TPP concerns hot topic at ag debate
by Alicia K. Gosselin
AVONMORE – With the recent uproar surrounding the Trans-Pacific
Partnership (TPP), close to 100 residents filled the house during the
Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry all-candidates agricultural
debate Thurs., Oct. 1, with many concerns about how the global trade
deal would affect dairy farmers.
The 12-country TPP – including Canada, the U.S., Japan, Mexico,
Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore, Peru, and
Vietnam – is the largest trade deal ever proposed, and represents
almost 40 per cent of the global economy.
Although the Canadian government has said it will keep the pillars of
the supply management system intact, it has also agreed to allow more
duty-free imports of dairy and poultry products in from TPP countries,
which has local dairy farmers worried.
“Based on what we know about the TPP deal, which isn’t much, it looks
like the Harper government could be putting the dairy farmers of
SD&SG at risk, and this would have a huge impact on our local
economy and local families,” said Liberal candidate Bernadette Clement.
“A 10-per-cent concession could amount to a $2-billion loss in revenue
annually for dairy farms.”
According to Conservative candidate and current MP Guy Lauzon, dairy
farmers in the area should stand assured that supply management is part
of their policy, and “has been protected each and every time” during
trade talks. He noted that the global deal would be in the best
interest of Canadians.
“Our Conservative government knows that agriculture and agri-food is
the backbone of our economy… There’s no doubt in my mind that we will
look after our dairy farms, and I’ll look every dairy farmer in the eye
and I tell you we will do much better than any other choice you might
have,” said Lauzon. “We have the best farmers, the best land, and now
we are going to have the best market – agriculture is going to boom, I
promise you that.”
Because the Harper government negotiated the agreement during the
election campaign, if a new government takes over after Oct. 19, the
agreement could be nullified. And that’s exactly the stance that NDP
candidate Patrick Burger took during the debate.
“The current government actually doesn’t have the right to continue to
negotiate a binding legislation,” said Burger. “Jean Chretien actually
threw out a negotiation that Kim Campbell negotiated, and the NDP would
do the same if we find that supply management hasn’t been defended.”
He noted that although the trade deal could open up a massive market,
his focus was on “what’s sustainable in the long-term.” Burger also
commented on how the Conservative government has already “betrayed”
supply management due to milk protein products coming into the country
without tariffs, which sparked a recent rally at Winchester’s Paramalat
Green Party candidate Elaine Kennedy said that because the agreement
sparked so many unanswered questions, her party would like to see a
draft of the negotiation to “know we’re protected.”
The debate, hosted by the Stormont and Dundas Federations of
Agriculture at North Stormont Place, attracted dairy farmers and rural
community members from throughout the counties to get more information
on the TPP, which is expected to be more significant for the economy
than the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). It would open
Canada’s economy to 800 million consumers.
South Stormont’s Deputy Mayor Tammy Hart, also a dairy farmer just
outside of Finch, said she felt a little more settled after hearing
what Lauzon had to say about protecting supply management.
“I’m going to trust my government…I know that the delays that have been
taking place are because of the fact that this government does support
supply management,” said Hart after the debate. “Just to hear [Lauzon]
tonight reconfirm that statement settles me a little better as well,
and I feel a little more confident. At the end of the day, you have to
look at the whole picture.”
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