11.1 C
Elmira
Sunday, March 29, 2020
Connecting Our Communities

North American market offers glimmer of hope for recovery

With unusually little fanfare, the Canadian government hurriedly passed legislation approving a new trade deal with the U.S. and Mexico – popularly known by the acronym USMCA – in just one day last week, before closing down parliament.

The approval’s unspectacular nature was understandable, given the world’s preoccupation with the COVID-19 coronavirus. In fact, limiting exposure to one another to try slowing down the virus’ spread was the reason parliamentarians were leaving Ottawa so quickly in the first place.

Canada was the last of the three countries to ratify the agreement, after trade negotiators reached a deal back in 2018. Mexico was the first country to ratify the agreement last June, followed by the U.S. earlier this month. The USMCA deal couldn’t go into effect until all three countries’ governments approved it.

Normally, this kind of a milestone would be accompanied by all kinds of posturing and self-congratulatory backslapping. It’s huge. And while it’s so unfortunately overshadowed by efforts to fight the coronavirus, the disease actually underlines why the deal is vital to our countries.

When times get tough, like they are now, we look to family and neighbours for help. In the trade sense, that’s what the U.S. and Mexico are to Canada, and vice versa. All three governments claimed victory when the deal was negotiated, and they were right – trading with your neighbours is good business.

Sometimes, U.S. President Donald Trump is a lousy neighbour, especially when he intimates that Canada is a threat to U.S. security. But from a business perspective, the huge and mostly accessible market the U.S. represents to Canada and Mexico could be key to long-term recovery, as long as the Americans don’t introduce new protectionist measures to try to stimulate their economy. Hopefully the trade deal will deter such actions from happening.

Most parts of the agricultural value chain are winners in this deal. Supply-managed commodities continue wondering what’s going to happen to them, as new trade deals chip away at what’s been a guaranteed domestic market for them. The Canadian government has come through with significant support for some parts of the sector to offset potential losses.

But for commodities that totally rely on the market, the USMCA agreement is golden (if indeed anything can be considered golden at this time in our history). Greater access to 328 million Americans can’t be anything but good for our exporters. Mexicans too are fans of Canadian commodities, such as pork, beef, canola oil, maple syrup and butter. The addition of bacon or ham on pizza there makes it a “Canadian pizza.” They admire our beautiful country. And while Mexico is further away than the U.S. and not as big, it’s still a market of almost 130 million people and a lot closer than Europe or Asia.

Coming the other way, Mexico increasingly supplements our winter diets with fresh fruit. When I was there last week, in the agriculturally rich Jalisco district, harvests were teeming with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and avocadoes. Huge tracts of land are dedicated to winter production. We need healthy food like this at the best of times, and the worst.

Who knows when we’ll be able to really realize the advantages the USMCA trade deal affords us. But at least it’s in place now, and offers a glimmer of hope for recovery, at a time when optimism is understandably in very short supply.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to The Observer's online community. Pseudonyms are not permitted. By submitting a comment, you accept that The Observer has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner The Observer chooses. Please note that The Observer does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our submission guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

ON THE MENU

Maple syrup a good counterpoint in this salad

Since Nokomis, the grandmother of Manubush, was the first to pierce holes into a tree to collect sap, we’ve been enjoying the golden nectar ever since. It’s not just good on...

In Print. Online. In Pictures. In Depth.

Looking to do some research about the communities we serve? Browse through the years in our online archives.

Staying active is key for seniors

Such trips are definitely on hold due to the COVID-19 outbreak, but four different groups of seniors got to take a journey back...

Elmira artist one of those feeling the “Bern”

After leaving 15 years in the advertising world behind him, Brent Schreiber set out on a new path, and followed his passion to...

Local universities benefit from $3.8 million in research funding

Local researchers got a boost last week in the form of $3.8 million in new funding from the province. The money will support...

Robin in the Hood Festival now auditioning performers, recruiting volunteers

What “started off as just a small group of people putting on a community event” has grown into an annual tradition, with the...

International Women’s Day marked in region by day- long event at CIGI

Marking the occasion in the region, the Marit Collective hosted the fifth annual International Women’s Day event at the Centre for International Governance Innovation...

Cancer battles aren’t fought alone

Community support for a local paramedic dealing with a cancer diagnosis surpassed its goal in a few short weeks. A...

Para hockey players took different paths to Team Canada

Putting on the sweater and going out onto the ice to represent Canada is both a point of pride and unifying moment for...

Under the auctioneer’s gavel to provide help Down Under

After seeing the devastation from the Australian wildfires, a local art collector sold the first painting she ever bought on Saturday to help raise...
- Advertisement -