Pro-trade position advocated for beef

South Korea opens border to beef | Canada could become one of six countries to export more food than it imports

SASKATOON — The re-opening of South Korea to Canadian beef took the spotlight last week, but other markets remain priorities for organizations working to export more meat and earn more money for producers.

Canadian Cattlemen’s Association president Travis Toews said Canada could soon be one of six countries to export more food than it imports. Trade policy must reflect that.

“We need to have a very pro-trade position,” he said after speaking at the Saskatchewan Beef Industry Symposium last week.

Access to the small but valuable European Union market illustrates that point, he said, as does Canada’s ability to join an Asia-Pacific trade agreement.

The EU wants “meaningful dairy access” to Canada in exchange for allowing beef. And an earlier application by Canada to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership, a multi-lateral agreement to liberalize trade within the Asia-Pacific region, was denied because Canada wasn’t willing to negotiate supply management, he said.

“Our position is that as an agricultural exporting country we need to have a very pro-trade policy and that in this negotiation we need to really put everything on the table to ensure that we can get a great deal for Canadian agriculture,” he later told reporters about EU negotiations.

He expects the beef issue to be among the last settled.

The TPP agreement, which already includes Australia and the United States, is key for beef producers.

Both Canada and Japan have said they want to join.

“If Japan joins, Canada has to join from a cattle and beef industry perspective, because we will find ourselves out in the cold as duties come down,” Toews said.

CCA and Canada Beef continue to work to gain access to Japan for beef from animals younger than 30 months.

Some have questioned the export agenda as inventory declined over the past few years, but Toews said being solely a domestic supplier would leave producers short by at least $200 per head, which is the value export adds to a steer.

“We will simply find ourselves uncompetitive.”

He said there have been issues within the current 20,000-tonne duty-free quota allocation available to Canada in the EU.

“European importers were receiving quota allocation and turning around and selling it to importers who were actually going to bring product in,” he said. “That has really created a de facto duty on Canadian product.”

He said the problem may be alleviated when quota expands in 2012 to 45,000 tonnes, but the whole issue points to the value of duty free access.

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