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Politicians to get an earful on CPTPP

Farm groups want passage of the bill to be a priority when Parliament resumes in September and will be making their feelings known

MPs and senators can expect to hear plenty from farmers all summer about the importance of quickly passing the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) bill, farm group representatives vow.

They were in Ottawa June 21, the first day of summer, in hopes the politicians would see the light on the need to pass the CPTPP bill. Alas for them, the Commons started its summer recess the day before and the senators hung around long enough that day to witness royal assent to a raft of bills before leaving the building.

Brian McInnes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Council, told a news conference that delivering the message about the CPTPP this summer is crucial.

“When Parliament resumes in September, there’s only 11 weeks left to get the bill through the Commons and the Senate before the Christmas break,” he said.

It’s crucial that Canada approves the legislation by then so it is among the original signatories, which will bring considerable benefits to the food export sector that includes 90 per cent of farmers, he said.

“We’re concerned Canada will not be part of the first group and that will hurt us,” he said.

With a federal election set for next year and the Liberals holding a narrow lead over the Conservatives in the polls, the politicians may be especially attentive this summer.

Trade Minister Francois-Phillipe Champagne hasn’t offered the agri-food sector any assurance about the bill’s priority when Parliament resumes.

The agreement will enter into force 60 days after at least six of the 11 partner countries complete their respective ratification procedures. While the Conservatives are behind the bill and tried a motion to pass it through all stages of debate in one sitting, the New Democrats who oppose the bill, blocked that attempt and will likely force a prolonged debate on it after Parliament resumes Sept. 17.

McInnes was joined by Jeff Nielsen, president of Grain Growers of Canada, Markus Haerle, chairman of Grain Growers of Canada, Kim Sytsma, a director of Beef Farmers of Ontario, and Rene Roy, vice-chairman of the Canadian Pork Council, at a news conference pushing for the government CPTPP and other trade deals while keeping at the task of negotiating a renewed NAFTA.

Nielsen said his members across the country will be meeting MPs to deliver the message about CPTPP. “The longer approval is delayed, the more producers will be getting concerned about the impact on them. Other countries are moving faster than we are and we need to act without delay or we will lose a lot of access.

“Grain farmers in Canada are export dependent,” he said. “My livelihood, and that of hard-working farm families across Canada, is dependent on having reliable access to export markets. That is why farmers need the government to build on their support for trade.”

Hearle said the government had a perfect opportunity to be a leader on the CPTPP. “Not only will it give us access to more markets, it will also help our farmers to be more sustainable.”

Sytsma said, “The beef business is export dependent and the CPTPP will help us seize new export opportunities.”

Without it, the beef industry will lose out on exports. There are 60,000 beef farmers and the Pacific deal would be a big step forward for them.

Roy said Canada exports more than $1 billion worth of pork to Japan alone and developing new markets in Asia is crucial. “We need access to key new markets to sustain our export growth.”

In addition to CPTPP, the CAFTA members want more trade deals, McInnes said.

“With unprecedented uncertainty around NAFTA, there’s never been a better time to break down trade barriers so we can diversify and grow our agri-food exports.”

In addition to the CPTPP bill, the government needs “to constructively engage at the NAFTA negotiating table to ensure Canadian agri-food exports maintain existing access to the U.S. market and to modernize the deal where possible.”

Canada should also “launch trade talks with China and deepen the Canada-China trade relationship and work on removing the remaining non-tariff barriers to allow real, commercially viable access to the European Union for Canadian agri-food products,” he said.

The agri-food export sector contributes $96 billion to Canada’s economy annually and supports one million jobs in urban and rural areas across the country, he said.

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