Just when you think you know someone. Open the paper yesterday and it appears that Prime Minister Stephen Harper has offered up the supply management industry in negotiations to allow Canada to be apart of the TPP.

I made several calls to members involved with the dairy lobby and trade and the feelings are strongly in the camp of surprise for supply management to be on the table. When I read the paper this morning my first thought was that Mr. Harper’s comments were made to get into a party (being TPP). An empty promise so to speak.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada were very clear to me that Mr. Harper has repeatedly stated that supply management is not up for negotiation.

Personally last week I heard federal ag-minister Gerry Ritz stated to a group in Calgary that supply management is different and not on the table.  In fact Mr. Ritz joked about how farmers get $0.25 for a $4.00 glass of milk and waiters want a 25% tip, who is the problem?  The crowd laughed.

It would appear that either Harper is trying to revolutionize agriculture in Canada by forgetting campaign promises or he is great at poker by bluffing the international trade community to gain entrance into TPP talks.

Asian trade is very critical to Canada and with last weeks Keystone Pipeline incident with the US, Canada has proof that it needs to focus on Asia. Kathleen Sullivan, Executive Director of CAFTA stated to me that,

Canada needs to be doing something in Asia.  Our opportunities are with South Korea and the TPP.  Canada needs to be at the party.”

From my discussion with Kathleen and others the consensus was that the structure of the quota system will not be touched but rules on imports may be tinkered with to satisfy the US and others.

The TPP provides the opportunity to access Asia but does supply management have to be sacrificed?  At this point from what I am hearing it won’t be.

One thought on “Is Supply Management Really on the Table?

  1. Hi Shaun – At the Grains Industry Symposium this week in Ottawa, Gilles Gauthier (Canada’s lead agriculture negotiator for the Canada EU Trade talks) was asked point blank if Canada’s position on supply management had changed. Gauthier replied that as far as he was concerned, our position remained the same. Similarly, a senior representative from the poultry sector was not concerned about any change in Canada’s position.

    In my opinion (and countless others’ as well), support for supply management is too politically valuable to toss out without securing significant concessions from the other side. We would have to secure some major market access successes to trade away supply management. And the knock on effects of transition, should Canada decide to phase out supply management, would be extremely costly in this time of fiscal restraint. As a final observation, if the Conservatives ever want to regain seats in Quebec, they will have to maintain their position on supply management for the next few years at least. Public opinion would have to shift significantly in Quebec and Ontario to get movement on this file.

    Canada has a well worn cow path on this issue!

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