Canada has officially been asked to join the Trans Pacific Partnership, a trade group of now 11 countries representing 658 million people. Trade deals have been a major focus of Stephen Harper’s government, but as of yet a major trade deal had alluded him. This TPP invitation, then, is a very big deal.
Joining the Trans Pacific Partnership, at this point, simply means Canada has been offered a seat at the table to talk. Getting this far, however, means that Canada has agreed to put absolutely all trade programs up for discussion — including supply management. In the same breath, the government has said it will protect the supply managed sectors. Can they do both?
Well, yes. Saying you’ll put a program or agreement or trade relationship “on the table” and up for discussion does not necessarily mean it will be scrapped or abandoned. By saying they are willing to discuss everything, Harper’s government is included in the TPP — the cost of the ticket in was not supply management, only the willingness to discuss supply management.
While chicken, egg and turkey production is also governed by supply management in Canada, it’s our dairy industry that always seems to be the most contentious. The Dairy Farmers of Canada says that this week’s official announcement changes nothing. The organization firmly believes that supply management will be protected. “The Canadian government has successfully concluded several trade deals and maintained supply management. We expect that the government will maintain its position to defend supply management in all international forums and bilateral trade negotiations,” the DFC states.
What do you think? Can Canada maintain supply management as it is and fully participate in the TPP? Will small changes, if any, be enough? Or will the government eventually abandon the system? Should they?