Candidates call for more trade opportunities

Politics: Asian markets top trade opportunities sought

By: Don Patterson

  |  Posted: Wednesday, Feb 26, 2014 12:03 pm

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Canada needs to do more to open more international markets to Canadian agricultural products to support southern Alberta farmers, say the potential nominees for the Conservative Party in the Macleod riding.

From opening new trade opportunities and reducing red tape, potential nominees Phil Rowland, Scott Wagner, Melissa Mathieson and John Barlow all say there’s a lot the federal government can do to support southern Alberta’s farmers and ranchers, starting with creating more opportunities for international trade.

Wagner wants Canada to look east to Asian countries as export markets for agricultural products.

He said the Canada depends too heavily on the U.S. for beef exports. Canada is also losing out on value added industries by shipping live animals across the border, said Wagner. He would like to see more cattle processed in Canada and prepared to be shipped overseas from the Macleod riding.

“A lot of our cattle are going south of the border and being slaughtered and packed within the U.S. and then shipped to the far east as beef exports,” said Wagner.

He said his entrepreneurial background would help him to work on behalf of Macleod producers.

Wagner and his opponents also say the government needs to continue to fight the Country Of Origin Labeling (COOL) regulations in the U.S. The regulations require U.S. producers and retailers to mark beef that is imported from another country. Critics of the regulation say it makes imported beef products more expensive and discriminates against foreign producers.

Wagner said called the rules an attack on access to U.S. markets for Canadian producers.

“It is in effect trade action against Canada that is against NAFTA and it’s against the World Trade Organization,” he said.

Barlow wants the federal government to be more aggressive in fighting the COOL rules.

“That puts our production costs so much higher than everybody else,” he said. “They are making progress, but I think we have to be a bit more aggressive in terms of standing up for the Canadian producer,” he said.

Barlow said opening markets to new agricultural exports will be essential to help farmers and producers and the recent European trade agreement is a good first step.

“We’ve relied too much on one market, on the Unites States, that’s controlled the price we get for our goods a little bit,” he said. “When you only have one main buyer it’s tough to get higher prices for your goods.”

Barlow also wants to work to encourage and facilitate the development of new crops to open new markets and income sources for farmers.

He said he wants to streamline the regulatory hurdles producers face. He said there needs to be improvements in the temporary foreign workers program to help producers who rely on it for

“A lot of the larger agriculture businesses, the feedlots and what-not, rely on that program and their finding that really onerous to navigate,” said Barlow.

Rowland said he has also heard from many people about concerns over the regulatory burden farmers and agricultural producers face.

“I think we need to review all the things we regulate and try to keep things a little more simple for the people out there,” he said.

Rowland said transportation problems that have kept western grain growers from being able to get their crops to ports need to be dealt with.

Much of last year’s bumper crop still sits waiting to be taken to ports. He said it’s a result of more oil being transported by rail, tying up capacity on trains that could be used for crops.

Rowland said building new pipelines will help to free up space on railways for grains and other agricultural commodities.

Unfortunately, he said it’s something that doesn’t have an immediate solutions, even if the pipeline are approved quickly.

He said he wants to ensure a new trade deal with the European Union is finalized. In the mean time, he also said it’s time to look to new markets for Canadian agricultural products.

He said Pacific Rim trade deals have been on the back burner but he wants to see more work to get new trade deals signed to improve access to Asian countries for Canadian agricultural products.

South Korea is on the top of the list for Asian nations Mathieson wants Canada to increase agricultural trade opportunities with.

“The Canadian Korea trade agreement is something that’s close and something our government could achieve and some farmers probably think it should have already been achieved,” she said.

Mathieson said it’s a large market for agricultural products that would benefit Macleod producers.

She the Canadian government needs to keep fighting the COOL regulations in the U.S.

Mathieson said the government has tried a softer, more diplomatic approach on the issue and it didn’t work. She would support the government taking a stronger stance in the ongoing trade dispute.

“When you look at what has happened in this trade dispute, Canada comes out being the winner, but it seems our U.S. partners won’t agree on it,” she said.

Mathieson said more pipelines aren’t a cure-all for the problem of limited capacity on rail lines for grain. She said there needs to be more transparency on the issue and rail companies should be held to account to get crops moving.

“I don’t think the private companies are being very clear to what is being transported, what can actually help the issue, they’re passing it off,” she said.


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