Quebec farmers rallied outside the constituency office of federal Minister of State Maxime Bernier in Sainte-Marie on Friday. They demanded the federal government maintain the status quo for supply management in negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
The rally was organized by Quebec farm group Union des producteurs agricoles (UPA). Speaking on the phone after the event, the president of UPA said there were over a thousand farmers in the crowd.
“We were very happy with the rally because it shows that a lot of producers are concerned and worried about what could happen in this round of negotiations,” explains Marcel Groleau in the interview below.
The timing of the event coincided with the start of trade talks among the head negotiators from the 12 TPP-participating countries in Hawaii on Friday. They plan to continue negotiations through Monday, when trade ministers from the TPP countries will begin arriving in Hawaii. There are reports the ministers hope to finalize a deal during meetings that are planned for July 28 to 31.
Bernier reiterated the Canadian government’s message in his address to the crowd on Friday, pledging to maintain the marketing system, says Groleau. However, UPA is concerned Ottawa will allow increased imports of supply-managed commodities, as it did in the Canada-European Union trade deal.
“That’s probably where we are at more risk, and we don’t want it. 17 thousand tonnes of cheese represented the production of 400 farmers,” he says, referring to the market access granted to the European Union.
Organizations representing export-dependent sectors in Canadian agriculture, including grains and oilseeds, beef and pork — the majority of Canadian farmers, say Canada must be part of any TPP deal (see links below).
Another rally in support of supply management is planned for the office of Minister Denis Lebel, the Prime Minister’s Quebec lieutenant, in Lac-Saint-Jean on Monday.