Canada tables European free trade deal

A trade deal that would eventually end or cut tariffs on several Canadian crops and foods in four European countries has been tabled in the House of Commons.

Canada and the European Free Trade Association countries — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland — signed their free trade agreement (FTA) in January, and legislation introduced Monday brings that FTA a step closer to coming into force, Trade Minister David Emerson said in a release.

Among other provisions, the deal calls for elimination or reduction of the four EFTA countries’ tariffs on certain Canadian agricultural and agri-food products, such as durum wheat, frozen french fries, beer and crude canola oil, the government said.

It also offers provisions on subsidies, anti-dumping, state-trading enterprises and public procurement in line with World Trade Organization rules, the federal government noted previously.

Two-way trade in merchandise between Canada and the EFTA countries was worth $10.7 billion in 2006, including $3.1 billion in exports from Canada (mostly nickel, pharmaceuticals, copper, machinery, precious stones and metals, electrical machinery, art, antiques, medical devices, aluminum, aerospace, pulp and paper and organic chemicals).

Canadian imports from EFTA countries that year were worth $7.6 billion including mineral fuel and oils (mostly crude oil), pharmaceuticals, organic chemicals, machinery, medical and optical instruments, and clocks and watches.

A number of Canadian commodity groups have in recent years urged Ottawa to put more effort toward such bilateral trade deals, rather than focusing largely on World Trade Organization talks to free up trade with other countries.

The groups have said that competing exporters such as the U.S. have been busily signing bilaterals that could give their products a tariff advantage over Canadian commodities.

Emerson’s department noted on Monday that this is the first free trade agreement Canada has signed in six years and the first such agreement with European countries.

The EFTA deal, the department said, will “provide a strategic platform for Canadian companies to tap into European value chains.”

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