Multi-partisan committee calls for special measures to protect farmers

MPs release list of recommendations and priorities for WTO reform efforts

The World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland on Oct. 28, 2020. (Photo: Reuters/Denis Balibouse)

A federal International Trade committee recommends Canada implement special measures to protect farmers.

In its latest report, MPs on the committee released a list of recommendations and priorities for reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO).

During witness testimony, members from the major parties heard about challenges experienced at the WTO.

Officials from Global Affairs said agricultural subsidies “unduly distort trade and are a significant problem for Canadian agricultural producers.”

China and India were identified as being “top tier” subsidy providers, and the officials said tackling such subsidies was a priority of Canada and other WTO members.

Commodity groups and industry associations had a say, too. The Canadian Canola Growers Association lamented the long-standing goal of ending subsidies being unceasingly stalled.

In its submitted brief, the Canola Growers referenced the Cairns Group estimate that certain agricultural subsidies worldwide will reach US$2 trillion by 2030. That estimate is for so-called “amber box” agricultural subsidies, which are provided through government-backed guaranteed prices or other market price supports.

China’s wealth provided its producers with US$212 billion in market supports and direct subsidies in 2016 – higher than the EU’s (US$100 billion), the United States’ (US$33 billion) and Canada’s ($5 billion).

Representatives from the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC) argued for a more “equal playing field for farmers internationally” and told MPs the WTO plays an important role in making that happen.

Non-tariff barriers are restricting access to foreign markets for GGC, and the group hopes reform efforts “will include review of, and improvements to, the WTO’s Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures and its Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade, as well as adherence to international standards.”

Likewise, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance called for science-based regulatory requirements.

A pair of Quebec-based researchers told MPs the WTO’s Agreement on Agriculture “must consider new realities, including climate change” during reform efforts.

For example, they argued WTO rules around public support for environmental protection should be broadened so producers can directly be compensated for providing environmental services, like carbon sequestration.

The Trade Justice Network told MPs WTO rules that “… conflict with climate action should be eliminated to allow communities and governments to advance bold climate protections… ”

Resulting recommendations from the study, including the one calling for special measures to protect farmers, will be forwarded to the minister responsible for a response.

About the author

Reporter

D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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