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Thirteenth Value Chain Roundtable All Chairs Forum meeting: Record of decision

April 26 to 27, 2017 – Ottawa, Ontario

The 2017 annual Value Chain Roundtables (VCRT) All Chairs meeting took place in Ottawa from April 26 to 27. The overall objective of the meeting was for VCRT government and industry co-chairs to discuss cross-cutting issues, create an opportunity for increased dialogue between industry leaders and key decision makers in the federal government, and to gain insights into how Canada can position itself, given changes in the United States (U.S.) Administration.

All 14 VCRTs were present at the All Chairs meeting. In addition, senior government officials from the following federal department and agencies were present: Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC); Canadian Food Inspection Agency; Employment and Social Development Canada; Environment and Climate Change Canada; Fisheries and Oceans Canada; Global Affairs Canada; Health Canada; Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Finance Canada; and Transport Canada.

Sustainability and Climate Change

  • The Sustainability and Climate Change Working Group provided an update on the information gathered across stakeholders on a number of questions relating to sustainability and climate change and proposed a list of 12 recommendations for follow-up.
  • The All Chairs confirmed the significance of sustainability and climate change for the agricultural sector and the need for a national approach to carbon pricing. The All Chairs noted that additional work to flesh out how to proceed with the recommendations is needed.
  • Recognizing the synergies of work already underway, AAFC will work with the All Chairs to better understand the issues and implications for each sector, to develop a work plan and to determine the way forward.

Future of multilateral and bilateral trade

  • AAFC provided an update on key trade agreements and the development of international standards for food, plant and animal products to facilitate trade.
  • The All Chairs showed support for an ambitious trade agenda that supports Canada's offensive and defensive interests.

Development of the Next Policy Framework

  • AAFC provided an overview of priorities in the Next Policy Framework (NPF), highlights of Budget 2017 that support the agricultural sector, and consultations set to take place in 2017 on the development of a national food policy.
  • Industry is supportive of the priorities identified in the NPF, and expressed an interest to be part of federal/provincial/territorial discussions, particularly at the ministerial level.

Panel discussion: The Canada-United States relationship in a period of uncertainty

  • The panelists provided an update on the trade policy dynamic in the United States (U.S.) (For example, Administration, Congress, industry position) and the overall political environment in the U.S., and offered insight as to how governments and businesses in Canada can continue to advance Canada’s trade interests.
  • There was a discussion on best practices for engaging U.S. officials, the importance of industry reaching out to its U.S. counterparts to form united approaches, and the need to underscore to U.S. interlocutors that the Canada-U.S. trade relationship is mutually beneficial. The discussions also focused on how to address increasing consumer demands in the food and agriculture sector recognizing the impact of such demands on industry and regulatory systems.

Value Chain Roundtables presentation to senior officials

  • In a presentation to the table, Industry chairs noted that the sector is doing well, has a bright future, and that the current attention on the sector through Budget 2017 and the Advisory Council of Economic Growth Report is a unique opportunity to realize the sector's growth potential (exports, contribution to GDP, innovation). In this presentation, they outlined the sector's key opportunities and challenges specifically identifying access to labour as a major challenge facing the sector and a constraint to growth, and requested additional engagement between industry and government to address this issue.
  • Industry chairs also noted that a national approach to food labelling that balances the demands of consumers with the constraints processors face (for example, costs and disruption to the supply chain) is needed, that the domestic market is fundamental to the growth of certain sectors, that government programs and services should reflect the needs of smaller commodities, and that the Government should consider how to include seafood within the range of future programming.
  • Industry and Government Chairs expressed their broad support for the proposed Economic Strategy Tables and look forward to contributing to this undertaking. The Industry chairs said that primary agriculture should be represented on the Agri-Food Economic Strategy Table, and that this table should work closely with and be complementary to the VCRTs.

Public Trust Steering Committee

  • A verbal update was provided on the work done on the issue of public trust and how it is becoming a defining issue for the entire Canadian agriculture and food system.
  • The All Chairs were supportive of the work that has been done by the working group.

Trade readiness activities

  • AAFC provided a brief overview of the many activities the Department is undertaking to prepare for international trade and competitiveness in a changing landscape, and the All Chairs were supportive of the approach.

Industry strategy for genetically modified products

  • The Grains Roundtable (GRT) Working Group on genetically modified (GM) Labelling/Disclosure presented findings from a literature review on the regulatory approaches and economic implications of mandatory GM food labelling and made recommendations to the GRT on actions to move forward.
  • Canada's Agricultural Counsellor in Washington provided insights on how the new U.S. administration is advancing on this file.
  • Recognizing the implications for other sectors and the need to be pro-active in this sphere, a cross-sectoral GM Labelling Working Group will be established to expand the dialogue to other sectors, and to prepare the sector for tentative American action on GM Labelling in the near future.

The future of Value Chain Roundtables

  • The All Chairs discussed the future orientation and governance of VCRTs and shared experiences from their sector on how to build a more robust membership. They were supportive of a more inclusive approach to membership, particularly for youth, and to find alternate formats to engage retailers and civil society. They also noted the importance of succession planning for industry chairs.
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