Ag groups want more focus on TPP revival talks

Trans-Pacific Partnership members are attempting to reach a new deal after the U.S. pulled out of the agreement in January

Canadian agricultural commodity groups are urging the federal government to take more of a leadership role in pushing for a revised Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement this week in Vietnam.


The Canadian Meat Council issued a news release saying “abstention or indecision” by the Canadian government is unacceptable. 


Council president Chris White said the government has been preoccupied with renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement.


“Our concern is that (TPP11) is not getting the attention that we think it should be getting,” he said.


“Canada is engaged, but we don’t have the sense, at least as of now, that they are as engaged as much as industry would like to see them.”


Farm groups say billions of dollars are at stake for the sector.


Representatives of the 11 TPP member countries are meeting in Da Nang, Vietnam, for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders’ Week Nov. 6-11.


Japan and other countries have stated they would like to hash out a TPP11 agreement in principal at that meeting.


Talks began earlier this year after U.S. President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the agreement. The remaining countries soon began negotiations to revive the deal without the United States.


Jim Everson, president of the Canola Council of Canada, urged the Canadian government to advance the TPP11 negotiations during the meeting.


“We just think there’s a lot of opportunity there if the government were to act on it in the near term,” he said.


The real prize in the agreement is unfettered access to the Japanese market. 


Canadian canola seed is shipped to Japan tariff-free, but canola oil faces a steep 16 percent tariff entering the market. Under TPP11, tariffs on oil and meal would be eliminated over a five-year period.


A study by Dan Ciuriak, former deputy chief economist for Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, estimates that Canada’s oil and meal sales to Japan and Vietnam would in-crease by up to $780 million per year by the end of that period.


The same study said the overall benefit for Canadian agriculture would be $3.4 billion annually.


Australia already has a bilateral free trade agreement with Japan. Its tariffs on canola oil are six percentage points lower than what Canadian exporters pay and are dropping every year.


Everson said TPP11 is more enticing than its predecessor because the U.S. is no longer part of the pact.


“It would give us an advantage in some of those Asian markets over the U.S. because it would give us preferential tariffs on oil,” he said.


The council believes TPP11 would help the canola industry achieve its objective of doubling domestic canola crush to 14 million tonnes per year by 2025.


The Canadian Pork Council also wants Canada to take a leadership role at the meeting in Vietnam.


“Canada’s pork producers re-quest that the Government of Canada work to ensure a TPP11 agreement is implemented without jeopardizing the negotiated outcomes on market access that were agreed to in the original TPP agreement,” CPC chair Rick Bergmann said in a news release.


The council said Japan is the most lucrative market, but there is also opportunity to gain market share in Singapore, Vietnam and Malaysia.


White said time is of the essence because earlier this summer Japan reached a free trade agreement in principal with the European Union, and EU meat exporters are pushing for quick ratification and implementation of that pact.


CMC said implementation of that agreement before TPP11 would be a “devastating blow” to Canada’s meat sector because it would lose ground to the EU.


“Once you lose market share it’s very, very tough to get that back,” he said.


The Asia-Pacific region is critically important for the meat industry. Twenty-eight percent of Canada’s $6.2 billion in meat exports went to TPP11 countries last year.


The CMC estimates TPP11 would result in $500 million in additional annual meat sales to Japan with $300 million of that for pork and $200 million for beef.


That is why the industry is concerned about competitors receiving advanced preferential access to the market, such as what recently occurred in South Korea.


That caused meat exports to Korea to plummet by 56 percent. CMC said Canada will be playing catch-up in Korea over the 15-year implementation period of its free trade agreement with the country.


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