If, as is suspected, veterinary health certificates for pork exports to China were falsified by an exterior source, it is ironic that Canadian pork quality is so well respected that it was deemed to be worthy of counterfeiting, and thus caused a disruption in trade.
Such is the precarious state of trade with China these days.
Anger is being directed at the federal government over all disruptions, not just our trade with China. The Western Canadian Wheat Growers Association released a statement June 17 chiding Ottawa because it “still doesn’t have a real strategy to deal with the trade problems we have with China, Saudi Arabia, Italy, Peru, Vietnam and India.”
Let’s take a look at those issues.
Earlier this year, China refused to accept Canadian canola, claiming pest issues, which Canadian officials say is provably wrong. It’s widely accepted, and even tacitly admitted by the Chinese, that the move is in response to Canada’s detention of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou at the request of the United States.
Canada is caught in the midst of a dispute between two superpowers — the U.S. and China — the latter of which is willing to put trade rules, longstanding partnerships and human rights on hold.
Canada’s strategy thus far has been to tackle the science of the issue, as advised by the Canola Council of Canada, and to stand up to a bully by refusing to alter a longstanding legal extradition agreement. Canadian officials are also looking to develop new markets for canola and adjusting support programs.
Now, pork and beef exports to China have been halted due to falsified certification and the presence of ractopamine, which is banned in China, the European Union and 160 other countries.
Some Italian food groups are using glyphosate levels well below maximum residue limits in Canadian grain to poison Canada’s reputation for high-quality durum to protect their domestic market. Canada could dump Italian wine in the Saint Lawrence River, but would it affect the Italian industry groups’ campaign?
India is protecting its pulse support price for poverty-stricken farmers by placing import tariffs on Canadian pulses. That is being challenged at the World Trade Organization.
Communist Vietnam has banned glyphosate. What can the Canadian government do about that?
Peru is complaining about the presence of weeds in Canadian wheat. Earlier this year, it was reported that Cereals Canada was working with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to resolve the issue.
The only government-made issue is with Saudi Arabia, where Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman banned Canadian imports after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted concern over the detention of human rights activist Samar Badawi.
Given what we know about the Saudis — after journalist Kamal Khashoggi was murdered in its Turkish embassy — it is responsible for Canada to point out human rights abuses.
Many of these problems are industry issues that the government is expected to solve, as it did with a dockage issue in China in 2016. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau negotiated a stay in China’s decision that would have restricted canola imports. That was an industry issue.
The government has a role to play, by asking if Canadian veterinary health certificates are too easily falsified.
But industry also has responsibility. Are producers using glyphosate as a desiccant when it’s increasingly under scrutiny by importers? Canadian beef producers must consider their continued use of ractopamine, and weeds in wheat are a process issue.
Canada cannot take for granted that high quality exports will always be deemed as such. Producers, processors and exporters must examine their own procedures.
The government can’t solve all these problems alone.
Karen Briere, Bruce Dyck, Barb Glen, Brian MacLeod and Michael Raine collaborate in the writing of Western Producer editorials.