In his Dec. 18 letter to the editor, Fisheries Minister Keith Hutchings justified the relaxation of minimum processing requirements on the grounds that tariffs on shellfish would be eliminated. That would increase access to what he described as “the most valuable seafood markets in the world.” He added that it was somewhat insulting to suggest that provincial processing plants would not still be competitive internationally.
What Mr. Hutchings failed to mention was that Europeans currently import 60 per cent of the fish they consume. There’s going to be a continuing demand for our products, particularly since fish stocks are declining around the world. According to a 2013 report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, tariffs have been steadily going down and will probably reach zero within a few years, without Newfoundland and Labrador having to make any CETA concessions.
As for the ability of our fish processors to compete, the playing field is not level. Currently, European subsidies to the fisheries are actually greater than the value of their landed catch. What’s to prevent EU countries from redirecting some of their subsidies away from their oversized fleets and into the processing sector? In their Oct. 18 press release, the European Commission specifically named “better access to Canadian fish for the EU processing industry” as a particular interest to EU firms. They have a plan.
Last month, the Bank of Montreal told shareholders that CETA might not live up to government hype. Capital Economics, a research group for the private sector, went further, suggesting the benefits may be very small. The federal government’s amazing response was that the economic gains will be even greater than their current numbers forecast.
Meanwhile both our provincial and federal governments maintain absolute silence about CETA’s assault on our legislative and judicial sovereignty. CETA’s supranational rules will severely restrict the ability of governments at all levels to introduce new laws or regulations to protect both communities and the environment. Corporate investor complaints against governments who dare to do so will bypass our own judicial system and be heard in offshore tribunals, riddled with conflict of interest and corporate bias.
Governments’ hype, narrow interpretation and exaggeration of economic gains, coupled with their complete silence on what’s at risk for our democratic institutions, are both extraordinary and unprecedented. Are we being conned?
Conception Bay South