The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) participated in a roundtable with Minister of International Trade Chrystia Freeland in Edmonton in January as part of her consultations with provincial leaders, industry representatives and academics on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and on international trade.
The timing coincided nicely with a letter CCA sent to the minister detailing the importance of the TPP to Canada’s beef industry and the need for the federal government to ratify the agreement. In addition to the sheer value of the trade agreement to beef producers, being a founding member of the TPP would give Canada a say in the terms of entry for additional countries that may want to join the TPP in the future.
I reinforced these messages at the roundtable and emphasized that one of the strong selling features of Canadian beef into the emerging markets is the environmental and social attributes. I indicated that we have a strong social licence to produce beef in Canada because we take care of our environment, animals, and are very conscious of food safety.
Provincial representation at the roundtable included Alberta Minister of Agriculture Oneil Carlier, and Edmonton Centre MP Randy Boissonnault. Industry representatives from the Alberta Wheat Commission, Alberta Milk, Egg Farmers of Alberta, and Alberta Beef Producers were also in attendance. Overall it was a very positive discussion with no opposition to the TPP, including from the provincial representatives from milk and eggs. Representatives from Livestock Gentec, University of Alberta economists, and forestry and agriculture scientists also participated.
Minister Freeland, who grew up on a mixed farm in the Peace region, said although it’s important to get new trading partners, she wants to make “trade” itself happen. She acknowledged the hard work of the CCA in achieving the successful repeal of the U.S. country-of-origin labelling (COOL) file.
The minister was very interested in CCA’s environmental and social strengths in the beef industry and in agriculture in general. Another strong point was that she indicated we are well respected in the research and innovation areas of agriculture, and applying that innovation in our practices. Overall, I was very impressed with her knowledge about agriculture and enthusiastic attitude to trade.
On the same day as the roundtable, a new study examining the environmental footprint of beef production was released. The study shows Canada’s beef industry continues to improve efficiencies that lessen its environmental impacts, with production of one kilogram of Canadian beef creating 15 per cent fewer greenhouse gas emissions in 2011 compared to 1981.
Continual improvements in production and feed efficiencies, crop yields and management strategies, resulting in reduced emissions and resource requirements, were largely responsible for the significant decrease in environmental impact.
January 1, 2016 marked the one-year anniversary of the implementation of the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement (CKFTA). While the February 2015 case of BSE in Alberta nixed burgeoning exports last year, the resumption of trade effective December 30, 2015 means opportunity for beef producers.
The Korean tariff on Canadian beef dropped to 34.7 per cent — compared with a 40 per cent tariff without CKFTA — on January 1 and will continue to drop as part of Korea’s beef tariff phase-out with Canada. While positive, the U.S. and Australia are ahead of Canada in their respective beef tariff phase-outs with Korea. Correcting this disparity in phase-outs could be addressed at the TPP level by making it a condition of entry for Korea.
While the normalization of trade with South Korea is good news, the CCA’s view is that Canada had sufficient information within days of the February discovery of BSE case No. 19 to adequately assure any country, including Korea, of any concerns they might have had regarding the safety of Canadian beef.
The protocol between Canada and Korea reached in 2012 was never intended to enable a delay of resumption of imports pending the full completion of Canada’s trace-outs and publication of complete epidemiological report. The CCA will be seeking assurance that Korea will not be permitted to maintain such a lengthy delay in resumption of imports again in the future. Consideration of Korea’s future entry into the TPP may be an opportunity to achieve clarification to the protocol.
Canadian beef exports to China experienced phenomenal growth in 2015, becoming Canada’s second-largest export market from its fifth in 2014. Exports through October more than doubled compared with the same period in 2014 despite China being closed for nearly two months in 2015 due to BSE case No. 19. Volume through October increased 11 per cent while value more than doubled to US$115.3 million.
Nearly 80 per cent of the 2015 exports to China took place from July to October. I feel we could do even better once China expands our access to also include bone-in beef. I am hopeful that 2016 will be the year we achieve that.
Earlier in January I attended the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL) Legislative Ag Chairs Summit meeting in Denver. The meeting provided the opportunity for CCA to express appreciation to government officials and state representatives for their important work that contributed to the repeal of COOL.
I am glad to have this file behind us and look forward to an exciting year ahead.