A trade deal between Canada and the European Union could be in place by this time next year.

The fifth round of negotiations for the Canada-Europe Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) took place last week in Ottawa.

"The feedback all throughout the last year is that they've been making good progress. They don't seem to be getting stuck on things, there's recognition and a high level of ambition on both sides of the table," says John Masswohl, director of international relations with the Canadian Cattlemen's Association. "The signals are they're making good progress. They hope to be able to do a deal even before the deadline, which is around this time next year."

He says CETA is the largest opportunity for the beef sector since Canada and the United States signed a free trade deal in 1988. "The European Union is a market of nearly 500 million people with very high income, but we have virtually have no access right now."

The tariff on Canadian beef destined to Europe is currently set at three thousand euros per tonne, plus 12 percent. "That's works out to around 130 or 140 percent. It's prohibitively high," explains Masswohl.

Public opinion on the deal has been mixed. "That's the thing about trade negotiations. There are all these groups that are theoretically and philosophically opposed to them, regardless of the facts. I've seen a lot of misinformation. I've seen a lot of wrong information, just being put out there by people that don't want to make progress," he says.

"The same folks that are opposed to this deal were opposed to the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, and that one turned out pretty well for us."

"We're not just going to let this opportunity slip by. This is a once-in-a-generation kind of thing and we want to make sure we get a good, ambitious deal."

~ Friday, October 29, 2010 ~