Open Letter: To the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada and the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada



    OTTAWA, Feb. 11 /CNW Telbec/ -

    The Canadian government, over the past two years, has repeatedly
indicated its strong commitment to support only a WTO agreement in agriculture
that would maintain a healthy and viable supply management system in the
dairy, egg and poultry sectors. Although you and members of your Government
continue to reiterate, on all public platforms, that this government delivers
on its commitments, your commitment to supply management is often questioned,
both domestically and internationally, by those who believe that Canada will
sign a WTO agreement when a deal is generally agreeable to most other WTO
members. Such distrust is often fuelled by the dichotomy that exists between
the Government's domestic actions and the progress portrayed in the
negotiations in Geneva.
    Last week, the Chairman of the WTO Agricultural Negotiations,
Mr. Crawford Falconer, released a proposed agriculture modalities text
outlining the current status of the negotiations in agriculture. For Canadian
dairy, egg and poultry producers, this text is a potential agreement that
would devastate supply management and bring significant economic turmoil to
these agricultural industries. The Canadian government, once again, indicated
that it could not support this text, which did not recognize Canada's
commitment to maintain supply management programs in the dairy, egg and
poultry sectors. Clearly, Mr.  Falconer is not listening and the Canadian
government must work to ensure the Canadian position is reflected in the final
agreement.
    The day prior to the release of the Chairman's paper, Minister Gerry
Ritz, addressed Dairy Farmers of Canada's Annual Policy Conference. In his
speech, the Minister reiterated the Government of Canada's strong support for
supply management, a commitment he indicated that was highlighted in the
Throne Speech last fall. He challenged those who doubted this commitment to
look at the actions already taken by the Government in support of supply
management. For example, the Federal Government worked with its provincial
counterparts to recognize supply management as a business risk management
program within the new Agricultural Policy Framework; it initiated
negotiations with its trading partners for the application of new import
controls on milk protein concentrate, as per Canada's rights under Article
XXVIII of the GATT; and it proceeded with the harmonization and clarification
of regulated cheese standards despite strong international criticisms for
doing so.
    Most recently the Minister also announced the Government's intention to
operationalize the WTO Special Agricultural Safeguards for supply-managed
goods. Such safeguards, once activated, could prevent significant surges in
imports from destabilizing the industry and causing financial hardship to
agricultural producers. It is therefore, important to not only implement the
safeguard domestically but to stand up at the WTO for maintaining this right.
    Minister Ritz emphasized that Canada is not at the negotiating table to
win a popularity contest, but to defend Canada's best interests. We,
representing Canada's dairy, egg and poultry producers, believe that the
Government's commitment to continue to work with our industries demonstrates
its intent to deliver only a WTO deal that will ensure a trade environment
permitting strong and prosperous supply-managed sectors.

    Yours sincerely,

    
    (signed)                               (signed)
    Mark Davies, Chair                     Gyslain Loyer, Chair
    Canadian Turkey Marketing Agency       Canadian Hatching Egg Producers

    (signed)                               (signed)
    David Fuller, Chair                    Jacques Laforge, President
    Chicken Farmers of Canada              Dairy Farmers of Canada

    (signed)
    Laurent Souligny, Chair
    Canadian Egg Marketing Agency
    




For further information:

For further information: Shelley E. Crabtree, Dairy Farmers of Canada,
(613) 236-9997

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Dairy Farmers of Canada (DFC)

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