Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) leadership travelled to two major agriculture policy conventions in the United States in early January to promote common interests in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and urge progress on regulatory modernization to improve the flow of trade between the two countries.
The advocacy efforts are part of an increasingly vocal effort amongst agricultural producers and rural sectors on both sides of the border to speak up about the myriad benefits of NAFTA. Calls are to renegotiate NAFTA rather than terminate it, which U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to do.
The meetings occurred weeks ahead of the resumption of the NAFTA modernization and renegotiation process, with the sixth round of formal talks set for Montreal from January 21 to 27, 2018.
CCA vice-president David Haywood-Farmer and staff member John Masswohl attended the American Farm Bureau Federation 2018 convention in Nashville. They attended discussions on the benefits of NAFTA along with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Minister Lawrence MacAulay. The minister had the honour to be the first Canadian agriculture minister to address the American Farm Bureau Federation Convention. His address, to a packed room of U.S. farmers, focused on the interdependence of Canada and the U.S. and a commitment to continue working together.
CCA’s executive vice-president Dennis Laycraft attended the State Agriculture and Rural Leaders (SARL) 2018 Legislative Agriculture Chairs Summit in Kansas City. The ag chairs summit brings together senior U.S. state agriculture legislators, provincial ministers, and elected officials representing agricultural and rural issues to collaborate on shared priorities, discuss agriculture policy challenges and to exchange best practices.
The SARL meeting passed a resolution to “support making targeted improvements to NAFTA that build on the enormously successful North American partnership.”
The CCA’s participation at all rounds of the NAFTA modernization and renegotiation process will continue in 2018.
While it remains unclear whether or when the U.S. might commence procedures to withdraw from NAFTA, CCA’s presence, to provide Government of Canada negotiators with expertise and to ensure that the interests of beef producers are advanced in the ongoing talks, will be as necessary as ever.
The negotiations resume following significant progress in 2017 to modernize a range of non-controversial technical issues. However, this positive progress towards modernization has largely been overshadowed by several regressive proposals tabled by the U.S. and subsequently rejected as unacceptable by Canada and Mexico.
Canadian beef producers strongly support retaining the existing NAFTA provisions affecting the beef and cattle trade. The CCA and its U.S. and Mexican beef cattle producer organization counterparts are united in their position that the terms of trade remain unchanged in the renegotiations.
Our united priorities for the beef sector include: continued duty-free and quota-free access for beef and live cattle trade with the NAFTA tariff preference for beef based on the current rule of origin; opposing the return of a trade disrupting mandatory country-of-origin labelling regime; and maintaining dispute settlement mechanisms, both within NAFTA (Chapters 19 and 20) and external dispute settlement tools at the World Trade Organization. Furthermore, we believe it is possible to improve bilateral cattle and beef trade through greater regulatory co-operation and elimination of some obsolete regulatory border requirements.
The CCA is also focused on strategies to manage the risk of U.S. withdrawal from NAFTA. These include ongoing efforts to expand on our trade and market access priorities, including liberalizing trade in the Asia-Pacific through the new Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (aka TPP11), progress in market access expansion and a potential free trade agreement in China, and ensuring the necessary conditions for beef trade to increase in the EU through the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). We will also work to ensure that if the U.S. does withdraw from NAFTA, that a viable agreement will continue to exist between Canada and Mexico and that our two countries may continue to enjoy duty-free cattle and beef trade, while recognizing the disruptive consequences caused by higher tariffs on our countries’ two-way trade in beef and cattle with the U.S.
Cattlemen’s Young Leaders (CYL) participants helped share CCA’s perspectives on NAFTA at the National Western Stock Show in Denver, Colorado. The CYL program, CCA’s flagship youth mentorship program, celebrated its fifth graduating class of young leaders in 2017. CYL is a standout program matching future leaders with industry leaders who serve as their mentors. I am constantly impressed with the calibre of people who enter and compete to be part of the program. Already we are seeing graduates getting actively involved in the provincial associations as delegates and directors. Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chair Ryan Beierbach is the first of our graduates to be elected chair of one of our member organizations.
The CYL program is accepting applications for 2018 online until March 31, 2018. I encourage you to visit the CYL website to find out more information about how to apply for this valued program experience.