P.E.I. cheesed with European competition

Some gourmet cheese makers on P.E.I. say they're worried about a flood in the Canadian cheese market if a major trade agreement with the European Union goes ahead.

Lobster, beef industries welcome trade agreement

Makers of high-end cheese are about see a doubling in their competition from European producers as a new free trade deal between Canada and the EU is being finalized in Brussels this week. (Larry Crowe/Associated Press)

Some high-end cheese makers on P.E.I. say they're worried about a flood in the Canadian cheese market if a major trade agreement with the European Union goes ahead.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is in Brussels to finalize the deal, called the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), after a lengthy negotiation process that began in 2009.

The new trade deal will double imports of gourmet European cheese to Canada. The expected increase in cheese trade is a part of a larger deal between Canada and the European Union that covers nearly all sectors of economic activity, including the dairy industry, and will create one of the world's largest free trade zones.

Since taking over Cheeselady's Gouda in Winsloe a few months ago, Jeff McCourt has made close to 8,000 pounds of cheese he's confident will sell.

“We have a lot of local kind of clientele,” he said. “We have a lot of tourist trade. In the summer time, this place is just jam packed.”

But McCourt said he fears that could eventually change and consumers will reject his gouda for cheese imported from Europe.

“The simple fact is they're allowing more tonnes of cheese —  tariff free — to enter Canada. It makes our job a little bit harder."

Lobster, beef producers happy

But some other industries are more optimistic.

The head of P.E.I.'s Seafood Processors Association said tariffs have impeded Island lobster from selling in Europe.

“It's not going be the be all end all of saviours here. But anything that can take care of the volume we have landed, we hope will improve the market place and improve the price we're able to get for the product,” said Jeff Malloy.

Beef and pork producers agree.

Both groups have faced struggles on P.E.I., but hope a trade agreement will help.

“If we can stabilize our export markets and add another $400 million to our export potential, that gives us a little more security even in our domestic market,” said  Tim Seeber, manager of the P.E.I. Hog Commodity Marketing Board.

Premier Ghiz was out of the province and wasn't available to comment on the trade agreement, but a government spokesperson did say the province has offered input.


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