A British trade official called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government to ratify the U.K.’s entry into a Pacific trade deal by the end of the year, despite opposition from some Canadian agriculture groups.

The two countries are at an impasse in their bilateral free trade talks, which may also be delaying Canadian action to help the U.K. join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, known by the acronym CPTPP.

The U.K. signed onto the latter accord last July, and its Parliament formally ratified the deal last week. But before it can start enjoying the benefits, the U.K. needs six of the CPTPP’s 11 members to ratify its accession — and so far only Singapore, Japan, and Chile have done so.

Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng has yet to introduce a ratification bill in the country’s House of Commons.

Jennifer Fagan, head of economics and trade at the U.K. High Commission in Canada, said her country is especially keen to have Canada’s support, given their close ties as allies and Canada’s status as chair of the CPTPP Commission this year.

“We understand that it’s a busy parliamentary season for Canada, but we’re hoping that it’ll be imminent that Canada will put that legislation forward,” Fagan said in an interview.

Fagan said she believes the U.K. will get enough other countries to ratify before the end of 2024, but would hope that Canada does so given that it was “an early champion of the U.K. accession.”

‘Significant Barriers’

Fagan made the comments shortly before British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called an election for July 4, which polls suggest the Labour Party will win. 

Under Sunak, the U.K. suspended free trade talks with Canada after Trudeau’s government allowed some post-Brexit trade provisions to expire. Those included a temporary arrangement that permitted low-tariff exports of British cheese to Canada and another that affected British auto exports to Canada.

Canadian and British officials insist those issues are separate from discussions around CPTPP. But there may be other reasons Canada is dragging its heels. An alliance of Canadian agriculture groups is lobbying against the U.K.’s accession to the Pacific pact, arguing that it doesn’t give enough access for producers currently blocked from the U.K. market.

“This agreement does not achieve any meaningful market access for the Canadian beef and pork industries and creates significant barriers for Canadian farmers, ranchers and producers,” the coalition says on its website. 

Ng said Canada still supports the U.K.’s entry into CPTPP but remained non-committal on a timeline for a vote in parliament. “It’s definitely in the queue,” she said in a phone interview while attending a trade forum in Peru. “It’s certainly something we’ve committed to doing, and we intend to.”