Trans-Pacific trade deal opens new markets for Canada’s beef producers

A recently ratified agreement between the government of Canada and 10 other countries will provide tariff-free and/or competitive access to key markets in the Asia-Pacific region.

On Oct. 25, The Government of Canada became the fifth member nation to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

CPTPP countries that ratified before Canada were Japan, Mexico, Singapore and New Zealand. The sixth nation to ratify the deal was Australia on 31 October. Because the provisions of the agreement specify that it enters into effect 60 days after ratification by at least 50 per cent of the signatories (six of the eleven participating countries), it will come into force on 30 December 2018.

Canada’s agricultural producers had urged the federal government to be one of the first six to ratify the agreement, allowing Canada to benefit from the early rounds of negotiations and tariff cuts. For beef producers, early ratification is considered key to securing the best terms with the growing markets in Japan, Vietnam and Malaysia.

The Japanese market in particular holds huge potential for Canadian beef producers. The CPTPP will reduce the current 36.5 per cent tariff to 27.5 per cent on Canadian fresh beef and 26 per cent on Canadian frozen beef. Further cuts will eventually bring the tariff down to nine per cent for fresh beef, while frozen beef will ultimately be completely exempt.

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) and Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA) are delighted the Canadian federal government worked so diligently to ratify the deal. The government used a rare walk-around process to pass the 14 Orders in Council required to complete the process.

“Canada is a trading nation,” Jim Carr, Minister of International Trade Diversification, said in a statement announcing the ratification. “The CPTPP will add nearly half a billion consumers to the growing list of places where Canadian businesses can compete and succeed on a level playing field. The ratification of the CPTPP represents another important step toward trade diversification to help the middle class and those working hard to join it to compete and succeed in the global marketplace.”

Revised NAFTA agreement a relief to Canada’s beef producers

Image Credit: KCL Cattle Company Ltd.

After more than a year of negotiations, Canada, the U.S. and Mexico have reached an agreement on NAFTA. The new, proposed agreement is called the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement (USMCA).

The agreement is good news for Canadian beef producers, as it preserves the duty-free trade in live cattle and beef, which has benefited all three partners under NAFTA. The existing rules of origin and the mechanisms for fair dispute settlement also remain intact.

Brian Innes, president of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) issued a statement on the new agreement: “We welcome an agreement to renew NAFTA. Free and fair trade has made our agri-food exporters globally competitive. We’re very pleased that free and fair trade of North American agri-food products will continue.”

The U.S. is Canada’s largest trade partner for beef and live cattle, and the new agreement ensures that will continue. “USMCA gives the Canadian beef industry critically important ongoing access to our largest markets: U.S. and Mexico,” said Bryan Walton, ACFA’s president and CEO. “This is an integrated industry here in Canada and free trade in North America benefits producers in all three countries.”

Why diversification still matters

The uncertainty over NAFTA has been trying for Canada’s beef producers, and it has highlighted the need for Canada to expand its global reach and forge new trading partnerships.

Trade with Asia recently received a boost with the signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). Speedy ratification of this deal is of the essence for Canadian producers to ensure Canada is on the ground floor when it comes to securing lower tariffs with other partners. 

Europe is another market that provides export opportunities to Canadian beef producers. The Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) is designed to encourage free trade between Canada and Europe, although Canada doesn’t currently fill its quota for beef exports because there are not enough Canadian packing plants qualified to send beef to Europe.

“The most important thing that we got out of reaching this USMCA agreement is we’ve removed most of the cloud of uncertainty that was hanging over the Canadian economy and discouraging investors from moving forward,” said John Weekes, former chief negotiator for NAFTA.

The pursuit of an ambitious international trade agenda is one of the key tenets of Canada’s National Beef Strategy, which is designed to ensure that Canada’s beef producers are positioned to weather challenges and take advantage of opportunities. You can read more about that in ‘4 reasons the National Beef Strategy is important to Canada’.

How regulatory changes could help trade with the U.S.

This week, we’re exploring recent changes to federal regulations that will help ease the trade in live cattle between Canada and the United States. It’s a follow-up to an earlier post in which we explained why trade with the U.S. is so important to Canada’s beef producers.

The governments of both Canada and the U.S. have strict regulations under which cattle can be imported into their respective countries.

One particular concern is to identify where an animal was born in the event of a disease outbreak. The required inspections, paperwork and documentation can be onerous. 

The Restricted Feeder Cattle Program

The Restricted Feeder Cattle Program was implemented to simplify keeping track of feeder cattle imported from the U.S. to a feedlot in Canada and then directly to the processor. The program allows importation without test requirements on a year-round basis but with proper identification and certification. 

