A comprehensive trade deal with the largest and wealthiest integrated economic market in the world is well underway, and steaks from Canada could start landing on European dinner plates within 18 months, according to Canada’s chief farm trade negotiator.
“I hope that you can read in the papers by sometime mid-next year that we have reached an agreement,” said Steve Verheul in an overview of the deal at the recent Manitoba Cattle Producers Association annual general meeting.
After the deal is finalized, it must then be ratified by both Ottawa and the European parliament, translated into 23 different languages, and approved by the EU’s 27 member states before it can become law, said Verheul.
However, results may be seen before that, because the EU introduces tariff and trade access deals on a provisional basis, and two-way trade may begin even as the deal works its way through Europe’s complicated legislative process.
“This negotiation in particular, gives us a chance to build a bridge between North America and the integration that has happened there, and the integration that has happened in the European market,” said Verheul.
“There really isn’t a bridge between those two largest markets in the world, and we’re uniquely positioned to develop that.”
The deal represents a tantalizing opportunity for Canada, he added, because it would make Canada the first developed country to gain trade access in both the U.S. and Europe.
Although beef imports are a sensitive issue for EU member countries such as France, Ireland and Poland, domestic production has been falling in recent years, and now the EU imports some 500,000 tonnes, mainly from Argentina and Brazil.
“They are only too happy to be taking beef from Canada, as compared to some other trading partners,” said Verheul. “So there is a big opportunity there, but it is not without its sensitivities. It won’t be an easy part of the negotiations.”
However, he added, a “big deal” on beef is considered essential by Ottawa for the deal to work.
Asked whether lifetime traceability of beef is critical to the deal, Verheul said there have been some discussions about that, but no conclusions. “Certainly, if we were able to do that in Canada, that would ease our access. It would be one less issue we need to deal with.” daniel. [email protected]