UK transitional trade deal a "stop gap," but not enough, say agriculture groups


The Canada-United Kingdom transitional trade deal announced in a virtual press conference on Saturday by Prime Ministers Justin Trudeau and Boris Johnson and their respective trade ministers is a “welcome stop gap measure, but it is not enough,” says the president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA).

The deal — which requires Parliamentary approval and is meant to be temporary — will roll over the existing terms under the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA) to trade between Canada and the UK after January 1, 2021, when the UK cuts its final ties to the European Union.

“For some Canadian agri-food exporters, this interim agreement preserves existing market access to the UK during a period of transition. Our members welcome the temporary certainty and stability this provides for these sectors, and we look forward to assessing the agreement further when the full text is made available,” says Dan Darling, president of CAFTA, the coalition of export-oriented Canadian farm and commodity organizations.

That being said, the transitional agreement does not address the problems Canadian ag exporters have had with non-tariff trade barriers under CETA, he says.

“That is why we are urging both parties to return to the negotiating table as soon as possible in order to reach a comprehensive and more ambitious pact that removes tariffs and non-tariff barriers, provides liberal rules of origin and creates a level playing that will enable increased trade and deliver commercially viable two-way growth for agri-food,” says Darling. “A transitional agreement is a welcome stop gap measure but it is not enough.”

Tracy Gray, Conservative Shadow Minister for Export Promotion and International Trade, also welcomes the agreement, but is criticizing the government for “no mention of how the government negotiated dealing with increasing numbers of non-tariff trade barriers impeding trade for many industries.”

The UK government, in a statement, notes its farmers will continue to benefit from zero tariffs on many agricultural and seafood exports to Canada, including chocolate, confectionary, fruit and vegetables, bread, pastries and fish.

British officials have previously indicated they’d like more market access for cheeses and dairy products, however the transitional deal does not include any changes on that front, according to Canadian trade minister Mary Ng.

CAFTA is calling on lawmakers in Ottawa to approve the transitional agreement before the end of the year, but an implementation bill faces a tight timeline in Parliament, with the holiday break looming.

The transitional agreement does not include any end-date, but Ng and her British counterpart, Liz Truss, said they plan to begin negotiating a new comprehensive Canada-UK trade deal in the coming year.

While the UK is reportedly seeking a long-term agreement similar to or better than CETA, Canadian trade experts are pointing out the UK alone does not offer the same trade potential to Canada as the entire EU.

Canada is one of several dozen countries Johnson and Truss are looking to sign trade agreements with before the Brexit transition is completed on December 31, 2020.

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