Why is Canada Having So Many Market Access Issues?

This week I attended the Canada Grains Council Meeting and listened to a very interesting day of reports on the market access issues that Canada is facing.  Unless you have been in Phoenix all winter I am sure that you have not missed the whole Triffid flax issue that has thrown a real wrench in our country’s ability to market flax into the EU for example.

As I sat there and listened I wondered, why does it seem that we have so many issues in comparison to other countries that market their beef, grain and oilseeds around the world. Is it because we are to nice?  Do countries like to push us around because we tend to not bite back?  Or are we doing our best and market access issues are just a part of doing business globally in this time of non-tariff barriers and protectionism.  With the recent global economic hardship it does seem that countries are playing the protectionist card more often.   

I posed this question to several industry friends throughout the week and the surprising answer that I got back was, “We ask to many questions.”  The first place my brain leapt to was, “Is Canada much more transparent in trade than other countries?”  Transparency is good but if other use it to their advantage and use it against you that can be devastating.    I have never been on a trade mission or had to resolve trade disputes so I am very much shooting in the dark with this post.  What I think all this does is stimulate conversation and curiosity around Canada’s agricultural trade struggles dating back to BSE in 2003.  If you remember back to BSE many cattle people said that Canada should of been more like the US and we should, “Shoot shovel and shut-up.”  Pretty radical comments and not maybe what I would lead with in any negotiation but a comment repeated many times buy many people.  Although I do not agree with this sort of attitude.  I have alsways believed that this is one of the reasons why people trust us as Canadians.  You just have to look at the recall at Toyota to se what withholding information can do to your brand. 

Canada is a country that prides itself internationally on having a very good regulatory system in terms of food safety throughout the food chain.  Canada is a country respected for its transparency but is this a new world of trade where opportunity trumps long term relationships.  Places like the EU and China seem to write the rules as they go depending on what is to their advantage.

Or is all this just our imagine and Canada faces no more trade issues than any other country that is trying to access the European Union and China.

The following was written by Kevin Hursh whom was at the same meeting as myself this week:

It€™s easy to scoff at the import standards of other countries €“ standards that seem designed to restrict trade. However, as Canadians we need to get our house in order before we criticize too much. On one hand, we€™re pushing other countries to develop a Low Level Presence (LLP) policy, but we don€™t have one. The absence of an LLP is contributing to the problem with Canadian flax going into Europe. Since the GM variety known as Triffid isn€™t registered in Europe, there€™s essentially a zero tolerance. With a Low Level Presence policy, the idea is to give some credence to the registration policies in other reputable countries. If other countries after diligent testing say a crop variety is 100 per cent safe, it seems reasonable to accept that variety at low levels. After all, some minor mixing of crops is always going to occur. The default position should not be zero. Scores of new GM crop traits are coming in the years ahead. If Canada wants other countries to adopt reasonable import standards, we need to lead with an LLP policy of our own. I€™m Kevin Hursh.

Please let us know what you think in regards to Canada and trade.  Should Canada be more aggressive?  Is Canada doing as well as it can in terms of trade considering where we stand in the global arena?  Please let us know why you think Canada seems to be having so many market access issues?

 

Shaun Haney

Shaun grew up on a family seed farm in Southern Alberta. Haney Farms produces, conditions and retails wheat, barley, canola and corn seed. Shaun Haney is the founder of RealAgriculture.com. @shaunhaney

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6 Comments

Ronnie

I think part of the reason that we have so many issues in Canada is that we are too transparent at times when we don’t need to be. Instead of answering questions Canada asks more questions.

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Gordon Butcher

I do agree with Kevin on having a LLP policy here in Canada. However, I really do believe that Canada needs to develop a long term strategy to influence the “general public” in Europe and elsewhere that GM crops are safe to the public and the environment. We continually to develop new GM varieties and have great science behind this technology but no strategy to inform the public. These countries do believe in our science in many cases but they are reacting to public pressure and will continue to react to public pressure because the public continues to be fed false information by the greenies. Canada and US should work together to develop a global campaign to change the publics perceptions on all these crops and of course the industry should step up as well.
The industry has been completely focused on governments and really just keeping their heads above water on this issue. Industry expects the government to educate and inform the public on this issue which they do not do well. However, the industry spends no effort in resources or dollars addressing the public but are the first to complain and run to government for help.

Reply
Dennis Laughton P.Ag

Most of the development of GM crops has been of great benefit to the grower, not to the consumer. The consumer has no reason to identify with a RR canola or a BT corn.
BT corn could have a strong fewer pesticides applied message, canola could have a strong “healthy oil”” message.
There needs to be more emphasis on the benefit to the consumer with current crops and in future crop development programs.
I also agree with the above message, it is up to the industry to be proactive.

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Glenda Elkow

Hello. I just read your article regarding Canada’s market access issues. I am an elk farmer in Alberta and am currently the Chair of the Alberta Elk Commission and a VP on the Canadian Cervid Alliance. Our major market to South Korea has been closed since Dec 2000 and China closed about 6 years ago. It has been difficult for our industry to motivate the Canadian government in a big way to negotiate this issue with these countries. In all fairness, they did go to Korea a few times during the first few years of the closure. BUT, they haven’t done much in recent years. They do contact those governments and ask but they don’t get in there and negotiate. It’s like we have to meet all their ridiculous, non science based (obviously protectionist) rules and our government doesn’t even counteract that. Our government doesn’t require those same rules for their (same) products coming into Canada. In the meantime, our industry is held ransom in all of this. By the way, the producers in Korea and China who raise elk/deer for their antler are quite happy with the high prices they are getting while we are kept out. We are obviously frustrated with the Canadian approach to these issues.

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Shaun Haney

Glenda I sympathize with your frustration. These situations become even more frustrating when you are working in a relatively fringe area of agriculture. On top of this is the fact that you as a smaller group you do not have the resources to represent yourselves in trade negotiations.

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Don Whitecotton

I amvery frustrated with the protectionism of some countries. It seems Canada has different countries wiping their feet on us consistantly. Canada is in a huge trade deficit with Korea and our government can’t say no to their cars, cel phones, electronics, etc.
China might be another one we can’t say no to. Can you pick up anything today that is made anywhere but China? Well not many things.
The good old USA is another one with tariffs on lumber and others, although I will cut them a little slack because we are neighbors.
There lots more examples so I say to our government trade people, “start earning your generous paycheck before you retire.”

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