Volume 6 Issue 3 • December 5, 2011

In This Issue ...

 

Improving trade ties in the EU

The Canadian Cattlemen's Association's (CCA) efforts to improve trade links in the European Union (EU) through strengthening relationships with cattle sector organizations there continued in November with visits to England, Ireland and Belgium.

CCA Vice-President and Foreign Trade Chair Martin Unrau, CCA Director John Gillespie and staff Director of Government and International Relations, John Masswohl divvied up the duties on this latest trade mission, which included face-to-face meetings with producer groups and meat industry organizations and tours to auction marts, feedlots and farms. Throughout these meetings, the CCA shared information in support of improved Canada-EU cattle and beef trade and communicated Canada's desire to restore full bilateral trade with Europe.

Earlier this year, CCA representatives visited France and Spain to strengthen relationships with cattle producer organizations and differentiate Canadian cattle production and beef exports. These trips followed Canada gaining access in early 2011 to the new 21,500 tonne duty-free quota for high quality grain-fed beef shared with the U.S., Australia, New Zealand and Uruguay. The missions were undertaken with the expectation that further access should come from an increase in the quota to 48,000 tonnes and improved technical conditions in 2012, and longer term through the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) and the removal of BSE restrictions on EU exports.

CCA VP Martin Unrau (L) and John Gillespie (R) (background) enjoy a discussion at a cattle finishing operation in England.
Photo credit: John Masswohl

In England, the CCA met with representatives of the National Farmers Union (NFU) and the English Beef and Sheep Meat industry (Eblex). In Ireland, the CCA met with the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers Association (ICSA). CCA representatives held meetings with some food promotion representatives, industry analysts and government officials and visited the local Canadian Embassies so they can reinforce our positions post-mission.

The meetings took place in formal office settings and continued casually over meals and during farm visits, providing an opportunity for frank discussion on trade as well as regulatory and production issues. The commonalities between the countries were highlighted. Unrau noted that Canada's herd is made up of British breeds mixed with Continental breeds and that Canada is an exporter and trader. To assuage concerns of unfair competition, Unrau always clarifies that "We're traders, but not dumpers," to differentiate Canada from the European producers' perceptions of Brazil and New Zealand. Canada's objective for trade is to export every piece of the animal to the market that will pay the most for it. We also explained that we operate in a high cost of production environment that will only increase to meet the EU so-called 'hormone-free' requirement. Consequently, we tend to be focused on the high quality, higher price end of the market. We also stressed to them that Canada sees trade as a two-way proposition and that the CCA will work to ensure that there are market access opportunities in both directions.

The Irish groups highlighted that Ireland exports approximately 90 per cent of its beef production, but this statistic is not well known as almost all their exports are to other EU Member countries. Although Ireland and the UK have the same BSE risk status as Canada and the U.S., this has not yet been recognized by most countries including Canada and the U.S. They were clear that they want to see this addressed. We assured them that the CCA will work toward this outcome as it is in the interest of the Canadian cattle producer to ensure that all countries, including Canada, are respecting the OIE risk categories. We also highlighted that we must achieve this progress in a coordinated way with the U.S. due to the nature of North American cattle industry integration.

In Brussels, home of the EU Commission and the European Parliament, Gillespie and Masswohl teamed up with representatives from the Canadian Agri-food Trade Alliance (CAFTA). The objectives were two-fold: to begin a dialogue with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) on the CETA and to meet with Commission officials regarding some of the technical trade issues, particularly the functioning of the beef duty-free quota. Gillespie said the meetings in Brussels were extremely worthwhile. "I was very pleased with the open access we had to the MEPs and their willingness to take our views into account," he said.

Regarding the existing beef quota issue, on November 22 the MEPs' committees on Agriculture and on International Trade approved increasing the quota amount to 48,000 tonnes. This is still subject to ratification by the full EU Parliament, likely in mid-January, and some legal steps by the Commission officials. The best case scenario is that the increased quota amount could be in effect by April or May 2012. That said, difficulties with how the quota is allocated remain and a resolution short of unlimited access is difficult to see.

 

CCA Fly-in with Alberta Beef Producers


CanFax Market Briefs On November 29, the Alberta Beef Producers (ABP) sent four board members to Ottawa for the latest CCA Fly-In Day.  Greg Bowie from Ponoka, Bob Lowe from Nanton, Doug Sawyer from Pine Lake and Dave Solverson from Camrose spent the day with CCA Ottawa staff John Masswohl and Ryder Lee meeting with 11 rural Alberta MPs along with the Liberal and NDP vice chairs of the Standing Committees on International Trade and Agriculture.