The movement of these feeder cattle must be direct to a feedlot registered with the program, and from there, direct to processing. Because these cattle will not be going anywhere else, it makes them much simpler to trace back, so it was possible to relax the regulations.

Why there was a need for change

Typically, more feeder cattle and finished cattle are shipped from Canada to the U.S. than in the other direction.   But in 2017, market conditions changed, and between 150,000 and 200,000 head of feeder cattle were imported into Canada from the U.S. 

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) recognized that changes to the Restricted Feeder Cattle Program could make the process easier and less costly for Canadian feedlot owners, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) accepted NCFA’s suggestions. 

A summary of the changes

Recent changes to the Restricted Feeder Cattle Program have focused on the following areas:

1. Identification – including the information to be included on RFID tags.

2. Vehicle sealing – making allowance for rest stops for cattle en route.

3. Documentation for importation and border requirements – including allowances for shipments contained in multiple trucks.

4. Inspection at destination, approved feedlot – which can, in some cases, be completed electronically, based on a reading of the RFID tags.

For feedlot owners who are importing large numbers of feeder cattle, these changes will have a  significant impact on their costs, and their ability to justify the import of cattle from the U.S.

Maintaining a regulatory regime that protects people and animals, while simultaneously facilitating free and open trade, will promote a continued, mutually beneficial relationship. That’s why livestock producers will be watching negotiations to update the North American Free Trade Agreement closely.

You can read more about this in the post, Why free North American trade is good for the beef industry and Canada.

Why free North American trade is good for the beef industry and Canada

Since the inception of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), in 1994, the beef industries of Canada, U.S. and Mexico have essentially been operating in one single, North American market. In fact, the beef industry is a good example of how the original design and intent behind NAFTA has been successfully accomplished.

In this integrated market, processed beef (fresh, chilled and frozen), as well as live cattle, move across the border relatively unimpeded and entirely tariff-free. The U.S. is Canada’s largest export customer for beef, and Canada’s single largest import supplier.

Did you know?
In 2016, Canada exported 270,00 metric tonnes of beef (75 per cent of our total beef exports) to the U.S. In the same year, 63 per cent of Canada’s beef imports (186,000 metric tonnes) came from the U.S. That same year, Canada also exported 765,395 head of live cattle, primarily to the U.S. The U.S. exported 30,291 head of live cattle to Canada.

 

Why an integrated market benefits beef producers on both sides of the border

Free and open trade between Canada and the U.S. has had two significant benefits.

First, the trade in live cattle and beef products ensure that both countries have a source of supply to meet the demand within their own domestic markets. A steady, and sufficient supply of cattle is critical to the efficient operation of feedlots and beef-packing plants.

Second, the vigorous and dynamic trade in live cattle and beef products has injected a healthy dose of competition into the beef industry on both sides of the border. This has resulted in a more efficient, productive industry that is highly competitive in the global beef market. For example, beef from Canada and the U.S. is proving attractive in the Asia Pacific marketplace, despite the geographical advantages of competitive beef exporters such as Australia and New Zealand. This is because of our ability to compete on quality and price.

The way forward for the integrated market.

Cattle producers on both sides of the border are well aware of the benefits of free and open trade. The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) has been working with counterparts in the U.S., such as the Texas Cattle Feeders’ Association (TCFA), the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA), and the North American Meat Institute (NAMI) to address any issues that could be an impediment to the continuation of NAFTA.

One such issue concerns the maintenance of a regulatory regime that provides essential safeguards for animal health and disease prevention without imposing unnecessary economic costs or barriers to trade. The right regulatory balance is crucial.

In an upcoming blog post we will write about a set of reforms to Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations that will make importing and exporting live cattle easier, less time consuming, and less costly – helping to remove impediments to trade, smooth the border, and speed the pace of commerce. Stay tuned.

5 priorities for cattle feeders in 2019 

Canada’s cattle feeders are urging politicians to consider the needs of beef producers in their platforms for the 2019 federal election. 

Agriculture and Agri-Food is a $100-billion industry that employs more than two million Canadians. The government has identified the sector as one of a few with the potential to spur economic growth.

Canada is in a prime position to benefit from increasing global demand for agricultural products, but the industry requires government support in removing constraints and barriers to growth. 

The National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) cites five urgent challenges:

Rural infrastructure

Most agricultural operations are in rural municipalities with a limited tax base to provide infrastructure. With little federal funding, some municipalities have implemented counterproductive measures, such as the livestock head tax in Lethbridge County. This is eroding the competitiveness of cattle feeding in southern Alberta.

It is crucial that the federal government identifies critical infrastructure investments in rural communities and dedicates financial resources to make them happen.

