The government didn’t doubt the sincerity of the United States’ chief negotiator when he told them his President wanted Canada’s supply management systems “gone.”
Settling an update for the North American Free Trade Agreement had become tied to a few concessions on Canada’s part to ensure that a dispute resolution tool, outside of the U.S. court system, was in place. Agriculture’s supply management was needed to offset that argument and retain a panel-type dispute mechanism.
Ralph Goodale, Saskatchewan member of Parliament and federal minister of public safety, said that despite a good working relationship between Canada’s Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Sonny Perdue, the U.S. agriculture secretary, President Donald Trump’s threats to dairy and poultry systems in Canada were real and extensive.
“This was the third major one and, likely, the last of the big deals, that, in the course of negotiation, forms some existential threat to supply management,” said Goodale Oct. 4, suggesting the resulting proposed settlement, for about 3.6 percent of Canadian-market access for dairy, was better than what was being sought by the Americans.
During summer meetings between the two government agriculture leaders, Perdue and McCauley, Perdue had said his government wasn’t entirely convinced that supply management in Canada and the tariff restrictions it places on dairy and poultry imports needed to be eliminated. Despite this, his Trump repeatedly called for the elimination of the system after that, as recently as a few weeks before this week’s preliminary settlement.
Goodale said in both the new Trans Pacific Partnership deal and the European free trade agreement, Canadian legislators had been hit with heavy opposition to supply management.
“In the U.S. negotiation, (the Americans) wanted to get rid of the whole thing and we were determined not to,” said the minister.
Goodale said his government has committed to compensating supply-managed sector producers for their roles in attaining a revamped North American trade deal called the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.
“And we will do that quickly, so as to get the uncertainty out of this,” he said.
When asked about a continued risk to Canadian supply management systems with each subsequent trade deal, Goodale said it is likely to have mostly come to an end.
Goodale said another element of the USMCA that has been seen as a potential issue is the section of the agreement allowing parties to withdraw if one member makes, or is making, a new free-trade relationship with a non-market economy, such as China.
“All this means is that, given the required notice period they can leave. They can’t kick another party out of the agreement,” he said. The subject has been a concern for canola growers who would look forward to any improved relations with China.