The provisional application of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the European Union (EU) officially started this week, which had the Canadian trade team in Brussels actually jumping for joy.
But the work is far from over, as technical barriers are holding the agriculture and agri-food industry back from reaching their full potential with the deal. And, twenty-four of twenty-eight EU member states have yet to ratify the deal.
“While we urge the government to resolve the outstanding issues, we are also encouraged that Canada is forging ahead with its commitment to freer trade with the world’s second largest economy,” said Brian Innes, Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance (CAFTA) president. “Eventually, CETA will mean preferential access for Canadian agri-food to an $18 trillion market that includes 500 million people.”
Here’s a look at some of the issues that have yet to be resolved:
As a result of CETA, the EU retains unlimited, duty-free access for pork into Canada; obtains unlimited, duty-free access for beef and veal; and receives unlimited duty-free access for prepared meats.
Canada, as a result of the agreement, has been allocated with:
- 2,599 tonnes of fresh beef, and 699 tonnes of frozen beef to the end of the calendar year, with the amount increasing annually to eventually hit 35,000 tonnes of fresh and 15,000 tonnes of frozen beef in 2022, duty-free;
- 3,000 tonnes of bison meat, duty-free;
- 80,549 tonnes of pork, duty free; and
- unlimited duty-free exports of horsemeat and prepared meats.
But, that’s meat that meets the requirements. In the European Commission’s own words, it’s ‘limited tariff-free quotas’ to the meat sector.
Currently, there are two technical barriers the Canadian Meat Council is pushing to have resolved. The first is a question of labelling, and the second, which might take a bit more time to resolve, is antimicrobial interventions during processing.
The EU is not yet sold on the idea of antimicrobial washes like citric acid and peroxyacetic acid during processing. While countries like Canada, the US and Japan have accepted it as a safe process, the EU is looking for more efficacy data, which has the meat industry and government collaborating on research that doesn’t involve the supplier, or the users of the washes. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association is hopeful to resolve the issue within a two-year timeframe.
“The industry appreciates the continuing endeavours of Canadian officials to ensure a commercially viable outcome for the Canadian livestock and meat sector. We ask that the Canadian and EU governments commit to the resolution of all outstanding technical barriers that prevent the provisions of the CETA from being implemented as envisaged by the negotiators,” says Canadian Meat Council president and CEO, Chris White. “While the industry recognizes that certain barriers may require additional work, others should be resolvable quickly.”
In the meantime, it will be up to Canada to continue the process of certifying meat (raised without added hormones) through the CFIA-supervised Canadian Program for Certifying Freedom from Growth Enhancing Products program. Otherwise, there are concerns that nowhere near the quota will be eligible for the program.
Grain and Oilseeds
As part of the European Commission’s guarantees to its member states, it lists six safeguards protected in the CETA negotiations, one of which is the “Precautionary Principle”.
The Precautionary Principle is a term used to describe how a decision is made in the absence of scientific consensus. In this case it essentially means resisting the introduction of a product if the effects of the product are unknown or under debate. It’s this principle that the EU uses as a guide to decisions around biotechnology.
In other words, domestic regulatory agencies have to review and approve of genetically modified foods. Otherwise there’s zero tolerance.
According to the Government of Canada:
Under CETA, the existing Canada-EU Dialogue on Biotech Market Access Issues established in 2009 continues to facilitate cooperation and information sharing regarding biotechnology-related measures that can affect Canada-EU trade, including the domestic approval of biotechnology products, trade impacts of asynchronous product approval or release, as well as new biotechnology legislation. In addition, under CETA, the Dialogue is enhanced to cover additional topics such as international and regulatory cooperation on biotechnology issues.
In addition, the Italian government recently drafted regulations that would require all pasta sold and processed in Italy to include a country-of-origin label on both where the durum originated and where the processing occurred.
“It is a protectionist issue, and it’s also tied to the other initiatives that we’re seeing in Europe that are aimed at limiting modern agriculture practices,” says Cam Dahl, president of Cereals Canada.
The Canadian government is currently considering options to challenge the COOL policy in Italy.
At present, six out of twenty-eight member countries in the EU have completed ratification (Latvia, Denmark, Malta, Croatia, the Czech Republic and Portugal.) Legal opinions differ over how a ‘no’ from any of these countries would affect how the agreement is applied.
In 2016, Canada exported $3.5 billion worth of agriculture and food products to the EU. When fully implemented, CETA will eliminate approximately 98% of the tariffs between Canada and the EU, with 94% elimination in agri-food products.