Friday, May 12, 2017

PM Trudeau defends Canadian dairy system

Trudeau defended Canada's dairy supply management system noting that every nation including the US defends its agricultural industries as much as it can.

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Canada has a supply management system fodairy products, poultry and eggs. It is discussed in a recent Digital Journal article. Trump recently criticized the dairy system during a speech in Wisconsin a cheese-producing state. In an interview with Bloomberg television Trudeau points out that the US actually runs a dairy surplus with Canada. Trudeau noted that the system worked quite well in Canada and said: "Let's not pretend we're in a global free market when it comes to agriculture. Every country protects, for good reason, its agricultural industries." Trudeau made his response after Trump again attacked the Canadian dairy industry as well as lumber, timber and energy sectors. It is Canada that should be complaining about the energy sector under NAFTA. If Trump's slogan is America First, under NAFTA Canada comes second.
As an article in Rabble notes:The proportionality clause says that if the government of any NAFTA member country takes action that cuts the availability of energy for export to another NAFTA member country, it must continue to export the same proportion of total "supply" that it has over the previous three years. If it cuts energy available for export to another member country, it must also cut the supply of that energy domestically to the same extent.The proportionality rule means that Canadians cannot have priority access to their own energy supplies. Richard Heinberg, a noted California energy expert said that proportionality is unique in all of the world's trade treaties. Heinberg claims that "Canada has every reason to repudiate the proportionality clause, and to do so unilaterally and immediately." With the opening of NAFTA Trudeau has every opportunity to do this. However, he has yet to reveal what he intends to change. He has not mentioned this clause, no doubt for good reason. The US would never accept it being dropped. The US wants Canada to be first and foremost a reliable source for oil and gas who will not put the needs of Canadians above those of the US.
I doubt the issue will even make it to the mainstream press. What we have instead are attacks against the management supply system by international dairy bodies that have already been captured by the neo-liberal policy agendas that will profit large corporations. A recent Globe and Mail article by Campbell Clark, takes on the task of attacking the system and predicting its demise:The end is coming for Canada’s supply managed dairy market, not immediately, but almost inevitably. That’s not because U.S. President Donald Trump has claimed the Canadian system is unfair to U.S. farmers. The hypocrisy of a President who crows about an America First trade policy while demanding access to Canada’s market makes one of the best arguments for keeping the protectionist system. But the political market for supply management is weakening. For Canadian politicians, it will soon be more valuable to give it up in trade talks than it is to use it to buy the votes of dairy farmers.The article points out that from more than 100,000 dairy farms in Canada the number had declined to 11,260 in 2014. Half of these are in the province of Quebec but even there a Conservative MP Maxine Bernier is running for his party's leadership on a pledge to eliminate supply managed. It should be noted that the Conservatives have only 5 seats in Quebec in the federal government.
Campbell notes that the US wants concessions. Canada could trade doing away with the supply management system in order for greater market access for steel pipes, lumber, or exemption from border taxes. US lumber and steel companies may object to any such deal as it conflicts with Trump's America First doctrine. However, Trump may very well abandon that as he has other campaign promises especially as Steve Bannon seems to be losing influence and Wall Street and the military appear to be winning power in his administration. While the strength of dairy farmers under the supply-management system may be waning it may still be strong enough to keep its protections under NAFTA.
Trump has said that the US will report within two weeks what it is intending to do with NAFTA, that he promised to renegotiate.
Trudeau said he planned to move the trade conversation ahead "in a way that both protects consumers and our agricultural producers". Trudeau also noted about Trump: "He has shown if he says one thing and actually hears good counter arguments or good reasons why he should shift his position, he will take a different position if it's a better one, if the arguments win him over." Trump does often flip flop but Trudeau is being overly kind in suggesting Trump's reason for doing so.
There is no sign of the renegotiation being an open transparent process, or that there will be any public consultations on this exceedingly important issue. It is likely to be done in secret behind closed doors with the most important stakeholders giant international corporations having a significant presence. A list of demands from the Council of Canadians can be found here.

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