Canadian dairy farmers greeted with mixed feelings the news that Canada has preserved its supply management system while conceding 3.25 per cent of its future milk production to an Asia-Pacific market under a new trade agreement with 11 other countries.
Known as the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Canada has signed a tentative deal that would create a 12-country trade bloc — with the U.S., Mexico, Japan, Vietnam, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand and Singapore — representing 40 per cent of the global economy.
While the concessions will result in lost revenue for Canadian farmers, the government immediately announced a series of measures amounting to a $4.3-billion compensation package to minimize the effects on the dairy, poultry and egg industry.
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"Like my fellow dairy farmers, I am disappointed that additional access was granted in this deal," said Wally Smith, president of the Dairy Farmers of Canada.
"However, we recognize that our government fought hard against other countries' demands, and [has] lessened the burden by announcing mitigation measures and what seems to be a fair compensation package, to minimize the impact on Canadian dairy farmers and make up for cutting growth in the domestic market.
"We have come a long way from the threat of eliminating supply management," Smith said in a news release on Monday.
"One of the most important gains for Canada in TPP is that it will open access in the Japanese market, the world's third-largest economy, said Perrin Beatty, the president and chief executive officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.
While the final text will not be out for some time, Beatty said that on balance Canadian businesses would come out ahead under this deal, though some sectors would be affected more than others.
"We welcome the news that a Trans-Pacific Partnership deal was attained, while recognizing that all negotiating countries had to make important concessions that will change the economic landscape," said Beatty whose group represents some 200,000 employers.
"The real question is how will the government complement the agreement with other measures it's putting in place to support our industries."
Beatty urged the next Parliament to ratify the trade deal in a timely manner.
'A threat to Canada's auto industry'
Unifor, Canada's largest union in the private sector, denounced the Conservatives for signing a deal with a "dramatic" reduction in the automotive content rules to 45 per cent for core parts and 40 per cent for other parts, both below current North American Free Trade Agreement provisions.
"The Harper Conservatives pledged that they would not sign a deal that was a threat to Canada's auto industry — and yet, I fear they have done exactly that," said Jerry Dias, the national president for Unifor, which represents more than 310,000 workers, including 40,000 in the auto sector.
"Ultimately, this is a bad day," Dias said in an interview with CBC News. "You can't mess around with content levels and then somehow say it's not going to cost jobs"
Dias said the union would have a better idea of how many jobs would be lost under this deal once more details are made public, but it estimates the loss at more than 20,000 — a figure the government has rejected.
Benefits for Saskatchewan
Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall welcomed the agreement in principle as an opportunity for agricultural producers in the province to access key Pacific markets and Japan specifically.
"The TPP will encourage major growth and investment in our value-added agriculture sector through better access to these markets for our processed products, such as canola oil and meal, malt barley, beef and pork," Wall said in a news release.
Wall urged on all the federal party leaders to support the deal after the election on Oct. 19.
"It would be disastrous if Canada were to pull out now and leave Canada and Saskatchewan on the outside looking in when it comes to selling our exports to these countries.
Ontario calls for auto sector support
The Ontario government, which had been calling on Ottawa to be more transparent about its negotiations, said it had a number of concerns over the concessions made public today, but that ultimately it needed more details from the federal government to understand the implications for different business sectors.
"Some sectors of the auto industry may benefit from the TPP, said Ontario ministers Brad Duguid and Jeff Leal in a joint statement. "However, Ontario remains concerned about several key concessions regarding the auto sector, in particular, the tariff reduction schedule and the rules of origin for autos and parts announced this morning."
Ontario is calling on the federal government to help its auto sector with "a robust, large-scale, grant-based transition adjustment program."
"Additionally, we remain concerned about the concessions made on supply management, and the potential for them to have a negative impact on the integrity of the supply management system, " the Ontario ministers said.