EU agreement could increase trade
As the federal government continues its ambitious trade agenda to stimulate economic growth through export markets, the finalization of the Canadian–European Union (EU) Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) could increase agricultural exports by three billion dollars.
“In Canada, we export more than half of everything we grow,” said Kathleen Sullivan, executive director of the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA).
“We rely extensively on export markets to maintain the infrastructure and livelihood of our agriculture sector.” CAFTA has represented major producer groups across the country at every round of the CETA negotiations that have taken place every three months over the last three years.
CETA, the largest bilateral trade agreement Canada has negotiated since the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), would greatly increase the amount of products shipped to Europe from Canada and provide more consistent access into European markets. Sullivan noted that Europe is a consistent, reliable customer to Canada and that a deal like CETA benefits Canada right back to the farm gate.
“The best thing about agriculture is that if we grow trade by a dollar, that dollar goes right back into the pockets of people who live in rural areas, benefiting rural communities,” she said.
Richard Phillips, executive director of the Grain Growers of Canada (GGC), also emphasized the importance of trade agreements like CETA to agriculture. He said that GGC has met almost weekly with trade negotiators throughout the deal, offering advice and regularly sending negotiating teams from Canada to explain things face-to-face.
“Agriculture is a sensitive area in Europe,” said Martin Rice, executive director of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC).
“For Canada, beef and pork access is a necessary and important result.”
Rice added that the recent tightening of conditions for pork access to Korea means an agreement with Europe represents a new opportunity to generate additional production in this area.
Phillips said it would be to producers’ advantage to have feed grains go to Europe through beef and pork rather than to export the lower value feed grains on their own.
“When they win, we win,” said Phillips. “We’ve stood beside them in their demand for more market access.”
When it comes to CETA, Sullivan said Alberta—a large agricultural producer—stands to benefit greatly. Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway Ed Fast echoed Sullivan’s sentiments, citing that between 2009 and 2011, Alberta exported an annual average of $298 million in agricultural products to the EU.
“Eliminating tariff barriers would increase sales of Alberta’s world-class agricultural products in the lucrative EU market of 500 million consumers,” said Fast. “This would directly benefit hardworking Albertans through more jobs, higher wages and greater long-term prosperity.”
Sullivan also had an update on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement, as she recently returned from the 15th round of talks in Auckland.
“It’s moving even faster than we thought it would. It’s pretty clear that we might see a deal there quite quickly,” she said. “Now that we are part of the TPP, our government is privy to far more information and we are able to participate on the side of stakeholders. We are able to get a sense of negotiations, the timeline and how things might unfold.”
Sullivan predicts 2013 will be a really big year for Canadian trade overall, especially agriculture. She said that deals with Korea and the EU could conclude early in the year, and that major negotiations with both Japan and the TPP will progress.
For Minister Fast, finalizing agreements such as CETA is critical to ensuring Canada’s economic future.
“In the current global economic context, an ambitious trade agreement between the EU and Canada will be a significant positive development, and a clear signal to the world that deeper trade ties are the best way to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” he said.