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Collapse of WTO talks could hurt Canadian producers

Aug. 1, 2008 - The collapse of the World Trade Organization negotiations earlier this week could signal trouble for Canadian producers not covered by supply management, to the tune of $10 million per day in lost sales.


August 1, 2008
By The National Post/CanWest

Aug. 1, 2008, Ottawa, Ont. – Canadian farm producers not covered by supply management boards said Wednesday the collapse of the WTO's Doha round talks will cost them close to $10-million a day in lost potential sales, or $3.65-billion a year.

Meanwhile, they add that Canada's position at the Doha talks — that the country's supply management boards were to remain untouched as part of any trade liberalization talks — did not aid their case in trying to gain access to new global markets.

The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) said that the pursuit of bilateral deals, as advocated by Michael Fortier, the International Trade Minister, in reaction to collapse of Doha talks, are a "poor substitute" for a significant multilateral trade deal.

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Those talks, aimed at freer trade to help poorer countries and focused mostly on agriculture, appeared to collapse on Tuesday after nine days of negotiations.

The Doha round kicked off in the Qatar capital in 2001, but progress in reaching a deal has been limited due to disagreements between the industrialized and developing countries on agriculture tariffs and subsidies.

A spokesperson for CAFTA said the failure to reach a deal comes at a bad time, as Canadian exporters, such as farmers, must deal with the strength of the Canadian dollar.

"Bilateral agreements don't address domestic support payments and export subsidies, the real culprits robbing Canadian farmers of potential export markets," CAFTA said in a statement, adding bilateral deals cannot "substitute" for a new WTO agreement.

Canadian officials have also been under scrutiny for their role, or lack thereof, at the Doha talks in Geneva. Their insistence that supply-management boards be left intact likely shut Canada out from any meaningful role, analysts say.

Darcy Davis, CAFTA's president, said in an interview Canada's defence of supply management likely hampered his members' efforts to get greater market access.

"Ultimately, sensitive products weren't the straw that broke the camel's back, but they were definitely a factor in the talks not being successful," he said from Geneva.

"When we were trying to get market access elsewhere in countries that weren't willing to move, they found an ally in the Canadian government. This is always a concern to us."

Mr. Fortier said Canada's supply-management scheme was never addressed among the key negotiating countries during the Geneva talks.