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Monday, September 12, 2016

September 12, 2016

 

For Immediate Release

 

 

 

Silence and Inaction from the Ball Liberals on Pending CETA Agreement

 

Steve Kent, Business Critic for the Official Opposition, said with the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) reportedly ready to be signed this fall, the Ball Liberals are silent on Newfoundland and Labrador's support for the agreement and the status of benefits negotiated by previous administration.

 

"Have any elements negotiated by previous administration and the federal government been changed by the Ball Liberals? When will they update Newfoundlanders and Labradorians?" asked Kent.

 

"When the previous administration negotiated CETA, we negotiated a number of issues which would benefit the province; this included an agreement on a fisheries investment fund, with a $280 million federal contribution. As Premier, our leader, Paul Davis, wrote to federal Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and received a written commitment that, if he became Prime Minister, he would honour the agreement that the federal government had made to us," said Kent.

 

‎"Astonishingly, after nine months in office, the Premier, the minister responsible for trade and the fisheries minister have been silent on the $280 million fisheries fund. They have left the fishing industry unable to access this funding in order to prepare in advance of CETA and diversify into other species such as groundfish. These funds were intended to assist harvesters, plant workers and the processing sector to acquire the latest technology and the expertise required to continue to grow an industry that is essential to our province.

 

"In fact, in Budget 2016, the Ball Liberals reduced funding to the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture in the area of fisheries technology and new opportunities (the FTNOP program), so how are the Liberals going to support our most historic industry going forward?"

 

"The PC administration had negotiated an almost-immediate reduction in tariffs on seafoods lines from Newfoundland and Labrador fishing companies entering the EU, which would mean tens of millions of dollars for our fishing industry and a greater expansion of our markets and industry. The fisheries investment fund was meant to ensure that industry partners would be positioned to revitalize their operations to take maximum advantage of the new trade opportunities and not be left behind. Nearly a year has passed, and the Ball Liberals have still not been able to deliver."

 

Kent said, "At the G20 summit in the Chinese city of Hangzhou on Sunday (September 4), an EU spokesperson said CETA will be the most progressive trade agreement in the EU's history. The opportunities are immense, but our provincial government must do more to ensure that our companies and people are positioned to compete or else there could be severe consequences. The Liberals' 2016 Budget raised the costs for businesses throughout our province, making them less competitive nationally and internationally - reversing the approach that our administration took and that any prudent government would have taken to promote growth in our province. Why are the Liberals putting local companies at a competitive disadvantage with the trade gates about to open? Don't they understand the implications of not being competitive because of heavy tax burdens?"

 

Kent is also asking what the province is doing for businesses that ‎may require special assistance to fully understand the EU market and avoid the pitfalls.

 

"Is the province's trade minister on top of this file, or is he overstretched? He certainly wasn't on top of the Honour 100 file, as Ottawa took the lead from him in representing the people of our province in France. That was an embarrassment for our province. We must have strong leadership on issues important to the people of the province, particularly in the area of trade.‎"

 

Kent said, "The minister has also been silent on the‎ implications for our province of Brexit - the pending exit of the United Kingdom from the EU - as we prepare for CETA. We cannot leave it to Ottawa to help us understand how we will be affected by Brexit or to enable us to adjust. The province needs to look out for its own best interests, which are sometimes not Ottawa's best interests. Are our negotiated reductions in the tariffs on our seafood lines in jeopardy?"

 

Kent said, "The Ball Liberals' failure to capitalize on trade opportunities is a consequence of their failure to produce an economic development plan, which is shocking. Trade needs to be a huge part of any economic development strategy, but the Ball Liberals have no such strategy and are not giving anyone a sense of confidence that they are ready to lead in enabling our businesses to seize the opportunities of free trade."

 

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Media Contact:

 

Heather MacLean, Director of Communications, Office of the Official Opposition,

 

(709) 729 6105, heathermaclean@gov.nl.ca

 

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