Canada’s Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Minister Mary Ng had little to say of the newly signed U.S.-China trade deal, claiming her office was still carefully reviewing it.
Details of the first phase of the deal show China is committed to buying an additional US$40 billion to US$50 billion in agricultural products from the United States. With no quotas listed, many are questioning the impact on Canadian agricultural exporters.
Asked about concerns the early phases of that deal may result in Canadian farmers losing market share, Ng repeated the federal Liberals are taking a close look at the agreement, before claiming support for the industry.
“The sector is very, very important to us, and we will continue to work hard on its behalf,” she said.
Ng was also noncommittal when asked if she had any concerns over what appears to be a potential violation of international trade rules within the agreement. Given the deal is only applying to certain goods, it may be violating the WTO’s “most favoured nation” rules that prevent favouring some markets over the discrimination of others.
Ng is continuing to work towards a solution on the impasse holding up the World Trade Organization (WTO), making it one of her priorities at the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland.
Currently the WTO is unable to deliver trade dispute rulings, because the U.S. failed to reach an agreement with member states over how appeals are handled and blocked the appointment of a needed adjudicator.
“The WTO and the rules-based system help our Canadian businesses, because they have the rules that they can depend on which helps them make the decisions, the business decisions, that they need to make to take on the risk that they need to take on because they can rely on a rule-basis system that works,” said Ng.
She said work continues among the “Ottawa group” – a collection of like-minded countries trying to reform the WTO.
“We are working together, particularly around the Appellate Body and looking to find interim solutions… so that we have an ability to be able to deal with trade disputes,” she said.
While Ng said she is willing to work with “anyone who wants to work with Canada” on reforms, China, a country that continues to block some Canadian canola shippers and, as a result, is the focus of a Canadian complaint to the WTO, is not among the countries involved.
“The Ottawa group already has a number of countries that are there and we’re going to encourage anyone who wants to work with us, particularly around the reforms and these reforms to ensure that there is a continual of a rules-based system,” she said.
Dan Darling, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) said in a statement he was pleased Ng was defending the global trading system.
“Given the vital role the WTO’s dispute settlement system plays for Canadian exporters, we call on all WTO members to seek an urgent resolution to the current impasse in appointments to the WTO Appellate Body. It is encouraging to see Minister Ng chairing this meeting as Canada needs to be a driving force for rules-based trade globally.
The minister also reiterated Canada’s goal of increasing annual agricultural exports to $75 billion by 2025.
“We’re going to continue to work with our Canadian farmers and explore opportunities to open new markets for you know, for Canadian, agriculture and agricultural products,” she said. “We absolutely want to always create markets and help our Canadian farmers get more ready, have more support, so that they can, in fact grow their operations, you know, domestically and grow them into those markets.”