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Trade and labour issues

Canada-Korea free trade agreement, access to workers needed, CETA, and COOL

What a hectic few weeks it has been, with harvest on the go at home, lobbying activities to lead and significant progress being made on trade files with huge potential for Canada’s beef cattle industry. These new opportunities come at a time when most producers are thinking about next year’s business plan. Much like the opportune arrival of the late blast of summer on the Prairies that turned snow-flattened crops around in time for harvest, the trade achievements could mean the difference between staying the course or setting off in a new direction.

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) was on hand on September 22 when Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Korean President Park Geun-hye signed the final text of the Canada-Korea free trade agreement (CKFTA) in Ottawa.

This landmark achievement is the direct result of the diligence of Prime Minister Harper, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast. The CCA thanks them for their efforts and encourages swift passage of the CKFTA through the Canadian Parliament and the Korean Legislature.

The deal provides Canada’s beef producers with the ability to get every piece of the animal to the market that will pay the most for it, and that’s what maximizes prices at the farm gate. A big plus in this regard is that Canada will also be getting an aggressive phase-out on offals that get more value in Korea than they do in North America.

Under the terms of the agreement, the 40 per cent Korean tariff on fresh and frozen beef will be fully eliminated in 15 equal annual steps and the 18 per cent tariff on offals will be fully eliminated in 11 equal annual steps.

The tariff has been the main impediment to accessing the Korean market since Korea lifted its BSE prohibition on Canada in early 2012. For the past few years, Canada’s key beef competitor, the U.S. has enjoyed an increasing tariff advantage flowing from its free trade agreement with South Korea. The formal signing of the text brings us an important step closer to restoring a competitive position for Canadian beef in the Korean market.

The weeks leading up to the CKFTA were filled with lobbying. I met with Minister Ritz along with our packer partners, on September 15 to discuss the ongoing challenges of labour shortages in beef-processing operations. Minister Ritz commented that it helps him advocate for the beef industry amongst his colleagues when there is good collaboration between sectors of the beef industry. Collaboration is central to the Five Year National Beef Strategic Plan being developed by industry groups.

I was invited by Canada’s Minister of Employment and Social Development Jason Kenney to a reception before the opening of Parliament and was able to continue our ongoing discussion about labour issues on farms and in processing plants. Ultimately, we need to ensure Canada’s beef industry has access to a ready supply of workers to be able to grow our output in response to the opportunities provided with new and regained market access.

Labour was among the key industry issues discussed at the CCA’s fall picnic on Parliament Hill on September 23. This is a high-profile event for the CCA and it is always well attended by members of Parliament, senators, ministers and their staff and other key influencers. In addition to the event, the CCA has meetings with MPs from all political parties from across the country who sit on various committees.

International Trade Minister Fast was the keynote speaker at the fall picnic and in his remarks announced that he had introduced legislation to implement the CKFTA. Liberal Party of Canada Leader Justin Trudeau also attended and we had good discussion about CCA’s top priorities. A lot of MPs and senators posted pictures of themselves to Twitter from the event, enjoying the high-quality beef served at the CCA fall picnic, which proved popular with followers of @Cdncattlemen.

In addition to the labour concerns, we also discussed our desire to see the CKFTA and the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) become implemented.

The need to continue to challenge the unfair U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) regulation was also discussed and I shared our appreciation of the Government of Canada’s efforts to date. The government’s articulation of its intent to impose tariffs on U.S. exports has been very helpful in building support for a COOL resolution in Washington, D.C. and we encouraged that pressure to increase.

Prior to the fall picnic, I was in Washington with CCA vice-president Dan Darling and executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft where we held meetings and discussed issues including COOL in advance of the World Trade Organization compliance panel ruling on COOL, which is expected to be made public this month.

In late September the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) held its first annual meeting in Kelowna. Discussions focused on the sustainability initiatives that the CRSB is working on and shed some light on the work that the CRSB is engaged in to help set future goals for the organization.

There is never any shortage of industry issues to discuss and I’m looking forward to engaging with producers on these and other topics at the upcoming fall meetings in Alberta and Saskatchewan and at the next CCA town hall in Dauphin, Man. on October 28.

About the author

Contributor

Dave Solverson is a past president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association. With his brother Ken and daughter Joanne they 
operate Woodwind Ranch, near Camrose, Alta. 
He can be reached at 780-679-9625 
or [email protected]

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