REGINA – A historic trade agreement between Canada and the European Union is being celebrated by Saskatchewan producers.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper referred to the deal as a “game changer” while greeting European leaders at Parliament Hill, in Ottawa Friday.
“The Canada-EU trade agreement is deeper in context and scope than any other agreement in Canadian history,” he said.
The deal would remove trade barriers and tariffs, which Paula Larson with the Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association said will significantly benefit producers at home.
“Saskatchewan has the second largest number of livestock in Canada and so it really, really matters here. Anytime we get another market for our beef, another bidder on our animals of course our product goes up in value.”
Levi Wood, president of Western Canadian Wheat Growers explained that the agreement would not only benefit the agriculture industry, but Canada as a whole.
Wood said that the more beef going to the market, the more grain that’s needed to feed cattle and ultimately that helps drive the economy.
“I think we’ve seen in the last, we’ve had some issues around rail transport and moving a lot of our products,” he explained. “Since a lot of our products are exported, at this point anyways, anytime we can grow our domestic industry, or increase our usage of products here in Canada, it is a good things for the Canadian economy, and agriculture,” he added.
The provincial government anticipates seeing 1.3 billion dollars in gains to Saskatchewan’s agriculture industry and 2.5 billion to the mining industry in investments over the next 15 years as a result of the deal.
However, University of Regina political scientist Jim Farney said it may be a little soon to celebrate the agreement.
The deal is agreed upon in principle but still has a few steps to go before it’s finalized in both Canadian and European parliaments.
“The part that is going to be pretty heavily debated, is the protection it gives to companies that invest in the free trade zone, but can sue governments for lost profits due to local environmental or labour regulations,” explained Farney. “That has the Europeans upset, has the NDP and liberals pretty hesitant. It will be a hot button.”
Wood said he knows that there is still work ahead to finalize the deal, but says the results are sure to be well worth the wait.
“It does help to remove some of those trade barriers and eliminate some trade barriers, and ultimately those are all good things.”