Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings said today that the new trade deal with Europe is the best thing to happen to the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery in decades.
Charlene Johnson, minister of innovation, business and rural development, speaks to the media. Johnson, Keith Hutchings, (left) minister of fisheries and aquaculture, and Derrick Dalley (right), minister of natural resources, are briefing reporters this morning regarding benefits to Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of the Agreement-in-Principle related to the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). —Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram
The Newfoundland and Labrador interest in CETA — the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement with the EU — is almost entirely centred around fish, and the big news is that local producers will have more opportunity to sell their product into the richest seafood market in the world.
The deal isn’t expected to come into force until at least 2015, but when that happens, tariffs on seafood will be eliminated within seven years. More than 95 per cent of seafood tariffs will disappear overnight. Some of the barriers will disappear right away, others will be phased out over seven years.
The deal will also eliminate trade restrictions on minerals, ships and forestry products.
The biggest news is on shrimp, which currently faces prohibitively high trade barriers, and restrictions which mean that Newfoundland product can only be sold in bulk. The new deal means that the province can package, process and brand its shrimp for added value.
On the other side of the ledger, the government will eliminate minimum processing rights on fish destined for Europe. That aspect of the deal will kick in three years after the free trade deal comes into force.
But Hutchings said that Europe isn’t really a concern for the province when it comes to processing jobs, because their labour and energy costs are higher.
The deal still keeps minimum processing requirements in place for seafood destined elsewhere — namely, Asia — which is what fisheries officials are really worried about.
Friday’s news conference involved a who’s-who of industry representatives — including the FFAW, the Association of Seafood Producers and the St. John’s Board of Trade — all of whom are optimistic about the European free trade deal.
Both the Liberals and the NDP were cautiously optimistic, saying that on the face of it, the deal looks good for the province, but the devil may be hiding in the details.
The seal hunt isn't affected by the deal, so the province still won't have access for shipping pelts.
The Newfoundland and Labrador government is supporting the deal; in a news release, Premier Kathy Dunderdale called it "a milestone achievement."