Labour shortage

A chronic labour shortage of about 60,000 workers is costing primary agriculture producers about $1.5 billion in unrealized farm cash receipts each year. 

Farmers have been forced to turn to the Temporary Foreign Worker Program to fill positions that cannot be filled by Canadians, but the process is expensive, time-consuming and complicated. 

The program’s processes need to be streamlined and clear a pathway set for permanent residency for temporary foreign workers.

Regulatory barriers

The industry is ever-evolving with new technologies and industry developments. But when regulations don’t keep pace, it hinders our ability to compete in the global marketplace.

In 2016, NCFA released a detailed study entitled The Competitiveness of the Canadian Cattle Feeding Sector: Regulatory and Policy Issues(PDF)

, Costs and Opportunities. It highlighted six areas – enhanced traceability, export regulation and impediments, veterinary drug harmonization, inspection practices, transportation and labour – where reforms could generate an additional $495 million in revenue across the beef value chain.

International market access

Canada exports 45 per cent of its beef production, and those exports are primarily to the U.S. To grow, the industry needs to expand into other markets, including the Asia-Pacific region and Europe.

Agreements such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Canada-EU Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) should be a government priority. They will have a tremendous impact on our ability to trade effectively with these regions.

Consumer education and trust

Government and industry need to work together to ensure consumers are able to make informed choices when it comes to their food, whether the issue is environmental impact, health, or production methods.

Public education should be a pillar of any new national food policy, and Canada Food Guide revisions should reflect the most recent scientific, medical and nutritional research.

In an earlier blog post, we featured John Weekes, an independent business advisor who has worked with NCFA on international trade issues. You can learn more about his work in Meet the international trade expert who is helping support the beef industry abroad.

How protectionist policies for dairy and poultry could harm Canada’s beef producers 

As NAFTA negotiations continue, Canada’s 60,000 beef producers are anxious to see a continuation of free and open trade within North America. Mexico and the U.S. currently import 80 per cent of our beef, and any impediment to that trade would severely impact the industry.

Ironically, North American trade for our beef is in jeopardy due to a Canadian protectionist policy involving a different sector. Supply management agreements protecting dairy and poultry producers are a source of serious contention in the negotiations.

What is supply management?

Supply management is a system whereby production quotas and import restrictions in the form of tariffs limit the availability of dairy, poultry and eggs. This helps keep prices at an artificially inflated level. 

Critics of the system argue that the system eliminates competition and raises prices for the consumer.

“The two planks of the system are quotas (producers need to purchase a licence to produce these commodities) and tariffs (taxes for incoming imports),” said Casey Vander Ploeg, vice-president of the Alberta Cattle Feeders’ Association (ACFA). “Both planks are needed to make the system work.” 

Why beef producers could be negatively impacted by dairy and poultry supply management

President Trump’s complaint with the supply management system is that it negatively impacts the ability of U.S. dairy, poultry and egg producers to export to Canada. To date, this has been a serious stumbling block in the negotiations, and officials are insisting that Canada dismantle the system.

Many of Canada’s beef producers are concerned that the supply management system protects a sector representing only seven per cent of our agricultural output, while putting the majority of Canadian agricultural exports at risk.

The role of the federal government in building agri-trade

The federal government has set a goal of reaching $75 billion in agriculture exports by 2025. “To achieve that goal, government needs to help us make our agriculture and agri-food products as competitive as possible within the international marketplace,” said Casey. “It’s important that supply management does not impede our ability to access those markets.”  

For a full explanation of why NAFTA matters to Canada’s beef producers, read ‘Cattle feeders head to Ottawa to support NAFTA negotiations’.

4 reasons the National Beef Strategy is important to Canada

These are interesting times in the beef industry. Our producers face numerous challenges such as declining cattle numbers across the world and consumer concerns about environmental impacts and animal welfare. At the same time, new markets, including those in Asia and the Pacific region, are providing opportunities for industry expansion.

To ensure Canada’s beef producers are positioned to make the most of these opportunities — and overcome the challenges — industry organizations, including the National Cattle Feeders’ Association, came together to develop a National Beef Strategy. 

The goal of the strategy is to position Canadian beef producers for greater profitability and growth and to support their reputation for superior quality, safety, value, innovation and sustainable production methods.

