Our March 24, 2016 issue marks the second in a series of Special Reports prepared by reporters from the Glacier FarmMedia network, which includes the Manitoba Co-operator. In these articles, reporters explore the implications of the yet-to-be- ratified Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the European Union.
Canadian cattle and beef interests that expected to benefit from a trade deal with the European Union rejoiced Oct. 18, 2013, when the Conservative government announced a deal had been reached.
Negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement continued through August 2014, when a consolidated version of the agreement was made available.
However, it has yet to be ratified in Europe as various factions contemplated some of its non-agricultural implications, primarily the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) process.
The ISDS issues were resolved in early March, but those in Canada’s beef industry are among those watching developments and hoping the promise first extended in 2013 will culminate in greater market access.
“Any new market is the right thing for Canada,” said Doug Price, who operates the beef side of Sunterra, the Alberta company operated by his family.
“We need to diversify our marketplace so we’re not totally reliant on the United States, so I’m pretty excited about that.”
It’s an opinion that is widespread among those in the beef industry, but CETA isn’t a done deal.
“Despite us having had several announcements that the deal was done and the negotiations were done, it doesn’t have the feel that it’s done,” said John Masswohl of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association.
Trade historian Laura Dawson of the Canada Institute in Washington, D.C., also has her doubts.
“I am skeptical about the ability of the EU parliaments to ratify the agreement. Canada negotiated a good agreement and our negotiators did just fine, and the EU negotiators said, ‘great, got to do a legal scrub, got to translate it into all those pesky languages and we’re good to go.’”
The deal was negotiated by what was then Canada’s Conservative government. Since then, a new Liberal government was elected and is presumably getting up to speed on what CETA may entail.
“I think these next several months are going to be important,” Masswohl said in December.
“With the CETA agreement, I think there was a number of announcements about how the negotiations were concluded. Now you’ve got a new government… and it’s probably learning that the negotiations are not quite as concluded as perhaps the previous management would suggest.
“Our message to the new government is, the potential is there. This is an outstanding market, excellent potential. It deserves to be done. It needs to be done because this is an excellent agreement not just for Canadian beef producers, but for Canada overall. But it has to be what we think it is.”