Trade deals like the Comprehensive Economic Agreement with the European Union and the Trans-Pacific Partnership would erode supply management while providing few benefits to the majority of Canadians, maintains Scott Sinclair of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.

The Georgetown resident was slated to be one of the keynote speakers at the recent annual meeting of District 1 Region 1 of the National Farmers Union. However, inclement weather conditions prevented him from attending and his speech was delivered by Edith Ling, the women’s district director.

Sinclair maintained it is not a foregone conclusion that either of these agreements will be approved, noting CETA faces considerable opposition in Europe over its inclusion of an investor-state dispute settlement mechanism. Meanwhile, the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations are not yet concluded and the agreement faces significant opposition, including in the U.S. Congress.“While this opposition abroad is encouraging, PEI farmers can’t rely on others to fight their battles for them or merely hope these agreements will collapse because of opposition in other places,” the speech noted. “It is crucial to put pressure on the provincial government and all Island politicians to stand up forcefully to Ottawa and defend the supply management system.”

He argued supply management makes a lot of sense, especially in small rural communities like PEI. He noted farms in the supply managed sector tend to be among the industry’s strong performers while at the same time offering Canadians a fresh, local supply of milk, eggs and poultry at regulated prices.

Sinclair argued there is little doubt supply management violates free trade principles, but said “it is a democratic choice and a sensible one that is supported by the majority of Canadians.”

If the deal with the European Union is ratified, Europe will be allowed to essentially double its cheese exports to Canada, and Europeans will account for about one-third of the Canadian market for fine cheeses. In return, he said Canada will be allowed to ship up to 50,000 tonnes of hormone-free beef and 75,000 tonnes of pork duty free. He said those numbers account for 0.6 per cent of beef consumption and 0.4 per cent of the pork consumption of EU residents.

“This is not a reasonable trade-off,” Sinclair maintains. “We are certain the EU will fill the Canadian quota for cheese but no one can be sure that Canadian producers and processors will fill the quota for EU beef and pork.”

When it comes to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Sinclair said negotiations are in the final stages. He said Canada has not yet made an offer on dairy but noted “the dominoes are beginning to fall” since the United States has solved bilateral agricultural issues with Japan and the American dairy sector is relatively pleased with the deal.

“This means the US guns will now turn on Canada,” he predicted in the speech.

As well, he said New Zealand and Australia are looking for concessions from the Canadian dairy sector. He pointed to a letter last month signed by representatives of the U.S., Australian and New Zealand diary sectors saying “it is imperative that Canada provide commercially meaningful market openings for all dairy products if it is to remain a participant in the treaty.”

Sinclair said it is unclear how far Ottawa is prepared to go in dismantling supply management but said “if their true intent is to defend supply management, they have put themselves in an almost untenable position.”

Pointing to a recent promise by Premier Wade MacLauchlan to brand PEI as “Canada’s food Island”, Sinclair asked “Are dairy, poultry and egg farmers going to be part of food Island? if so, the provincial government needs to speak up loudly and publically in defence of supply management and it needs to happen right away.”

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