A report by the Canadian “Conference Board” contends that the country is hurting its economy by having some of the highest tariffs on agricultural imports of any country that is a food exporting nation. 

“The Canadian food industry can become more prosperous by serving fast-growing markets… and consumers benefit from a greater variety of food products at lower costs,” said Michael Burt, the director of industrial economic trends for the Conference Board, an Ottawa-based think-tank,

Julian Beltrame wrote an article for the The Canadian Press news service quoting Burt and pulling excerpts from the report.

Beltrame wrote that the report contends “Canada is only hurting itself by maintaining high protectionist barriers on its agriculture sector.”  Additionally, he pulled the opinion from the report that “Canada has talked a good game about liberalized trade—particularly on launching free trade talks with major economies in Europe and Asia—but has not acted when it comes to the highly-protected agricultural sector.”

The report notes that liberalizing trade would result in some losers as well as winners with the “highly protected dairy industry” being one of the bigger losers.

“A (deal) between Canada and the European Union, with complete trade liberalization of the food sector, would lead to resources shifting from the production of milk and dairy to other segments such as grains, oilseeds and other processed food,” the think-tank report explains.

The suggestion is that such a shift might be more efficient use of ag resources for more ag output and exports.

The big contention is that agriculture is a key sticking point holding up a free trade agreement with the European Union (EU) and establishing TransPacific export diversity.

Beltrame wrote that Burt “does not advocate unilaterally dropping tariffs, noting that other nations also protect their food sector. But says Canada’s walls are unusually high compared to other like nations that are significant net food exporters.”

The numbers provided on Canadian tariffs are 246.8 percent tariffs on dairy imports, 30.5 percent on animal products, 20.3 percent on cereals and preparations  and 10.4 per cent on coffee and tea.

Canadian tariffs are seen as comparable to the U.S. and the EU, although levels vary depending on the sector being protected, but Burt reportedly says Canada’s walls against food imports are too high, and in some cases — such as with wheat, barley, beef and veal — unnecessary.