Farm leaders, politicians respond to WTO talks collapse

Following the collapse of WTO negotiations earlier this week, Canadian farm leaders and politicians have largely reinforced their previous positions.

Trade minister Michael Fortier was quick to say trade remains at the top of the government agenda, despite the fact that Canada was the lone holdout on some measures around supply-managed agricultural commodities.

“Canada is a trading nation, and the growth and prosperity of our manufacturers, service providers and agricultural producers are improved by access to new markets,” stated Fortier.

“We are disappointed with the breakdown in the negotiations, but the WTO remains important to Canada. Despite the impasse, we will continue to press for new trade opportunities, through bilateral agreements and renewed efforts at the multilateral level, to continue to build the strong Canadian economy.”

The industry-led group the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), which includes largely export-dependent groups such as livestock groups, grain companies and grain and oilseed commodity associations, was perhaps the most vocal in it’s reaction in a media release, saying the organization was “bitterly disappointed” in a prepared release.

The group also said the dead deal, “… will cost Canadian agricultural exporters close to $10 million per day in lost potential sales.”

“Bilateral agreements are a poor substitute for a WTO trade agreement,” said Darcy Davis, President of CAFTA. “Bilateral agreements don’t address domestic support payments and export subsidies, the real culprits robbing Canadian farmers of potential export markets.”

“Canada is a trade-dependent nation, and the collapse of these talks is bad for all Canadian exporters at a time when the strength of the Canadian dollar has already seriously negatively impacted our ability to trade.”

On the other side of the debate the supply managed commodity groups were nervously eyeing the negotiations. They’ve been noticeably silent following the collapse of the talks, but issued a number of communiqués in the lead-up to the break. The Chicken Farmers of Canada were typical of the sectors’ responses:

“…the representatives of Canada’s dairy, poultry and egg producers [are] extremely concerned that the issues critical to the maintenance of supply management are not being captured,” the group said in a comment from July 26.

Meanwhile the Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA) expressed muted “… disappoint[ment]with today’s announcement by World Trade Organization (WTO) Director General Pascal Lamy that the Doha Round negotiations have effectively collapsed because of a failure to move forward on agriculture talks.”

Because the CFA represents both supply-managed and open-market producers it is frequently in a difficult position when trade talks are at the top of the agenda.

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