Canada, Mexico cozy up on trade

OTTAWA — Canadian agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay and Mexican agriculture secretary Jose Calzada pledged more collaboration between their two countries after meetings last week.

Calzada even suggested an app to help producers find markets in each country.

“Canada is more than a trade partner,” he said at the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual meeting. “Canada is a friend, a strategic ally.”

The two have been partners in the North American Free Trade Agreement for more than 20 years and worked together to successfully challenge the U.S. country-of-origin labelling legislation.

Bilateral trade is worth about $3.5 billion a year.

“Canada is now the leading supplier of canola in Mexico,” said MacAulay.

Mexico has increased avocado exports to Canada by 50 percent in the last three years alone, he added.

He said he sees further co-operative opportunities in establishing international food standards so trading partners are on level playing fields.

The two ministers met privately and then participated in a panel presentation to talk about competitiveness, sustainability and consumer preferences.

Calzada said Mexican banks are increasing loans to the agricultural sector at a large rate but are still only financing 15 to 20 percent of the primary sector’s needs.

Other countries finance 70 to 80 percent of primary agriculture, he said, and the Mexican government continues to raise the matter because farmers need tools to be competitive.

“We want the banks to finance the primary sector,” he said.

Innovation in research and marketing will also help Mexican farmers be more competitive, he added.

MacAulay said the low dollar is boosting exports and shielding Canadian farmers from lower commodity prices and trade barriers such as consumer trends.

He said the Canadian government strongly supports trade and would continue to reduce “costly impediments” to it.

“We absolutely need a free and fair trading system,” he said. “I’m going to continue to work hard with industry to make that happen.”

Calzada identified a trend in buying and selling online and said there are many small producers of mangos, pineapples and watermelons who don’t know how to contact Canadian buyers.

They have smartphones but don’t know how to find markets for their crops. He suggested a Mexico-Canada app would help.

“I’m willing to be in charge of this,” he said.

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