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A Report Card On Trade

The 2010-11 Agriculture and Agri-Food Market Access Report released last month by Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz and International Trade Minister Ed Fast is interesting for a couple of reasons.

First it demonstrates this government s commitment to gaining greater access to markets for Canadian products. That s not really news though. Both of these ministers have been active on the trade file for quite some time, culminating in the formation of the Market Access Secretariat within Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in 2009. The secretariat co-ordinates market access negotiations on agriculture products involving staff of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada on the diplomatic front and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in technical discussions on import and export protocols.

The image makers in Agriculture Canada have given them the label of the Federal Market Access Team, and this document is its first report card on the progress to date.

It also serves to remind us that trade is a federal government responsibility.

In the past government tended to shy away from this type of report card, allowing the different commodity groups to inform their sectors about the progress or lack of it on the trade front. Beef producers, for example, were used to receiving regular reports from the Canada Beef Export Federation.

In fairness these commodity-based reports did give us a bit of a myopic view of the world. China, for example, signed a co-operative agreement last year granting access for imports of Canadian deboned beef from animals under 30 months of age and tallow for industrial use as a first stage to full access for other beef products. Seventeen months later we are still waiting for the negotiators to agree on import protocols that will officially open this market to Canadian beef.

This report gives us no clue as to why the beef negotiations have taken so long. But it does show us that at the same time as our negotiations were plodding along China had agreed to remove the maximum limit on selenium for imported foods such as Canadian peas, accepted a solution to the H1N1 ban on imported pork and swine and found a way to keep the door open to canola shipments despite the taint of blackleg.

Obviously there is plenty of competition for the attention of those people at the trade table, and that is a role for the various commodity groups. In our case it will be up to Canada Beef Inc. and the Canadian Cattlemen s Association to keep the negotiators focused on beef by supplying sound data and feedback to help move the negotiations along.

One example of this feedback loop occurred last month.

It had to do with European import quotas for beef. Last November the European Commission agreed to give Canadians access to the 20,000- tonne duty-free quota on hormone-free beef negotiated by the U.S. as compensation to resolve their WTO dispute on beef hormones. In March Canada negotiated a 3,200-tonne top-up to this quota starting in August, 2012.

That sounded great but as noted in this space last issue, Canada Gold Beef stopped producing beef for Europe when it found the rising cost of traded import quota in Europe ate up the premium needed to make this market profitable.

The Canadian Cattlemen s Association (CCA) raised this quota allocation issue with Minister Ritz in September who in turn brought it up in discussions with the German Agriculture Minister when the two met last month in Berlin. Where it goes from there is anyone s guess but the speed with which this concern moved up the chain of command in two countries is a hopeful sign. Perhaps it will also filter down to the team negotiating the free trade agreement between Canada and Europe.

It s been a mixed year for the Federal Market Access Team on the beef file in other priority markets.

In Indonesia a temporary ban on Canadian boneless beef and rendered animal byproducts was rescinded. But bone-in beef, some offal and tallow and live cattle are still banned. In Japan despite prolonged negotiations trade is still restricted to beef from animals under 20 months of age.

In Mexico negotiations are ongoing to remove the ban on beef over 30 months of age. In Russia access was granted in 2010 for bone-in beef under 30 months and boneless over 30 months from approved establishments. In South Korea the ban on Canadian beef remains, although we may see a thaw in this dispute by year-end.

In Taiwan ractopamine restrictions on beef, export certification for fetal bovine serum and testing for leucosis in bovine embryos are ongoing issues.

In the U.S., COOL says it all.

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TheFederal MarketAccess Teamgoes ontherecord

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Gren Winslow

Gren Winslow is a past editor of Canadian Cattlemen.

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