NDP says Tories balk at backing CWB at WTO

The federal NDP’s international trade critic says the Conservatives’ refusal to back a motion of support for supply management and the Canadian Wheat Board shows they can’t be trusted to protect either at the WTO.

Burnaby-New Westminster MP Peter Julian moved at Tuesday’s meeting of the House of Commons’ standing committee on international trade to recommend that the government “immediately instruct Canada’s negotiator to indicate clearly and formally by way of the appropriate means at the World Trade Organization (and) that the text currently circulating at the (WTO) agriculture working group undermines and weakens Canada’s ability to maintain state trading enterprises and supply management systems.”

Thus, Julian’s motion continued, the committee should recommend to government that “the text as currently before the working group on agriculture will not be signed by Canada as part of the negotiations on the Doha round of the WTO.”

“State trading enterprises” refers to government-backed export agencies such as the CWB.

The five opposition MPs on the committee supported Julian’s motion, but the five Conservatives — two each from B.C. and Ontario and one from Nova Scotia — voted it down, with committee chair and Calgary Conservative MP Lee Richardson breaking the tie.

“The motion would have provided clear instructions to Canada’s negotiators to correct a fault contained in the current text of the WTO report,” Julian said in a release Wednesday.

“The Conservative government trumpets its support of supply management in Canada, but its actions and omissions at the WTO talks take us in the opposite direction. The fact that the Conservatives are opposing the New Democrat motion clearly illustrates why they cannot be trusted.”

“Unequivocal support”

After Julian’s motion was voted down, however, the committee voted in favour of Nova Scotia Liberal MP Scott Brison’s motion that the government “affirm its unequivocal support of, and commitment to defend, Canada’s supply management system.”

CWB chairman Larry Hill warned in September that the most recent draft modalities text issued to WTO member countries “targets the CWB’s single-desk sales for elimination by 2013.”

Hill also said the current modalities, drafted in December 2008 by former WTO ag negotiations chairman Crawford Falconer, will not result in any “meaningful improvements” in market access for western Canadian wheat and barley producers.

However, despite the governing Conservative Party’s own opposition to the CWB’s single marketing desk for Prairie wheat and barley, the CWB notes that the government “continues to maintain its position that decisions regarding the future of single-desk marketing belong in Canada” and not at the WTO.

The topic came up at the international trade committee as it finalizes its ongoing hearings on Canada’s supply management and is in the process of producing a report with recommendations to the federal government, Julian said Wednesday.

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