This week’s guest commentary comes from Nathan Stevens of the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario
After years of lumbering progress on trade negotiations, the global appetite for progress has sharpened. Canada, in particular, has been very successful in reaching new agreements. For Canadian agriculture, this represents opportunities and challenges for both our domestic-oriented and our trade-oriented industries in the years ahead.
Reaching an agreement on the Canada – European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) was the first big breakthrough. The deal represents a great opportunity for our export-oriented farmers, especially in the red meat sector. The challenge for these industries is to walk through these open doors in a way that is profitable for farmers. On the other hand, it is disappointing that our government has made concessions on cheese to the detriment our supply managed sector. This a new challenge to Canadian dairy farmers and cheese processors to compete on quality cheese production.
The second momentous event was the significant progress made by the World Trade Organization (WTO) by finally reached an agreement on critical issues with the Bali Package. This important step in moving forward in the Doha Development Round of the WTO centres on the agreement on trade facilitation. This agreement will simplify customs procedures by improving efficiency and reducing costs. There will be training and infrastructure updates for developing countries. For landlocked countries, there are special provisions to protect goods in transit. It is expected that the world economy will benefit from somewhere between $400 billion and $1 trillion in reduced costs. This will be good for our export-oriented producers as they will be more competitive in finding new markets.
Looking ahead, there is a potentially more impactful trade agreement looming in the form of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. For Canada, being part of this agreement is incredibly important in maintaining our pole position as a favoured partner with our American neighbours. Moreover, there are many new opportunities that will emerge from new markets and potential challenges from countries looking for opportunities in Canada.
After several years of slow progress in large trade agreements, a huge shift in momentum has occurred in the pursuit of global trade. There will be many opportunities for our trade-oriented agriculture industries that will require leadership to seize them. For our domestic-oriented agriculture industries, challenges are emerging that will require leadership and a strategic approach to take on new challenges at home. Ontario’s farm sector will need to stay alert for opportunities to grow the industry in the years ahead.