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Ag issues bog down European trade talks

Meeting the needs of export oriented commodities without compromising the supply managed sector is an ongoing challenge for negotiators

Agriculture and food issues remain a stumbling block for free trade talks between Canada and Europe, according the Commons trade committee.

Export-oriented agri-food industries are keen to gain access to Europe’s 500 million consumers, but tariffs protecting supply management, genetically engineered crops, and rules of origin are among the most sensitive issues in the talks, according to a committee report based on months of hearings. However, government procurement rules and intellectual property protection will likely make or break the deal in the end, the report predicts.

Pork and beef groups are pushing for duty-free access to Europe. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says the protocol for demonstrating Canadian beef conforms with the European requirements and “should be the same as that used for American breeders who export their beef to the E.U. market,” while Canadian Pork International is requesting a tariff exclusion and special tariff rate quota for Canadian pork along with simplified administrative procedures.

Grain and oilseed groups are requesting simplified certification procedures for Canadian grains with a “reasonable” threshold level for genetically modified grain in shipments.

Meanwhile, Europe’s agri-food sector wants improved access for its cheeses and a reduction in tariffs protecting the Canadian dairy sector, the report said.

Both the NDP and Liberals submitted dissenting reports, which included calls to ensure that supply management isn’t watered down through increased access or lower tariffs.

The NDP accused the government of trying to rush through a trade deal before Canadians became aware of the many ways it could damage the country.

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