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Canada's Hypocritical Trade Stance

16 December 2011, at 10:49am

ANALYSIS - Once again, Canada has pledged to support free and open trade at the World Trade Organization (WTO) ministerial meeting. However, there was no mention of Canada's protected poultry or dairy industries, writes Charlotte Johnston, editor of ThePoultrySite.

At the meeting in Geneva, Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway said that free and open trade is the best way to create jobs and economic growth for people around the world.

"We must—as WTO members—continue to stand firmly against new protectionist measures and begin to roll back those already in place."

Mr Fast went as far to say that protectionism is poisonous.

23 members of the WTO said that concerns with the current heightened levels of global economic uncertainty could result in increased trade protectionism.

The members committed to refrain from raising new barriers to trade in goods and services, imposing new export restrictions, or implementing WTO-inconsistent measures in all areas, including those that stimulate exports.

Additionally, members said they would take steps to roll back any protectionist measures introduced since the start of the global financial crisis in 2008.

In the last five years, Canada has pursued an ambitious and active free trade plan to open doors for Canadian businesses around the world and is on the way to becoming the first tariff-free zone for manufacturing imports in the G-20.

However back home the situation is quite different. Both the poultry and the dairy industry are heavily protected with supply management systems.

The supply management systems ensure that Canadian producers remain in profit by protecting them from cheaper imports. Tariffs are in place that range from 150 per cent to nearly 300 per cent on foreign butter, milk, ice cream, cheese and chicken products.

This means that Canadian consumers pay higher prices for products.

In Canada there are mixed reactions to this, many producers don't mind paying higher prices to support domestic industries. However Canada has come under criticism abroad.

Whilst New Zealand has welcomed Canada expressing an interest to join the new Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trade Minister Tim Grosser has said that dairy will be a challenging subject.

He said that supply management is completely inconsistent with tariff elimination.

With Canada talking the talk in world trade meetings, will they have to walk the walk eventually and look at revising their supply management measures for dairy and poultry?

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