Gail Shea says EU trade agreement will aid Prince Edward Island lobster fishery

Teresa Wright
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Egmont MP Gail Shea in her Charlottetown office

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says the trade agreement between Canada and the European Union will be good for Prince Edward Island’s struggling lobster industry.

Tariffs currently range between 11 to 25 per cent for seafood going into the European market.

This trade deal could significantly lower or eliminate these tariffs, opening up a whole continent of new markets for P.E.I. lobster and seafood.

“As these tariffs disappear over time, this should be very good news for the fish and seafood sector,” Shea said Friday. “This is very important for the economy of Prince Edward Island and, as minister of fisheries and oceans, I certainly couldn’t be happier.”

On Friday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the agreement-in-principle with European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso in Brussels, Belgium. Details contained within the agreement itself are still confidential and it is estimated it could yet be another 18 to 24 months before final approvals are reached.

Shea says when it does go through, it could be just the solution P.E.I.’s lobster industry has been looking for.

Low prices for lobster led P.E.I. fishermen to stage a major strike during the spring fishing season earlier this year after they were offered only $2.75 to $3.25 per pound for their catches. The strike swept through the Maritimes and nearly brought the industry to a standstill.

Since then, a regional panel has been struck to look at factors affecting lobster prices in the Maritimes and the provincial government hired a former auditor general to also examine the issue.

Shea has said she believes the problems stem from supply and demand – when lobster is in season, the market is often flooded with product, which in turn lowers prices.

“The industry is in a position where they can control supply. The federal government is in a position where they can help increase demand through negotiating trade agreements such as this,” Shea said Friday.

P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association president Mike McGeogheghan says he is cautiously optimistic about whether the Canada-EU trade agreement will be positive for the industry.

“Like any of these deals, you’ve got to read the small print,” he said.

“It’s possible it could open some doors for supply. To put lobsters into Europe without that tariff on it, that would be good. We just hope it’s not a race to the bottom for price.”

In spite of the expensive tariffs currently in place, P.E.I. lobster is already shipped regularly to a number of European countries, including Germany, Belgium, England and France.

McGeogheghan says he hopes the elimination of these tariffs will increase these exports and boost prices paid for P.E.I. lobster.

“We want to be able to sell them to Europe at a decent price so that it will bring value back to the fishermen.”

P.E.I.’s deputy premier George Webster welcomed the progress announced on the trade agreement Friday.

“The European Union is already Prince Edward Island’s second largest trading partner and this arrangement will only strengthen that relationship,” Webster said in a statement.

Webster acknowledged the agreement could impact the dairy industry and the costs of certain prescription medicines.

But the province hopes to work with the federal government to try to mitigate any potential negative effects in these areas.

Harper has already said the provinces were told during negotiations that Ottawa would compensate them for any additional cost to the Canadian health-care system.

Shea encouraged Island business owners and entrepreneurs to begin reaching out to potential European trading partners now, in anticipation of this agreement coming to fruition in future.

 

With files from the Canadian Press.

 

twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

Organizations: European Union, European Commission, Canada-EU Canadian Press.twright

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Belgium, Canada Brussels Europe Germany England Ottawa

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  • Bill Kays
    Bill Kays
    October 20, 2013 - 14:12

    I am NOT a fisher but I am an observer of world politics. These deals MAY HELP the industry as a whole BUT I doubt it will benefit individual fishers. The industry is being pushed by larger global economic forces to get rid of the individual fishers (or squeeze them out through excessive regulation) much the way they have done with farming and other important industries. This is being done in an attempt globally to consolidate all small players into larger conglomerations as the end result. They started first by trying to buy up licenses, now they are reverting to real economic pressures. FEWER PLAYERS ARE MORE EASILY CONTROLLED THAN MANY MANY SMALL INDIVIDUALS. The lenders are in control because our current government leaders lack the moral will to protect its citizen's from the global economic predators we call the lenders or the bankers. If you think it is bad now, just wait until they announce what is coming from the TRANS PACIFIC PARTNERSHIP TREATY talks. Be wary of the coming TPP. Remember how NAFTA was supposed to protect our jobs. The USA started to place limits on cash withdrawals and a ban on international wire transfers to other countries. How long before they call a BANK HOLIDAY and devalue their currency? If our biggest customers can no longer buy our goods where does that leave us? Ask Gail Shea about that.

  • willie wonka
    October 20, 2013 - 10:35

    Another boost to the Lobster Fishery may be that the official opening of the runway extension enabling large cargo planes to now land in Moncton has just taken place. It was just over 6000 ft and has added 3850 ft to become 10,001 ft total. Great news for the future for large cargo hauls to Europe.

  • george
    October 19, 2013 - 13:49

    why dont you do something for the income tax payers

  • AMAZED
    October 19, 2013 - 09:44

    18 -24 months before details are released .This makes me very nervous , what are these nut bars giving away to avoid paying a tariff . What are you hiding from the public ,you are supposed to be working FOR us not corporations .