals and the challenges and opportunities that Canada and its farmers are currently facing as talk over joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership heats up.
First and Foremost, the multi-lateral approach is stalled at the moment and bilateral and regional deals are picking up steam. The Doha Round of the World Trade Organization negotiations is stuck. Instead, countries that see mutually advantageous situations are developing bi-lateral deals, such as the Canada-Europe Union CETA, or regional deals, like the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Mark McConnell, a trade lawyer, shared his view on the perspective of the United States (US), the largest player in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The U.S. is more concerned about Japan as a potential partner than either Canada or Mexico. He noted that the new Farm Bill appears to be heading towards serious cuts in support programs. Meanwhile, elements of the U.S. dairy sector are pushing towards a form of supply management, which will greatly impact U.S. views on the Canadian supply management system from a trade perspective.
Larry Herman, a trade lawyer who believes in an aggressive stance on trade, argued that the dairy industry should be developing transitioning options for the government to move forward on these deals. From his point of view, the system does not need to be dismantled, but aspects of it could be changed in order to further trade opportunities. He also noted that these deals aren’t just about agricultural interests, and that other sectors have mixed views of the deal as well.
From the perspective of Peter Gould, General Manager of Dairy Farmers of Ontario, the dairy supply management system is working well, is willing to discuss issues, but has no intention of offering transition options to the Canadian Government. The innovative dairy industry in Ontario is focused on expanding into new markets and finding new opportunities for milk producers.
There are many different perspectives on the future of agricultural trade policy and the impact that it will have on Ontario’s farmers. If Canada succeeds in joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, there will be opportunities and challenges that innovative farmers will need to prepare for in our increasingly global business environment.
Nathan Stevens is the Interim Manager and Director of Policy Development 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.