Free trade talks between the European Union (EU) and Canada, staged since 2009, have hit an 11th-hour hurdle over Canadian demands to sell more beef and pigmeat in Europe’s lucrative import markets.
The problem is that the EU has been demanding that Canada opens up its dairy sector in return and the Canadians have been refusing.
A European Commission document on the talks shows the EU is not impressed: “Canada is asking important volumes of beef, in particular fresh and chilled, as well as of pork, while offering very modest dairy volumes in exchange.”
Branding the stand-off as “a major stumbling block in this end-game”, the Commission noted that, for most other food products, “both sides have agreed to liberalise”. Controls will only remain for EU beef, pork and sweetcorn imports and Canadian dairy, poultry and eggs imports, which are subject to production and marketing controls in Canada.
Amanda Cheesley, spokesperson for EU food producers’ federation Copa-Cogeca said it wanted the EU to stick to its guns: “Until Canada moves on dairy, we’re not interested. At the moment, Canada wants much more access in the beef and pigmeat sectors, but they are not offering anything much in increases for the dairy market.”
However, Copa supports the deal in general: “We’re favourable, but not at any price. We want a balanced agreement. It’s more interesting for Canada, as the EU market is way bigger.” Copa also opposes a trade-off in Canadian market access for EU non-food products or services in return for further liberalising the EU meat sector.
The Commission document said it was “well aware that the EU capacity to open its meat markets is limited, and any market opening needs to take into consideration the interaction between the different free-trade agreements, ongoing and forthcoming ones”.
Brussels wants to wrap up the talks shortly though, with a ministerial meeting due to be held in the Canadian capital Ottawa on 7 February.