The United Kingdom is hitting pause on negotiations for a new free trade agreement with Canada, with the British government claiming “progress is not being made.”
The statement shared by Susannah Goshko, the British high commissioner to Canada, on Thursday came less than a month before the next round of talks towards a permanent trade deal was expected to take place.
“We have always said we will only negotiate deals that deliver for the British people,” said the statement, attributed to a British government spokesperson. “And we reserve the right to pause negotiations with any country if progress is not being made. We remain open to restarting talks with Canada in the future to build a stronger trading relationship that benefits businesses and consumers on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Trade Minister Mary Ng’s office said in a statement of their own that London’s “unwillingness to reach a mutual agreement has only stalled negotiations,” accusing the U.K. of maintaining “market access barriers for our agricultural industry.”
The office said Ng has been in touch with her British counterpart Kemi Badenoch to express Canada’s “disappointment” over the stalled negotiations.
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Canada and the U.K. formally opened talks on an updated free trade deal in 2022. But sticking points have emerged on both sides of the negotiations.
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A special quota for U.K. cheese imports, which offered the same low-tariff access to the Canadian market as the European Union has, expired at the end of last month.
Canada has also decided not to extend country-of-origin rules set to expire at the end of March, which will likely drive up the price of U.K. goods such as luxury cars.
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Both temporary measures were enacted after Brexit, and the U.K. had pushed for them to remain in place.
At the same time, Canada’s cattle sector has been lobbying against a deal with the U.K. over a long-standing dispute on hormone-treated beef and pork.
The U.K. has held back on importing meats treated with certain hormones that are widely used by Canadian ranchers, who argue the Brits’ concern isn’t grounded in science.
Ng’s office said Canada “will not negotiate an agreement that is not good (for) Canadians — and not good for our Canadian businesses, farmers and workers.”
The pause is the latest trade setback for Canada, after talks over an agreement with India were put on ice over accusations agents connected to the Indian government were behind the murder of a Sikh nationalist and Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in British Columbia last year.
Canada has also been facing a more protectionist trading partner in the United States. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said this week that Ottawa was preparing for further “unpredictability” if former president Donald Trump returns to the White House next year.
— With files from the Canadian Press
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