Trade remedies and phytosanitary regulations were on the agenda during the current seventh round of NAFTA renegotiations. This round is the longest of the series, scheduled to end March 5 in Mexico City.
“These are very difficult negotiations,” says Frédéric Seppey, Canada’s chief agriculture negotiator, speaking to the Canadian Federation of Agriculture annual general meeting on March 1. He had just returned to Ottawa from the agricultural sessions.
Canada, as an export-driven country, needs trade agreements. As Seppey explains, current trade agreements cover only 60 per cent of Canada’s agrifood markets. Important markets such as China and India are not covered.
Seppey categorizes the NAFTA negotiations under three headings: modernization, classical trade issues, and political issues. He’s encouraged about modernizing the rules around biotechnology and looking ahead to a regulatory framework around new technologies such as gene editing. Classical trade issues involve the supply-managed sector, for example. Political issues include the U.S. proposal for a sunset clause every five years. Regarding political issues, Seppey says, “There is very little flexibility on the U.S. side.”
In other key news:
- • The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade agreement will be signed in Santiago, Chile on March 8. Canada’s international trade minister will be present. This free trade agreement is between Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.
Japan may ratify by the end of August 2018. Taiwan and Korea have expressed interest in joining.
- • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) has a new organizational chart. The change in governance structure reflects a focus on international market access and regulatory trade issues.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and AAFC established the joint International Affairs Branch in January 2018 – which is focussed on international market access and regulatory trade issues. Fred Gorrell became the assistant deputy minister for this new branch, reporting jointly to the president of the CFIA and the Deputy Minister of AAFC.
Within AAFC, Frédéric Seppey became the assistant deputy minister, market and industry services branch, supporting sector development across the regions, advancing agricultural interests in trade negotiations, and working with industry across the regions to foster a competitive agriculture sector. Seppey also remains chief agriculture negotiator.
The International Affairs Branch includes AAFC's Market Access Secretariat, as well as CFIA's International Affairs and Market Access Directorate, and the Food Import and Export Directorate. This represents a new partnership between AAFC and the CFIA that recognizes the complementary roles in advancing international trade, while respecting the individual mandates of both organizations. Domestic food safety, plant and animal health systems continue to be the foundation for advancing market access and trade in Canadian agricultural products.
The new partnership promotes synergies between the CFIA and AAFC and maximizes the use of resources to address key opportunities and challenges to the benefit all agriculture and agri-food sectors, including horticulture.
While this represents internal organizational change, industry should continue working with their contacts within the CFIA and AAFC as usual.