Friday, May 10, 2013

European negotiator fingers farm issues

Canada and Europe moved closer to a free trade deal this week, but Canada’s protection for dairy farmers and processors remains as the single most important issue yet to be resolved. European Union ambassador Matthias Brinkmann indicated Thursday that most other issues in the four-year talks have been resolved or are close to being resolved. What remain are Canada’s protection for dairy farmers and Europe’s protection for beef farmers. ``I think we have the landing zones identified for all sectors ... but like in most negotiations it's agriculture which is the most difficult one,'' he said. ``Canada wants to export beef to the European Union and wants better market access, but the European Union wants also better market access for dairy products, cheeses and yogurt and so on. “The beef sector is protected in the European Union and dairy products in protected in Canada, so there has to be a certain give and take,'' Canadian Press reports he said in “a freewheeling” news conference. Specifically, Brinkmann said the EU has offered to allow the minimum quantity Canadian beef producers say would be required to justify separate streams of hormone and antibiotics-free cattle _ 40,000 tons a year _ and even beyond that number, but Canada has demanded more. Canadian Trade Minister Ed Fast agreed that good progress was made this week in closing gaps, but would not be any more specific. The news is likely to spur Canada’s dairy farmers and Europe’s beef farmers to step up their lobbying pressure on their politicians.