Farmer group disputes reports that Canada set to welcome more U.S. dairy products

Saskatoon newsroom

A Dairy Farmers of Canada official has cast doubt on reports that Canada has offered more access to American dairy products at the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade talks.

Isabelle Bouchard, director of communications, said the rumours that Canada could grant 10 percent access to U.S. dairy products without equal access for Canadian products into the U.S., as reported by CBC yesterday, are unfounded (Read those reports here).

“The deal is still being negotiated,” Bouchard said. “The 10 percent is the ask of the U.S. and that, so far, the Canadian government has not agreed to.”

New Zealand and Australia have also asked for access and that’s another reason the U.S. deal seems unlikely, she said.

She said the negotiations scheduled to start today in Atlanta would have to be followed by a ministerial meeting for a deal to be signed.

Trade ministers from the 12 member countries of the TPP are slated to meet in Atlanta Sept. 30.

“Today, 10 percent would be very unlikely but we’re following it very closely,” she said.

Bouchard said DFC is not taking the report lightly because it would be “a disaster, catastrophic” for the Canadian dairy industry.

Canada already imports up to 10 percent on some products such as milk proteins and skim milk powder, Bouchard added, and adding another 10 percent would be a blow.

The CBC report Sept. 25 said the Conservatives want to conclude a deal before the Oct. 19 federal election in hopes consumers will warm to promises of lower prices for dairy products.

However, the government would likely find it a tough sell in Quebec and rural Ontario, where the supply management system’s rural economic benefits are often cited as a major reason for dairy farmer stability.

However, a TPP deal would also have its backers. Export dependent industries such as beef and pork producers, as well as many in the grains and oilseeds sectors, say an agreement would provide access to lucrative new markets in Asian member countries. And, officials from those sectors say, if Canada refused to sign a TPP deal while its key competitors signed on and received preferential market access, Canada’s agricultural exports would be a difficult sell in member country markets.

The dairy access proposal as reported by CBC, would allow increased U.S. access to Canada to compensate U.S. producers for opening up their markets to New Zealand and Australia.

It was reported that the proposal includes fluid milk, and possibly butter, cheese, yogurt, as well as milk powder and proteins used to make other products.

Other obstacles may yet hold the deal up, however. Auto parts and drug patent protections are also contentious issues.

Under the recent Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, Canada agreed to about two percent access to EU member countries for some cheeses into Canada. Other dairy products, and other supply management sectors, such as poultry and eggs, remain protected.

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