Seafood industry, trade minister bullish on CETA fallout

The recently signed free trade deal between Canada and the European Union should boost seafood exports and create more jobs in fishing communities, according to Trade Minister Ed Fast.

Trade Minister Ed Fast says figures "aspirational"

Today, only 13.1 per cent is duty-free. But by 2022, all seafood will be 100 per cent duty-free. (The Canadian Press)

The recently signed free trade deal between Canada and the European Union should boost seafood exports and create more jobs in fishing communities, according to Trade Minister Ed Fast.

The federal Conservative government is ramping up its publicity campaign on the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), making claims on what it means for Nova Scotians.

Fast touted Ottawa’s new deal to a group of seafood industry players in Halifax on Wednesday.

Once CETA comes into effect, which is expected in 2015, almost all EU tariffs on Canadian fish and seafood will be eliminated. That alone is expected to mean $25 million to $30 million in savings.

The trade minister said the province's exports could double.

“Can we compete in the market? Absolutely. We have the best products in the world that we can ship into that market. This province actually already exports nearly $143 million worth of fish and seafood products to the EU annually. So this is no insignificant sum and there are prospects of us being able to double and even do more than that,” he said.

The minister later said that was an “an aspirational statement.”

“I don’t think it’s unrealistic to expect that there would be a very significant increase,” said Fast,

His bullishness is shared by industry executives.

Clearwater Seafoods Limited vice-president Christine Penney said the company exports a third of its live lobster and scallops to Europe, despite an eight per cent tariff .

When that comes off in two years, Clearwater expects to sell a lot more seafood directly to grocery stores.

Europeans consume more fish anywhere else in the world, but only one per cent of it comes from Canada.

Unlike Canadian beef, there's no one Canadian brand when it comes to selling fish.

“Snow crab is relatively unknown in Europe,” said Peter Noseworthy, spokesman for crab producers in Nova Scotia.

“It provides opportunities and challenges. We’ve got 18 to 24 months to understand and address.”

In anticipation of the European deal Nova Scotia's entire snow crab fishery, some 300 fishermen, obtained an international environmental stamp of approval to help break into the European market.

Fisheries Council President Patrick McGuinnes predicts lobster fishermen will also see better prices as tariffs slip off products like frozen lobster tails.

“Sixteen per cent, we are going to get rid of that. That’s also going to address the glut to some extent the glut we have in the marketplace.”

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea will be in town on Wednesday.  She's also expected to focus on how the new trade deal will impact the provincial economy.

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