The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) finally came to an agreement on Oct. 5, and the supply-managed sectors of Canadian agriculture could be heard breathing a collective sigh of relief.
Since Canada joined the TPP in October 2012 there was much uncertainty regarding the future of supply management. Several TPP member countries, notably the United States and New Zealand, were gunning for increased access to Canada’s dairy and poultry markets. Former prime minister Stephen Harper was steadfast on his desire to remain a part of the TPP, leaving dairy and poultry farmers wondering if their livelihoods would be sacrificed in order to appease demands from member countries.
Although the federal government maintained that it would not surrender supply management in the TPP talks, as talks intensified during the summer it became apparent that the government would have to make some concessions if Canada was to be part of a final deal.
Supply management did not come out of the agreement untouched, yet changes were much less worse than its pundits estimated and the industry feared.
Despite “significant and broad demands” from several of its TPP negotiating partners, the Government of Canada said in a press release “it has only offered limited new access for supply-managed products” — 3.25 per cent for dairy, 2.3 per cent for eggs, 2.1 per cent for chicken, 2 per cent for turkey and 1.5 per cent for broiler hatching eggs.
Although considered a “small fraction” by the federal government, it was nonetheless disappointing to the four national feather boards and the Dairy Farmers of Canada to have to lose domestic share. However, all of the groups understand the importance of the TPP conclusion to the economy of the country, and to other sectors of agriculture.
TPP member Japan has vowed to cut tariffs over the next several years on wheat for human consumption (by 45 per cent) and on beef exports (these will decrease by nearly 30 per cent), and canola oil (15 per cent). Tariffs will also be reduced on Canadian pork exports. It’s been estimated that exports to Japan alone could triple from the deal.
The Government of Canada had to perform a juggling act for agriculture. Although export commodities seemingly came out on top, the supply management system remains intact and has a stable path for moving forward.
To support supply-managed producers and processors throughout the implementation of the TPP the federal government announced a series of new programs and initiatives that will allow the three pillars of the supply management system to remain intact (see page 22).
Canada’s new Liberal government and the other 11 countries involved still have to ratify the agreement so changes will occur gradually in the coming year or two. In the meantime, the Canadian poultry sector must continue engaging with consumers as to the benefits of the supply management system and its importance to rural Canada.