22nd Annual Fields on Wheels Conference
Friday, December 15, 2017
Four Points South Hotel, Winnipeg
Implications for Agricultural Trade and Transportation
The North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) has led to substantial economic growth driven by north-south trade. The freer movement of farm and food products enables greater specialization and efficiency. The opening of negotiations to modernize NAFTA creates possibilities for further improvement, but also great uncertainty. With the exception of the dairy sector, agricultural concerns are over-shadowed by the loss of manufacturing jobs and the threat of NAFTA’s termination. Rather than being in the thick of trade talks, Western Canadian agriculture is standing on the sidelines and could get side-swiped.
After 23 years, a comprehensive review of NAFTA is desirable. The original agreement was neither perfect, nor inclusive. In the case of transport, “free trade” is non-existent. Vehicles can cross the border to deliver or pickup freight, but cargo movements within neighbouring countries are restricted to domestic carriers. Although customs duties have been eliminated, many non-tariff barriers (regulations, grading, licensing, etc.) continue to block trade in general.
Even as access to American and Mexican markets threatens to become more difficult, Canada has signed the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union. CETA offers the opportunity to regain markets in the east that have been difficult for decades. The successor treaty to the TPP could enhance western grain demand in Asia. Infrastructure investment is needed to reduce bottlenecks at the West Coast ports. Shifting grain exports from southern markets to the east-west routes is unlikely to offset what could be lost, but having a Plan B is better than depending on hope as a strategy.
Hon. Ron Schuler, Minister of Infrastructure, Province of Manitoba
Dr. Geoffrey Hale, Professor, University of Lethbridge
Chris Vervaet, Executive Director, Canadian Oilseed Processors Association
Carlo Dade, Director of the Trade & Investment Centre, Canada West Foundation
Mike Gifford, Former Chief Agricultural Trade Negotiator for Canada
Brad Bodner, Director, Corporate Development CN
Reg Dyck, Member, KAP Transport Committee
James Clements, VP Strategic Planning &Transportation Services, CP Rail
Greg Northey, Director, Industry Relations, Pulse Canada
Topics to be addressed at the 21st Fields on Wheels conference:
- Outlook for NAFTA talks – issues and opportunities
- CETA and Corridor Strengthening
- Non-tariff barriers – regulatory, institutional and intentional
- Canadian Transportation Act – results of the Review