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Negotiations have concluded for the United Kingdom to join Canada and its 10 partner nations in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact, with Canada’s beef cattle sector already calling the results “fundamentally unjust.”
Federal Trade Minster Mary Ng on Thursday announced the conclusion of negotiations, making the U.K. the first accession applicant to reach that stage and “mark(ing) an important chapter in the development of the CPTPP.”
Ministers and trade reps from CPTPP nations met virtually Friday (Japan time) and declared “substantial conclusion” of talks with the U.K., which have been formally underway since 2021.
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The CPTPP’s accession working group said in a statement Friday that the U.K. “has provided commercially meaningful market access offers of the highest standard on goods, services, investment, financial services, government procurement, state-owned enterprises and temporary entry for business persons.”
“As the first country to show support for the U.K.’s accession to CPTPP, we are pleased to see a longstanding friend and ally join one of the world’s most progressive trade agreements,” Ng said in her statement.
U.K. accession to the CPTPP, she said, “would build on our longstanding economic and people-to-people ties and shared values on open and rules-based trade (and) would provide further trade and investment opportunities for both countries, especially in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The U.K. has sought new formal trade pacts elsewhere since its “Brexit” from the European Union in 2020. Talks on a new bilateral Canada-U.K. trade deal have been formally underway since March last year.
Meanwhile, a Canada-U.K. Trade Continuity Agreement (TCA), which came into force in April 2021, upholds bilateral trade terms similar to those of the 2017 Canada-E.U. free trade pact (CETA).
But the U.K. has also sought entry since 2020 to the CPTPP pact, which Canada was fifth to ratify in 2018 and now also includes Japan, Australia, Mexico, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Malaysia, Peru, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam. The pact officially came into force for Malaysia just last Nov. 29.
The Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), a group of Canadian organizations representing export-dependent ag commodity sectors, has long said it “would be supportive of (U.K.) accession subject to them meeting the high standards of the (CPTPP) agreement.”
But CAFTA, in a 2021 submission for federal consultations on the matter, warned its member groups “cannot support an outcome where U.K. beef continues to have unlimited access to the Canadian market while Canadian beef is subject to a TRQ (tariff rate quota).”
Also, while the U.K. “continues to apply (E.U.) regulatory policies” on sanitary and phytosanitary barriers and a ban on livestock growth promotion technology, none of the 10 other CPTPP members have such restrictions “as they adhere to international guidelines on these products.”
Similarly, CAFTA said at the time, the Canadian pork industry would seek for the U.K. be “forced to abide by the same guidelines agreed upon by the current signatories of CPTPP.”
The Canadian Cattle Association, a CAFTA member, declared itself Friday to be “disappointed” with a market access agreement that will form the basis for the U.K. to join CPTPP “without achieving viable access for Canadian beef to the U.K.”
Specifically, the CCA said in a statement Friday, “we are aware that other members of the CPTPP have achieved unlimited beef access in their bilateral agreements with the U.K. We have been informed that similar access for Canada is ‘off the table’.”
Also, the CCA said, there’s “no current progress being made to address the main obstacle to the U.K. market – the full acceptance of Canada’s meat hygiene system, which is widely recognized as one of the finest in the world.”
The CCA said it “will draw a hard line that this barrier must be addressed in Canada’s bilateral agreement with the U.K.”
CCA president Nathan Phinney also warned Friday the U.K. entry to CPTPP “further disadvantages Canadian beef producers and is fundamentally unjust,” and if a ratification bill comes to Parliament without addressing U.K. barriers to Canadian beef, “CCA will approach all Parliamentarians to defeat that bill.”
Under the Canada-U.K. TCA, the CCA said Friday, British beef can enter Canada at a zero per cent tariff in “unlimited” quantities, while Canadian beef has a zero per cent tariff but only up to a TRQ of 2,708 tonnes fresh and 1,161 tonnes frozen per year.
Under those terms, the U.K. exported 2,733 tonnes of beef to Canada in 2021 and 4,414 tonnes in 2022, while Canada exported 657 tonnes of beef to the U.K. in 2021 and “zero in 2022,” the association said.
CCA said it believes a deal with the U.K. that leaves such barriers in place “does not meet the standard of the CPTPP and the U.K.’s bid to join should be rejected until they can do better to meet the progressive trade principles of the CPTPP.”
Among other organizations weighing in this week on U.K. entry to the CPTPP, Dairy Farmers of Canada acknowledged Friday the deal will provide U.K. dairy exporters with TRQ access to the Canadian market.
However, according to Global Affairs Canada, all CPTPP member countries share one fixed amount of TRQ into Canada for dairy, and the department has said it will “continue to honour the government’s commitment to not provide additional market access in our supply-managed sectors in any future trade negotiation.”
DFC said Friday it “expect(s) the Canadian government will be vigilant to ensure that the dairy products coming into Canada adhere to our domestic standards for food safety and production, and that any volumes allowed into Canada are enforced according to the terms of the agreement.” — Glacier FarmMedia Network