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Letter: Dropping the Ball on trade

File photo
File photo - CNW Group

I read with some astonishment Premier Dwight Ball’s letter to the editor June 30 ("PCs ill-informed on trade matters") where he suggests American duties on Canadian newsprint – which dramatically affect Corner Brook Pulp and Paper’s operations – are not connected to NAFTA renegotiations. The reality is these duties were implemented by the U.S. during negotiations for a new NAFTA agreement. To suggest there is no connection, directly or indirectly, shows a lack of understanding of negotiations.

When preliminary duties were similarly imposed on Bombardier, International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland was already talking publicly about NAFTA dispute resolution. The premier should be more concerned with protecting people whose jobs are on the line. But who can blame people for feeling anxious, after this government let so many people down in trade talks on the fishery?

As a former N.L. Minister Responsible for Trade, I remember our approach when an agreed-to $400-M fishery fund between the Canadian Government and N.L. was reneged on after bilateral negotiations. So we began an advocacy process to bring our views to Ottawa and the E.U.: meeting with over 10 E.U. ambassadors to Canada, making clear that, if no fund was provided by the Canadian government, we would not be giving ground on Minimum Processing Requirements (MPRs) in the fishery. We were instrumental in negotiating the removal of significant tariffs on fish lines into the E.U. almost immediately, which will be beneficial for decades for all our industry.

When Ball came to power in 2015, he says there was no deal. So what did he secure for N.L. in exchange for giving up areas of provincial jurisdiction under CETA before Trudeau signed it? Surely he wouldn’t have given up MPRs for nothing. But he did.

Other Liberal Atlantic Canadian Premiers and Quebec complained about the N.L.-specific Fishery Fund. Neither of those governments gave up MPRs — but they wanted a share of the fund anyway, and the premier caved in.

A leader who won’t fight for N.L. harms our economy. In this latest dispute, the premier couldn’t even say if he’d asked Ottawa to cover lawyers’ fees for challenging U.S. tariffs on newsprint.

Now he talks of working “with the federal government to leverage new opportunities attached to the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” and working “with industry to capitalize on new opportunities in emerging markets around the world.”

I agree. But it takes real leadership to make that happen.

Keith Hutchings, MHA Ferryland

Opposition Finance critic

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