WTO complaint against China urged

The Conservative opposition earlier this week called on the federal government to launch a World Trade Organization complaint against China over its refusal to take Canadian canola shipments.

Even as agriculture minister Marie-Claude Bibeau hinted some type of assistance announcement was coming soon, agriculture critic Luc Berthold said concerns from pea, soybean and pork producers that they could be next are all rising due to government inaction on the canola file.

Berthold met with Manitoba farmers last week, including Keystone Agricultural Producers and canola growers.

“Uncertainty is what they’re feeling most,” he said in an interview. “They are hesitating to sell (canola) because the price is really low.”

Prices for other commodities are also low, leaving them with few real economic options, Berthold said.

“The government should move,” he said.

Conservative leader Andrew Scheer held a news conference April 29 to say the government should appoint an ambassador to China, increase the Advance Payment Program from $400,000 to $1 million, and take China to the WTO.

The Conservatives say that it’s obvious China’s actions have nothing to do with science.

“Given the fact that China is not even willing to receive a delegation of scientists and agricultural experts from Canada we should immediately launch a WTO complaint against China,” said a background document issued with a news release.

Scheer said Canadian farmers are “paying for Justin Trudeau’s weak leadership and poor judgment” as he allows China to walk all over him.

China restricted trade in late February, citing pests in Canadian canola, after Canadian authorities detained Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou under an extradition agreement with the U.S.

During question period on April 29, the Conservatives asked several times what the government was doing to help canola farmers.

Bibeau said the government has stood with farmers since the beginning and continues to work with the provinces and growers to resolve the issue.

“I will have some good news to announce shortly to further assist our producers,” she said.

Berthold said a WTO complaint would at least signal that Canada isn’t just waiting for China to change its mind.

“Starting this complaint is the first step for making sure that China understands,” he said.

Saskatchewan trade minister Jeremy Harrison has said that predictable, stable trade rules such as those under the WTO are necessary.

“It’s been highly concerning to see what we thought were rules-based trading relationships being essentially put into serious question over the course of the last couple of years,” he told reporters, referring to agricultural trade problems with Italy and Saudi Arabia as well.

Harrison said Canada doesn’t have the respect of its trading partners and the federal government should look in the mirror as to why that has happened.

Premier Scott Moe said Ottawa has not demonstrated any forceful attempt to resolve the matter, pointing out the request to change the cash advance system was made in March.

Contact karen.briere@producer.com

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