Canada to defend its farmers in Pacific talks

Mon Mar 12, 2012 3:19pm EDT
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By Leah Schnurr

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Canada will defend a tariff structure that supports its farmers as the country pushes for entry into a pan-Pacific trade pact, Canada's trade minister said on Monday.

Still, Trade Minister Ed Fast said in an interview on Monday Canada is ready to discuss all topics on the negotiating table as it faces pressure to open its farming industry in talks about joining the pact.

Fast said his country has the support of most of the countries involved in negotiating a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade deal. The proposed trade pact currently includes the United States, Australia and seven others.

News reports have suggested Australia and New Zealand are unhappy about Canada's supply management system, which protects its agricultural sector by setting producer quotas and prices on farm commodities such as milk and poultry, and putting stiff tariffs on imports.

"We have said very clearly we are prepared to discuss all matters on the negotiating table, but we also have made it very clear to our industry that we will continue to defend Canada's system of supply management," said Fast.

"We've made it very clear to our farmers we will aggressively defend their interests in the negotiations," Fast later added.

Fast, in New York to make the case for Canada's inclusion, said Canada would be an ally for the United States at the negotiating table.

"I think there's a general understanding that Canada needs to be at the table because of how much we have in common," Fast said.   Continued...