Employers groups urge N.L. to talk with feds over CETA spat

Several employers groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are warning of grave consequences if the provincial government continues to suspend its participation in all trade agreements under negotiation by Canada — including CETA.
Darin King's office sent out a letter on Monday, announcing the province's intentions to suspend trade negotiations with the federal government. (CBC)

Several employers groups in Newfoundland and Labrador are warning of grave consequences if the provincial government continues to suspend its participation in all trade agreements under negotiation by Canada — including CETA.

The decision comes after the federal and provincial governments failed to find common ground on a $400-million fisheries investment fund which stems from the Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement (CETA) with the European Union.

This fund is meant to compensate for jobs lost through the elimination of minimum processing requirements (MPRs) in the province's fisheries, which could happen if CETA is ratified.

Richard Alexander with the Employers' Council says the province could lose out on opportunities if government continues to suspend negotiations with Ottawa. (CBC)
The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council said it fears Newfoundland and Labrador will lose out on opportunities through trade agreements if the province pulls its support of the deal.

"Lowering international trade barriers will increase innovation and productivity in the province, while also allowing businesses in all industries of the province to expand their market reach, become more competitive, and create jobs and wealth for the people of Newfoundland Labrador," the council said in a news release.

It added that the province has a lot to gain by the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers imposed by the EU through CETA.

"It would be disastrous if a short-term disagreement prevented Newfoundland and Labrador from taking advantage of that opportunity."

The Association of Seafood Producers has echoed the same sentiment as the employers group, adding that it is a step back from reaching an agreement. 

It would be disastrous if a short-term disagreement prevented Newfoundland & Labrador from taking advantage of that opportunity.- Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council

"We’ve been fighting EU tariffs for years now, and we should not put their removal in peril," said Derek Butler, executive director.

"Jeopardizing CETA — or free trade generally — is not a solution.” 

Butler said the association still wants clarity on the terms of agreement surrounding the fisheries fund, which will impact its members. 

The St. John’s Board of Trade is also insisting the the federal and provincial governments return to the negotiating table.

Canada Council on-side with N.L. government

Meanwhile, a national social justice group is applauding the provincial government's decision to suspend its support of trade negotiations.

The Council of Canadians, which has been lobbying against CETA, "congratulated" government for its decision.

"Whether it is France, or Germany, there is momentum against this deal. Newfoundland would be in good company if it withdrew its support for CETA," said Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians.

The council said the province should seek public input on the deal before moving forward.

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