An open letter to federal party leaders

All party leaders and their candidates are asked to take the time to appreciate the important contribution that agri-food exports make to the Canadian economy.  |  File photo

Dear Party Leaders:

As the voice of Canadian agri-food exporters, representing the 90 percent of farmers, producers, food processors and agri-food exporters who rely on global markets for their livelihoods, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance is writing to express what’s needed for Canada’s agri-food exporters as we enter the homestretch of the 43rd election.

As a trade dependent nation, we are disappointed by the lack of serious discussion in this election about how to secure Canada’s long-term economic success by continuing to grow our exports. According to the Government of Canada’s own statistics, one in five Canadian jobs depends on exports. All parties should be paying more attention to what’s urgently needed to build a more prosperous future for our children.

Last year, Canadian agri-food exports reached a record high of $59.3 billion. Today, protectionism, mis-aligned regulations and trade disputes continue to disrupt global supply chains, undermining the multilateral trading system and depriving the global economy of the predictability businesses need. Many also believe an intensifying global trade war may plunge the world into another recession. Opportunities for further growth are being threatened by unprecedented uncertainty.

For the agri-food industry, trade and international politics are now as important as the weather.

These are our key recommendations for addressing this situation:

Preserve and enhance access in key export markets

  • Ratify the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement as quickly as possible to ensure the stability of trade in North America.
  • Promote the proper implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to ensure that rules are respected.
  • Expedite discussions with Europe to remove non-tariff barriers affecting meat, durum and biotech exports so the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement can deliver commercially viable access for Canadian exporters.

Create new export opportunities

  • Bring additional countries into the CPTPP such as South Korea, Thailand and Indonesia.
  • Foster positive, long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with China.
  • Launch free trade talks with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the United Kingdom.

Support rules-based trade and the global trading system

  • Support efforts to reform and modernize the World Trade Organization so that it remains an effective organization at the forefront of the global trading system.
  • Ensure that regulatory measures don’t impede trade and encourage greater harmonization, adherence to international standards and better processes for the agri-food trade.

Prioritize Canada’s trade objectives

  • Focus on trade negotiations that hold the greatest promise for Canadian businesses.

Ultimately, we want to create sustainable opportunity for Canada. Over the next 20 to 30 years, the global demand for agri-food products will continue to grow rapidly, driven by population growth and rising incomes around the world. It is projected that agricultural demand in 2050 will be 50 percent higher than it was in 2013, according to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization. As the world’s fifth largest agri-food exporter, this presents an immense global growth opportunity for Canada.

We ask that all party leaders and their candidates take the time to appreciate the important contribution that agri-food exports make to the Canadian economy. We encourage you to engage with us in the days and weeks ahead, meet with industry leaders and perhaps tour a farm or a food manufacturer to gain a first-hand understanding of what’s needed for Canadian exports to grow.

Working together, we can ensure Canada continues to be at the forefront of enabling export growth, a steadfast supporter of the global trading system and a leading supplier of high-quality agriculture and agri-food products for the world.


Dan Darling

Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance president

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