Canada not benefitting from CETA: Bibeau

Canada’s Minister of Agriculture Marie-Claude Bibeau admits the country is not benefiting from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.

Expected to reach $1.5 billion in new agri-food exports, the deal has fallen short of those targets since being implemented in 2017.

In a Sept. 21 letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, five former premiers wrote the deal has “failed to deliver on its promises for Canada’s agri-food exporters.”

“This outcome results from the EU Commission and EU member states continuing to impose a wide range of trade barriers for pork, beef, canola, sugar and grains, or failing to reduce those that were to be lowered or eliminated altogether through CETA,” reads the letter penned by former Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall and others.

As an example, the premiers cited Italy’s country of origin labelling that has prevented wheat exports from Canada to the country, calling it “unquestionably offside from both the EU’s CETA commitments and EU law and present the danger of being replicated on other commodities and jurisdictions.”

During her virtual appearance at Politico’s Agriculture and Food Summit on Sept. 25, Bibeau emphasized Canada’s commitment to advocating for rules and science-based trading with its partners, including the EU.

“I think the responsibility of the state is to ensure the safety of the food that is on the shelves in the grocery store and meeting the expectation of consumers is the responsibility of the industry,” she said, before saying she would like Canada to benefit from CETA “which is not the case yet.”

Later during her appearance, she said there have been some wins of the deal, highlighting the success of canola and bio-fuel exports.

“But overall we would like to see it more balanced,” she said.

The premiers called on Trudeau’s government to raise concerns with CETA “directly with EU leaders, including the leaders of relevant EU member states.” They warn a failure to address concerns with CETA poses a “reputational risk” for the EU.

“If the EU cannot implement and enforce agreements it has negotiated, its authority and credibility as a negotiating partner will be severely undermined. This is also true for Canada,” the letter stated.

During her appearance at the Politico event, Bibeau highlighted Canada’s work to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying it’s important that the international body “is strong and functioning well.”

She didn’t close the door on including agricultural subsidies as part of the discussions to succeed in that reform. Developing countries, particularly some in South America, have contended subsidies offered by the EU, the United States, Canada and other create an unfair global agri-food trading environment.

“I think it’s interesting to have this discussion, because it’s an issue even when we compare the level of support we can afford to give our farmers compared to the level of support they give in other countries, so yes, definitely something interesting to follow-up on,” she said.

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