New Brunswick

New Brunswick farmers ponder effects of TPP trade deal

A day after the announcement of the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, New Brunswick producers were busy trying to sort out what it will mean for them.

12-nation deal affects tariffs on products, opens dairy market to some duty-free imports

A day after the announcement of the sweeping Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, New Brunswick producers were busy trying to sort out what it will mean for them.

The 12-nation deal affects a broad range of sectors, several of them vital to the province's economy.

Much of the attention has focused on the dairy sector, which will be forced to turn over 3.25 per cent of its controlled market to foreign imports.

Bob Shannon is the chair of the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission. (CBC)
"If there's more imports, we don't have as much knowledge of what the demand is going to be, so it's harder to match production to the demand," says Robert Speer, a dairy farmer from Holmesville in Carleton County.

Speer is the dairy sector's representative on the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission, a provincial oversight body that deals with provincial supply management organizations in several sectors.

Dairy prices are set by a national dairy organization, but the TPP was still a hot topic at the provincial commission's regular meeting in Fredericton Tuesday.

"There's always good and bad, there's always winners and losers in everything," commission chair Bob Shannon said.

Under the agreement, the dairy market will be open to duty-free imports from the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

It's a small percentage, but it still could be enough to upset the delicate supply management system, Speer says.

Dairy farmers are allocated quotas, which can be adjusted as demand rises and falls to keep prices stable for farmers, who Speer says operate on razon-thin profit margins.

Poultry and egg farmers will also see their markets opened up to imports at percentages of 2.1 and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

Robert Speer is a dairy farmer from Holmesville who represents the sector on the New Brunswick Farm Products Commission. (CBC)
On the other hand, Shannon says, TPP "will probably be a really good thing for the beef and pork. But everyone's just `I don't know, I don't know, I don't know.'"

The deal will see lower tariffs applied to Canadian beef and pork by countries such as Japan and Vietnam, making those products more affordable and thus more popular.

Big tariffs on Canadian seafood in Japan, Vietnam, and New Zealand will also be eliminated.

Christian Brun, executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermen's Union, says that should help fishermen sell more herring and crab to Asia.

Lobster is less popular there, but the tariff elimination could create an opportunity to open new markets for that catch.

Brun has two caveats about the deal: he says if TPP were to threaten the requirement that only fishermen can be owner-operators of fishing licences, the MFU could not support it.

Other TPP signatories such as New Zealand, Chile, and Vietnam have all seen vertical integration in their fisheries, with boats owned by processors or larger companies.

Christian Brun is the executive secretary of the Maritime Fishermens' Union. (Radio-Canada)
Brun is also leery if TPP represents a trend towards governments favouring competitiveness at the expense of protecting producers.

And he says he feels "solidarity" with farmers whose supply management protection may be eroded by the deal.

"We understand how difficult it is in a global world, in an international market, and how you have to fend for yourself."

But, he said, "we can't neglect that this could have a positive impact" on fishermen.

The TPP will also lower tariffs on Canadian forestry products. No one from the New Brunswick Forest Products Association or the province's largest company in the industry, J.D. Irving, responded Tuesday to a request for comment on the deal.

About the Author

Jacques Poitras

Provincial Affairs reporter

Jacques Poitras has been CBC's provincial affairs reporter in New Brunswick since 2000. Raised in Moncton, he also produces the CBC political podcast Spin Reduxit.

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