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Canadian cattlemen take U.S. to task with NAFTA

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Feb 13, 2005
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Canadian cattlemen take U.S. to task with NAFTA
Thursday, March 17, 2005, 1:47 PM

by Josh St. Peters

A group of beef producers from Canada is advancing plans to claim damages against the United States government, under rules of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The Canadian Cattlemen for Fair Trade (CCFT) said that a formal suit will be filed in response to the closure of the U.S border to live cattle.

In a press release from the organization, the group's founding member, an Alberta feedlot operator, said ranchers are exercising their right by moving ahead with a NAFTA case against government officials in the U.S.

"Free trade is on trial in this case," said Rick Paskal. "It is clear that this is a trade and investment dispute, not a question of health and safety. The United States government itself now recognizes this fact. It has collected ample evidence to show that Canadian livestock does not present a health risk. Canadian beef is among the safest and highest quality beef in the world."

One government leader in the U.S. has to continue to pursue beef trade with the Canadians. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns told Brownfield in an interview this morning that it is a priority of the Department of Agriculture to normalize trade relations with all countries.

"Whether you're talking about Canada, whether you're talking about Japan, do everything we can to start moving our beef in the international marketplace and start treating our trading partners likewise," said Johanns.

But the CCFT contends that it is time to stop talking trade and start opening borders. The group's efforts to ship cattle back in the U.S. have been stalled by an American farm organization that has fought to keep the border sealed. The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF USA) succeeded in securing a court injunction on March 2, 2005, that temporarily halts plans to reopen the border.

USDA officials had drafted a plan that would have restarted beef trade with the Canadians on March 7, 2005. R-CALF USA's injunction has prohibited that from taking place, however. The statement issued by CCFT said they are fighting back against protectionist attempts by R-CALF to roll back the NAFTA. The Canadians claim that they have to make the first move, because, according to their release, "the U.S. Government appears unwilling or unable to do the job itself."

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