Local producers don't fear Canada-EU free-trade deal

Julie Bertrand / The Star
November 7, 2013 12:00 AM

Little Qualicum Cheeseworks employee Mikayla Watts wraps rounds of Bleu Claire cheese.

Two Oceanside agricultural producers say they aren't concerned about the proposed Canada-European Union free-trade agreement.

Crocker Creek Farm owner Janet Thony and Little Qualicum Cheeseworks owner Clarke Gourlay say the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) will not affect them.

"I will not be impacted at all," Thony said.

The Hilliers farmer explained she markets all of her grass-fed beef locally.

According to a CETA summary tabled by Prime Minister Stephen Harper last week in the House of Commons, once the free-trade deal is ratified, Canadian beef producers will be able to export 64,950 tonnes of beef duty-free every year to the European Union.

Canadian cattlemen see the agreement as a great thing, said Thony, a former director of the B.C. Cattlemen's Association. "It opens up the European Union market."

The free-trade deal also allows European producers to export 29,000 tonnes of cheese every year to Canada, up from its present quota of 13,000 tones, but Gourlay isn't worried.

"All the places that carry our cheese already carry European cheese," he said. "The trade deal will not make European cheese cheaper. I think people will continue

to support local products." As for exporting Little Qualicum Cheeseworks to Europe, Gourlay said it would not be practical.

"We don't even export our cheese to Alberta," he said. "Philosophically and practically, we are about the 100 Mile Diet."

Gourlay explained that his business's profit margin is very close.

"It costs a lot of money to get cheese from Europe to Canada and vice-versa," he said.

Nanaimo-Alberni MP James Lunney said CETA opens up a huge new opportunity for the country.

"Canadian markets will have access to another 500 million customers," he said. "It's good for forestry, it's good for our food and high-tech exporters."

However, Thony is concerned the agreement will take decision-making away from Canadians and put it in the hands of international companies.

"It will give companies more access and control over federal and provincial governments," she said.

According to the CETA summary, Ottawa will monitor the impact and provide compensation should there be a negative impact.

jbertrand@oceansidestar.com


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