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Dairy still in distress, despite new USMCA, says P.E.I. MP Wayne Easter

Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, says 2017 was comprised of new and old lessons, uncertainty and success.
Wayne Easter, Member of Parliament for Malpeque, P.E.I. - SaltWire Network

While Canada’s dairy supply management has remained intact, Malpeque MP Wayne Easter says the goal now is to ensure the system’s success in the future.

Easter, a former dairy farmer, had concerns over the loss of 3.59 per cent of Canada’s domestic dairy market in the newly negotiated U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement (USMCA).

A sticking point in the 13 months of negotiations was President Donald Trump’s demands to eliminate the Canadian dairy model.

“They haven’t been able to do that, and now we can ensure this model’s success into the future, albeit, with less than 100 per cent domestic production,” said Easter, noting the agreement at least maintains the system without the constant challenges it has recently faced.

However, he still had concerns.

“I don’t think there’s any question about it, (supply management) has taken all the hits it can,” said Easter. “The bottom line is how do you secure the development and prosperity of that industry into the future?”

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland announced a working group will be formed with supply management industry members to mitigate concerns of the market share loss.

“I think that’s a positive thing,” said Easter, adding that in large trade agreements there is never an ability to satisfy everything. “There’s a recognition of those that have faced some damage here as a result of the greater good of the country.”

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P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan also shared concerns of the new agreement and its effect on the province’s 165 dairy farmers.

MacLauchlan met with senior officials and ministers Monday morning on the issue and said the province was committed to supporting the industry.

“Island dairy farmers are not responsible for the rhetoric of Donald Trump. We will continue to stand with our dairy community to ensure they are treated fairly,” said MacLauchlan.

Easter pointed to several other items in the USMCA he felt were positive, such as Canada’s cultural industries remaining protected and retaining Chapter 19’s trade dispute mechanism. The sunset clause Trump wanted was also removed, which gives the agreement more security for the future.

Easter said the agreement recognizes the three countries should continue their trade abilities to function at a competitive global position.

“It means a lot to our economy. There would have been a lot of problems for both of our economies, should this thing have fell through, but we do recognize there is a domestic market being displaced as well,” said Easter. “I’m not going to say it’s all well and good for the supply management industry. We now have to pick up from here and ensure we work with the industry to assist them going forward.”

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