Negotiations on a trade deal between Canada and the UK have come to a halt with both sides unhappy about what the other is offering when it comes to market access for agricultural products.
The British side has walked away from the table, citing a lack of progress in negotiations on a longer-term bilateral deal. Eight rounds of talks have been held since 2022, and negotiators were supposed to meet in the UK next month.
“Trade negotiations are complex, but sometimes it is right to pause if progress is not being made,” says spokesperson for the UK’s Department for Business and Trade in a statement shared with RealAgriculture. “We remain open to restarting talks with Canada in the future to build a stronger trading relationship that benefits businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Tariff-free market access for British cheeses into Canada has been one of the major issues for UK negotiators, while the Canadian side is asking the UK to remove long-standing non-tariff barriers to Canadian beef and pork.
A UK government source says “Canada seem to have lost sight of the bigger picture – the British and Canadian businesses who do £26bn worth of trade a year and the people they employ. If Canada come back to table with a serious offer and desire to make progress we’re all ears, but in the meantime we’re going to focus on other trade deals that deliver for UK businesses.”
Canada’s Trade Minister Mary Ng told reporters in Ottawa on Thursday that Canada remains at the table, and that she had contacted her British counterpart to express Canada’s disappointment.
When the UK left the European Union in 2020, a temporary agreement was struck to extend the terms of the Canada-EU trade deal with the UK until a permanent agreement could be reached. A temporary side arrangement allowed some British cheese imports into Canada to continue for three years, but that agreement expired on Dec. 31, 2023.
The UK is also in the process of joining the CPTPP trade deal, which would include dairy market access into Canada, but export-focused livestock and meat industry groups in Canada are asking Canadian lawmakers to delay their approval for bringing the UK into the Pacific trade pact.
The Canadian Cattle Association (CCA), Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Meat Council, and National Cattle Feeders’ Association say proposed terms for having the UK join the CPTPP do not meet the scientific standards of the multilateral deal and politicize food safety rules while failing to address the UK’s non-tariff trade barriers against Canadian meat exports.
In 2022, the UK exported 4,414 tonnes of beef to Canada worth C$33.2 million, while Canada did not export any beef to the UK, mainly due to the UK not recognizing carcass washes used at Canadian packing plants.
The CCA says it stands behind the Government of Canada’s approach of drawing a hard line in the negotiations and defending Canadian beef producers.
“CCA has been following the bilateral negotiations closely and has been concerned at the lack of ambition and cooperation from the UK in these negotiations,” said CCA president Nathan Phinney, in a statement issued late Thursday. “The Canadian beef industry is a strong advocate of free and open trade. To avoid getting a bad trade deal for Canadians, we need trade partners that want to trade fairly and not use rules and regulations to their own advantage.”
In addition to cheese and meat, rules regarding automobile exports are another sticking point. A temporary deal giving the British automotive industry the same preferential access into Canada that was negotiated under the Canada-EU deal is set to expire on March 1.