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[OTTAWA] A cow and hundreds of dairy farmers driving tractors blocked road access to Canada's parliament on Tuesday to protest agricultural concessions in trade talks with other Pacific Rim countries.
The protesters representing 12,234 family farms across Canada said they fear opening up the Canadian market to foreign milk imports will harm their supply-managed industry.
Reciprocal access to foreign markets, they added, would not balance out milk sales because most Canadian dairies are too small to compete on a global scale.
The protest comes ahead of final negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership between 12 nations, including Canada, scheduled for Wednesday to Thursday.
Canadian dairy representatives are in Atlanta, Georgia for the talks to press trade officials and "oppose endangering the stability and viability of our industry," Dairy Farmers of Canada president Wally Smith said in a statement.
Support in Canada for the trade pact has dropped in recent months while opposition has doubled, amid a lack of details surrounding the accord.
In an election debate Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he would defend the supply-managed dairy industry and "negotiate a (TPP) agreement in the interest of the entire Canadian economy."