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U.S. and China talk trade, no mention of Canada

Hart Attacks: There’s a good chance Canada’s help could go unrewarded

Am I the only one who thinks it’s a bit odd that the U.S. is working on major new trade agreements with China, and yet there is no mention of getting China to take the strangle hold off Canadian ag exports.

Maybe positive things are happening behind the scenes, but as the U.S. is about to sign the first level of a new trade deal with China, there appears to be no thought to a condition to the agreement such as “provided China takes its foot off the throat of the Canadian canola industry.” I am not seeing anything like that.

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My first thought is, “Hey, Canada went to the wall for the U.S. Government, so now as you cozy up to China on your own trade deals, let’s not forget about Canada.”

Canada was just fulfilling its legal obligations to the U.S. when in December 2018 Canada arrested a Chinese executive in Vancouver who is wanted on trade violation charges in the U.S. And for that gesture China stopped buying Canadian canola, and for a while stopped trade in Canadian beef and pork.

And never mind the ag commodities, China also arrested and jailed two Canadian citizens on some flimsy security excuse. Those guys have been sitting in a Chinese prison for more than a year.

In my world, if a neighbour helps me out and in doing so they end up experiencing some injury or hardship, I have a responsibility to repair their damage as soon possible…perhaps even ahead of my own well being.

Granted this is just the first step in what’s expected to be a protracted round of trade talks between the two super powers, but at the same time, Canada is somewhat of an innocent bystander to this whole trade war mess, just being a nice guy, and to me is being forgotten.

Key points of what has been described as a “modest” phase one trade deal with China include a gradual reduction in tariffs on more than $360 billion worth of goods imported from China.

And while published reports vary on the exact figure, another big feature of the deal, is apparently an agreement by China to increase its purchases of U.S. farm products to between $30 and $40 billion per year (eventually up to $50 billion). That’s an impressive goal since China has never spent more than about $26 billion on U.S. products.

In a world of trillion dollar trade deals, maybe a few billion here and there isn’t great, but it doesn’t sound too bad to me.

And the implications of the China trade talks weren’t missed by the heads of several of the biggest agriculture corporations in Canada, recently as they spoke at a Chamber of Commerce conference in Calgary.

The top bosses at Cargill Canada, Richardson International, and Nutrien Ltd. all pointed to the importance of international trade to the Canadian ag economy.

On the positive side, Chuck Magro, CEO of Nutrien told the conference the U.S./China trade talks may help ease global trade tensions. That would be a good thing.

However, Curt Vossen of Richardson noted if China is buying another $30 billion worth of agricultural products from the U.S., that likely means they are not buying $30 billion worth of goods from someone else, i.e. Canada.

Canadian farmers have already taken a hit with canola trade, and Vossen says in the wake of this new trade deal it is possible Canadian soybean, pork and beef exports could also be causalities.

I don’t like to sound negative, but when it comes Canada’s influence on politics and trade deals especially involving the U.S. and China, I have this image from a Dicken’s novel of Canada standing with an empty bowl asking for more porridge. And we all know how that story played out.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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