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U.K. walks away from trade talks with Canada

British negotiators walked away from trade talks with Canada Thursday — a dramatic development that taps the brakes on a bilateral trade deal between the two Commonwealth nations that has been years in the making.

Sticking point is how much access U.K. producers should have to the Canadian cheese market

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, meets with the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Rishi Sunak at 10 Downing Street, after King Charles lll had his official royal Coronation in London on Saturday, May 6, 2023.

British negotiators walked away from trade talks with Canada Thursday — a dramatic development that taps the brakes on a bilateral trade deal between the two Commonwealth nations that has been years in the making.

A major sticking point is how much access U.K. producers should have to the Canadian cheese market.

After Brexit, an interim agreement kept tariff-free British cheese on Canadian shelves for three years. That more permissive regime expired at the end of last year.

Negotiators had been working on a longer-term bilateral trade deal to replace the liberalized trade the U.K. enjoyed under the terms of Canada's Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.

In the aftermath of the renegotiation of the former North American Free Trade Agreement, which saw changes to supply-managed sectors, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised dairy farmers that no more slices of Canada's domestic market would be served up to exporters in future negotiations.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada has said consistently that expanded access to the Canadian dairy sector should remain off the table in trade talks.

"We have always said we will only negotiate trade deals that deliver for the British people. And we reserve the right to pause negotiations with any country if progress is not being made," a U.K. government spokesperson said in a statement to CBC News.

"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."

A spokesperson for International Trade Minister Mary Ng said Canada is "disappointed that negotiations with the U.K. 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," the spokesperson said.

"We will not negotiate an agreement that is not good for Canadians and not good for our Canadian business, farmers and workers."

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

John Paul Tasker

Senior reporter

J.P. Tasker is a journalist in CBC's parliamentary bureau who reports for digital, radio and television. He is also a regular panellist on CBC News Network's Power & Politics. He covers the Conservative Party, Canada-U.S. relations, Crown-Indigenous affairs, climate change, health policy and the Senate. You can send story ideas and tips to J.P. at john.tasker@cbc.ca.

With files from the CBC's Janyce McGregor

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