Trump's position on NAFTA worries Alberta's beef producers
$1.6B worth of product was shipped from Canada to the U.S. last year
Canadian beef producers are concerned about the possible financial impact to their industry should the U.S. look to reopen the North American Free Trade Agreement and bring back a costly labelling regime.
A leaked memo suggests U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's transition team is advising him to extract more favourable terms to the U.S under a renegotiated NAFTA.
It's making beef producers on this side of the border nervous.
"Country of Origin Labelling was costing our industry $600 million a year," said Rich Smith, executive director of the Alberta Beef Producers.
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"So when we hear talk of the possibility of Country of Origin Labelling being raised again, certainly it's very worrisome for us."
Smith said the industry, which shipped nearly $1.6 billion dollars worth of products to the U.S. last year, could be crippled if the U.S. blocks imports or brings back the controversial Country of Origin Labelling.
"We hope, obviously, the president-elect will seek counsel from people who truly understand the benefits of trade and recognize protectionism doesn't really help their industry either," he said.
World Trade Organization ruling
In 2015, the World Trade Organization upheld an earlier decision which found Country of Origin Labelling unfairly impacted Canadian and Mexican beef producers and authorized retaliatory tariffs against U.S. imports.
Despite that decision, University of Calgary economist Eugene Beaulieu said there's nothing stopping Trump from bringing it back — it will simply trigger another costly trade tiff.
"If he did do something like that again, Canada could go back to the WTO and say, 'This is wrong,' and we could seek a solution through the WTO, but it takes time and it's costly," he said.
The leaked memo indicated that protecting American producers will be one of Trump's top priorities during the first 200 days of his administration.
Canada's ambassador to the U.S., David MacNaughton, told CBC News Network's Power & Politics last week the Liberal government is "happy" to renegotiate NAFTA.
"Obviously any trade deal can be improved, and to the degree that the president-elect of the United States wants to see improvements to NAFTA, we'd be happy to sit down and talk," he said.