WINNIPEG Manitoba (Reuters) - Canadian Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz lashed out at the United States for being a "schoolyard bully" on trade issues, and said he sees more promise in negotiating a bilateral deal with Japan than the more ambitious Trans-Pacific Partnership.
Ritz, in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday, also said it would take a "sea shift" in thinking for Canada to offer significantly more access for TPP countries to its protected dairy, egg and poultry industries.
The Conservative minister's comments highlight growing challenges to completing the TPP deal, which aims to lower trade barriers in member countries.
In May, Japan said it would not abolish tariffs in five key agricultural sectors. Last week, U.S. dairy farmers threatened to oppose the pact if Japan and Canada did not agree to accept substantially more dairy imports.
The chances of TPP reaching an agreement look "50-50," Ritz said, noting that the United States lacks congressional authority to do a TPP deal anyway.
Ritz said without the U.S. ability to sign any agreement and the fact some TPP countries are upset with the United States, "a bilateral deal like we’ve got with Korea now, directly with Japan, is far better.”
Canada and the United States are locked in a bitter dispute over U.S. labels on food. The U.S. rule, which requires retailers such as grocery stores to list the country of origin and other information on meat, has resulted in fewer Canadian pigs and cattle being exported to the U.S., according to the Canadian government.
"It's hard to have respect for the stance the Americans are taking on TPP when you look in the rear view mirror and you've got (country of origin labeling) staring at you," Ritz said.
Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Editing by Franklin Paul and Andrew Hay