The NFU's Trade Campaigns
International trade is an important issue for the NFU. The NFU seeks to establish a food production, distribution, and trade system in Canada and around the world which would ensure all people have access to sufficient, nutritious, and safe food; where the means of producing that food remains in the hands of peasants, small and medium-sized farmers, and indigenous peoples; that food producers receive a fair and adequate return for their work; that wealth created in rural areas fosters the security and prosperity of rural communities; that agricultural policies and practices protect and enhance the natural environment; that every country has the right to adopt all necessary measures to ensure the preceding goals; and that the international food trade is subservient to all of the above goals.
It is important to differentiate between trade as an economic activity, the theory of free trade and trade agreements. Trade is a normal and necessary part of all societies. The theory of free trade was advanced by certain 19th century philosophers, and is based on assumptions that are questionable. International trade agreements (as well as investment agreements) create rules for governments that often go well beyond trade, and which limit democratic sovereignty over a wide range of important economic matters.
The NFU is a vocal critic and opponent of trade deals and investment agreements, including the WTO, the MAI, the Free Trade Agreement (with USA), NAFTA, CETA, the TPP (now called CPTPP) and various bilateral trade agreements. These deals fail to address questions of Canada’s real economic goals, purpose and direction in terms of greater social participation, equality, and the pursuit of peace both domestically and globally.
The NFU, as a founding member of La Via Campesina, helped develop the concept of Food Sovereignty as an alternative to trade deals that empower corporations and shrink the democratic space available for public decision-making.