Fisheries talks raise alarm

James McLeod
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But FFAW cautiously optimistic about free trade negotiations

Fishing vessels at dock in the small boat basin in St. John’s harbour wait for the start of the fishing season.— Photo by Neville Webb, Mount Pearl

Opposition politicians in Newfoundland and in Ottawa are expressing concern about potential fisheries industry giveaways at the negotiating table on Canada-Europe free trade talks, but the province’s fisheries union said Tuesday that fewer trade barriers would be a good thing.

On Monday, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said Prime Minister Stephen Harper tried to strongarm her by deregulating the province’s processing sector in exchange for a loan guarantee on Muskrat Falls.

Dunderdale said she wouldn’t agree to any sort of “quid pro quo” but she said when it comes to the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Europe, everything is on the table during negotiations in Brussels.


Fish, Food and Allied Workers union president Earle McCurdy said if the province has to bend on minimum processing requirements in the province, that may be alright as long as Europe drops trade restrictions.

“The European Union is the most important seafood market in the world, potentially,” McCurdy said. “We are at a considerable competitive disadvantage in trading with the EU.”

For example, he said codfish faces a 7.5 per cent tariff coming from Canada, and it’s competing against Iceland and Norway cod which has no tariff. He said that shrimp from this province faces “end-use restrictions” which basically mean it can only be sold in bulk going into the EU, which eliminates any chance to do branding or value-added processing.

“Progress in those areas would be very significant for our industry,” McCurdy said.

But opposition politicians worry that without minimum processing rules, plant workers’ jobs would be in jeopardy.

“I have a real concern that the premier would sort of think it’s alright to have the minimum processing requirements on the table,” New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael said. “I think the principle of minimum processing requirements is the only way that we get some value-added work for our workers in the industry here in Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Similarly, Liberal Fisheries critic Jim Bennett worried that without minimum processing regulations, workers in this province wouldn’t see any benefit from the fisheries resource.

“Ten thousand people are employed in processing in the province. The fishery is still the biggest employer,” Bennett said. “If you look at what happens in New Zealand right now, much of the fishing is done offshore in factory freezer trawlers and the New Zealanders get nothing.”

In Ottawa, opposition politicians fretted over the secrecy surrounding the CETA talks that are going on. On Monday, Dunderdale said she expects the negotiations to wrap up within the next two weeks, but New Democrat MP Jack Harris said he’s still not clear what’s even being negotiated. “Our problem is all of this stuff has been kept in the dark,” Harris said. “We’re going to be stuck with something afterwards, presented by the Government of Canada as all or nothing.”

Liberal MP Scott Andrews said he’s hopeful that the CETA deal could be good for Newfoundland and Labrador, but without any information, he doesn’t know what to expect.

“I’m very concerned where these CETA negotiations are going. They’re being done in secret,” he said. “I would like to know what they’re going to do with the shrimp tariffs. The shrimp tariffs going into the EU has been a huge sticking point for Newfoundlanders for some time.”

In an effort to shed some light on what’s actually happening at the CETA negotiating table, The Telegram requested an interview with federal International Trade Minister Ed Fast. He refused to do an interview, but a spokesman provided a statement on his behalf.

“We continue to work collaboratively with Newfoundland & Labrador, to protect and create jobs in the province, and to ensure that all Newfoundlanders & Labradorians continue to benefit from the province’s world-class resources,” Fast said in the e-mailed statement. “We are committed to achieving an outcome that is in the best interests of Canadians, and opens up new opportunities for Canada’s exporters.”

Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley was at a media event in St. John’s Tuesday, where he assured reporters that the provincial government is not going to give away minimum processing requirements unless it’s a good deal.

“There’s an ongoing negotiation and we want to achieve the zero tariff and no end use restriction immediately, but we’re certainly not prepared at all cost,” he said. “I can’t stress enough that we fully intend to maintain our jurisdictional right and responsibility to maximize the value of our resources for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

Dalley said he’s consulting with people in the fishery on what sort of deals they make in Europe, but he wouldn’t say who he’s speaking to.

“I won’t provide all the details today because, again, negotiations are ongoing,” he said. “Suffice it to say, we’re not going this alone. It’s important that we engage the people that are directly involved in the industry.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: European Union, Allied Workers union, International Trade

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Ottawa, Europe Canada Brussels Iceland Norway New Zealand

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Recent comments

  • Discusted
    June 03, 2013 - 11:56

    Time to organize a revolt. We are like that proverbial boiled frog.

