Advocating for resources for the wildfires in British Columbia, preparing for the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), achieving equivalent trade access with the U.S. in China are among the priority issues keeping the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) busy this summer. The CCA is making officials aware of the need to address these issues to maintain competitiveness for the Canadian beef sector.
The wildfire situation in B.C. is unprecedented and many fires are centred in some of the heaviest populated areas for cattle production. The CCA has asked the federal government for a quick response to the wildfire disaster as the need for resources is urgent. At time of writing, wildfires have ravaged more than 150,000 hectares of land and consumed fencing and other crucial private and public infrastructure. Ranchers in affected areas are having to leave behind an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 cattle, clearly not an easy decision to make but often the only choice when cattle are dispersed throughout hundreds of heavily forested acres and not easily accessible to be rounded up. With the wildfire situation far from over, it will be many weeks before the damage and impact to industry can be fully assessed.
As an initial start, the CCA is requesting the federal government provide a tax deferral for B.C. producers who chose to sell cattle, and assistance to deal with infrastructure and livestock losses and transportation of cattle and feed. In mid-July, the urgency was still to get the fires under control and prevent further losses. In the meantime, wheels are turning to prepare for disaster relief support through Agri-Recovery to help the B.C. industry regain its footing. In July, CCA raised the urgency in Ottawa around the need for more fire-fighting resources and did so again at the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Agriculture Ministers annual meeting in St. John’s, NL. As we work through this difficult time together, the CCA’s thoughts and prayers are with all the hard-working farm families and everyone in B.C. impacted by the wildfires. The Canadian Red Cross is accepting donations through the British Columbia Fires Appeal. You can text FIRES to 45678 to donate $10 to the fund.
There have been several developments on the trade front for CCA to stay on top of. On July 17, the Office of U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) released its negotiating objectives to revise NAFTA. On the same date, the CCA submitted its advice for the negotiations to the Government of Canada.
We are pleased to see that there is alignment in several areas between the CCA’s objectives and USTR’s. At the top of the list, CCA places a high objective on ensuring that any effort by the U.S. to reinstate a discriminatory country-of-origin labelling (COOL) program is rejected. The 18-page USTR document contains no mention of COOL.
Furthermore, both documents are aligned on the principle that NAFTA should maintain existing reciprocal duty-free market access. Though general in nature, the language in the USTR document regarding sanitary and phytosanitary measures, customs, trade facilitation, rules of origin and regulatory practices all could be consistent with CCA’s list of objectives in these areas. Suffice it to say, there is scope in the USTR objectives for many of the CCA positions and we will continue to advise Canada’s negotiators to seek the achievement of our specific proposals.
Overall, the CCA supports the initiative to renegotiate, or modernize NAFTA, and we see it as an opportunity to improve an already beneficial agreement. Now knowing the USTR objectives, our view that there is opportunity for improvement remains intact. Of course, we take nothing for granted and will continue to be engaged to maximize the potential outcomes of the process for Canadian beef producers.
The CETA will be implemented on September 21, 2017. As of this date, Europe will open initial quantities for duty-free importation of Canadian beef. The CCA is continuing to work with the Canadian Meat Council and government to demonstrate the efficacy of our food safety protocols to enable the larger facilities to export up to the potential of the agreement. The CCA will roll out videos this summer to explain the requirements for producers interested in enrolling and raising cattle under the CFIA’s Canadian Program for Certifying Freedom from Growth Enhancing Products (GEPs) for Export of Beef to the EU.
Negotiations are underway to bring TPP into effect amongst the 11 remaining countries. There was a session in Japan in early July and likely will be another in late August. We are cautiously optimistic that these talks are gaining traction and hopefully aimed for a decision point when leaders of the 11 meet at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ summit in November. Related, we expect to see the government’s response on TPP to the House Standing Committee on Trade in early August.
The CCA is urging the government to step up efforts with China, after the U.S. in June gained access to China for boneless beef, bone-in beef, chilled beef, and a list of offal products. Canadian beef needs at least equivalent access in China as granted to the U.S., under conditions that are commercially viable for the entire industry value chain.
All this activity should make for an interesting semi-annual meeting. The Canadian Beef Industry Conference is scheduled for August 15-17 in Calgary. I hope to see you there.
Until next time.