Conservatives promise no dairy market access in future trade deals

The Liberals, Conservatives, and NDP have been battling it out in Question Period over the past year, and on the election trail – who is a bigger supporter of Canadian dairy farmers and the future stability of supply management? Both the Liberals and Conservatives are in favour of compensation for dairy farmers based on market access permanently given up in the CETA, CPTPP, and USMCA deals. At the ag leaders debate on Tuesday, Conservative agriculture and agri-food shadow minister Luc Berthold raised the stakes on the future.

“First and foremost, our party and Andrew Scheer has undertaken to provide no future concessions in future trade agreements,” Berthold said (translated from French), referencing the question in regards to supply management during the debate.

One farm leader asked RealAgriculture (perhaps somewhat facetiously), “Does this mean that we are not going to negotiate free trade deals in the future?”

The answer may be in what free trade deals Canada will be pursuing in the next four years.

RealAgriculture founder Shaun Haney says, “Maybe the Conservatives feel deals with South America and India can forge ahead without discussions on dairy. I would question this strategy, specifically as it pertains to a free trade deal with the UK post-BREXIT, unless the Conservatives claim that those talks have already started, and therefore are not included in their statement on ‘future trade agreements.'”

During the NAFTA renegotiation the Liberals routinely repeated that they would stick up for dairy farmers and protect the survival of supply management. In the end, Justin Trudeau and the Liberals agreed to extinguish Class 7 pricing and gave additional dairy market access to the Americans. Fresh off the support that dairy farmers gave Andrew Scheer in his Conservative leadership battle with Maxime Bernier, the Conservative party has claimed to be the true protectors of supply management.

“With dairy market access frequently being the carrot for Canada to close trade deals, removing that carrot could prove difficult in the future,” says Haney.

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