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U.S. poultry, dairy farmers press for access to Canadian market

Washington must fix mistakes it made in the North American Free Trade Agreement by insisting in new trade talks that Canada allow unrestricted access to its poultry and dairy markets, say American farm groups.

“All we’re asking is that we have an open and free fair trade shot at the border,” Bill Roenigk of the National Chicken Council said at a hearing into the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership pact.

The federal Conservatives have long pledged to defend supply management, but the government has also said all goods are subject to negotiation, both in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership among 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and in free-trade discussions with the European Union.

Roenigk said U.S. producers thought NAFTA, which went into force in January 1994, would eliminate tariffs on U.S. poultry exports to Canada and were shocked when Ottawa, as well as a NAFTA dispute settlement panel, took the opposite view.

Now that the U.S. has a second chance to address Canada’s poultry tariffs, his industry’s “view on this is the old Irish proverb: Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,” said Roenigk.

“The U.S. poultry industry strongly opposes Canada’s participation in the TPP unless Canada expressly commits to removing all border restrictions on poultry imports from the United States,” he said.

The U.S. must seize this opportunity to “finally negotiate an opening of the Canadian dairy market to all U.S. dairy products without restriction,” added Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president at the National Milk Producers Federation.

Both Castaneda and Roenigk said Canada could become a big market for the U.S. producers if tariffs were removed.

Canada and Mexico are the latest countries to join the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement. The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have already been negotiating the deal for 30 months.

A final deal is not expected until mid- to late-2013.

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