Free trade facts presented by Cathy McLeod

European Union agreement to bring bilateral boost

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod spoke to more than two dozen South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce members at a luncheon held at Horton Ventures on Jan. 15.

Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod spoke to more than two dozen South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce members at a luncheon held at Horton Ventures on Jan. 15.

Free trade was on the “menu” when Kamloops-Thompson-Cariboo MP Cathy McLeod spoke to more than two dozen South Cariboo Chamber of Commerce (SCCC) members at a business luncheon at Horton Ventures in 100 Mile House on Jan. 15.

She talked about the tentative free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union (EU), and its numerous aspects.

“I am very proud of this agreement. I think it’s a historical agreement and it’s probably one of the biggest in our history.”

Canada’s second-largest trading partner (after the United States), the EU has 28 member nations doing $17 trillion in trade – bigger even than the U.S. economy, McLeod noted.

It is also home to 500 million people, which she laughingly mentioned the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association has referred to as “500 million hungry people.”

“So, immediately the cattlemen are hugely pleased.”

When the trade deal eventually comes into effect, about 94 per cent of agriculture exports to Europe will be duty-free, McLeod said, adding it involved some “really important” changes.

For the forest industry, the current tariffs of up to 10 per cent on plywood and veneered panels will also be completely eliminated, she noted, while pre-fabricated buildings will see tariff reductions.

Tariffs range from a couple of per cent to an “enormous” chunk of Canada’s export business to Europe, which is a “real barrier” to competitiveness in those markets, McLeod said. The free trade agreement will break that barrier down, she added.

“It’s going to put us on a really good playing field for our products entering into that market.

“So, forestry [gets] a huge advantage, cattlemen, but even small- and medium-sized businesses will have enhanced opportunities in the market.”

McLeod pointed to businesses in the Cariboo that might take advantage of the free trade deal, such as Country Prime Meats in Lac la Hache.

“Again, this will probably provide an advantage in terms of, if they choose – or anyone chooses – to move into the European market, it will be much easier for them to do so.

“There is going to be less red tape; there is going to be fewer headaches; there are going to be decreased tariffs; and there is going to be support.”

Typically, people look to tariff changes in free trade agreements, but today, they include much more than tariffs and borders, McLeod said, adding they include services.

Log home builders will see tariff eliminations, as well as other current barriers removed, the MP explained. These include the “huge” challenges at the border when they travel to EU countries to aid in the building installation and after-sales maintenance.

McLeod said the trade agreement will provide secure, preferential access to European markets for Canadian businesses, from farming to engineering, to provide for goods, services, “ideas” and expertise.

“We’re thinking that it’s going to create about a 20 per cent bilateral boost in trade and increase Canada’s GDP [gross domestic product] by $12 billion.”

She suggested local chamber of commerce members with medium to small businesses should gain more information online at the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service website at www.tradecommissioner.gc.ca.

“I think we have opportunity to value-add in Canada and we have opportunity for [importing] European goods, too.

“Canada can compete. You look at prices, cost of living – Canada can be very competitive in that market.”