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Trade lawyer, rancher join ALMA

Canada’s former chief NAFTA negotiator and the operations manager for a well-known Calgary-area ranch are the newest board members for the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency.

Agriculture Minister George Groeneveld named John Weekes and Cherie Copithorne-Barnes to ALMA’s board on Monday.

“Their combined experience in international trade and beef production systems, in both Alberta and in foreign countries, will be invaluable as we address the issues and challenges facing our livestock industry,” Groeneveld said in a release.

Weekes is a Toronto-born senior international trade policy advisor for Chicago-based law firm Sidley Austin LLP and is based in Geneva, where he served as Canada’s ambassador to the WTO from 1995 to 1999, chairing the WTO’s general council in 1998.

Weekes, who joined Sidley Austin in 2003, was also Canada’s chief negotiator on the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between 1993 and 1995 and was then also a federal senior assistant deputy minister in charge of Canada/U.S. relations.

He also served as an ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) during the Uruguay round of multilateral trade negotiations, and previously on GATT’s Canadian negotiating team during the Tokyo round in the 1970s.

Weekes’ current focus with Sidney Austin, according to the law firm’s website, is to “advise businesses and others on how to take advantage of the opportunity afforded by the (WTO) Doha development agenda to open up markets and address related regulatory problems.”

Copithorne-Barnes is the operations manager for CL Ranches, which was founded by the Copithorne family in 1887 and now includes seedstock and commercial cow/calf operations, a backgrounding lot and custom farming operation at Jumping Pound, just west of Calgary.

The ranch’s breeding cattle include its own CL SuperCross commercial composites as well as Sussex seedstock. It also operates CL Beef, a cattle sourcing business, and CL Western Town, an old-west film set seen in movies such as Shanghai Noon and the Lonesome Dove TV series.

Copithorne-Barnes, who runs the company’s bull sale and its cow/calf and genetics program, also previously managed a large beef production system in Uruguay, the province noted.

Copithorne-Barnes and Weekes join Joe Mackowecki, Ted Bilyea, Charlie Gracey, Kee Jim, Harry Hayakawa, Jeff Kroll and Kim McConnell on the ALMA board.

ALMA, launched in June as part of the province’s plan to revitalize the livestock and meat industry, is to work with industry to implement the initiatives outlined in the province’s Livestock and Meat Strategy (ALMS).

Its role, according to the province, is to “align and redirect government funds, resources and programs to revitalize the livestock sector and act as a catalyst to help enhance industry competitiveness and profitability.”

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