Britain has paused free trade discussions with Canada due to dissatisfaction from both parties regarding the access to agricultural markets, as stated by Canadian officials on Thursday.
Initiated in March 2022, these discussions are part of Britain’s broader efforts to establish trade agreements globally following its exit from the European Union, which led to its exclusion from the EU’s established free trade agreements.
“We are disappointed that negotiations with the UK are being paused. Their decision to continue to maintain market access barriers for our agriculture industry and unwillingness to reach a mutual agreement has only stalled negotiations,” a spokesperson for Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng remarked.
Ng has reached out to Britain’s business minister Kemi Badenoch to convey Canada’s dissatisfaction, the spokesperson further noted.
Canadian agriculturists have raised concerns about being effectively barred from the British beef market due to regulations that prohibit the use of hormones.
A British government spokesperson said, “We reserve the right to pause negotiations with any country if progress is not being made.”
“We have always said we will only negotiate trade deals that deliver for the British people,” they added.
“We remain open to restarting talks with Canada in the future to build a stronger trading relationship”.
Following Britain’s departure from the EU trade bloc at the end of 2020, Canada extended its existing trade arrangements to maintain free trade continuity.
A specific arrangement concerning cheese access, which has now lapsed, was singled out by a Canadian government official, who attributed the absence of an extension deal to Britain’s inaction.
“Unfortunately, Britain did not act as fast as it should have in negotiations, and expects Canada to just give (it) these things,” the official, preferring anonymity due to lack of authorisation to speak to the press, expressed.
Both nations have indicated their readiness to recommence discussions. As per British official figures, the total bilateral trade in goods and services amounted to £25.9 billion ($32.9 billion) for the year ending June 30, 2023, placing Canada as Britain’s 18th largest trade partner.
Canadian statistics reveal that trade with Britain in 2022 constituted only 2.7% of Canada’s total trade.