Beef, pork producers cheer outcome of TPP agreement

Some people expressed worry that supply management would be a 
sticking point that would force Canada to withdraw from the negotiating table

Doug Gillespie didn’t join millions of others in following the live public announcement that Canada and 11 other nations had successfully completed the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

“I was out riding,” the cattle producer from Neville, Sask., said a few hours after the announcement.

He had been busy, sitting on the back of his horse Sprocket, down in the bottom of a valley, with no wireless service, checking on his beef cattle.

However, he was delighted when he returned to his house and discovered the deal was done.

“It opens up markets and gives us sales for our product, so that should be very good for beef producers,” said Gillespie, who is president of the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association.

The implications of the trade deal, which affects many nations on the Pacific Rim, were immediately clear to Gillespie: continued access to Japan, better access to other countries, the chance to build new markets and reduced reliance on the U.S. market.

That view was shared by other cattle and hog farmers, who rely on export markets. Future markets seem a surer bet now that Canada has signed the TPP deal.

“It’s very good news for the cattle industry in Canada,” said Larry Schweitzer, chair of the National Cattle Feeders Association.

“We need to be in the fold with everybody else.”

Livestock producers sounded happy about their future export prospects, but the strongest feeling was that of relief.

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Many had worried Canada’s defence of supply management would get the country kicked out of the TPP talks or make the talks fail.

If that happened, Canada might lose some or much of its access to the high-paying Japanese market, which buys $1 billion worth of Canadian pork and $100 million worth of Canadian beef a year.

Australia has signed a free trade deal with Japan and is already able to sell beef there with lower tariffs.

Canada also lost much of the South Korean pork market after other countries signed trade deals that lowered tariffs.

It’s why Canadian Pork Council chair Rick Bergmann cheered the successful conclusion of the deal.

“Based on what was announced today, the CPC strongly supports Canada participating in the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Bergmann said in a news release.

He said Canada’s pork exports to South Korea fell by 75 percent after the United States signed a trade deal with it before Canada’s was concluded.

John Masswohl, Canadian Cattlemen’s Association director of government and international relations, said avoiding a South Korea-like situation was the cattle industry’s biggest hope for TPP, and it appears to have been achieved.

“We’re all going to be on the same playing field,” said Masswohl.

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Canada presently pays a 38.5 percent tariff on beef sales to Japan. Australia, because of its recent trade deal, pays only 31.5 percent on fresh beef and 29.5 percent on frozen. As well, the Australian tariff will continue to drop annually.

“That disadvantage (for Canada) will get worse and worse and worse.”

However, the TPP deal will immediately reduce all signatories’ tariffs to 27.5 percent, which will drop to nine percent over 15 years.

That leveling of tariffs is a big relief for the Canadian beef industry, Masswohl said. The industry is also happy to now have a hammer to hold over the head of South Korea, which isn’t part of TPP but may ask to join.

“They’ll have to come to Canada,” said Masswohl. “When Korea comes to Canada … they have to offer an acceleration to match the U.S.”

Tom Teichroeb, a director of the Manitoba Beef Producers, said he’s relieved he’ll be able to raise cattle with a few less anxieties if TPP is approved. Canadian producers need access to more markets instead of being pushed out of ones they already have.

“It was so crucial for us to not miss this opportunity,” said Teichroeb.

Contact ed.white@producer.com

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