The Cable

Cheese Is Probably Going to Derail the Start of the EU-Canada Trade Deal

With accusation of hoarding and other tricks, the pact could be delayed.

say cheese

Canada’s trade deal with the European Union was set to go into effect on July 1, a summer signal that free trade and globalization will not fall by the wayside even with an increasingly protectionist United States.

Unfortunately, however, cheese may get in the way.

“It always comes back to cheese, doesn’t it?” former Conservative cabinet member Tony Clement said on Wednesday.

Unfortunately, yes, it really does. Canada agreed to import 18,000 additional tons of European cheese, tariff free, under the Comprehensive and Economic Trade Agreement, its deal with the EU. Apparently, European officials are displeased with the manner in which Canadians were planning to allocate the quota.

According to CBC, Canadians presented their cheesy plan (we regret nothing) to the Europeans as a done deal, which was upsetting. Also upsetting: Canada reportedly said that 60 percent of the new import quota would be allotted to domestic dairy producers and processors. Previously, retailers had argued they should get the cheese, as they could give consumers the most choice. But producers and processors said they’d be able to balance out losses with potential profit if the imports went to them, which is what happened.

Europeans worried the producers and processors wouldn’t end up actually using the European cheese, “so fewer new cheeses compete with their domestic products,” CBC reports. This would effectively keep Europeans out of the Canadian market, which defeats the point of the agreement, at least where cheese is concerned. The EU could always sue Canada for such tricks, but would apparently rather just settle this whole cheese quota matter before the agreement kicks in.

It probably won’t by July 1, because the particulars of how (or whether) Canada is going to put European cheese on the market are still to be determined.

International Trade Minister François-Philippe Champagne told CBC through a spokesperson “we’re very confident that this deal is going to be brought into effect very soon.” That’s quite a high level of confidence, given the rocky history of the trade pact, and that cheese imports are evidently a delicate matter that could melt at any moment like a fine brie left unsold in the Canadian sun.

Photo credit: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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