MP presents CETA trade agreement update in Goderich

November 21, 2016



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(L-R) Huron-Bruce Federal Liberals communications chair Allan Thompson, with MP Ben Lobb and MP David Lametti, parliamentary secretary for international trade, at Goderich event

The Trudeau government is determined to make sure free trade agreements benefit all Canadians and the latest CETA deal with the European Union is a good example, says MP David Lametti, the parliamentary secretary to the Minister of International Trade. 

Lametti visited Goderich on the weekend to provide an update on the CETA free trade agreement signed recently with Europe and also to speak about the current status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as well as NAFTA and other trade issues. 

MP David Lametti

He said the government has already taken concrete steps to set up a $350 million program to compensate dairy farmers for the impact of the CETA deal and that other transitional arrangements will be forthcoming. 

“Nothing in CETA undermines the supply management system,’’ he said. While some access to Canadian markets has been allowed, it is limited, and there are transition programs coming into place, starting with dairy. 

 Lametti, a Liberal MP for a Montreal riding and Parliamentary Secretary to International Trade Minister Chrystia Freeland, was invited by the Huron-Bruce Federal Liberal Association to provide a public briefing on a range of trade issues. Huron-Bruce MP Ben Lobb was able to take part in the meeting, along with about 40 other participants. 

Lametti said the government will continue to work to help Canadian producers overcome non-tariff barriers, such as those in place when it comes to standards for meat processing in the beef and pork industries. 

“Hopefully we will get to a point where we have a harmonized standard…and have the same inspection process that is accepted by both sides,’’ he said. “In order for this agreement to work we’ve got to get to that point.”

He said the CETA deal “should be the baseline for future trade agreements.”

And the free trade agreement with Europe could be a boon for popular Canadian food exports, he said. 

“People love Canadian agri-food products…they love Canadian brand precisely because they know it is safe, they know it’s high quality, they know the standards in which the animals have been raised and the crops have been grown are the highest in the world. 

Faced with questions from audience members about concerns that trade agreements can favour big international companies and leave ordinary people behind, Lametti said the government has heard those concerns loud and clear. 

“Both Brexit and the election south of the border are largely explicable because of a group of disaffected people who feel they haven’t had the benefit of economic movements - call it globalization, call it trade or whatever – and governments haven’t paid attention to that,” Lametti said.

“It doesn’t have to be that way,’’ he said. “As a government we’re hearing that cry.”

"A, we get it. B, we’ve heard it and C, we’ve seen in other countries what the end result is if you don’t pay attention to it.”

On the specific question of whether or not investor-state provisions would allow big corporations to sue for billions in lost profits if a government makes a policy change the companies don’t like, Lametti said the formula in the new CETA deal addresses that concern.  

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“We’ve heard those criticisms on NAFTA and on the TPP… and in CETA we’re moving to change that investor-state dispute settlement system to make a more transparent, court-like system,’’ he said. 

David Lametti spoke with participants at the CETA update event

Under such a system, the state would appoint the arbitrators – to avoid undue influence by industry. And the whole system for dealing with claims by companies that believe they deserve compensation would be much more open and transparent.  

The CETA deal, which is now before Parliament, could be in force within six months, he said, giving Canada access to one of the biggest markets in the world. “Europe is a massive market and it is a big consumer market,’’ Lametti said. 

And while access to the beef and pork markets is still limited, it is such a big market that the access being allowed is still very significant, he said. 

Lametti also responded to questions about NAFTA and pronouncements during the recent election campaign by President-elect Donald Trump that he might tear up NAFTA.

“It is natural and normal for trade relationships to evolve over time. Both Liberal and Conservative governments have already tweaked NAFTA over 10 times over the past 20 years,’’ he said. 

He said NAFTA “We as a government will be patient. If we have to sit down and modernize the agreement, we will do that tenaciously with Canadian interests in mind. So I just wanted to calm the waters there.’’

But Lametti conceded that if Trump refused to go forward with the TPP, that it could kill the agreement, which Canada has tentatively signed, pending further review. “If the United States is truly out, the TPP is dead,’’ he said. 

But in that event, Canada could well pursue trade agreements with some of the key players that had signed on to the TPP, most important among them being Japan. 

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Monday, November 21, 2016