The National Beef Strategy is based on four main pillars and goals:

#1 Beef Demand

To increase the value generated from each animal by 15 per cent. Recommendations include:

  • Product development and the use of under-valued cuts to maximize competitiveness
  • Building recognition and loyalty for the Canadian Beef Advantage brand
  • Pursuit of an ambitious international trade agenda
  • Increasing consumer confidence in food safety, quality and production practices
  • Communication of the sustainability message

 

#2 Competitiveness

To reduce cost disadvantages compared to main competitors by seven per cent:

  • Working with regulators to develop a supportive regulatory environment
  • Improving access to affordable resources such as skilled labour, animal health products, feed grains and forages and new technologies
  • Maintaining and enhancing research capacity
  • Continuous improvement in sustainability and efficient use of resources

 

#3 Productivity

To increase production efficiencies by 15 per cent through improvements in the following:

  • Genetic selection
  • Research and development
  • Enhanced information flow along the production chain through information technology and verification

 

#4 Connectivity

To improve communication within the industry and connect positively with consumers, the public, government and partner industries through:

  • Development of an industry communication strategy
  • Engagement with industry partners and stakeholders
  • Engagement with government, consumers, domestic and international organizations

 

“This strategy is something all stakeholders in the industry can buy into,” said Martin Unrau, co-chair of the National Beef Strategic Planning Group. “There’s strength in numbers and by working together we will build a stronger and more robust industry capable of meeting and responding to the opportunities now and into the future.”

You can read more about some of the challenges facing cattle feeders in ‘Pressing cattle feeders issues discussed with politicians during Ottawa trip’.

New partnership gives a boost to transpacific trade

Canada’s beef producers rely on international trade to keep their industry growing in a global economy. That’s why the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) was thrilled when the Government of Canada announced it has reached a trade deal with ten of Asia-Pacific’s fastest growing economies.

The Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) will provide tariff-free and/or competitive access to key markets in the Asia-Pacific region. It is to be signed in March and must then be ratified by the Canadian Parliament and by the governments of the ten other member countries.

We spoke with Claire Citeau, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA), to learn why the agreement is so important for Canada’s agri-foods producers, including beef producers.

“Overall the CPTPP will reduce tariffs and non-tariff barriers, open new, growing markets for Canadian agri-food products, and support jobs and prosperity here at home,” said Claire. “It will provide the sector with unprecedented access to the important Japanese market and rapidly growing Asian markets like Vietnam and Malaysia.

“The 11 countries in the CPTPP region include some of our main export markets, including Japan and Mexico, as well as seven new countries,” continued Claire. “Japan in particular is the big prize as it is our third export market and a high value market for Canadian agriculture and agrifood  – it is the largest economy in the CPTPP region, and the third largest in the world. Vietnam and Malaysia are other countries that could represent expanding markets.”

Some of Canada’s main competitors, such as Australia, have free trade agreements with countries in this region, which has given them a huge advantage over Canada when it comes to exports. The CPTPP will help to level the playing field.

Since the U.S. dropped out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and does not have free trade agreements with Japan, CPTPP will give Canadian producers a distinct advantage over the U.S. in the Japanese market.

Why speedy ratification is crucial

John Weekes, senior business advisor at Bennett Jones, former ambassador to the WTO and Canada’s chief negotiator for NAFTA, said he attributes Japanese leadership to TPP coming back to life again as the CPTPP – because they saw it as an important way to fill the vacuum that was left in the Asia-Pacific area when the U.S. retreated from the original TPP negotiations early in 2017. The Japanese came to the conclusion that it would be important to have a trade agreement with the sort of provisions that are in the CPTPP, in that part of the world. If Canada had turned its back on CPTPP, we could have faced not having a trade agreement with the Japanese for at least a decade.

John Weekes speaking at a Canadian International Council event in Ottawa on February 12, 2018.

When addressing attendees at the Alberta Beef Industry Conference in Red Deer on February 23, 2018 John stated,

Canada should approve CPTPP in parliament as soon as possible so we get in on the ground floor on tariff reductions and secure lower tariffs as quickly as possible.

Claire Citeau explained that the CPTPP will enter into force 60 days after at least six members ratify it. “We may lose the ‘first mover advantage’ if Canada is not among the first countries to ratify,” she said. “If our competitors ratify and implement the CPTPP before Canada, they will benefit from the initial rounds of tariff cuts and we won’t, putting us at a further disadvantage.”

“Having better and more competitive access to markets like Japan will create further growth and help create jobs in urban and rural areas in Canada,” concluded Claire.

Stay tuned for future blog posts, in which we will keep you updated on the ratification process.

How a beef plant is setting a new standard in food safety

A beef processing plant which opened this year just north of Calgary is setting new industry standards for food safety, animal care and environmental stewardship.

This week, we’re exploring the food safety innovations introduced at Harmony Beef, which opened in Balzac, AB., in February 2017.

Hazard analysis and critical control points

The management team at Harmony Beef is committed to meeting or exceeding the stringent requirements of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s Food Safety Enhancement Program.

