CANADA - Canada’s new Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Lawrence MacAuley has been swift to tackle some tough issues that are high priorities for Canadian farmers, writes Angela Lovell.
In his first interview as Agriculture Minister on 10 November, Mr MacAuley said that he is likely to support the controversial Trans-Pacific Partnership - a 12 country trade pact negotiated by the outgoing Conservative party, which seeks to reduce tariffs and relax import restrictions.
“I suspect when I evaluate the whole thing, it will be something I support. I see nothing today that would make me not want to support the whole package,” Mr MacAuley told Reuters in an interview.
Some farm groups – such as livestock and grain producers – support the TPP which will give them better access to export markets. Farmers who operate supply-managed businesses, however, worry about decreased revenue due to increased market access for imported dairy, chicken and egg products.
The Canadian NFU is urging a full public examination of the impact of the TPP upon agriculture and the wider Canadian economy. The new Liberal Government under Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has already announced its intention to solicit public input on the TPP.
New Ag Minister Not a Household Name
Minister Macaulay, a former dairy and potato farmer from Prince Edward Island, will have a lot of work ahead of him to get to know farmers, especially in western Canada, where he is virtually unknown.
Mr MacAuley does have a good political pedigree though. He became an elected provincial MLA in 1988 and has served as the Liberal Party Critic for Fisheries and Oceans, Secretary of State for Veterans Affairs, Minister of Labour and Solicitor General of Canada.
Farm groups have been quick to welcome the new Ag Minister and urge him to address many issues identified as priorities during the federal election campaign, such as grain transportation and increased funding for agricultural public research.
“We look forward to working with the new federal government and our new Minister,” said Jan Slomp, National Farmers Union President in a press release.
“We hope that with greater openness and transparency along with meaningful public engagement, Canada’s agricultural policy will move in a direction that is more helpful to farm families than what we have seen over the past decade.”
Retaliatory Tariffs Sought on US Beef Imports
In its press release immediately following the federal election, the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) called for MacAuley to swiftly impose retaliatory tariffs on US Beef exports in answer to its discriminatory Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) legislation which has restricted access to US markets for Canadian beef producers.
Mr MacAulay told Reuters he is prepared to get tough on COOL.
"You cannot have a deal with foreign countries and not have them comply with the rules and then just continue on," Mr MacAulay said. "You have to take measures. Do we want to? No. But if we have to, I suspect we will."
He added that he has spoken with US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and is hopeful that Washington will comply with a recent World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling on COOL, which ruled it had negatively impacted farmers in Canada and Mexico. Canada has asked a WTO arbitration panel to authorise tariffs on more than C$3.1 billion per year of US exports.
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