This is my last opportunity to reach out to producers from this column as president of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). I’d like to thank Canadian Cattlemen magazine for providing this space. I know the column has been well read; as I travel across Canada producers often refer to what we’ve said here.
I was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time in March 2014. The timing of my election coincided with the incredible, unprecedented run-up in prices for cattle and beef. This long-awaited injection of cash and huge profits for all sectors of the industry continued well into 2015 and allowed CCA to work hard on the goals I wanted to achieve during my term as president without having to be distracted by immediate crises.
Favourable resolution of U.S. mandatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) was my No. 1 goal when I was elected. CCA, on behalf of producers, had been working hard to get rid of COOL for years. Past presidents and CCA’s professional staff convinced the Government of Canada to take our largest trading partner to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Momentum was building in Canada’s favour when I became president and I was determined to keep up the pressure on elected representatives and senators.
CCA’s eventual success depended upon good relations with industry counterparts and I was pleased to help strengthen these ties during many trips to the U.S. and Mexico. The successful repeal of COOL in December 2015 was a result of collaboration between the CCA, the Government of Canada and industry coalitions in the U.S.
With COOL behind us and the Canadian dollar at near 70 cents, interest from U.S. bidders is sure to increase. Returning to an integrated North American market is sending market signals for expansion of the national herd.
CCA had identified a free trade agreement (FTA) with Korea as a priority. This was my second goal. There was a sense of urgency for CCA as Korea and the U.S. had negotiated an FTA, which reduced their tariff 2.5 per cent per year. The tariff differential was quickly leaving Canadian exporters uncompetitive.
Fortunately an FTA was also a priority for the Government of Canada and in the first week of my term I was invited to travel to Korea with then-prime minister Stephen Harper and former international trade minister Ed Fast to announce the agreement in principle for the Canada-Korea FTA. The deal was ratified later in the year and exporters were beginning to take advantage when bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) case No. 19 was discovered in February 2015. Korea temporarily suspended imports until the Canadian Food Inspection Agency issued a final report on its investigation. Shipments resumed in December and Canadian beef is once again available in Korea.
My third goal was for an FTA with Japan. Like Korea, there is a sense of urgency as Australia achieved a tariff advantage. Canadian beef goes into Japan against a tariff of 38.5 per cent. Australia is currently at 27 per cent and is going down to 19 per cent in the next few years.
Canada and Japan were well along in bilateral talks when both countries decided to become involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). CCA supported and advised our negotiators at every step and the TPP deal for beef is a good deal; upon implementation there is an immediate reduction in the Japan tariff to 27.5 per cent and incremental decreases to nine per cent over time.
TPP was negotiated and completed by the Conservative government prior to the federal election in October. The majority Liberal government is pro-trade and it is currently consulting with Canadians on the TPP.
CCA is participating at every opportunity and is encouraging provincial members, governments and individuals to write to Ottawa and publicly support the Government of Canada in ratifying the TPP.
We’ve met with International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland to discuss the TPP, most recently at the signing ceremony in New Zealand. There, CCA Director, Government and International Relations John Masswohl and I impressed upon her the importance of the deal for cattle producers and agriculture in general. Agriculture is increasingly important to the Canadian economy and I am confident the TPP will be ratified.
My fourth goal was commercially viable access to Europe as a result of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. I’d like to thank CCA past president Martin Unrau for his continued hard work on this file with Masswohl and Dennis Laycraft. Technical barriers remain but progress is being made towards getting plants approved.
CCA’s efforts to ensure long-term industry sustainability reach beyond market access. I’m extremely proud of achievements including the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, which has positioned Canada as a leader in beef production sustainability. Other noteworthy achievements include leading the collaborative effort of the National Beef Strategy, continued work on risk management, the expansion of price insurance, the Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) program and the establishment of the Canadian Cattlemen’s Foundation.
Many thanks to my fellow officers, an outstanding board of directors and provincial leaders, and a very professional and competent staff. I’ve felt honoured to lead this organization. CCA has earned great respect and influence in Ottawa and internationally. What we do does make a difference.