Canada must be part of Pacific treaty, will defend farmers: PM

Thu Jun 25, 2015 3:58pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada must join a proposed Pacific trade pact but will strive to protect farmers, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Thursday, referring to foreign pressure to scrap tariffs that protect the dairy industry.

Some of the 12 nations taking part in talks on a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) want Canada to start dismantling a system known as supply management, which protects dairy, egg and chicken producers.

That could challenge Harper politically in the run-up to a close-fought Oct. 19 election, especially since his Conservative Party has broad support in rural areas.

The U.S. Senate on Wednesday passed legislation vital to securing the deal, which will in theory allow negotiators to quickly hammer out the details.

Patience with Ottawa is running out. On Thursday, U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman made clear that Washington wanted to see movement.

"We have work to do ... with Canada on issues like dairy and poultry, where we are certainly waiting for them to come to the table with a meaningful offer," Froman told a forum organized by Foreign Policy magazine.

Proponents say TPP would cover 40 percent of the world economy and raise annual global economic output by nearly $300 billion.

"It is essential in my view that Canada be part of that ... we are working to open those markets for Canada," Harper told reporters in Quebec City.   Continued...

Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, June 17, 2015. REUTERS/Chris Wattie