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?

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