Trade woes prompt ministerial discussion

Bibeau speaks to EU counterpart as WTO reports stark trade drop

Trade – or the lack of it – was at the top of the agenda during a June 23 discussion between federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau and her European Union counterpart, Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development Janusz Wojciechowski.

According to the federal government, the two discussed the importance of the Canada-EU relationship and reiterated the need to work together.

Bibeau is said to have emphasized to Wojciechowski that such co-operation is needed to ensure farmers and processors benefit from the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA).

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In place since 2017, many producers in Canada have suggested it is not benefiting them as much as they thought it would; but Bibeau is said to have underscored the importance of removing technical barriers to trade imposed by the EU on Canadian agricultural products.

Despite the trade deal, Canadian agri-food exports to Europe have largely remained stagnant since the deal came into place. In contrast, imports of European countries continue to sell products like pork and beef in Canada.

Bibeau’s conversation came during the same week the World Trade Organization reported a steep drop in trade over the first half of 2020.

The volume of merchandise trade shrank by three per cent year on year in the first quarter, according to World Trade Organization (WTO) statistics. Over the second quarter, trade dropped 18.5 per cent due to the lockdown measures brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

While those numbers are stark, they are better than what was forecast in April by the WTO, when trade was predicted in a worst-case scenario to drop by 32 per cent.

“The fall in trade we are now seeing is historically large – in fact, it would be the steepest on record. But there is an important silver lining here: it could have been much worse,” said WTO director general Roberto Azevêdo in a press release. “This is genuinely positive news but we cannot afford to be complacent. Policy decisions have been critical in softening the ongoing blow to output and trade, and they will continue to play an important role in determining the pace of economic recovery. For output and trade to rebound strongly in 2021, fiscal, monetary, and trade policies will all need to keep pulling in the same direction.”

About the author

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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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