“I’ve given you a lot of questions, not a whole lot of answers. I admit that,” Byrne said. “I’m here to try to stimulate a provincewide, if not a national debate on exactly what are the impacts of CETA, and what can we expect.”
Since an agreement-in-principle on the Canada-Europe free trade deal was announced in October, nearly everybody has been supportive, despite the fact the federal government hasn’t released a copy of the actual free trade treaty.
Byrne told reporters Monday he’s got a lot of questions, such as why weren’t seals included? What does this mean for the processing sector? And could it have addressed foreign overfishing on the Grand Banks?
He said the deal may very well be in the best interests of Newfoundland and Labrador, but it’s worth debating.
“This is one of the most important issues that we face in the fishing industry, in particular, and in the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador,” he said. “There have been industry proponents who have said, you know, indirectly, that if you disagree with CETA then you’re stupid.”
With another loss at the World Trade Organization Monday, Byrne questioned why the seal hunt wasn’t included in the free trade negotiations.
The same goes with massive EU subsidies for their foreign fishing fleets — fuel subsidies in particular, which is what allows them to sail across the Atlantic and fish the nose and tail of the Grand Banks.
“I think it would’ve been valuable for instructions to have gone to the Canadian negotiators to include this element as a part of the discussions,” he said.
The other big thing, Byrne said, is the worry that by dropping minimum processing requirements for the European Union, fish caught off Newfoundland could be trans-shipped to Asia, processed, and then sent to Europe.
He said that without seeing the language of the actual agreement, it’s tough to know whether there are loopholes to allow it.
“These are the things that I don’t have the final answer on, but I’ve been around the fishing industry long enough, if there’s a way to do it, it will be done,” he said. “The EU is months away from signing free trade agreements with Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore. How does that impact that whole supply chair related to fish products?”
Rudy Husney, press secretary for International Trade Minister Ed Fast, said in an e-mail that the primary impact of CETA is to drop tariffs to Europe.
“The EU is the largest importer of fish and seafood, averaging $25 billion annually, and EU tariffs on fish and seafood exports — tariffs as high as 25 per cent — have kept hard-working fishers in Newfoundland & Labrador from taking full advantage of the EU market,” he wrote. “Under CETA, NFLD will benefit from a duty free market access for all its fish and seafood products to the EU within seven years.”