The heads of international trade for Canada and the European Union have held their first meeting toward the free trade agreement (FTA) they first proposed last month.
“This first meeting represents a solid step toward a historic economic agreement with the world’s largest market,” International Trade Minister Stockwell Day said in a release Wednesday after meeting with EU Trade Commissioner Catherine Ashton in Montreal.
“The EU and Canada are trading partners with close historical ties, and our ambitions for this agreement must reflect the depth of our relationship,” Ashton said in the same release.
“We come to the table prepared to discuss all subjects of interest to either of us. There will be difficult issues, but we are convinced that the ultimate prize justifies the effort as we seek to trade our way out of the economic downturn.”
Ottawa’s release cited a Canada-EU study indicating freer trade between Canada and the EU could potentially provide a $12 billion boost to the Canadian economy and increase Canadian exports to the EU by about 20 per cent.
Canadian goods and service exports to the EU were up 3.9 per cent in 2008 over 2007 levels, reaching $52.2 billion, the government noted. Two-way trade last year between Canada and the EU reached $114.6 billion, up 6.2 per cent from 2007.
Agricultural products are among the sectors expected to benefit commercially from a bilateral agreement with the EU, along with aerospace, chemicals, wood products, automotive vehicles and parts, transportation and others.
Day and Ashton said they held the bilateral meeting Wednesday morning, and there heard from the two parties’ chief negotiators on progress to date, and also discussed the WTO Doha negotiations.
The Canadian Pork Council last Thursday (June 4) hailed the federal government’s recent moves on bilateral trade deals with other countries and blocs, but especially urged talks toward “an ambitious trade and economic agreement with the European Union.”
Citing recent FTA talks with Colombia and Peru, the council noted Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz “has shown great enthusiasm for opening and expanding existing export markets for agricultural products and we hope he shows as much support for opening a free trade agreement with the EU.”
With a total EU population of about 500 million, the majority of which views pork as its favoured meat, the Canadian pork industry is making “important investments to respond to increasing demand in the EU countries for Canadian pork,” the CPC said last week.
“The Canada-EU relationship holds great potential for the pork industry. We will oppose any exemptions if, as a result, our access to the EU for pork is in any way diminished” said CPC chairman Jurgen Preugschas, who farms at Mayerthorpe, Alta.