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Ag minister: Canada will ratify USMCA ‘very soon’

Kim de Bourbon
The Hagstrom Report
Four out of the five western hemisphere agriculture ministers in the new Ag-5 group discussed innovation this morning at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum. Seated beneath their nations’ flags, from left: Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue; Luis Basterra, Argentina’s minister of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries; Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s minister of agriculture and agri-food; and Víctor Villalobos, Mexico’s secretary of agriculture and rural development.
Photo by Charles E. de Bourbon/The Hagstrom Report

ARLINGTON, Va. — The Canadian minister of agriculture said Friday her country will sign the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement on trade soon, though she did not specify when.

“Canada is committed to ratifying the new NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) very soon,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Canada’s minister of agriculture and agri-food, during a session at the USDA Agricultural Outlook Forum here.

“It’s on a fast-track,” she said, adding that “I don’t see any significant challenges to it” in Canada’s legislative process.

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue thanked Bibeau for sharing the news with those attending a discussion on “Feeding the World Through Innovation” with four of the five members of the new “Ag-5” group of western hemisphere agriculture ministers.

Also attending were Luis Basterra, Argentina’s minister of agriculture, livestock, and fisheries, and Víctor Villalobos, Mexico’s secretary of agriculture and rural development. The fifth member, Tereza Cristina Corrêa da Costa Dias, Brazil’s minister of agriculture, livestock and supply, was unable to attend, Perdue said.

In introducing the session, Agriculture Undersecretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Ted McKinney noted that the Ag-5 group formed last May in advance of the G-20 agriculture ministers meeting in Japan.

“Statistically, the five countries represent 50% of the world’s soybean, corn, beef and chicken production,” McKinney said, adding that so far the group has agreed on a statement promoting a science-based pesticide policy and worked to maintain trade relations.

“We are competitors in many areas,” McKinney said. “But there’s much that binds us.”

Perdue led the discussion with his three counterparts, focusing the talk on using innovation, the theme of this year’s USDA conference, to meet the United Nations goal of eliminating global hunger by 2030.

“The challenge is great,” Perdue said, noting the goal needs to be accomplished with not only environmental sustainability, but also social sustainability and economic sustainability for producers.

Basterra, who became Argentina’s agriculture minister in December, said “global changes require global responsibility” to provide ”safe, nutritious and affordable food to the most vulnerable.”

He echoed Perdue’s often-used statement that agriculture producers must “do more with less,” supporting science-based technology to provide “21st century solutions” to hunger.

At Perdue’s prompting, he told of the success Argentina has had using Bt cotton — a genetically modified pest-resistant variety — despite the reluctance of the country’s health minister.

“Small farmers who used Bt cotton were in great health,” Basterra said, while others used a lot of chemicals, even non-approved veterinarian products, in attempts to stop disease, but were not successful.

Bibeau, of Canada, talked about the importance of collaboration in advance of problems, such as work done with the United States on a plan to combat African swine fever, should it arrive in North America.

Noting that Canadian pork producers export 70% of their product, she said “having this agreement with the U.S. is very important.”

Perdue, noting that Villalobos of Mexico is a scientist himself, said it was important “not to make decisions based on political science, but on sound biological science.”

In his remarks, Villalobos raised the importance of synergy amongst the Ag-5 countries, and to make sure that innovation is undertaken with clear goals in mind.

“We are facing more challenges than ever before,” Villalobos said. “We must not repeat previous mistakes, but learn from the past to overcome the challenges of the future.”

“We’re not just providing food,” he said, but must also work to improve “productivity, sustainability and inclusion,” specifically to raise the standards of living in different regions. ❖


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