Food for thought: How trade agreements impact the prospects for a national food policy

  • Elizabeth Ann Smythe Concordia University of Edmonton, Alberta
Keywords: Food policy, trade agreements, Canada


This article examines the prospect for a national food policy through the lens of trade agreements and the concept of policy space. It traces the shrinking of domestic policy space in recent decades as a result of trade agreements. Advocates such as Food Secure Canada seek a “coherent” food policy that supports a sustainable, more domestically-focused, food system. This article argues that the prospects for such a policy are constrained, based on Canada’s past history, under both Liberal and Conservative governments, as well as recent bilateral and regional agreements. It examines the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), the Transpacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) which included the United States, and the subsequent Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) negotiated by the remaining eleven partners after the US departure. Focussing on market access, standards, regulatory harmonization and procurement, I argue that provisions in these agreements, along with what we might expect in future trade negotiations, pose challenges for the development of a national food policy.