It was strictly business — as in European free trade — for federal Trade Minister James Moore on a whirlwind visit to the city on Monday morning.
Moore held a roundtable meeting with representatives of the Kamloops Chamber of Commerce and met with the B.C. Cattlemen’s Association, the B.C. Pork Producers Association and Rogers Sugar, a B.C. refiner.
He said it’s vitally important that chambers of commerce and boards of trade across the country inform member businesses of the new opportunities that will arise over the next 18-24 months through the trade deal struck last week with the European Union.
Those advantages include the ability to bid on local government contracts in EU countries, Moore said.
European countries, of course, can also bid on Canadian government contracts, but Moore said Canada is the greater beneficiary by virtue of population, having open access to a market of 500 million people.
The cattle industry in particular stands to gain from the agreement through the elimination of the 14 per cent tariff on beef exported to Europe, he said.
“They now have open access to be able to compete on a level playing field,” Moore said.
Potential benefits to B.C.’s beef industry are huge, said Kevin Boon, general manager of B.C. Cattlemen’s Association.
“On a national basis, this has the potential to add about $600 million in new trade,” Boon said. That’s almost half of the current Canadian beef trade with Europe.
“It’s bigger than we thought,” he added. “We’re extremely happy.”
While the U.K. was historically important, the EU as a whole was only a small market for Canadian producers, who have never had open access due to protective tariffs. Europe’s population has grown and it can no longer meet protein needs with its own production, Boon said.
Europe represents a market for beef free of growth hormones. While there can be higher costs associated with such product, trade may make it more viable. China is also open to importing more Canadian beef, but the two markets demand different parts of the carcass. As a global supplier, Canada can optimize its production, utilize more of the carcass and give better value to customers, Boon said.
B.C. ranches hold the capacity to serve the new market but have only about half the productivity they had in 2005 due to a downsizing trend, Boon said. He expects producers are already planning to serve the increased demand.
“We have the ability to get back up to that and we are working towards that now.”
“I think, right across the board, it’s going to be good for this area,” said Bob Dieno, chamber of commerce president, after meeting with Moore for a roundtable discussion.
“He took the time to answer our questions directly. It was a very good meeting.”
Dieno said consumers should also expect to see some benefit in terms of cost savings on manufactured goods, such as textiles and automobiles. European vehicles now are imported to Canada via the U.S., adding 15 to 20 per cent to the sticker price, he noted.