CETA, or the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, is the world’s largest free trade agreement, and it came into effect last week. But what our government is touting as purely positive for local businesses, NDP leader Earle McCurdy is calling the opposite, and Keith Hutchings, the PC Finance and Natural Resources Critic for the Official Opposition isn’t impressed either.
“When the Liberal government is finished cheerleading the signing of CETA,” McCurdy stated, “they should take the time to inform the public of the serious and long-term consequences this agreement will have for the people of the province.”
A recent Liberal government press release states that “CETA will result in new opportunities for Newfoundland and Labrador businesses, who will benefit from the immediate elimination of 98% of all tariffs on Canadian goods, as well as a further 1% reduction over the next seven years.”
This will, they state, “provide Canadian companies with a ‘first mover advantage’ over competitors from markets including the United States that do not have a trade agreement in place with the European Union. Overall, the elimination of tariffs will make Canadian products more competitive in the European Union, giving Canadian exporters a significant advantage over other exporters still facing tariffs.”
The goal is to allow Canadian companies to expand, or create new markets for their goods in the European Union. Sounds great, ideal even, as it will eliminate tariffs on fish and seafood productions, in an industry vital to Newfoundland & Labrador since day 1. Which, The Liberals says will provide “unprecedented access to the world’s most lucrative fish and seafood market.”
CETA will also eliminate tariffs on metal and mineral products, “creating new opportunities to export Newfoundland and Labrador’s considerable natural resources.” CETA will also provide tariff relief for manufacturers, as well as for businesses that provide forestry and wood products.
In the coming weeks, the Provincial Government plans to lead a series of information sessions to highlight opportunities for local businesses to expand their reach into the European Union.
“Newfoundland and Labrador’s business community relies heavily on trade, and greater access to the European Union will create exciting possibilities for economic growth, “says Premier Ball. “Our government is a partner of business and we are fully committed to working with local companies to help them capitalize on new opportunities and support job creation.”
But McCurdy isn’t buying the purely positive spin on CETA, and says these consultations with local businesses should have happened before, not after the CETA came into effect.
He says the agreement’s investor rights provisions put the interests of private corporations ahead of the interest of governments and the public, giving corporations the right to sue governments when they take actions that are aimed at protecting citizens.
“This arrangement opens up procurement for huge multinational corporations. The full negative impact of CETA on the local business community needs to be understood and addressed,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy also points out that, “One of the main potential advantages associated with CETA was the commitment by the previous federal government to a cost-shared $400-million fisheries fund. Unfortunately, the Liberal government let the federal government off the hook and settled for a share of a $100-million fund available to the four Atlantic provinces.”
Keith Hutchings, Finance and Natural Resources Critic for the Official Opposition, took the Ball Administration to task over this as well. With the Prime Minister and Federal Ministers in town earlier this month, Hutchings said it would have been the perfect time “to press for answers on issues and obligations outstanding for Newfoundland and Labrador.”
He was refering to the lack of discussion around the $400 million Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries investment fund that Trudeau promised ahead of the 2015 election, in recognition of the decision to relinquish minimum processing requirements to the European Union as part of CETA negotiations.
“While we have pressed the Premier to engage in discussion with the Federal Government on a range of issues, he appears unwilling to do so … we need to be pressing for fair application of the equalization provisions of our constitution, which are giving billions to other provinces to help them cope with revenue shortfalls and balancing their budgets, but yet Newfoundland and Labrador is getting zero equalization because of unfair federal rules that can be changed any time in the Parliament of Canada.”