Mr. Speaker, I guess I hit a nerve with that last question, but I think that it is time to take a stand. It is time to take a stand in favour of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is time to take a stand in favour of industry, exporters, and the people who rely on the fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Canada-European Union trade agreement will have untold benefits for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and indeed all Canadians. Anything that is done to undermine this agreement will be to the detriment of those people who stand to benefit.
I am very pleased to rise today to speak to our Conservative government's historic trade agreement with the European Union and the benefits that the agreement will bring for hard-working Canadians, particularly the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
First of all, the Canada-EU trade agreement will greatly benefit Newfoundland and Labrador's fish and seafood sector. Secondly, CETA has tremendous support from Newfoundland and Labrador's business leaders, and the NDP knows this. Finally, our government remains committed to investing up to $280 million in a cost-shared fund shared 70:30 for up to $400 million to compensate Newfoundland and Labrador for any loss incurred due to the removal of minimum processing requirements.
CETA is a historic accomplishment. It will benefit hard-working Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and indeed all Canadians across all trade-related sectors of our economy. In particular, in the case of Newfoundland and Labrador, the fish and seafood sector will benefit.
Newfoundland and Labrador was founded on the fishery. For over 500 years, the province worked to perfect the art of doing business with European fish traders. I am certain that my Newfoundland and Labrador colleagues across the floor are very well versed on the economic importance of the province's historic and current relationship with the European Union. I am also certain that they are very aware that Newfoundland and Labrador's fishery continues to face challenges distinct from minimum processing requirements and the conversation that we are focused on here today. These include declines in shellfish stocks and other challenges related to competing in the global marketplace.
I am sure that my Newfoundland and Labrador colleagues will agree that the focus must now be on the future of those relationships and on addressing those challenges. The focus must be on building those historic connections and that industrial intelligence to take full advantage of all that the Canada-European Union trade agreement has to offer Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians stand to benefit significantly from this preferred access to the European Union. The EU is already the province's second-largest export destination and second-largest trading partner. In 2013, Newfoundland and Labrador's fish and seafood industry was valued at $1.1 billion. In 2013, its fish exports to the EU were valued at $116.5 million. Given that the EU is the world's largest fish and seafood market, with over 500 million customers and $18 trillion in economic activity, CETA represents a lucrative opportunity for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.
That said, fish and seafood products destined for the EU, such as shrimp, snow crab, cod, and scallops face stubbornly high tariffs at an average of 11%, with some as high as 25%. On the first day that CETA comes into force, almost 96% of those tariffs will be eliminated, and seven years later, 100% of these tariffs will be eliminated. In fact, CETA will eliminate tariffs on almost all of Newfoundland and Labrador's key exports to the EU, and it will permanently lock in the duty-free access currently received by goods in the mineral and petroleum sectors.
Exporters will also benefit from other CETA provisions that will improve conditions for exports. There are provisions, for example, that will ease regulatory barriers and ensure more transparent rules for market access. The elimination of tariffs and the creation of new value-added and branded products, combined with new marketing development opportunities, could result in an estimated additional $100 million in revenue annually to the fish and seafood industry, according to the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture.
The benefits of CETA are crystal clear even to the NDP, apparently: increased sales, more jobs, higher wages, and greater long-term prosperity. Why would any provincial government want to delay or threaten that access for their local companies? Why, indeed, would any federal party want to delay that access to their constituents?
Let us make no mistake: those companies, those people, those workers stand to benefit greatly from the CETA deal. This is why many have come forward to state their support for this historic agreement.
Some stakeholders have referred to CETA as a game changer. Others have spoken of CETA's potential to facilitate market diversification and allow our seafood products to compete on a level playing field in the world's single largest integrated market. The business leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador understand the transformative power of the Canada-European Union trade agreement, and they understand that this government is committed to ensuring that Canadians from coast to coast to coast benefit from the deal. Indeed, all Canadians will benefit from this deal.
This is the best access the EU has ever granted a trading partner, and Newfoundland and Labrador companies are eager to take full and fair advantage of this new access. The leaders of Newfoundland and Labrador's business community, both within and outside the fish and seafood sector, have spoken publicly of their support for CETA. I will recap some of their words for members as well as for all those who are listening in on this debate.
The Association of Seafood Producers from Newfoundland and Labrador has stated on the record that:
For too many of our products, we are kept from being competitive because of the high tariffs the EU placed on our seafood products. It’s a remarkable achievement, the elimination of all EU tariffs on fish and seafood in a single leap. The EU is our backyard. ... We’re closer to many parts of Europe, geographically and historically, than many markets in the U.S.