  • To Prime Minister of Canada
    May 30, 2013 - 11:28

    Prime Minister Harper I hope you read the entreaties of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador regarding what we do not want to SEE happen with the last remnants of our very important fish resource that we brought into Canada 64 years ago. We do NOT want to see it immersed in the CETA Agreement as the enabler to conduct international trade contracts to allow other parts of Canada and the EU to prosper while the province of Newfoundland and Labrador again dies on the economic vine of Canada. We have been long suffering subjects of Canada for 64 years now and all that we have seen happen is our natural resources get developed so that other locations in Canada and the World become the primary beneficiary of our developed natural resources, They prosper economically and we flounder. They have not only grown vibrant economies, but they have augmented their population base, while our population base dwindled. Newfoundlanders and Labradorins are craving much better governance from our politicians, both Federally and Provincially, and we want to see the giveaway of our natural resources stopped immediately. While we don't mind sharing, we do not want to see the lopsided way our natural resources were dispensed over the past 64 years of being part of Canada.

  • Janet Eaton
    May 30, 2013 - 09:16

    The CETA controversy continues and so it should !! Much is at stake including good value added fisheries jobs, a sustainable fishery, procurement polices which help to foster and generate local economic development and more. And meanwhile the EU economy continues to plummet, and the future of economic 'growth' is in doubt as the earth`s capacity to provide endless resources for unlimited growth and its ability to absorb more and more pollutants from the growth and manufacturing processes are both experiencing limits to growth. Profits for the TNCs involved with little or no accounting for so-called 'externalities' is a fatal path toward long term demise. When will our leaders begin to examine the policies advocated by degrowth economists, ecological economists like Herman Daly and those who advocate `managing without growth' like our own Peter Victor of York University ? These models involve a very different concept of growth but also trade - one where trade is fairer, more locally situated i.e regional, where tariffs are renewed to protect local resources, and control of trade is devolved to national or sub-national governments and much more.... jme

  • Those now talking about the fears of CETA are creating g a ruse to save face.
    May 29, 2013 - 13:56

    How come when Maude Barlow and Paul Moyst from the Council of Canadians came to St. John's 2 years ago in June to apprise Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that their complete fishery resource was being negotiated away by OTTAWA to secure International Trade contracts on its parts and to accommodate the wishes of the European Union in their desire to come to the shoreline of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and fish to their hearts content? NOBODY, either on the Ruling Party side, the Opposition side, the Fishery Union side or our Federal politicians side wanted to mouth a word to ask questions. As a result all the talk now by the people who should have raised the flag back 2 years ago, I truly believe is a ruse. I think the CETA Agreement is already signed and put to bed and those inept/stupid politicians who we elected to look after our affairs, but only look after their own, are trying to safe face. I am sick of politicians, it is time for change and devise another template that will serve us better!

  • Casey
    May 29, 2013 - 13:09

    Fisheries Minister Derrick Dalley was at a media event in St. John’s Tuesday, where he assured reporters that the provincial government is not going to give away minimum processing requirements unless it’s a good deal. Mr. Dalley how can giving away our raw resource and still have a good deal for rural NL? Someone needs to rescue us from this give away before it is to late.

  • Fred Penner
    May 29, 2013 - 12:44

    Earl McCurdy said: "For example, he said codfish faces a 7.5 per cent tariff coming from Canada, and it’s competing against Iceland and Norway cod which has no tariff. "........ but Newfoundland has no Cod so wheres the beef!

  • Ed Power
    May 29, 2013 - 12:36

    Surely you wouldn't imperil a trade agreement that will allow for the free flow of French wines and Dutch cheeses into Ontario for a few smelly old fish...?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    May 29, 2013 - 12:34

    We are giving away our iron ore. We are giving away our hydro. And now we are giving away our billion dollar (and potentially), multi-billion dollar fishery.......all just to make a few corporate entities even richer...... Whatever happened to "no more giveaways"?............ Say one thing, do another --- the hallmark of this Conservative government, whether here or in Ottawa.

  • Joe
    May 29, 2013 - 11:51

    I'll give it 3 years and you'll see the cod moritorium lifted and factory freezer ships loading cod for europe,with no processing in nl. Thanks a lot Kathy and Steve and Danny and the sullivans