Glacier FarmMedia – Canadian agricultural representatives have urged government to work with trade partners to eliminate non-tariff trade barriers.
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These barriers are stifling Canadian exports even where trade agreements have been signed, they told the standing committee on international trade in late May.
Why it matters: Trade opportunities are not being realized due to non-tariff barriers, according to grain and pork exporters in Canada.
Dave Carey, vice-president of government and industry relations at the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA), said the agreement with the European Union is a good example.
“Tariffs on canola were eliminated, creating new opportunities in the EU’s biofuels market, but the canola sector continues to lack market certainty,” he said.
“The agreement has been in place for over five years and we continue to face non-scientific requirements for crop protection products, delays and approvals for new crop varieties from biotechnology and differing approaches to environmental and social protections.”
The CCGA recommended a commitment from all government departments to resolve non-tariff barriers and that future agreements include solutions to manage issues around innovation and sustainability.
“Once a (free trade agreement) goes into effect, a strategy is required and dedicated resources are needed to ensure full implementation and compliance with the negotiated agreement and concessions, particularly in the areas of sanitary and phytosanitary measures and technical barriers to trade,” said Janelle Whitley, the CCGA senior policy development manager.
The Canola Council of Canada (CCC) said countries have been more protectionist. Chris Davison, vice-president of stakeholder and industry relations, reminded the committee of a report from the CCC, Cereals Canada and Pulse Canada.
“The report documented broad use of non-tariff barriers in the agricultural sector in IndoPacific countries,” he said, which they used to limit imports.
Davison said countries are worried about protecting domestic agriculture and consumers are concerned about practices they think might affect food safety.
“Moving away from science-based measures generates greater trade unpredictability,” he said.
Countries are adopting their own sanitary and phytosanitary measures and that has resulted in a patchwork of requirements that don’t align.
Mark Walker, Cereals Canada’s vice-president of markets and trade, echoed the concerns.
He cited sanitary and phytosanitary requirements in Vietnam as a reason for declining wheat shipments.
“Following the implementation of the CPTPP, Vietnam’s regulator added creeping thistle to its list of prohibited pests and thereby restricted Canadian wheat imports,” he told the committee.
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“Since the restriction of trade in 2019, Canadian wheat shipments have only been feasible in container quantities. Instead of increased market access, Canadian exporters have experienced increased logistics costs and regulatory uncertainty that saw Canadian wheat imports to Vietnam fall from 375,000 tonnes in 2019 to only 20,000 tonnes last year.”
Walker urged the government to focus on language surrounding non-tariff trade barriers when negotiating future agreements or renegotiating existing pacts, as well as binding dispute resolution processes to re-open borders when barriers are put up.
The Canadian Pork Council repeated the message it recently delivered to the agriculture committee, saying other countries don’t seem to respect Canada when they impose non-tariff barriers.
“Non-tariff trade barriers are not supposed to be intentional. If we do not defend ourselves, our trading partner will continue to disrespect us as a country,” said chair Rene Roy.
He said Canada responded to American steel tariffs with a targeted set of retaliatory measures and that worked. The same should be done in agriculture, he said.
– This article was originally published at The Western Producer.