Canada should be tossed out of negotiations on a major multinational free trade deal if its government doesn’t agree to open up the agricultural sector to greater competition, U.S. Congress members have told President Barack Obama.
In a letter sent to the president last week, 140 members of Congress urged the president to cut Canada, as well as Japan, out of talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership if the countries refuse to open up their agricultural industries to competition under the deal.
The letter said the lawmakers were “troubled by Canada’s lack of ambition, which is threatening a robust outcome for U.S. farmers.”
The TPP is being negotiated by 12 Pacific Rim countries, and if agreed to would form the world's largest free-trade bloc. Canada lobbied for years to be part of the talks, finally gaining access in 2012.
At the heart of the issue is Canada’s supply management system for dairy and poultry products, the Globe and Mail reports. Supply management sets up standardized prices for these products, limits the supply and keeps foreign competition at bay with high import tariffs.
While backers of supply management say it provides stability for farmers, critics say it raises the price of dairy and poultry.
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The call to expel Canada and Japan from the talks was hailed by the U.S.’s dairy industry.
“We share the concerns of Congress over the efforts of Japan and Canada to evade meaningful market access in the TPP,” said Tom Suber, president of the U.S. Dairy Export Council.
Obama is already facing difficulties in getting Congress onside in the trade talks. His administration has so far failed to convince Congress to grant it fast-track authority in the talks, which would restrict debate on the deal in Congress and give the president the ability to sign the deal before Congress approves it.
The Globe notes that Canada and Japan are also negotiating a trade deal between themselves, and some groups say the two countries could gain an advantage by hammering out a deal before a conclusion to the talks on the TPP, which have dragged on for years.
“There is an opportunity if things are slowing down on the TPP,” said David Worts, executive director of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association, which represents Toyota and Honda in Canada. “Canada and Japan should consider forging ahead.”