Cheaper cars, more cheese: What CETA means for the Canadian consumer

Cheaper cars and more cheese — these are among the options Canadians consumers are poised to face now that EU lawmakers have approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Here are some highlights from the historic Canada-EU treaty.

New drugs may rise in cost under new trade deal

More cheese from European dairy producers will be headed to Canada under the terms of the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. (Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images)

Cheaper cars and more cheese — these are among the options Canadians consumers could see now that EU lawmakers have approved the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, a multibillion-dollar trade pact.

Politicians have touted CETA as a model of co-operation and a win for consumers in both Canada and the European Union. Here are some consumer highlights from the historic deal that eliminates tariffs on 98 per cent of goods flowing between Canada and the EU.

More European cheese destined for Canada

The cheese counter is about to become a bit more varied. CETA bumps up the maximum import level of European cheese from 18,500 tonnes per year to nearly 30,000. But don't expect a sudden bounty of European goods — the change will be phased in over a period of five years.

Last November, the federal government announced a $350 million package that will help dairy farmers and processors stay competitive in the new market.

Tariffs dropped on automobile imports

Under CETA, a tariff on passenger vehicles made in Europe will be dropped. (Reuters)

Luxury passenger vehicles from European automakers like Audi and BMW will become a little less expensive as Canada drops its 6.1 per cent tariff on European goods.

Again, the change will not be immediately felt as tariffs will be phased out over a period of seven years. It's also worth noting that the lower cost is also dependent on the retailer passing on the savings to the customer.

Higher drug costs anticipated

A patent change under CETA may make the cost of prescription drugs rise. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A significant change to the length of patents in Canada, issued at the EU's request, may cause the price of new prescription drugs to rise. Under CETA, drug manufacturers will be given an additional two years of patent protection if they encounter delays during the drug approval process. This means it may take longer for generic versions of drugs to become available.

Many observers suggest consumers won't notice a price change for about eight years. Canada's chief negotiator in the CETA deal, Steve Verheul, also noted last November that it's difficult to pinpoint how drug prices might fluctuate, given the complexity of the market.

"It's really impossible to predict whether there will be blockbuster drugs coming through at that point, whether there will be more [expensive] biologics, and whether there will be more niche drugs that are going to have smaller but more targeted markets," he said.

Cheaper wine and spirits

Wine and spirits are among the products that can now enter the country tariff-free, meaning there may be more variety and lower prices of European liquor.

C-30, the bill to implement CETA, received royal assent on May 16, 2017.

With files from Reuters