Agri­cul­tural Trade in the Age of Pro­tec­tion­ism

Prairie Post (West Edition) - - Viewpoints - BY CAM DAHL, PRES­I­DENT OF CE­RE­ALS CANADA

The world has en­tered a new age of na­tion­al­ism, re­sult­ing in grow­ing trade pro­tec­tion­ism and in­creas­ing bar­ri­ers for Cana­dian farm­ers and ex­porters who de­pend on in­ter­na­tional mar­kets.

The idea that trade is about win­ning or los­ing is dan­ger­ous and mis­lead­ing.

This idea ig­nores the world’s growth over the last 75 years and the dis­as­trous out­comes of “me first” eco­nomic poli­cies that pre­ceded trade lib­er­al­iza­tion.

We can­not for­get the prophetic words of former U.S. Sec­re­tary of State (and No­bel Lau­re­ate) Cordell Hull who noted “un­ham­pered trade dove­tails with peace; high tar­iffs, trade bar­ri­ers, and un­fair com­pe­ti­tion with war".

Sec­re­tary Hull would be dis­ap­pointed with the cur­rent state of global af­fairs, par­tic­u­larly the re­treat of lead­ing na­tions from co­op­er­a­tive and rules-based sys­tems.

Cana­dian farm­ers see ex­am­ples of grow­ing pro­tec­tion­ism ev­ery day, with tweets from the Pres­i­dent of the United States, bar­ri­ers to Cana­dian du­rum en­ter­ing Italy, Saudi Ara­bia ban­ning Cana­dian wheat and bar­ley, and coun­tries us­ing phy­tosan­i­tary rules to block trade.

Re­cent court and reg­u­la­tory de­ci­sions in the Euro­pean Union (EU) have the po­ten­tial to se­verely limit ac­ces­si­bil­ity to this mar­ket. The list of mar­ket ac­cess bar­ri­ers seems to grow on a weekly ba­sis. What can we do about it? We need our Gov­ern­ment to rig­or­ously en­force cur­rent trade agree­ments.

A trade agree­ment is not worth much with­out en­force­ment. Since the Com­pre­hen­sive Eco­nomic and Trade Agree­ment (CETA) with the Euro­pean Union (EU) came into force, one of Canada’s largest ex­ports to the EU, du­rum wheat, has vir­tu­ally dis­ap­peared. Cana­dian farm­ers need our Gov­ern­ment to as­sertively chal­lenge the pro­tec­tion­ist mea­sures Italy is us­ing to keep our du­rum out.

A strong Cana­dian re­sponse is nec­es­sary to re­cover the Ital­ian mar­ket and to pre­vent other pro­tec­tion­ist coun­tries from adopt­ing Italy’s meth­ods.

We also need ev­ery part of gov­ern­ment to con­sider the trade im­pli­ca­tions of poli­cies and pub­lic state­ments. All agen­cies and de­part­ments need to have an un­der­stand­ing of the im­por­tance of keep­ing mar­kets open for Cana­dian ex­porters. This “trade lens” does not ex­ist to­day.

Some of our key reg­u­la­tory agen­cies have ex­plic­itly stated or shown that trade con­sid­er­a­tions are not part of their man­date. This must change.

We need our reg­u­la­tory agen­cies to carry out nec­es­sary con­sul­ta­tions with the Cana­dian value chain and our trad­ing part­ners be­fore pub­lic an­nounce­ments are made. We need agen­cies and de­part­ments to con­sider if diplo­mat­i­cally mak­ing state­ments in pri­vate, rather than pub­lic, will keep mar­kets open. We need reg­u­la­tors to ac­knowl­edge that some de­ci­sions will make Canada less com­pet­i­tive de­spite the fact that they might be pop­u­lar on the in­ter­net.

This does not mean that the Gov­ern­ment of Canada should back away from the fun­da­men­tal prin­ci­ples of our coun­try. Nor does this mean that reg­u­la­tory agen­cies should favour com­merce over rig­or­ous science-based de­fense of Cana­dian’s health and of our en­vi­ron­ment. It does mean that de­ci­sions should be made with a clear un­der­stand­ing of the im­pli­ca­tions for Cana­dian com­pet­i­tive­ness and trade and that all pos­si­ble steps have been taken to mit­i­gate neg­a­tive im­pacts.

It is not all up to govern­ments. Farm­ers and in­dus­try have a crit­i­cal role to play in keep­ing our mar­kets open. Pro­tec­tion­ists are look­ing for any ex­cuse to block trade. Pro­duc­ers need to en­sure that the ac­tions they take on their farm do not pro­vide a pre­text for trade bar­ri­ers.

Im­proper use of pes­ti­cides is one ex­am­ple of a prac­tice that can jeop­ar­dize trade. All of our grain ship­ments are un­der in­creased scru­tiny for residues. These can oc­cur when farm­ers don’t fol­low the la­bel di­rec­tions. For ex­am­ple, if glyphosate is ap­plied to green ce­real crops the seeds will carry residues.

“Green” means any­thing above 30 per­cent mois­ture, when the seeds are still ma­tur­ing. Im­proper fall ap­pli­ca­tion of glyphosate could pro­vide the ex­cuse to block Cana­dian ex­ports.

Farm­ers also need to be aware when new prod­ucts don’t have ap­proval in key ex­port mar­kets. Of­ten there is are zero-tol­er­ance lim­its for unap­proved residues in Cana­dian ship­ments, even though prod­ucts have full ap­proval in Canada. When this oc­curs farm­ers need to con­sciously make the de­ci­sion to pro­tect our ex­port mar­kets and avoid us­ing the prod­uct.

The other parts of the value chain, like crop in­put sup­pli­ers and ex­porters, have a role to play as well. Sup­pli­ers should be aware of po­ten­tial mar­ket ac­cess is­sues for new prod­ucts. They should be re­mind­ing cus­tomers of the need to rig­or­ously fol­low the la­bel when ap­ply­ing prod­ucts.

This is why com­mod­ity as­so­ci­a­tions have come to­gether to launch the Keep­ing it Clean cam­paign. Farm­ers and sup­pli­ers can visit www.keepin­git­clean.ca to get up-to-date data on new prod­ucts as well as in­for­ma­tion on prod­ucts of par­tic­u­lar con­cern. The in­dus­try re­ally is a part­ner­ship in the ef­fort to keep mar­kets open.

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