The United States must fix mistakes it made in the North American Free Trade Agreement by insisting in new trade talks with Canada on unrestricted access to that country's poultry and dairy market, U.S. agricultural groups said Monday.
"All we're asking is that we have an open and free fair trade shot at the border," Bill Roenigk, senior vice-president at the National Chicken Council, said at a hearing conducted by the U.S. Trade Representative's office on the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) pact.
Canada's Conservative federal government, sensitive to sentiment in vote-rich Eastern Canada, has long said it will maintain and defend supply-management measures for dairy, poultry and egg farmers.
Supply management measures largely entail matching production to domestic demand and levying high tariffs to discourage imports.
However, the government has also said all goods are subject to negotiation, both in talks on the Trans-Pacific Partnership among 11 countries in the Asia-Pacific region and in free-trade discussions with the European Union.
Four-fifths of Canada's 13,200 dairy farmers live in Ontario and Quebec, populous provinces that are generally critical to election success.
Roenigk said U.S. producers thought NAFTA, which went into force in January 1994, would eliminate tariffs on U.S. poultry exports to Canada and were shocked when Ottawa, as well as a NAFTA dispute settlement panel, took the opposite view.
Now that the U.S. has a second chance to address Canada's poultry tariffs, the U.S. industry's "view on this is the old Irish proverb: 'Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,'" Roenigk said in his prepared remarks.
"The U.S. poultry industry strongly opposes Canada's participation in the TPP unless Canada expressly commits to removing all border restrictions on poultry imports from the United States," he said.
Jaime Castaneda, senior vice-president at the National Milk Producers Federation, said U.S. dairy producers were also disappointed NAFTA did not open up Canada's market and were determined not to let that happen again.
The United States must seize this opportunity to "finally negotiate an opening of the Canadian dairy market to all U.S. dairy products without restriction," Castaneda said.
Both Castaneda and Roenigk said Canada could become a big market for the U.S. producers if tariffs were removed.
Canada and Mexico are the latest countries to join the negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
The United States, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei have already been negotiating the deal for 30 months.
A final deal is not expected until mid- to late-2013.
-- Doug Palmer writes for Reuters from Washington, D.C.
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