Canada to defend ‘supply management’ |

Canada to defend ‘supply management’

Canada will defend its system of “supply management’’ in the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland said today in a speech in Ottawa that was carried on Facebook.

In a long philosophical speech, Freeland said that Canada wants to modernize NAFTA, but added that in one of its objectives, “Canada will uphold and preserve the elements in NAFTA that Canadians deem key to our national interest -– including a process to ensure anti-dumping and countervailing duties are only applied fairly when truly warranted; the exception in the agreement to preserve Canadian culture; and Canada’s system of supply management.’’

Freeland did not elaborate on the products to which supply management would apply, but Canada has traditionally had dairy and poultry supply management systems.

Freeland also said that Canada’s negotiating strategy “will be informed by the ideas in CETA [the Canadian Europe Free Trade Agreement],’’ which raises the possibility of geographic indications coming up.

In CETA, Canada agreed to follow the European system of requiring that certain products, particularly cheeses, carry place names only if the product is made where it originated. The U.S. dairy industry is opposed to the strict geographic indicators that the European countries have promoted.

In a statement that is likely to thrill some American groups and alarm others, Freeland said “we can make NAFTA more progressive first by bringing strong labor safeguards into the core of the agreement; second by integrating enhanced environmental provisions to ensure no NAFTA country weakens environmental protection to attract investment, for example, and that fully supports efforts to address climate change; third by adding a new chapter on gender rights, in keeping with our commitment to gender equality; fourth, in line with our commitment to improving our relationship with Indigenous peoples, by adding an Indigenous chapter; and finally by reforming the Investor-State Dispute Settlement process, to ensure that governments have an unassailable right to regulate in the public interest.’’

“One reason that these progressive elements, particularly on the environment and labor, are so important is that they are how we guarantee that the modernized NAFTA will not only be an exemplary free trade deal, it will also be a fair trade deal. Canadians broadly support free trade,’’ she added.

Freeland did not focus on agriculture, but used food references in the speech.

Freeland noted that Canada will seek a freer market for government procurement and said “Local-content provisions for major government contracts are political junk-food, superficially appetizing, but unhealthy in the long run.’’

In her conclusion, Freeland said, “Modernizing an existing agreement — particular one such as NAFTA, which is so foundational for our economy — is more like renovating your house, while you’re still living in it.’’

“The end result — a nicer kitchen, perhaps, or an energy retrofit — is terrific. But getting there can be a little messy and uncomfortable. And there are going to be moments, when walls are opened up, and pipes and wiring get exposed, that can be a little unsettling.’’

Freeland also said today that if the United States pushes Canada to end supply management for dairy, its negotiators will remind U.S. negotiators that the U.S. dairy industry gets government support, Politico reported.

Canada will not accept a weak agreement and could walk away from the negotiations, according to early media reports.

–The Hagstrom Report

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