Commons Considers Bloc Bill to End Dairy Concessions in Trade Deals


When Canadian trade negotiators begin talks with the United Kingdom next year on a permanent bilateral trade deal, their hands could be tied when it comes to offering any future dairy, egg or poultry concessions — if Parliament passes a new private member’s bill that saw its first hour of debate on Tuesday.

Bloc Québécois MP Louis Plamondon’s legislation, Bill C-216, would amend the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Act to state that the minister “must not make any commitment … by future trade treaty or agreement” that would increase the tariff rate quota (TRQ) applicable to dairy products, poultry or eggs, or reduce the tariff applicable to those goods when they are imported in excess of that quota.

Canada protects its agriculture supply management system for these commodities by carefully controlling access to its domestic market. Only small quantities of imports are allowed under strict international quotas — TRQs — with high tariffs keeping any extra imports above and beyond these quotas from being cost-competitive.

But the three major trade deals implemented by the Liberal government over the last four years — the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union, the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with 10 other Pacific Rim markets and, most recently, the revised North American Free Trade Agreement (the new NAFTA) — all offered new access to Canada’s domestic market, among other concessions required to land these deals.

If Plamondon’s legislation garners enough support to pass in this Parliament before the next election, the first trade negotiation it could affect is talks between Canada and the United Kingdom to reach a permanent, comprehensive deal to liberalize their bilateral trade post-Brexit.

The government won’t release details of exactly what’s in that transitional agreement until the legal text is ready, which usually takes another two to four weeks. But Doug Forsyth, Canada’s lead negotiator in the talks, confirmed previously that the British were seeking additional tariff-free access to Canada’s cheese market.

“I want to be very clear that there is no new market access for cheese here in this transition agreement,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng told CBC News at Saturday’s announcement.

But yesterday at the Commons trade committee, Ng’s parliamentary secretary, Rachel Bendayan, said that language in the transitional deal commits both sides to returning to the table to reach what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has called a “bespoke” bilateral deal by 2024.

That means the British could make another play to get more U.K. cheeses into Canada.

Based on remarks made during Tuesday’s first hour of debate, it appears Conservative MPs may not support this bill, although a party spokesperson has yet to comment on it or confirm how the Official Opposition will vote.

MPs will vote on the bill at second reading after its second hour of debate, expected later this winter.

(Source: CBC News)