By Rob Antle
FOR THE SOU’WESTER
Transcontinental Media/The Telegram
The decision by Newfoundland and Labrador’s premier to boycott Ottawa-led trade talks with the European Union is a bad move, Opposition Leader Yvonne Jones says. “I think the premier is dead wrong on this one,” said Jones. “I have no problem with the fact that he likes to take strong stands against the federal government. … But I don’t think his approach this time is in the best interests of the people of the province.”
Premier Danny Williams reiterated in the legislature in mid-May that Newfoundland and Labrador will not join Canada-EU trade negotiations. Williams said Ottawa can’t be trusted to act in the province’s best interests. He also lashed out at the Europeans, calling them “ hypocrites” for a recent vote to ban commercial seal products.
An EU diplomat has flatly rejected the idea that Newfoundland and Labrador could negotiate its own bilateral arrangement — an idea Williams had previously floated.
Jones stressed that there are “major issues” for the province on the table during Canada-EU negotiations. She cited seafood tariffs as one example. Currently, the EU imposes a 20 per cent tariff on imports of Canadian shrimp above the threshold of 20,000 tonnes. Until 2007, the limit was 7,000 tonnes. Shrimp below the threshold are hit with a six per cent tariff.
The issue has been a long-standing concern in Newfoundland and Labrador. The landed value of the province’s shrimp industry was $186 million in 2008.
Jones said the fishery is “very vulnerable” right now, and the tariff issue is a vital one.
All other provinces and territories support the Ottawa-EU negotiations.
According to the federal government, the Canada-EU partnership has the potential to bring a $12-billion boost to the Canadian economy.
By Rob Antle