One of the cornerstones of the program is HACCP System (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points), a systematic approach to food safety that helps prevent, find and correct hazards throughout the production process.

At Harmony:

    • The plant and production protocols have been designed to meet European standards, which exceed those in North America.
    • Temperature control and air flow systems in the building were designed to control any potential microbial growth and prevent contamination.
    • Critical control points, where inspections and interventions take place, include everything from slaughter to packaging.
    • Supervisory and food safety personnel have the authority to enforce compliance with food safety systems on anyone entering and/or working in the facility.
    • All water used in the plant is treated, and the outflow exceeds Canadian drinking water standards.

Opening up a world of opportunity

Because the new plant demonstrably complies with European food safety standards, it provides the opportunity to increase our trade with EU countries.

International trade is crucial to the growth and sustainability of the beef industry, and to the contribution it makes to the Canadian economy. But, as you can learn in the blog post, Canadian beef in demand: feeding the European market and why it matters, Canada does not meet its tariff-free quota for beef exports to Europe. In the post, feedlot operator Jason Hagel says processing plants in Alberta tend to focus on the U.S. market, leaving the European market under-served.

You can read about another international trade issue concerning Canada’s beef producers in Canadian beef trade with China takes a serious blow.

In upcoming weeks, we will explore the high standards of animal care, including low-stress handling, and the environmental innovations introduced at the Harmony plant.

Meet the international trade expert who is helping support the Canadian beef industry abroad

John Weekes, an independent business advisor who has worked with the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) on trade issues, is the subject of this week’s Meet the Team series profile.

John is an expert in international trade policy and a senior business advisor at Bennett Jones in Ottawa. He has been a huge asset to NCFA in developing a strategic approach to negotiating with government and stakeholders.

Supporting Canadian cattle feeders in Ottawa

During his career, John has been chief negotiator for the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Canada’s ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO), chair of the WTO General Council, and ambassador to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) during the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations. His insider’s perspective on governments’ approach to trade matters has been invaluable to NCFA.

Trade files he has worked on include:

Country-of-Origin Labelling (COOL)

In 2002, the U.S. introduced a regulation requiring all beef (and some other agriculture products) to have a label stating where it was from. To be labeled as U.S.-sourced, the animal had to be born, raised and processed in that country. Processing plants in the U.S. were required to keep Canadian born and raised animals separate from those born and raised in the U.S., a requirement that was costly to adhere to. As a result, Canadian exports to the U.S. suffered, and some U.S. plants were forced to close. Many jobs were lost on both sides of the border, and COOL cost the Canadian beef industry billions of dollars. 

Canada appealed to the WTO in 2008 and, in December 2015, won. The U.S. Congress repealed COOL to avoid $1 billion in retaliatory tariffs authorized in the WTO ruling. 

As Canada’s former ambassador to the WTO, John was uniquely positioned to provide advice through the complex web of WTO tribunals and the excruciatingly long appeals process. John worked with NCFA and others on this, including advising federal government officials. His contacts within the U.S. were also helpful in getting NCFA’s messages through in Washington, and he helped us communicate with Canadian importers who might have been harmed if Canada retaliated against U.S. imports into Canada.

Canada-E.U. Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA)

This free trade deal between Canada and the EU came into effect on September 21, 2017. It will allow Canada to ship 65,000 metric tonnes of beef into the EU, without duty or tariffs. This could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Canada’s beef industry. John did a great job monitoring developments, needs and the political climate within the EU, and is continuing to contribute while the details are being finalized.   

Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) 

Canada was not part of the group that began this trade negotiation, but NCFA urged the Canadian government to become part of the TPP process, which it did. John offered advice on what Canada should secure in this negotiation. Now that the U.S. has chosen not to ratify the deal, John will lend his expertise to a new round of negotiations with other TPP partners, if talks go ahead.

North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 

As Canada’s former Chief Negotiator for NAFTA, John has an unrivaled understanding of the ins and outs of the agreement, and his opinions are sought by industry and government during the current and ongoing negotiations with NAFTA.

Why international trade matters

Canadian beef is renowned worldwide for its great taste and high quality. A healthy export industry contributes to a healthy Canadian economy. Expertise such as John’s is vital to NCFA in securing the conditions our beef producers need to develop profitable relationships with customers across the globe.

You can read more about international trade issues in ‘Canadian beef trade with China takes a serious blow’, ‘Cattle feeders head to Ottawa to support NAFTA negotiations’, ‘Feeding the world: why the agri-food industry must be an economic priority’ and ‘How people in 58 countries enjoy Canadian beef’.