1 , 2005: Last week, Toronto Star columnist, David
Crane, took a swipe at Canadian international trade negotiators.
He accused them of forgetting the basic rule: “In any
serious negotiation, you have to give to get.”
Crane based his accusation on Canada’s position in
the World Trade Talks that seeks better trade access for grains
and meats, while at the same time resisting making it easier
for other countries to sell dairy and poultry products in
Crane assumes that the World Trade Organization talks are
in a position to create better access for Canadian grains
and meats in world markets.
But wait a minute…
A decade ago those same arguments were made by the urban
columnists of the day about the Uruguay Round of trade talks.
In that deal, Canada modified its support for dairy and poultry
products and killed the Crow Rate, the transportation subsidy
that moved grains off our prairies, cheaply. We gave. Did
we get better access for grains and meats?
I haven’t seen any evidence that the Uruguay Round
benefited Canadian grains and meats. But Canadian farmers,
particularly in western Canada, changed their farm businesses
as a result of the loss of the Crow Rate transportation subsidy.
Today we market much of our grain inside cattle and pig skins.
Consider the turmoil in our international markets as a result
of the discovery of mad cow disease in the Canadian cattle
herd. Dramatically increasing Canadian slaughter capacity
got the attention of Americans -- at least some of them are
scrambling to normalize the beef trade with Canada. Did we
turn to the World Trade Organization for help?
Consider the tension for Canadian pork producers throughout
2004 and much of 2005 as the Americans yet again accused them
of dumping and subsidizing our exports. Could we look to the
WTO for help? Persuading the U.S. to abandon their trade remedy
laws isn’t even on the table.
Consider the ongoing softwood lumber dispute with our American
neighbors. U.S. lumber barons will not be content until we
let them buy our raw lumber and haul the logs into the U.S.
for value-adding and job creation.
Canadian trade negotiators are smarter that Crane thinks.
Unloading bulk undifferentiated commodities on the world market
doesn’t do much for the Canadian economy.
There is an old saying: A bird in the hand is worth two in
the bush. Crane admits that supply management “provides
a level of stability to a way of life that is subject very
much to the vagaries of weather, disease and other factors.
It has also provided Canadians with safe and high-quality
products.” Canada’s trade negotiators should not
be giving up the bird in the hand for the bird in the bush.
Read David Crane’s column at www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?
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