MacAulay talks trade in Washington

Federal agriculture minister Lawrence MacAulay’s first official visit to Washington focused on trade ties with the United States, including the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

MacAulay met with US agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack Jan. 14.

“There was a lengthy discussion on TPP and he was indicating the pros and cons, as I was too, and what we’re hearing in both countries,” MacAulay told reporters on a conference call from Washington.

“I would think that he would be hopeful there would be an agreement but of course it has to go through the same political process here as it does in Canada.”

MacAulay said Vilsack couldn’t say whether the TPP would be ratified, and neither could he.

“The president called for it in the state of the union address but it’s difficult for me to speculate.”

In Canada, he said the government intends to consult stakeholders and then have a full debate in the House of Commons before a ratification vote.

The two also discussed the repeal of country-of-origin labelling and MacAulay said restoration of an integrated supply chain for beef and pork is important.

When asked about the fate of sheep and lamb products, he said they were unfortunately left out of the picture.

The U.S. vote Dec. 18 to repeal its COOL legislation affects only beef and pork products. Lamb and chicken must still be labelled.

MacAulay was unsure what the government could do now.

“You’re fully aware how much time it took to deal with COOL on pork and beef,” he said. “I would never say there’s no place to go. You can always discuss the issue.”

He added that voluntary labelling did not come up in the discussions.

The minister was to meet with U.S. companies and associations from the COOL Reform Coalition to reaffirm that Canada will monitor how Canadian beef and pork products are treated in the marketplace.

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