Beef producers await new trade deals

The industry sees promise in the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership

OTTAWA — Two monumental trade deals hold promise for Canadian beef producers.

However, the Trans-Pacific Partnership being worked on by 12 Pacific Rim countries, as well as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and Europe, could fall flat if deals are not ratified.

Members of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association were enthusiastic when the European deal was signed because it offered 50,000 tonnes of duty-free access.

“Canada would be the only country with this degree of preferential access,” said Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the CCA.

However Europe has a different approach to food safety for beef and pork and large meat packing plants are likely to shy away rather than change their operating systems.

“We have to have meaningful access or this deal isn’t important to us,” said Dan Darling, president of the CCA during the annual meeting in Ottawa March 9-12.

The cattle producers were furthered rankled when Canada approved the BSE status of 19 members of the European Union and allowed their beef to enter the country. About 24 tonnes have been received.

“This is a deal where there is almost no hope in hell there will be Canadian beef going to the EU,” said Tom Wilson of Ontario.

Canada is now open to beef from Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom.

The problem is connected to technical conditions where the two trading partners have different food safety systems but the results are equivalent, said Ron Davidson of the Canadian Meat Council.

Some European inspectors have visited plants and been satisfied but there are large vocal consumer groups in Europe who are opposed to imports, he told the CCA.

The Europeans have approved hot water, recycled hot water, steam and lactic acid rinses on carcasses, half carcasses and quarter carcasses. However, the Europeans have not approved other antimicrobial rinse options used in the Canadian food safety system.

Canada uses peroxyacetic acid (akin to vinegar) blends and citric acid that are approved as a food product in the EU but not as a rinse for meat.

“It is our intent to submit science-based applications for the use of PAA and citric acid blends as rinses in beef and pork establishments,” Davidson said in an email.

The TPP agreement awaits ratification from the 12 member countries including Canada.

The new Liberal government is reviewing the deal before ratifying it and has received 11,000 public comments so far, said Dany Carriere, director for Global Affairs Canada.

“There has been a diverse set of views expressed,” she told the CCA foreign trade committee.

Australia and New Zealand plan to fast track it, said Terry Meikle of Beef and Lamb New Zealand who is stationed in Washington.

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