Canada confident WTO deal to spare poultry, dairy

Mon Jul 21, 2008 9:37am EDT
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OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada is confident that a WTO trade deal this week will spare a marketing scheme that has protected its dairy and poultry farmers from foreign competition, Trade Minister Michael Fortier said in an interview published on Monday.

Trade ministers from major nations meet in Switzerland this week to conclude the Doha round of talks on a new World Trade Organization deal that will cut farm subsidies and tariffs.

Canada has resisted attempts to touch its "supply management" regime which controls production and prices and limits imports with high tariffs.

"I don't think supply management will take a hit," Fortier told the Globe and Mail newspaper.

In May, mediators issued revised proposals that would force Canada to open up poultry and dairy markets to more imports.

Canada has tried, unsuccessfully so far, to have all supply-managed agriculture designated as "sensitive products," meaning they would be subject to smaller cuts in tariffs than other products.

"At the end of the day, everybody has got a pocket of sensitive issues which they wish to protect ... I am cautiously optimistic we can get somewhere," said Fortier, adding that supply management was a minor issue for many countries.

"Our counterparts know that our position hasn't changed. We're going to have to find a way to come to terms based on that position."

Trade experts say protected industries such as the Canadian poultry and dairy sector will eventually be forced to end their isolation and compete in the global market.

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Bernadette Baum)