It’s all going according to the EU script

Recent news that the European Union (EU) and Canada free-trade negotiations are at the final hour

Recent news that the European Union (EU) and Canada free-trade negotiations are at the final hour, but have stalled on agriculture-related issues, should come as no surprise. Both sides maintained rigid agricultural trade positions well before the discussions started four years ago.

During that time, it was bemusing to see Canadian agricultural lobby groups jockeying for the attention of our negotiators in an effort to influence their intentions on the fate of particular commodities. We might soon know that outcome, as the chief EU trade negotiator will be in Ottawa in early March to ostensibly conclude the negotiations. If that happens, I fear that certain sectors of Canadian agriculture will get the short end of the stick.

The reason for my apprehension is that when it comes to ag-trade issues, it seems to be all going according to the EU script. The most blatant being the beef trade situation.

The EU won the early rounds and shows no signs of wavering, and that’s mostly due to Canada and the U.S. giving up so easily. I cite the capitulation of both countries on the beef- hormone issue in giving up hard fought for retaliatory tariffs for what turned out to be bogus quota access to the EU beef market.

Another reality is that the EU has no intention of giving Canada a single pound of beef import advantage over the U.S. and certainly not over traditional suppliers like Argentina.

I believe it gets worse for beef exports to the EU as a new development is going to affect access. New EU members have brought into the fold thousands of small-scale farmers in eastern Europe. Internal EU ag free trade was going to impact those operators particularly those in marginal areas.

The question arose how could those folks be kept on the land — one of the brainstorms was to get them to raise the beef cattle that western Europeans could no longer afford to produce.

How does one help that initiative — first you stop the potential flood of beef imports from North America that might result from reducing tariffs and eliminating quotas in a free trade agreement. That type of EU internal political/social reality might trump any real changes to EU beef-import policy.

I suspect that our negotiators have probably offered the EU significant access for tariff and quota free EU cheese imports in exchange for more Canadian beef access. But that might not be enough of a reward, considering some other factors surrounding EU beef imports — a possible EU/USA free-trade agreement being the snake in the room.

I expect a EU/Canada free-trade agreement will be announced soon, but it will probably not include unfettered access to EU markets for Canadian beef. If the EU does relent, it has a nasty habit of subsequently tying up any concessions with red tape, health barriers and regulatory traps.

The fear, I am sure, is that Canada will agree to any crumbs on the beef issue just to get a free-trade agreement in place before the EU begins negotiating with the Americans.

Another trade irritant that seems to get a lot less public attention is the EU position on genetically modified (GM) commodities like canola, corn, soybeans and others. The EU continues to maintain trade barriers, despite all scientific evidence.

Is that because our negotiators gave up on that issue early in the process? I would suggest that unfettered access to Canadian GM commodities and food products would be more of an economic benefit than more beef access.

From news reports, I sense some urgency has developed in concluding the EU/Canada free-trade agreement sooner rather than later. When that attitude develops in negotiating circles, compromise tends to be the order of the day.

That generally works out OK if both sides are somewhat equal. But in this case, the EU is the big dog and they want to start dealing soon with that really big dog — the USA.

I suspect in that rush, Canada and our agriculture industry might not fare as well as we might have planned. I do hope I am wrong.

Will Verboven is the editor of Alberta Farmer.

Just Posted

Alberta Fish and Wildlife Officers ask for the public’s help with unsolved poaching cases

Officers are seeking tips on five separate incidents in the Stettler & Camrose areas in November 2017

Stettler Hospital to host a pregnancy nutrition class later this month

Registered Dieticians will discuss strategies and tips for new and expecting mothers

Stettler Town Council lays out 2018 Strategic Plan

Five priorities identified for the Town to tackle this year

A Look Back – Stettler Independent Archive Files

Originally Submitted By: Margaret Connon and Mary-Jane Jackson Updated By: Landin Chambers

Town of Stettler joins AUMA’s call for more equitable police funding

Letter will be written to local MLA supporting a new police funding model

WATCH: Red Deer celebrates one year out from 2019 Canada Games

Community gathers at Great Chief Park to commemorate Games milestone

How to keep local news visible in your Facebook feed

Facebook has changed the news feed to emphasize personal connections. You might see less news.

VIDEO: B.C. deer caught obeying traffic signs

A herd of deer in Fernie, B.C. is getting attention online after stopping for a stop sign

Petition wants fundraiser dropped for family of man cleared in Boushie’s death

Group says GoFundMe is profiting from the young Indigenous man’s death

Porch lights turn on for Canadian teen behind #BeccaToldMeTo movement

New Brunswick’s Rebecca Schofield had asked her Facebook followers to perform random acts of kindness

Calgary man dies in Mexico following sudden illness

Troy Black was with his wife, Lindsay, in Puerto Vallarta when he began vomiting blood on Thursday

Virtue and Moir break their own world record

Virtue and Moir break short dance record to sit first in ice dance at Olympics

New doping charge could hurt Russia’s chance at reinstatement

Russia could lose its chance to be reinstated before the end of the Winter Olympics because of a doping charge against curling bronze medallist Alexander Krushelnitsky.

‘Black Panther’ blows away box office with $192M weekend

In estimates Sunday, Disney predicted a four-day holiday weekend of $218 million domestically and a global debut of $361 million.

Most Read

Weekly delivery plus unlimited digital access for $50.40 for 52 issues (must live within 95 kilometers of Stettler) Unlimited Digital Access for one year for $50.40 Prefer to have us call you? Click here and we’ll get back to you within one business day.