Canada still has work to be done on trade

Recent tensions with the U.S. show the need for continued diversification in our trade relations

Despite all the huffing and puffing coming from U.S. president Donald Trump over the past few months, the struts and timbers of Canada’s trade structure remain intact.

Certainly dairy farmers in Chilliwack have reason for concern. The new deal – dubbed the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement – pried American access to Canadian markets open a bit farther. Coupled with concessions made in the earlier Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, there’s a bit more daylight between those who want Canada’s supply management system buttoned down tight, and lobbyists who want to see it flung open.

The exact details have yet to be released, however the Dairy Farmers of Canada were quick to condemn the agreement.

READ MORE: Dairy farmers react sourly to Canada’s new trade deal with U.S. and Mexico

“We fail to see how this deal can be good for the 220,000 Canadian families that depend on dairy for their livelihood,” said association president Pierre Lampron.

It is easy to understand the frustration. Trump’s complaints about Canada’s dairy industry were based on misinformation. His failure to understand how our supply management system works was matched only by his poor grasp of how heavily his own dairy industry is subsidized.

Still, there was more at stake in these negotiations than dairy.

B.C. Premier John Horgan, while voicing concern for the 8,000 British Columbians in the dairy industry, acknowledged the importance of the new deal for the province.

Key is the retention of the dispute settling mechanism that has been successfully deployed in the past to defend the province’s important softwood industry from unwarranted assaults from U.S. protectionism.

The B.C. Chamber of Commerce also sighed its relief. It sees some calm and stability returning to bi-lateral trade after nearly a year of threats and intimidation.

But work has yet to be done. Governments must ensure the strength of our dairy and food production industry remains, despite concessions in this new agreement.

And efforts to further diversify our export markets must continue with the urgency made clear by these recent negotiations.

READ MORE: Farmers to receive compensation as part of historic NAFTA revamp

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