The two teams discussed the importance of restarting free trade negotiations with Korea to keep from falling behind the U.S. who recently ratified their own FTA with South Korea.  Canada-Korea negotiations were last held in 2008 with the main issues being autos and beef.  Korea's recent agreement to work toward allowing access for Canadian beef by year's end removes that barrier.  The Korea-U.S. agreement had been held up due to automobile issues but those were solved.  Negotiations should be able to solve this problem for Canada's car manufacturers as the North American car industry is completely integrated.

Japan's announcement of intention to enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) makes Canada's recent announcement to join that negotiation very welcome to the Canadian cattle industry.  The group congratulated the government on entering these talks and encouraged them to also begin a bilateral free trade agreement negotiation with Japan.  Among the goals here would be removal of Japan's 38.5 per cent tariff on Canadian beef.

Next steps in relation to U.S. country of origin labelling (COOL) were also on the agenda.  MPs were urged to bring this up in all their interactions with U.S. counterparts to try to get the U.S. to move to resolution of the issue rather than appeal of the WTO ruling of November 18.  That ruling was strongly in Canada's favour.  It is important to let lawmakers south of the border know that Canada seeks a surgical amendment applying only to live cattle and hog exports.  We do not seek the total removal of origin labels on food. The U.S. has until early in 2012 to appeal the WTO finding.

Competitiveness issues were also part of the discussions.  There continues to be concern with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) development and implementation of regulations on feed, specified risk materials, and other areas that add to the cost of the regulated.  These costs are passed on to primary producers.  There is also concern that the next time a domestic issue arises, the CFIA's focus on their role as the competent authority for export certification will be sacrificed as focus on the domestic issue takes over.  MPs were asked to keep an eye on this to ensure the CFIA remains accountable for their function related to exports.

The Canadian cattle industry's duty-free, quota-free access goal for the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) negotiations was also part of the discussion.  Although the EU is a very big market, added costs and uncertainty of a small quota mean very few producers are making the commitment to producing for the market.  A large quota would remove some of the uncertainty that goes with the multiple year commitment to growing cattle for the EU beef market.

The group reiterated the industry's commitment to research and market development and request for government investment in both areas.  Industry has recently increased funding for research by 150 per cent in recognition of the payback on dollars invested.  The CCA has requested that the next federal budget commits more funding to agriculture research and market development.  The coming expiry of the Legacy Fund and reduced check-off funds due to Canada's shrinking herd will make it challenging to fully invest in all areas where market growth is possible.  Government can help by partnering with industry to lift the prospects of all producers through research and market development.  The group reminded MPs who cautioned that the coming budget translated into a 5-to 10 per cent cut in every department that a reduction in ethanol subsidies could be considered for savings.  Removing subsidies for production, tariffs on imports and mandates for inclusion in fuel would put ethanol producers and livestock producers on an even competitive field when purchasing grain.

The positive outlook for the Canadian industry and discussion areas that were forward looking rather than immediate crises made for a good day of productive meetings.  Producers interested in raising these issues with their MP can click here to download speaking points. The next CCA Fly-In will be after the House returns from its Christmas break.

 

Prescriptive regulations amended to be more outcome-based

Regulations Amending the Meat Inspection Regulations, 1990 were published in Canada Gazette II, recently. Among other things the amendments changed the language of the regulations from "requirements that specify how an outcome must be achieved, where possible, to outcome-based requirements that rely on principles and outcome-focussed rules." 

According to the Regulatory Impact Analysis Statement published with the changes, these amendments will allow "more small and medium-sized enterprises to access the federal system and, therefore, trade inter-provincially."

The CCA has lobbied for and supports this change.  It is encouraging that the CFIA has found a way to incorporate outcome-based language in place of prescription.  This change should increase the access to markets beyond provincial borders for some processors in Canada which in turn adds to the demand for Canadian cattle. To view the original post on Canada Gazette II click here.

 

CCA Career Opportunity - Communications Coordinator

The CCA is looking for a communications coordinator with strong writing, editing and organizational skills to assist in its ongoing national communications. The ideal candidate should possess a degree or diploma in public relations, communications or a related field with 1 - 3 years related experience. A background in agriculture would be an asset. Posting closes December 16. To view the job posting in full, click here.

 
CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: John Masswohl, Ryder Lee
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel and Tracy Sakatch



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