Montreal

Quebec calls on Ottawa to protect farm industry in Trans-Pacific Partnership talks

The Quebec government and the province’s farmers are joining forces to call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to protect Quebec's agriculture and food industry while negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Coalition asks Ottawa to maintain tariffs on Quebec produce and protect supply management

Dairy farmer Jvo Thum carries apparatus used to milk his cows at his farm in Granby. Farmers like him are pressing Canada to not open the domestic market to foreign competitors. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

The Quebec government and the province's farmers are joining forces to call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to protect Quebec's agriculture and food industry while negotiating the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

They are asking Ottawa to maintain tariffs on Quebec produce and protect Quebec's supply management system. 

At a news conference on Monday, Pierre Paradis, Quebec's minister of agriculture, fisheries and food  along with officials from the province's farmers' federation  called for action.

"The [current] supply management system is the fairest system for producers, processors and consumers and we can't go without it," said Paradis.

Dairy farmers and egg producers insist that system — which restricts and regulates the supply of their products  — is necessary to keep prices high enough to allow them to survive.

U.S. and New Zealand want to sell dairy products in Canada

Paradis plans to travel to Atlanta with Jacques Daoust, the province's minister of the economy, innovation and exports, to make Quebec's position known.

The United States, Australia and New Zealand have been pushing for greater access to Canada's dairy sector in particular.

Quebec comprises 50 per cent of Canada's dairy industry, and is a heavily protected market. (Christinne Muschi/Reuters)

"It's a major issue. It's 40 per cent of the planet's raw product that's being negotiated [at the talks]" said Paradis of the partnership talks underway in Atlanta by chief negotiators from the 12 Pacific Rim members countries.

Federal Trade Minister Ed Fast has denied that Canada will make dairy-sector concessions at the talks.

However, there have been reports that in its effort to seal the Trans-Pacific trade deal, Canada may be prepared to open up as much as 10 per cent of the dairy market to American milk and other dairy products.

Quebec accounts for half of Canada's dairy farms.

Last Saturday, Liberal and NDP candidates said their parties were concerned about what they called a "lack of transparency" from the Conservatives on their intentions.

During last Thursday's French-language leaders' debate, Conservative Leader Stephen Harper said he has always defended supply management in trade talks.

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