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This article was published 26/6/2019 (570 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
OTTAWA — China’s ongoing spat with Canada has taken another turn as the federal Liberals call for an RCMP probe of what they suspect is a pork shipment fraudulently using Canadian certification.
"Somebody is trying to use the Canadian brand to move product into the Chinese market," International Trade Diversification Minister Jim Carr told reporters Wednesday.
"We want to know why this is happening and in whose interest this could be," said Carr, who represents Manitoba in the federal cabinet.
Late Tuesday, China announced a temporary ban on all Canadian meat, with the Ottawa embassy citing "forged" veterinary certificates attached to a pork shipment.
Manitoba exported almost $69 million in pork products to China last year while, nationally, Canada exported $97 million in beef. The United States is Canada's largest market for both meats, followed by Japan.
Federal officials confirmed they've asked the RCMP to investigate the certificate allegations.
Carr suggested Wednesday that "provincial officials" were helping probe the incident, but the government said it didn’t yet know which provinces were named in the certificates.
This month, China blocked a Quebec company for trying to export pork products containing ractopamine, an additive that is banned in that country. The same additive came up in the shipment that China and Ottawa believe to have contained false additives.
China claims Canada’s system has "obvious safety loopholes," and has not yet linked the issue to Canada’s arrest of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou.
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eichler spoke with his federal counterpart Wednesday, and said the RCMP is investigating "fraudulent documents."
"It sounds to me like it was somebody trying to offload something and used the documentation to try to get it into China," Eichler told reporters.
"Unfortunately our producers of all meat products are feeling the brunt of this."
Eichler noted meat producers include Cargill, which has most of its plants in Alberta but runs its head office in Winnipeg, and Maple Leaf’s Brandon plant, which exports to China. He warned of a knock-on impact for truckers, processors and feed sales.
Keystone Agricultural Producers head Bill Campbell said it’s too early to tell whether a drop in meat production would mean lower feed sales. The industry would most likely sell grain elsewhere, at a lower market price.
"Any time you have impediments to trade, this stuff has to go somewhere," said Campbell.
Andrew Dickson, the head of the Manitoba Pork Council, said he was encouraged that Ottawa was in talks with officials in China, unlike the silence surrounding a canola despute.
"We’re confident this thing will get resolved in a matter of weeks," Dickson said.
He was frustrated by the thought of someone abusing the certificate system, and thus freezing out hundreds of producers.
"Strange things happen in the world of trade," said Dickson. "You’re always going to find someone who's going to play games."
The Canadian Meat Council went further, writing it was "extremely concerned as this will have a significant business impact on our sector."
Conservative MP James Bezan was raised in a cattle-ranching family, and still owns cows. His relatives have been personally hit by China blocking imports and crashing prices for canola, soybeans and meat.
"China is impacting upon farm families from one end of the country to the other, and we just can't take this," said Bezan.
He argued the permit issue may have been caused by the Chinese themselves. And if not, he feels that country could be more lenient on Canada if diplomatic relations weren’t at what China’s ambassador has called "rock bottom."
Bezan argued Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "has pretty much rolled over and allowed Canada to get walked over by the regime in Beijing."
Premier Brian Pallister separately told media Wednesday he was dismayed by the "overt political decision that China has taken. We have to stand for rule of law."
Campbell said he hopes Ottawa will find some resolution with China, after six months of frosty relations.
"The agriculture community is on pins and needles, as to where this is going to go," he said.
"We rely on trade in this country."
With files from Larry Kusch