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The Ugly Canadian at global trade talks in Geneva

Jeffrey Simpson

Editorial - The Globe and Mail

mardi 29 juillet 2008


When is failure a success ?


For the Harper government, as for previous Canadian governments, failure in international trade negotiations means political success.


Failure prevents the government from having to face the ire and political retribution of Canada’s supply management groups, which govern the production, sale and pricing of eggs, poultry and dairy. These are the lobby groups Canadian politicians bow down before. In 2005, the House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution instructing negotiators to defend the existing supply management arrangements. Any change, according to the Commons, would be unacceptable. This from a group who couldn’t agree today is Tuesday.


Canada’s negotiators at the last-gasp meetings in Geneva this week are taking a position to defend supply management that will in effect lead to failure at the talks. After all, how do you negotiate in good faith when your negotiating instructions are that no changes must be made, ever, under any circumstances to the status quo ?


Whenever International Trade Minister Michael Fortier and Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz appear in public in Geneva, they are questioned, badgered and otherwise verbally accosted by the legions of supply management representatives who have descended on the city. Back home, these organizations issue threatening press releases at the hint of change to their cozy arrangements. On Saturday, when it looked as if progress was being made at the talks, Quebec’s farmers’ union denounced an "agreement concocted in secret" and demanded that Canada repudiate it.


What are the supply management arrangements ? In part, they allow tiny levels of imports, after which tariffs are imposed at 299 per cent for butter, 246 per cent for cheese and at astronomical levels for other dairy products, turkeys, chickens, eggs.


Every other advanced industrial country, including the United States and European Union members, are proposing cuts to subsidies and other barriers. Only Canada is against any change in its domestic arrangements. Predictably, Canada is completely isolated at Geneva.


Canada stands hypocritically before the world. Canada’s negotiators demand that other countries lower their subsides and protection for agricultural products that we export (grains, pork, cattle and the like), while insisting that whole sections of Canada’s agricultural market remain effectively closed to imports.


This hypocrisy has been widely noted abroad, but it apparently causes no ripples in Canada, where people either do not know about it or believe that Canada, being a moral superpower in its own mind, can afford the occasional lapse from unsullied virtue.


An early text of a possible agreement would have lowered tariffs gradually by 23 per cent, thereby still leaving them for many products in the range of 150 to 225 per cent - still astronomically higher than for any other products.


This possibility sent the supply-managed groups into paroxysms of anger. Dairy, poultry and egg producers jointly said such proposals would "destroy our farms by allowing Canada to be flooded with imported food." Such grotesque hyperbole is the stock and trade of these groups, but it frightens politicians of all stripes.


Stephen Harper’s government is supposed to be a free-trading group, proposing new deals with Colombia, Peru, the Caribbean and the EU, and waxing indignant at any threats to NAFTA. But when it comes to supply management, it nervously eyes seats it must win in rural Quebec and Ontario and acquiesces to the demands of farmers.


Quebec is the greatest beneficiary of supply management, since 47 per cent of the quota for industrial milk used to make butter, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products belongs to Quebec farmers. Half of Quebec’s production is therefore "exported" to the rest of Canada, which under supply management cannot import the same product from cheaper suppliers.


It’s an across-the-board, across-the-country racket.


Political will being completely absent in Canada, the only hope for trimming supply management lies in success at the WTO. If international trade talks succeed, Canada could never walk away from the entire agreement. If Canada tried, it would be outside the entire framework of international trading rules, a disaster for a trade-dependent economy.


So what Canadian ministers must do, as they are doing now, is put forth a position on supply management designed to prevent success while publicly insisting on striving for it.


It is the Ugly Canadian position.

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Je sais pas quoi penser de ça, d'un côté je suis complètement en faveur de laisser tomber des barrières pour abaisser les prix aux consommateurs au risque d'éradiquer complètement notre agriculture locale.


D'un autre côté, sans agriculture locale, on se mets dans une position fragile parcequ'on met en péril notre sécurité alimentaire et devenons dépendants des autres pour nous nourir! Pensez-y, c'est pas un problème en case de paix, mais on ne sait jamais qu'est ce que le future nous réserve et on sera pris dans une mauvaise posture ou l'industrie agricole sera décimée.


Pour ceux qui me dirait que ça va forcer nos agriculteurs à être plus compétitifs, pensez-y, les agricultures du sud sont plus performants puisqu'ils ont une météo plus clémente ce qu'on a pas ici.

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Malek, l'affaire ici ce n,est pas d'abolir les taxe sur les produits importés, mais juste de les baisser un peu (de 225% à 175%) ce qui encore très élevé. L'UPA est super bon à faire peur au gens avec leurs campagnes de peur à la mafia.


M. Simpson a raison, on ne peut pas demander aux autres pays de nous laisser leur vendre duboeuf et autres produits du genre, si on ne veux absolument rien savoir de négocier les tariffs pour leurs produits. C'est de l'hypocrisie et on peu blamer l'UPA pour ça!

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La "sécurité alimentaire" est pour moi une énorme bullshit de lobbyiste. On est dépendant d'autres pays pour la quasi-totalité de tout ce qu'on consomme au Canada (y compris les avions militaires...), je ne vois pas pourquoi les aliments seraient une exception. D'autant plus qu'il serait douteux que l'industrie disparaisse complétement même avec la disparition complète des barrières tarifaires vu qu'il resterait à mon avis des tonnes d'autres contraintes légales ou logistiques.


Les sous marins russes parcourent librement nos eaux arctiques mais par contre on aurait peur de pas savoir faire pousser des patates en temps de guerre? J'achète pas.

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