MP joined by ambassadors from Austria, Romania and Nigeria in visit to Conestoga Meat PackersTouting the benefits of a new EU trade deal close to home, Kitchener-Conestoga MP Harold Albrecht was joined Tuesday by a pair of European ambassadors for a tour of Breslau’s Conestoga Meat Packers.
Romanian ambassador Maria Ligor and Austrian ambassador Arno Riedel praised the Canada-European Union Trade Agreement (CETA), which will eliminate 98 per cent of all tariffs on Canadian and EU goods after implementation.
“We are convinced this is a ‘win-win’ situation – it’s good for both sides,” said Riedel. “We have 500 million inhabitants – 500 million consumers – with a strong financial power also to buy products, and I think this is a great opportunity for Canada. And also vice-versa: European companies will have more access here in Canada, and this is good. It will raise competition, it will raise quality, and what I assume in certain areas will also decrease prices for the consumers.”
“It’s an important milestone for the international trade negotiations,” said Ligor. “It’s going to be very interesting for your neighbours from the south to study what has been decided, or about to be decided, between Europe and Canada.”
Arnold Drung, president of Conestoga Meat Packers Ltd., was optimistic about CETA’s potential effect on his company’s expansion plans, with the opportunity for greater reach into European markets.
“Canada is a major exporter of pork products around the world, and we haven’t really had access to the European market up until now due to tariff barriers,” said Drung. “Canada exports over 50 per cent of its pork, so we need to have access to as many markets as possible around the world.”
Also on hand at the Breslau plant was Ojo Maduekwe, ambassador from Nigeria, who expressed hope that the deal could serve as an example to Africa.
“Nigeria has close ties with European market,” said Maduekwe. “Now, the Canada-EU example I believe will bring pressure on Africa to get its act together to have a trade pact faster with Europe.”
While Prime Minister Stephen Harper cited “virtually unanimous” support across Canada’s business community, CETA has not been completely without controversy. Dairy farmers initially reacted negatively towards the quota on EU cheese being raised by an additional 17,000 tonnes from 13,000. For Albrecht, “It’s a very, very small amount coming in on a relative scale.”
He added, “A more important part is the huge market that our cheese producers will have to the European market. On my street – Huron Road, in Wilmot Township – there’s a farmer there who produces milk, actually producing high-quality, specialty cheeses right on the farm. I am convinced that that farmer will have access to European markets because of the high-quality cheese that he’s producing.
“The impact on the cheese production, I think, will actually be stronger rather than weaker. I don’t think it will in any way negatively affect our cheese producers.”
CETA is expected to take two years to ratify, and will be implemented over the next seven years. The European Union is currently Canada’s second-largest trading partner, behind the United States.