Canada’s need to adjust to a world “turning away from liberalized, rules-based trade”

(Matt Chan,, CC BY-ND 2.0)

Change is constant. It’s also uncomfortable and difficult. And, according to one policy analyst, significant agriculture trade flow and economic change is on the horizon — is Canada ready?

“Part of the reason for putting together this policy note is to sort of to help people understand we need to appreciate the breadth and depth of change that’s coming toward us as a small country,” says Al Mussell, founder and CEO of Agri-Food Economic Systems, and co-author of the report.

How did we get to this point

According to Mussell, getting to this point wasn’t as simple as the growth of populism. There was much more to the evolution (or devolution) of global trade, including China’s take on the markets, U.S. President Donald Trump’s handling of trade tensions with China, and specifically for agriculture and food, African Swine Fever.

Is supply management the most well positioned?

In a trade climate of tariffs, and increased protectionism, it might make sense to peg supply managed commodities at an advantage, but that might not be the whole story.

“That’s probably the conventional wisdom. I think the right answer is we don’t know yet,” says Mussell, adding that if U.S.-Japan trade talks are at all precedent-setting, what stops a country like the U.S. from threatening an commodity like softwood lumber, in a trade disagreement?

“So, I think the first line of defence is, yeah, supply management comes out of this a bit better than some of the more market-oriented commodities, but I don’t think anybody walks away safe out of this environment.”

Read the report, here: Shifting Geo-Politics and Trade Policy: Wither Canadian Agri-Food Policy?

Next steps for Canada

There are a few options for Canada, according to Mussell, not the least of which is to see if we can salvage some sort of rule-basis out of this current situation. And that’s something the country is working on in attempting to revive the World Trade Organization.

“Another option is to look for coalitions of countries, maybe middle-sized countries…that we deal with in terms of secure access.”

And let’s not forget, when it comes right down to it, Canada has a lot of weight in agriculture and food.

Hear RealAgriculture’s Shaun Haney in conversation with Agri-Food Economic Systems’ CEO, Al Mussell, in this excerpt from Wednesday’s RealAg Radio show, where they talk everything from African Swine Fever to escalating ag subsidies, and where Canada sits in today’s geo-political ring.