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Asia’s growth bodes well for agri-food in Canada

A new report says growth in China, India and other emerging markets could help make Canada’s agri-food sector a growth engine for the entire economy


Ottawa – A new report from the Canadian Council of Chief Executives (CCCE) says fast-rising Asian markets mean “golden opportunities” for Canada’s agricultural producers.

Titled Golden Opportunities and Surmountable Challenges: Prospects for Canadian Agriculture in Asia, the report is the fourth in a series commissioned by the CCCE to explore the impact on Canada of Asia’s growing economic power.

Asia’s strength is driving major changes in the global agri-food market. Across Asia, rapid urbanization and income growth are contributing to an unprecedented expansion in the number of middle class consumers, and a consequent increase in demand for meats, vegetable oils, dairy products, fruits and sugar as well as processed food and restaurant meals.

The report finds that this growth augurs well for countries such as Canada that are net agricultural exporters – if federal and provincial governments and industry work together to overcome several external and internal challenges.

Among those challenges is the need to ensure that Canada is not locked out of key preferential trade agreements that will increasingly shape the future of international commerce.

Trans-Pacific Partnership

Michael Gifford, Canada’s former chief agricultural trade negotiator and the author of the report, stresses the importance of ensuring Canada’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a regional trade agreement currently being negotiated among Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the United States and Vietnam.

Canada recently asked to join the TPP, but the United States, Australia and New Zealand have yet to agree, citing among other concerns the federal government’s unwillingness to provide increased import access to Canada’s highly protected, supply-managed dairy and poultry sectors.

Gifford says that supply management “need not be an insurmountable challenge” to Canada’s broader trade ambitions. He points out that many other countries restrict certain kinds of agricultural imports, and that the most likely outcome of the TPP negotiations is therefore an agreement that results in a partial rather than complete liberalization of the most sensitive sectors.

At the same time, he says that Canada should be taking steps now to help protected sectors prepare for a future in which agricultural trade liberalization is not only inevitable, but very much in Canada’s national interest.

“Political sensitivities notwithstanding, the rest of the economy, including the 80 per cent of Canadian agriculture that is tied to world prices, cannot afford to be held hostage to demands by dairy and poultry producers to preserve the status quo,” the report says.