Prime Minister Stephen Harper called the tentative Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) the largest-ever deal of its kind.
Twelve nations, including Canada, recently signed on to a deal that would ease trade barriers covering about 40 per cent of the world’s economy.
The proposed agreement reduces or eliminates barriers in a wide range of sectors and could lead to more Canadian exports — notably seafood products. It also entrenches new international trade standards in Asia, setting a template should any other countries in that fast-growing region — like China — want to join someday.
The response from some avenues of the region’s seafood industry has been positive.
The head of the Newfoundland and Labrador’s largest seafood association says the TPP trade deal is great news for the province’s seafood and fish exporters.
Derek Butler, executive director of the Association of Seafood Producers (ASP), says the trade deal will eliminate 100 per cent of all seafood tariffs into key markets, with most tariffs to be eliminated on implementation and some to phase in over time.
“We’re an export industry, pure and simple, and eliminating tariffs and ensuring fair market access is a trading imperative for us,” said Butler. “This deal gets us into some of the fastest growing markets in Asia, and keeps us in markets in this hemisphere.”
Butler says that CETA (Canadian European Union Comprehensive Trade Agreement) and TPP — which confirms NAFTA — mean the industry will have secure and duty-free trade access to markets that cover the majority of seafood exports from the province.
“It’s a remarkable achievement, like the CETA deal two years ago. CETA hit one out of the ballpark and now TPP wins the game,” Butler said.
One of the largest seafood processors also reacted positively to news of the tentative deal.
Martin Sullivan, president and CEO of Ocean Choice International, said the company is extremely pleased with the announcement of the TPP, adding that this agreement will have an extremely positive impact on the seafood industry and will provide Canadian fishing companies a level playing field when it comes to developing Asian-Pacific markets.
“We commend the efforts of the government and Prime Minister Harper and Minister (Ed) Fast in getting this deal done. The elimination of the high tariffs on our seafood imports into these growing markets provides us with the opportunity to enhance our market presence globally.”
Sullivan noted that Asia is one of the industry’s main export markets and this agreement will provide the opportunity for OCI’s premium seafood to become competitive in that market.
However, the president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union (FFAW) was a little more reserved in his reaction to the 12-nation tariff-cutting trade deal.
Keith Sullivan told the CBC he’s still not sure how significantly the agreement will affect fish harvesters in this province.
“At this stage it’s really difficult to fully understand what the concerns and benefits might be. This was done with very little consultation with industry and none with the FFAW,” Sullivan told CBC Radio’s The Broadcast.
“Particularly this deal, on the backdrop with the recent one with Europe where the federal government reneged on an offer of $280-million fisheries fund, we’re really concerned about the details and the transparency here.”
According to Sullivan, there are sections of the deal that would directly affect this province’s industry, but without up-front information it’s hard to tell what those changes will mean.