Officials at Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations will defend system, but could bend under the right deal
A senior Canadian trade official says concessions on Canadian defensive issues such as supply management would not be a deal-breaker if Canada wins key demands in Pacific Rim trade talks.
He was responding last week to a specific question about Canada’s willingness to make supply management concessions in the interests of a deal.
Denis Landerville, director of Agriculture Canada’s trade negotiations division, said it was clear when Canada joined the Trans-Pacific Partnership talks last year that countries could not join without bringing all their issues to the table and being prepared for an “ambitious” outcome.
“We came in prepared to live up to that,” he said during a July 30 panel discussion in front of a crowd of mainly American grain industry leaders at an Ottawa meeting of the U.S. Grains Council. “The test will be whether it is balanced.”
He said Canada wants to obtain concessions from other TPP countries on market access for goods, government procurement and rules governing the mobility of people.
“What we receive on that will figure into whether we consider it balanced,” said Landerville.
In a later interview, he said TPP talks are moving quickly. The 12 countries involved are taking pursuit of a deal seriously, he added, and a deal is possible this year or next.
“We are not taking our foot off the accelerator.”
He said Canadian negotiators’ instructions from the federal government continue to be to defend supply management import tariffs and quotas.
“Defending supply management continues to be our marching orders.”
However, he said Canada also wants a deal.
“We’re not going to stand in the way of completing a deal,” said Landerville.
“We’re pushing to meet the objectives for the TPP. We will not be the one that breaks a deal.”
Negotiators meet again in September, and ministers will meet in October.
He said the target is to complete a deal this year.
“We are very much working to that objective.”
The TPP panel at the grains council meeting also included representatives from the United States and New Zealand, and all speakers used their initial remarks to talk about what they want rather than what they would give.
It took Grain Growers of Canada executive director Richard Phillips to set the Australian Shepherd herder among the sacred cows.
He said the toughest livestock line in any trade agreement involves sacred cows, so would New Zealand be willing to offer more access to genetically modified crops, the United States to reduce protection for sugar and Canada to give the U.S. and New Zealand “real access” to Canadian dairy markets?
In their responses, the U.S. and New Zealand representatives did more skating than Landerville.