An effort was made this morning to promote the benefits of the coming Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.
It is not an easy task to get the trade agreement on the radar, given the roughly $22 million average for exports from this province to the Republic of Korea from 2010-12.
In comparison, Quebec had an average value of exports to that country, for the same period, of $379.4 million. The numbers are even higher in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario, leading to public conversations around the impacts on everything from cattle farmers to the auto industry.
Yet while the current export numbers for Newfoundland and Labrador to South Korea are not as large, the potential benefits from the new trade deal are not insignificant, according to two senators and at least two representatives for the provincial fishing industry who were on hand for a presentation of the basics at the St. John’s Port Authority building in St. John’s this morning.
Of the roughly $22 million in goods exported to South Korea from this province, according to information provided by the federal government, $11.7 million is in seafood products.
Executive director of the provincial association for seafood producers, Derek Butler, said this province has established a “fairly big” presence for its product in Japan, is growing in China and will grow in South Korea, as the Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement comes into effect and gradually kills tariffs on Canadian seafood exports.
He said those tariffs can currently run as high as 47 per cent, increasing the price of Canadian products in Korea.
Once Canadian products can be price competitive, Butler said he has no doubt Newfoundland and Labrador can supply both traditional products and unique products called for in the Korean marketplace.
“There are some species that might not be abundant in Newfoundland and Labrador on our dinner plates, but that we do prosecute fisheries in and that we do sell internationally,” he said, adding even well-known fisheries are facing a new basis for Korean business.
“We’ve seen some snow crab sales in South Korea in recent years — great potential to grow now that the tariffs are off,” he said.
Martin Sullivan, president and CEO of Ocean Choice International, said he feels the lifting of tariffs will indeed provide new opportunities.
“I think the thing to remember is they import about a billion and a half dollars a year of seafood, so we see — on a number of different species — potential,” he said.
Off hand, he named shrimp, crab, caplin, whelk and sea snail as species with the potential for seeing added uptake in future.
“The reason we’re not doing more (now) is because of the tariffs,” he said. “I think with the tariff elimination, it’s going to open up a lot of opportunity for us.”
He said seafood producers in this country are looking for further “opening up of Asia,” beginning when the new trade agreement is brought into effect.
The free trade agreement comes on the heels of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), an agreement in principle between Canada and the European Union.
Sen. Norm Doyle, along with Sen. David Wells, spoke this morning on the basics of the latest agreement. Doyle said Canada currently has 23 free trade initiatives underway, covering 76 countries.
“Under the leadership of Prime Minister (Stephen) Harper, our government remains focused on creating jobs and growth while keeping taxes low. Good economic management requires tough decisions, a focus on priorities and sound judgement,” Doyle said, while at a podium set up at the St. John’s Port Authority building.
“We believe that expanding and diversifying our trading relationship around the world is one of the best ways to achieve these goals. And to reach our goals, government as well as business — they need to embrace change. And we need to be bold and daring in our approaches to expanding trade,” he said.
“Quick Facts” provided by the federal government:
• Nearly 70 per cent of fish and seafood product tariff lines will be duty-free within five years and all remaining duties will be eliminated within 12 years.
• South Korea is an important economic partner for Canada, with an economy of $1.1 trillion and a population of 50 million.
• The Canada-Korea Free Trade Agreement is projected to boost Canada’s economy by $1.7 billion and increase Canadian exports to South Korea by 32 per cent.
• On the day the agreement comes into force, Canadian businesses will immediately benefit from South Korea’s removal of duties on 81.9 per cent of tariff lines. Once the agreement is fully implemented, South Korea will have removed duties on 98.2 per cent of tariff lines.
• Canadian businesses will benefit from the same access to the South Korean market as their competitors, notably those from the United States and the European Union.
Executive director of the provincial association for seafood producers, Derek Butler, spoke in favour of the Canada-Korea Freet Trade Agreement, following statements of support from Senators David Wells and Norm Doyle, at the St. John’s Port Authority building in St. John’s this morning, March 20, 2014. — Photo by Ashley Fitzpatrick/The Telegram