Will EU trade reap benefits for all?

Canadian producers and industry officials seem confident that the new trade deal with the European Union will open the market door wider to the region’s 500 million population.

It’s tough to “nail a number to the wall and say this is the benefit” farmers will see with the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement, said Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.

“While I can’t tell you it’s going to be X billions of dollars a year, I think that there are significant benefits.”

Brian Otto, who chairs the Barley Council of Canada, has been farming with his wife, Carolyn, in southern Alberta for 43 years. For the last two years, he’s been working on farm succession with his son, who will be the fifth generation on a farm that grows a variety of crops from barley to safflower to pulses.

Otto said Canada’s agriculture industry is competitive and exports are key.

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“And so it’s very, very important that our federal government continues to pursue trade agreements with our trading partners.”

Otto hopes to see the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal ratified with Pacific Rim countries and is glad to see the new federal government working on better trade relations with China.

He also sees CETA as a “step forward.”

Otto said it grants more access to Canadian beef and pork, and more meat exports mean more demand for feed barley.

“And that’s where the benefits to barley come because we are a major player in the feed industry here in Canada.”

He said CETA also offers opportunities for Canada to create a food barley market in Europe, such as hulls barley for flour.

Brian Innes, vice-president of government relations with the Canola Council of Canada, said the biodiesel market presents the biggest opportunity for canola in the EU, particularly France, Portugal and Belgium.

“Germany could also present opportunity in the future,” he said.

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The European Union produces more canola than Canada, but Innis said Canadian market opportunities depend on the growing season and how much European farmers grow.

Canadian canola also competes with Australia, and demand in other markets will affect exports to the EU.

CETA also contains promises to eliminate tariffs on some Canadian products.

However, Dahl said that while he doesn’t dismiss the importance of tariffs, non-tariff barriers are often overlooked.

“As tariffs come down and are eliminated, governments will turn to other things to block trade, and that’s why it’s important to have an agreement that sanitary and phytosanitary issues will be based on science,” said Dahl.

For example, he said CETA provides a framework for handling mycotoxins, which is an issue for the cereal industry. Pesticide residues are another big issue.

Innes said CETA also promises to lift tariffs on canola oil, but non-tariff barriers, such as the EU’s “unpredictable approval process for biotech traits,” are also a concern.

He said the EU has committed to a timely processing of new biotech canola traits, but a biotech trait approved in Canada in 2012 was still recently under review in the EU.

Innes said potential benefits also include a science-based approval process, co-operation on low-level presence policies and reducing the negative impact of regulatory processes on trade.

Increased market access isn’t the same as market share, but Canadian exporters have some experience in that area as well.

Chronology of events and key milestones

June 2007 – Canadian and EU leaders agree to conduct a study the impact of a closer economic partnership.

Oct. 2008 – Canada and the EU issue a joint study, Assessing the Costs and Benefits of a Closer EU-Canada Economic Partnership, which provided supporting rationale for a launch of negotiations.

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Dec. 2008 – A notice is published in the Dec. 20 Canada Gazette seeking Canadians’ input on the possibility of negotiating a trade agreement with the EU. These consultations were open to all stakeholders and groups.

March 2009 – A Canada-EU joint report is finalized, defining the
scope of potential negotiations.

May 2009 – Negotiations launched.

Oct. 2009 – A successful first round of negotiations toward an agreement is held in Ottawa. Both sides made efforts to identify common ground and set a negotiating timeline.

Oct. 2011 – Nine formal rounds of negotiations are completed, with significant progress made across all sectors. Negotiations move into a more focused phase.

Feb. 2012 – Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for international trade meet in Ottawa. Trade with the EU seen as a priority.

Feb. 2013 – Canadian and EU trade and agriculture ministers meet to further narrow the outstanding issues in the negotiations.

Oct. 2013 – Canada and the EU reach an agreement in principle.

Aug. 2014 – Countries announce a complete text of the Canada-EU Trade Agreement, marking the conclusion of negotiations.

Sept. 2014 – At the Canada-EU Summit in Ottawa, leaders release the completed text of the agreement.

Feb. 2016 – Legal review of text released

Source: Global Affairs Canada

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