Q&A: Little Canadian interest in 50,000t EU beef trade

Q&A: Canada-EU trade deal
All imports from Canada have to meet EU rules and regulations. For example, only hormonefree meat will ever be imported into the EU.

Mairead McGuinness, MEP, First Vice-President of the European Parliament, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The European Parliament has approved the CETA Canada-EU trade agreement.

The 58% vote in favour allows provisional application of nearly 90% of the agreement later this spring.

Centrist party members generally voted in favour, with opposition coming from left-leaning socialist, Green, right-wing, and nationalist parties. Of the 695 MEPs present in the 751-seat legislature, 408 voted in favour, 254 against and 33 abstained.

Opponents include Ireland’s Independent MEP Marian Harkin, who said an extra 50,000 tonnes of tariff-free Canadian beef will hit countries like Ireland hardest.

However, this must be high-quality, hormone-free beef. And with the US and Canada currently taking up only 3% of their combined 11,500 tonnes tariff-free annual quota of high-quality, hormone-free beef exports to the EU, it is likely Canada may be unable to avail of the CETA quota.

Sources in the Canadian beef industry say it is unlikely any of their larger processors will have much interest in trade with the EU, because the EU also rejects antimicrobial washes used in Canadian beef plants.

EU farmers and their co-ops, represented by the COPA and COGECA groups, welcomed approval of CETA, and called for progress also in EU-Japan trade negotiations

In particular, they welcomed recognition of EU production and quality standards, such as full traceability of cattle, and hormone-free beef.

The European Commission said CETA will create jobs and growth, and explained the benefits for farmers, and the further steps for CETA ratification.

What opportunities will CETA offer to farmers, food producers and makers of Europe’s traditional food and drink products?

Many customs duties on farm produce, processed foods and drinks will disappear.

Europe will be able to export nearly 92% of its agricultural and food products to Canada duty-free. European exports to Canada’s market of high-income consumers will become cheaper.

This will create new export opportunities for EU farmers and producers of wines and spirits, fruit and vegetables, processed products, cheese, and Europe’s traditional specialities (known as ‘geographical indications’).

In areas such as wines and spirits, CETA will also remove other barriers to trade.

This will make it easier for EU exporters to access the Canadian market.

Removing customs duties will give the EU food processing industry better access to Canadian fish. In parallel to lifting customs duties, the EU and Canada will develop sustainable fisheries in parallel by monitoring, control and surveillance measures, and fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

CETA will help both sides export agricultural products.

Under CETA, Canada has agreed to protect 143 Geographical Indications (GIs), which are distinctive foods and drinks from specific towns or regions in the EU. They include things like Roquefort cheese, balsamic vinegar from Modena, and Dutch Gouda cheese.

Many of these products are among the EU’s top EU food and drink exports. Producers are often small or medium-sized rural businesses.

Canada will protect these traditional European products from imitations in much the same way as the EU does. So, for example, cheese sold in Canada as Gouda will have to come from Gouda.

There’ll be limited quotas for a few sensitive products such as beef, pork and sweetcorn for the EU and dairy products for Canada. CETA won’t open up the market for poultry or eggs in the EU or Canada, and it’ll respect the EU’s entry-price system.

All imports from Canada have to meet EU rules and regulations. For example, only hormone-free meat will ever be imported into the EU.

How will consumers benefit?

Opening markets has the potential to keep prices down and give consumers more choice.

But free trade doesn’t mean lowering or changing EU standards that protect people’s health and safety, social rights, their rights as consumers or the environment.

We’re not going to change these standards. Imports from Canada will still have to satisfy all EU product rules and regulations — without exception. So CETA won’t change how the EU regulates food safety, including on GMO products or the ban on hormone-treated beef.

What happens next?

Now that the EU and Canada have signed CETA, the deal still has to go through one main stage of democratic oversight before it comes fully into force.

This involves parliaments in EU countries. Each country’s approval procedures may take several years, so in the meantime EU governments can decide in the EU Council to provisionally apply the agreement (‘provisional application’).

Provisional application ends after all EU Members notify the Council that they have completed their internal ratification procedures. Only then can CETA fully enter into force.

Which parts of CETA will the EU provisionally apply?

The EU will provisionally apply most parts of CETA.

The main exclusions from provisional application are investment protection; investment market access for portfolio investment (but market access for foreign direct investment is an exclusive EU competence); the Investment Court System; and an article on camcording.

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