In the past 2 days the Globe and Mail has had a couple articles touching on 2 different potential free trade agreements; a bi-lateral deal between Canada and the EU as well as a the ongoing discussions around creating a trans-pacific free trade zone.
The articles, while very diverse in their take home message had some interesting tidbits in concern to agriculture. Greg Keenan’s article was summarizing a study put forth by a Canadian Auto Workers economist that predicted massive job loss in the manufacturing industry, arguing that we stand to lose more then we could gain through such an agreement. On the flip side, Barry McKenna’s article was lamenting the fact that Canada has been told that they can’t join the trans-pacific discussions because of their unwillingness to put agricultural market access on the table and as such, Canadian industries would miss out on an opportunity for access to a potentially lucrative free trade zone.
The CAW study asserted that the majority of gains would be incurred by the agriculture and fisheries industries, however they failed to try and quantify the actual impact, (I have a feeling the benefits from increased access for agri-food products alone would outstrip manufacturing losses). In regard to the pacific deal, there is a touch of irony, given that it is agricultural industries that would incur the greatest benefit from the deal but our policy makers continue to sacrifice non-supply managed farmers (pig, beef, grain, etc.) to protect our domestic dairy and poultry markets.
So what is the take home message? At the end of the day, trade policy should attempt to open markets for industries that have a comparative advantage over global competitors. In the case of Ontario, the simple fact is that we can produce pork and beef cheaper then almost anywhere in the world and if we were given fair access to markets we would be able to compete with any other country around the globe. You also need to remember that it is not only the farmer that benefits from increased trade (we don’t send pigs straight from my farm to another country). Jobs in urban areas are created and sustained by these trade deals because it takes more then just the farmer to make high quality Canadian pork and beef.
Link for Pacific Trade Article:
Link for EU Article:
If you’re interested, here is another article from the Globe about Supply Management: