National Newswatch

Many barriers not based in science.


Ottawa-Agriculture trade is increasingly disrupted by non-tariff trade barriers that undermine the purpose of the free trade deals Canada has signed in recent years, says Dave Carey, Vice-President of the Canadian Canola Growers Association (CCGA).

The barriers add market access costs and establish barriers for Canadian farmers to innovations needed to advance agriculture’s sustainability and resilience, Carey told the Commons international trade committee.

The barriers could undermine Canadian climate change and sustainable development goals as well as the country’s trade policy objectives and competitiveness, he said.

Tariffs on canola were eliminated in the Canada-Europe trade deal “creating new opportunities in the EU biofuels market, but the canola sector continues to lack market certainty. The agreement has been in place for over five years, and we continue to face non-scientific requirements for crop protection products, delays in approvals for new crop varieties from biotechnology, and differing approaches to environmental and social protections.”

The trade deal provides the mechanisms to raise concerns about European policies, it has yet to yield practical solutions, he said. “We face the same issues with Mexico.”

Janelle Whitley, CCGA’s Senior Manager of Trade and Marketing Policy, said most Canadian canola is herbicide-tolerant GM varieties. “Biotechnology is a key part of canola’s sustainability story, enabling the widespread adoption of conservation tillage, improvements in soil health and reduction in other inputs. Responsible farming practices such as these allow farmers to sequester, on average, 11 million tonnes of GHGs in their fields each year.”

As well, crop protection products provide invaluable tools against pest, disease and agronomic pressures, protecting yield and farm profitability, she said. However, countries that do not accept biotechnology or crop production residue will not accept Canadian exports.

Canola farmers must select between market access or the adoption of innovation until the technology is recognized in export markets, if it is recognized. “Often, this means farmers are not using the newest, best technologies, which have been deemed safe by our Canadian regulatory bodies based on robust scientific assessments.

“These differences often come down to the use of precautionary principles and increasingly different views on sustainable agriculture. While we respect our partners’ sovereign right to enact policies related to human and animal health and the environment, our landmark agreements indicate that such measures should be based on science, not create an unjustified barrier to trade, and provide guidelines to recognize equivalency,” she said.

Both CUSMA and the Pacific free trade deal contain language on agriculture biotechnology that should be emulated. Recognition of international standards such as Codex would provide a solution to missing or different crop protection product registrations.

A strategy is required and dedicated resources are needed to ensure full implementation and compliance with the negotiated agreements and concessions, particularly in the areas of sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures and technical barriers to trade, are fulfilled, she said.

Chris Davison, Vice-President of the Canola Council of Canada, said that with more than 90 per cent of Canadian canola exported to as many as 50 different markets, the industry depends on ambitious, fair, science- and rules-based trade.

Some countries use protectionism as a way to promote security and control critical goods and services.

NTBs are used to support more sustained efforts towards greater self-sufficiency and local value-add opportunities and protecting domestic agriculture production. As well, governments are adopting measures designed to address the food safety concerns and fears, which are grounded in science.

“Moving away from science-based measures generates greater trade unpredictability. Done properly, these measures are based on international standards or are scientifically justified. Such measures should also be the least trade-restrictive possible,” he said.

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