It is a historic deal.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Employers' Council agrees, saying:
The agreement reached between Canada and the European Union demonstrates great growth in the province. Businesses that are having difficulty surviving in the current marketplace will see increased opportunities as the province begins to compete on a global scale.
The vice-president of the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters, Newfoundland and Labrador, adds his voice:
A trade agreement with the EU would give manufacturers and exporters...the ability to diversify their sales...increase their presence in Europe at a time when they are looking for new market opportunities....
The St. John's Board of Trade, an organization that is the voice of business and an advocate for sustained economic prosperity in Newfoundland and Labrador, stated in a news release that:
CETA is one of the most significant trade deals ever negotiated for Canadian business, including businesses right here in St. John’s.
The chairman and CEO of a private sector fish enterprise sums it up perfectly. Bill Barry of Barry Group said:
I think it’s a tremendous initiative. I think the free trade deal with the EU is something almost everybody in the fishing industry had hoped for years.
As members can see, CETA is very important to the future and prosperity of this country and of Newfoundland and Labrador's fish and seafood industry. It is critical for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to come back to the negotiating table to work this out for the benefit of hard-working men and women who stand to benefit greatly from this trade agreement.
The Government of Canada has committed to invest up to $280 million in a cost-shared initiative in Newfoundland and Labrador to compensate for negative impacts caused by the removal of minimum processing requirements on fish and seafood destined for the EU market. As we have stated time and time again, we remain committed to working out the details of the minimum processing requirements fund with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, but I will step back a bit to clarify MPRs for the benefit of my colleagues on both sides of the House.
Newfoundland and Labrador legislation states that minimum processing requirements, or MPRs, apply to all fish intended for sale outside of the province. Fish exported from the province must be processed to a minimum requirement as outlined by the provincial government.
During CETA negotiations, the European Union requested unrestricted access to Canadian fishery sources, requiring Newfoundland and Labrador to give up their minimum processing requirements. At that time, Newfoundland and Labrador raised significant concerns that the removal of MPRs would impact their fisheries sector. In line with dairy and in line with pharmaceuticals, we were prepared to offer a compensation package of up to $280 million for losses in a 70-30 federal-provincial cost-shared fund totalling up to $400 million.
Our government remains fully committed to investing up to $280 million to compensate Newfoundland and Labrador for losses caused by the removal of MPRs, and we are committed to working with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador to work out a transition initiative that would address priorities such as compensation for displaced workers, research and development, and innovation.
However, this fund was always intended to compensate Newfoundland and Labrador for losses as a result of the removal of MPRs. It was never intended to be a blank cheque. In fact, a review of the documents disclosed publicly by the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador clearly demonstrate the position of the Government of Canada as it relates to this fund. I repeat: this initiative is intended to help Newfoundland and Labrador transition from the removal of MPRs. Our investment of up to $280 million is intended to compensate that province for the negative impact of that removal and to ensure that the benefits of CETA accrue to all Canadians.
Let me revisit the state of Newfoundland and Labrador's fish and seafood sector for a moment. The fish processing sector, which has particular importance to rural economies, has been dramatically reduced in size and character since the early nineties. Rationalization has been extensive, from a high of nearly 214 processing plans in 1989 to 86 in 2013. The number of seafood sector employees now stands at approximately 18,000. That industry continues to face challenges, with declining shellfish stocks and changing consumer expectations, and these challenges are real.
CETA represents a tremendous potential to mitigate those challenges. Industries facing such intense pressure to transform and modernize have never in history had the opportunity and benefit afforded by CETA to help them do exactly that.
Our government understands that the Newfoundland and Labrador fish and seafood sector will be impacted by the removal of MPRs, and that is why we have committed to this fund. We also understand that the Newfoundland and Labrador fish and seafood sector is on the brink of realizing something the industry has wanted for many years. Because of CETA, the Newfoundland and Labrador fish and seafood sector will have unprecedented tariff-free access to lucrative new markets and countless opportunities to grow, to modernize, and to compete. CETA, for the Newfoundland and Labrador fish and seafood sector, means opportunity. We know it, my esteem colleagues across the floor know it, and the leaders in Newfoundland and Labrador's business community know it.
As I have said in the past and here again today, our government remains steadfast in our commitment to getting back to the table and working out the details of the MPR fund with the government of Newfoundland and Labrador. We are ready when it is ready.