Ottawa plans talks toward dairy farmers’ CETA compensation

The federal government has pledged to meet with dairy sector representatives within 30 days to draw up a compensation plan for concessions made in Canada’s planned free trade pact with the European Union.

“Our conversations will address, among other issues, transition support for producers and processors, as well as proposed program and investment options,” Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay and Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland said in a joint statement Monday.

According to Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC), the planned Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the EU will allow the European bloc’s exporters to move an additional 17,700 tonnes of cheese into Canada per year.

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Such access, DFC said Monday, translates to losses of between $110 million and $150 million per year in revenues and market share for Canadian dairy farmers, “in perpetuity.”

MacAulay and Freeland said Monday their announcement on talks was made “in anticipation of Canadian ratification” of the CETA, and noted the government is “focused on swift ratification” of that deal.

Canada and the EU announced in February they had agreed on the legal text for the CETA, subject to ratification on both sides.

However, the ministers said Monday, “Canadians in the dairy industry, in different regions, have shared different priorities about the path forward.”

Together, the ministers said, the government and dairy sector “will reach the best possible outcome for our dairy farmers, their families, and communities.”

The results of those talks, they added, “will inform our discussions with our colleagues.”

For its part, DFC said Monday it’s “relieved that the government is committing to the long-awaited compensation, and is looking forward to working together to discuss what it will look like.”

“Starting point”

DFC, however, said it would use the $4.3 billion package — pledged in October last year by the former Conservative government, in compensation for concessions under both the CETA and the proposed multilateral Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade pact — “as a starting point” in those talks.

The Tories’ planned compensation package called for an income guarantee program and quota value guarantee program for farmers who hold quota in the supply-managed dairy, egg and poultry sectors.

The Tories, who made their announcement ahead of their defeat in the Oct. 19 election, said their compensation programs would run for 15 years from the day a TPP deal comes into force.

MacAulay and Freeland’s announcement didn’t mention the TPP, but DFC said it “would also hope that these negotiations will provide a model for the TPP compensation package, if and when Canada makes the decision to ratify.”

DFC said it would also press to include development of a funding program to attract new investments into increasing dairy processing capacity across the country.

“Processors in Canada need investments in order to help increase their capacity to compete in the post-CETA market, the time to make those investments is before the implementation of the deal.”

The federal opposition New Democrats have previously criticized the governing for “backing off” the Tories’ planned $4.3 billion package, noting the Liberals’ March 22 budget set no money aside for such compensation.

“Liberals are saying (the CETA and TPP) deals are final enough to sign, but not final enough to negotiate compensation? That makes no sense,” NDP agriculture critic Ruth Ellen Brosseau said in a separate statement in early April.

“While the Liberal government barrels ahead, without mitigation and compensation, farmers are rightly concerned they will end up paying the price for these Conservative trade deals.”

In an emailed statement in mid-April, the Liberal government said that while the March 22 budget made no specific compensation commitments, the budget did state Canada’s commitment to “swiftly ratify the CETA, and to continue to consult Canadians in an open and transparent matter on the TPP.”

The government, in that statement, said its priority “is to engage stakeholders on the issue of compensation. We understand the importance of compensation for the dairy sector and engagement with the dairy sector is ongoing.” — AGCanada.com Network

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