NAFTA Negotiations, from Start to Disappointment

by Ghislain Gervais - président

Everything, or almost everything, has been said since the Trudeau government first made its announcement October 1st.

NAFTA, or the North-American Free Trade Agreement, has passed away under pressure from the U.S. of A. And from NAFTA’s ashes was born the USMCA, the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

The main target of these negotiations was, as we know, supply management. Our government agreed to relinquish new concessions to the U.S.A. regarding our dairy, egg and poultry production system.

Farmers are angry. They’re the losers in this deal, just as with every other past negotiation (Trans-Pacific Partnership in 2017, the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement in 2016). They are tired of bearing the brunt of these agreements.

La Coop fédérée made its discontent known through a press release. And even though La Coop acknowledges the importance of building strong trade relationships between Canada and its North American partners, and that free trade usually promotes economic growth, LCF would have wanted the conclusion of the USMC to provide complete protection of supply management, a system that continues to demonstrate its efficiency and relevance.

It is our belief that our government does not adequately appreciate the contribution of agriculture and agri-food to Canada’s economic and social development. It is completely normal for a country to protect its more sensitive sectors and for producers to want to protect their resources, their agricultural know-how and the food security of its population by maintaining the supply management system.

And this is what we’re talking about, the future of thousands of Canada’s agricultural families and their farms. But it’s also a matter of respecting the values of consumers in Quebec and Canada, who enjoy the specificity, diversity and quality of our homegrown products.

The agreement has been concluded. There is no turning back. We are now waiting for the accord’s final text. The government has the means to mitigate the impact of its decision and has promised to compensate producers. What will that compensation look like? We don’t know yet. The government has recently announced that it will reveal the details by the end of this year.

We intend to keep our ear to the ground in terms of future discussions between farmer representatives and the federal government to determine if members of La Coop affected by these new concessions will be compensated fairly. 

There is however, reason to celebrate one positive aspect of this accord. We are convinced that it will contribute to maintaining and increasing the export of our agricultural commodities as well as pork to the United States and Mexico. In fact, exports represent a significant cornerstone in our overall growth strategy.

On a completely different matter, I wish to congratulate François Legault for his win and for becoming Premier of Québec, I would also like to mention the appointment of André Lamontagne as The Quebec Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. It is with great interest that we will work with them in all aspects and issues that affect our community

We will obviously try to raise their awareness of the importance of agricultural cooperation in Québec – a solid, resilient business model that is close to the people – as well as the importance of agriculture and agri-food to the Quebec economy.

Now that the insecurity about NAFTA negotiations is behind us and a new government is in power, we choose to be optimistic going forward toward a year filled with promises.

Enjoy a healthy harvest! 

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