As the minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development, I feel compelled to respond to a letter to the editor from Ken Kavanagh, chair of the St. John’s Chapter of the Council of Canadians, on trade negotiations between Canada and the European Union, which was published in the Dec. 3 edition of The Telegram.
While a final trade agreement could offer significant benefits to the people of this province, I have to emphasize that negotiations are ongoing. We cannot assume final outcomes at this time.
What I can firmly state is that officials from the provincial government are advocating to the federal government in areas that would create maximum benefit for Newfoundland and Labrador. We will only support an agreement that is in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Throughout this process, we have also had discussions and extensive correspondence with key stakeholders and interested parties. We have welcomed their input and used it to shape our advocacy to the federal government.
With respect to Mr. Kavanagh’s commentary on drug costs, the provincial government has worked very hard to ensure the availability of affordable pharmaceuticals in this province.
It is a commitment that was highlighted with the passing of legislation on generic drugs in the spring 2012 session of the House of Assembly, which ensures Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay reasonable prices for their generic drugs, including those most vulnerable in our communities and regions.
As a government, we continue to view these trade negotiations as an opportunity to address the elimination of tariffs for Newfoundland and Labrador fish and seafood entering the European Union. The sum of these outcomes should create new opportunities for rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
In addition to opportunities for the fishery, a Canada-European Union agreement could create opportunities for emerging service and knowledge-based industries such as ocean technology, oil and gas services or life sciences by easing access to the European market. Subsequently, it could support business expansion and new employment opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador.
When negotiations conclude, the final agreement will be closely reviewed and a decision will be made on the merits of whether or not it is in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Until then, no assumptions should be made and no conclusions drawn from unofficial sources.
Minister of Innovation, Business and Rural Development