As usual, anything to do with bureaucracy quickly turns into an alphabet soup.
So let's start by identifying the acronyms. CETA is the Canada-European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. The negotiations between Canada and Europe started in May of 2009 and are still going on with an expected conclusion, predicted by pundits, to be later this year, sometime next year or never.
The European Union (EU) is comprised of 27 member states. With a total population of nearly 500 million, the EU is the world's largest single market, foreign investor and trader. The EU is Canada's second largest trading partner in goods and services. In 2008, Canadian goods and services exports to the EU totaled $52.2 billion.
The CETA agreement is meant to remove most tariffs between Canada and the EU, as well as aligning non-trade government regulations on differences in labour, health, intellectual property, cultural, farming, public safety or environmental rules and regulations.
Agriculture can be affected by this agreement, both negative and positive. There has been discussion of increased access to Canada by the EU for cheese and other milk products.
Canada's supply management system prohibits access to these products with import tariffs that protect our domestic egg, chicken, turkey and dairy farms. Farmers, in turn, restrict production to domestic Canadian consumption; prices are established based on cost of production formulas. This system has been in place for 40 years and provides a fair return for farmers and fair prices for consumers.
Conversely, Canada is looking for increased access for beef, grain and other agriculture products. The agreements are negotiated by the federal government with provinces having representation at the meeting, but only as observers.
If the agreement does come to be it will be the largest for Canada since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and similar to the NAFTA agreement we won't really know the net effect, the winners and losers, until a few years after the agreement is in place.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), also known as the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership Agreement, is a multilateral free trade agreement that aims to further liberalize the economies of the Asia-Pacific region.
It was started in 2007 by three countries - Chile, New Zealand and Singapore - and has now expanded to include the Americas, Asia and Oceana. As the membership expands it has the potential to be the largest trade block in the world, surpassing the EU, albeit without the integration that Europe has seen.
The goals are similar to CETA - elimination of tariffs, labour environment, etc., with a focus on Asian markets.
Canada joined the TPP on June 19 but will not be able to join the negotiations for 90 days. Although it is early days for Canada's participation in the negotiations there are many political commentaries that say Canada came to the negotiations late and will have to accept whatever has already been agreed.
According to some, it smacks of a desperation on the part of Canada to be a part of any agreement they come up with and we will be forced to accept whatever the United States trade negotiators shove down our throats.
Federal government officials have said many times that there were no pre-conditions to entry but based on some of the media rhetoric countries already at the table like Australia and New Zealand want to talk about supply management. These negotiations are nowhere near complete but certainly bear watching by agriculture and others.
Canada and other countries have been negotiating these deals for a few years now. It's a result of the failure of the World Trade Organization WTO, ( sorry, another acronym) to conclude the current trade round, as a result counties have gone ahead and signed numerous trade deals with each other. It's important to keep on top of what's being negotiated since it will eventually affect our farmers and our economy.
TAGLINE: Henry Vissers is the executive director of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture. He lives in Valley.