I am motivated to write you in support of the Canadian European Trade Agreement (CETA) after hearing the most ridiculous arguments as to why this is not a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador.
I will keep my comments to the future effect of CETA upon the fishing industry, and leave others to comment on their particular areas of expertise.
The Barry Group sells various fishery products into the European Union, most notably cold water shrimp, lobster, mackerel and herring, but also groundfish species such as skate and monkfish.
Current duties amount to 20 per cent on shrimp, six per cent to 16 per cent on lobster, 15 per cent on herring, 20 per cent on mackerel, and eight per cent on snow crab.
In addition, there are end user requirements which prevent us from selling small packages of product into the EU market, the world’s premier market for seafood.
While it is common in trade agreements for tariffs to be reduced over several years, it is rather quite remarkable that virtually 100 per cent of all tariffs on fishing products will go to zero when CETA comes into force.
Our industry will also have the opportunity to sell consumer packs, which generally command somewhat better prices.
This is good for everyone in our industry; fishermen as well as processors.
The provincial government is to be commended for hard bargaining and the federal government for completing such a complex trade agreement, which required the concurrence of 25 countries and their various interests, and 10 provinces.
The $400 million adjustment fund, supported by a 70 per cent contribution from the federal government, provides the opportunity to improve the competitiveness of our fishing industry through improved productivity and new technological innovation.
Non-tariff barriers fall
There are also various measures agreed to which will facilitate the flow of seafood into the marketplace.
For example, national treatment obligations will ensure goods are not subject to discriminatory treatment, fees charged must be commensurate with costs and there will be automated border procedures. International trade is as much about non-tariff barriers as it is about tariffs, so these and many others provisions will certainly facilitate the flow of goods to the EU countries.
Many of the complaints centre around the provision that minimum processing requirements on the export of fish products will only be protected for three years after the agreement comes into effect.
I certainly respect contrarian opinion.
However, I have heard no concrete examples, just hysteria, while the same individuals ignore the fact that no tariffs will allow Canadian companies to sell products that we cannot today because of prohibitive tariffs and end user restrictions.
I have also heard it said that CETA would discriminate against small companies, while the opposite is more likely, due to less bureaucracy and clearer rules to facilitate trade.
A trading nation
For those who oppose free and open trade arrangements with other countries, I have to ask the question, don’t you know that Canada lives by its trade?
Imagine if our fishery, forestry, mining, energy, potash, chemical, agriculture and technology industries could only market their products in Canada.
We would quickly become a Third World/very poor country.
What we need as a province is more customers and, I might add, less stupidity around this historic event.
In closing, I am absolutely convinced that this is a historic achievement for our fishing industry.
Kudos to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Kathy Dunderdale.
I look forward to continued federal and provincial co-operation, which is essential for the future prosperity of our great province.
Bill Barry runs the Barry Group of companies.