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Canada not benefiting from CETA, Bibeau says

Ex-premiers write to Ottawa with critique of EU's continued trade barriers

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Canada is not benefiting from the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union (EU), federal Agriculture Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau grants.

Expected to spur $1.5 billion in new agri-food exports, the free trade deal has fallen short of those targets since its implementation in 2017.

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

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“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, signed by Jean Charest, Brad Wall, Kathleen Wynne, Gary Doer and Ed Stelmach.

As an example, the premiers cited Italy’s country-of-origin labelling, which has prevented durum 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 Friday at Politico’s Agriculture and Food Summit, 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 adding she would definitely like Canada to benefit from CETA, “which is not the case yet.”

Later during her appearance, she said there have been some wins via CETA, highlighting Canada’s success with canola and biofuel exports.

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

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

“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 said.

During her appearance at the Politico event, Bibeau highlighted Canada’s work to reform the World Trade Organization (WTO), saying it’s important 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.

— D.C. Fraser reports for Glacier FarmMedia from Ottawa.

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D.C. Fraser

D.C. Fraser is Glacier FarmMedia’s Ottawa-based reporter. Growing up mostly in Alberta, Fraser also lived in Saskatchewan for ten years where he covered politics, including a stint teaching at the University of Regina’s School of Journalism. He is an avid fan of the outdoors and a pretty good beer league hockey player. His passion for agriculture and agri-food policy comes naturally: Six consecutive generations of his family have worked in the industry.

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