Europe insists that its dairy industries have full access to Canadian markets without any unfair competition from within Canada. Danish, Irish and French butter can be bought in supermarkets all over Europe, and officials see no reason why that can't be the case in Canada, too.The whole Globe and Mail article is worth reading.
And for the most part, Canada's farmers share that desire: There are beef shortages in European markets, for example, and the beef-cattle industry is lobbying for more open access, along with most other farm sectors, which see Europe's 500 million people as a highly desirable market for farm products.
But dairy farmers in central Canada, who represent a small share of agriculture, are pushing hard for protection of the government-subsidy program known as supply management. European farmers generally not receive subsidies for the production of food, and provincial supply-management programs, which mainly apply only to dairy, would be seen as an unfair competitive advantage.
“The dairy farmers of Ontario and Quebec are by far our biggest obstacle and source of frustration, I don't mind saying that,” said Jason Langrish, the executive director of the Canada-Europe Roundtable for Business and an advisor to the Canadian side.
While officials in Canada's Conservative government have stressed that they are “keeping supply management off the table” and protecting it from trade, European officials say that this position could prove to be a deal-breaker.
Stockwell Day promises that Canada's supply management sector will remain protected (oh how the old Reformers must be cringing).
Buying out the dairy sector would cost Canada about $25 billion. But at least they could then be rid of it.