CFA calls for farmers, Parliament to scrutinize Trans-Pacific Partnership

The trade deal is a win for export agriculture in Western Canada, says Sylvain Charlebois

“What is needed now is for government and industry stakeholders to come together to analyze what is needed for Canadian farmers to take full advantage of these trade deals and develop an export strategy.” – CFA president Ron Bonnett.

Supply management marketing boards are grudgingly accepting the Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

While they don’t like giving up even a small part of their market, officials said last week they understand there are benefits for the Canadian economy and welcome the government’s pledge of up to $4.3 billion in compensation.

Turkey Farmers of Canada chairman Mark Davies said his group “will conduct a detailed evaluation of the challenges this agreement will bring to our farmers and the sector generally, as turkey production is displaced from Canadian farms.”

Dave Janzen, chairman of Chicken Farmers of Canada, said the quota loss was significant, but the industry welcomed “the government’s firm commitment to immediately ending fraudulent import practices that have plagued the industry for over five years.”

“This is a heavy hit,” he said. “Given this additional access, we are counting on the government to cease the practice of regularly issuing supplementary import allocations.”

Peter Clarke, chairman of Egg Farmers of Canada said more time is needed to fully understand the impact of the deal on egg producers.

The Canadian Federation of Agriculture supports Canada being part of the negotiations but wants to study the agreement further too. While most export commodities will benefit, the deal falls short of the access Canadian sugar beet growers were seeking to the U.S., the CFA said in a release.

The CFA wants Canada’s new Parliament to carefully review the deal and the commitments to assist those sectors negatively affected.

“What is needed now is for government and industry stakeholders to come together to analyze what is needed for Canadian farmers to take full advantage of these (European Trade Agreement and TPP) trade deals and develop an export strategy,” CFA president Ron Bonnett said.

The TPP, if implemented, will be good for western Canadian grain, oilseed, pulse and livestock producers who could potentially see more of their products exported, said Sylvain Charlebois, associate professor of marketing and consumer studies at the University of Guelph. But it doesn’t necessarily mean higher prices due to increased world demand.

“I would argue this trade deal can actually enhance Canada’s influence globally as a commodity producer,” Charlebois said. “But it doesn’t mean world demand will increase because of this deal. They are two separate concepts.

“I would say this is certainly a deal that should be embraced by farmers out west.”

Prices are important, but so is market access, especially to growing markets in Asia, he said. Most Canadian farmers need export markets because they produce much more than the country can consume. The main exception are supply management farmers who produce dairy, poultry and eggs in sync with domestic demands.

U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said she would reject the deal based on what she has seen so far. NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair said Canada won’t sign if he’s elected prime minister.

Charlebois says Clinton has an out, but Mulcair was categorical. If Canada withdraws, not only would it be bad for the Canadian economy, it would be an embarrassment, according to Charlebois.

“(Prime Minister Stephen) Harper’s approach after the (election) writ was dropped was unwise,” he said.

“But if Mr. Harper had actively engaged with Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Trudeau I don’t think we would’ve been in the same situation.”

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